Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Great American Melting Pot

I've been spending the last year or so playing around with researching my family's history. Growing up, I was always aware of how deeply my family (both my mother's and my father's sides) is rooted in this country. We had traced our roots back to the 1750s on one side (Troyers) and as far as the 1650s on the other (Fannings). I knew that before that, Troyers were from Austria/Switzerland and Fannings were from Ireland. I knew that the Eighmeys had lived in New York state for a long long time (Philip Emigh was the first to be born in the New World, in 1711). I also knew that beyond that, I had some Dutch and English and German and Irish blood in me. I knew that I have a strong Amish background, and that they originated from Austria. But the focus had always been vaguely on how long our history is here in North America.

Just recently I became aware of a pattern that I was ignorant of. I had all the pieces but I had not put them together. Tonight I saw it for the first time, and it changes so much how I see myself and my history. My family truly is a melting pot, in the classical sense, not just in the distant past. What I realized is:

my father married the daughter of an immigrant (England)
my grandfather married the daughter of immigrants (Hungary)
my great-grandfather married the daughter of an immigrant (Ireland)
and my great-great grandfather married an immigrant (Germany)

Somehow, I have never known how close I was to immigration history. What makes family history more fun is to put it all in historical context, too. To find out just why those people came to America (or the colonies!) when they did, and to learn what was going on in the world at that time. Hungary was in a period of upheaval when my great-grandparents left (1890s); WWI was about to start when my grandfather arrived (1912); my great-great-grandfather arrived from Ireland at the end of the Potato Famine in the 1850s.

Truly, my family is a mix of the old and the new. I have a brand-new perspective on history because of my personal ties to it. I have been watching the new show on Friday nights that Ancestry.com is doing, called "Who Do You Think You Are," and in the first episode Sarah Jessica Parker is quoted (over and over in the commercials) saying "It changes everything about who I thought I was" and I thought that was so over-dramatic and corny. But now here I am, saying the same thing LOL.

I am still digging, and hoping to find more personal stories as well as to see how far back I can get. I am hoping to break through a wall where I am stuck now; hoping that persistance will pay off. Some days I regret not having an interest earlier, when I could still ask my grandparents about their backgrounds. It is such a loss that their knowledge was not recorded. I hope to have a lot more to pass on to my children, when they are older and become curious. It really does make history come alive.


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