Often genealogical research uncovers only one “official” source that attests to a person’s birth name, and we have little choice except to record the name as shown on that document. In the case of my husband’s mother, Angela, several extant documents cause some confusion about her given names.
The first document I saw was a copy of her marriage certificate. On 2 Oct 1937, Harold QUESNELL, 31, married Angela POOLE, 28, at St. Aidan’s Church in Yeoville, Diocese of Johannesburg, South Africa. Her father, A[rthur] H[enry] POOLE, is listed as one of the two witnesses.
In a copy of the birth certificate for one of her two oldest children, twin sons born in June 1941, she is listed as Angela QUESNELL. (I haven’t included a photo of this certificate because the son on the certificate is still living.)
Next I found a copy of her christening record (shown in two halves below). Although she was born 17 Feb 1909, she wasn’t christened until 5 Mar 1918 at the Roberts Heights Garrison Church in Pretoria, South Africa. This record lists her given names as Angela Letitia. Her mother’s name was Letitia (shown as Lettie on the record), and one of the three sponsors was Angela Letitia VANDERHOFF; the middle name could have referred to one or both women.
Given the difficulty of obtaining birth certificates from South Africa, I probably would have considered the christening record definitive and moved on to other aspects of research. However, found in the same bundle of papers as the previous documents, four yellowing pages pertain to Angela’s birth certificate and cast doubt on her given names.
The first is dated 2 May 1945 and “is a true extract from the Birth Register kept at Potchefstroom,” the city where she was born. It gives Angela’s name as Laurina Angela. Her aunt, her father’s older sister, was named Mary Laurina POOLE. Laurina is an unusual name, so she was probably the source of this name. Also she is listed as one of three sponsors on the 1918 christening record shown above, although it is unlikely that she traveled from Wales for the event.
Nothing in the bundle of documents indicates why Angela needed a copy of her birth certificate in May 1945. She and Harold, who would have recently returned from active duty overseas in World War II, were living in Bloemfontein, where their third son would be born in January 1946. It is unlikely that the couple would have been considering any travel that required a passport, and I have not yet been able to ascertain if any other identity documents were in effect at the time for which a certificate would have been required.
At any rate, several months after receiving the document, both Angela and her father submitted separate applications for a certificate for “L. A. POOLE,” dated 20 Aug 1945 and 15 Sep 1945, respectively. Angela signed her application as Mrs. L. A. QUESNELL, perhaps to align her given names with those on the requested record.
It would appear that these applications were sent to the Office of the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths in Pretoria, the central repository for vital records, since the following letter was sent from that office on 11 Oct 1945.
The copy of the certificate mentioned in the letter was not found in the bundle of documents, and I can only assume that it contained the same information as the earlier copy. However, thanks to the letter, we know that Angela’s father had changed her “christian names” on 23 Apr 1909, a couple of months after her birth. Why the certificate itself does not specify the change is unclear, but in light of her christening record, it seems likely that her father changed Laurina Angela to Angela Letitia.
Another clue in support of this conclusion was offered by my husband’s older brother when I asked if he knew the story. “The only thing I remember is that Mom seemed to dislike the name Letitia and seemed to want as little reference to it as possible.”
Until additional information proves otherwise, I have entered her name as “Angela Letitia” in the family database. I’m also open to alternative interpretations of the documents involved.
How I would like to have been there to eavesdrop on long-ago discussions about the baby’s names! To know why Angela came to dislike her middle name. Was her dislike provoked by the name itself or by the person she was named after? Did her aunt Mary Laurina POOLE feel hurt by the “rejection” of her name or was she led to believe that the child’s middle name was in daily use? More genealogical mysteries that will never be solved.
All of the document copies shown above were sent to me several years ago. They were gathered in the late 1990’s by my brother-in-law, aka Agent Q, to prove descent from Mary Laurina POOLE’s brother, Arthur Henry POOLE. As I recall, a London firm of genealogists had identified a substantial portfolio of stocks which Mary Laurina owned at the time of her death but which had never been distributed to her heirs, either because she died intestate or without an up-to-date will that included the stocks. Because she was single at the time of her death, the proceeds of the newly discovered stocks were to be distributed to her siblings or their heirs. I wasn’t yet a genealogist so didn’t pay much attention to the details at the time.
1) Obtain copies of all of the documents in Angela’s birth certificate file.
2) Obtain a copy of the marriage record for Harold QUESNELL and Angela POOLE from St. Aidan’s Church in Yeoville or from the diocesan archives.