i’m considering changing my name

clay shentrup
4 min readMar 23, 2024

i was born clay tibbets. i never really loved the name. people would often misspell it “tibbetts” (tho i later found this was how it was spelled a few generations back, until someone dropped the third “t”). a friend might jokingly call me “kibbles and bits”. it just didn’t have a nice ring to it.

then somewhere around my early 20s, a friend of mine took his mother’s last name, changing it from armstrong to porter. this was a symbolic gesture of distancing himself from his father, who had left his mother for a younger woman, leaving her to raise four young children by herself. i could relate to this, because i also had a complicated relationship with my father. he was an unambitious as well as violent and physically abusive alcoholic, and my mother had divorced him when i was very young.

my friend’s decision to change his name also reminded me of a story i had read about eddie vedder, singer for the legendary rock band pearl jam. vedder was born edward louis severson iii in the chicago suburb of evanston, illinois, to karen lee vedder and edward louis severson, jr. his parents divorced in 1965, when vedder was an infant. his mother soon remarried, to a man named peter mueller. vedder was raised believing that mueller was his biological father, and he went by the name edward mueller for a time. i eventually learned that by some strange coincidence, chris cornell (née boyle), the singer for soundgarden, another grunge rock icon and pearl jam contemporary and collaborator, had also taken his mother’s name.

all of these accounts of figures in my life taking their mother’s maiden name in response to complicated relationships with their fathers caused me to seriously consider it. i had felt an especial affinity for my maternal grandfather, raymond vincent schoentrup. he had been a veterinarian, and though he passed away when i was only a second grader, i had vague but weighty memories of him sharing with me his penchant for science, which came to be very central to my being. i can still remember reading a copy we had of carl sagan’s the dragons of eden when i was in early grade school.

so sometime around late 2007, i legally changed my name to schoentrup. however, i americanized it to shentrup, to match my family’s pronunciation. (apparently others in our family tree, but several generations removed, pronounce it more like “shown-troop”, which i suspect is closer to the original german pronunciation.) but in spite of the simplified spelling, i’ve still found that people tend to struggle to pronounce this unusual unfamiliar name. and of course i have to spell it every time.

nearly two years ago, in 2022, my wife and i made friends with a portland real estate agent named legion anders. in a similar vein to the stories i’ve mentioned, he symbolically cut ties with his father, by shortening the name anderson, which means “andrew’s son”, and goes back even further to the greek name “andreas”, whose root “andro-” means “manly” or “masculine” (which, incidentally, is related to the word “android”, which means “man-form”).

this story rebooted my consideration of my own decision to change my name. unlike those aforementioned changes to porter, vedder, and cornell, my name change hadn’t achieved simplicity and pronounce-ability. and i can’t even say that i find the name shentrup to have a particularly pleasing ring to it. so i’ve recently considered, what if i simply changed it again?

when i first considered the idea, which had crossed my mind in a handful of fleeting instances over the years, i imagined choosing from the universe of names which would sound aesthetically and be easy for americans to pronounce and spell. but then i recalled a list i had compiled of all the available names in my family tree, gotten off an ancestry web site some years ago when i took a brief interest in genealogy. what if i were to pick a name that satisfied my practical criteria and came from my actual family tree?

i quickly discarded names like raukopf, rynearson, schlimer, hooglandt, and stoothoff. after filtering down, i quickly came to a shortlist:

  • anderson
  • armstrong
  • arnold (on both my mom’s and dad’s sides!)
  • harrison
  • jones
  • robinson
  • hall
  • moon
  • wolf

of course our friend mr. anders, formerly anderson, liked anderson, as well as armstrong and robinson. another liked moon, but found wolf to be too aggressive sounding. (for what it’s worth, i find moon to be a bit too hippie sounding, although it gives me positive associations with keith moon, deceased drummer for the classic rock band, the who.) armstrong is actually the name my first friend mentioned above changed away from to porter. we also have friends here in portland by the name of arnold. so there are a lot of interesting connections here. a few of my friends liked anderson, partially because it’s the last name of character neo in the movie the matrix, played by keanu reeves. one friend joked that he would always greet me as “mr anderson”, in the style of hugo weaving’s character, agent smith, a prominent villain in the matrix.

i’m still flirting with the idea, as well as considering the possibility of having my kids take my wife’s last name, torres. i’ll keep you posted.



clay shentrup

advocate of score voting and approval voting. software engineer.