18 September 2010

World Wide Namesakes

Hanneke was a very popular girl's name in Holland in the sixties and seventies. In elementary school, I was one of three in my class alone. Nowadays, you don't hear it much and if you do, chances are the woman is my age. My maiden name is a lot less common. It's not so unique that every Van H. you meet is related to me, but you really don't encounter it very often. I was sure, however, that my particular combination was one of a kind. Until I learned otherwise via the Dutch version of classmates.com.

After I moved to the US, I stopped using my maiden name, except for official purposes, because my married name is so much easier to pronounce. Once again I was convinced my name was unique. With such a typical Dutch first name, how could it not be? Again, I was mistaken. This time it was Google that taught me there is another Hanneke N., a professional mediator somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

The funny thing is, I have been in contact with both namesakes this past year. The first time was accidental. I had received a strange, legal looking email at my email address designated for possible spam. At first I thought it was junk, but that didn't seem quite right. When I got to the end of the message, I noticed the sender was from Colorado and I put two and two together. I responded, letting the sender know there was more than one Hanneke N. and she had the wrong one. A couple of days later I received an email from the other Hanneke N. Like me, she is an immigrant though she moved here as a toddler, and we discovered we were both born in the same town.

My Dutch namesake contacted me directly just days later. She had found my blog online and we emailed briefly back and forth. Isn't it amazing, and amusing, how quickly the anonymous world wide web can become personal?


  1. It is amazing how technology has shrunk the world. It was your instinct and intuition that told you not to delete the message you originally thought was spam. I,too, am loving the connections I make out here in cyberspace.

  2. How strange! I know what you mean about common names--I have one of those, too. Cool to meet your namesake.


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