The Origin of a Name by C. A. Brown

I had the opportunity to spend a week with my Aunt Pat at her home in Florida last April. We spent a lot of time going over old photos that I had scanned into my computer, and reminiscing about her childhood. During that time, she told me how I got my name.

According to my aunt, her mother, Eva Josephine Chamberlain, was a pampered princess. She had a good education, singing lessons, and had a job as a secretary before she married my grandfather. Born in Montreal, Quebec, on March 11, 1893, she was the daughter of Simon Napoleon Chamberlain and Mary Lillian Bishop. The Chamberlains had five children, but two of them (a boy and a girl), died in infancy. Two boys and one girl survived into adulthood. Photos of my maternal grandmother from the early 1900's show her as a poised and well-dressed woman. Eva married my grandfather, George James Walsh, on June 5, 1923.

Image - Eva Chamberlain, 1920s

Eva Chamberlain, 1920

A year later Eva and George had a son, Edward Thomas Walsh. My aunt told me that Eva had a difficult childbirth, and swore that she would never go through that again. Eva felt that she had fulfilled her wifely duty by producing a son. By all accounts Eva and George doted on young Edward. Eva was content with her little family.

However, fate had other plans for Eva. Early in 1929 she became pregnant again. On December 12, 1929, Eva went into labour and produced not one, but two daughters. From what my aunt recollected, Eva was aghast at this turn of events. She did not even know that she was carrying twins. Apparently, Eva said to the nurses, "What am I going to do with two girls?"

My grandmother had picked out a name for each sex of her unborn child. Naomi Mary was the choice for a girl's name. But when two girls appeared, she was at a loss for a second name. She asked one of the nurses what her name was. The nurse replied "Patricia". "Good", said Eva. "That will do for a first name". Since it was close to Christmas, Eva chose Carol for the middle name. Even though my aunt was born first, she became Patricia Carol. My mother was baptized Naomi Mary. Being identical twins, it was almost impossible to tell them apart.

In June of 1952 I had the honour of being the first grandchild born on either side of the family. Since my mother is a twin, she decided to name me after her sister, using her middle name. Hence I became Carol Anne Brown. I am glad that my mother did not get named Patricia Carol. Otherwise, I would have had to go through life as Mary Anne, a bland moniker that thousands of other Catholic girls were saddled with during that era.

Interesting, isn't it, discovering how names get passed down through the generations.