That’s The Way You Do It

Getting your way.

Sometimes, it’s not the people but the documents that give up the juiciest family backstory, although people may now and then let something slip or by nuance disclose what was seldom spoken, if at all. My maternal grandfather’s death certificate, as I’ve said before, has in the fill-in-the-blank section for Disease Or Condition Directly Leading To Death ” (Unknown) Autopsy was made by Terrell Laboratory for Mrs. _________ who refused to reveal results.” But his only daughter Foy Ann’s official Birth Certificate says much, much more.

She was born Foy Ann in August 1925 and died as Fay Ann in September 1987 and my sister and I grew up with a clear understanding that Fay Ann was no more fond of her father than was his third wife, who might well have hastened his passing. On more than one occasion, she mentioned that she never liked the name Foy and had both applied for and been granted an official name change when she turned 18 and we certainly couldn’t find fault with that.

And why should she not? A name change is no big deal. You just have to decide how you’d prefer to be called and then go before a judge or a magistrate to give an explanation. And, barring some outrageous choice of new moniker, such as proposing that your first, middle, and last name are each comprised of the entire alphabet, you’ll likely get what you came for.

In 2002, however, when I got an official copy of her Birth Certificate to go with my application for membership in The Sons Of The Republic Of Texas, I realized that Foy Ann had done something a little more telling than she ever admitted.

In August 1943, Foy Ann turned 18 and in September 1943 she and her mother went to the Tarrant County Courthouse, where they requested and were given a brand-new official Birth Certificate. At the time, her mother explained to the Registrar that Foy’s first name had been misspelled when the original Birth Certificate was prepared and issued. It was supposed to be Fay, she said, not Foy and they had been forced to leave it as it was until Foy turned 18 because the father was being disagreeable about it, just as he had been about everything during the marriage.

In truth, then, Foy Ann’ hadn’t just gotten a name change in 1943. She had retroactively told her father to take the name he chose and shove it up his ass…