Saturday, January 22, 2011

What's with the weird blog name?

Is there a contest for weird genealogy blog names? If so, I might have won it for this month.  I can hear people asking, “What’s ‘Saint Cross Upheaval’ supposed to mean??”

A brief story: several years ago, I was visiting an ancestral town in Europe, translator in tow. I was fortunate that we (“we” = my translator) were able to find the parish priest, who unlocked the small Baroque church for us and spent some time telling us a bit of the local history.  Back home a few weeks later, I realized that I had not noted the name of the church. Now, to some extent it didn’t really matter—it’s the only church in town, and in that area the churches are generally referred to by the town name, rather than by the name of the saint or event which they commemorate, such as Saint Paul’s or Immaculate Conception.  But still, I wanted to know.  So I emailed my translator, and asked if she had noticed the name of the church.  She hadn’t, but she was kind enough to call the church (far from where she herself lived), and then she emailed me her translation of the name of the church: Saint Cross Upheaval.

I was puzzled, to say the least. I didn’t feel I could ask her for clarification, because I didn’t want to embarrass her by implying that her translation skills were not up to par.  Fortunately, one of my sisters has a master’s degree in theology, so I called her and asked what this could possibly mean. “Triumph of the Holy Cross,” she immediately replied. “It’s a feast day in September, a bigger deal in Europe than here.”

Why choose this for a blog name?

First, let me say what my reasons are NOT.
  • I am not making fun of my translator or her skills.
  • I am not making fun of the church or its name.
  • I am most definitely not equating genealogy with a religious experience, nor am I into ancestor-worship.

I’ve studied several languages. I’ve spent over 30 years hunting for and learning about people who lived in times and places very different from my own. I am constantly striving to interpret.

It is so easy to misinterpret. I have made mistakes, some hilarious, some embarrassing, in speaking and writing a language that I have not fully mastered. I have misunderstood the ways of the past because I assumed that attitudes and options were like those of my own modern American experience. I have gone around, mental dictionary in “hand,” translating what I see into “Saint Cross Upheaval,” not having the knowledge to make the leap to “Triumph of the Holy Cross,” sometimes not even knowing that my interpretation has missed the mark.

“Saint Cross Upheaval” is where I stand. My goal is accurate translation, understanding the lives of others through their language or their history, honoring their lived experience by interpreting it in a way that they would understand and agree with.  “Saint Cross Upheaval” is where I’m at; “Triumph of the Holy Cross” is my goal.


  1. Welcome to the blogging world Julie. What an interesting story. Be sure to check out and submit your blog. Jennifer

  2. With Jessica, I say, "Love it!" I have to say that the name caught my attention on the new blogs list on geneabloggers. I especially like that you gave an explanation for choosing the name. You didn't say which language was being translated.... I'm still trying to figure some rootwords that put "upheaval" and "triumph" together. I'll probably have to work on it for a while.... Great blog. I'm a follower! Welcome to geneabloggers.

  3. I'm guessing this was somewhere in Eastern Europe? "Upheaval" for "triumph" (or "exaltation," воздвижение?) is a bit of a surprise, but I have seen Russian Orthodox churches in the US called "Saint Savior" (= Holy Savior). So I knew something was up when I spotted the wonderful blog title. Welcome to the genealogy bloggers - it's a great group!

  4. Okay, now I've got the logic: exaltation = rising up = uprising = upheaval.

  5. Thank you for your comments! I've had problems (I'm new to blogspot) posting replies to your comments, so I'm a little behind.

    Indeed, Greta and Nancy, another English version of the name of the feast day is "Exaltation of the Holy Cross." To exalt something is to raise it up. And that, I think, is the connection between "upheaval" and "triumph." To raise up, to heave up... similar, very similar! The church was in Slovakia, I think the name was Povysenia svata Kriza (ok, now where are the diacritics on this browser...?)

  6. That's a great name for a blog, and the story makes it better. I look forward to reading more.