How to change your name : a simple guide

how to change your name - my storyThis post is for anyone wondering how to change your name or (if you are interested), why I’m changing my name.

It’s already started. “Why would you want to change your name?” 

“Ooh, did you get married?” 

“Did you get divorced?” 

I’ve changed my name twice before in my life. Once when I was adopted, then again when I got married and briefly adopted my husband’s name.

One of the things I know, then, about changing my name – it’s SO obvious. You can’t subtly change your name and assume nobody will notice. Everyone notices.

So… I’ve changed my name.

Why am I changing my name?

Changing my name is something I’ve been considering for a few years now. I just didn’t really know how to change your name.

I know it’s not that uncommon for adults to change their names. Apparently, 15,000 people in the UK have changed their name in the last ten years. And actually if you added in people who change names because of marriage, divorce or adoption, I suspect the figures are higher than that.

In my case there’s no wedding or divorce. Just a change in our family circumstances, compared to when I got this particular name. Since being adopted, my mother has remarried, and has a different surname. My daughter has always used a combo of my name and her Dad’s surname, so we don’t match. Then, three years ago, we had a family row and the part of the family that uses my current name stopped speaking to us.

Three years on, I’ve realised that while I can try to understand their issues and forgive people for their actions, there comes a point where I’m no longer interested in continually trying to persuade them to be a part of my life, or my daughter’s life. People are going to do what they want to do.

At the same time, I’m not interested in dragging around a name that only reminds me of people and situations that are sad or no longer relevant. If nobody else in your life uses that name, then why keep it?

I discussed the change with my parents, who were really supportive. My Mum said it is actually quite exciting, choosing a new name for a new phase in your life. I discussed it with Flea, who LOVES my new name. She’s 16 and makes her own choices, but has changed her name so she’s using just her Dad’s name.

Since this involved Flea, I also discussed it with Flea’s Dad who rolled his eyes and called it, “your latest ridiculous project.” But actually, he’s supportive of anything that puts space between our child and anyone who doesn’t treat her like the amazing person she is.

How to change your name

The good news is that changing your name is actually pretty easy. You need to start with a deed poll, which is a formal document that renounces your old name and declares that you will only be known by your new name in future. 

Lots of companies will charge a fee for a fancy printed deed poll but you don’t need that. You can write your own, and it’s free. Use online templates, create the form, sign it, ask a witness to sign it – and you’re done.

As an adopted person changing names was a little bit more complex, and there are some extra stages, but nothing too onerous.

But it’s not just about how to change your name – what will you change it to? The hard bit for me was settling on a new name. To begin with, I narrowed my name choice down to 3 or 4 options.

I wanted a name that still felt like a ‘family’ name and referenced a connection with my parents. I tried out a few different names, using various older family middle names, surnames and the like. I narrowed it down to three options, and asked a few trusted friends for their opinions. Not gonna lie, I did also check which Instagram names were available because it’s the internet age, and nobody wants a weird Instagram handle.

Choosing a new name

In the end I came up with… Sally Cameron Ross.

Cameron is my grandmother’s maiden name. My grandma was an incredible person. She was smart and brave and went to university when women didn’t really go to university. She was a bona fide hero, once swimming out to sea to rescue people from a shipwreck. She loved to swim and most of all, she loved to read. And she loved to encourage me to read. I love the idea of having a name that remembers her, and I think she’d have liked that, too.

Ross is the name of my late brother. After my Mum, Ross was unquestionably the most important person in my childhood and 20s. He was kind and forgiving and loving and protective, and he balanced all of that with a sense of humour. He was my protector and my best friend, and I miss him every day.  I love the idea of carrying his name and his memory with me.

Still, it felt nerve-wracking to make such a big change in public view. I waited until all the paperwork was signed and witnessed and the deed poll submitted to the court. But actually, the minute I started changing accounts over to Sally Ross, it felt like the right decision for us both.

It’s a name that makes me smile. It reminds me of people who taught me that I do matter, that we all do, no matter what. Who wouldn’t want a name like that? I hope this post helped if you’re looking for how to change your name, too.

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