18 November 2014

The small canopies of a large tree

Being the online curator of my paternal side family-tree led me to also glance upon many other available SyrChr trees on the net and sometimes their family histories, this mainly to discover the missing connections across the sabha-polarized families.
Yes, I discover there are prominent Northerner family names in the South (Chiramel, Vadakken, Alukka) and prominent Southerner names in the North (Keerikattu, Thevalakara); and there are also prominent catholic names in the orthodoxy side (Chathanattu, Thottunkal) and vice-versa. All of these may need reconciliation.

SyrChr geneology (specifically ancestral tracing) is more challenging than I thought it would be when I embarked on this project two years back. A trace on any these family lines is fraught with dead-ends & wrong turns. 

See my own family name 'Ariyannurkuzhiyil', the tree points to one individual from the 18th century. There is but no information on how he ended up in my native village or anything about his ancestors or even siblings. There are hear-says of my furthest-name-ancestor being related to 3 other families in the neighboring villages and that he migrated from a nearby town (Mavelikara?).

Issues faced while doing such a geneological exercise of inter-connecting family-trees are:
  • Foremost being the lack of enough data ever collected. Ancient census are almost non-existent and the few church records, which were supposedly the only data holders, have by now eroded back to the basic elements. 
  • Googling the internet, for the handful SyrChr family histories available, one finds that the earliest identified ancestor of any of the SyrChr families to be from either 16th or 17th century or even later! That is the earliest one can trace. For this I tend to agree with one of my own uncle's explanation: that only by this time did Malayalam script quite stabilize and/or common Malayalees have access to reading and writing. 
  • Keeping in mind that the naming rules of SyrChrs individuals are not that straight, generally in Kerala the actual identifier of a clan (or related families) is NOT the surname but the family (or house) name. But alas, I wish they would have diligently used at least this within names of all descendants. So Most house names of SyrChr are not ancient as believed to be, they are:
  1. Christened by the locals by indicating the house environment (Vayallil, Thekkedeth, Vadakkan, Vadakkeparambil, Keerikattu, Puthenpurakal) or its proximity to the same (Allummoottil, Kulathintepadikkal, Nadavadakkethil)
  2. Adopted names of the previous owners of the house or land (Mattapally, Edapally, Kallampally). My family name I suspect was the given name for the land referring the previous owners (maybe from an Ariyannur illam of Mavelikara?). One of the common trapdoor SyrChrs fall into while flashing their upward (caste) status.
Tracing of house/family names would so come to a stop where the earlier lines were forgotten during migration or simply because many of these families were (controversially) new!

Tracing lineages and family lines it seems is going to be tough for SyrChr genealogists but there is hope:  at least some connecting patterns could be made as the genetic analysis route becomes widespread within the SyrChrs.
Autosomal DNA testing and its advances should bring in hope as this collaborated with info from old records (censuses, church records, individual family histories and online family trees) could build enough momentum to make previously unknown connections.