Thursday, April 24, 2014

How My Father Got His Name

Thad S. Hays


Proud father with first daughter


My father was born 110 years ago today—or maybe yesterday. He was born at home. It was late at night. Nobody was looking at the clock. Those on the scene decided to call it the 24th.   There was no birth certificate—no need for one at the time. It only became a problem some time in the 60's when he needed a birth certificate to apply for a passport. He had to find a couple of witnesses to attest to the fact that he was born when and where he said he was.

Had my father had a birth certificate in 1904, it would have shown that he was named Charles Carrol Hays—after his grandfather. (Yes, the Civil War grandfather of the captured flag story.)  My grandmother Hannah wanted her son to have his father's name: Thaddeus Stevens Hays. But my grandfather was having none of it.  Having suffered with that name throughout his life, he was adamant.  He would not saddle his son with such a name.  But a few months later he died suddenly, and his widow renamed their son with the name she'd wanted in the first place.  She was reported to have said that she missed having a Thad around the house. And so it was that my father became Thaddeus Stevens Hays.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Missing Persson Found

Who and where is this man's father?

I had an exciting genealogy breakthrough recently. Out of the blue, someone emailed me who had seen something I had posted on a message board so long ago that I had completely forgotten about it. The message I had posted was that I was searching for the father of my Swedish grandfather, John Albert Ahl (pictured at left). There was no trace of John's father at all/Ahl.


John's mother's name was Johanna Blade Ahl and I didn't have much information on her either, but at least I knew her birth and death dates. She was born in Sweden but by the time her son was born in 1860, she had moved to the US and was living in Illinois. I began to entertain the thought that maybe there was no father. Well, at least no husband. Maybe Johanna had gotten in the family way and had come to America by herself to put the scandal behind her—to raise her child where he would be free from stigma. Maybe in her new life she identified herself as a widow. That seemed plausible until a few months ago when I found that John had a younger sister, Ida Ahl. So back to being stymied. Where was their father?


In my message board post I had listed all the names associated with mother Johanna. On her birth record she is identified as Johanna Sofia and her father's name was Samuel Samuelsson. So where did the name Blade come from? In Sweden, sometimes when a man went into the military he took a different last name. When there were several Anders Anderssons or Ole Olssons or Samuel Samuelssons in the same company, these military names helped to distinguish one from another. Often the military name was short and was a noun. When I looked up Blade (blad) I found that it means 'leaf' or 'blade'—the latter quite fitting for a military name, I'd say. Some men kept their military name when they returned to civilian life, while others went back to their patronymic name. So I included Blade as a possible name for Johanna. But it was the Samuelsson that evidently caught the eye of the respondent to my post. She sent me the startling news that Johanna Samuelsson had married a man named Johan Peter Persson....wait for it....AHL!! 


Ta da! The missing Persson is found and Johanna is no longer a fallen woman. She is now a respectably married mother of two children bearing their father's name Ahl—which, by the way, means 'alder'. Perhaps another military name? Stay tuned.