The Evolution Of My Name

My full name is Susan Geralyn Theresa Turco Farrar. Quite a mouthful and a lot to write. Fortunately I don’t have to write it out. Legally my name is Susan G. Farrar. That is how I have been signing my name for almost thirty-two years. Before that I signed Susan G. Turco. The first time I did that I had to sign my driver’s license. I had been debating about using my middle initial. My mother had advised me that if I started using my middle initial it would be a good idea to always use it. Her other reason I liked better, there could be another Susan Turco in the world but it would be harder to find another Susan G. Turco. I thought that made me sound unique, consequently I have used my middle initial ever since.

My maiden name, Turco, is Italian. My father was not raised with his parents, who were both from Italy. Therefore, my father never learned conversational Italian and I know none. A few years ago my older sister, Valerie, had our family name researched. To be honest at the time I thought it was a waste of money, however I did find it interesting. The history states that the surname Turco is derived from the ethnic name of the Turks. Turchi is the plural of Turco and spread throughout Italy. Turco is limited to the southern regions of Italy. This area was more subject to raids by Saracen pirates. These pirates were called Turchi, by the inhabitants of the coasts and “turco” became an adjective. This not only described them but was also used as an insult. According to The Historical Research Center this word entered the common language of the people and is still used today in a comic expression of fear or in a phrase “bestemmiare come un Turco”, which means “to curse as a Turk”. Supposedly this last phrase was created because the people who listened to the Saracen pirates did not understand their language and thought they were cursing the God of the Christians. Another phrase that originated at the time was “fumare come un Turco”, “to smoke as a Turk”. Actually the Turks did not smoke more than the natives of the region but when they smoked they used their Turkish water pipes which created a lot of smoke. The research center goes on to say that the surname Turco of nickname derivation was maybe given as a joke to someone who had some of the supposed moral and physical characteristics of the Turks.

After reading this I didn’t know what to think about my maiden name, I thought I had read somewhere a long time ago that the name Turco had something to do with farming. I was a bit taken aback to find out that it originated as an insult. The last paragraph of this research of our family name made me feel somewhat vindicated. It reads the “Diaionario Storico Blasonico”, an armorial of noble Italian lineages, lists several families by the name of Del Turco and one by the name of Turco, belonging to the Noble Council of Matera circa 1500 A.D. The translation of our Coat of Arms signifies Peace and Loyalty. There is also an eagle on the Coat of Arms, which makes my brother, who is an Eagle Scout very happy. Valerie, my older sister, had this research done after a trip to Italy a few years earlier. On that trip she looked up our family name in the phone book. She told me it was similar to looking up Smith or Jones in the United States. The listings went on for quite a few pages.

When I had first learned about our last name I was very happy to already know the meaning of my first name, Susan. I knew without a doubt that it had nothing to do with insulting anyone. The name is old and of Hebrew origin and means lily. My mother had named me after her grandmother who was born in Ireland. My mother admired her grandmother a great deal and I was proud to have her name. Unfortunately she passed away when I was five years old, but I felt I got to know her through my mother. In researching my name further I came across a web site titled Kabalarian Philosophy, Teaching the Principals of Mental Freedom. What I learned here was a little bit weird. It stated that my first name gave me a pleasant, easy-going, friendly nature. Personal contacts were very important to me. As I read this I thought “How can a name given to me at birth dictate my personality so much?” I was even more shocked when I read on. This analysis stated I have the patience to go into details that someone else may not think to be important. Furthermore, it read that I like to create system and order in my environment; I like to plan and think ahead and do not act impulsively. I don’t like having my plans or routine interfered with. My husband and close friends could give testimony to all of the above. This particular web site would have given me a more comprehensive name report, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pay for something that I might end up putting too much faith in and try to live up to.

My middle name, Geralyn, was also given to me by my mother. My parents are Catholic and it was tradition to give your child a first and middle name. When my mother was pregnant with my older sister she was told she had problems with a valve in her heart. She learned later this happened because she had Rheumatic Fever as a child that went untreated. She found herself pregnant with me seven years after my sister. At that time, 1957, there was no surgery to correct the problem with her heart and she had been advised not to have any more children. My mother was more than just a Catholic, she was a devout Catholic. She did not use any artificial form of birth control. When she found out she was pregnant with me her doctor suggested having the pregnancy terminated due to her health problems. My mother would hear none of that. She had read about Saint Gerard Majella who was the patron saint of expectant mothers as a result of a miracle effected through his prayers for a woman in labor. During her pregnancy with me my mother prayed to him for his intercession for the health of her and her child. I was born very healthy and my mother was fine. She read that the female name for Gerard was Geralyn, hence my middle name.

I was baptized about a month later Susan Geralyn with my godparents speaking for me stating I would be a good person and try and be a good Catholic. When I was twelve years old I received the Sacrament of Confirmation. By receiving this sacrament I state myself that I would be a good person and try to be a good Catholic. To commemorate this occasion I was allowed to choose a name of a saint I admired. At the time we lived in Brooklyn, New York and our family had a neighbor whose first name was Theresa. I had known Mrs. Lovley, (this is how I addressed her) about six years when I was to receive the sacrament of Confirmation. She had become part of my family. She told me that she was named after Saint Theresa, The Little Flower. Although I found Saint Theresa’s life very interesting and pious I picked the name Theresa out of love and respect for our friend and neighbor. When we moved to Las Vegas in 1975 my family wanted her to come with us but she had a son who was married with four children. Their relationship was strained but he was her only son. Shortly before I was married in 1979 she passed away. I have never regretted taking the name of Theresa. That name is a constant reminder of a woman who was a big part of my growing up years.

As an adult I met a woman also named Teresa, she spelled it without an “h” because she was named after another saint, Saint Teresa of Avila. I became very close to this woman and considered her one of my best friends, despite our age difference of thirty years. On January 9, 2010, Teresa passed away suddenly. I am very grateful for the friendship I had with her and sharing a name with someone who treated me as a daughter and friend.

My husband, David, is not sure what his last name, Farrar, means. Since there is an actor of the same name who is English, we assumed it was of English origin. In my research I discovered it is derived from an Old French name Ferrier, usually the name of a blacksmith or iron worker. Personally I like the meaning of David— beloved.

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Comments 2 comments

Bob 5 years ago

Have you across any Del Turco's in your research?


Tina 4 years ago

I wanted to thank you for writing this blog! My maiden name is Turco and I actually always heard it was considered an insult as well. It was hard to believe when I heard it the first time but after telling my husband that I wanted to do more research... I found your blog. I'm also an Italian and my relatives hail from southern Italy and Sicily, as well. I'm still very proud of my maiden name and wish that the meaning didn't have malice in it. Thanks again for writing this.. it was very informative!

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