embracing the American dream

June 21, 2011 § 2 Comments

Like many Americans, I’ve had an inkling of where my family can be traced back to, and I’ve always associated myself most with a German heritage. After going through the record of my ancestry my sister spent months pulling together, I was only half right. From my mother’s side of the family it is German including German towns within the Austro-Hungarian empire. However, on my Dad’s side, we’re from France and Switzerland. Surprisingly, I’ve never associated myself with being from either one of those places.

On the surface it’s easy to say why. I was born in Erie, PA and lived there until I was 11. I was exposed to more of my German-descended relatives and also to Pennsylvania German culture. Looking at my family tree, there’s more to it. A lot has to do with when my ancestors immigrated to the United States. My Dad’s side has a much longer history here back to the early 1800’s as well as the early 1700’s. I’m more than 5 generations removed, whereas on my Mom’s side, I’m only the 3rd generation. Fewer things have been lost along the way

In talking with both of my parents, they also believe there was more of a mindset of embracing the future rather than the past. It was important to assimilate, learn English and get an education in both families. My sister found a quote my grandmother had written on a family history that sums up how she saw it:

“I thank God I live in a country where dreams can come true, where failure is sometimes the first step to success, and where success is only another form of failure if we forget where our priorities should be”

My ancestors didn’t come here to hold onto where they came from but instead to dream about what lay ahead. The picture above is my great grandfather’s family. He’s not pictured as one of the siblings because he left to come to America and start his own life, soon to meet and marry my great grandmother and have 9 children of which my grandmother was one of the youngest.

I’m sure they missed him but wished him well.


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