Sunday, October 07, 2007

The homelands of my grandsons' forebears

My 12-year old grandson was recently taken by his school to Ellis Island as part of a lesson about immigration. The visit stimulated his interest in his forebears' countries of origin. Few of his classmates' ancestors are likely to have so many different homelands as those of my grandson and his two brothers.

Their paternal side shows the most varied ancestral background. My wife's mother was born in Lithuania. Her father was born in Ireland, the son of immigrants from Latvia. My mother was born in what is now Belarus, my father in Poland. Excluding Ireland, each of these countries was a part of the Czarist Russian empire at the time of their births, but each possessed a separate and distinct language and culture.

On my grandsons' maternal side, both grandparents were born in China, their grandmother in Nanjing and their grandfather in Beijing. After the Communist takeover, both their families fled to Taiwan, where my daughter-in-law was born.

All of my grandsons' foreign-born forebears quickly integrated into American society, contributing new cultural elements that make the U.S. the unique and powerful nation that it is.

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Blogger Chancy said...

What a grand mixture of genes that went into the formation of your grandson to make him the special person he is now and will become.

Sunday, October 07, 2007 10:35:00 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

Lucky child! Think of the hybrid vigour he'll have!

Monday, October 08, 2007 12:57:00 AM  
Blogger Norma said...

A wonderful, all-American story. The China/Taiwan clash of cultures is particularly interesting if they pursue that angle. Thanks for sharing.

We recently toured Ireland, where tourism is the #1 industry, probably led by the boomers' interest in finding their roots. Each county has incredible "heritage centers" to help people search. Now that the USSR has collapsed, I'm sure those former Communist countries are also experiencing some returnees looking for family ties.

Monday, October 08, 2007 1:09:00 PM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

We need to be reminded continually that this blending of ethnicities is what makes America great. That's one of the reasons that I enjoy your blogs so much.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007 5:31:00 PM  
Blogger Mary Witzl said...

I spent some time doing my own genealogy and was amazed at what I found, but I feel envious of anyone who can claim Latvian, Polish, and Chinese ancestry.

My teenage daughter has become fascinated with Latvia and everything to do with it partly because an author who writes about Latvia visited her school and captured her imagination.

Saturday, October 13, 2007 4:52:00 PM  
Blogger joared said...

Perhaps such family ancestor research should be done by more people. Students might have an increased interest in history if they're able to relate events and figures of the time to themselves.

Tolerance might more easily emerge when we realize the cross-cultural elements that have and continue to inform each of us as individuals and this nation. Your grandsons can certainly be proud of their heritage.

Saturday, October 27, 2007 8:48:00 PM  
Blogger masdevallia said...

It's wonderful that you and Sybil are alive and able to share your family history with your grandson. I can only hope that the grandparents on his mother's side are also available to him.

My family has a diverse background as well. (England, Ireland, Norway, Japan, and France.) I have been fascinated to learn more about the stories of my relatives. For example: how did my great-grandfather (Japanese) meet and marry my great-grandmother (Norwegian)? Unfortunately, all of my grandparents are gone: three of them weren't alive when I was born.

If I could suggest a project that your grandson might prize for years to come? Set up a tape recorder or video camera and have him conduct an interview of each of the grandparents about their personal history and their ancestors. It would offer him an amazing keepsake to share with his children someday.

Sunday, November 18, 2007 9:09:00 PM  

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