My mind drifts to random reflections as I navigate the queries on an internet website. What is the user name? What is the password? And answer security question #1?
An internal inquiry presents itself to me: How much of our present lives have become virtual identity-driven and are user names and real names an indication of our identity (perhaps a hint or suggestion about our identity)?
15 years ago, I paid for everything by cash or check and I did not have a cellphone, and now my life is mostly driven by a cyber-self who is regularly navigating the mechanisms of contemporary technology.
Getting back to that website. My random thoughts morph into an epiphany as I consciously consider a specific security question, ‘What is your mother’s maiden name?’ The answer to the question is Fields. The epiphany is augmented by a flashback to her burial, many years ago, in our family graveyard which is in a rural Tennessee area, just east of Memphis. The graveyard is mostly occupied by other deceased family members, with the last name of Fields and some of the gravesites date back to late 19th century, the 1890s.
The epiphany is that the name, Fields, was probably selected or appropriated by an ancestor in the post-Civil War era in the American Southeast. If an African American needed to select or create a surname, most likely, the name was chosen from the elements or individuals that were part of their daily lives; these could include a former or a then current landowner/employer. Coincidentally, my father surname is Sellers; he is originally from Georgia.
Many immigrants, legal and illegal, of a multitude of nationalities over the decades may have changed their names or slightly altered their names upon entry into this country. The archives of the American landmark, Ellis Island, do indicate that many immigrants may have had their names changed, either intentionally or accidentally, before or during or maybe after their Ellis Island entry experience.
It is legal to change one’s name in the United States. Usually it involves paperwork, some regulatory element, and a fee specific to the US State, district, or territory that you reside in. The main motivations for a name change are typically a consequence of a marriage or civil union, a gender change, a religious affiliation, a professional/career advancement, a revision of a childhood name, or simply a desire to change one’s identity.