Sam MB has put up a post over at By Common Consent on “Stories of Origin” and the values these narratives have on our identity as communities and as individuals. He asks whether it matters if they are true or not.
Don’t know. But it inspired me to share my own, so here you are:
While my family name is Rogers, if you go back to about the early 1800s, you find that the name was originally Rathje, which is a Germanic corruption of Richard. It was probably changed upon settling in America to evade anti-immigrant sentiment (not an uncommon practice back then).
Hans Rathje, so the family folklore goes, was a captain in the Prussian king’s guard. He happened to fall in love with a young noblewoman who served as an attendant to the queen. Since he was of such low rank, the family opposed any marriage. The story has it that the two of them eloped, swam out to a ship in the harbor, and sailed to America. Once in America, Hans agreed to take the place of a wealthy man’s son, who had been drafted into the Civil War. It was common then for the wealthy to hire others to fight in place of their sons. As payment, Hans was promised a plot of land for farming – which he obtained after the war.
Eventually, the Rathjes/Rogers ended up in the Wisconsin-North Dakota-South Dakota region where they have stayed right up to the point that my dad decided to leave for BYU (where he converted to the LDS faith, married a Mormon girl, and here we are).
Well… if that story ain’t true it ought to be.