Thursday, February 17, 2011

Who do you think YOU are?

There's a television show on Friday nights called Who Do You Think You Are, and every episode features a different celebrity searching for their ancestors with the help of genealogists. It's based on a show from the UK of the same name with the same premise, and it's incredibly fascinating. Growing up, my parents were (and still are) really into genealogy, and I thought it was a complete bore, until I got older. I suspect a lot of people feel the same way, or, they're afraid of what they may find. Genealogy can bring up lots of things that either people don't want to talk about, or don't know, like crimes, illegitimate children, slavery, different races, etc. And while that can be hard, how can someone NOT want to know where they came from, not want to know what their ancestors went through so that they could be where they are now?

Anyway, last week's episode was on country singer Tim McGraw. He found that some of his ancestors on his grandmother's side owned a lodge that George Washington slept at when he was 16, and that his family was, 20 years later, cited by George Washington as good business people, when corresponding with a neighbor who wanted to borrow more money from George. Pretty cool to be used as a "good example" by the first President! When going further back, Tim learned that his family came over from Germany, along with many other families, one being the Presley family. As in Elvis Presley. He was almost more excited about that then the Washington connection.

All of this made me think of immigration. We know that there needs to be immigration reform. We know that people cannot just come here without the proper documentation. But that process cannot takes years and years and thousands and thousands of dollars. Last fall Husband and I went to Big Bend National Park, a park right on the south west tip of Texas. This terrain is brutal, more harsh than I've personally ever seen. I cannot fathom having such a hard life in a country that I would travel over this land to come to a nation to work for crap wages and be treated terribly by so many in said nation. These are people risking their lives, and so many here speak of them as if they're roaches who are trying to take over. There's another show called Border Wars, and they show these border agents finding people in the night, half dead, who have traveled from places as far as Sri Lanka, just for the American dream. And sometimes the agents feel bad, one remarking that it's like getting tackled on the 1 yard line. Look, I'm no Pollyana on this topic, like I said before, we cannot just leave the border open. But we have to start looking at these people the way we would have wanted OUR ancestors to be looked at when they came here from foreign lands. Immigrants made this nation what it is today.

Talk to me. Do you do genealogy? Have you found anything interesting? What do you think the US should do in regards to immigration?


H.E.A.T.H.E.R said...

I watch this show every week! I've always been intersted in my family history and I've been preparing a post about a letter I just wrote to my Great Aunt. She was my grandmother's sister. My grandmother died when my dad was a young boy. Everyone says I look just like her, but I don't know anything about her. I'm hoping to get some answers! It's really cool to know where we came from!

Captain Morgan said...

I have been working on my family tree for the past 15 years and have found out a ton of interesting information. You really can’t know yourself until you know where you came from. To not know who your ancestors are and the sacrifices they made is a slap in their face. We each carry in our DNA parts of those ancestors...who wouldn’t want to know more about who they are???

Sophia the Writer said...

Just last night when I was joking with my mom on the car ride to the airport about her shipping herself to me in a container, she said that back in the day when the poverty-stricken Chinese were so desperate to get to America, they really would stow into cargo containers that made stops all around South America, Europe, etc. By the time they'd arrive in America, they would be found suffocated to death. It's such a chilling issue. I have no answer for it.

My own parents were immigrants who came in with the wave of extremely educated Taiwanese either to work or get their graduate degrees. But plenty of my friends are refugees and one of my oldest friends from Harvard snuck into the country as a child. She's now a parasitologist studying tropical infectious diseases and might cure us of TB one day. Thank the Universe she was able to come in and be recognized enough to get an opportunity, and that we're lucky to have her working for us in the non-profit health world.