Springingtiger's Blog


Who Do You Think You Are?

Oh dear when it comes to the Bible’s boring bits the early bits of Chronicles take some beating! I don’t find long lists of the generations of the tribes of Israel from Adam onwards particularly interesting, although if we took the Bible as a historical account I suppose it means that all the violence in the Middle East is nothing more than a nasty family squabble. Personally I find these lists as boring as all the begetting and begotting at the start of some gospels intent on proving Jesus to be descended from David, and I take those with a pinch of salt as well, a big pinch.

Genealogy is a source of fascination to some people. I suppose everyone wants to know who they are and how they fit into the overall scheme of things, why else would the BBC program ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ be so popular. It feeds ordinary people’s fascination with celebrity and fantasies of possibly being special, if not in themselves then by heredity. Many Indian families like my wives have family records kept by hereditary priests in Haridwar or Rishikesh in the Himalayas on the banks of the Ganga which help to preserve people’s place in society.

The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints are very assiduous about genealogy because of their belief (which is found in the letters of St Paul) that the living can participate in ceremonies like baptism on behalf of their ancestors.

Genealogy has a role in health care as so many conditions or the tendency to contract them can be hereditary and it helps to be aware of ones ancestors health problems. It can be vital in matters of inheritance, kingdoms have been lost over disputed ancestry. In time gone by it was not unusual for kings to have constructed genealogies to demonstrate their right to the throne.

I have never been excessively concerned about my own heredity. However it still came as a slight disappointment to learn from my cousin that I was a descendant of the Dublin gunsmith Richard Guinness and not, as I had always believed the brewer Arthur Guinness. I can still say that two sorts of Guinness flow through my veins.

At the moment there are many people anxious to establish their Irish descent so that they can remain citizens of the European Union despite the English decision to drag the United Kingdom out the EU. Last week the main Post Office in Belfast ran out of Irish Passport application forms so great was the demand. I know there are many people who prefer not to call themselves British at the moment because of its negative connotations and who are seeking to attach anchors to alternative nationalities to which they may be entitled because they no longer feel secure in a post Brexit UK.

In India when a person decides to dedicate themselves to the life of a sunyasin they not only put off their possessions but also their family and their name. Other cultures have similar practices. Hereditary, family, and name are like any other possession, merely ties to bind a person into society. Genealogy is both a tool for placing oneself in society and a chain to bind oneself into that place. Curiously enough although the renunciant may no longer find themselves in that place and may disappear from the recognition of all who knew them, who they were will always remain in that genealogy and in the memories and records of the family. Whether one passes through a symbolic funeral at renunciation or a real one at death they retain a place for the members of their family within their family. They may no more leave a mark on the world, but they have left an indelible mark behind them.wpid-S5000634_1.jpg

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