Growing up in my family, our last name was a point of pride – von Tettenborn. It is an old German name we can trace back to the thirteenth century and denotes the males of the family are Barons. There is a famous General who fought in the Napoleon war. There is a castle and an actual original coat of arms, not one generated on the internet. All of the legacy and nobility goes through the males of the family. It’s not exactly that females are non-persons; but rather the females are expected to receive their legacy, their history, their wealth through their husband’s line.
Interestingly, both of my father’s daughters have retained the last name von Tettenborn. One, although married kept the name; the other (myself) reverted back to the name when divorced.
Now my two adult sons are interested in attaining German passports. I never really thought about it. It was drilled into our heads since birth that everything pertaining to the name and heritage was only through the males. It’s just the way it is. There are heirlooms, dishes, rings and things that will only go to the sons and their sons. And so on.
Still, my younger son, persisted and got in touch with his grandpa himself and arranged the day for us to meet at the German Consulate in Edmonton. My father had called ahead to determine what documents were needed.
We all took the day off and met up at my parent’s farm the night before and visited a bit before we drove in to the Consulate the next day. One of the documents that I needed to procure was a marriage certificate to indicate why these two young men that are interested in German citizenship but that do not have their grandfather’s name should be entitled to it.
We weren’t even sure they had such a claim, and I hadn’t realized how much it had meant to them until I saw them wait while the lady at the consulate worked out the relationships on paper. She wrote down my grandfather – born in Germany, came over to Canada, never did become a Canadian. My father was a dual Canadian/German citizen when I was born, therefore I was a dual citizen when my sons were born…she looks up and says “oh, it should be no problem, you are entitled to German citizenship.”
I thought I heard an audible sigh from both of them.
The legacy I have to share with my sons is so much more than just my name. There is a history, and a shared pride of family, love of each other. I am so proud of the strong, loving men they have grown up to be. It hadn’t occurred to me, but now I am happy to share my heritage with them.