Ancestry is a funny thing. Or at least, that’s the feeling I get from reading different articles on Facebook.
I know, I know. I should know better, but I don’t. I can’t help myself. I see an interesting headline, and I click on it. Feel free to judge me if you wish, but I also know, at some point, you’re just as guilty as me.
The offending article this week talked about how Europeans find it offensive, angering, or baffling that so many North Americans are obsessed with their ancestry. They don’t seem to understand it at all – or so the writer would have you believe. I believe there’s some context missing, and the writer may have taken some extreme liberties with an oversimplification of the issue. So, it set my brain in motion and I started to throw my thoughts on paper… or the internet… or whatever.
Throughout most of my adult life, I’ve had an invested interest in tracing my family’s history, origins, and ancestry. Do I feel the need to apologize for it? No, of course not. My interest is precisely that – my own. I’m an amateur historian at best, and I do place some importance on it. But if someone were to ask me what nationality I identify as right now, I would tell them that I’m Canadian. Not Irish. Not Scottish. Or anything else that may be lingering in my DNA. So why do I care then, you might ask?
Knowing my family ancestry is so much more than giving me a reason to wear a kilt from time to time and an excuse to drink Guinness and Whiskey like a pro. I want to understand where I came from. And when I say that, I don’t mean directly – because when people ask me where I’m from, I still tell them I’m Canadian. I don’t go into much detail because that takes a bit to explain. What I really mean is, where did my family come from. How and when did they get here? Why did they come here in the first place? What did my ancestors do? What were their names? Everybody comes from somewhere at some point. And understanding family ancestry can help us realize just how interconnected we really are in a world that’s equal parts big and small.
Now, if the only reason you want to know your family history is so that you can say you love spaghetti and meatballs and shout out “mama mia!” all day long, then we have a whole other problem. If that’s the case, I can definitely see why a group of native-born Italians would find that irritating. Don’t be an idiot and use your ancestry to perpetuate stereotypes. And yes, I did admit to wearing a kilt and for my love of specific Irish beverages. But, once again, I do that as a Canadian. The kilt is associated with my ancestry. But the last time I checked, you didn’t need to be Scottish to wear one. As for the Whiskey and Guinness, they’re just plain delicious. I don’t owe anybody any explanation on those items.
I can honestly say that I’ve met several immigrants here in Canada who hold on to their heritage and ancestry very dearly – many of them European. I’ve also met similar cases in France who still identify as English. I’ve met Germans in Hungary and Italians in Belgium. There are also plenty of Canadian families who live in the U.S and vice versa. It would be crazy to think they wouldn’t teach their children a thing or two about their heritage. So do I believe this is strictly a European irritation? No. It simply comes down to prideful humans being humans mixed with a horribly researched and written article focused on nothing more than trying to create drama.
But once again, I should have known better.
Image credit: Mishice