The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Who Do You Think You Are?

Have you ever thought about where you came from; what your ancestors' lives were like? Who they were as people?  Have you ever wondered what was hidden in your ancestral lineage?

I've talked a lot of my father and I have a pretty good idea of his immediate personal history as he had told me stories of what it was like for him to grow up in Puerto Rico in the '20's and early '30's. I knew that my paternal grandparents had quite a bit of land, which is still in the family and is currently inhabited by my cousin and his family. But I don't really know much about my grandparents, his parents, except that they were together for over 70 years, raised a family and that my grandmother never worked outside of the home. I knew they were devout Pentecostals, went to services pretty regularly and I knew they were strict.

A few years ago, I started to ask older members of my family questions about them, and there was one story that totally shattered my image of them as this elderly, saintly couple. There were no crimes committed, but based on the ideals that surrounded them, I thought this particular story was kinda out there and was considered shocking in that time period. I realized that they were just people just like everybody else who sometimes did things without thinking them through.

My mother is about to be 91 years old. Two years ago she had a stroke that has left her bedridden and dependent upon others to help her in her everyday living. My mother had a tough time growing up and she never talked about her childhood. I would only hear snippets of her life: She lived for a time with her maternal grandmother, and depending on who you talked to, her mother died either when she was 2 or when she was 12. I remember a conversation when I was much younger where I asked my mother why she never talked about her mother and she said it was too hard to talk about because she had died when my mother was very young. I asked what her name was. She responded "R. Lahongrais".  The surname sounded like a song to my young ears. I swore that when I grew up, I would take that name as my own. So I asked her to spell it for me, and she spelled it the way I spell it today. She said it was a French name -- from Haiti via France and that we were part Haitian.

When my father was sick in 2005, I began to again wonder where I came from. Here was this couple, my parents, who despite all of their struggles, were still together after 58 years -- though not without incident. I recalled conversations with my dad about his upbringing and childhood and it struck me that I knew very little about my mother's background except that her grandmother's last name was Longrais.

Yes, I just discovered last night that it was spelled differently in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  I took that name as my professional name because my intention was to try and find members of my mother's family and help reunite them.  No wonder no one's come forward! I think I misspelled it!

So, I went on and so far I have been able to track back my mother's family, on her mother's side to 1870 via the 1910 census and in 1910, the name is spelled the way I spell it today. Now, I'm REALLY curious! Questions are now germinating in my brain: I did a google search of my name's origin. I find conflicting information. There are some in Spain with the name, and some in France; but none in Haiti. Am I descendent of African or Haitian slaves that maybe took their name from their owner upon being freed? I always knew that I was probably a descendent of slaves. Now, I'm on my way to confirming that notion and it brings up even more questions! How far back can I go? And what of my mother's father? So far, I have hit a wall regarding him.

Let's see where this all leads me!  I'm putting together the puzzle of my life, my very existence and I can not wait to find out more!!



  1. Very interesting. I have wondered about my family's past and often wonder what lays hidden in my parents history. Do I want to know? There are some things in my life I'd rather my kids didn't know, but maybe one day they'll find out...after I'm gone. LOL. Good luck with search! You know, you may find a good storyline out of it, such as, what did the saintly couple do???? I want to know!

  2. Thanks M.J. I toyed with the idea of basing a story on my findings ... I may just do that as I do have a draft piece I started about a year ago. But, insofar as what "the saintly couple" did, I plan to honor their memory. I'll never tell. :-)