In the spirit of “How did this name end up looking like a strange combination of two unrelated words?”, I hereby present the surname Ghostlaw. Speaking of spirits, this word recalls the legislation of the dead, but did it originally mean what it looks like it means?
Typing words, place names, and surnames into search engines can often yield fascinating stories and sources for a word’s etymology, as it does for the previously discussed Braintree. Google’s results on Ghostlaw, though, come up pretty barren. Not until page 3 of search results on “surname ghostlaw” did I yield anything helpful.
Back in 2004, Amy Layton posted on the ancestry.com forums, looking for information on the Ghostlaw surname. She stated that she had been unable to trace this branch of her family tree further back than the Ghostlaw generation because she had been told that they had changed their name from something else. What could it be?
While no one directly answered her specific question, respondent Stephanie Beaver posted with information about her grandfather, Charles James Ghostlaw. She noted that both his and his father’s last names were listed as Gosselin on his baptismal certificate. She thus confirmed what I suspected, viz., that Ghostlaw never started off as “ghost + law,” but, rather, some surname that was changed to some vague homophone.
I like to think, in my unusual imagination, that the Ghostlaws and Braintrees are connected. Maybe the disembodied brains, fruiting from the braintrees, imagine counterfactual legal doctrine known as ghostlaws?