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Selfhood in the West is first and foremost expressed by the use of an hereditary fixed surname. This is a comparatively recent phenomenon adopted in order to legally distinguish two individuals with the same given name. Different areas of the world adopted surnames at different periods in time. For example, surnames were commonly used two thousand years ago in areas occupied or influenced by the Romans. Other areas of the world were slower to begin using surnames, but they were coming into regular use by the Middle Ages, first by the nobility, then by the gentry. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Ireland was one of the first countries to adopt hereditary surnames, and Irish surnames are found as early as the tenth century.

In the West, surnames are generally derived from one of four sources: the name of the person's father (patronymic), the person's locality, the person's occupation, or a descriptive nickname for the person. When they were created, they answered one of the following questions: Who is this person's father? Where is this person from? What does this person do for a living? What is his or her most prominent feature? In other words the western surname is part of an individual's striving toward the development of a solid well-functioning ego. In the East, when a Hindu is asked for his identity, there is a Sanskrit formula which begins with lineage, family, house and ends with a personal name. The inner experience of the Western self is clearly delineated from the outside, The Hindu striving towards selfhood goes in the opposite direction- to achieve union with the immutable self, which is ultimately indistinguishable from deity and the totality of the universe.

Why bother?

For most people in the West, knowledge about great-grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins are blocked by many barriers and challenges. Some may wonder why not remain ignorant? Many are content to live in the present believing that genealogy serves no useful purpose. It only takes away from prime time of the living and could bring forth and perpetuate the destructive forces of tribalism.

My reaction to this type of thinking is what will the living find unimportant next? If one's roots are not important then what purpose is our existence? Is each generation to be only their moment in time? I think not! I can understand why youth may not think about their lineage. Young people are quite rightly captured by aspirations of building a future and not facing mortality. However, the most important fact of ageing is that with time you become more yourself and naturally turn to thinking about the meaning of life in a bigger scheme of things. This means looking back into origins. Being rooted in family is knowing your connections to the past as a part of a long social and biological stream. Realizing much of what you are today is based on what all past members of the family contributed to your place in the present. They didn't make the decisions for you, you still have this freedom of choice, but if it weren't for them, there would be no you. The immense social power of genealogy became evident in recent times with the impact of Alex Haley's book 'Roots', which is a skillful telling of a people’s pilgrimage through the quagmire of lost racial links to the solid ground of recovered connections.

Therefore, ideally, genealogy should be a family project. I know that if sons and daughters are adults it may not be easy to capture their interest as they are entrenched in the day to day problems of the present. But, if you are among the middle age adults who have discovered the gratifying desire to inquire into family history your children should be still open to parenting allowing you to instill the importance of genealogy in their lives. It will be your gift to them. We all tend to be better off when we get beyond ourselves and genealogy is an enquiry for developing a social connectivity that bridges the past with the present as well as the future.

Nevertheless, those who are committed to this genealogical quest will continue even if it means going it alone. The process can be lonely at times, especially when you would like to share an intimate experience of a finding with your family. Unless relatives are involved, they will politely reply with an affirmation that you did a good job, but they will not feel the joy of moment, as for example I did when I discovered the birthplace of my grandfather who I never knew. In this respect, a family tree is a gift of appreciation to those who passed before, particularly those, like my grandfather, who walked from their homeland or boarded a ship or train to take on the self-imposed challenge of finding a better life for themselves, their family and yes, us too, the generations to come. It is the task of someone in each generation to build a bridge to the past so that the future can be seen to be a clear continuance of the roots of being a family.

What's in a name?

British Bellamy's have a good start in genealogy because the surname highlights a French origin. In this respect references to the origin of the Bellamy surname suggest that it perpetuates Bellême, their place of origin in Normandy. The earliest person I have found to bridge France and England is the Lord of Bellême & Alençon, William TALVAS II. William was born in 995 in Bellême, capital of the Normandy province of Perche. He died about 1062 and was buried in the county of Alençon-Bellêmet. His descendants, the lords of Bellême, joined Duke William's invasion force and later still, one of their descendants turns up in possession of an English estate as the Earl of Arundel, Robert II De BELLEME. Robert was born in Normandy and christened in St. Martin Of Sees.

It appears that Robert inherited Alcenon in Normandy from his father, Roger de Montgomerie. His elder brother, Hugh, inherited the English lands given to their father in return for his support of King William. When Hugh died without an heir in 1098, Robert also succeeded to them, becoming Earl of Arundel and Shrewsbury. Robert was fighting in Wales at the turn of the 11th century and built CARREGHOFA CASTLE, Montgomeryshire (SJ 255 222) in 1101. All of his English honors and estates were forfeited to the Crown when he was exiled in 1102, having got wrong with William the Conqueror's third son, Henry I. Robert died while imprisoned at Warham Castle, Dorset, sometime after 8 May 1131, and was buried in Wareham.

However, rather than a descendant of one of the Bellême's henchmen, another possibilitiy is that my side of the Bellamy line is derived from the French nickname 'belami', meaning a dear (good) and excellent friend; from bel, fair or beautiful, and ami, a friend or companion. Belami was was used in this context by Geoffrey Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales. He wrote the following lines in the 1380s, when the English language was emerging from an Anglo-Norman melting pot that was the linguistic legacy of King William's Conquest.

Words of the Host to the Pardoner

Bel ami, you," he said, "you Pardoner,
Tell jokes, some funny story, go ahead."
"It shall be done now, by Saint Ronyan!" said
The Pardoner. "But first, at this ale stake,
I'll have a drink and also eat a cake."
The gentlefolk cried out immediately:
"Don't let him tell us any ribaldry!
Tell us some moral thing, that we may learn
Some wisdom, and we'll gladly hear your turn."
"Granted, for sure," said he, "but I must think
Of something, then, that's fitting while I drink."

My lineage originated in East Anglia, and the first Bellamy I have discovered in this region of England is listed in the Patent Roll for 1278, which records a Commission set up to respond to complaints made by the mayor and bailiffs of the Suffolk port of Dunwich to inquire into "the contempts committed by these mariners of Dunwich, viz. Robert Sparrow, Robert le Poer, John Joce, John le Barewer, Geoffrey Codun, Edmund Codun, Geoffrey Fykett, Richard Morebred, Robert de Eyse, William de Southwold, William le Official, John le Palmer, William Totepeny, Geoffrey Blackat, John Fike, William de la More, William Belamey, Valentine Richman, Richard Ille, Nicholas Honeman and Andrew Terry". This gang conspired to withhold the king's dues. The Dunwich situation is significant in that the town developed rapidly after the Norman conquest with a strong Anglo Norman community of merchants and seamen trading with ports on the French coast between Gascony and Flanders. The counts of Flanders were key allies of the Normans and Gilbert de Ghent, count of Flanders, accompanied William, Duke of Normandy, on his expedition and took an active part in the subjugation of England. For his efforts he received 172 English manors; most of them in Lincolnshire (Gilbert was the first Earl of Lincoln) and Nottinghamshire. The shires of York, Derby, Huntingdon, Leicester and Cambridge also provided Gilbert with extensive estates. Gilbert and his wife Alice made their chief home in Lincolnshire at Folkingham, near Grantham.

An important indication of Bellamy's entering the East Anglian Establishment is the record of a Lincolnshire Bellamy, Robert, who was installed as a prebendary of Lincoln Cathedral in 1483. By that time there was a colony of Bellamy families thriving in the villages around Dunham, a place only 8 miles from Lincoln commanding a key crossing of the River Trent on the A57, which is the direct route between Liverpool via Sheffield to Lincoln. Dunham was also a vital crossing of the Trent for travellers coming to Lincoln down the Great North Road. On a local scale the Dunham ferry was convenient for hunting trips from Lincoln to Sherwood Forest. The proximity to Sherwood was a reason for King John's high regard for the royal castle at Lincoln.

In medieval times there was a flourishing trade along the River Trent between Gainsborough and Nottingham, which involved transhipment staithes at the riverside villages: fish and timber were among the goods brought in, and coal was sold along the river and into Lincolnshire. In this sense, Dunham was an important strategic hub of the Plantagenet empire. Indeed, the manor of Dunham on Trent was given by King John's father, Henry II, to the Duke of Flanders for services rendered against the king of France, and the dukes and their descendants maintained a grip on a number of Lincolnshire villages down the centuries. These political connections with Flanders were responsible for the immigration of Flemmings into Eastern England during the 12th century as mercenary soldiers, merchants and settlers. The Dunham cluster of Bellamys that is very obvious in the first parish records marks them as relative newcomers. The size of the population is compatible with them being descendants of a 12th century henchman of the Counts of Flanders. This progenitor 'bel ami' was probably part of a Gallic task force sent over to develop the manor of Dunham, which began the massive task of draining the Trent marshlands.

Subsequently, the Bellamys migrated from this Plantagenet heartland. Some went west along the A57 to the growing industrial metropolis of Sheffield; others moved east through Lincoln into the Lincolnshire fens and wolds; another stream which gave rise to my grandfather travelled south to Huntindonshire and on to Cambridgeshire. But until the beginning of the 20th century, a obvious core of Bellamys remained in the Trent valley below the Lincoln Heights around Kettlethorpe and Laughterton.

Organising experience

The above paragraphs are an example of the fundamental way the human mind is so constituted that it tends to organize experience into conceptual systems. Human brains make connections between events, and, having made connections, they connect the connections, and so on, until they have developed an organized system on different levels that is both differentiated and integrated. ... This is how human beings become self-contained unitary individuals who carry their uniqueness deep inside themselves, like pearls hidden in their shells. The individualized self strives for identity on several levels: individual, family, community, national, planetary to impose an imaginery order on the world.

In our contemporary world, the choice of leisure time activities may be the determining factor of selfhood, which makes the difference between a happy, satisfying life and the opposite. While a job supplies the life-sustaining ingredients, our hobbies must supply the happiness ingredients of living. It is hobbies that facilitate the expression and development of selfhood; they provide the wherewithal for working out identities that are important to each individual. Hobbies fall into four broad categories: making-hobbies (model airplanes or pottery), learning-hobbies (literature or foreign language), doing-hobbies (sports or line dancing), and collecting-hobbies (stamps or coins). Based on our temperament, we can choose the class of hobbies that provide us with the most self-fulfillment. Genealogy is basically a collecting-hobby. It is very rare that hobbies become jobs: such is the lot of academics!

Do Buddhists have hobbies?

From the Khuddaka Nikaya.

The Buddha taught the doctrine of selflessness because he believed that a "self" resulted in egoism, craving, and consequently in suffering.

King Milinda was a Greek warlord who ruled from 115-90 BC (known in Greek as Menander). He asks the venerable monk Nagasena who was said to be 'an enlightened one' a series of questions that attempt to highlight the problems and contradictions in some of the Buddhist teaching.

And Milinda the king spoke to the venerable Nagasena as follows: -

"How is your reverence called? Bhante, what is your name?"

"Your majesty, I am called Nagasena, my fellow-monks, your majesty, address me as Nagasena: but whether parents give one the name Nagasena, or Surasena, or Virasena, or Sihasena, it is, nevertheless, your majesty, but a way of counting, a term, an appellation, a convenient designation, a mere name, this Nagasena, for there is no self here to be found."'

Here we have the makings of one of the unique philosophies in the Buddhist doctrine, the idea of 'no self' or ' anatta'. The Monk Nagasena begins by saying that his name is no more than a label; something that exists just to makes communication easier. He points out that he could just as easily be given a number of different names, this is to point out the lack of importance that the Buddhist tradition places upon our names. For many, your name is very important and much more than a label, your name is integral to who you are and to how you identify your self. The idea that you are really nameless and there is no 'self' or 'soul' is one that is radically different from any other religions.

From the Singapore DharmaNet Guest Book

I am a Government Servant and I am working in Ministry of Commerce & Industry, New Delhi (India) as Data Entry Operator. I am Graduate. My age is 28 years. I have so many hobbies like painting, dancing, acting, helping poor people, spare time for buddhism and buddh regligion. I like very much buddhism religion. I know Stenography in English and Hindi and also know Typing English/Hindi. I am elder in my family. I have three sisters and one younger brother.

Selfhood of Magwitch

In Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, the escaped convict Magwitch recounts his life story to Pip and Herbert and focuses in particular on the evolution of his self-awareness, beginning with his early days as a young criminal. He places great emphasis on what he claims to be his innate knowledge of his name, and he seems to link his sense of a natural, determined name to an essential, determined identity. Yet we see in the rest of the novel, his name undergoes numerous incarnations, from "Magwitch" to "Provis" to "Mr. Campbell," and moreover he himself changes from hardened criminal to repentant sinner by the end of his life. In short, Magwitch's idea of a fixed name and identity is challenged by the personas he continually adopts or constructs.

"Dear boy and Pip's comrade. I am not a going fur to tell you my life, like a song or a story-book. But to give it to you short and handy, I'll put it at once into a mouthful of English. In jail and out of jail, in jail and out of jail, in jail and out of jail. There, you've got it. That's my life pretty much, down to such times as I got shipped off, arter Pip stood my friend.

"I've been done everything to, pretty well - except hanged. I've been locked up, as much as a silver tea-kettle. I've been carted here and carted there, and put out of this town and put out of that town, and stuck in the stocks, and whipped and worried and drove. I've no more notion where I was born than you have - if so much. I first become aware of myself, down in Essex, a thieving turnips for my living. Summun had run away from me - a man - a tinker - and he'd took the fire with him, and left me wery cold.

"I know'd my name to be Magwitch, chris'end Abel. How did I know it? Much as I know'd the birds' names in the hedges to be chaffinch, sparrer, thrush. I might have thought it was all lies together, only as the birds' names come out true, I supposed mine did.

"So fur as I could find, there warn't a soul that see young Abel Magwitch, with as little on him as in him, but wot caught fright at him, and either drove him off, or took him up. I was took up, took up, took up, to that extent that I reg'larly grow'd up took up.

"This is the way it was, that when I was a ragged little creetur as much to be pitied as ever I see (not that I looked in the glass, for there warn't many insides of furnished houses known to me), I got the name of being hardened." [258-259 in the Norton]


If you have read all of the above and are a Bellamy or related to one, from now on part of your selfhood carries a grain of interracial identity derived from the ambitious Flemmings who became entangled with William the Bastard's desire to become king of the English. In North America, interracial identities were delberately created and used to subvert racial boundaries. Multiracial individuals have typically been urged to choose a side with which to identify. Many individuals with light-enough skin chose to pass as white, living on the other side of the colour line. Others discovered their ancestry was used to differentiate them from ordinary non-white people, instituting further stratifications based on colour. In summary, mixed-race identity became a convenient mechanism for whites to manage relations with nonwhite populations. Partial white ancestry became a proxy for competency, trustworthiness, and receptivity to the cultivation of white social ties. Just like the rootless descendants of the North American black slaves, who have carried this idea further and attached themselves to the lineage of a white promoter of the freedom movement, you now have a Flemish ancestor by proxy. (George Bellamy Laughterton)