My family background has always been so simple. I have never met anyone with either our surname or my mother’s maiden name who was not directly related to us. They’re uncommon. Especially in this country.
In fact, in total, there nine people in the entire country who use these surnames. And those nine are my parents, their siblings and all their offspring.
My dad’s mother comes from German stock, my grandfather is Austrian through and through.
My mother’s maternal heritage is part German, part British and we can trace that side of the family back to the 1820’s settlers. Her paternal side is strongly, proudly, fiercely Irish. Her grandfather hails from County Cavan and stowed away on a boat to Simon’s Town when he was still a teenager.
Then my parents decided to take a trip to the UK. They traveled from Scotland to Ireland, where they met a very distant cousin. And then to England to the wedding of my great aunt, who is part of the German/ British/ South African side.
And now everything has been thrown into turmoil.
It turns out the proudly, fiercely Irish side of the family are in fact originally Scottish and the clan emigrated to the emerald isle a few hundred years ago. On top of that, there are only three people with this surname left in Ireland and they’re all siblings. The rest of the family (and I use this term loosely) has spread around the world. A Facebook search reveals most of them live in America.
Or so it seems.
Then the old aunt gets involved and, it turns out, the German part of the British/ German/ South African (and Christian) family were originally Jewish and, my father reckons, likely to be Polish or Austria-Hungarian immigrants who changed their name to sound more German.
My mother, who has lived her whole life as an Irish Catholic, is suddenly a Scottish Jew. Or something like that.
My head hurts trying to work out how many passports I qualify for. KA-CHING.