I'm back home in Los Angeles but I haven't yet given up on the New Orleans spirit. I came home and rocked my green and white beads all day Saturday in honor of St. Patrick's Day. My little boys were happy to wear some beads too. My husband refused.

"Oh, that's ok. I'm not Irish," he said.

Technically, I'm not Irish either. I'm half Irish-American.

It's funny though, I have a whole lot of pride about that Irish heritage. Some people might think it's because I'm trying to identify more with the white side of my heritage instead of the black side. I think it's more that I don't know a whole lot about my black ancestry. With the Irish side, I know what boat my ancestors took over here, what year they got here, where they settled, what their names were.

Do I know any of that about the black side of my family? Nope. I couldn't tell you what slave ship carried them, what country they came from (because Africa is a continent, not a country), what plantations they worked on, what they did during Reconstruction...none of it. My black family history begins with my grandmother's father, a man named Green Walker. I should know more than that.

I've always wanted to be one of those folks that take the time to research their family genealogy. One of these days, I'm going to do it. I want to know it all.


Jessalyn said…
Did you see the PBS special African American Lives? Combining science and history, it is definitely possible to find out what countries in Africa your ancesters came from.
Liz Dwyer said…
Yes, I did see that special and loved it. My mom and I have chatted about it...I wonder how much $$$ it is to do it though. I need to look into it because I don't want my own sons to end up feeling the same way I do sometimes.
I've been thinking about doing the DNA testing too (The company I'm looking at is called African Ancestry). Either I'd do it myself or have my 91 year old grandmother do it, since it traces the matrilineal line and she's the only grandparent I ever had who cared anything about Africa.

Either way, it's all so fascinating. But it totally sucks that at a certain point, the documentation (for most of us) stops before we're barely even able to scratch the surface.

Still, some info is better than none at all!
Liz Dwyer said…
Mrs. J,
I should ask my mom and my sister if they want to go in on the $$ with me. It would be really interesting for us to find out whatever we could.
West said…
I really liked this post. It reminds me of E.R. Shipp's recent one on the subject.
Liz Dwyer said…
Cool. I just googled E.R. Shipp and checked out her blog and her St. Patrick's Day post. LOL at that "N!88ers of the British Empire". I have jokes for days about how my mom thought she was getting a white man but little did she know! Reminds me of that book "How the Irish Became White" (and can folks get a clue on what went down with the Italians, Spanish, Romanians, Jewish people in the same way?) Just further proof of how the way we create race here in America is RIDICULOUS.
Sundry said…
Heritage is really complex here...but it's partly because we are so mixed. Where I grew up you'd always ask about a person's heritage and their surname. Maybe because the answers were almost always German, Irish and English (in that order) it was safer.

When I was in Germany I asked a guy where his parents were from. Germany. Grandparents? Germany. Great grandparents? Oh, okay, I get it.

I learned pretty quickly that it wasn't a safe question to ask in L.A. when I moved here at 24. Yikes! Bristle..."Why do you ask?" Um. Why _not_? It's like asking what town you grew up in...but apparently it isn't.

I find myself telling people that my great grandfather came from Germany in 1872, waaay before the peak of the evil. And I'm proud of the hardworking aspects of the German and Irish cultures that are in my family's past, along with a little Englisha and a smidge of Miami or Potowatami.

I wonder if we're more interested in geneological heritage these days because so many of us live far from the geographical places that shaped our ancestor's views of life.

I hope it's not financially prohibitive for you to find out more. A friend of mine discovered that her people are descended from the Gullah and it was clearly a satisfying thing to know.
I know only my grandparents' names. It seems wrong not to be able to honor my earlier ancestors for giving me life since their blood flows in my veins. There should be an acknowledged connection.

The issue of race is absurd in my view. This was illustrated for me "in living color" when my daughter was a high school cheerleader. She was sitting on the bench with her best friend, their bare arms touching so that it was impossible to tell where one ended and the other began from a distance.

Yet, her friend was considered "black" while my daughter was considered "white," so clearly skin tone is not a determinant.

Since most Americans have ancestry from many places and ethnicities, the whole concept is really meaningless. We should all get past it and begin to see each other as individuals who are here because of many happy breeding accidents in the past.
Liz Dwyer said…
Yes, it is that melting pot thing we have going on here that makes the responses to that question so different from other parts of the world.

And, I have noticed that folks here do get all bristly when you ask where they're from. It's like they have worked so hard to reinvent themselves that they don't want any trace of who they used to be to seep out of their pores.

You know, for the most part, I have a hard time spending $$ on anything other than a chai twice a week, so the thought of dropping $350 to find out where my peeps come from sorta makes me break out in a cold sweat. But, I think I'm going to do it. I'm too curious to just leave it alone.

I had a similar moment while flying to New Orleans with a "white" colleague. I looked over and thought, golly, I think we could share makeup! We were the same color. And, with everyone OD'ing on Mystic Tan, a whole lotta folks are looking really ethnic these days. I'm with you...I wish we could all open our hearts more and get past seeing skin color/race as a negative. Then again, someone told me yesterday that my eldest son got the "good hair" in the family. Clearly, we have a LONG way to go.

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