all in the family

Some of you asked about the family project that was driving me to distraction in November and  December, and I kind of dropped the ball in responding. I’m now ready to reveal this unwieldy project for whatever it’s worth. It’s a four-generation “tree” of family members of the Indian side of our family. Beginning in the middle, there’s Hubby’s father and mother (with a larger photo just above), then fanning out on both sides with each of his siblings, and their children and grandchildren, all surrounded by candid photographs from each family. Thumb sized pictures are also shown in each box, along with the birth-marriage-death dates, so that future generations can easily pair the person with the name. My daughters have commented on how many facial characteristics–head shape, lips, etc.,  they share with some of their aunts, uncles and cousins in India. It was done using Microsoft Word 2010 in a word document with all the complications encountered in producing a poster sized document on a much-smaller scaled computer monitor, drawing the text boxes within text boxes with Word’s “paint” program in the manner of “eyeballing to make everything fit. Miraculously, everything did!

Some of you may remember our planned 2010 Indian family reunion in Goa where we planned a weekend to reacquaint our daughters and their families with Hubby’s side of the family. Unfortunately, my health concerns precluded my participation, but we urged the family to proceed without us. Our daughters, not having been to India in about 25 years, asked their father for a crash course of sorts–who was married to whom, who were their children, their father or mother and so on. That may have been when the initial seed was sown to develop a patriarchal family tree for everyone’s benefit. This idea was further reinforced when we had most of Hubby’s relatives  based in the US visit us during the summer. Family genealogies were typically passed along orally, or hand-written by elders to be passed down, so somebody knew some family specifics, but despite the effort so much family history seems to get lost. I, for one, am a strong believer is preserving and strengthening family links. So for my own sake and that of our small family, I decided to undertake the task of setting down–as officially as possible within my own limitations–a family register for the current four generations, to coexist with that of my own family origins. With the current trend of geologically scattering of families, for ours it would be a beginning family connection all-around.

This undertaking was by no means a simple task. As in the case of hubby’s family in South India, complications such as there being no family surname such as Smiths or Browns as we have in the West. Instead, a child with a given name such as Fred will often be identified as Fred, son of so and so. In addition, the families often use  “clan” names which may indicate the ancestral village of their origin and the sub caste the family belongs to, although not routinely used as an official or daily use name. To complicate the matter further, the child “naming” ceremony occurs about 10 days after the birth of the child and so the hospital birth records do not identify the child with any name except as son or daughter of the father so and so. Thus, use of birth records to construct a family tree is out of the question.   The way the children in the Tamil Brahmin families are named also adds another layer of confusion. Depending on the sex of the child the given name  may be a god’s name, or a deceased grandfather or grandmother’s name.  Very often the grandparents and other close relatives weigh in on the names and the parents try to accommodate everyone’s wishes.  So, the children end up with official name (for school records) and several other names given by the relatives.  Most of the time, as in this country, the long names are shortened with nicknames for daily use.  That explains why so many of Hubby’s family are known by different names within the family. I think you can see how, for anyone born in the West, it makes for much confusion about who’s who in the family. The project was duly completed and mailed to each family a week or more before Christmas.

I believe it quite appropriate to end this posting with the same quote by Rabindranath Tagore printed on the poster itself (just above the bottom picture border). “The tapestry of life’s story is woven with the threads of life’s ties, ever joining and breaking.” Ever joining indeed! As with these kinds of charts, ours has already become obsolete, but in a good way. One of Hubby’s nephew’s wife in India just gave birth to their second daughter few days ago. As per the custom, we are waiting to learn her name.

13 thoughts on “all in the family

  1. Wow! That is some work, I have gathered info for eight generations and put them in family tree form, but they are no way as elaborate as that. Congratulations.

    • Mage and Grannymar, thanks to both of you! In spite of my complaints, I loved the challenge, I am, after all, that kid whose parents wouldnt or couldnt afford to buy a Monopoly game so I made my own from paper scraps. (Wish I still had it.)

  2. Thank you Aunty for all your effort and patience in completing this wonderful project and putting up with maama during the process.

    • I’m really happy to have it done, Swarna, and now–after the fact–I can say I really did love the challenge! Besides, now I feel I really “know” the family well. Go ahead, ask me anything! 😆 And thanks so much for commenting. It’s always great to hear from you!

  3. Love this chart and wish someone would have undertaken one on both sides of my family – I have the beginnings of one for each but it has too many holes and hardly anyone around to fill them anymore.

    • Why not begin with your parents and siblings, then yours and significant other’s name, then Tin? Has to start somewhere. It’s terribly addicting, this ancestor dig thing! I took a 30 day trial run on Ancestor.Com for my side. You’d be surprised how many leads you can find there. Of course for this one I had to rely on requests to every family member to send me as many dates he/she had. Luckily, we were able to piece it altogether to start from here. Too bad we weren’t able to get grandparents in there too. I’ve been thinking of you lately because Hubby and I stopped at a Cracker Barrel for early dinner one night last week and as we were leaving I saw a shelf space devoted to MOON PIES! There were banana flavored along with the original chocolate, and there were a few special packs of chocolate covered peanut buttered ones! I’m still into physical wellness training and trying to eat mostly what is good for me only, so you’ll be proud to know that I left them all there where they were. BUT, I know where to find them in Utah now if I get desperate!

  4. As someone who has spent years collecting dead relatives, I congratulate you on your genealogy project. It ain’t easy, and I know your Indian family will appreciate your work even more as the years go by. Oh, and I’m happy that you did not choose Kuppa Bhut for your surname.

  5. Uncle : Many Pakistanis have a last name that reads as “Butt”. Seems it is a variant of “Bhat” taken up by Kashmiri Brahmins who converted to Islam. Did someone tell me our ancestor from whom “Kuppa Bhat” was derived was a Kashmiri ? 🙂

    • Raghu: Someone did mention the kashmiri connection. I have also heard that it is a variant of “Kuppa Vattam” meaning clan (circle) of the trash or refuse people or such. You should ask Sekar or Raj about this. We decided to perpetuate the name just to put a circle around our immediate family. Besides it is good for stirring up discussion and controversy.

      uncle (hubby)

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