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This Is Not About…

These are the flags of the parents of my grandfathers, who were both first generation Americans. They both married women whose families settled in this country before it was a country. This allows me a certain perspective that many lack, not as good as a Native American, but fairly long term.

Listening to some of the people screaming about the “immigration problem”, I’m reminded of American [Know Nothing] Party of the mid-19th century, as well as the second coming of the Ku Klux Klan during World War I.

In his closing remarks at the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton, Dale Bumpers made the point:

H.L. Mencken said one time, “When you hear somebody say, ‘This is not about money,’ it’s about money.” And when you hear somebody say, “This is not about sex,” it’s about sex.

Now they are saying “This is not about race.”

It is not a coincidence that Facing South reports: Southern states crack down on immigrants.

It is not a coincidence that the people doing all the screaming are fixated on the Mexicans, as if the Central Americans, Caribbean islanders, Asians, Africans, and people from Eastern Europe don’t exist.


1 Michael { 04.11.06 at 5:48 pm }

OK, I recognize the one on the right (or think I do; city of Bern?). But although I’m pretty sure I recognize a Habsburg-style eagle on the left-hand banner, the coloration is throwing me off.

2 Bryan { 04.11.06 at 7:18 pm }

The Duchy of Prussia or East Prussia which is now the Russian Kaliningrad district on the Baltic. My great grandfather was a Prussian, Baltic like Lithuanian, not a German.  The black & white are the Hohenzollern colors and the eagle isn’t crowned.

The arms and flag of Kanton Bern, in the Swiss Confederation. My great grandparents identified with their canton, rather than the country.

3 Michael { 04.11.06 at 7:47 pm }

Damn. I always forget to check for the crown. And that it’s Hohenzollern explains why it looked so damn familiar.

4 Michael { 04.11.06 at 8:09 pm }

I have to go back a bit further to hit first-generation American citizens (that I know about, anyway; my dad’s side of the family is mostly a blank). My maternal great-grandfather (mom’s mom’s dad) married twice. His second wife (with whom he had no children and so who does not really figure into my family story for that reason) was a pure-blooded Pole, and both of her parents had emigrated before the turn of the 20th century.

His first wife, from whom I am descended, was a second-generation Norwegian-American. Both of her maternal grandparents emigrated just after the Civil War. And through my mom’s dad’s parents, though I haven’t yet nailed down the relationship beyond all possible doubt (it’s about 95% certain), I can claim membership in the Sons of the American Revolution. One branch of the family came over about a generation after the Mayflower landed and settled in Maryland. After the Revolution, some of the younger sons headed west and settled in western Pennsylvania and what eventually became eastern Ohio.

5 Bryan { 04.11.06 at 10:07 pm }

I have cousins who are really into this and they have turned me onto the Mormon databases as well as the ship’s manifests which are starting to appear.

The Prussian search is nearly impossible because much of what I have uses the Prussian names for places, rather than the official German names and records are nearly nonexistent after all of the armies that have marched over the territory.

The maternal lines go back to New Holland and the Mohawk Valley, and western Massachusetts before they converge in upstate New York after the Revolution.

There were infusions of new blood from Scotland and Ireland along the way.

6 Michael { 04.11.06 at 10:38 pm }

I use the FamilySearch (LDS) site, but I feel a little unclean afterward ;-9 And ironically, as I was contemplating doing a post similar to yours, I uncovered what may be the arrival record of one of the parents of my allegedly Polish (now possibly Hungarian) almost great-grandmother.

I started out trying to figure out which flag would have flown over Poland at the (unknown) time her parents emigrated. That was a headache in and of itself: could be the red-white-blue tricolor that Russia uses now, might be the Romanov black-gold-white tricolor, or it might have been the older yet ‘Congressional Kingdom’ flag, with a blue saltire (St. Andrew’s cross) on a white background, with a red canton and the emblem of Poland on it in white.

So I thought I might try to poke around online and see if I could narrow down when they emigrated. Had no luck with her mother, but I did hit an Andras Kozel of approximately the right age, who came through Ellis Island ex Vienna (and prior to that some unpronounceable place in Hungary) in 1896–or about three years before his daughter was born. Gonna have to see if I can find a microfilm of the 1900 census and track him further.

As for background, throw a dart at a map of northern Europe. Chances are, wherever it hits, I’ve got relatives in some degree. English, German, Norwegian, Scotch, and Irish I’m sure of. Polish and possibly Hungarian by marriage, though not in the direct bloodline. Almost sure to be some French in there. Dutch or Belgian wouldn’t surprise me. Maybe some Czech/Bohemian. Don’t think there are any Finnish connections, but I seem to recall some Danes and Swedes. Oh, and one distant female-type cousin abducted by and married into the Cherokee, I believe. Not in my bloodline, unfortunately. But I was shocked to discover that my great-grandfather’s story about being descended from an Indian princess, which I’d always taken to be another of his tall tales, had some basis in fact.

7 Steve Bates { 04.11.06 at 10:40 pm }

One of my high school English teachers said that as a child she accused other children of having scruples and ancestors, and they ran away crying. You guys obviously have scruples and ancestors.

I have to make do with scruples; my ancestry is rather vague. I have an old sepia photo of one maternal great-(great?)-grandfather; his name was Jefferson Davis Hurley, and that tells you more than I, at least, wanted to know about him. A little web research showed me that he or his family kept slaves in central Texas; that discovery, though unsurprising, hit me harder than I would have imagined. My father’s maternal grandfather was a Methodist minister who wrote bad poetry. (It’s a family tradition, except that he, unlike me, didn’t intend his poetry to be bad.) My ancestors are French, Dutch, Irish (protestant) and British, that I know of. A lot of immigrants made me, and I have no idea if they were legal immigrants or not… hence my instinctive sympathy with any immigrants willing to do their part, whatever their legal status.

8 Bryan { 04.11.06 at 11:17 pm }

Michael, the flag for the Austro-Hungarian Empire sounds like it would cover it. Poland got sliced and diced so often it would be almost impossible to tell without a known location of the town or village.

If he was a Magyar, that covers you linguistically for the Finns.

Steve, other than the Chinese, everyone was legal until after the First World War and the resurgence of the Klan which is the source of our current “immigration policy”.

My great grandfather Emhof [Imhof] was a bootlegger during Prohibition, which didn’t exactly please the Methodists in the family.

The Imhofs were also mercenaries during the religious wars, Swiss pike men, not exactly nice people.

You can’t control what people did before you were born, nor can you really judge them except by the contemporary standards of their times.

What you can do is learn by their lives and the mistakes they made.

I remember when they started looking into the genealogy and people were wondering if there were going to be famous people involved. Having read a lot of history, I certainly hoped not, as most of them were such losers it would take generations to get rid of the genetic defects.

9 Karen { 04.12.06 at 7:57 am }

I rather thought some of the compromise offering (dreided as *amnesty programs*) weren’t such a bad solution to dealing with those seeking Citizenship and currently here and working.

But likewise – not being a Native American – and like most folks – we are from immigrant origins. But there are always those who feel free to “cast the first stones” anyway.

This one is a toughie with no easy answers and made worse by the border security and employment issues too.

But the “it’s not about race” comment is the more accurate portrayal – it’s not about crafting a workable, fair or real solution…but whining about *Them Fur-In-Ers*!

10 Michael { 04.12.06 at 8:53 am }

All I have in the family records that I’ve seen to date is “emigrated from Poland.” That could be the Russian bits, the Prussian provinces of Silesia and Pomerania, or, as you point out, the Austro-Hungarian bits. Part of my problem here is that my great-grandfather Ed died a good 15 years before I was born, so I never got to know him personally, as I did my mom’s dad’s parents. His second wife was reputed to be crippled or sickly in some way, and difficult to get along with, so there’s not much in the way of family stories about her, and nobody thought to include her in much of the genealogy bits that I do have. On the other hand, I seem to recall (don’t have any of my notes here with me at the office, so I can’t check) that she was from the Chicago area, so it might be possible to do some more extensive digging here.

And it sounds like your great-grandfather Emhof would have gotten along very well with my great-grandfather Hawkins. He didn’t bootleg during Prohibition (that I know of, anyway), but he did make a mean bathtub gin. Everybody in the surrounding area knew when he had a batch brewing (the scent wafted on the breeze through the woods, apparently), and they’d all gather at his place to drink and smoke and play pinochle all night or until the booze ran out, whichever came first. And his wife would be sitting at the table with him, in her green eyeshade, rolling her own cigarettes and swilling gin while she played cards, even though she didn’t normally drink or smoke at other times. Quite the characters, they were, God love ’em.

11 Bryan { 04.12.06 at 11:33 am }

Karen, I don’t think we need amnesty as much as we need a working system. If the system worked predictably within a reasonable time frame most of the people would get in line to become legal. The current mess is so broken that people give up on it.

Michael, if the Hawkins played pinochle, they would have gotten along fine with the Emhofs.

12 Joyful Alternative { 04.12.06 at 6:16 pm }

My ancestors were almost all here by the French and Indian Wars. Ben Franklin objected that these Deutsch didn’t speak English, didn’t have British complexions, and would never fit in. So he required all immigrant-bearing ships coming to Philadelphia list all people on board, their ages and relationships, and their place of origin, and these hate-based ships’ lists sure have made genealogy easier for their descendants.

13 Bryan { 04.12.06 at 6:52 pm }

JA, when General Herkimer was giving orders in the battles in the Mohawk Valley during the Revolution they weren’t in English, because the Valley was Dutch and German, not English.

So, your people were probably Palatine Germans forced out by the French Catholic armies moving into the area [based on the time frame]?