What's In A Name?.

Albert Vetere Lannon, aka---

© Copyright 2020 by Albert Vetere Lannon

Alberto, Adelbert,
Альберт, Albertino,
Aliberto, Αλβέρτος,

ア ルバート
Альберт, Æthelberht,            

Albertus, etc.


My name is Albert Vetere Lannon; the name on my birth certificate is Albert Francis Lannon, Jr. But is that name traceable in any genealogy survey? Probably not.

For one thing, my father was the first son of Italian immigrants, and was named Anselmo Francesco Vetere. His father, Luigi, facing harsh anti-Italian prejudice in workplaces, decided to Americanize with a vengeance. Luigi became Louie, and Anselmo Francesco became Albert Francis. His ten brother’s and sister’s names were all Americanized as well.

My father’s father had drinking issues, and beat his wife, Catherine – formerly Caterina – and his oldest son. Dad ran away from home at 16 and joined the Coast Guard, but was soon caught and returned home. The next time he ran away to sea he figured he’d better have a new name, and “Lannon” came from the hero of a western novel he was reading, Chuck Lannon. Dad eventually had his name changed legally, and so I was born Albert Francis Lannon, Jr.

But I wasn’t supposed to be. Italian first-born sons are supposed to be named after the patriarch, Louie, but Dad actually wanted me to be named Roy, after his union organizer and political mentor on the waterfront, Roy Hudson. But when Mom went into labor, Dad took her to the hospital in a taxi, and then left for a conference in Canada. Mom decided that Junior it would be. The first-born son of Dad’s older sister, Elvira, got Louie’s name.

In 1987 I visited my grandfather’s home village in Calabria, Zinga, and saw the stone house he grew up in. I saw that choices were very limited in little mountain villages of goat herders, with farming on hand-hewn terraces carved into the mountainsides. The three public buildings in Zinga were the Catholic Church, the bar, and the Communist Party headquarters. The trip brought me closer to my far-flung and numerous cousins, and I took Vetere as my middle name. I never liked Francis anyway.

Except for when I was very young and called “Junior” a lot, I’d always been “Al,” like my father. I inherited the family drinking problem and finally got sober in 1988. Working a recovery program, I ended up in the High Sierras a year later crying my eyes out in the morning sun, and feeling connected to the human race for the first time in my life. I felt like more-or-less a whole person, the “hole in the soul” now gone, and Al became Albert. I’ve been Albert now for over 31 years.

My mother’s parents came from Finland, and the story I knew was that Grandpa Isa, Isaac Lund, had been Isaac Bjorklund, and that the immigration agents at Ellis Island couldn’t deal with the Bj and shortened it to Lund. My cousin Frances did some family research and found otherwise.

Isa came to America and worked in the copper mines of Butte, Montana. He joined the IWW, Industrial Workers of the World, who were decidedly anti-capitalist, declaring “the employing class and the working class have nothing in common!” There was a strike, and the Wobblys, as they were popularly known, believed in direct action. That included blowing up the mine (usually with no one in it) to completely shut it down.

A mine was dynamited in the Butte strike, and Isaac Bjorklund left the U.S. in a hurry to return to his home Vaasa Province in Finland. He returned a few years later with a wife, Mary, and a new name, Lund, to work in the Baltimore steel mills. Does that make him an illegal alien? I’m not sure. If so, what, then, am I?

So, when I receive mailings advertising compilations of all the Lannons in the United States and Canada, well, none of them are related to me. My sister is now a Dutch citizen and lives in The Netherlands near her family. I particularly love it when some advertising mailing is sent to me assuming my last name is the same as my wife’s, which it is not. And, to the native First Peoples, all non-indigenous people – whatever our names -- are descended from illegal aliens. That’s another subject, but one worth thinking about when passions fire up about refugees at our borders seeking asylum. They are not nameless.

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