Names are important to us. When we are young, we learn through experience how to provide our ancestry, how to answer questions about “whose are we”.
We carry the names of great families forever in our hearts.
We name drop amongst each other.
My surname was changed.
My father’s father changed their surname after coming to America. We know little about his family, except that he was a Mačvano from Serbia. I still give this name.
It is not a “Romani” surname, so to speak, but it is a surname used by Romani. It is recognizable as such.
My father’s father left the family when my father was a little boy. I met the man once. He stayed with my family one time & I was too young to remember. He went to the West Coast & sent us back gifts every now & again; beautiful wood carvings. These are the only things I know of my Papo.
He was a Mačvano who did wood carvings.
I trace my lineage through my father’s mother’s side. My father’s mother belonged to a large Lovari family. The surnames she carries are well known as being Lovari by other Lovari. But, this is “wrong”.
We are patrilineal. It is “wrong” for me to give my ancestry this way, but it is the only way I can.
I have referred to myself with my father’s father’s surname, as it was before it had been Americanized. I am allowed to do so.
I am not allowed to appropriate the names of my ancestors. I am not allowed to use surnames from my father’s mother’s side for my own personal benefit. And, yes, I would benefit from using strong Lovari surnames, but doing so would be wrong.
Our names are important to us.
Who is a Bimbo?
Who is a Horvath?
Who is a Gabor, a Turcsik, a Stojka, a Boswell?
We may no longer carry these surnames legally, but we know what family to which we belong.
“Whose are you?”
You don’t get to choose lineage over another. You give what you have.
If you have a bad name, you have a bad name.
If you no longer carry that name, you cannot start calling yourself by it.
You can name drop.
You can be proud of your family, your tserxa, your kumpaniya.
Don’t believe for a second that I don’t name drop when I can. I do so in my own language, but I am proud of this ancestry.
And Romani names?
Sure, it would be unconventional to receive a “Romani name” later in life. It does happen & so long as you received it in a proper manner, there is nothing wrong with it.
But, it is your “Romani name”. It’s called a “Romani name” because it is used only among other Romani.
Some families are very strict about who can know their ”Romani name”, some allow it to be used by any other Romani.
Either way, publicly stating your “Romani name” is a big no-no.
You just don’t do that.
There is deeper meaning behind the names we carry. Our legal names do not mean much to us.
For every person of “Romani ancestry”, you cannot simply pick a surname that popped up in your genealogy search & begin using it.
There is a proper way to express your lineage.
You don’t get to use a surname to sell books or make money, especially not a distant one.
If you are going to use a surname that is different than your legal name, it should be from your father’s side. If you are half by your mother, then the name should be from your mother’s father’s side.
If you are less than half by your mother’s mother, well then you’re just shit out of luck & the only right way to use that name is in answering questions about your ancestry to other Romani.
Apparently some people with “ancestry” do not get this.
Granted, be proud of your ancestry. No one is telling you not to be, but using a distant surname or said ancestry to line your own pockets is very, very wrong.
I have names I use with different people and names I will not ever share.
I always state my father’s first.
My mother’s second.
I Use both Cooper and Žeželje because my father’s family changed their names when they arrived in England, but I am not technically a part of the English Cooper lineage. I use Žeželje so as to disentangle our roots, as most of my family also did.
I use Zavackova, as I am allowed, because 3/4 of my family are Petikova and Zavackova from Slovakia and it is carried through both a male and female lineage in my family. Even though my father’s family carry patrilineal Lotfitka, the ties between our families have been strong for generations and many of our middle names attest to this fact.
I am tired of seeing authors who change their names (blatantly) for the benefit of selling inaccurate “Gypsy” trash. I am tired of those kinds of books - and those kinds of authors.
I am tired of people who change their names when they find out they’re 1/8 Romani to something “exotic” or “Romani-sounding”.
I have hidden my names for a long time - because I was uncomfortable admitting my heritage. It’s one thing to say “I’m Roma” it’s another entirely to say “I’m Žeželj” or “I’m Zavackova”.
It has far more meaning than a pretty sounding name.