The business of family names is a complicated matter, due mostly to the various forms of marriage considered “legal” throughout Menelon. The conventions followed around the world were formed, and are controlled by, The International Guild of Heralds, who maintain conventions not only for all forms of marriage in Cascadia, but in virtually all kingdoms and countries that participate in the International Heraldic Standard—i.e. almost every country.
The Importance of Genealogical Records on Menelon
In most countries, the laws of inheritance take precedence in matters of estate, even among those of “common” birth. Too, betrothals are sometimes made or broken based on family history, even among “commoners”. And, most religions stress the importance of familial ancestry, encouraging believers to take pride in their family's history.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Urilian Church is more strict in its naming conventions than even the Church of the Guardian Paladin. It becomes a bit more understandable, however, when you consider the wealth of Urilian Church's parishioners coupled with their vaunted promiscuous sexuality. As much as the Church encourages sexual activity, it discourages procreation between familial members for obvious reasons. Even middle class families maintain genealogical records at the local office of heraldry, dutifully recording new births, marriages, deaths, divorces, and so on. Those even further down the lower social strata will keep their records in “the family book” or the like that's treated with the same reverence as Aunt Hilda's Family Bible was on Earth, doing their best to maintain them in a fashion acceptable to the heralds—just in case.
In some places, local lords provide genealogical services for the lower classes free of charge.
The International Heraldic Standard
Just like on Earth, on Menelon most children are given three names. Only, on Menelon, it's not first, middle, and last (surname), its first, lineal, and family (or house) name. Parents of newborn children only choose one name, the “first” or “given” name. Tradition, and in most countries, the laws of heraldry, provide the last two.
- The Lineal name: So called because the name in this position refers either to the ultimate male or female antecedent or, depending on whether the society is primarily patriarchal or matriarchal. It may refer to the ultimate antecedent of gender, depending on how permissive the “ruling” gender is.
- The Family Name: Equates most closely to our “last name” or “surname” in most western cultures here on Earth and is the name inherited by the children and assumed by marriage into the family. Depending on the society, it is also the ancestral name of the male line. When it is not, rules have been made to preserve the male antecedents by use of the lineal name. (See below.)
To take an example of each gender, consider “John First-Kidd” and “Jane Second-Daughter”.
Most likely, John's lineal name (First) was his mother's ultimate “maiden name”. His family name, (Kidd) is probably his ancestral father's family name.
The same can be said of Jane's “last name” (Second-Daughter). “Second” is most likely her mother's ultimate ancestral “maiden name” and “Daughter” is her father's ancestral family name.
But even if the “last names” do not represent the ultimate male and female antecedent, it is certain that they provide enough genealogical data to trace their lineage back to the the first records kept on their ultimate ancestors.
Now, if we follow Earth's conventions for taking names, John and Jane's married names would be formed as: John's family name would remain the same, but (Earth) genealogists suggest that he should take his wife's lineal name. So he would become “John Second-Kidd”. Jane would take her husband's family name, so her name would be: “Jane Second-Kidd”. Note that, by marrying, the partners exchange an antecedent with the other, forming a common “last name”: “Second-Kidd.”
So “Johnny”, the son of John and Jane Second-Kidd, would be born “Johnny Second-Kidd”. Johnny (and his siblings) get mommy's lineal name and daddy's family name, thus carrying the antecedents of both parents forward.
Now, when Johnny grows up and marries, let's say “Judy Different-Smith”, he takes her lineal name and she takes his family name. So their nuclear family name would be: “Johnny and Judy Different-Kidd”, and their children's “last name” would be “Different-Kidd”.
For those who are not familiar with how genealogical records are kept, this system works because married names are not shown for the marriage partner — only the date of the marriage is shown. The combined “last name”, or “married name” is shown in the name given to the children. If our little family had a child name “Joe,” the genealogical record would look like this:
John First-Kidd =508= Jane Second-Daughter
+-- Johnny Second-Kidd =588= Judy Different-Smith
It should be clear how the system is designed to make it possible to easily trace any given child's ancestry back through the genealogical records by use of the lineal and family names—the antecedents of the mother and father. In our above tiny example, no less than six antecedents are shown: First, Kidd, Second, Daughter, Different, and Smith. Further, examination of anybody's name provides immediate access to two significant genealogical reference points. All the rules promulgated on cultures by the International Standard are designed to preserve these basic tenets.
The Standard requires children born to families that refuse to recognize them take the mother's lineal and family, irregardless of whether the mother is married or not. The father's (or family's) influence, even if known, is discarded.
All kingdoms and countries who wish to be part of the international heraldic community must follow the basic conventions outlined above. However, as the family name is the “name of inheritance,” there are a good many variations on who gets to take whose family name when, based on local law, custom, and religious belief.
Cascadia, being a “religious free zone” has legalized nearly every possible marriage combination, and so has virtually no laws that govern the name of inheritance.
Among Paladins, it is customary for the family name of the higher-ranking of the couple to be taken by the lesser-ranking. Where rank is not an issue, the male's family name is customarily held by the couple.
Valïans, who practice plural marriage, usually form “households” and share a “house name”: “Cooper House”, or “the House of Cooper”, for example. When forming a new household a house name is decided upon ahead of time, and can be the current family name of any member marrying in, or a completely different one. Anyone marrying into an established family agrees to take the household name, of course.
Now things get a bit confusing.
The Heraldic Standard requires that:
- The lineal name of a woman marrying into a house be retained and the family name changed.
- The family name of a man be placed into the lineal position and the house name added. (The lineal birth name is dropped.)
So “John First-Kidd”, marrying into “Cooper House”, would become “John Kidd-Cooper”, retaining his lineal antecedents through his father. “Jane Second-Daughter” would become “Jane Second-Cooper” as this retains her antecedents through the mother. In a polygamous household, the household members share only a house name, never (or rarely) a lineal name.
Children born of a polygamous household carry the lineal name of the mother (Heraldic Standard) and the family name of the house (local custom). Let's assume Jane married into Cooper house, and so became “Jane Second-Cooper”. Her son Johnny would be named “Johnny Second-Cooper”. Likewise, if “Mary Jones-Smith”, who married into Cooper House and became “Mary Jones-Cooper”, has a daughter Sara, Sara would be born “Sara Jones-Cooper”. Thus, arguments over “who's the father” become irrelevant.
Human Eldarians generally follow the Valïan customary surname usage. The Elves, who have their own heraldic rules, are surprisingly casual about such things as family names—an elf can have many, many names in his or her lifetime, after all.
The Urilians have been saved for last because they are the only religious order that recognizes and supports same-sex couples in addition to other forms of marital union (the Eldarians probably would, if they had a religion organized enough to have an opinion one way or another). Thus, their customs are a blending of everyone else's.
Heterosexual Urilian couples follow either Paladin or Valïan surname customs; plural marriages follow the Valïan. Same-sex couples often retain their birth names, especially if no progeny are expected. This is, in fact, the most common choice and is perfectly “legal”. When the names are changed, the couple usually agrees on which partner's name will become the family name ahead of time. Thus, same-sex couples run into the same antecedent rules polygamous houses must deal with, plus a few more:
If “John Cole-Smith” married “Jay Jones-Brooks”, and the guys decided to carry the family name “Smith” forward, their married names would look like this: John becomes “John Brooks-Smith” and Jay becomes “Jay Brooks-Smith”.
In the case of two women:
They normally revert to their matrilineal name upon marriage, as to do so allows the partners to share a complete “last name” and still save ancestral data. Thus: If “Mary Jones-Smith” married “Jane Second-Daughter”, and the ladies decided to share the lineal name “Jones”, their married names would be: For Mary, “Mary Second-Jones” and Jane becomes “Jane Second-Jones”. Note that both dropped their “maiden” family names to form a new one. Also note that each saved an antecedent in the forming of the new name, just as in the male example above.
It should be mentioned that the ladies could have chosen to use or create a new family name, but to do so would not have allowed them to share a common lineal name. Mary would have remained “Mary Jones- ” and Jane would have remained “Jane Second- ”. However, of those women who chose to change their name when marrying (a larger percentage than of homosexual men, btw), most prefer to follow their mother's antecedents rather than their father's.
Now, if a marriage dyad later decides to become polygamous and allows a third person to “marry in,” it is usual for that person to assume the family name of the existing two, forming a house name by default (and invoking the antecedent rules mentioned above). There's no law demanding this, but it does avoid the fees involved in correcting paperwork, which can add up quickly!
There aren't enough Balcheri in Fernwall to make a sampling realistic—or even definitive, but the Balcheri tend to take the name of the richer, higher ranking of the couple. That also determines where they will live, what clan they belong to, etc. Failing convincing reasons to “marry up”, then the half of the couple which “bested” the other in courtship has the honor of carrying forward their surname.
As an aside, by Balcheri custom anyone killed in pursuit of a courtship is considered an accidental death, and no charges can be brought against the surviving member. This is why arranged marriages are no longer practiced in Balkland—the fatality rate among such potential matches was, to say the least, dismaying.