The Origin of Jennessa

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OriginsofJennessa3Whenever I introduce myself, I generally get reactions like, “wow, what an unusual name”, or “I love that”.  But I also get a lot of “is that a family name?” and the like.  So here is the story of the origin of Jennessa!  At least how I understand it.  My dad can chime in with any inconsistencies!

OriginsofJennessa6Once upon a time…Just kidding!  My parents grew up in the same town as I did–Alta, Iowa and both graduated high school in 1967, so they knew each other their whole lives.  But they didn’t start dating until they graduated and then got married in the fall of 1969.


OriginsofJennessa8Not long after, my parents hosted a taco party to watch the draft numbers being listed in January of 1970.  While they had taco grease rolling down their arms they saw that my dad’s “number” was the first to be picked–he was off to the Vietnam War.  He went off to basic training and signed on with the National Guard (which he worked full time for until his retirement) to avoid going into combat and was scheduled to go to Korea instead, but in the meantime, my mom got pregnant with me.  So in June of 1971, he headed off to Korea and my mom waved goodbye 4 months pregnant.

OriginsofJennessa10The only way to communicate in those days was to write letters (what a concept), so in the 11 months that he was abroad, they traded letters and one of the hot topics was, “What are we naming this baby?”  They easily agreed on “Jason” if I was going to be a boy, which is what they named their dog.  They named my brother, four years later, Peter.  But for the girl’s name it wasn’t as easy.  My mom wanted Jessica, but my dad didn’t want anyone calling me “Jessie”.  My dad wanted Jennifer, but in my mom’s opinion, everyone and their brother was naming their girls Jennifer in 1971.  So after much back and forth, they decided to combine the two into their own original created name–Jennessa, just in time for my birth in November 1971.


My dad didn’t get to meet me until he returned from Korea in March 1972.  Here we are looking quite pleased with the reunion sitting on my Grandma Molgaard’s “davenport”.


In all of my 43 years (so far), I’ve only met one or two other Jennessas and neither of them were spelled the same, but rather Janessa (like Vanessa), but I have been told many times that they know other Jennessas.  Apparently, there is a “famous” voice over actress named Jennessa Rose.  In my sons’ school classes there are always doubles, i.e. Jack H and Jack M…Riley S and Riley M.  Yeah…I’ve never had that problem!  But having an unconventional name has had its downsides.  Like entering preschool having to learn how to spell J-E-N-N-E-S-S-A M-O-L-G-A-A-R-D.  Sixteen letters is a lot for a tike, which is probably why slowly but surely I morphed into Jenny.

OriginsofJennessa4By late elementary, I started experimenting with nick names other than Jenny, like Nessa.  This seemed brilliant to me, but what stuck was Nessy–like the Loch Ness version.  Not quite what I had in mind and that stuck for some, like my high school gym teacher, through high school!  But by high school I was back to using Jennessa as my name, but my close friends and my grandparents still used (use) Jenny.  One of my younger cousins is named Jennifer, and once she was born, I was big Jenny and she was little Jenny–again, lovely!

Don’t even get me started with all of the misspellings and incorrect names I get called daily.  Janessa, Jessica, Jennifer…but my favorite was Giselle.  So when you combine a hard to spell first name, with a hard to spell last name–Molgaard (my maiden name), I was doomed.  A went through a phase, for when asked how to spell my name, which is every single time someone needs to know my name, I would say, “J-E-double N-E-double S-A” and they would say, “J-E-W-E-W-A?”  Yeah, my name is Jewawa–it’s a Danish tribal name!  Not.

OriginsofJennessa5So by the time I hit Boston for my first job, I just went by Jennessa.  Every time I would be in a group of people that were introducing themselves everyone is giving their first and last names, and I was “Jennessa”.  When asked what my last name was, I would assure them that if they could just remember Jennessa, then we were all set!

OriginsofJennessa9I have to say, that I would liken myself to a feminist, but I really couldn’t wait to get a replacement name for Molgaard.  No offense to all of my relatives that have the name Molgaard, but it’s just hard to say and hard to hear.  So I couldn’t wait to march out to the Social Security Administration to legally change my name to Durrani when the time came!  Of course, it wasn’t a big deal to change it since no one knew what my last name was in the first place!

Which brings us to present time when I was trying to name this site.  It was a deep conversation over chicken picatta with my friend’s Susan and Maureen and everyone would take turns yelling something out…Jennessa Eats?…Nah…At Home with Jennessa?….Nah…In the Kitchen with Jennessa?…Nah…how about Just Jennessa?…Yep, that’s it!


  1. Lynann Launderville

    Stumbled across your site and loved reading your story Jennessa, especially since we have our own Jenessa. She is our fourth child and we did the “J” names. Didn’t plan that, but after two, Jocelyn and Joshua, we just kept it going. So our fourth was a girl and we needed another “J” name. We thought, “What about Jenessa? That’s a pretty name and uncommon like Raegan & Lynann.” So we did the thing where you think of people you know with that name, and you are the only other Jennessa we know. Yeah, we like her, let’s name our baby Jenessa! So Alta is blessed with a second Jenessa and she has 19 letters, 25 if you add her middle name. She nick-named herself though and it has kinda stuck. When she first learned her name she would tell you “I’m Sessa” and she still is. She’ll even correct you if you call her Nessa. Just in case you’re wondering, our third child is Jacob Ryan. A lot of older people forget Raegan’s name and call him Ryan. So we have a Jake Ryan, yep “Sixteen Candles” inspired.

  2. Jennessa Forseth

    I’m Jennessa! Very rare to find someone with the same spelling 🙂 Don’t even get me started on having to spell this name of ours haha! I have to spell my first and last name for everyone

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