By Any Other Name

Tonight my wife asked me if I would change my name if I found out we were definitely related to Elmers. For a lot of people, I think this is a very serious issue. I’ve known people who have done just that. I haven’t asked them about their motives, but my guess would be that they always felt different and wanted to put things right. Maybe they grew up hearing about the mystery of a relative’s paternity and solved the puzzle. I’m sure the reasons to do it are many.

I do not plan to do that. I am a Thompson. I can’t really see myself being something else at this point. Maybe because of autosomal DNA and having that reminder of how important moms are, even though they give up their last names, or maybe because I have my own children, it seems less important to me. There isn’t really anything for me to fix, just things for me to learn.

Depending on how close the crossover is, it may be supremely interesting to figure out where a missing branch of my genetic family is today. Really, even if it were my grandfather, I can’t see myself changing. My family has assigned meaning to our name. We feel unique in our huge crowd of Thompsons. We have a way of being that identifies us and we’ve used our name to identify it. I don’t think I could give that up.

Thompson is a name people picked when they wanted to fit in. I told my wife tonight that maybe it’s a name that picks you. I owe the Thompsons something for making this life possible. I intend to honor our odd little branch of this giant sequoia in the world of names.

We may not be Thompsons from the beginning of the use of surnames which is a loss. On the other hand, since my father is named Thomas, I am every bit as qualified to wear this name as the very first Thompson to crawl out of a bog a thousand years ago.


  1. Using FTDNA's TIP report and doing some Quick math. They estimate with 93% confidence that the FTDNA Elmer and I are related in the last 14 generations (or as they say within common use of surnames). If we use an average of 28 years per generation then we get about 392 years ago as a starting point. I'm not sure where people draw the line for these estimations. On a site I visited earlier to get the 200-300 year estimate, 86% confidence seemed to be the tipping point. If I give myself a range of 200-400 years we're talking about 1774 – 1574 as a timeframe.

  2. When looking at those timeframes from my other comment it's good to keep in mind that those are the timeframes for me. It doesn't negate the possibility that there are Elmers much closer in our family. For instance, let's say my grandfather was actually an Elmer. The timeframe for matching up between him and the FTDNA Elmer would still be the same 1774-1574, even though he is much closer to me. On the other side of it, that Elmer connnection could actually happen way back in England, meaning I may never find a connection. It is also totally possible that we are just very closely related English people from the same area as the FTDNA Elmer is only a distance of 3 from the Knowltons..not too awful far from his distance of 2 from me.

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