I have tried to spare most people I know the complicated reasons why my surname has changed, over the years, with or without their awareness. Those who recall my years as a fine-art painter, in Canada, will have seen my name at exhibitions or on invitation cards as "Denis Guay", the name of my early Montreal years, schooling and first birth certificate. In my early twenties, at a time when I was involved in pantomime and running a mime school (in the old SAW Gallery space, on Rideau St. in Ottawa), as well as chirping out an occasional song and tinkering with graphics, the rather parallel creative lines I was beginning to trace, suggested that it might be a good idea to have different identities, as not to confuse people, blur the lines between my activities, etc. I say that because, in those days, painters involved in graphic design, or any other parallel activity (even if they were only nobly intending to make ends meet) were labelled "amateurs" or Sunday painters, no matter how good they might have been. Nowadays, such twin-survival-channel activity surprises no one, but in the 70s and 80s, things were quite different. A serious gallery or art dealer would avoid an artist who wasn't painting genuinely full-time. To be fair to both side, "artistic" people sometimes walked away from their responsibilities without batting an eyelid, forgetting debts, child-support payments or other obligations in the process, almost discouraged from taking on even a part-time job, as not to jeopardize their budding art career.
So, as my activities developed, I added "Denis Glass" to the line-up and went through a legal change of name. When I returned to painting full-time in my late 20s, I continued to use the name "Denis Guay" for fine art but everything else, including my legal documents, driver's licence, rental agreements and all the rest. As things are done in Canada, where a change of name is fairly straightforward, my last name was officially changed, including all the way back to the provincial birth registries. The first identity didn't exist anymore. It was a bit of a relief, in many ways, since my birth name had been very francophone in the English-speaking places where I lived and worked, and the name Glass, chosen because of the combined qualities of transparency and breakability that I liked about it, fell into place quickly. My personal life, my creative circles, my girlfriends and friends in general, were practically all English-speaking people, so the change was natural.
In my mid-thirties, out of the blue, my father, my brother and I received an official document from the Ontario Provincial Government, in full calligraphy and decorum, which informed us that we were direct descendents of one of the founders of Nouvelle-France ("New France", as that region was known before Canada's official incorporation in 1867). "Mon Dieu", we gasped, does that mean we'll get taxed for some kind of "reparations"?.. As it turned out, our direct ancestor, Jean Guiet (no, not Glass, nor Guay) had set foot on North American soil in 1643, and worked with the Hurons (and not against them, so ooofff, no reparations) as a modest carpenter, volunteering to help build some of the early massive settlements created by the Jesuits. Those places actually still exist, palisades and all, and were rebuilt as part of Canada's founding heritage. Those particularly well-informed on their saints and martyrs of Jesuit times and history, will recognize the names "Jean de Brébeuf" and "Gabriel Lallemand", as two unfortunate men burned (alive) at the stake by the Iroquois, who were not the most welcoming folks running the immigration department of Nouvelle-France, at the time.
The echoes of those distant but solid roots were the reason I went through a final name change in the early 90s, to revert to the authentic name of our ancestor, while I chose to keep "Denis Glass" as a pen name, for my writings. From a perfunctory study of the various genealogical documents shared by the government or other relatives, the name "Guay" was likely a notarial mishap or plain poor copy, by someone in the 18th century. Such blunders were not unusual in days long before spreadsheets and cloud data storage.
So "Denis Guay" was reserved for painting activities, although I might never have enough time to return to that. "Denis Glass" is used for non-commercial writing (the serious kind), which I haven't found time to do really seriously for a few years, and "Denis Guiet" is my legal name, in perfect harmony with what my old-European ancestor would have wanted. Simple, isn't it?