I have an unusual surname. Even now, I think, my father is the only Barnickle listed in the Birmingham phone directory – so I grew up believing that our little family of 4 souls was all that remained of the Barnickle clan, and that the name would die out after my father.
I often wondered where the name originated. As a student, on a visit to Germany, I was told that it might be a Polish name – that there were Polish people living in Stuttgart, where I was staying, who spelled the name “Barnickel”. So I dreamed of an exotic heritage, far away from the smog and industry of the West Midlands, where I was born.
Imagine my disappointment, then, when I eventually got round to checking my lineage online, and discovered that the Barnickle family had been resident in and around Birmingham since at least 1799 – 5 generations back. To my surprise, I also discovered that my grandfather was one of 16 children, of whom 11 were still alive in 1911. And there I was, thinking we were the only 4 Barnickles left!
I remember someone I worked with, during university holidays, saying that her grandfather’s name was Barnickle – but I assumed she had made a mistake, or that it was spelled differently, so I didn’t pursue it. Now I realise we might have been related.
My father had no idea he had 11 aunts and uncles – and neither did Burke’s Peerage, when they drew up a family tree for him years ago. The only Barnickles they were able to find, if memory serves, were myself and my mother – not even my sister. In desperation, I thought, they had suggested we were kin to the Coen family. It seemed quite a leap from “Coen” to “Barnickle”!
However, according to the website www.houseofnames.com, talking about the Coen coat of arms and the history of the Irish origins of the name: “Spelling variations of this family name include Coyne, Coen, Cohen, Kyne, Kilcoyne, Coyney, Koyne, Koen, Kohen, M’Coyne, Coyn, Coin, Coine, Koin, Koine, Barnacle (a synonym of Coyne by translation), Barnicle, Barnycle, Barnackle, Barnicall, Barnickle and many more.”
So I’m not Polish. I’m Irish!! Well I never. 🙂
So now I’m wondering what to do with this new found knowledge. I suppose I could try contacting my extended family – but what if they thought I was just after their money (if they had any)?! And what if I didn’t like them – or they me – and I was doomed for ever more to attend family reunions at Christmas, singing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” at the top of my lungs? Perish the thought!
I quite liked the idea of being part of a small family. Perhaps it made me feel special.
It might be interesting to trace the family further back, just to see where we hail from – at the risk of finding out that we are dyed-in-the-wool Brummies! You never know, there might have been a sense of adventure somewhere in the dark and distant recesses of my family tree.
Of course, in business, it’s quite handy to have an unusual and memorable name. Once heard, never forgotten – and hopefully for all the right reasons! So what do I want to do with this name I’ve been given? What do I want my legacy to be?
I’d like to think that the name “Julia Barnickle” will live on, long after I’ve gone, and that people will remember me for having inspired them to do something they thought was impossible. It doesn’t have to be climbing Everest, or flying to the moon. It can be whatever you choose. I’d also like my name to stand for honesty, integrity and authenticity, as well as a sense of adventure and fun.
What’s in a name? A never-ending opportunity to share with people who you are, and what you believe!