May 9, 2021
Whole Number 52
HOW AN AMERICAN FAMILY ACQUIRED THE NAME SPARKS
(Editor's Note: The following letter was received recently from Miss Eleanor A. Sparks of 7054 North Damen Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. We believe that members of the Association will find this letter as interesting as we did.)
August 22, 1965.
Dear Dr. Bidlack:
Your Association recently forwarded literature concerning The Sparks Family Association to a sister-in-law of mine, a Mrs. Eleanor Sparks, who resides at 1840 No. Mobile Ave., Chicago, Illinois. Mrs. Sparks, in turn, forwarded the said literature to me, inasmuch as I am a Miss Sparks, and she thought I might be interested in reading your letter explaining the activities, etc., of the Sparks Association. Mrs. Eleanor Sparks is the widow of my youngest brother.
It so happens that my father came to America, with his parents, from Sweden. He was fourteen years of age. He had started to learn his trade while in Sweden and it was but a short time until he was apprenticed to an organization in America to complete his apprenticeship and then start his life in America. Soon thereafter, it was time to become a citizen of our Country and this he did. He lived, in his adopted land, to the age of 92 years.
As you are probably aware, quite often our foreign-born folks decide they want an "American" name. How can anyone say a name sounds like an American name' America is the melting pot of the world and we have all kinds of names. However, my father's parents agreed that their son could select any one of the names of their grandparents or great-grandparents, or carry on with their own father's name, which is a very beautiful name and is easy to spell. My father's parents did not change their name. Those carrying the family name were well-known in Sweden. The very mention of the name brought respect and attention to the family members.
In his efforts to spell the name my father chose to use, when he stood before the members of the naturalization board as a teenager, he became confused and, as he told us later in life, an Englishman, who was standing by, suggested that he (my father) shorten the name to Sparks, since the Swedish name sounded like Sparks to everyone there at the time. Thus this helpless Swedish youth (who later became my father) suddenly became known as a Sparks. The name of Sparks is a common name amongst the English people.
My mother came from Norway when six years of age. Her family name ends in "sen" which immediately identifies it as Norwegian. When 21 years of age, she changed her name to Sparks.
As we children grew up and learned the reason why were were known as Sparks, and we learned what our name really should be, we were surprised and, I might say, disappointed, for we, as a family group, lost our family identity with our f orefathers in Sweden.... I am the only single member of our Sparks family. My two brothers have passed away. Each brother had one son. Thus my brothers, my two sisters and I were the first Sparkses born in America. We were baptized, confirmed and admitted in schools under the name of Sparks and never thought of changing to our grandfather's name.... Our heritage was lost back in 1880, when an Englishman suggested to a teenage Swedish lad that he spell his name "Sparks" because the poor lad could not make himself understood in his efforts to spell his Swedish name.... Sincerely yours, Eleanor A. Sparks.