Who Are You Again?


One of the first things a lot of men did when they came West was change his name. As Philip Ashton Rollins said in his book THE COWBOY, “Many a real name had been bucked from the saddle.” Men of the West recognized this common practice and respected a man’s privacy. If a stranger stated his name as John Smith it was just that. Sometimes a man only volunteered a first name and if he did it was widely accepted that he didn’t want to be known by any other.

They changed their names for a variety of reasons. If he wanted to disappear and leave no trace, a quick name change made it easy.

I’m wondering how many men had multiple wives under different names?

Sometimes a man’s name, especially if he was an immigrant, was difficult to spell and pronounce. People in the West liked to keep things short and to the point. Short names just made things easier and didn’t muddy the water. A man could blend in better.

holdupMore often than not, a newcomer to the West was running from the law. A name change kept him from getting caught. He might change his name five or six times, adopting a new name for each section of the country.

Or a man simply might not have liked his name. Maybe it was too sissified or something. In the story I’m currently working on, my hero is an outlaw. The name he’s born with is Marion Applebaum. He decides that’s no self-respecting outlaw would be caught dead with that name wrapped around him so he changes it to Johnny Diamond. He thinks that suits him much better and I happen to agree. Johnny Diamond is a much better fit for him.

A new name meant a fresh start. The slate was wiped clean.

A man could be whoever he wanted to be.

I can certainly understand this. My last name of Broday is a made-up name. When my husband’s grandfather emigrated from Germany during WWI, he changed Broka to Broday so that folks wouldn’t know where he came from. He wanted to protect his wife and kids from harsh reprisals. He also shortened his first name from Albert to Bert. And the name change worked. As far as I know they blended in and had a peaceful existence in America. Mr. Broday left a letter to his kids explaining that he wasn’t changing the name to hide from the law.  He didn’t want his kids to fear that they had to be ashamed of their parentage.

I’m just curious about their ability to disguise their thick German accent? Or the dozens of other things that would likey give them away? LOL  

Names were much easier to change back then. Today men would have a much harder time with Social Security numbers, the Internet, and law enforcement capabilities.

Also, my husband’s great grandfather on his father’s side changed his name too. He was born in Germany as Johann Louis Freese. Shortly after he arrived in America in the late 1800’s, he became Louis Walter. I never heard the reason behind his name change. I assume it was to be able to fit in better.

These are just two instances that I know happen to have taken place in the same family. It’s only a drop in the bucket to the thousands of people who changed their identities.

Maybe you have a similar story in your past? Are you really who you say you are?

Or maybe you have a favorite story that features a hero or heroine who for some reason changes their name.

Visit me at www.LindaBroday.com

give-me-a-cowboysmallerThis book is still available if you haven’t already gotten it.

Watch for GIVE ME A TEXAS RANGER in July!!

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

33 thoughts on “Who Are You Again?”

  1. Hi Linda! I can see why your outlaw wanted to be Johnny Diamond instead of Marion Applebaum! It reminds of Johnny Cash and “A Boy Named Sue.” Didn’t John Wayne change his name from Marion something?

    No name changes in my family, at least not that I know of. I think a name change can also be a sign of respect for a new country and language. I worked in a business with a lot of folks with very long, very complex names from other countries. We’re talking names a mile long 🙂 When someone shortened it up, we wouldn’t stumble on pronunciation or spelling. Shortening a name is a way of fitting in while still honoring one’s hertage, just like your husband’s grandfather.

  2. Fun, Linda. That code of the West of not prying into a man’s past sure afforded a lot of freedome, didn’t it? Hopefully more people used it to make changes for the better than those who used it perpetrate crimes. Even those escaping from the law could make a new life with better choices with a clean name to go on. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great blog, Linda. Love the name Johnny Diamond, and the idea that he’d change it. Hope you’ll tell us more about the story you’re working on.
    And Vicki, John Wayne’s real name was Marion MIchael Morrison. FWIW, Cary Grant’s was Archibald Leach. Can you imagine those on the movie marquee?
    My hero in THE HORSEMAN’S BRIDE goes by his middle name, “Tanner” for most of the book because he’s on the run.
    Linda, you’re lucky you know your family history of name changes. I’m betting a lot of people don’t.

  4. Just thought of a family story, Linda. My Danish great-grandfather was named Hans Olsen. Because there were so many Hans Olsens he added the name of the town where he came from and became Hans Olsen Magelby. As far as I know I’m related to every Magelby in the country – he had lots of descendants.

  5. Hi Vicki,

    Yeah, I really stumble over those loooong names. I never know how to pronounce them either. Lots of people have problems with how to say Broday. It’s pronounced like Brodie. Which is one reason I named my hero Brodie Yates in my third single title Redemption. I thought it’d be neat and way for readers to say my last name if they were curious.

  6. Morning Karen,

    Glad you stopped by and happy that you enjoyed my blog. Yes, a new name could really change a person’s life. And the Code of the West was an immense help in that respect. I’m sure there were lots of people who took advantage of that. Also of help was that there was little way of tracking a person without Social Security and all that.

    Hope you have a great day!

  7. Morning Elizabeth,

    That’s neat about your Danish great grandfather! And how clever to think of adding the name of the town where he came from. It would really take care of the problem with people having the same name. I’ve thought about changing my first name from Linda to something more unique for that same reason. There are always a ton of Lindas everywhere I go and they’re about my same age. It must’ve been really popular in that time. And it didn’t help any that my maiden name was Smith. People always looked at me like I was making it up. I was really glad when I became Linda Broday. At last I had a unique name.

    Glad you enjoyed the blog. Hope you have a special day!

  8. Elizabeth,

    My hero Johnny Diamond has taken a job to rescue a wealthy rancher’s kidnapped daughter. One of the problems he encounters is that the girl’s sister insists on coming along. A huge sandstorm, lack of water, and plenty of bad guys in a border town really complicate their lives. I’m having great fun with this story. It’ll be part of an anthology called GIVE ME AN OUTLAW that releases in 2011.

  9. I have a sister who is big into geneology and there are several on my husband’s side of the family who have done the family tree. So I know my roots whether I want to or not. 🙂

    We traced my paternal grandmother’s family back to 1638, that’s 18 years after Plymouth Rock. So some branches of the family tree go way, way back. But we also have a grandma, and a great-grandpa who immigrated, one from Germany, one from Scotland around 1900, so that’s pretty recent. And my husband’s grandmother spoke German in her home growing up but spoke English at school.

    They had a party line phone in the country back then and grandma and her sisters would always speak German on the phone together, even very late in life so if people listened in they couldn’t tell what was being said.

  10. Hi Mary!

    How funny that your grandma and your aunts spoke German over the phone so that no one would know what they said. I remember having a party line and how everyone would listen to the conversations. I was really glad when we got a private line. But my mom had a party line until the late 1980’s, even after my dad died. They lived in the country.

    Yeah, sometimes the things we learn about our past are things we’d rather not know. My uncles on my father’s side were in jail a lot for various things. Not for murder though, thank the Lord! But they really tried the judicial system. When I was young it was common for me to go with my parents to visit my aunts and uncles in prison. It’s a wonder it didn’t stunt me as a person. LOL

    But I think it’s really important to learn where you come from. I’ve come up with some great storylines from looking at my past. 🙂

  11. I don’t blame your hero one bit. Even John Wayne wouldn’t go by Marion. lol

    Excellent blog, Linda. And your husband’s grandfather’s story struck a chord. My father’s family didn’t change their name, but when the U.S. entered WWII they stopped speaking German; the community even stopped holding church services in German, all to avoid reprisals. They wouldn’t allow their children to learn to speak German either.

  12. Very interesting!
    I do not know anyone who has changed their name except to get married…and that was enough of a hassle I wouldn’t want to do it again 🙂
    I think it’s interesting that many people are keeping both their maiden and new married name or just keeping their maiden.
    I’d like to pick a whole new name for myself too 🙂

    ps–Give me a Cowboy if he looks anything like your book cover–going to check that one out! Your new book sounds great–what a fun storyline!

  13. Hi Tracy!

    Some of our movie stars really had horrible real names. I can see why they’d change them. I heard that Arnold Schwartznegger’s movie studio wanted him to change his name to something easier but he refused. He did okay in the business. I can’t imagine him being called anything else. But the first thing a lot of actors and actresses do when they hit Hollywood is change their name.

    How odd that your husband’s grandfather resisted the whole name change thing but yet stopped speaking German. I’m sure that seeing how the government rounded up the American Japanese and put them in a camp was a fear. And a logical one. He probably thought the German people would be next. Fear makes a person do all sorts of things.

    Hope your day goes well!

  14. Hi Linda!

    I loved this post. It reminds me of all things — of the Census that is being sent around nowadays. I liked the old days when a man could take a new identity and leave the past behind him. Often, those who were running from the “law” came West because they were innocent (not always unfortunately) — and taking a new name guaranteed that person a fresh start. I’ve read stories where a woman posed for her entire life as a man and it wasn’t known she was female until the day she died. 🙂

    Privacy is still a huge pillar in the fight to remain free of those who seek to enslave, I think. May there always be a place where one can go to escape the shadows of the past and start fresh. 🙂

  15. I wonder if any past family member ever changed their names… it is an interesting thing to think about… a new name and a fresh start…

  16. No name changes that we know of, just a change in
    pronunciation. A maternal great-great-grandfather
    was a Hessian soldier from Germany, sent to Mexico
    on an assignment. He stayed and married into a
    native family when the rest of the troops left at
    the end of that assignment. His last name took on
    a Hispanic pronunciation over the years in Mexico.

    Pat Cochran

  17. Hi Tabitha,

    I’m glad you enjoyed my subject today. And to think my outlaw hero sparked this whole train of thought.

    Changing names is still being practiced today. I’ve read quite a few real instances where a person steals the name of someone who died and takes on a whole new identity, complete with new Social Security numbers and everything. I’ve often wondered what they would like. Must feel a little strange to have people calling you by a name you’re not familiar with. I’ve known a few authors who took on a pseudonym. They often ran into problems and got kinda confused at times.

    Thank you for the compliment about the cover for GIVE ME A COWBOY. My story in that has been one of my favorites. I really became attuned to my hero and heroine. Sometimes my characters become so real to me that I feel like I can reach out and touch them. That’s when writing is fun. I hope you enjoy GIVE ME A COWBOY. I think it’s one of our best.

  18. Hi Kay,

    Glad you enjoyed my blog. Yes, I’ve read history accounts of a few women who took on a man’s name and it wasn’t found out until they died. Makes me wonder what they were hiding from. Evidently they sure didn’t want to be found.

    Privacy is really becoming more and more difficult to have in this day and age. I hope we always have this freedom.

    Have a wonderful day!

  19. Hi Linda, what a wonderful post! I had no idea. Makes perfect sense, though. I did have some Russian relatives who Americanized their names, mostly for ease in spelling. Ellis Island changed my grampa’s spelling from “kov” at the end to “koff”

  20. Hi Colleen,

    I’m glad you found my blog interesting. I’ll bet somewhere in your past you’ll find someone who changed their name. That’s what makes geneology so exciting. It’s such a gift to know where I come from.

  21. Hi Pat C.,

    I’ve never heard of someone changing the pronunciation of their name but I can see why they would. People will do most anything to fit in. Being an outsider is awful. How neat to have Hispanic links in your geneology.

  22. Hi Tanya!

    Glad you enjoyed my blog. It’s a subject that I have some personal knowlege of so was easy to write.

    Interesting that the processors at Ellis Island misspelled your granpa’s name. They wrote it like it sounded I guess. I wonder how many thousands had the same thing happen to them. Sure makes it hard to trace family roots when there are name misspellings. I think one of major reasons immigrants changed their names was for ease of spelling and pronunciation. They desperately wanted to fit in, no matter what they had to do.

    Hope your day is blessed!

  23. I have inlaws named Novoty. Not a real common name to me but there are a surprising number of them if you look in a city phone book.

    Pronounciations vary though. The ones who live in the country pronounce the second O short. In the city it’s usually long–even within the family.

    And they know each other and are related.

  24. Hi Linda,

    Great blog.
    The hero in the book I’m working on doesn’t know his real name and rejects the one given him as a child. The old west term for aliases was “summer” name.

  25. Mary, that’s very strange. I could see how a different pronunciation might happen if they weren’t related. But in the same family and they can’t agree on a common way of saying it! Guess there’s lots of stubbornness involved. LOL

    I’ve never heard of the name Novoty though. That seems pretty unusual to me.

    If you ever see the name Broday in the U.S. they’re almost always related. I’ve noticed though that the actor Adrian Brody spells his without the a. And I’m seeing Brody or Brodie as a male first name a lot now.

  26. Hi Margaret!

    Thanks for stopping by. The book you’re working on sounds great. My brain is spinning, trying to think of all the reasons why your hero doesn’t know his real name. You shouldn’t do this to me.

    Oh my gosh, I didn’t know the old west term for aliases was “summer” name! I’ve got to make a note of that. Appreciate you sharing that.

    I hope your day is full of inspiration and fun!

  27. The last name of the great-great-grandfather in
    my earlier note was spelled Solache, pronounced
    (I’m told) So-losh. In Mexico, it came to be
    pronounced So-la-che, emphasis on the last syllable.
    As to Hispanic links, my family is Spanish, Mexican,
    and German.

  28. Pat C, how interesting seeing what a mixture of nationalities we are. There’s a new TV show called “Who Do You Think You Are?” that I’m really loving. Each week they take a different celebrity and trace his/her background. And the things they uncover! Sarah Jessica Parker descended from a woman who was charged with being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. Last week was Emmitt Smith. He descended from slaves of course, but the big surprise was the amount of white and American Indian blood he had. It’s really fascinating.

    Thanks for sharing the Solache branch of your family tree!

  29. No name changes in our families as far as I can tell. My Father’s family came over during the Irish famine some time between 1848 and 1852 (my great, great,? grandfather was born in Ireland in 1848 and the next child was born in Quebec in 1852.) My grand father was born in 1891, in Upstate NY, the only one of the 8 children not born in Canada. My Dad’s mother’s family were french settlers in Quebec in the late 1700’s. Both sides of my Mother’s family were descended from french settlers in Canada. canada was very welcoming to the Irish being forced (starved) out by the English. There was no real need for any of the families to change names to fit in. The area of New York along the NE border was primarily french and irish, so no problems with names there. On my husband’s side of the family, they were from English settlers on his Mother’s side – she had a great++++ uncle that fought in the revolutionary war. His grandparents on his Father’s side came to the US from England when they were in their late teens or early twenties. Barraclough is not that common a name, but english enough they didn’t feel they had to change it I guess.

  30. Hi Melinda!

    Glad you enjoyed my blog today. It seems a great many immigrants came from Germany. Guess they were looking for escape or a new start. And like you said, even though they might’ve changed their names their thick accents or their customs gave them away. But, the new names at least gave them a fresh start.

    I think my husband’s grandfather took the name of Broday from a river by the same name. At least that’s my understanding. It’s neat how he wrote a letter for future generations explaining that he wasn’t wanted by the law. Also in the letter, he assured all his children that were legitimate and he wasn’t hiding anything there.

    Hope you have a great rest of the day!

  31. Hi Patricia!

    I’ve always wondered about the originality of your last name. It is very unusual. And I find it kinda neat that they immigrated to Canada instead of the U.S. Seems you know quite a bit about your family. You sure go way back. Wow! A lot of people have no clue as to their heritage and that’s sad. I think we should all find out where we came from. It doesn’t change anything but it gives you firm roots.

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