G is for Gertrude

Gertrude means “strong spear/spear maiden.”

My grandmother was born Gertrude Elizabeth Yates on August 10. For the longest time, we all, i.e. her daughter and her family, thought she was born in 1898, which I found easy to remember: the Spanish-American War was that year. But one day in the 1960s, she decided or was persuaded, to register to vote. And we were surprised to discover that she was in fact born in 1897. Why had she lied about this fact for so many years, we never knew.
My mother was born Gertrude Elizabeth Williams on November 17, 1927. The younger Gertrude was called Gertie by her family. Turns out, she HATED being Gertie, and, at some point before I was born, became Trudy. Only some of her cousins still referred to her as Gertie.

I’m fascinated how some names somehow get dubbed as “old-fashioned.” Gertrude is a perfectly serviceable name. In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Gertrude is Hamlet’s mother and Queen of Denmark. Yet, in the Social Security’s baby name register in the US, Gertrude was #25 in 1880 for girl names, the first year for which there was data, and stayed in the top 30 through 1912, but fell out of the top 100 in 1931, the top 200 in 1942, the top 500 in 1955, and out of the top 1000 in 1966, never to return.

It used to bother me, and I suspect it bugged my mother, that comedian Red Skelton, who had a variety show on CBS-TV for many years in the 1950s and 1960s, featured cross-eyed seagulls named Gertrude and Heathcliff in his act.

But I do find it interesting that Gertrude means strong spear/spear maiden since Roger means famous with the spear/renowned spearman.


The Mission Choir, the Catholic choir that my sister sang with for years and still an inactive member, requested and was granted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to be offered in honor of my mom. That’s pretty amazing, apparently, since they know she was not Catholic. It will be Sunday, May 1st, 2011 at noon when the choir sings: Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala’, 10818 San Diego Mission Road, San Diego, CA 92108.

Also, a member of the Mission Choir enrolled Mom in the St. Patrick’s Mission Circle as part of the St. Patrick’s Fathers. The document says: “All members, living and deceased, are associated with the work of St. Patrick missionaries throughout the world, share in their daily Masses and prayers and in three special Masses each day as well as in sixteen Novenas of Masses each year.”

Not being Catholic, I don’t exactly know what that means, but it sounds nice.

ABC Wednesday – Round 8

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