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Should I change my surname?

wijsman at max.u.washington.edu wijsman at max.u.washington.edu
Tue Feb 14 12:29:20 EST 1995

Your choice of what to do about your surname should be made on the
basis of what you think will work best for you, not what your parents,
future in-laws, or whoever, thinks you should do because of
"tradition".  If you are a career scientist, once you start publishing
you can lose significant ground if you ever change your publication
name.  Name recognition is very important, and you can do yourself a
real disservice by changing your name after you start getting papers
out.  So once you start publishing under a particular name, it is wise
to continue in the same vein. 

Despite many fears to the contrary, I don't think there is any real
logistical problem with having 2 names in a family, so I don't think
there is any reason to change a name just because of such fears.  I
did not change my name when I got married, and it has never been much
of a problem, either in legal situations, or in dealing with schools,
friends, etc.  There are lots and lots of families with multiple
names, either because of initial choice or because of divorce &
remarriage.  One has to have some tolerance for the occasional
relative who refuses to recognize the different names, but it isn't
worth making a big deal out of recalcitrant old fogeys.  In legal
situations, if a misunderstanding arises one just reemphasises the 2

If you go with 2 names & have kids, you do have to decide on how you
will work the names.  My husband & I decided to go with males=his
name, females=my name.  Others we know have chosen just one name for
all kids.  Either is ok.

Ellen Wijsman
Research Associate Professor
Div of Medical Genetics, RG-25
and Dept of Biostatistics
University of Washington
Seattle, WA   98195

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