Dalton Haakon Bradford. We chose the name for our baby because Dalton, as you’ve gathered, is my maiden name. And Haakon (pronounced similarly to “hoe cone”, but that’s where similarity ends), is one of those big names of Norwegian royalty, much like Charles or George in England, Louis and Philip in France. It happens, for instance, to also be the name of the current Norwegian crown prince, Haakon Magnus.
Royal lineage, however, has nothing to do with why we wanted that name for our Viking baby. Personal lineage has. Haakon is an important name from Randall’s maternal line. In the year of 1856, Haakon Aamodt, Randall’s great grandfather and the youngest branch of at least a dozen generations of farming family from the county of Østfold, Norway, joined the Mormon church. Summarily kicked out of the King’s Royal Navy, he did what thousands of European Mormons of that time were doing. He took himself a wife, Julia Josephine, and emigrated to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Although you might not believe this, we knew nothing of Haakon’s story until we’d lived in Norway over a year. It’s then we got a letter from Randall’s oldest sister, who had more or less inherited the matriarchal and family history responsibility when their mother, Shirley, had passed away suddenly less than a year before we’d been offered the job in Oslo. Shirley had been a charitable, humble, self-effacing person who shared few of the details of her upbringing, and even fewer of her extended family history. And so we all understood only that her heritage was vaguely Scandinavian, but the details ended there.
So it came as a surprise when this oldest sister put two and two together and discovered that their mother Shirley was only three generations removed from a small community right in the middle of the endless rolling farmland of the county of Østfold, less than an hour’s drive from our doorstep which was a few minutes west of Oslo. It seemed that Shirley’s father, Albert Aamodt, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Haakon and Julia. Haakon’s father was Christian Torkildsen who lived on one of the many Aamodt farms in Østofld and, as was the way then, took the name of the farm, Aamodt. Our research told us that preceding Christian, there were ten consistently linked generations from that one corner of Østfold. In other words, the Aamodt line is Østfold.
We figured it was a good place to start looking for family. So we packed up the kids and took off one day in search of the first church with a graveyard in that county. Not only did we find that, but a nice older couple out for a stroll that afternoon pointed us right in the direction of the largest Aamodt farm where they promised us the owner would love to chat. He was quite interested in genealogy himself.
An hour later I was playing with the children on ancient wooden farm equipment surrounded by goats and cows while Randall waved at me through kitchen windows. Inside, he was seated next to the family’s long pine farm table where he and other Aamodts shared glasses of cider pressed from their local apples. This American son talked family matters with these Norwegian sons.
All these generations, and there Randall stood, right on Haakon’s very patch of natal soil. Serendipity, a professional stroke of luck, and we believe Shirley’s quiet celestial lobbying had landed us, an American family of five, less than an hour from the roots of Randall’s family tree. Using Haakon’s name for our child born in his country, a country Haakon never set eye on again after emigrating for his faith from the verdant fjords to a chalky expanse of an unknown desert, was our small way of gratefully closing the family circle.
Dalton Haakon Bradford. The string of firm, double-syllabled titles seemed to fit his dense, big-boned build. A strong, heavily-connected appellation for a strong, heavy boy.
But the Norwegian government would have nothing to do with it.
After submitting the name to the civil registry, we got a note back saying Haakon was great, but Dalton?
Nei, det er ikke lov.
Not allowed. Our choice was “unacceptable.”
Unusual, maybe. I could accept that. But unacceptable? Pshaw.
We read on. There were several points detailed in the nice shiny brochure they’d enclosed which outlined which names one must avoid in Norway. I recall some vague guideline about not giving a child a name that would be “disadvantageous” to him in adulthood. Here, I suspected they were thinking of Chastity Bono, Moon Unit or Dweezle Zappa, and any number of American mashups meant to evoke father, mother, eye color and astrological sign in one fell swoop.
Marvellabluvirgo. For instance.
Furthermore, the pamphlet instructed us, the parents were not to use as a given name the mother’s maiden name (our first infraction), nor any last name for that matter, to avoid doubling up on names when one marries. Messing up the genealogy charts and stuff. An Olson Olson. A Carlson Carlson. Marvellabluvirgo Marvellabluvirgo.
Oh, the effrontery.
But wait! You’re thinking, (as we were), that Dalton was, 1) a boy, so he would not, given the tradition, take on the married name of his Norwegian bride with the family name of Dalton and become a freakish and stuttering Dalton Dalton, and, 2) the name Dalton is not Norwegian in the first place, so the chances were less than zero that there would be someone in this vast country named –
Randall whipped up the phone and brandished his finest, most professional Norwegian which was by now and in this moment of frustration, polished and gushing at full force like a 300 meter Norwegian waterfall after thaw.
“This is the Norwegian Civil Registry. I’m Snorre at the office of Name Laws. May I help you?
“Yes. Good day, Snorre. I’d like to name my baby. What I want.”
“Let’s see. . .are you Norwegian citizens?”
“Nope. Neither is the baby. We’re temporary residents in your lovely country. So of course we can’t be subject to your Name Laws.”
“Let’s see. . .let me transfer you to my colleague.”
“Hello, this is Odd.”
“Hello, Odd. I am Randall. Neither my newborn baby nor my wife nor I are Norwegian citizens and we want to name this baby what we want. We’ve decided on Dalton Haakon. Is his going to present any problems for your office, your country, King Harald and Queen Sonja? And if it does, what if I name him anyway? You going to confiscate him?”
No snicker back.
“Actually, Randall, in order to receive a Norwegian birth certificate, you have to comply with our Name Laws. If you do not comply, no certificate. No certificate? No passport. And your son is then officially illegitimate.”
“Alrightee, Odd. May I speak with your supervisor?”
“Hello, this is Hrothgar, office of Name Laws. You might want to consider putting your son’s second name, Haakon, first, and just putting Dalton second. This is a good compromise, don’t you think? According to this footnote, you can, in fact, use a family name as a second name. But not as a first.”
“No, Hrothgar,” Randall said, “I think not. My baby. My name. No compromise.”
“Then I’m afraid I can’t help you. We at Norway’s Name Law office want to protect your child. If one day your son marries someone Norwegian with the last name Dalton—”
“Time out, time out, Hrothgar! First, help me understand, would you please, how many people with the last name of Dalton are currently living in Norway?”
Pause. Computer click-click-click sounds.
“There are. . .hmmm. . . six. I see there is. . .um.. . one Dalton on an island off the southwestern coast. And one Dalton. . .let’s see. . .yes. . . northeast of Hammerfest near the Arctic Circle and–”
“Right. Okay, so what’s the probability of this little baby Dalton Bradford one day marrying one of these Daltons and then crashing Norway’s entire genealogical data system by taking her name and becoming Dalton Dalton?”
“Well. . . Randall. . . there is still the other issue.”
“The other issue?”
“We just can’t be sure that Dalton is an acceptable first name. I’ve checked, and it’s nowhere on our Acceptable Names list. It is normally a last name, your wife’s last name, am I not right?”
“Hrothgar, may I speak with your supervisor?”
“Hello, this is Beowulf. You are calling about the Name Laws, aren’t you?”
“Right, yes. Okay listen. Dalton is a fully acceptable first and last name. And to make everyone happy, I’ll personally see to it that our son not marry a Someone Dalton from the Polar ice cap. In fact, I won’t even let him date anyone from there. Can we just name our baby what we want?”
“For this exception, Randall, you will need to provide a letter of intercession from your native government. Then, you will have to be able to show proof that this name Dalton is acceptable. Solid, tangible proof.”
So did you know that you can, if you really have to, receive via Fed Ex Express vintage bubble gum cards of the New Orleans Saints football player, Dalton Hilliard? A CD cover featuring Dalton Baldwin as accompanist? And title pages of every last one of Dalton Trumbo’s screenplays?
A fortune for all that plus a paltry bribe of one packet of El Paso Taco seasoning for an Embassy affiliate, and we got the obsequious letter begging for the right to name our baby as we, and as his great-great intervening Norwegian grandfather who must have been smiling somewhere, wished.
© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.