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What's in a Name?

Time 0:03:25


With great grandparents Audni Magnusdottir and Erikur Bjarnason and Sigridur Thorbergsdottir and Thorleifur Jonsson and grandparents Bjorg Petursdottir and Sigurdur Bjarnason and Petrun Petursdottir and Kristjan Kristjansson, born in Iceland and coming to Canada… my parents were Gudrun Gudlog Kristjansson and Bjarni Sigurdur Bjarnason. Upon moving from the farm in Saskatchewan in a Icelandic community called Pingvallabyd to an English community of about 2500 this Bjarnasson name was a difficult one to pronounce. There were only 5 other Icelandic families in the area. My dad's name was Bjarni and my mom was Mrs. Bjarni, I was Bjarni and my younger brother was Bjarni.

As we had moved to Minnedosain December of 1943 at age 8 and in grade 2, my teacher asked for my name. Gudrun Viola Bjarnason. The teacher remarked that this was a very long and difficult name. Would I ask my mother for something different? So, I told my mother there was something wrong with my name. Mother suggested I try using Gertrude. Soooo… I went all through school, to grade 12 and all through university with this “Gertrude.” As I was about to graduate from Brandon College (the university of Brandon today) in 1957, I was standing beside another graduate who was reading the names. He commented to me ‘Aha, you really are Gertie’s garter.” With this comment, I turned on my heel, went into the registrar’s office, and had my name changed from Gertrude to Gudrun. After 14 years I finally had my name back.

When I married, I was going to lose this name again. In the Icelandic culture, you never lose your name. So I had to really learn to accept another new name: Hilton. During the holidays, there was no special Christmas eve in the Hilton home. I announced that now Christmas eve would be Bjarnason style on the 24th, and Hilton style on the 25th. When I was in my 50’s, I just had to have my identity as an Icelander back again. So I became Gudrun Viola Bjarnason Hilton. This is my name as a retiree and a senior citizen.

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