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A touching story...........

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  • Edward.J.Tracey@valley.net
    ....that I think many of us can relate to. The Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna guitarist Jorma Kaukonen wrote in his diary about visiting his ancestral Finland:
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 5, 2006
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      ....that I think many of us can relate to. The Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna
      guitarist Jorma Kaukonen wrote in his diary about visiting his ancestral
      Finland: "When I see the faces of older men on the streets, I see my
      own. Except for my dress, I look like a typical Finn. The blood tells. I really
      know no Finnish, yet I feel at home here........ I am an American, and yet the
      Finnish soil calls to me. I will answer with my guitar".

      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
      ----------------------------------------------------------------


      An American story - Just as many Americans cross the ocean in a search for
      identity, our New York Correspondent, Paul Harris, embarks on a journey to find
      his American roots

      By Paul Harris, Thursday October 5, 2006, The Observer.co.uk


      The old farmhouse still stood among rolling Iowa cornfields, just off a dirt
      road and about five miles or so from the little town of New London. It was a
      kind of ramshackle-looking one-storey home, starting to swelter under a Midwest
      sun, and a trio of unkempt horses were standing in the yard.

      It was a long way from New York and even longer from my birthplace in England,
      but this is where my great-great-grandfather Samuel Nilsson settled in America.
      He and his wife, Maria, had been immigrants from southern Sweden, travelling
      thousands of miles for a better life across the ocean.

      They found it too, enjoying a Midwestern form of mild prosperity. They
      anglicised Nilsson to Nelson, raised several generations of Iowans and then my
      mother, Sandra, reversed the family's journey, married an Englishman and moved
      back to Europe. So, in coming to New London, I was on a mirror image of the
      quest many Americans make when they decide to join the modern craze for tracing
      family histories.

      Most US citizens - or white ones, at any rate - have traced their families back
      to their mother countries. It is a strong urge in America's collective psyche
      and is in evidence everywhere. Near New London is the tiny town of Swedesburg,
      which despite having only a couple dozen buildings, boasts a museum of Swedish
      America. Indeed in speaking to many Iowans, it is clear that many sometimes
      define themselves as Swedish, German, Danish or Norwegian: cracking rude jokes
      about the others and cooking food associated with these long ago former
      homelands.

      Nor is it just white Americans. Black Americans are also gripped with a search
      for ancestry. Though the brutal experience of slavery makes it much more
      difficult to trace families, recent advances in DNA analysis have led many
      black Americans to identify with ethnic groups or geographical locations back
      in Africa. Oprah Winfrey is just one of the high profile black Americans to
      research her background.

      More recent ethnic immigrants, from Asia or Latin America, don't appear to be
      quite so obsessed, though I have no doubt that in a couple of generations time
      these Americans too will be searching for roots in little villages in Mexico or
      India or Korea.

      But why do Americans search for identity? What lies behind a quest for defining
      oneself by another part of the world that a long ago ancestor left behind?
      Certainly, it seems strange when one considers that the vast majority of
      Americans have far, far more in common culturally with each other than they do
      with people from those old nations. The American identity - espousing certain
      shared values and a common way of life - seems extremely concrete. So why then
      the need to search elsewhere? Why does New York hold endless ethnic parades
      from St. Patrick's Day to Puerto Rican Day?

      Many of the reasons must be historical. A nation of mostly poor immigrants had
      to forge its own identity and perhaps there is still some sort of inferiority
      complex that means many Americans cast a longing eye elsewhere for some form of
      validation. Though the notion of brash, powerful, patriotic America feeling
      inferior to anyone else seems quite jarring. In many ways Americans' concept of
      themselves as American is far stronger than occurs in other nations. Or
      perhaps, it is because in historical terms the American experience has been a
      short one. People need a longer sense of themselves than their experience in
      America can provide. Perhaps also there is some level of cultural guilt, of
      being aware that the country was founded not on empty land, but by the conquest
      of native Americans who had originally lived here.

      All of this is unknowable and for cultural experts to battle over. It might be
      best to see Americans' obsession with tracing their ancestors as a
      manifestation of a common human trait: a simple hunger for family history. My
      own experience in tracing my American side of the family mirrored many aspects
      of Americans tracing their 'old country' backgrounds. It was my mother -
      seeking to preserve a sense of American heritage in her English grandchildren -
      that had prompted the trip. The people in New London welcomed us as long lost
      compatriots, just as European villages often greet the descendents of
      long-departed immigrants as one of their own. One New London resident, Caroline
      Lehman, who runs an excellent little town museum there, provided us with a
      lunch, helped us interview those who remembered our ancestors and took us to
      visit the family graves. We met the man who now farms the land on which the old
      farmhouse still stands and it was Caroline who drove us there.

      As we stood outside the farmhouse in which my fondly-remembered grandfather had
      grown up, we thought of a story he had often told. He was an urbane man, born
      to a farmer's lifestyle he hated. He used to say he had lain in bed at night as
      a boy, listening to the sound of a train whistle nearby, and wishing he was on
      it, heading to a big city, going anywhere but a prairie farmstead. As we stood
      on the grass outside the farmhouse we felt a disappointment that my
      grandfather's story now seemed untrue. The nearest train tracks were miles away
      and the sound surely could not have carried that far. Then, in the silence that
      only the prairies can bring, we suddenly heard a distant blast from a whistle
      echo over the fields. He had been telling the truth after all. It was a
      reminder that just as Americans can find some roots in Europe, Africa and Asia,
      so an Englishman can find them in America.
    • Plume, Barbara (OTDA)
      If I am ever in Iowa, I must visit Algona, Iowa, where my maternal grandmother grew up, in a German-American farming community. She was an Eisenbarth, as was
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 5, 2006
      • 0 Attachment
        If I am ever in Iowa, I must visit Algona, Iowa, where my maternal
        grandmother grew up, in a German-American farming community. She was an
        Eisenbarth, as was half of the community; the rest were Andorffers ( an
        exaggeration to make a point). I should take a look at the family tree
        first, so I know whose graves to search for and photograph. Good one,
        Ed.


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        -----Original Message-----

        From: EddieEvents@yahoogroups.com [mailto:EddieEvents@yahoogroups.com]
        On Behalf Of Edward.J.Tracey@...
        Sent: Thursday, October 05, 2006 12:06 PM
        To: EddieEvents@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [EddieEvents] A touching story...........

        ....that I think many of us can relate to. The Jefferson Airplane/Hot
        Tuna guitarist Jorma Kaukonen wrote in his diary about visiting his
        ancestral
        Finland: "When I see the faces of older men on the streets, I
        see my
        own. Except for my dress, I look like a typical Finn. The blood tells. I
        really know no Finnish, yet I feel at home here........ I am an
        American, and yet the Finnish soil calls to me. I will answer with my
        guitar".

        ------------------------------------------------------------------------
        --------
        ----------------------------------------------------------------


        An American story - Just as many Americans cross the ocean in a search
        for identity, our New York Correspondent, Paul Harris, embarks on a
        journey to find his American roots

        By Paul Harris, Thursday October 5, 2006, The Observer.co.uk


        The old farmhouse still stood among rolling Iowa cornfields, just off a
        dirt road and about five miles or so from the little town of New London.
        It was a kind of ramshackle-looking one-storey home, starting to swelter
        under a Midwest sun, and a trio of unkempt horses were standing in the
        yard.

        It was a long way from New York and even longer from my birthplace in
        England, but this is where my great-great-grandfather Samuel Nilsson
        settled in America.
        He and his wife, Maria, had been immigrants from southern Sweden,
        travelling thousands of miles for a better life across the ocean.

        They found it too, enjoying a Midwestern form of mild prosperity. They
        anglicised Nilsson to Nelson, raised several generations of Iowans and
        then my mother, Sandra, reversed the family's journey, married an
        Englishman and moved back to Europe. So, in coming to New London, I was
        on a mirror image of the quest many Americans make when they decide to
        join the modern craze for tracing family histories.

        Most US citizens - or white ones, at any rate - have traced their
        families back to their mother countries. It is a strong urge in
        America's collective psyche and is in evidence everywhere. Near New
        London is the tiny town of Swedesburg, which despite having only a
        couple dozen buildings, boasts a museum of Swedish America. Indeed in
        speaking to many Iowans, it is clear that many sometimes define
        themselves as Swedish, German, Danish or Norwegian: cracking rude jokes
        about the others and cooking food associated with these long ago former
        homelands.

        Nor is it just white Americans. Black Americans are also gripped with a
        search for ancestry. Though the brutal experience of slavery makes it
        much more difficult to trace families, recent advances in DNA analysis
        have led many black Americans to identify with ethnic groups or
        geographical locations back in Africa. Oprah Winfrey is just one of the
        high profile black Americans to research her background.

        More recent ethnic immigrants, from Asia or Latin America, don't appear
        to be quite so obsessed, though I have no doubt that in a couple of
        generations time these Americans too will be searching for roots in
        little villages in Mexico or India or Korea.

        But why do Americans search for identity? What lies behind a quest for
        defining oneself by another part of the world that a long ago ancestor
        left behind?
        Certainly, it seems strange when one considers that the vast majority of
        Americans have far, far more in common culturally with each other than
        they do with people from those old nations. The American identity -
        espousing certain shared values and a common way of life - seems
        extremely concrete. So why then the need to search elsewhere? Why does
        New York hold endless ethnic parades from St. Patrick's Day to Puerto
        Rican Day?

        Many of the reasons must be historical. A nation of mostly poor
        immigrants had to forge its own identity and perhaps there is still some
        sort of inferiority complex that means many Americans cast a longing eye
        elsewhere for some form of validation. Though the notion of brash,
        powerful, patriotic America feeling inferior to anyone else seems quite
        jarring. In many ways Americans' concept of themselves as American is
        far stronger than occurs in other nations. Or perhaps, it is because in
        historical terms the American experience has been a short one. People
        need a longer sense of themselves than their experience in America can
        provide. Perhaps also there is some level of cultural guilt, of being
        aware that the country was founded not on empty land, but by the
        conquest of native Americans who had originally lived here.

        All of this is unknowable and for cultural experts to battle over. It
        might be best to see Americans' obsession with tracing their ancestors
        as a manifestation of a common human trait: a simple hunger for family
        history. My own experience in tracing my American side of the family
        mirrored many aspects of Americans tracing their 'old country'
        backgrounds. It was my mother - seeking to preserve a sense of American
        heritage in her English grandchildren - that had prompted the trip. The
        people in New London welcomed us as long lost compatriots, just as
        European villages often greet the descendents of long-departed
        immigrants as one of their own. One New London resident, Caroline
        Lehman, who runs an excellent little town museum there, provided us with
        a lunch, helped us interview those who remembered our ancestors and took
        us to visit the family graves. We met the man who now farms the land on
        which the old farmhouse still stands and it was Caroline who drove us
        there.

        As we stood outside the farmhouse in which my fondly-remembered
        grandfather had grown up, we thought of a story he had often told. He
        was an urbane man, born to a farmer's lifestyle he hated. He used to say
        he had lain in bed at night as a boy, listening to the sound of a train
        whistle nearby, and wishing he was on it, heading to a big city, going
        anywhere but a prairie farmstead. As we stood on the grass outside the
        farmhouse we felt a disappointment that my grandfather's story now
        seemed untrue. The nearest train tracks were miles away and the sound
        surely could not have carried that far. Then, in the silence that only
        the prairies can bring, we suddenly heard a distant blast from a whistle
        echo over the fields. He had been telling the truth after all. It was a
        reminder that just as Americans can find some roots in Europe, Africa
        and Asia, so an Englishman can find them in America.



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