How do you define your own heritage? I don’t like using the word race due to all the hate and bigotry behind it. But when you get down to it, can you REALLY narrow down your heritage to just ONE place? It’s so rare in modest modern countries because of all the traveling that people have done.
I want to tell you my family’s immigration story, not just our immigration story to the US but our immigration story to France and then England (one side of the family) and then from Germany to the US. I will make a assumptions based on history in some parts.
Both of these sides of the family are from my dad’s side and my dad’s dad’s side… we don’t know anything about my mom’s side of the family. It was one of those, “don’t ask about the family” type of families. I will refer to my grandpa’s mom’s side as LS and his dad’s side as just S.
Let’s start with LS
Do you remember the movie, A Knight’s Tale? Basically, the main character is poor and no status. He is jousting to try to become a knight / win the princess in a tournament. Well, that actually happened in real life in my family.
My way too many to count grandpas owned land and took some of his “employees” with him to a jousting tournament that was meant for Princes and Lords only… oops haha! Well, he showed him! This joust was a tournament not only for money, but land and the hand in marriage of the Princess of Brittany, France! For those of you who were like me before I heard this, it’s one of the provinces closest to England.
So, showing up to a sword fight that you weren’t invited to not only gets you the girl but also the crown! hahah
So my LS family is now in the North West part of France… and then Mr. William the Conqueror comes into town. He said, “My highest ranking officers will get land and castles as a thanks in England, you just have to go to war with me.” Due to my family being royal, now (then) in France, they went to battle with Mr. William and got their reward.
My family immigrated… or overtook with Mr. William… England. And became prominent members of parliament. You can find the castle STILL standing, the family sold it, a library dedicated to my family and their name throughout England’s history. So, I think they did a pretty good job in their new environment. Granted, they were Dukes and Lords and were given a great handout. But, Mr. William also gave incentives back then… who knows how many families took him up on it and who turned him down? I wonder how those families are doing now?
The LS’s made to the US… but in all honesty, I have no idea how. My great grandma is a direct descendant from the guy who got the castle (holla, because we still own the land! haha, you’d think they would have bought that after all these centuries… right? I need to dig out those records!!) and she was here… somehow… ?
Story of S
This one is my main story… the one I feel more attached to because S is my last name, so I feel like it’s more of my origin story. I don’t know if that makes sense. All of the pieces of us are parts of our origin and heritage, no more and no less.
My last name is Russian Jew. Did you know that there is a specific genetic trait to show Russian Jew in people? They actually pass on specific genes that other Jews or Israelis don’t have, we are unique. We are our own heritage.
My family is also Israeli Jew, so the theory is that our family fled to Russia during the many raids and persecutions. Then Russia had many anti-semantic leaders and many Jews fled to Germany… ironic, right? My family converted to Christianity and was still living in Germany.
Suddenly, explorations of this new world began. There were whispers of a new colony beginning and S wanted his family and his descendants to have a better life. However, the difference between S and LS was that S was dirt poor. The cost was £5 per ticket in 1620, when the Mayflower set sail ($1,000 now)… but my family got to the colonies BEFORE the Mayflower.
Weird thing is, I was just looking at the passenger manifests (which show EVERYONE on ALL the ships) and my family isn’t listed… I wonder if it’s because of HOW we got our tickets?
What happens when your circumstances are so horrible that you willingly sign yourself into slavery? It’s one thing when it is not of your own choice but when you know your life sucks and that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel and you take a risk and become an indentured servant. Now, this link does a good job explaining what an indentured servant is… there are a few key points missing:
- Not all masters released you from your contract,
- If you died then they didn’t owe you anything 😕 , and
- Not all masters gave you what was promised.
Lots of Great Grandpa S became an indentured servant because life was not good in Germany for him and his family. He signed a contract for 7 years with a family that promised him money and land in Pennsylvania.
Great Grandpa S survived his servitude and sent the money back to his brothers in Germany who were able to purchase tickets to come here.
Now somewhere along the line… one of the S’s fell in love with a princess in one of the Blackfoot Indian tribes. A real life Pocahontas story, except my family was more on the Amish side verses warriors attacking their people and land. How did they meet with us being in Pennsylvania and the Blackfoot Indians being on the OTHER side of the country? No clue! Maybe one of them was exploring ❤
By Roland W. Reed [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Meaning in This
My heritage goes so far back to before Jamestown was established here in America and I have blood running through me that is Blackfoot (you can see it in my skin tone and my fine hair), along with so many other places in the world. I don’t see myself as anything but American.
I have been asked to “check” a box on the “ethnicity” forms and I don’t WANT to… I want to check American. It’s not because I think I’m superior in any way but it’s because I’m am such a mutt in my heritage. Why do I have to claim an “ethnicity” or a “race” to define where I have come from? Why can’t I claim where I am now?