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:
Brahney Brahan Brehany Braheny Brehaney Brehanny Brahenny Braheney Brahany Brahenys Brahanny Breehan Brehane Brahaney Brehan Brahanney Breeney Brehain Breahan Brecheny Brehanes Brahny
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…