22 January 2021

My step-great-grandmother

 My father has three given names. That is because he had three grandfathers. And I suppose that in the 30s, as the eldest son you just would be named after all the grandfathers you had. Even if it was an unusual number. But how did he have three grandfathers anyway?

I tell enough of the story in this blog post for it to make sense. And as this post is not really about how my grandfather ended up in the Netherlands I think I'll leave it there. The important thing is that my grandfather pretty much picked a new set of parents he preferred over the old ones. And never looked back.

Some 20 years after he arrived in the Netherlands, he became a father. And he and his wife then chose these three names. But recently I suddenly wondered why they came in the order they did. It was: biological paternal grandfather, maternal grandfather, and step-grandfather. And it suddenly struck me as weird. Would you not credit someone who has selflessly offered a home to a poor boy whom he was not at all related to? I mean, I suppose it is even more of a commitment to put a child into the world, but it is also a lot more common. And let's face it; some people at the time had some of their children not because they wanted to, but because the church insisted they would. My grandfather was a youngest child, and I would argue that his life at least made less of a practical change to his biological parents than to the self-selected ones. So I could have easily imagined they would have put the name of my step-great-grandfather first. My grandfather became chief engineer in the Merchant Navy, and I think there would have been no way in hell that would have happened if he would have stayed at home. But if your new father is a captain in the Merchant Navy, and not an impoverished patissier, things like that suddenly become a lot easier. But no; the patissier's name came first. Was my grandfather feeling bad about basically abandoning his biological parents? Was that what this was about?

I discussed this with my dad, but he just thought it was just a case of tradition being followed. You don't look at the bond people have or any of that; you just plonk someone's actual paternal grandfather's name first, and maternal grandfather second. And in the unlikely case there is another grandfather of sorts, they can follow behind. He may well be right! But then he said something that triggered this blog post. He said that there actually wasn't much of a bond between my grandfather and his self-chosen dad. It was the bond between my grandfather and his self-chosen mum that had been important here! And I had known that for years. And I have also wondered about why she never gets any credit for anything. And this time, I got so fired up I decided to write a blog post.

My step-great-grandfather is called Karel Jelle. My father's third name is Karel. His youngest brother is called Karel out right. Karel called his youngest daughter Jelleke Caroline, basically gender-swapping and order-swapping Karel Jelle's name. And my sister added a Karel Jelle tribute to her second son's name. That's four children named after the man! (Well, none of them are children now, but they were when they received their names.) And who has been named after the woman? The person who was probably instrumental in getting my grandfather to the Netherlands in the first place, and who bonded with him so well he decided to never leave again? Absolutely nobody! Zero people! I don't think that's fair. And I do smell some misogyny here. And I know I have not taken the opportunity to have children myself so I could name them after whoever really, but I don't think an under-appreciated ancestor is a good enough reason to reproduce.

I really think that when I get a cat (I like saying "when" here and not "if") I should name it after her. Just to do my bit! And she doesn't really have a good cat name; she was called Mina Maria Johanna Christina Moor (known as Mien), but I'm sure I can come up with something. This could take a few years but I'm on a mission!

My step-great-grandmother and my rather grumpy looking grandfather

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