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What does your distant ethnic identity mean to you?


Laura Corin
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 To most of us, the first part describes citzenship and the second part is race/ethnicity.

 

 

If someone who doesn't look Chinese said to you 'I'm Chinese' would you find it odd?  When they explained that they had a 19th century Chinese ancester who immigrated to the US, what would you feel about the designation?

 

L

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I would love to know more about my ancestors. I would love to know what they were like, what type of lives they lived and where exactly they lived. I wish I knew more about past relatives. I don't live in their countries anymore but I still feel like a part of me came from somewhere else and that they somehow shaped who I am. All I know is that my Great Grandparents came over when they were really small through Ellis Island. They came from Italy on my dads side and Ireland and Wales on my moms side. I only have experienced life as an American but I would love to know more about my family history and heritage. It is funny but I relate more to immigration history stories than I do to stories about Colonial America. I'm fascinated by history and would love to know the story of the people who I came from generations ago. I feel like so much of that story is missing to me.

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Here's my identity...I am an American with a Irish family background. It's been generations since anyone from our line of the family was on Irish soil.

 

More importantly, I identify myself as a southerner. Beyond that. I am a farmer's wife. Isn't it funny the identities we take on?

 

I only claim Irish ancestry when I am describing my skin-tone as in "I am a pasty white Irish girl."

 

This is me exactly (minus the farming). Irish ancestry that I rarely ever think about. But both of my parents are from Alabama which figures heavily into who I am. Ultimately I am American.

 

I have never heard an American refer to themselves as English. Well, I do have a friend who actually is English (as in born and raised in England) but married and American and has US Citizenship. She calls herself English. Is that what you mean?

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I have never heard an American refer to themselves as English. Well, I do have a friend who actually is English (as in born and raised in England) but married and American and has US Citizenship. She calls herself English. Is that what you mean?

 

No - that's not distant ancestry.

 

L

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If someone who doesn't look Chinese said to you 'I'm Chinese' would you find it odd? When they explained that they had a 19th century Chinese ancester who immigrated to the US, what would you feel about the designation?

 

L

Not likely. Chinese does not have one look. I get mistaken for Japanese or Korean or eurasian here when I speak only english. Besides no one questions someone's answer of their ancestry, it is consider impolite in my culture.

 

ETA:

Chinese has always been migratory but they have the right to call themselves chinese wherever they are, even on the moon :)

"Mapping migration"

http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/11/diasporas

ETA:

Last month I was asked by an elderly canadian chinese stranger at the library whether I am Chinese and whether I can speak chinese in the opening sentence. My residential complex has chinese and asian indians from many different nations though. My zipcode (postal code) has supposedly 49.6% of residents being foreign born.

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I find that people care more in certain parts of the US. Speaking in great generalities here, I am born and raised on the west coast (Oregon) and could count on one hand the number of people whose ancestral origins are very important to them. I found that to be quite different when I lived on the east coast. My theory is that people in the east are more likely to still be in the place their ancestors came to in the USA, which provides more of a sense of community with others of the same origins, while folks in the west tend to have had ancestors who moved around the country a bit.

 

I do know that my great, great grandfather was full-blooded Cherokee and that the rest of my family is a total mashup. If I had a distinctive last name or something I might care more.

 

I don't see it as a status symbol in any way. I have only ever met one person who seemed embarrassed at his origins. He told me his parents were Persian, and was bothered that I knew that it meant Iranian. (I understand his hesitancy, so I don't mean to knock him for being embarrassed.)

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I consider myself Canadian first and that's what I say if asked.  I don't remember the last time I even qualified it.  

I will tell people sometimes that my mother was french Canadian because it indicates a tie with that part of Canadian culture and language.  I may also mention that my father's family was all from the east coast for the same reason.  I know that my father's ancestors were all from Scotland and still spoke Gaelic up until my great grandfather's generation.  While I find that very interesting, I don't know that it has anything to do with me or my identity as I've never even been to Cape Breton.  I certainly don't consider myself Scottish-Canadian.  

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Since dh and I, both American born and raised, decided to immigrate (since the rest of my family already had UK citizenship I am not sure if it is really the right word but I immigrated) back to the UK we connected pretty strongly with our ethnic past. We actually live about an hour away from where my ancestors lived for many century's. I do feel a strong connection to their moors and feel oddly at home there. Dh does not care for my moors but he is a Scot! One moor is actually named after my ancestor's. Friends here that I share that with laugh -- the American lady is a bit more local then many of them who are from the South or Wales.

 

I frequently hear from people in the UK "my great grandmother was American". It is a bit weird to think that my being American will be recorded as a bit of an odd footnote in the family history. I doubt they will even remember dh, the Scot, was too.

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It's a common conversation in the U.S. that just might not be as prevalent elsewhere. The country isn't THAT old, and unless you're Native American, it seems incomplete to just say American without a qualifier in a conversation that's comparing countries of origin. Also, a lot of people have kept their religious, food, music, etc. traditions alive in spite generations of living in the US.

 

It's a melting pot thing. You wouldn't understand.

 

I think it's an American melting pot thing.

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In my area (NJ) as well as in many areas across the country, immigrants of the same nationalities would cluster together. My town had a large population of Dutch descent which was very prevalent in my teens but is fading now. There are many towns with a distinct Italian flavor. My grandmother was born in Germany and lived in a neighborhood with a large German population. My father was from England and came to NY at a young age. I am not aware of any distinct English pockets around here though. I grew up hearing German spoken by my grandmother and her sisters, eating German foods, etc. There was a lot of German culture being passed down. My grandmother on my dad's side shared a lot of her culture too, with various recipes and traditions. My friends of Italian, Dutch, and Greek descent had similar experiences, and in spending time with them I would get to share in that too. We are all American, but keeping in touch with our roots is very important to many of us. I can see a documentary about Italian immigrants coming to America and feel a connection to that from the stories my friend's grandmother told us years ago. It is very common in this area to share what nationality one is descended from. There are relatively newer pockets of Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian and South American immigrants in our area also, and it's very cool to experience the culture they bring with them.

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I have a bit of a different take on it because I was raised in a family of storytellers with a strong interest in genealogy. 

 

My maiden name is German.  My grandfather took great pride in retelling the family name story.  The story goes that ancestors came to the now United States affiliated with the British Army and that they were driven out post-American revolution. The ancestors "followed the trail of the black walnut" to Canada.  Black walnut trees  have deep roots and were thought to be signs of good quality water for farming.   The trees led the family to good farm land.  The story goes that the ancestors were wheelwrights or cabinet makers and shared traits with so many of my male family members who were good with their hands.  Family monarchist tendencies were attributed in part to ancestral loyalty to Britain. 

 

Other ancestors had stories as well, although some were not as romanticized.

 

While I recognize this as family myth making, it still has meaning for me.  It is not so much identifying ethnically as feeling kinship with ones' ancestors.  The identity is not so much with the broad ethnicity of the ancestors, but the particular life stories and traits of the ancestors.  

 

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I do not describe myself with my ethnicity but will talk about it with people. I find it fascinating to hear stories or know where people came from. The side of my family I most identify with are the ones I was closest to. That I have memories of. There were some cultural traits passed on but many were not (I.e. the children were taught English only as Italians were despised at that time. Which is a pity as I always imagine I could have learned another language easier).

 

So I may say that I have Italian/German/etc. roots. But I'd never say I was Italian or German, etc (especially outside of the US) because I don't know the language the culture etc.

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If someone who doesn't look Chinese said to you 'I'm Chinese' would you find it odd? When they explained that they had a 19th century Chinese ancester who immigrated to the US, what would you feel about the designation?

 

L

I was debating posting at all and then I read this and felt that I must because appearance pertains so much to our story.

 

My mother-in-law was born in Japan in 1929. She was full blooded Japanese, her family were landowners and she was raised riding out on horses to check on their tenants. She married my FIL, an American serviceman, in 1960, moved to the us in 1963 and had my husband in 1966. My children are 25% Japanese. They do look like it at all.

 

My oldest has extremely pale skin, bright blue eyes and dark brown curly hair. My middle is blond with green eyes, freckles, my son has brown eyes and Curley brown hair.

 

My husband does not speak Japanese ,but not for lack of trying. He attended junko his entire school career. His brother speaks fluent Japanese, has married two different Japanese women (divorce) and has lived in Japan for the last 21 years.

 

My children, especially my daughters really identify with their Japanese heritage, they were eating with chopsticks at 3 years old and we eat Japanese food weekly. My mother in law sang to them in Japanese, read them books in Japanese, bought them kimonos, taught them Japanese manners, we own a whole bookshelf of books in Japanese. We were stationed near my mil when my kids were 5, 3 and newborn, until they were 8, 6 and 3. Then we spent 6 weeks each year with her and she spent 6 weeks with us until she passed away when they were 15, 12 and 9. She was teaching them the japanese language, but they lived the culture with her.

 

Some people scoff when they identify as Japanese because they don't "look like it". I realize that there is a difference between identifying with a culture that is only 2 generations back and that you have lived and identifying with a culture that is many generations back that you have never lived, but I think that appearance can be a poor way to determine if someone is allowed to identify with a part of their ethnic background.

 

One more stumper, when my daughter went to college, she met a girl that was adopted from China. She was adopted as a toddler and raised in the south. She spoke with a southern accent, knew no Chinese at all, didn't like Chinese food, couldn't even use chopsticks, and knew next to nothing about her birth culture. Genetically, she was far more Chinese than my daughter is Japanese and yet the 2 girls agreed that my daughter could lay far more claim to being Japanese than her friend could to being Chinese.

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I think it some of it is about a sense of place. My family have been in Australia since the 1850s. That's a long time in this very young country. Australia has had waves of immigration. It is a talking point that you are from a skip (Anglo-Celtic), wog (Mediterranean) or Asian background. We use it to explain things: I'm a skip, we eat boring food, drink beer and don't hug each other. My SIL is a wog, they grow tomatoes in the backyard, drink wine and have big family parties. My best friend is Indian (actually she's a pom, but her parents are Indian), they eat curry, live in a big house and drive a flash car. These are huge generalisations and usually said with no offence. We are fiercely proud of the multiculturalism that has created Australia. But Australians do have a pretty weird sense of humour.

 

Until you have lived in a displaced culture, I don't think you can fully appreciate how important it is to have some link to your past culture. Most of us probably picked up references to our ancestral homes from our parents and grandparents. As a British colony, I think this was very prevalent in Australia. Many Australian born Aussies still referred to England as the mother country or 'home" until after WWII. We have been very loyal (we turned up to all of Britain's awful wars, even when it meant leaving Australia vulnerable) because we thought we belonged to Britain.

 

Past culture helps explains things. I come from Celtic stock. My father's grandparents were Scots. my grandmother was very Scottish, despite being born here. It affected her methods of discipline, her faith, her cooking, etc. All of those influenced me through my father. She absolutely loathed the Royal Family (she probably missed her calling as a modern day Scottish Nationalist). Dad's father was first generation Australian from an Irish mother and Welsh father. It affected his religion (Catholic), my great grandfathers work (mining), his love of singing and the songs he sang. It also caused a huge fracas when my grandparents chose to marry. My mother is more of a mix: Welsh, Irish, English and Danish. She has more generations in Australia, but the influences remain. Mum is Catholic, and music, singing in particular, played a huge role in her family through her Welsh grandfather.

 

So yes, I'm Australian. I have a Welsh name. I've spent time in Wales. I'm not Welsh. But I can recognise whole slabs of my family that have their basis in Welsh culture. Same deal in Ireland. We're not pretenders: we're mongrels, looking for some clue to how we evolved into the culture we have in our new countries, and tragically, trying to find the bits of our cultural past that we've lost in the transition.

D

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My ethnicity means I'm a German that can't drink beer! :lol:  Well, they do have some gf beers.

 

I'm trying hard to raise my kids with an understanding of their German side and American side. On my American side I have no idea where the family blood line came from. We're mutts. :laugh: 

 

My German family has lived in Germany for as long as anyone can remember. I have a grandmother that came from Austria. Anyway, one thing I do *not* shy from is explaining that we had bad people in our ancestry. My grandfather and grandmother were in Hitler Jugend. No choice there. My cousin's father was older and was SS. He really was a bad person.

 

I think it's important for children to know that just because they have had bad people in their family that has nothing to do with their own worth and personality.

 

I grew up with an incredible guilt and shame because I'm half German. I want my kids to understand the past and learn from it, but not be racked with shame.

 

Learning about cultures is important, and I think on a basic level humans want to know where they "came from" if that makes sense. Humans have a need to a part of a group and feel connected to something and that includes land/country/origin.

 

 

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This is an odd topic for me. I am Jewish.  My mother and father are both Jewish as were all (that I know of)of my ancestors before them.  Yet, my mother's family is from Lithuania and Poland.  They are blond with blue eyes and their traditions are very Baltic in nature.  My father's family is from Austria and Romania.  They are dark haired with very dark eyes.  Their traditions reflect those countries.  Although my ancestry is traced to Israel and the Middle East going back hundred (if not thousands) of years, my great grandparents had more in common culturally with the non-Jews of Europe than with Jews from the Mid-East.  

 

 

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This is an odd topic for me. I am Jewish.  My mother and father are both Jewish as were all (that I know of)of my ancestors before them.  Yet, my mother's family is from Lithuania and Poland.  They are blond with blue eyes and their traditions are very Baltic in nature.  My father's family is from Austria and Romania.  They are dark haired with very dark eyes.  Their traditions reflect those countries.  Although my ancestry is traced to Israel and the Middle East going back hundred (if not thousands) of years, my great grandparents had more in common culturally with the non-Jews of Europe than with Jews from the Mid-East.  

 

By this point the Jews in the Mid-East are a hodge podge of cultures too though. My parents and sister are over there. Amongst my sisters Jewish friends herself there's a blonde, blue eyes Jew, an Oriental Jew, and a dark skinned brown eyed Jew. They all have different cultural backgrounds and eat differently, but both of her friends can trace their lineage back a fair ways and it's all Jewish. My sister of course not as much, but even our mom, who is Jewish, is blond haired blue eyed and doesn't have much in common with what most people think of when they think about Mid-East Jews.

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Writing this before reading the other replies... I see the reference to one's ethnic background as stemming from the early-20th-century American focus on the "melting pot" as a social corrective to prejudice based on national origin. You can see a lot of this in popular culture around the time of the Second World War. To say "I'm Irish-German" is a shorthand way of affirming "I make no prior moral claim based on being a 'native.'" It's a perpetuation of the American mythos that we're a country of immigrants, uniquely welcoming to those newly arrived. Cf. the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, which all American schoolchildren used to memorize.

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By this point the Jews in the Mid-East are a hodge podge of cultures too though. My parents and sister are over there. Amongst my sisters Jewish friends herself there's a blonde, blue eyes Jew, an Oriental Jew, and a dark skinned brown eyed Jew. They all have different cultural backgrounds and eat differently, but both of her friends can trace their lineage back a fair ways and it's all Jewish. My sister of course not as much, but even our mom, who is Jewish, is blond haired blue eyed and doesn't have much in common with what most people think of when they think about Mid-East Jews.

Yup.  I was raised with my Jewish Step-dad and his family.  All from Germany/Poland and most are dark haired and dark eyed, but some have lighter hair and pale blue eyes, like my brother and his paternal grandmother.  His grandmother is 100% Jewish. 

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I think it's important for children to know that just because they have had bad people in their family that has nothing to do with their own worth and personality.

 

I grew up with an incredible guilt and shame because I'm half German. I want my kids to understand the past and learn from it, but not be racked with shame.

 

 

 

I wish my grandmother had learned that lesson. She was very ashamed of her family's German roots. She was also ashamed when she was older because her grandparents had the surname Eichmann. Her older family members spoke German at home but she refused. She still picked up the language in spite of her efforts not to learn it, though. When she was an adult, a woman in a store she was shopping in was crying and speaking German. Grandma understood enough of what she was saying to help her and communicate with her.

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I wish my grandmother had learned that lesson. She was very ashamed of her family's German roots. She was also ashamed when she was older because her grandparents had the surname Eichmann. Her older family members spoke German at home but she refused. She still picked up the language in spite of her efforts not to learn it, though. When she was an adult, a woman in a store she was shopping in was crying and speaking German. Grandma understood enough of what she was saying to help her and communicate with her.

I should have had a very german maiden name - but my father legally changed his surname to his step-father's in the 40's. (during this time, there was also a lot of prejudice towards those perceived to be "german".)

 

I'm positive my father wasn't the only one happy to hide his german extraction in order to not be on the receiving end of prejudicial treatment.  (besides the fact he hardly even knew his father as his parents divorced when he was two.)

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My Grandma was born to German immigrant parents, and told me once how her parents would "whip" her and her sister if they were caught speaking German (her parents spoke it at home, because their English wasn't good). When she was older, she understood that the punishment was out of fear for their daughters.

 

I wish my grandmother had learned that lesson. She was very ashamed of her family's German roots. She was also ashamed when she was older because her grandparents had the surname Eichmann. Her older family members spoke German at home but she refused. She still picked up the language in spite of her efforts not to learn it, though. When she was an adult, a woman in a store she was shopping in was crying and speaking German. Grandma understood enough of what she was saying to help her and communicate with her.

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Yes and no. Yes, we can start over and define ourselves. At the same time, there is the strength of our ancestors. One has to know where they come from before they know where they are going (yes, I know some people disagree, but it helps some of us). Maybe I just have dealt with third culture kid and adoptee syndrome.

I'm not an adoptee, but I am a third culture kid, meaning I grew up in one culture that was not my own, supposedly belonged to another culture which wasn't totally my own and came up with my own hybrid culture.  That hybrid culture is who I am.  The two cultures who make me who I am, are not unimportant but I don't really identify with them.  I relate more to another "third culture kid" even if they grew up with a totally different mash of cultures than I did, than I do to anyone else.  (Which doesn't mean that I can't relate at all to people from a wide range of cultures, including my "culture of origin".)  

 

I went to a wedding lately and a lady who was ethnically German, raised in Kenya and is now living in Canada started to talk to me.  She started to pour out her life  history to me because she said that I was the first person in a long time who could really relate to her as another third-culture "kid".  

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I'm not an adoptee, but I am a third culture kid, meaning I grew up in one culture that was not my own, supposedly belonged to another culture which wasn't totally my own and came up with my own hybrid culture.  That hybrid culture is who I am.  The two cultures who make me who I am, are not unimportant but I don't really identify with them.  I relate more to another "third culture kid" even if they grew up with a totally different mash of cultures than I did, than I do to anyone else.  (Which doesn't mean that I can't relate at all to people from a wide range of cultures, including my "culture of origin".)  

 

I went to a wedding lately and a lady who was ethnically German, raised in Kenya and is now living in Canada started to talk to me.  She started to pour out her life  history to me because she said that I was the first person in a long time who could really relate to her as another third-culture "kid".  

 

This is Calvin - he read an essay by Pico Iyer the other day and was really glad to recognise himself in it.  He wishes he had stronger roots, but that doesn't mean that he wants to delve into his ancestry.

 

Hobbes is much more able to attach himself to an identity.

 

L

 

 

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I'm not an adoptee, but I am a third culture kid, meaning I grew up in one culture that was not my own, supposedly belonged to another culture which wasn't totally my own and came up with my own hybrid culture.  That hybrid culture is who I am.  The two cultures who make me who I am, are not unimportant but I don't really identify with them.  I relate more to another "third culture kid" even if they grew up with a totally different mash of cultures than I did, than I do to anyone else.  (Which doesn't mean that I can't relate at all to people from a wide range of cultures, including my "culture of origin".)  

 

I went to a wedding lately and a lady who was ethnically German, raised in Kenya and is now living in Canada started to talk to me.  She started to pour out her life  history to me because she said that I was the first person in a long time who could really relate to her as another third-culture "kid".  

 

I'm saying that is why it's important *to me* to learn about and connect in what little ways I can to my background. I will never *fit* entirely with any of them...but I find bits and pieces of myself here and there. I'm not an islander, but I have taken a love of certain things Korean and Filipino because of my background as a TCK. It's not MY ethnicity, but some of the cultural enjoyments are mixed into the rest of me. It makes me odd to all sides of my family. But it's nice when I find something that does connect, even in little ways.

 

Edited to add: Because of the adoptee status, even as a TCK, when we would "go home" to some "family" event...it wasn't *my* family. I know not all adoptees feel this way, but some do. In my case, I was constantly reminded of my adoptee status, told I wasn't "blood" and "blood is thicker than water". I was always an outsider and not worth as much as my brother or cousins. So, I was NEVER given that sense of connection anywhere. I didn't have it when traveling and living elsewhere and I didn't have it when stateside...I didn't even have it inside the family I was raised in. So, yes, it created a bit of an identity crisis and a strong desire for connection.

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It gives me a sense of connecting with history and being part of the big picture. My family came here on the Mayflower and the Anne. I enjoy reading their stories and the stories of other progenitors. At Thanksgiving, we read these family history stories. My husband's family is Swedish and English and came as Mormon pioneers. We tell their stories on Pioneer Day (July). We used their stories to help our children understand e/immigration, acting on one's beliefs, etc. I have really enjoyed doing my genealogy.

 

Because I and my father and his family are all gingers with very pale skin, I was surprised to learn that his grandmother was native to Mexico, from a long line of indigenous people. She met my great-grandfather when he was in Mexico City working as an engineer for the elictrification of Mexico. My dad always had a great love for Mexico and its people and language, but did not explain the realtionship to me until I was an adult teaching in Spanish in a school in southern California with a student population that was 97% brand new from Mexico.

 

So, historically, I am English, Scottish, and Mexican. Cool.

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It really does not mean that much to me--but I do find it interesting.

 

My DH and my girls are all part of the English Royal Registry (in the 200's).  Does that make them English? (It does have perks if we were to travel to England).

Funny thing is that the majority of the Royal Blood in DHs family is really French... and some of that French blood is German...

 

I identify with being an American.  When we lived in Illinois my oldest dd was in school (pre-K and K).  Dd's teacher assigned her to come dressed in a costume that reflected her 'nationality'.  I sent her to school in jeans and a T-shirt -- also with a note that we were 'Americans' and did not have a national costume.  Her teacher kept her in for recess and told dd that she should have come dressed as  'German', 'French', 'English'... and that 'American' was not a nationality.  Now in our community 80% of the population was 'off the boat' German or 'Slovic' and identified with those cultures.

 

I personally am a 'citizen of the world'... my ancestry is so peppered with the flavors of almost all old-world nationalities.  The majority of my ancestors have been in North America since the 1700's and many before that (I have a lot of native American ancestors).  I do not identify with any 'old world' cultures.

 

 

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It gives me a sense of connecting with history and being part of the big picture.

 

That's a pretty good description.  I think of our family as a pretty even mixture of Irish, Scotch, and English.  Some are more recent and some are way back pre-Revolution.  And it's all peasants and ruffians all the way back--after some friends had a 'family flag' project in which one family put their crest and tartan on, the kids asked me if we had anything like that.  Ha, no way.  But yep, there is a certain amount of identification and family pride involved.  Though I can at least tell you where my Irish great-grandfather was from. 

 

My husband is more Scandinavian/English with a bit of Irish and his family is more into the Mormon pioneer history (which I ain't got none of). 

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I'm 1/2 Brazilian, and though I have no contact with that part of my family, it made much more sense to me as to who I was as I became an adult. 

 

My mother (Irish and German, with 1st generation parents) remarried a Swedish/English (1st generation, also) man. Now, big deal, right? But beyond being a step child, I never fit in. I was coffee and chili peppers while my step father's family was so quiet and reserved. 

 

It's the same thing as to how you can split up twins, raise them in separate settings, and they still share genetic *personality* characteristics. 

 

I married a 100% Italian. His family culture was very strong, and I knew why I was drawn to him--much more emotive and expressive. Not that I don't love my step family, I do, and I appreciate their style and flavor, but I still don't fit in. 

 

That said, I agree strongly that we are SO new. America is a mere babe. Added to that, we are transient as a population. I really think that people identifying strongly with their ancestry is a way to deal with both. 

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Funny thing is that the majority of the Royal Blood in DHs family is really French... and some of that French blood is German...

 

I identify with being an American.  When we lived in Illinois my oldest dd was in school (pre-K and K).  Dd's teacher assigned her to come dressed in a costume that reflected her 'nationality'.  I sent her to school in jeans and a T-shirt -- also with a note that we were 'Americans' and did not have a national costume.  Her teacher kept her in for recess and told dd that she should have come dressed as  'German', 'French', 'English'... and that 'American' was not a nationality.  Now in our community 80% of the population was 'off the boat' German or 'Slovic' and identified with those cultures.

 

1066 and the norman conquest.  the Norman's were French.  for a very long time the aristocracy spoke French - not English.  Prince Albert was german.

 

Maybe the teacher would have accepted a loud Hawaiian shirt, shorts, flip-flops, sunglasses and a huge camera around her neck.   some people have very preconceived notions of peoples ancestry.  I shut up one teacher by listing off all of our very distant immigrants.  I'm an American.

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My distant ethnicity?  Nothing.  Three of the four surnames I come from are Irish, but as far as I know, there is nothing that we do that is distinctly Irish.  Add to that the fact that I did not get the beautiful red hair, but I did get the freckles, I'm a little miffed at my ethnicity as a whole.  LOL  My aunt has BEAUTIFUL auburn colored hair, and it just isn't fair!  She is red, with freckles, and brown eyes.  My mom had almost black hair, and green eyes.  I'm pale, freckled, blue eyes, and mouse brown hair.  There is no justice.

 

I tell people I'm American, but really that isn't necessary.  As soon as I open my mouth, it is obvious where I'm from.  LOL  I'm as Southern Bell as they come.  The whole, "American by birth, SOUTHERN by the grace of God."  LOL

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So yes, I'm Australian. I have a Welsh name. I've spent time in Wales. I'm not Welsh. But I can recognise whole slabs of my family that have their basis in Welsh culture. Same deal in Ireland. We're not pretenders: we're mongrels, looking for some clue to how we evolved into the culture we have in our new countries, and tragically, trying to find the bits of our cultural past that we've lost in the transition.

D

 

You've made me wonder if the Americans have an equivalent to our "currency lads and lasses." It doesn't sound like it.

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This isn't as obnoxious as I imagined.  But I am still not sure it works this way.  I come from a long line of gardeners, flower shop owners, etc.  So many people on my dad's side are so great with plants.  Me?  I can't keep a fake plant alive.  Seriously...it is the weirdest thing.  So I guess the green thumb gene totally skipped me.  Hehe..

But see, you are seeing this as a family trait, which is how I would see it.  The PP you posted saw this as a ethnic trait.  Would a Finn who was a gifted accountant and a lousy fiber artist be any less Finnish?  

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But see, you are seeing this as a family trait, which is how I would see it.  The PP you posted saw this as a ethnic trait.  Would a Finn who was a gifted accountant and a lousy fiber artist be any less Finnish?  

 

Attributing genetic traits to an ethnicity really confuses me.  I do think that nations have cultural characters, and families have genetic traits.  But the genetics of any country are going to be so mixed (no economy would thrive if everyone was suited to engineering, or only gardening, or exclusively performing opera) that I'm not sure that sweeping statements are helpful.

 

Are Brits reserved? Culturally yes.  Genetically?  Well, Australians and Americans of British origin seem, to me, to be a lot less reserved.

 

L

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For me there are two aspects. One is an awareness of the relative shallowness of my cultural history as an American. In many parts of the world the people who live there now are direct descendants of those who lived there a millenium or several millenia ago. Even places where the main population is a result of more recent migration it might have been a mass migration, and the people share a much longer cultural heritage. For most Americans, our family and cultural history as Americans goes back only a few generations. If we want to look beyond that for a deeper cultural connection we need to look beyond our borders and further into the past.

The other aspect for me is the sense of identity with my ancestors that I feel when I visit a place where I know they lived. I guess I just like the feeling of having deep roots.

FWIW, I don't identify with any specific nationality or culture other than American, I'm too much of a mongrel. I do, however, feel some sense of connection with each of the mongrel parts.

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What does that mean, Rosie?

 

L

 

The Currency Lads and Lasses were the first (white) generation to be born in Australia, to convicts or freed convicts. They rejected the Mother Country as "home" and identified as Australian. It was as much about class as nationality; the upper classes remained British a lot longer. The country remained British a lot longer too, and has shed that in degrees, but Australian, with no hyphens, is a thing you can be. I'm not sure I'd believe it if a teacher said a child should have come dressed as German because Australian isn't an option. On a heritage dress up day, those without a foreign costume to wear would probably dress up as someone from the "olden days."

 

There has certainly been a rise in people's interest in genealogy and family heritage in recent times, but for Anglo-Australians at least, that comes from a foundation of Currency lads and lasses. Probably not for Deee though, as she's said parts of her ancestors culture has been carried on to each new generation here, so it is not distant ancestry in the way Czech is with me, something that happened in my family tree, long ago. For her family it didn't stop. It's different to my acknowledgement of Polish ancestry too. That culture stopped when my grandfather left Poland, but the family ties with his sister's family still haven't ceased.

 

People in Australia don't identify as more than one hyphen, or if they do, I've never heard of it. That might come from our desire to abbreviate everything though. Australians couldn't be bothered to be English-Irish-Scottish-Welsh-French-Norwegian-Macedonian-Arrente. :p

 

 

This might sound as though it contradicts what Deee said earlier, but it doesn't. 

 

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It doesn't mean that much to me, other than understanding more about my Grandparents and who they were. I have a distinctive Czech name that people comment on, but I don't feel particularly connected to my Bohemian ancestors.

 

I find if all kind of ridiculous how people identify themselves as 'German' or 'Irish' or "Cherkee" because of one great grand parent. I think people just want to feel special.

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1066 and the norman conquest. the Norman's were French. for a very long time the aristocracy spoke French - not English. Prince Albert was german.

 

Maybe the teacher would have accepted a loud Hawaiian shirt, shorts, flip-flops, sunglasses and a huge camera around her neck. some people have very preconceived notions of peoples ancestry. I shut up one teacher by listing off all of our very distant immigrants. I'm an American.

Actually, no. They shared linguistics and some ancestry, but there was a difference between Norman and French. The Normans were largely Viking settlers and it was not acceptable to confuse the two during that time period. They were culturally different. I have Norman and also just Viking ancestry on my maternal side.

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I love learning about people's past heritage.  I love the show Who Do You Think You Are?  They often travel back to their country of heritage and learn so much about their ancestors.

 

Yes, I am American.  My passport says so.  But having lived overseas my whole life, I can honestly say that I am more than that.  I am at least half Irish.  I look Irish.  

 

I was adopted at birth.  I don't know my full heritage.  I want to and plan to order that DNA kit to find out what nationalities I have in my background.  It DOES tell me a piece of who I am.  There is a lot of my past missing.  

 

My father and mother's families both have members who have traced their families back to Europe (Dad to Germany and Mom to France), finding out when and where their ancestors came from.  

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I'm American. My ethnic heritage is Czechoslovak. (Mostly Slovak but but when my family left it hadn't split yet so this makes more sense to me.). I am 1st generation american-born. I was not raised to be American, but as Czechoslovak as possible. I even lived there for a time. It is important to me that I know my family history but for me it isn't so much where they came from but who *they* were as people that I care about. The fact that they happened to be Czech/Slovak is just not that important.

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I think it some of it is about a sense of place. My family have been in Australia since the 1850s. That's a long time in this very young country. Australia has had waves of immigration. It is a talking point that you are from a skip (Anglo-Celtic), wog (Mediterranean) or Asian background. We use it to explain things: I'm a skip, we eat boring food, drink beer and don't hug each other. My SIL is a wog, they grow tomatoes in the backyard, drink wine and have big family parties. My best friend is Indian (actually she's a pom, but her parents are Indian), they eat curry, live in a big house and drive a flash car. These are huge generalisations and usually said with no offence. We are fiercely proud of the multiculturalism that has created Australia. But Australians do have a pretty weird sense of humour.

 

Until you have lived in a displaced culture, I don't think you can fully appreciate how important it is to have some link to your past culture. Most of us probably picked up references to our ancestral homes from our parents and grandparents. As a British colony, I think this was very prevalent in Australia. Many Australian born Aussies still referred to England as the mother country or 'home" until after WWII. We have been very loyal (we turned up to all of Britain's awful wars, even when it meant leaving Australia vulnerable) because we thought we belonged to Britain.

 

Past culture helps explains things. I come from Celtic stock. My father's grandparents were Scots. my grandmother was very Scottish, despite being born here. It affected her methods of discipline, her faith, her cooking, etc. All of those influenced me through my father. She absolutely loathed the Royal Family (she probably missed her calling as a modern day Scottish Nationalist). Dad's father was first generation Australian from an Irish mother and Welsh father. It affected his religion (Catholic), my great grandfathers work (mining), his love of singing and the songs he sang. It also caused a huge fracas when my grandparents chose to marry. My mother is more of a mix: Welsh, Irish, English and Danish. She has more generations in Australia, but the influences remain. Mum is Catholic, and music, singing in particular, played a huge role in her family through her Welsh grandfather.

 

So yes, I'm Australian. I have a Welsh name. I've spent time in Wales. I'm not Welsh. But I can recognise whole slabs of my family that have their basis in Welsh culture. Same deal in Ireland. We're not pretenders: we're mongrels, looking for some clue to how we evolved into the culture we have in our new countries, and tragically, trying to find the bits of our cultural past that we've lost in the transition.

D

 

Holy Moly Deee - we have a very similar background!  And I married a tomato growing wog.  :lol:

 

My Dad was half Welsh half English.  He identifies quite strongly with the Welsh side, I presume because of a connection or importance placed by his father, symbolised by his very strikingly welsh name, one of which - the surname - was passed to me.  My father was actually raised in India (his father was in the british army) and then in England, but he definitely 'feels' very welsh.  I don't know a lot about my heritage on either side, but when I was a child and looked into Wales and the Welsh culture, I remember a clear feeling of 'these are my people', I felt like learning about that culture explained something about who I was and why I was that way, which felt really good at the time.  Still, it's a pretty vague sort of feeling, and I have zero connection to any of the other British ethnicity in my blood but they've been in Australia for a few generations before me.  I think that growing up with a welsh surname and with my father's story being a lot closer in time it sticks as more relevant.

 

DH identifies pretty strongly with his ethnicity in some ways, he and his siblings were the first generation born here.  His parents are of the same ethnicity and were born in the old country.  He still has most of his grandparents who have lots of stories.  They all still speak the language and live parts of the culture.  So it's a close and strong connection.  I know that he feels that he understands 'his people' better than other cultures, and that it influences his personality.

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If someone who doesn't look Chinese said to you 'I'm Chinese' would you find it odd?  When they explained that they had a 19th century Chinese ancester who immigrated to the US, what would you feel about the designation?

 

L

 

Um...  One of my daughters looks caucasian - has light brown hair and brown eyes....and she's half-Korean.  Her last name is also Korean.  Will she have a hard time explaining her background later?  *shrug*   :sad:

 

 

I know this isn't helpful to the thread, but I've enjoyed reading everyone's stories about their ancestry.   :lurk5:

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Um...  One of my daughters looks caucasian - has light brown hair and brown eyes....and she's half-Korean.  Her last name is also Korean.  Will she have a hard time explaining her background later? 

 

Excellent point, and to go down a parallel path, how about self-identification that's entwined with geopolitics?  I would think a Tibetan identifies as Tibetan, even though a Chinese official might identify her as Chinese.  And don't even get me started on the African and Middle Eastern tribes that were randomly carved up into countries by the Anglo empires of old.  THAT sure has worked out well.

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