My connection to…

They can be found in many families: legends, myths, and tales saying that one’s family has a connection to some illustrious ruler or genius from the arts or sciences. What exactly this connection is supposed to look like, even the person who just told the story cannot say for sure, though. But who wants to argue with this person? Over a very long time, the story has grown, has been proudly nourished, cultivated and passed on; and with every iteration new decorative details have been added, thus, rendering the story even more shocking and exciting. It is kind of like playing the telephone game. As a result, the tale has become so elaborate, it has to be true.
Such narratives have existed since time immemorial. Already in ancient Rome, influential aristocratic families called upon deities, elevated them to be their patron and household gods, and even turned them into their direct ancestors. The gens Julia, yes, that is the family of C. Julius Caesar, claimed they derived from the legendary Aeneas, progenitor of Romans and son of Venus, the love goddess. We may be skeptical of that. Time and again similar stories – although adapted to a smaller scale – are brought to us with a request for clarification – your wish is our command, of course.
Our historians and genealogists do not enjoy ruining a good story. Nevertheless, they have to take into account the sources and stick to historical facts in their research. In certain cases the tale in question turns out to be true, in other cases it has a historic nucleus, while some legendary tale is just what it is: a legend. Fiction. Still, this is not the end of the world – on the contrary! As a matter of fact, once ardently loved family tales are willingly put aside – for instance, that one’s ancestors had been robber knights, and thanks to their passion for dueling, had been stripped off their nobility. Fully aware of the results of one’s family history, they are replaced with honorable artisans and hard-working day laborers. And they have the unsurpassable advantage of being genuine and historically accurate figures. This whole new cast may populate a fascinating historical world and one may spin an impressive story – but one without the yarn.

Written by Clemens Kech

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