A happy genealogy fourth of July to everyone!
I wish you all a happy Independence Day! A wonderful, l-o-n-g weekend of celebrating our nation’s Declaration of Independence, summer, barbeque season hitting full throttle, fireworks, family gatherings, parades, and so much more. It is a truly wonderful summer holiday!
As genealogists we should all be right in the thick of celebrating each and every aspect of this holiday.
Many of us genealogy and ancestry fans know that we have ancestors who came to these shores seeking better lives and opportunities for themselves and their families. My ancestors certainly did. Many came and were welcomed by the promise of the Statue of Liberty or “Mother of Exiles” as she is referred to on her pedestal. Emma Lazarus, in her sonnet, ‘New Colossus’, penned the following words that have become immortal:
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
In the case of our family, this poem fits our family to a ‘T’. They came as poor, often disenfranchised, discriminated against, humble, ‘plain folks’ seeking a new life. Some came before Lady Liberty came to symbolize America in 1886. Some came after her lamp lit Bedloe Island (now officially Liberty Island), the harbor, and the entrance to all of America. But no matter, when they arrived they all came as immigrants. They had called ‘home’ Italy, Bohemia, and Cornwall, but came seeking to call America home.
It was never easy. None came with silver spoons in their satchels. None came with wealth beyond some meager savings. Some, at the time of the Declaration of Independence were deemed ‘Loyalists’ and were forced to flee, but decades later returned albeit to a different area of the country. Some found only backbreaking labor in mines, sweatshops, farms, or factories. Some fought for their new homeland while some tended the home front. Almost all lost loved ones; either children or spouses, and some lost asea before they ever touched the shores of America.
Many came and met with success and good fortune. Some came and met with heartbreak, unimaginable loss, and failure. Some came, failed, returned home, and then still tried again. All, I like to imagine, certainly did their best.
They all spoke a language other than English or had an accent that made them ‘different’. They wore different clothing, ate different foods, held differing religious beliefs, often also physically looked different, and yet here they came to America, a land that reputedly offered acceptance and opportunity no matter what you looked or sounded like. (Kind of sounds like what many of us believed in the ‘70’s.)
As genealogy and family history fans, I think it is important that we remember what it was that lured our ancestors to the shores and heartland of America. We, as genealogists should also be sure to remember who they were. Not just in terms of their names and ‘data’, but what kind of folks they were. We need to hold their memories and history in a place of honor. In our family we take great pride in calling ourselves Italian-Americans, Cornish-Americans, and/or Czech-Americans. Being a hyphenated American is worn, in our families, as a true badge of honor. There is much in our ancestors’ histories for all of us to be very, very proud of. Many of the customs, foods, music, books, language, and more have remained ingrained in our lives and though our DNA in our very being. These pieces of our history permeate our lives today and we celebrate the fact that this amalgam is exactly what has made America great.
So as you enjoy this marvelous holiday, be sure to celebrate ALL that has made and continues to make America great – our diversity.
Oh, and be careful with those fireworks. 🙂
Cheers and Happy Birthday America!