Ashes to ashes

Whenever I hear someone bitch and moan about horrible things that happened to their ancestors 200+ years ago all I can think is “wow, you actually know where you came from that far into the past?” [also a liberal dose of “you really have nothing better to do than to be pissed off about shit that didn’t happen to you or anyone you’ve ever met either?” but that’s another matter].

Not so for me. I can track things only about a hundred years and it’s pretty murky going even at that.

We know my mother’s father’s side, the Ns, a little bit – they showed up in Eastern Canada from County Kerry in Ireland during the potato famine. And they have a traceable family name. Google tells me they’re descended from some Irish King John a thousand years ago. Based on this portion of the family tree, I call bullshit on that claim, although I suppose maybe you can go from castle to trailer park given a thousand years and 40-odd generations. But even there, anything before 1900 isn’t particularly certain.

My mother’s mother’s side, the Hs, is apparently Scots-Irish. I traced it back to a dude born in Belfast in 1827, but someone must have been drinking an awful lot in the ensuing century because it’s mostly gossip. Google tells me maybe his ancestors had something to do with the Plantation of Ulster in the 1600s because what else is a Scotsman/WASP doing being born in Belfast, but this is also pure speculation.

My father’s side is where things really erupt from a black hole, though. His mother’s father’s people, the Ms, seem to have existed or at least there’s a lot of them these days, although the specific M who married my great-grandmother seems to have just magically appeared, a friend of a friend who wooed her away from her fiance.

My great-grandmother was a F, and all that anyone knows about them is they weren’t the nicest of people. Rumor has it that other descendents of the Fs ended up in the States and a few of them were politicians, so I guess the bad blood probably served them well in that arena.

Then there’s the Ss. My father’s father’s people. They seem to have, I dunno, just hatched out of the earth in the around 1900. There’s our handful from the east, and I heard about another small patch from the Southwest of Poland. Who are not related directly that we know of.

Google could only pull up my grandmother’s Polish church bulletin PDF from last month, mentioning that my grandmother had requested memorial prayers for two members of the S clan – her first husband, Stefan [my grandfather], and her daughter-in-law [my mother]. Speaking of dead Ss, there were a couple hits on sites devoted to searching gravestone information, but none of these Ss were born prior to 1892. And there were only a couple of them.

Stefan died at the end of World War II, he’s another one who sorta just appears in the narrative in time to do some wooing, and thereby bringing the S clan into the fold. He had a few kid brothers, I think it’s through one of the brothers’ wives that we’re related to a strain of Bs, who are the only cousins I sorta know from the old country. Dunno where they came from either but nowadays they’re mostly college professors and brain surgeons.

But where did the Ss come from? They were reputed to be sorta well-off, relatively speaking, but no one knows anything about their origins beyond a mention that Stefan’s father fought in the Austro-Hungarian army in World War I. That’s it. The name doesn’t mean anything as far as any of us know, ie, it’s not any sort of occupational name like Smith or Farmer, or any other kind of descriptor, and it’s not a place name either. Is it from another language? Were we always in that region and just never made note of it or did we simply show up at some point in the 1800s? Where the fuck did we come from? No one seems to know.

One thing’s for sure, though, it’s entertaining to speculate, but I don’t dwell on our foggy origins too much. We came from the ashes, and eventually we return from whence we came.

In the meantime, I have some noise to make.