My original birth certificate had Rosemary Marie Sullivan on it. Thank God my mom had the hospital change it to Cathleen as soon as she saw the name write out on my birth certificate. She knew I was I not a “Rosie” (which I could NEVER imagine myself as being named). She changed my name without telling my dad, which I find pretty funny. He had previously rejected Cathleen when my mom proposed it because he had once dated a girl named Kathleen. My mom reasoned he would get over the name choice, which he did.
My mom said that there was no particular reason that she chose Cathleen, other than that she thought it was pretty, and really liked the name Cate as a nickname. She did specify though that she chose to spell it with a “C” so that this simple name would be unique. As for my middle name, Marie, it is my maternal grandmother’s middle name- a woman that both me and my mom significantly admire and look up to.
The origin of Cathleen is Irish/English and means “pure one,” which fits well with my Irish last name. As I learned through research in my first year seminar course that focused on mapping our individual family histories, the Sullivan family came from County Cork, Ireland. The name was shortened from O’Sullivan (Irish- O’Suilleabhain) to just Sullivan when my great-great grandfather, Bartholomew, came to the United States from Ireland. 1880 was the earliest that I was able to find him in the U.S. Census when I wrote this family history paper three years, but he likely came to the U.S. a few years prior to this.
When I asked my dad if he knew what our last name meant in Irish, he said he did not know, so I Googled it. Apparently in Irish, “Suill” means eye, and “-dubh” means black, which translates to “dark-eyed one.” Interesting that no one on my dad’s side of the family has dark eyes…