October 28, 2013

Baby Name Story: The Hershey Family

Our latest name story tells the tale of three beautiful names, and includes a fascinating-and-frustrating snag with German naming laws!
The Hershey Family: Bonnie, Cal Roman, Bella Joy, Alece Edelweiss, and Brian
Meet Bonnie Hershey, wearer of many hats. Married to her best friend, Bonnie is mom to three active kids, now ages 9, 7, and 5. In addition to those full-time jobs, she has a passion for health and helping other families as a practical nutrition advisor and business owner through her website, ProvenNutritionForKids.com. Bonnie writes:

Our family's story is a bit unique because of how we started off, and our children's names capture bits of our history. My husband and I met over in Germany, where we were both serving American military families. Three years later, we were still in Europe—now married—anticipating the birth of our first child, a daughter.

Brian and I decided that we wanted each of our kids' names to reflect someone who deeply impacted our own lives and also the location of their birth. So, with our first child, my husband gave me the honor of naming her from someone in my life first. I chose a close friend who is giving her life away to the people of Africa as a lifelong Christian missionary. "Alece" also means truth and noble.

Our daughter's middle name would then reflect her place of birth in southern Germany, near the Austrian border—"Edelweiss." We fell in love with the symbolism of this little white alpine flower, representing purity and nobility. It was not only commonly worn by Austrian monarchs as a symbol of royalty, but it was also a symbol of utmost love and devotion. Many would-be suitors would climb to treacherous heights in the Alps—some to their deaths—to retrieve this rare flower to win the heart of their true love.

We hope that our daughter Alece Edelweiss will one day embody all of these qualities of truth, honor, love and devotion.

Our second daughter, Bella Joy, was born a bit further south near Naples, Italy and gets her middle name from my mother-in-law. I love that my husband has such a fond affection and respect for his mom. And our daughter has truly become the embodiment of an overflowing, "Beautiful Joy" in her life.

The funniest part about Bella's name came as a surprise to us once she was born. As we would stroll through town or visit the market and coffee shops, all the Italians would see her and say in their flamboyant way, "Bella!" (Accent the first syllable while raising your hands in the air for proper Italian affect.) Our little girl was quite confused as to how all these strange people knew her name. :) But we loved it.

Our third child was finally the boy we had been hoping and praying for. Between my husband and I, it was always understood that I would get to name our first girl and he our first boy. Cal Roman was also born in Italy, just 2 hours south of Rome. "Cal" comes from my husband's close friend, Chris Caliguiri (who also went by "Cal" for short), who mentored him in college and has remained a dear friend ever since.

And though Cal was not actually born in Rome, we liked the distinguished sound of "Roman" much better than Vesuvio, Napoli, or Ravioli.

The "Edelweiss" Obstacle

We had settled on our first daughter's name early on in my pregnancy. Indeed, we had grown to really love it, even though it sounded a bit long at first.

Well, with Alece being born in a local German hospital, the initial response to her middle name was not a warm one. I remember writing her name down on her birth form and happily handing it to the German nurse. A short time later, three nurses (or hospital administrators) returned with the form and flatly said, "You cannot name her this," shoving the paper back into my hand. (Imagine a gruff German accent.)

"Excuse me?" I replied, astonished and not quite sure I heard them correctly.

"This is the name of a flower. You cannot use this."

Upon seeing my determined look and growing frustration, they said I would need to call the city office number (which they placed into my hand) and discuss it with them.

Call, indeed. I was a bit flustered and upset, still not sure what was going on.

We soon learned that, under German law—apparently a law that has carried over from Hitler's regime—Germans are not allowed to name their children after flowers, cars, or anything else. They even have to sign a paper saying they will not name a boy a girl's name and vice versa. This law would have carried over to us had we decided to grant Alece dual citizenship.

So a call to the local city hall was made, and the kind gentleman on the phone quickly realized, "Oh yes, you are Americans. You can name your child whatever you wish." So, to this day, our daughter's fully flowered name is written in the German city hall birth record.

And when our German neighbors and passers-by inquired of our sweet baby's name, their smiles always turned to honest stares of bewilderment…as though we had truly broken the law. Deep down though, I like to think they were just a tad bit jealous that they could not use the names of flowers themselves.

What Our Kids Would Say

I believe our kids are proud of their unique names. We have often shared with them the stories behind their names and what each of them means. They also know the people personally whom they have been named after, and that's important to us. Their names carry a key part of their history—their beginning—and gives them a unique sense of identity.

Between the European-influenced names, the decisions we all think think about in honoring a loved one with a name, and the name-that-almost-wasn't, I absolutely love this story. Thanks to +Bonnie Hershey for sharing it! 
If you'd like to submit your own baby name story, please contact me. Feel free to browse more naming stories here.


  1. Parents in Germany enjoy a lot of freedom when it comes to naming their children. It is clearly stated that parents don't have to choose a name that already exists, but have the right to invent names for their children if they wish. However, that name should be identifiable as a first name. That is why surnames, product names or names of objects are not permitted as first names. In addition, a name should not be absurd or degrading in any way. It is always up to the registry office (Standesamt), but usually parents are allowed to choose up to five different names for their child. It is a common misconception that it must be possible to determine the gender of the child by its first name and if a neutral name is chosen, a second, gender-specific name has to be added. However, this is not a law in Germany but only an administrative provision.

  2. Oh, I love these names! I never would have thought to use Edelweiss, but it's very pretty.


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