Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Asking The Elders

This Christmas, I sought to discover wife E’s roots. I thought I was in the pound seats when I found three elders sitting together under a tree. But one was deaf, another spoke only Xhosa -- he was very excited about the subject, and took both of my hands in his -- and the other had had a stroke, so that he only gazed at me with a kindly look. Others stepped in to help. What I thought would be simple wasn't simple at all. Xhosa had not been a written language, so there were variant names. Then the various kinds of marriages -- African, civil, or common law -- mixed names up. And in the culture, sometimes there were name switches. Also, apartheid had fuelled name switches, for expedience. Not least, the elders, at the end of the day, seemed to have different family trees in their heads. OBSERVATION: In the end, I had the general picture though, as far back as E’s eight great-grandparents.

No comments: