Yes, I am starting today’s blog with a quote from the classic country-mix Cotton Eye Joe by Swedish band Rednex, a hit in the mid-90’s.
OK Rod, where are you going with this?
Well, I don’t intend the rabbit hole that is an analysis of the lyrics, more an examination of me. See here.
Who I am, where did I come from?
Let’s leave, where I am going for another day.
A retrospective analysis, if you like.
Along the lines of, Who Do You Think You Are?
Last week my brother, the lead, I guess you might call him, genealogist in the family sent me something he had found on Ancestry.com relating to the birthplace of my grandfather, or, more specifically his brother (we have only had inferential evidence previously), as being Fellin, Viljandimaa, Estonia in 1884. Interestingly, he died in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1966. Us Kershes get around.
Anyway, the point of this blog is not to tell you about my family, more to take you on a short detour into who we are, that it you and me, and where we have come from (hence the title).
Reading Adam Rutherford’s recent book, ‘How to argue with a racist’ he examines the common thread that runs through all of us, given our participation in the human race.
In the book Rutherford cites a fascinating statistic (part of the anti-racist argument that some groups of people are better or different to others) in which, taking an average human generation as 25 years, with each previous generation, the numbers of ancestors you have doubles (I have two parents, they had four between them, their parents eight, and so on), after 500 years (we are talking somewhere around the 1500’s me, or any of us, would have over a million ancestors, and, going back a thousand years, over a trillion (1,000,000,000,000) – this is more than 10x the number of people who have supposedly every existed (estimates are around 100 billion).
As the numbers don’t match, the only explanation is that there has been intermixing of families and ancestors, folk having children with their cousins and so on.
My son, the biologist, tells me this is historically plausible from a genetic perspective as, if you are successful genetically in a certain ecological niche (and you didn’t move very far), that is to a large extent because of your genes and hence, maintaining the consistency of those genes should keep you on an even keel wherever you are, it would also explain why, people living in Norway become tall and fair, fair and fair is fair, or whatever.
You are both more distant and more closely related to your next-door neighbour than you think.
This says more. Note the name of the guy who wrote it. Coincidence, I think not!
Looping back to the original notion, of where did you come from, I am interested in the relevance of knowing that my great-uncle was born in Estonia. (I am already considering whether this might win me an EU passport).
What would I have in common with him that I wouldn’t have with my other great-uncles?
I have no way of knowing how many there were as given I am the product of families who have moved around (my paternal grandfather had an Australian passport, by way of Glasgow in the 1920’s), with little documented evidence before that generation, I question, what is the point?
Does this tell me anything about who I am and where I am heading?
As inter-breeding isn’t something we support nowadays, it is likely any family traits have and are becoming diluted with each passing generation.
I don’t want this to appear as if I am dismissing the past or diminishing its importance – I am like anyone, hoping one day for a time-travel portal to open in the back of my garden.
Beyond these fantasies, what can we do?
Most would say, ‘Stop dreaming, get on with it, wash the dishes, do the shopping!’
OK, I get it.
And still, that song is rattling around my head.
I know it will not and hopefully never rattle in the heads of my children.
For me this is intriguing.
I started this blog in 2015 with a concern that I might drop dead and there would be nothing left behind for my children. It was a love-letter to the future. (They aren’t current readers and, there is so much now written, I can’t imagine they will ever get through it all regardless of when I pop-off).
I still worry about the sudden-death thing, although perhaps less than I used to.
Maybe I should get on with other things, such as sorting the garden and repairing the flaking plaster?
Always busy, we aspire to business.
And then, there are the many books I’ve not read, and I’d like to learn the piano and how to paint and maybe start running again.
Or perhaps, I’ll just walk the dog.