Breaking the chain.

On Monday, I had a day off and amongst other nonsense I got up to, I found myself Googling my ancestry.

It is very useful to come from an 1820 Settlers family, because for some reason this group of people is  obsessed over by genealogists, and there is a plethora of information out there. I already knew about my various English, Irish and Scottish ancestors who came over on the boats in 182o-something to farm and/or be a buffer between the Xhosa and the Afrikaners.

Nice. A “buffer”. A very British way of saying target practice, maybe?

But I noticed that at at Great-great grandparent level there was a mating with an Afrikaner line. I assumed it to be Dutch, and some of it is, but, with the help of entirely free database(someone really found my ancestors veeery interesting! You usually have to pay lots of money to see death certificates or join websites to find this kind of information), I traced bits of that line to the Netherlands in 1690ish, Germany and Switzerland in 1690ish, and farthest back of all, a German couple that spawned an ancestor of mine while on a ship outside Cape Town in 1648.




That is a long time ago, so long that you can understand why all those groups of people forgot that they were German or Swiss or Dutch, and just became Afrikaners.

It gives me a weird feeling. Not one of pride, of course not. Pride at being involved in oppression and colonialism for nearly 4 centuries? Hell no. I need to emphasise this. I am not “proud” of my heritage, nor do I in any way approve of Apartheid or the shitty things it did to people of colour at my benefit.

Anyway, being proud of your family line is like beiing proud of being born. It’s not an achievement for you to be born. For your mother perhaps. You didn’t do the pushing.

Sorry, I’m feeling a bit touchy about this after someone misunderstood me and though I was grateful for my Apartheid upbringing. NO WAY.

So moving on, I don’t feel “proud” of my long history with the Southern tip of Africa, but I don’t feel indifferent either. What I feel is connected. For better and for worse (mostly pretty much worse) my history is South Africa’s history for about as long as white people have been meddling about down there. It made me, that long and violent succession of events.

Which may be why the thought of being the first generation to die or spawn offspring outside of South Africa freaks me out. I just can’t do it, I can’t break the chain.

I know you could argue that my ancestors were immigrants first and foremost, and that they came and then after 4 centuries they started leaving (much of my family is now overseas).

That’s all well and good and I leave that permanent emigration business to the rest of my family. Call me irrational, sentimental, nostalgic, or just plain crazy. I am all of those.

But I’m not breaking that chain!


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Paula
    Aug 24, 2011 @ 13:17:02

    It’s weird because a work mate was looking at their geneology yesterday (and found a brother of her mother that her mother had been looking for.) How amazing right?!


  2. tiah
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 09:05:08

    Dear heavens, I was rewriting the story I did for Wordsetc the other day and I no idea it was actually about you. Mea Culpa. I honestly didn’t know you well back then.


  3. seamonkeypo
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 11:21:47

    Paula: that is just weird. How come, did they put their contact details? Usually these sites only list the dead people.

    Tiah: and what is this story about?? Dutch East India company? Or weird seamonkeys?


  4. Paula
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 11:40:45

    Thats the thing. It was like a family tree / geneology tree type deal. She looked up her dead grandfather who they knew had a son and his name came up with the search. And she found him on Facebook. And badabing-baddabam there was a name.

    If it hadn’t been for that site she wouldn’t have been able to find him because they added another name to his name and they’d been searching for him on Facebook as well because they did know he was named after her late grandfather.

    The really eerie thing is that they also found his will and stuff. And if the guy who she found hadn’t been looking for his family, he’d already been making such profiles on geneology sites hoping he would find his family because everytime he asked his mother about his father she would say “I’ll tell you later” and she passed away.

    So it’s such a beautiful little story because the mom (of my colleague) had only spoken about it because she was thinking about how when you’re younger, certain things don’t seem to matter and as you grow older- you realise they do and how it must feel to him, or just basically the not knowing was causing her pain. So my colleague went on the hunt- and it was a miracle she found him first hit. And its something her mother can now look at with peace inside of her- which is beautiful.


  5. tiah
    Aug 26, 2011 @ 12:27:16

    Po, I’ll email it to you. :-)


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