00. Weirdest Names on the Planet

Weirdest Names on the Planet

No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham…

Genesis 17:5

I know what you’re thinking. My name is weird. My great, great grandmother screwed me. Her son was born Austin Crank and died Austin de Coup-Crank. How this happened was a mystery until recently. Jack and Shirley, my paternal grandparents, kindled a growing interest in genealogy fueled by the desire to answer this burning question. During their decades-long journey, they scoured records continuously only to slam into dead ends at each turn.

The two of them started their search for de Coup-Cranks. For most of Pops’ life, he believed the true family name was de Coup-Crank, not knowing his father Austin was born with only Crank for a last name. It wasn’t until several years after he and Shirley began this investigation that they discovered Crank was the original name. Jack was told de Coup-Crank was conjoined from a family merger. The records, though, didn’t add up. 

Long before I was born, they visited Pops’ country of origin, England. There they sought birth, death and marriage records. When their efforts proved to be fruitless, they ditched “de Coup” from their manual, paper-flipping search engine and sought only Crank. 

When they narrowed their search, Jack and Shirley met new characters further down the line. Austin’s dad was Joseph Richard Alouysius Crank. He married Christina, whose full name is Augĕsta Emma Christina Kirbitz. Joseph’s father was Geoffry Crank who was married to Marianne Tipping. The family tree trunk touched ground when they met Geoffry’s father and mother Thomas Crank and Rachel Thomas. No de Coup in sight.

Jack and Shirley’s archeology hit bedrock. Many years later they were surprised to find a copy of Austin’s birth certificate with a different middle name. The word of mouth from his mother suggested Austin was born Austin Theobold de Coup-Crank. The paper listed Austin with “de Coup” as the middle name and “Crank” for his last. This new discovery of an old manuscript set their course in a new direction.

Austin’s mother Augĕsta, birthed a total of three children each with the last name Crank. Through careful observation, Nani and Pops realized that all of her babies had first and middle names that were in some way related to a family member. The only name that was not accounted for was de Coup.

Towards the end of Jack and Shirley’s four-decade long investigation, when analyzing the Tipping names, the answer they’d been looking for emerged. Maryanne Tipping’s father was Richard Tipping. Richard Tipping’s wife was Margaret Tipping. Margaret’s maiden name was Coupé. A friend recruited to aid Nani in her research ended the journey when she discovered her full maiden name was actually de Coup.

Now everything made sense. They already knew that England’s class barrier in the early twentieth-century was comparable to American racism in the 1960’s. Crank was a working class name. The working class could only be bricklayers, tailors, factory workers and the like, so they devised a plan to demolish this arbitrary blockade. 

Augĕsta was a lofty woman who would never be satisfied with Austin performing such denigrating work. Gentry at that time flashed hyphenated titles. To blend in with them she smacked Austin’s prior middle name together with Crank and changed his middle name. After carefully hiding away his original birth certificate and crafted a new one, she took it one step further.

To convince authorities and her descendants the legitimacy of their heritage, she fabricated a story that the name de Coup originated from royalty dating back to the tenth century, and their Crank name was distinguished from other commoners’ surnames. Without any records or evidence, she convinced them their regal blood could be traced back to Crank castle in England’s northeastern region of Lancashire. Pops, lifting his chin, rolling his R’s and untucking his former highfalutin English accent would later tell us, “Grandmamma suffered from delusions of grandeur.” 

Her delusional decision not only opened more doors for Austin. It branded me with one of the weirdest names on the planet.

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