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| Category: || Biographical Non-Fiction |
Posted:|| January 27, 2020 Views: 68|
A search for half of my roots.
"A Gentile in the House of David"
by Henry King
A few months ago, while reviewing poetry at FanStory.com, the word "gentile" was used incorrectly in a poem. The poet thought the word was a unique way of spelling and pronouncing the word "gentle", it rhymed perfectly.
I had often wondered if I was part Jewish, or was I a Gentile. A family legend said our family can trace itself back to the House of David.
Before Ancestry.com my family knew where we came from. Our life and history were simple. Just like saying our A, B and Cs and knowing one plus two equals three.
We had Birth, Marriage, Divorce and Death Certificates coupled with old letters, and words-of-mouth tales. Some were written in Arabic. We didn't translate them because we were told what was written in them. Our race was white, but it may have some red and black. Our ancestors came from France, Germany, Ireland, Scotland and Syria. There were hints of Cherokee, Ethiopian, Greek, Italian and Phoenician in our tree.
That milieu of sources were our roots. As kids we wondered; were our ancestors royals, farmers, masons, peddlers, poets or scholars? Were our ancestors horse thieves and slavers, as told in some tales? We were the stuff dreams were made of.
In the early 1980s, I received several photographs on print and facsimile paper of my patrilineal family ancestors from two cousins. None of the pictures included the names of the persons depicted. My Father knew a few. An aunt by marriage gave me a picture of my Father's family which included my grandparents, aunts and uncles. My Mother had several photographs of her Lebanese families to include her paternal grandparents and her maternal grandmother.
Familiar with the U.S. Census, I began a search for my ancestors. I started hitting dead ends in the pre-U.S. Civil War 1800s for my patrilineal ancestors. My matrilineal family started in Walsenburg, Colorado. We knew they emigrated from Dhour Shweir, Syria, now Lebanon, but there were no records of them before the 1910 U.S. Census.
My son, Rob, took up the search on the internet. He knew one of his patrilineal great-great grandfathers entered the U.S. and Mexican War from Arkansas in 1846. That ancestor served with a Mounted Infantry Battalion during the war. Staying in Texas after the war he was granted land near Waco and a pension.
Rob set up ties with distant relatives in Mississippi. Our patrilineal ancestors became known to us through many pages of collected family history. Yet, there were no known sources within our matrilineal family.
One of my Mother's maternal uncles told a story about his Lebanese family. That story was self-published. I own a signed and dedicated copy of The Emir, by Lenore Harris Hughes, copywrite 1979; Publisher, Hughes Publishing Company; El Paso, Texas.
A matrilineal second cousin wrote an unpublished biography about her Grandfather, who was a Lebanese immigrant and married to one of my Lebanese matrilineal great aunts, making a home in El Paso, Texas.
My Lebanese Grandfather's family name, as we knew it, is prominent among Arabic, Christian and Jewish Middle Eastern communities. Somewhere in the distant past was a Son of Solomon near the base of our family tree. Evidence was in my Grandfather's Bible. My Grandfather had two Bibles, one he carried with him to church, and the other was the Family Bible. Both Bibles were printed in Arabic.
I saw and held the Family Bible. It was displayed with an Arabic edition of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, on a bookshelf at the family home in El Paso. My Grandfather showed me some pages with columns handwritten in Arabic in the Bible. He said it was a list of family names.
My cousins and I were told, after our Lebanese Grandmother's death, our Grandfather donated several items to St. George's Orthodox Church in El Paso to include the family Bible. Decades later, after the year 2000 and after the Church moved to a new location, the Bible could not be found.
THE KEY TO OUR LEBANESE FAMILY
Families in Lebanon are grouped in Tribes, like other population groups. The Tribal records, written in Arabic, have been kept for centuries. Those stories generally follow those in the King James Version of the Bible, with some having a different view of an incident. The difference could be in the translation. The names of the male linage of my families three related tribes have been traced back to Elia or Elie, Son of Solomon.
Names were changed because of the difficulties the U.S. Immigration Officials had with understanding what was said. Many times, the difficulties were resolved by Americanizing those names. Some names were chosen from older family names. Some names were changed because the individual wanted to be known by that new name.
After my Father died, my Mother predeceased him, my three sisters and I took turns selecting keepsakes, photographs and sundry items that were not included in our parent's Wills.
During my turns, I picked items that had possible clues to our family history. Among my selections was a document written in Arabic. Not knowing what it said other than, Baptismal Certificate, Eastern Orthodox Church. I filed it away with my other keepsakes.
My two Daughters sent their DNA samples to Ancestry.com. The eldest, doing the on-line research through Ancestry.com as the family tree manager said, the only family name in our Ancestry.com generated tree is my Grandfather's brother. Names like Khoury, Majaus and Moujaes are predominant. Our closest cousins, fourth and fifth, were the Moujaes. At the beginning of the three branches, was Elie bou Sulieman or Elia Son of Solomon. We found there was no connection between either my Grandfather's or my Grandmother's family names and the names in our DNA generated family tree.
A matrilineal great uncle dropped the name Khoury Majaus and used names he liked as his first name and family name. He did that when he found his father, Constantin Khoury Majaus, had died during a period of famine in Dhour Shweir. That conversion of names is common in Lebanon after the death of a patriarch.
One of our cousins in Lebanon contacted my daughter and asked, if she knew through whom, were we related. She emailed him a copy of the Baptismal Certificate I selected two decades earlier. The translation created a waterfall of named Lebanese relatives. My matrilineal Grandfather's family name was bouNakhleh. My Mother had a middle name, Marta. Our bit of truth, sworn on a Bible, was that document I selected almost twenty years earlier.
A niece, a published author who writes a series of Religious Fantasy books about Guardians of Angels, exclaimed, "We've been living a lie!" Not so, because no one who lived it is here to tell us why.
My Niece was not alone. Upon seeing the translation, I went to St. George Orthodox Church in El Paso and met with Father Joseph. He could not read the Certificate because it was written in "Old Style" Arabic. Father Joseph said, his wife may be able to read it. I asked for a verbal report of the names. The next morning Father Joseph confirmed the translation.
The hunt began to find out who our family members were, when they came to the United States of America, who was with them and where were they going. All the important data was controlled by Ancestry.com.
If you conduct a search, be aware and prepared, the Border Crossing and Passenger Lists you will acquire on-line as screen shots are not as clean or as clear as you see in the PBS TV show, Finding Your Roots, hosted by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.
In our particular search the difficulties were in the various ways a family name was spelled. The Government lists were handwritten. The writer's skill may not be as clear as a reader wants, i.e., the T in Tannous, Thomas in Arabic, looks like a C in one document. Most notes and corrections spilled over from one entry line into adjacent lines. Some of our relatives crossed U.S. Borders more than once. In some of those crossings variations, misspelled or different names were used.
IN OUR BLOOD, TRUTH
Well not exactly, at Ancestry.com laboratories, the truth is in the genes found in our spit.
Along came an Augustinian friar named Gregor J. Mendel. He said, children's traits followed those of their parents, and they were predictable. He did this by studying peas in a pod. Yep, that dry as beans stuff from High School Biology.
Mendel's germ evolved. The genetic evolution turned into Ancestry.com, 23 and Me, CRI Genetics, et alia. Their genetic research can tell us who is related to you and me. Simple family history was turned topsy-turvy and spinning drunkenly like a whirling dervish all the way from Araby. You may look black, yellow, red or white, but don't latch on to that too tight. Your genes sorted by code, will tell you what is right.
A few months ago, I went to bed knowing, our Lebanese name was prominent like a flag on a hill, The tales were told while sitting on my Mother's lap. The House of David was in our Tree.
At the urging of my daughters, and with some reluctance, I gave my DNA sample to Ancestry.com. The reason for my reluctance, a woman said, I or one of my patrilineal cousins was her father. I received the results six weeks later. My DNA analysis shows the woman as a second cousin to me.
Besides family relationships, your DNA can also show the likelihood of you catching a genetic related disease. Some employment opportunities may be denied you because of that analysis.
Other results said I was fifty percent Middle Eastern. There are twenty-four countries in the Middle East, and none predominate. Of the other fifty percent of my profile, the large majority, thirty-five percent was Scots/Irish, with the Lowlands predominating.
A sister and my female first cousins of Lebanese descent whose DNA was analyzed by Ancestry.com had a more definitive result than I. Their analyses showed Lebanon was the predominate source of their Middle Eastern DNA. I asked, why was there a difference in the DNA? I have not received a response.
Other than being able to trace your family back that far, being from the House of David is no grandiose thing. Today, there are untold numbers of us male descendants of Solomon. Our ancestress may have been a queen, commoner, slave or a whore. Who knows?
The Biblical tradition of listing male descendants only was carried out for many generations among the Lebanese tribes. Just in the last hundred years, some women have been listed in the family trees.
Reading the King James version of the Bible and Googling, I found David's son, Solomon, was politically and strategically astute. Solomon had many non-Hebrew wives and 300 concubines. To strengthen his position, Solomon married and mated with queens, princesses, general's and tribal chief's daughters. Upon Solomon's death, the Bible states Rehoboam was recognized as a son of Solomon but was rejected as his Royal successor.
Historically Melnik I of Sheba was a result of a love affair between the Queen of Sheba and Solomon. Melnik was recognized by Solomon as his heir. Melnik inherited the Arc of the Covenant as his birthright and took it to Sheba from the disgraced Temple of Solomon. The Arabs know Melnik I as Ibn Al-Hakim, the Son of the Wise.
To access Ancestry.com data, you must be a full paying member. That is a barrier for some, because of the cost. You can't get it by logging on to the various U.S. Government websites. When you do, you are led to the Ancestry.com Home Page.
Local data such as Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates, if you are related, can be acquired at varying costs from City or County Clerk offices. Some in California charge as much a $70.00 per document. Birth and Death Certificates may reveal the subject's parent's names.
Ancestry.com full paying members may access Border Crossings and Passenger Lists by name. The seeker will be presented with an Ancestry Source Citation sheet for an individual. That Citation sheet may tell you that Marriage and Death Certificates are listed in Additional Data Sources.
U.S Border Crossings from Canada to the U.S., 1895-1960 have a list or Manifest of Alien Passengers Applying for Admission through various ports, such as the Port of Sweet Grass, Montana where my Lebanese ancestors entered the United States. The Source Location is St. Albans, Vermont, 1895-1954.
Mikael bouNakhleh, my grandfather, was born to Saba'a bouNakhleh Moujaes and Maliki Essa Merhige in 1882. He was raised in Dhour Shweir. He told a granddaughter he was educated as a Seminarian at St. Mary's Orthodox Church in Dhour Shweir.
My Grandfather was fifteen or sixteen in 1907 when he settled in Walsenburg, Colorado with his Khoury and Majaes relatives. It wasn't long before he started working. His principal business was a Boot and Shoe Repair Store according to the Walsenburg Edition of the R.E. Polk and Company's Aguilar Directory.
My Grandmother, Roza Khoury Majaes was born in El Chouier, the French name for Dhour Shweir, in 1894. Her parents were Constantin Khoury Majaes and Jamilie Genevieve Essa Abdou. She immigrated to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in 1909 with her mother and a younger brother.
My Grandparents were married in Edmonton in 1913. Making their home in Walsenburg, Colorado, they raised six children. The family moved to El Paso in 1929 because of a death of a child, the U.S. Depression and the danger from battles between coal mine owners and John L. Lewis's Coal Miner's Union.
With research and photographs we have found four generations of our Lebanese family in the United States. We know where they came from, when they came to the United States of America, where they were going and who was with them.
Stephen Bachaalany, a Lebanese family historian, wrote, "... we are of Amharic and Phoenician stock." He also wrote many tribes fled what is now Lebanon during the many wars and disturbances to other parts of Arabia. Many of the tribal members did not know their families originated in Lebanon. My Lebanese Ancestors; 1947; Translated by Paul Knieser, Copyright 2006, Third Edition Revised; Publisher, Tredition, Hamburg, Germany; ISBN 978-3-3-7323-8863-9.
A cousin, Raif Shwayri, recently authored Beirut on the Bayou, Copyright 2015; Published by State University Press, Albany; ISBN 978-1-4384-6035-6. The book is about his Lebanese family settling in Louisiana and the problems his family had in Lebanon. He wrote that his family descended from Bedouin Christians who did not convert to Islam.
The hunt for our family and its results are described in The Cobbler's Tale, By Henry P. King with Sieglinde A. King-Fleenor; El Paso, Texas; Copyright October 11, 2019; ISBN 9781703749441.
Am I a Gentile in the House of David? I still don't know, because my Ancestry.com DNA analysis is not decisive and what Bachaalany and Shwayri have written.
True Story Contest contest entry
The picture was taken in the Summer of 1941 at my Grandparent's home in El Paso, Texas. I'm in the front row, on the left, standing next to my Mother holding my Sister.
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