Where are you from? Who’s your mob?

When we have guests arriving to stay at our house, we’re often asked, ‘Where are you from?’ I’ve sometimes found this awkward because we’ve had guests who’ve presumed that I must also be Aboriginal and that they might know my family. I’ve tried to be clear that I’m mostly European and not Aboriginal, while still being forthcoming about where I grew up, what places I’m connected to through my family’s story. That’s proved particularly interesting when we’ve had guests from the area where some of my ancestors settled – the father of the family had worked for one of my relatives, on land that may have been taken from his family.

My understanding is that when our Aboriginal guests ask us where we are from and who our family is, they’re working out how we’re connected. I think there’s a security in knowing who we know and who we’re related to. If you treat someone badly and they know who your family is, it’ll get back to your family. If they know where your hometown is, it’ll get back to your hometown.

(I want to acknowledge that I could be wrong about any of this, and I’m happy to be corrected.)

On Monday my mum sent me these family photos which I don’t think I’ve seen before.
This is my mum in 1961:

This is her dad (my grandad) around 1935:

And this is his mum (my great-grandmother):

I think my grandmother was born in Edinburgh, and my grandfather in Wolverhampton, but since arriving in Melbourne we’ve mostly stayed in Melbourne. the information we have about this side of the family doesn’t go back very far. some of our family say they’ve always understood that my mother’s father’s mother had Indian heritage, but this is something my mum hadn’t heard until a few years ago.

On Wednesdays I’ve been reading and reflecting on Genesis. Today I’ve been looking at the genealogy in (what we now call) Genesis 5. I think the genealogies in the Bible often don’t mean a lot when we approach with a Western mindset. Many of us don’t know much about our families. In Australia a lot of Europeans don’t know where their families came to Australia from. I wonder whether for the original readers, the inclusion of genealogies would have given a sense that the stories could be trusted?

One of the things that stands out in this genealogy is the pattern of men having children (without reference of the women who actually give birth) and then dying. That pattern is broken by Enoch, who is said to have walked with Elohim. Instead of saying that Enoch died, the genealogy says that he was no more because Elohim took him away.

The other thing that stands out to me in a more ominous way is the prophecy about Noah. Noah’s father Lamech says of his son, ‘Out of the ground that YHWH has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands.’

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