We Are All Immigrants

by Laura

All of us, every last one of us, have migrated from point A to point XYZ/Whatever to become who we are. In the most recent past, my Grandparents on my birthMother’s side, John McManus and Ellen Cassidy, emigrated from Scotland to America in the first quarter of the 20th century. My Mother, Charlotte, was a first-generation American. In my birthFather’s family, my Grandparents had been here a little longer. My 2nd Great-Grandfather, Patrick, arrived from Ireland in 1857; his wife, Bridget, my 2nd Great-Grandmother arrived a little later in 1861.

My adopted family are a combination of recent immigrants and colonists. My Dad’s step-father, Leopold, arrived from Europe in 1908. His maternal Grandfather’s family has been here since the 1600s. His maternal Grandmother’s family was from Ireland and arrived in the 1800s. My Mom’s family was also a mixture: her Mother, Frieda, was born here; Frieda’s parents and many of her older siblings were born in Prussia. They emigrated in either 1888 or 1891 (I have sources that indicate both dates). My Mom’s Father was born here as were his parents. But Grandpa’s forebears were born in Norfolk, England and Ireland. They emigrated to the States in the early 1800s.

In trying to connect with my very deep DNA roots, I did a mitochondrial DNA test last year.  Mitochondrial DNA is passed down from your Mom to you. mtDNA traces where our ancestral Moms migrated over the course of human history. It goes way deep into our genetic makeup, creating a picture, if you will, of migration patterns. So whilst mtDNA might not help you find your 4th Great-Grandmother, exactly, it can help you find your roots in a more general way. For me, my haplogroup, or the “genetic population group of people who share a common ancestor on the patrilineal or matrilineal line” (ISOGG Wiki (http://www.isogg.org/wiki), “Haplogroup,” rev. 5 July 2014), is K1c1b. We migrated out of Africa through Northern Italy, to central Europe, emerging about 16,000 years ago, perhaps taking part in the pre-Neolithic expansion following the Last Glacial Maximum  or what I learnt in school was the Ice Age (when sheets of ice covered portions of the earth’s land mass). We were, apparently, farmers and our particular group can be found, mostly, in Europe…including our cousin, Ötzi, the frozen 5000-year old man they found in the Tyrollean Alps between Austria and Italy a few years ago.

Even indigenous peoples aren’t so much indigenous as the blog and this map helps to explain. Geneticists who research about these different haplogroups write about the mitochondrial “Eves” who are the “mothers”, or the genetic beginnings of these groups, based on genetic mutations arising out of a selective need that developed within us and was then passed on. We become the inheritors of these mutations, become identified by them, and then members of these groups, with mitochondrial Eve, the Mother of us all.

So, what is my point in going into all of this? Immigration is necessary. These women, these Eves (Ursula, Xenia, Helena, Velda, Tara, Katrine, Jasmine…and there are others) as well as their male genetic counterparts, their “Adams”, who carry the Y-chromosome passed down from Father-to-Son and identifiable through other genetic tests, survived because they were able to follow weather patterns, animal migration, crops and food sources, and so on. As the ice receded, they were able to inhabit less hostile lands. As the bison migrated, they were able to follow the herds and avail themselves of a  good and important source of food and by-product. When famine hit a particular region, or a blight destroyed food crops, people were given an opportunity to begin again in another place to feed, clothe, and house their families. Every.single.one. of us has a story such as this lurking in our history. No one is exempt. And it behooves us to rediscover these stories and honour them; to keep our doors open and our histories intact…

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” ~ Emma Lazarus, 1883.