I've got blue-gray eyes, light brown hair that falls straight to my shoulders, a smallish nose and round pink cheeks. I certainly wouldn't look out of place in Ireland. But I'm not Irish.
My first name is Caroline (English? French?) and my surname 'Bourne' doesn't give any clues about my heritage either: Bourne is a surname traditionally given to a person who lived by a spring, from the olde English word 'burne'. I grew up in England and no-one has ever asked where I come from. My name fits in. The only time someone misspelt it and I received a letter addressed to 'Ms Porn' I laughed a lot.
Yet my surname 'Bourne' isn't English at all. My grandfather changed it.
Papa Jack was born in 1914 in West Ham, London, as Isaac Baum, the eldest son of Yosef Baum, a market trader. In 1930s London his German-Jewish name meant that certain doors were closed to him. He was known by the name Jack as a boy. Jack is the anglicised form of Isaac. Jack was a studious boy and eventually qualified as a doctor, leaving the market stall far behind him.
He changed his surname in 1940 when he joined the army and became an army doctor. A German name in the British Army would have made life difficult. So to make life easier he changed his surname from Baum to Bourne and traveled through Africa and the Middle East tending to wounded soldiers during the war years.
Changing surnames wasn't new in the family. His father's father had arrived in England as Hirsch Kirschbaum in the 1880s and soon shortened the family name to Baum. Again to make life easier.
To me and anyone who knows some German it seems strange to have an affection for a name that simply translates as 'Tree' (or in the longer form of Kirschbaum, 'Cherry Tree') but the circumstances - and long term effects - of the name-change intrigues me. My grandfather's actions have meant my name has been pretty easy to live with.
It's pretty easy to change your name according the the government <a href="https://www.gov.uk/change-name-deed-poll/make-an-adult-deed-poll" target="_hplink">deed poll</a> service. People like Westminster attacker Khalid Masood had changed his name from Adrian Elms; and David Jones famously became David Bowie. More and more people are changing their names. Not everyone opts for a stand-out or spiritual name: the most popular chosen new name is the rather anonymous 'John Smith'.
Why was your name chosen for you? What does it mean? Where does it come from? Sometimes the meaning is explicit and sometimes it's hidden. Sometimes it's chosen for you, and sometimes you choose it.
I've got a simple Anglo Saxon surname that hides my deep rich Jewish heritage. My Anglo Saxon name 'Bourne' hides tales of flights from Poland, Russia & Spain and refugees finding stability in east London slums, it hides stories of boxers, rabbis, gamblers and fighters. I've got used to my secret identity and now I'm not sure I would like it any other way.
Have you changed your name? Does your name define you?