How many names have you legally had?

JS Lee (@jessicasunlee) on Twitter asks:

Adoptees: How many names have you legally had? I’ve had at least four. Unsure if I had another name before I reached the orphanage.


2 thoughts on “How many names have you legally had?

  1. I really liked this question, and wanted to break out of Twitter character limits for an answer. It’s quite intriguing to me, especially given the importance of naming in many of our originating cultures. I had an officially bestowed false name given to my by my orphanage that allowed for my export from Lebanon. This was legally changed to my adopted name when I was naturalized at the age of 5. Upon my return to Lebanon, my lawyer started a legal case that would take this false name and would append “currently known as Daniel Drennan” since there is no such thing as legal name change in the country.

    This worked for a time; I was given a courtesy visa for three years. Given the influx of Syrian refugees, the country moved again into ultra-nationalist mode, and started “purging” non-nationals. Given that nationality is currently only through the paternal line (a function of the last time there was an influx of refugees, after 1948), this meant that those with dubious paternal lineage like myself were not allowed to renew their “courtesy” visa. At the same time, I found my story and my family name and village. To be legally known via this name, my father’s family would have to register me officially. This is not likely, since they think I’m back to usurp their inheritance.

    The disturbing thing was my lawyer telling me that if I wanted, I could have existed in Lebanon under my orphanage-bestowed name. This was so repugnant an idea to me that I refused categorically to do so. The idea of it made me physically ill. Now I can only return to the country on a tourist visa as an “American”. Meanwhile, hundreds of Europeans and Americans with no ties to the country are given visas left and right; the privilege of colonizers. I imagine I could change my name legally in the States, but I’m currently living in Canada and so don’t have a state of residence, the level it has to start at. I would like to know the name my mother might have given me at birth.

    So, 2 legal names.

    • I have had 1 legal name. Per my OBC, my surname is “York”. I was obtained in an “extralegal” manner, and fraudulent documents were filed with the State of Indiana that resulted in an amended BC that bears the name I have used for decades.

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