There are questions about myself that I just cannot answer. Riddled with shame and pregnant before marriage in the 1950s, my nana never disclosed who the real father of my dad is. My dad was raised by another and given a name which does not reflect his true heritage.
There is a huge gap in my family tree, one that cannot be filled since my nana is almost 90 and doesn’t have the memory she once had. Am I part-English? Italian? Greek? Croatian? My ancestry could be practically anything, and I wouldn’t know.
The question of identity
Family history is important. I have a dear friend who grew up in Holland around the time of World War II. Because many Jews had to hide their identities, whole family histories were lost.
My friend suspects he is Jewish, but has no way to prove it. This is a man who reads Hebrew and goes to Synagogue but when strangers ask if he is Jewish, he gets flustered and must say “no” even if it is really a yes.
I also know people who have suffered as part of the Stolen Generation. Raised by whites, not understanding their heritage until much later in life… and left with many, many questions of their own identity.
The benefits of village life
Back in the day, and still occurring in more traditional (often poorer) nations, your standing as a member of society was based on your family history. The people in the community would know whether your kin were good sorts, or the other kind and benefits like marriage would come to those from a family of good standing.
I envied this when I was in China. There might be a million Zhangs, but if you were from a smaller place, people would know your Zhangs and would know members of your family, at least by reputation.
My father was a bastard child; one without a proper heritage and those scars of identity loss bleed down through the generations following. But there is at least one side of the family tree that can shed some light on my identity.
The luck of the Irish
I am a Molloy. That is the name of my true heritage, although not the one I bear. We Molloys are the pride of the Irish. A branch of the descendants of a fifth century king who supposedly kidnapped St. Patrick (and if that’s true, it’s a terrible deed to be sure).
Then, a few generations ago Mary Wooldridge married a Patrick Molloy (they’re all named Mary and Patrick in our big Irish family) and history was made… or at least I was.
I may not be a full blood Catholic Irish like my ancestors, but I can know a little bit about how I came to be… and it gives me a brand new respect for St. Patrick’s Day.
My mother and brother have gone to Ireland to visit the Molloy rellies, and were enriched by the experience. At present I have to settle for Wikipedia research and imaginings of what it was like for my ancestors to resettle in Australia.
One blood, one flesh
Family is one thing that will be set right in Heaven. Those family members in Christ who came before you are now waiting for you to “run the race” so that you may be united as family since you came from the same blood.
I already know there’s at least one up there waiting for me, and one day the mystery of my father’s heritage will be revealed by the Father of All and there might be more.
Until then, I am to be happy being a part of this large family tree, the pride of the Irish, the real Molloy.
Bridget Brenton is a creator of visual novels: http://www.christianvisualnovel.com
Bridget Brenton’s previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/bridget-brenton.html