One in four adult Canadians have no idea what their grandmother's maiden name was (according to a recent survey by www.ancestry.ca, an online resource for family history), and I imagine that the results for people in the U.S. would be about the same. It's a shame to lose precious parts of our family history, so it's important for us to tell our grandchildren who we are, who we were, and what we have done in our lives before they or their parents were even dreamed of. One in five Canadians don't know what their grandfathers did for a living, and I would guess that even fewer would know what their grandmothers did, even though throughout history many women have indeed worked for pay or done valuable volunteer work.
This maiden-name business is an issue that I feel strongly about. If I were getting married today, I would keep the name I had for 22 years before my marriage. As it is, I inserted my maiden name, Wendkos, into my byline sometime after I began being published when I got that a-ha! moment and realized that no one who had known me before my marriage would ever connect Sally Olds with Sally Wendkos.
With the holidays coming up, many grandmas will be lucky enough to spend time with your grandchildren. This will be a perfect time for you to tell them about your past -- what your name once was (if you have changed it) and what some of the important aspects of your life have been. One helpful tool for this is "For My Grandchild: A Grandmother's Gift of Memory," published by Sterling Publishing Co. in affiliation with AARP. It's a beautiful hardcover workbook and sells for only $9.95 in the U.S. and $12.95 in Canada. (Disclosure: the book I am currently writing, about activities grandmothers can do with their grandchildren, will also be published by Sterling.)
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