I’m proud of my family name. Both my paternal and maternal names that make up, well, me. While my ancestors were not perfect by any means I always enjoy encountering a family name in a history book. It doesn’t happen often but occasionally with local history books I do bump into an ancestor. It got me thinking, what would it be like to share a family name with a notorious figure from history?
For the most part, my ancestors are pretty low-key and largely forgotten to the world in general. At one time, we thought we were related to the Confederate general Robert E. Lee. If we were, I’d still claim him even amidst all this hoopla of eradicating historical figures. I mean, he fought for the south but a little research shows he was a good man. He was not nearly the villain he is currently made out to be. But a little genealogical research shows we are not from the same branch. I still claim him as a distant cousin though. You go back far enough and we are all connected, right?
Anyway, I’m talking about the nefarious scoundrels in history. The John Wilkes Booth or Adolf Hitler level of villainy. How would it feel to not need a history book to tell you what side of the moral compass your ancestor was on? Because everyone knows.
How do you reclaim pride in a family name that one lifetime put a public blot on? How do future generations live with one generation’s infamy?
I suppose if I keep digging in my family tree I might find an answer to that very question. In the meantime, I am thankful for my ancestors’ anonymity and rather boring lives.