Tina Knowles-Lawson is mom to two famous singers: Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Solange Knowles. She clearly loves her daughters, and every so often she treats the rest of us mortals to a story about her family.
Tina recently revealed that Beyoncé’s name has a pretty cool origin: Beyoncé is actually Tina’s maiden name. Many families in the southern United States have practiced the tradition of giving a baby the mother’s maiden name as their first name, though the practice is usually done when mothers name their sons with their maiden name.
Tina shares, “A lot of people don’t know that Beyoncé is my last name. It’s my maiden name. My name was Celestine Beyonce, which at that time was not a cool thing to have that weird name.
I wanted my name to be Linda Smith because those were the cool names.”
It turns out that some of Tina’s family members share the name, but with an alternate spelling.
The different spelling is due to an error made on the birth certificate that was never corrected.
“I think me and my brother Skip were the only two that had B-E-Y-O-N-C-E. It’s interesting — and it shows you the times — because we asked my mother when I was grown. I was like, ‘Why is my brother’s name spelled B-E-Y-I-N-C-E? You know, it’s all these different spellings.”
“And my mom’s reply to me was like, ‘That’s what they put on your birth certificate.’ So I said, ‘Well, why didn’t you argue and make them correct it?’ And she said, ‘I did one time. The first time, and I was told, be happy that you’re getting a birth certificate, because, at one time, Black people didn’t get birth certificates.”
Tina expressed frustration over the mistake, especially since it meant that for reasons completely outside her control, her mother couldn’t even spell the name of her own children correctly.
“So we all have different spellings. People don’t even put the two together and know that’s the same name.”
Tina’s comments raise an interesting point about birth certificates: The history of the document isn’t that long, and it has definitely not been easy for everyone in the United States to get their own birth certificate. While various attempts to record births have been made since 1632, the practice was generally hard to enforce.
Sometimes, a birth wasn’t recorded because a baby didn’t survive infancy, but there are other reasons, too. The births of enslaved children usually weren’t recorded, and families who moved frequently rarely recorded the births of their children.
After millions of Europeans immigrated to the United States between 1815 and 1915, many wealthy women took up the task of recording births. Once the federal government began issuing birth certificates, the rollout was still clumsy at best. World War II brought the discussion about recording births to the forefront.
Defense plants in the United States needed more workers, but they could only hire American citizens. All of a sudden, a lot of people needed to prove when and where they had been born.
Black Americans especially had a difficult time getting birth certificates during the middle of the 20th century.
Not having a birth certificate still causes a lot of problems for many American citizens, especially if they attempt to collect Social Security or any kind of federal payments. In the southern US, many Black women gave birth at home instead of at a hospital, and the births of their children weren’t always officially recorded.
While Tina didn’t give too many details about her mom or her siblings, it is known that she was born in Galveston, Texas, in 1954. Tina is also the youngest of seven siblings. It’s not entirely unreasonable to posit that Tina’s mother may have faced difficulties in simply getting birth certificates for her children, let alone in correcting the mistakes that nurses made while issuing those certificates.
In the same interview, Tina also opened up about how hard it is not to see her daughters and their children right now.
“But up until about six weeks ago, I was seeing them every day, because we all got tested and we weren’t in contact with anyone, so I got to go over there every day. So when they left, it was like withdrawal. And my oldest granddaughter told her mom, ‘Grandma is hugging us too much,’ when I first went around them. Because you just wanna touch ’em and you wanna hug ’em, so I’m going through that.”