Is Honesty, Valuing Truth, and Fairness Hereditary?

The title is somewhat just a rhetorical device. An unanswerable hypothetical at our present level of understanding of heredity. But it pokes at a confession I must make. I have been wrong about one of the surnames in my family tree.

Somewhere along the line I was told it meant “Orphan”, and just figured that line of the ancestry would be forever muddied by someone having been an orphan and that was that. I don’t remember who told me or when, as it was way back before tracking attribution mattered to a little kid. But wherever it came from, that was not the truth.

This last month we had a family party for the winter birthdays. (6 or 7 of them inside 2 months, more if you add one more month…) My sister has done a big genealogy / ancestry search on the family. Over dinner, it was discussed, including the Irish line of the family. That’s when I found out the real origin of the family name. The etymology of it is not orphan, but “son of the judge”. Breheney. Though it can be spelled many ways:


No wonder I can’t spell worth a damn… I come by it honestly given that this part of the clan can’t even keep their own name straight…

Has an annoying pop-up for their “newsletter” user information phish, so I’m quoting enough you won’t need to hit the link…

Last name: Breheny

This interesting surname is of Irish origin, and is derived from the Gaelic “Mac an Bhreitheamhnaigh”, meaning son of the judge. The name was first phonetically Anglicized as Mac Evrehoona, Mac Vrehonne and Mac Brehon, but today it has generally become Judge.

BTW, that kind of extreme variation in what any given bit of Gaelic gets turned into in the anglicizing is common. So not too hard for someone to get a completely different translation if they try to pick it up in the middle with an off spelling, which is what I suspect may have happened to whomever it was told me a tail as a child.

The surname is common is Counties Sligo and North Roscommon and many examples occur in the birth registers of a family using Breheny and Judge indifferently. The Cormac Mac an Brehon, recorded below, whose death was recorded in the Four Masters in 1483, was the “intended ollave (learned man) of Muintir Maelruain” which was a population group comprising the families of Mac Dermot of Moylurg, Mac Dermot Roe, Mac Dermot Gall and Mac Donagh of Tirerril, in County Sligo. One Eugene Mac Brehan was Bishop of County Mayo from 1541 to 1561.

Now given that my people came from county Mayo (long long ago, long ago…) it looks like we might even be related to a Bishop. Don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing… but one hopes he isn’t an ancestor, given vows and all… ;-)

The surname can be found as Breheny, Breheney, Brehany, Brehon, Brehan and Judge. Among the recordings in Ireland is the christening of Richard, son of Hugh Breheny, on March 9th 1743 at St. John’s, County Limerick. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Cormac Mac an Brehon, which was dated 1483, Tirerril, County Sligo, Ireland, during the reign of King Henry V1 of England, “The Founder of Eton”, 1422 – 1485. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to “develop” often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

All of which leaves me just a little spun. From orphan to Son Of Judge in one swift rotation.

But in many ways “it just fits”.

My whole life folks have trusted me. I’ve been given all sorts of duties that required trust and could not really explain why. But something in my core being just can not abide breaking a trust. So I don’t. So people notice, and I get more such duties.

Similarly, I don’t like taking sides before there is good evidence and reason to do so. I prefer to “withhold judgement until the facts are in”. I like to treat both sides fairly and keep personal insults and emotional floor-shows out of it. I believe in “seeing both sides from their perspective” BEFORE choosing which one to endorse. (Often both are right from their POV and you simply must choose the lesser harm). I like exploring a side fully, even if I think it wrong, and come to a complete understanding of it.

While I am capable of deception, I don’t like it, and reserve it only for when the greater good demands it. (So I’d not have a problem lying to a border guard to get my family out of a despotic country bent on murder, but if the same border guard asked if I had anything to declare would likely say “Sure, I bought a case of whiskey at the duty free shop” even knowing that would cost me a few bottles…) Something about deception is “just wrong”.

As a very core value I hold that “What I want does not matter.” and “The truth just is.” and “The facts just are.”. And of course you’ve all seen me say “It isn’t about me.” All things you would expect from a Judge.

When I look over how I treat the world, it does look remarkably like the rules of a courtroom.

So that leaves me to wonder just how much of that kind of thing is hereditary, and how much came to me from family values. I’m fairly sure the “calm and centered” is a hereditary nature, similarly the desire to take in all the details that exist (that borderline high function Aspe thing). But trust? Fairness? “Speak your piece but politely and my agreement with your POV isn’t important”? Or how about “That just is not true.”? It doesn’t “Fit with the other known facts”. I can see a consistency filter being hereditary, but also familial. To what extent are we born with the traits for a given role, and to what extent is it familial grooming? Does that matter?

One other sidebar:

On Mum’s side we have “Summoner to the Court” – or the Royal Bounty Hunter… On Dad’s side the Judge. Though originating in different islands, and being separated by an ocean for a couple of hundred years, here we have two lines of the family that originated near each other and working the courts, rejoining a few thousand miles away in an alien land. Accident of history? Similar inherent values bringing them together as shared culture? One wonders.

If “shared culture”, then how to explain the Blacksmith line? They were the arms industry of that era, and they did make(and break) the locks and keys, so also had to be trustworthy folks. (Though it also lead to the cheeky snark of calling the skeleton key “The Blacksmith’s wife”… he who makes the chastity belt can open it too…)

On To The Future

So now I’m looking at my family history and my own history just a little bit differently. Not an ancestral orphan looking for an anchor, but a judge trying to keep folks calm and sort out the injustices. And a Smith, forging systems that work and making locks & keys for decent security. Doing what my ancestors have done for hundreds (thousands?) of years, but in a new computer context. And having that “it just fits” moment.

This also is interesting in the light of my Master Druid certification. The Druids were the learn’d class. They came in a few variations, from the Bards who were the recorders of history and news, to the judges who settled disputes. The name now tells me that my ancestors were of the Druid Judge class. Yet another semi-compulsive interest driven from the mists of time? I had no reason to go that route prior, yet did, and now I find it is ancestral…

To what extent is our future driven by our past, even if we do not know that past? If personal experience is any guide, it isn’t locked on rails, but the general direction is familiar…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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17 Responses to Is Honesty, Valuing Truth, and Fairness Hereditary?

  1. philjourdan says:

    You got it easy. On my father’s mother’s side, we have 2 main occupations. Minister and Moonshiner. So I tend to be a holy roller who breaks the law! LOL

  2. pg sharrow says:

    Interesting observation.
    As a long time stockman I have observed that behavior is for the most part inherited. “Domesticated” creatures seem to have a more co-operative and honorable view about working with others. Less of a ME first and to heck with anyone else attitude. Some are born mean outlaws that fight just for the sport/fun of it. Fine in battle but a real pain in a bar!
    As a stockman I get rid of the trouble makers and keep the co-operators. This is much the same as rulers of olden times that would empty their jails by selling the contents into the slave pits! Good way of making a profit and get rid of the trouble makers as they just breed a more difficult population…pg .

  3. Gail Combs says:

    I have seen the same thing. There is NO WAY I would EVER breed to a mean stud (horse, pony, goat, or sheep)
    As far as I am concerned it is disposition, disposition, disposition AND then look at the rest of the characteristics. Only with race horses would you ignore everything but the ability to run. It is one of the reasons I dislike them as a saddle horse for pleasure.

    I find the difference in personality between a Saddlebred and a racing Quarter, Throughbred or even a Standardbred quite striking. The Saddlebred LIKES people. (Darn smart too.)

  4. Canadian Friend says:

    That guy has devoted almost all his blogging to this topic;

    JayMan’s Blog

    there is a treasure trove of information there.

    Science is showing us it is more hereditary than we thought.

    what we do not know yet is how much more…is it roughly 99 % nature and 1 % nurture ( as JayMan seems to think although he did not give it numbers) ?
    …or is it 80/20 ( I think it must be damn close 80 nature /20 nurture )
    …or is it 75/25
    …or 60/40 ?
    or is it an almost ideal 51% nature /49% nurture ? ( as most liberals would like us to believe…which would make the ” magic dirt” theory – very conveniently – work…. of course liberals are wrong, Unicorns are born with rainbows coming their wazoo! don’t they know it? and nurture or environment will not make rainbows come out of non-Unicorns!! haha! )

    how much? that we do not know yet.

  5. H.R. says:

    If it’s nature, howz come every family has its black sheep?

  6. Gail Combs says:

    H.R. … Bad combo of genes. Do not forget men are PREDATORS. We have only been farming a rather short time. In horizon II dating to 9.800 years ago, domesticated emmer wheat appears. So the ‘black sheep’ genes were not ‘bred out’ until very recently. The ‘black sheep’ genes would be the one that caused sonny to pack up and leave, grab him some women and BREED. If he is aggressive enough he leaves a lasting legacy.

    Think of Genghis Khan
    1 in 200 men direct are descendants of Genghis Khan
    ~10% of the men who reside within the borders of the Mongol Empire as it was at the death of Genghis Khan may carry his Y chromosome, and so ~0.5% of men in the world, about 16 million individuals alive today

  7. Verity Jones says:

    @Gail Combs Sad, but true.

  8. Power Grab says:

    U.S. Constitution:

    “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

    I have been puzzling over the phrase “natural born”. Why would they say it that way?

    Does that mean a test tube (AI) baby wouldn’t be eligible? Or a clone? Or the offspring of a surrogate mother?

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    There is contention over the term and no formal definition. The goal was to prevent mixed allegiance to foreign countries. So they didn’t want, for example, someone born in Germany to come, be naturalized, and then be president. The other extreme says folks like Senator Ted Cruz ought not be eligible as he held dual Canadian / US citizenship and was born on Canada. (Or even John McCain, born in Panama to US parents).

    The reality is somewhere in the middle, but nobody knows where as we can’t ask the Founders what it means… Now the topic is politicized as Barry Obama doesn’t meet the strict interpretation, but only a loose one. (“Mom” was under age at birth so technically could not confer citizenship and Hawaii would issue recordings of birth to foreign born children, so some doubt on what dirt his foot first touched).

    Given the damage done to America by Obama, the founders had clue, and I would now advocate for a very strick meaning. Born on this dirt to US Citizens, and lived here most of your life and childhood. (That, btw, would eliminate me, since Mum was a British citizen at my birth…) But present interpretation runs to “anything close to citizen at birth is good enough”.

  10. Alexander K says:

    EM, very interesting topic for me.
    My surname, a simple two-syllable one, was originally Norman and predates universal literacy. It was modified by local usage as the name spread with travel over the generations and, as a consequence, is spelled in a number of different ways.
    A cousin has devoted a huge amount of her time over the years studying our family’s journey from rural Yorkshire in the 17th century to many countries around the world.
    At a family reunion here in New Zealand some years ago, I was fascinated to meet relatives from Japan, Polynesia, the USA, Australia and the UK.
    And despite some marked differences between individual family members, it is remarkable how similar the attitudes and values of many of us are.
    In my own case, my personal interests are such that I am a little unusual in my home town, but among far-flung family members, I tend to fit right in.

  11. Gail Combs says:

    From a Constitutional lawyer who is passionate about The Federalist Papers (Alexander Hamilton, James Madison & John Jay), restoring constitutional government, The Bible, and the writings of Ayn Rand. Natural born citizen status is inherited – it’s not bestowed by the Constitution or Acts of Congress

    By, the By Ted Cruz is Canadian PERIOD. There was no dual citizenship in Canada at the time of his birth and he had a Canadian passport at the time he became Senator. To be American his Mom would have had to go to the US Consul and declare him a US citizen however SHE was registered to vote in Canada. That is why Cruz sealed his records AND his Mom’s…

    Also his father was a Cuban living in a foreign country and that also eliminates any hope of his natural born citizenship. (I looked into it closely a year ago.)

  12. Power Grab says:

    @ EM, What light would your Druid-derived wisdom shed on the question of what constitutes “natural born”?

    I read an article that described the history of artificial insemination going way back to the Middle East. It said that herdsmen whose stock weren’t what they wanted would wait until their neighbors’ superior females had been impregnated, then they would go at night and clean out the uterus and load it into their own females.(!)

    The history continued to say that in more modern times, the technology underwent considerable development in Kansas. Then it was taken to Japan. I have read elsewhere that there is a lot of gene-manipulation going on in Hawaii.

    Just saying… Apparently, things like that went on with farm animals that predated the work of our country’s Founding Fathers.

    Beyond that, I wonder if the most true-to-form procreation is done by a husband and wife without technological intervention. It seems that kings and queens have great concerns about that sort of thing. (At least on the surface?)

    Finally, now that new research into the human microbiome is revealing that the condition and mix of gut flora has a big impact on one’s brain. So I’m wondering if that sort of thing factors into our discoveries that far-flung family members have strong similarities to our own predispositions, personalities, and strengths and weaknesses.

    My sister got her DNA run and has been discovering and making contact with relatives we didn’t even know we had. I had a lovely meeting with one of these distant cousins in recent years. We shared photos and stories and found that our vocations and hobbies were amazing similar!

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    @Power Grab:

    IMHO, the phrase “natural born” was in opposition to the other approved class, folks not born here but resident in the USA when it became the USA. Meaning the folks born on this dirt. So what I’d say it means is pretty simple: Born here. Raised here. Care most about here.

    Folks born somewhere else, raised somewhere else, caring about somewhere else (or about a global vision more than here) are not “natural born”. In short “Merican”….

    By that definition, I would qualify, as my allegiance is all here all the time and I was born on this dirt.

  14. waterside4 says:

    Interesting as usual your Chiefness. Have a look at Brehon Laws. You might find some pearls there to set before the swine.

  15. Gail Combs says:

    E.M. It was also the FATHER’s citizenship that was of concern since he, as head of household in the 1700s, would be the one to instill loyalty to country.

    While living in the Boston area, we knew a Lithuanian group that would show up at folk festivals. One of the guys, an American born on the soil, was convinced he was the King of Lithuania in exile thanks to his father’s brainwashing.
    THAT is the type of think ‘natural born’ is trying to prevent. Obummer with Lolo as his father during his youngest years also shows how not being raised on American soil is a real danger.

    Aristotle — “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man.”

  16. philjourdan says:

    I have been puzzling over the phrase “natural born”. Why would they say it that way?

    Does that mean a test tube (AI) baby wouldn’t be eligible? Or a clone? Or the offspring of a surrogate mother?

    PowerGrab – the term comes from the old English laws. They had no conception of clones or test tubes in those days. It basically means anyone born under the banner of the flag to citizens of the country.

    But lawyers love to needle with words, so the US code has had to define it since there has been no direct SCOTUS ruling on it, nor clarification with subsequent amendments.

  17. Gail Combs says:

    Actually it was clearly explained but the left loves to mess with words and concepts. The left has no problem with outright lies to advance that is to ‘Progess’ towards a world wide Communist Totalitarian State.

    Natural born citizen status is inherited – it’s not bestowed by the Constitution or Acts of Congress

    “By the law of nature alone, children follow the condition of their fathers; the place of birth produces no change in this particular. In my first paper, you can find the links to Vattel and other original source documents illustrating the original intent of “natural born citizen”” ~ PUBLIUS HULDAH

    …Be sure to read the short article in the LA Times. The law professor author discusses the 3 ways of reading our Constitution:

    * original intent (yours truly);

    * textualism (the words mean what they mean today not what they meant when our Constitution was drafted & ratified);

    * it’s a living, breathing, evolving Constitution which means whatever the Judges, or whoever has the power, says it means…

    This twisting of the Constitution by the Left is a major danger to our country.

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