Harriet Dushane Penniman Patterson Buchanan

Who is it who has such a long name? My mother. The “Buchanan” at the end came later, when she married my father, but even before that, it’s a bit of a long name. This photo will give you a sense of why she inherited family-names-as-middle-names from her family roots. (Does anyone still publish announcements like this? Is there even such a thing anymore as this kind of social column? I imagine she would be around 18 in the picture, so around 1939.) The caption says:

Miss Patterson, debutante daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Sterling Patterson and granddaughter of George Dobbin Penniman, will leave for New York February 13 to visit her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Sioussat.

If you’re interested in her mother’s side of the family, there are some genealogy books on the Pennimans, published in the 1980s, that are now available for digital borrowing from OpenLibrary.org. Her mother, my grandmother, was Harriet Wilson Dushane Penniman, given number 147.192.413 in the numbering system used in the books. So my mother would be number 147.192.413.1 (and I would be 147.192.413.13).

It was because she had such a string of long middle names herself that my mother gave me and my sisters no middle names at all. Since the culture’s convention is for women to take their husband’s last name and men to keep their own, my parents figured that my sisters and I would have our last name as a middle name if we ever married, and gave my brother one single middle name, a family name from my father’s side of the family.

My mother was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 17th, 1921. She died in France in May 2001.