Where are you from?

Stark New Hampshire. Wikipedia

Stark New Hampshire. Wikipedia

This morning a Washington Post article reports that the PC police have decided the words, “Where are you from?” is a kind of microagression committed against others, particularly if committed by a White person.  Good grief, how asinine can we become?  As one who has traveled extensively and who lived in over 40 places before I settled here in Arlington VA where almost everyone is from somewhere else, its hard to avoid asking and being asked “Where are you from?”

And why would you want to?  In any new gathering of a group “where are you from becomes a form of introduction. Every meeting I ever attended I wore an ID card that identified my affiliation and location. When I worked for the government I wore what amounted to a license plate around my neck every day, especially after 9-11.

Because Americans have such diverse roots, most of us are from somewhere, or have ancestors from somewhere, especially if you live in a huge Metro area. Most people in the Washington DC area, where I live, are from somewhere else, and many are from foreign places.

                                                                  —000—

A couple of years ago I wrote three posts about an ancestor named Hannah Smith who lived and died in New Hampshire.  I have not provided the links to these posts because I should never have inflicted them on anyone,  they are so confused I can barely follow them. Mea Culpa!

But through patience, persistence and a burning desire, I have finally been able to get Hannah’s story straight in my mind.  I think.  Perhaps I will look back someday and say, good grief you were confused even then.

Hannah Smith is a common name.  I am reminded of the line spoken by her father to Emma, in Jane Austin’s masterpiece,  “Who is this Miss Smith?”

Indeed I asked, “Who is this Miss Smith?” as I combed through record after record. Hannah was one of my paternal grandmother Edna’s grandmothers.

This week I had a couple of good “finds” in my genealogy research including Hannah’s marriage and christening records.  This was no small feat as I have been looking for more information about Hannah for several years. Anyone who thinks genealogy work is easy hasn’t done it right.

Cousin Anne gave me a clue last Christmas when she said, “Have you found the part of the family that came from Canada.”  I subsequently looked at Hannah’s daughter Ellen’s census records and found that for her “mother’s place of birth” question, she responded East Canada.   Seems some of Hannah’s vital records were lurking in the Quebec files…Montreal to be specific.

Below my grandmother’s great uncle Lorenzo, Hannah’s beautiful son:

Lorenzo Adley

Lorenzo Adley, USCT 1863 (Sharpshooter, Union Army 1861-65)

21 thoughts on “Where are you from?

  1. I think the whole microaggression thing is ridiculous and just an excuse for people to play the victim card. As for asking where someone is from, that’s been a natural, innocuous, polite conversation starter forever. But I suppose I could put a chip on my shoulder and when people ask where I’m from, I could get all snitty and offended because they’re obviously denigrating me for having an Oklahoma accent.

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  2. I Was Born In Boston But Raised In Georgia, Then Spent My Teens And Adulthood As Of Now In Massachussets. I Consider Myself From Both Places. Though Honestly I Do See Where Theyre Coming From. Sometimes With Hispanic People It Is Automatically Assumed They Are Not Citizens Of The U.S. And It Can Be A Snarky Passive Aggresive Comment. As From Where Im Really From A Distant Relative Found Papers Saying Where My Earliest Ancestor Was Taken From (Benin, Africa) When He Was Sold In South Carolina

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    • Yes, I can understand why some people would feel offended by this question. Because I grew up in the South, but had Yankee parents and was taught by Yankee nuns, I had a Yankee accent and for a long time, I was accused of being a Yankee. When I moved to areas where the dominant culture was not Southern, people told me I had a Southern accent and looked down on me because many non-Southerners look down on Southerners.

      My husband’s Russian mother who had a distinct accent, spent much of her adult life in NC where she was viewed with suspicion during the Cold War. She once said, “I’m not tar-heel-born, nor TarHeel bred, but when I die I will be tar-heel-dead.” We all want to belong somewhere.

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  3. I couldn’t live without that question. One of the things I enjoy most when meeting new people is seeing how long it takes to find something in common with them. It usually doesn’t take very long. But it has to start with “where are you from?” You continue to amaze me with you patience on the genealogy.

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    • Thanks Al. Meeting you was like meeting a long lost brother. Maybe someday I will find the genetic connection? I enjoy this genealogy project. The major reason I obtained the grad history degree so late in life was to sharpen my research skills. Ditto my years with the Census Bureau. I think this project is my life’s great work, not because we are more important than anyone else, but because no ancestor should be forgotten.

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  4. He is / was beautiful!

    We never know what to say when asked that question, on account of traveling so much. Fortunately, have never had a policeman ask ;).

    Before my Mother died, she told us she was afraid people would think she was losing her mind ” to senility” ( her words) because she couldn’t tell them where her oldest daughter lived!

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    • Funny and sad too, but some of us are gypsies. When I told my Mom we were gypsies, she laughed knowingly. I always thought I would find a permanent home, but we never do in this life. Probably why I studied migration all my life.

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  5. My grandfather Gunthorpe, father’s father, came here twice from England. The second time he brought his sister and got his Doctorate. Somewhere between 1939 and post WWII, that last E vanished.

    Yes,I like “Where are you from,” as much as I like, “What do you do?” I am sure that latter is not PC, but it is fascinating to find out what folks do today. I was born in San Diego where I live now, raised in Chula Vista because there was a big house near the golf course there, and I live again in San Diego. 🙂

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    • This week, I discovered that just after WWII, my Prussian grandmother traveled to Germany which she l left as a baby fifty years before. She reported Canada as her original country of birth to the port authority officials, but I found evidence to the contrary.

      The going and coming of all is recoded in the immigration statistics,

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  6. When I lived in NY City the question “Where are you from?” was the question most often asked and the answer was always interesting because of the great diversity of places in and out of the U.S. It certainly wasn’t asked aggressively !

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  7. Good info. David’s parents were from Canada. His father was born and raised in New Brunswick and his mother in Calgary. They immigrated to Vermont, where they had their first son, and to California where they had David and his sister. Eventually, they came to Hawaii when David was 7. His father was the director of a well known business college here in Honolulu. Both parents became US citizens and are buried in Hawaii.

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