Monday, June 20, 2005

Falling from the family tree

This weekend, I helped my parents put together a family tree for an upcoming reunion.

That was an adventure.

We're not an especially close family, geographically, and in some cases, relationship-wise, and many of the people were complete unknowns to me.

It doesn't help that my parents adopted me fairly late in their lives, so I knew virtually no one beyond my grandparents' generation, and many of them are gone, now, too.

But it had its entertaining moments, too, and not just spending time with my Mom and Dad as they talked about people they knew and remembered quite fondly.

In fact, Dad sent us wandering down an entire branch of the tree just to get to the punchline: Three brothers who all married women named Lillian.

The ultimate purpose of the tree was to determine, for lack of a better way of putting it, the children of Abraham. Yeah, we're Jewish. Ask great-grandpa Eleazar, or possbily Louis, for whom I'm possibly named. But on Dad's side of the family, it's great-grandpa Abraham and his wife, Anna ("Bub"), whose descendants will be meeting later this year.

Of course, once Dad got rolling, Mom couldn't help but join in, though her records proved somewhat spottier. Ask Berney Cherney, who turned up on one of the branches. Who would do that to a child?

And then came the problem of actual last names. See, one branch of the family was something like Strazefski, at least according to a piece of paper bearing my handwriting as a 10-year-old. (I dotted my i's with circles. Girly, but distinctive.) That became "Strauss" at Ellis Island, where Chernikov, on Mom's side, became the aforementioned "Cherney," much to Berney's regret.

Evidently, the people taking names at Ellis Island were the 19-aughts' equivalent of the TSA folks who gave Ray Charles the full-on terrorist search at an airport post-9/11. I mean, are these names that hard to spell, or at least approximate?

(Oh, and speaking of immigration, for those of you who deny the Holocaust took place, allow me to direct you to the branch of the family that stayed in Poland and came to an abrupt stop in the early '40s. And then you can shove that branch up your ass, you miserable anti-Semitic pricks. Sorry, Mom, had to be said.)

We actually got through six generations, from Abraham Strauss (yeah, like the department store, but not) all the way down to little Kane Thompson, who sounds like a football player or actor, and is all alone on Generation Six.

For the curious, I'm Generation Four. Abraham begat Jack, among several others, who begat Gerald, who found me in Paddington Station. Er, I mean, who begat me. I, of course, have thus far failed to begat anyone, much to my mother's chagrin.

And listing the marriages that ended in divorce did make me feel a little better about that whole engagement thing.

Plus, it's always a bonus when someone mentions Uncle Charles, who's more like a third cousin by marriage, but who I'll always remember fondly for showing me his wooden leg when I was a child.

I haven't seen some of these people in years, either, and it actually made me look forward to the reunion, even though I am somewhat mildly allergic to crowds, formal events and mass family gatherings. I'm not the most sociable or communicative one in the family, I'll admit, but I remember almost everyone I've met fondly.

What can I say? We've got a good family.

Now, if I can get that darn software file up on the Web, I'll have something.

Reunion, the genealogy software I'm learning to use on the fly
JewishGen, the home of Jewish Genealogy, a site a relative of a friend is affiliated with (I think)

And hey, if you think you're related to me, and haven't gotten your invitation to the reunion... don't call me. I'm not organizing it. Call my Dad.