I've been digging around my files, trying to find photos I took in 2004. Or maybe it was 2003. See? I don't even know what year I'm hunting for. No wonder I can't find the photos. I also don't know if they were digital or print.
I was looking for some photos I took in the town of Briery Branch, Virginia. Those of you who have been reading a while know that I'm half-educated-classy-liberal and half-ornery-hillbilly. Half-Yankee and half-Confederate in historical terms. Half-vegetarian-Hemingway-artsy liberals and half-hunting-guitar-playing-bulldozer-operators. Which explains a lot if you know me. But I pass in mixed company. Meeting me for the first time, no one knows I'm not from an Ivy League school except those co-conspirators that attended wacky Antioch with me.
To complicate my heritage further, I grew up in a mostly black, dense urban neighborhood, though we were unlucky enough to live next door to the trashiest of redneck white trash.
But we're looking at my hillbilly side today. Not the immediate relatives but the people we know nothing about.
Hillbillies sometimes don't keep the best records, so one half of my heritage was the stuff of vague rumor. One of those rumors was that we were from this town I'd stopped in. My mother had heard somewhere that there were a lot of Javinses in the cemetery there, so I'd thought I'd take a look.
There were. Lots of Javinses. I took a photo of one headstone labeled "Edward Snowden Javins" who had served in the Confederate Army.
But this was disconcertingly meaningless. Who had these people been?
I filed it away under "Who the hell knows?" and continued on to view the nearest campground.
My mother has long had a website about my last name. She sometimes gets e-mails from people looking for info on Javins geneology.
A few weeks ago, she got the Rosetta Stone of my dad's half of the family. An e-mail from a stranger laid out my heritage on my dad's side. And the guy with the tombstone that I'd taken a photo of?
My great-great grandfather.
That same e-mail traced the family tree all the way back to a German who came over in the 1700s.
I'm part-Bavarian. Like the worthless ex who vanished after I landed in the Namibian hospital in 2005.