December 2, 2023

Immigration Marriage

Feel Good With Immigration

The parents creating new last names for their children

There’s also the added complication of his fiancé’s surname. Because he already has two last names (Sanchez Medina), McLoughin feels like the option to double-barrel is off the table, as it would ultimately result in a triple-barrelled name.

He and his partner have been going back-and-forth for some time about how they will name future offspring, and are yet to reach agreement. “One potential solution is creating a whole new surname,” he says. “We’ve considered going for McSanchez and combining the two names.”

Cultural considerations 

Another factor driving a broader range of naming traditions is the increasing ethnic and cultural changes in Western nations.

“We’re seeing increased diversity of family structures that stem from various global locations where practices differ from Judeo-Christian patriarchal practices,” says Janning. In other words, an uptick in cross-cultural relationships is another key driver in changing naming choices in the Western world, she says.

In the case of McLoughin’s fiancé, his ‘Sanchez Medina’ surname is a combination of his father’s first name and mother’s surname, which is Latino cultural convention. For him and McLoughin, this has factored into the couple’s naming calculus, as it doesn’t leave a clear and straightforward naming route for them to follow.

While some parents choose to preserve cultural traditions in naming, others take a different route, opting for a more anglicised spelling or entirely different version of their surname to pass down the family. This can particularly be the case for parents whose children will grow up in a country different to their own. 

“[Choosing a different name] is a common story in a lot of the US’s immigration history, and is often viewed as a way for people to assimilate themselves or present themselves in a favourable way in a new place where they may be seeking employment or social status,” says Janning. “This has softened a bit, but contemporary examples still exist.”

‘Snowflakes in a blizzard’

It might be becoming increasingly common to choose an unconventional surname for a child, but taking this route is still not without complications.

Behavioural scientist Wallaert put his research into practice when naming his now six-year-old son. He and his wife decided that because he had two nephews who shared his surname, while she is an only child, it made sense to use her surname so the family name continued. His surname is complicated to spell and pronounce, he adds, whereas her surname – ‘Sugar’ – is much more straightforward.