“Finding Your Roots” understandably gives the impression that European-American heritage is relatively uniform within the context of national identity. For many this is true. But when I put this to the test with my maternal grandmother’s “German” mother, I found that there were places on the European continent where substantial mixing of identities occurred within the last three centuries. One of these was the former province of East Prussia.
I had naturally assumed that, because both of my grandmother’s parents (married in the United States) had been immigrants of German nationality, this one-quarter of my ancestry must surely be German. Yet her mother turned out to be the product of three very different ethnicities: German, “Baltic,” and Polish. In short, my maternal-maternal great grandmother’s own eight great-grandparents were split amongst the above three groups on a 3/3/2 basis! The three Germans, three “Baltics” and two Polish ancestors can each be identified by their surnames and certain other markers, but the given names were essentially all German. This means, to me, that a certain amount of assimilation had happened over the years and that they were loyal “Germans” all – despite having distinctive heritages.
When I concluded my research I decided to make it public. The image associated with this brief story shows that my 34-page monograph covering my grandmother’s diverse “roots” is freely available (in digitized format) through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the “Mormons,” who protect many genealogical works, and share many of these through the familysearch.org website). By my agreement with them, and through the preface page included therein (which states: “Open permission is hereby given to freely copy this material, so long as proper attribution is made.”), I have freely made my findings available to all who might wish to explore this mixed ethnic background in detail. [The attached image shows the familysearch.org catalog entry for my monograph; I regret that I do not know how many pixels it contains.]
America is not the only, nor even the first, Melting Pot….