Today’s elaborate question of the day is courtesy of my weird Mum.
What would you do, or what would your reaction be, in the following situation: you accidentally find an old letter addressed to your parents, in which it says that you were adopted. Or your parents sit down with you and are like: “You know, we have something to tell you. We never knew how and when to tell you this, but we think it’s about time now. So, um, well, we adopted you when you were a baby”. How would it make you feel?
Lol well, I guess I’d feel a bit confused initially and need some time to process it and ruminate it through properly, but I guess most people would. Then I’d have to offer an apology to Sofi, because when she was little Olek and me teased her a lot that she was adopted from Russia (unless she actually were adopted too, everything’s possible now I guess 😀 ). I think I would feel a little resentful that they haven’t told me earlier about it, because, like, I think most people would like to know such things about themselves, but also I can appreciate that it surely would be a difficult thing to do for parents and why they might be tempted to wait with sharing this news for as long as possible, so I wouldn’t be really frustrated or mad or anything, this doesn’t really change a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, I guess, just would be good to know.
And then I’d probably do some research. A lot of research, knowing myself. It would actually be kind of funny, because I’ve just recently started playing with researching our family’s ancestry. I guess I always had a mild interest in this, but always thought it must be lots of effort and not very rewarding, plus a family tree isn’t something that is easy to show a blind person in an understandable and non-abstractive way, so I never thought I could do it even if I had more motivation. But then I became interested in praying for purgatory souls, and some time later started praying for my great-great-grandfather (my maternal grandad’s grandad) Jacenty, because Jacenty is such a cool name, and whenever I was praying for him I was wondering what sort of person he was, but no one could tell me. And then a couple years ago, on my cousin’s 18th birthday party, my great-aunt told me how interesting it is in her opinion that I changed my name to Emilia because her aunt (so my great-great-aunt) was called Emilia. And since then I started praying for her soul as well and kept wondering what she must have been like. And so finally a couple weeks ago my curiosity got the better of me and I thought I’d do some mini research and see where it takes me, with no high hopes because I’d heard that ancestry research apps aren’t really very accessible for the blind, and I wasn’t that determined to go searching beyond the world-wide web, so wouldn’t be running around cemeteries, visiting distant relatives or places where Jacenty and Emilia lived, just see where, if anywhere at all, my armchair research takes me.
And it’s actually been going pretty well, because while I don’t have much of an idea about stuff like their personalities or even who my great-great-aunt was in terms of occupation (I do know that my great-great-grandad is said to be the first mayor in the country after Poland has regained its independence, yay!) I do have more of an idea about their lives now. It was going so well that I actually figured I really dig digging like that, so why not set up a proper, full-size family tree and dig some more through our ancestry as a whole? I knew my Dad would be over the moon if I had some interesting findings to share, ‘cause he likes such things too but would never do it himself. And that’s what I did, and this is going extremely well, given my meager ambitions. Like, one day I just decided to trace back the records of my paternal grandma’s mother’s ancestors, and I was able to go as far as to our one ancestress – Anna – who was born before 1742. This is one branch of my family that I know most about at the moment, and it was a very interesting and exciting experience to dig through the past and go further and further back in time and meet my old family and imagine them based on the usually very scant info on their lives that I was able to dig out.
What was also fascinating for me to see as a name nerd is the changing name trends. I mean, obviously people used to be very repetitive with names in the past so I think it was even easier to establish which names were popular than it is when looking at birth announcements these days. I’ve heard a lot that in American baby naming, there’s such a thing called 100 year rule. This means that it usually takes about 100 years for a name to become fashionable again. Like, parents rarely name their children after their own parents, but they’re often happy to name them after their grandparents or great-grandparents, although of course there are exceptions because some names just never come back. Well, while I’m pretty sure that something like this is more or less of a pattern in many other countries as well, including Poland, I was skeptical whether here it is as pronounced as in the US, because we seem to have a lot more exceptions from this rule and new parents already start embracing some names that are still pretty normal among boomers. But looking at all these names of my ancestors, my skepticism has lessened a fair bit. We may be a bit slower with the fashion cycle (but then we also have less names because not long ago we had quite a lot of restrictions on what a child can be named), but when you look at old records, something is clearly going on. When starting my research, I was thinking I’d be seeing a lot of your typical today’s Polish granny and grandpa names, because I always had an impression that most of them must have been very common and popular for centuries and only became rusty in 1970’s or so. What was my surprise when, around the earlier half of 19th century-latter half of the 18th century, the children’s names started to have an oddly late gen X/millennial vibe. I also enjoyed seeing some interesting onomastic retro rarities.
So, going back to the question, well, this would feel quite frustrating now, ‘cause… shit, did I really spend so much time on this to be told that it’s not my freaking family?! 😀 I’d want to know who actually my family are then. Not because I’d want to meet them and make my hypothetical new bio mum aware that I’m her daughter (although who knows, maybe if I did some research and thought it was worth a try, why not? I just wouldn’t do the research for the sake of meeting them necessarily), but more for the sake of quenching my own insatiable curiosity, and just to have an interesting rabbit hole to go down, ’til another one appears. My Mum asked if I’d do genetic testing, and, I guess it would be a good idea. But my friend Jacek of Helsinki once did, because his mum was supposed to have some Ugrofinnic ancestry and he really wanted to find out if he had some Finnish blood in him, but then he learned that he’s no Finn, and his genes are instead Armenian to quite an impressive degree, and he wasn’t too excited. So maybe that would keep my curiosity at bay? I wouldn’t mind learning that I’m largely Armenian or whatever other ethnicity, but I might end up learning that I’ve inherited, say, Huntington’s, or other degenerative unpreventable shit. Ew, why would I want to know that already?
Your turn. 🙂