Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Words of Wisdom from My Dad

My father was a second generation American while my mother's family had been in North America in the 1600s. His paternal grandparents were born in Denmark and his maternal grandfather was born in Norway and his maternal grandmother was born in Sweden. His parents must have instilled in him that he was an American. I remember as a child several interactions with the other kids in my Minnesota neighborhood in which we boldly proclaimed that we were Swedes, Danes, Germans, etc. At some point, my dad felt the need to tell me that I was not a Swede, Dane or Norwegian, but I was an American. What he said back then didn't really have an impact on me as several years later when I was a student at UCLA, Alex Haley's book, "Roots" was introduced, I was consumed with being identified as Sandinavian. I enrolled in Medieval Scandivanian Languages and Literature courses. Although I really enjoyed these classes, I realized that I did not feel a really strong connection. But I was intrigued by the stories and literature had an indirect relationship to me. I had no idea that a branch of my mother's family was in North America in the 1600s. Because my dad's family and my mom's family were Lutheran, I assumed that my mother's ancestors were German and Scandinavian. So it was easy for me to declare that I was Scandivanian. Several years later, I embarked on a quest to research my family history. I learned that my mother's maternal grandmother was Norwegian but her father's father was of Dutch, Scot, German, and English descent. Then I learned that my mother's great grandfather was born in Canada and his great grandfather was born in New York. With so many of my ancestors coming from many of the countries in northern Europe, how can I claim one identity. My dad was right. I am an American. However, I am an American who has an intense curiousity about my ancestors, where they lived and what life was like for them.

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