Tuesday, April 5, 2011

You Are What You Is

Hopefully later this year I'll embark on a genealogy trip with my father to Germany. Tracking the family tree is a casual project we've undertaken for the last decade or so. Early on we kept hitting roadblocks because of the various surname changes our family went through between the old country and here. I've heard different stories about how the "i" became a "y" in my maiden name. A priest decided the "i" version didn't look Catholic enough and took it upon himself to change our name, or else somebody in Immigration spelled it wrong when the family arrived. Who knows?

Anyway, I've watched a bit of this genealogy show on NBC, Who Do You Think You Are, and rather like it. If we have to be stuck with reality shows for the rest of our lives, at least this one provides something of interest. Even if the celebrity in question isn't somebody I follow rabidly on Twitter or elsewhere, it is fascinating to see how they are able to uncover their histories. I don't think I could be the subject of that show myself, and I can tell you why.

Early on in our investigations, we realized that the reason we couldn't find any information on our family in the Ellis Island records is because our family didn't come through Ellis Island. At least, my father's side didn't. They came through New Orleans and headed north; that's how they ended up in Kentucky. Furthermore, we learned that the great, great, great-grandmother in question, mother to Nicholas (the first patriarch to settle in the US), didn't necessarily come to America by choice.

You see, she had this unfortunate habit of giving birth out of wedlock. Sure, it's fairly common here and now, but in the early 1800s in Bavaria you just didn't do things like that. First child was a scandal, second was an epidemic. People in the town where she lived pitched in for three boat tickets before Granny could lie down again.

In short, I am descended from the village tramp. I write erotic fiction. The circle of life is complete. I can only hope Little One never has to do a report.

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