Recently I had dinner with a distant cousin. So distant, in fact, that our first common ancestor was our great great great great grandfather. This got me thinking about my name and my ancestry and my legacy. So I’m sharing an open letter with you, Dear Readers, that I’m sending to NPR’s Radiolab. I’m hoping they may be able to help me with a subject that becomes increasingly urgent for me with each passing year. My last name is so rare that it will most likely disappear by mid-century, so I’m looking for ways to immortalize it. If I get any response, I’ll be sure to let you know in the comments below!
Dear Jad, Lulu, and Latif,
My pitch to you, in broad strokes, is about legacy and what it would be like if an animal were self-aware enough to know that it’s going extinct. What would it do? I am that animal. Can you help me before I disappear?
My name is Barbara Abelhauser, and I’m 56 years old. I am one of only 3 Abelhausers in the United States. The other two are my uncle and his wife, both in their late 80’s. There are only 10 Abelhausers in the entire world, and only one of those is a male of childbearing age, and his name is hyphenated with another (as if Abelhauser isn’t enough of a mouthful!)
The name originates in the Alsace Lorraine region of France, where for centuries our family owned a hotel called La Pomme d’Or. We were hoteliers, or “hausers”. I’ve never met my European cousins face to face, but one of them has traced our family tree back to the 1700’s.
My last name is so rare that it will likely disappear by mid-century, so I am always looking for ways to immortalize it. Not the genetic line. I couldn’t care less about that. I believe all of us are related within 100 generations.
And I’m not looking for personal immortality. I have a daily blog that you can find here. I’ve self-published a book, which you can find here. My interview has even been made into an animated short by StoryCorps, which you can find here. That’s plenty.
What I want, more than anything, is for the Abelhauser name to continue on in some form or fashion. I’d like something to be named Abelhauser. I heard an episode where you said there are thousands of species of flatworms needing names. I’d even go for that. I’d go for it being carved on a rock in the middle of nowhere. Anything. Preferably multiple quirky things. I want there to be some sort of message in a universal bottle that says, “There once was a family named Abelhauser.”
Do I wish my name were Smith? No. I like being one of a kind. I just want to know that, long after we Abelhausers are gone, someone will stumble upon the name in whatever odd context and think, “Huh. I’ve never heard that name before. I wonder who they were?”
Barbara Abelhauser, of the nearly extinct Abelhausers
Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5