Family Story

“So my mom’s side of the family is Irish and we have a family crest.  But on the crest, there is actually a bloody hand on it.  There are other stuff too like lions and leaves, but there’s a bloody hand in the middle.  So when I was about nine or ten, we had a family reunion in south Illinois and we all had t-shirts made for the reunion with the family crest on it.  So at the reunion, I found out what the crest meant.  So my great great great great great great great, I could keep going on but it was just like hundreds of years ago, grandfather in Ireland was fighting for a piece of land.  And the way they did it was through a boat race and the first person to touch the land won it.  And that piece of land was worth a fortune.  So he was racing against someone and the other guy was in front of him.  So my great great… you know… grandfather, he chopped the hand off of the guy in front of him and threw it ahead of him so that he technically touched the land first.  And so that is why there’s a bloody hand on our family crest.  Oh, and our family name is O’Neil.”

As mentioned in the story, Meredith heard of this while at a family reunion.  I asked her whether it is true or not and she said that it could be true and that it was the only explicable reasoning as to why there is a bloody hand on her family crest.  But mostly, she thought that it was a funny and interesting story.  When I heard the story, I thought that what her ancestor did was really clever.  If Meredith believes it to be true, then I do as well.  The reasoning is not that bizarre since there is already a bloody hand on the crest.  I believe this is most characterized as a legend.  Her ancestor did exist and in real time, however, it is not documented as to whether or not that was the actual reasoning to why there is a bloody hand on her crest.

The story to me was very interesting, but I also liked the fact that she had a family reunion.  I could imagine how big this reunion must have been since they all made t-shirts to celebrate it.  I think that these reunions are a great way to pass on folklore.  The best folklore is not documented but instead passed orally on between people.  This does leave room for multiplicity and variation, but it is a great way to keep tradition.  Meredith said that this event occurred hundreds of years ago, even before the printing press.  So it was very hard to document events in writing.  One way they documented a family’s identity, however, was through the family crest.  Everything else had to kept alive through sharing stories.