Genealogy

What’s in a name? I’m told family name is important, not only because they tell important ancestral stories but also it makes tracing lineage a lot easier.

While it is common that many generations bear the same family name in Nigeria, it is also very common that many family do not have one singular surname, in many cases father chose their own name for their children.

My siblings and I have my father’s surname as handed to him by his father, he didn’t think it’s wise for us to have different surname from him, however, two out of his four brothers preferred their children to have their own name as the surname.

As it turned out, this is very common in Yorubaland where male children decided on the name they prefer their offspring to bear.

Having said that, royal families, chiefs and wealthy folks tend to stick to their family name for ease of recognition.

A few years ago, I decided to do my family tree. I knew I will not go very far given the collapse of Oyo Empire and the rest of fragmented history of people taking refuge in neighbouring towns. I wanted to give it a go anyway and thought the other half of the lineage would be followed up sometimes in the future if I’m so keen.

Mother’s side of the family was not too hard, she knew enough of her parents and a bit of grandparents – their surnames was very useful, could have been a lot easier if not for several surnames within one extended family, nonetheless was a fun exercise.

My father side was a bit more of eye-opening, he was able to recollect family names and villages in which many dispersed to in search for bigger farmland given growing family.

My paternal grandmother was from Ife. According to my father, shortly after his parents got together, there was another crisis between Modakeke and Ife, because of this the family lost contact and whenever his mother goes home to visit her family in Ife, she would leave her children behind for the fear they’d be hurt.

This is the first time my father ever mention his mother was from Ile Ife. I was surprised he had kept this to himself for so long. I was only thankful that he is here to share the story.

Needless to say, my family tree on my father’s side didn’t go very far, I had enough information nonetheless. The big K leg in the family tree has history behind it.

I’m sure I can’t be the only one interested in family tree. I wonder how far back one can go in a country like ours where central/regional database for births and deaths are not accurate.

Also is there any good enough reason for not taking on family name?  This is especially for men as most women take on their spouse’s name or hyphenated it to include their maiden name.