I know you’re busy with preparing for the holidays, visiting family and friends, cooking up grandma’s passed down recipes, spitting into those DNA test tubes and standing in lines (or trying to figure out where your package got delivered because it wasn’t at your door as expected). You’ve got to put this on your TO – DO before December 30th list, though, because it effects everyone interested in family history in the U.S.
I’ve received several emails from various organizations regarding the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service’s 500% proposed fee increase. That is outrageous on so many levels! My first complaint is that they just raised the fee 300% less than 3 years ago. The second complaint is that it TAKES FOREVER to get the documents and sometimes, you don’t get them at all and you don’t get your money back.
I don’t know about you, but I think paying $685.00, waiting up to a year and then getting an email with no individual to respond to stating the USCIS couldn’t find the information you sought is ridiculous.
Personally, I don’t need to request any documents as I was fortunate to obtain my maternal grandparent’s citizenship paperwork before the fees were increased. Was there startling revelations I uncovered from obtaining the documents? Well, it was for me but probably most people wouldn’t find it extraordinary. I got two awesome photos of my grandparents taken during the Depression when they had cut back so much to keep the house that they had NO spare change to have family photos taken. I have them from their marriage in the Teens, their growing family in the 1920’s and the war years of the 40’s and their retirement in the 50’s but zilch in the 30’s.
I also discovered that their long time next door neighbor, Mr. Bauer, served as a character witness. To me, he was a nice widower who let me pet his dog and gave me $1.00 instead of candy on Halloween. It also explained why another family would sometimes visit and grandma would break out the good china and silverware – they had once lived behind my family and had also served as a character witness. Mills is so right – Family/Friends, Associates and Neighbors hold the clue and show the interconnectedness of us all.
So, personally, the proposed increased doesn’t effect me but it certainly does professionally and as a citizen, for those who want to get a better insight into the immigrant experience.
Yeah, I know, you’re going to say they already made up their mind and they aren’t going to care that you have a differing opinion. My response is your opinion matters and I will hold it against my representatives if they fail to respond which they haven’t yet and I filled out my paperwork last week.
3. Don’t let all that political jargon exasperate you! Just click “Comment” on the right side of the screen at the top
4. You don’t have to write a dissertation – just a few words will do.
5. I also emailed my Senators and Representative. If you don’t know how to email yours – click here to identify your Senators and Representative. To save time, you can do a Ctr C to copy what you write to the USCIS and enter the same by doing a Ctr P for your Senators and Representative.
Last week, I wrote about another assault on genealogy. Thank you for all your comments. Clearly, this is a time for all of us to make noise and express our opinion. I’m sure, like me, you want your descendants to one day discover you took a stand for the right reasons during these difficult times.
I promise it will take you less than 10 minutes to send the emails to those who will make the final decision. Don’t delay – do this TODAY!
The blog I write today was not the one I planned and I want to make clear this is my OPINION.
I blog about genealogy because it is my passion and I have found that it pairs wonderfully with my first interest, psychology. I often start the day reading the news and today was no different. Having just about finished my second cup of coffee, I was flipping through the stories on The Washington Post when I came across an article published yesterday, “The Dark Side of our Genealogy Craze” by Honor Sachs, an assistant history professor at the University of Colorado – Boulder.
I beg to differ with the author’s main premise. In paragraph 1, “…But the rise of genealogy may also, paradoxically, exacerbate the virulently anti-immigration fervor propelling President Trump’s policies and increase racial inequality…” As the thesis statement, the article continues to present the author’s justification of her views that researching one’s family history is dangerous for the future and the interest in learning this information is short-lived, per her word choice in the title. I strongly disagree.
To prove her point, the author cites the beginning of the growing interest in finding one’s lineage to Alex Haley’s Roots. The book and television series without a doubt, gave rise to genealogy in the late 20th century. Yes, the story was about an African American whose ancestors were enslaved and those of European ancestry did use the methods Haley outlined to begin their own research. I am one of them with two of my European lines entering through Ellis Island. I am also a Boomer.
How the author connected Roots, Boomers and Ellis Island to this statement, “The exploration of this heritage provided a language through which the baby boomer generation could safely distance themselves from the mandates of the Civil Rights era without sounding explicitly racist.” is unclear.
As a historian, I would think the author would know that the Boomers were deeply affected by the Civil Rights era since we were born in the 1950-60’s and were the product of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Boomers are of all races with many of us attending integrated schools as a result of the Supreme Court decision. While some of us are racist, most of us are not. Racism is not tied to a generation; it permeates all ages and races. Many Americans of European descent supported (and still do) Civil Rights. Some even died because of their involvement. Many Boomers raised children to be global citizens in integrated schools.
Racism today is not the result of the Boomers or any other generation of Americans with European ancestry interested in genealogy. Unfortunately, racism will not die with the Boomers but will continue to grow as youths buy into the propaganda they are reading online.
Here’s another problem I have with the Post’s article; the author states “While European immigrants faced significant historic struggles, their descendants mobilized such hardships to dilute the claims of historically persecuted groups that remained marginalized with their own narratives of past immigrant oppression.” She then goes on to cite Richard Nixon and his “coded language.” While I agree that Nixon’s word choice were coded for his base, so are every politician of every party in every nation. Generalizing that all descendants of Europeans who researched their heritage resulted in marginalizing persecuted groups and “resonates with our modern-day genealogical revival” is just wrong. Show me the data!
The author continues that although genealogy can benefit those members of historically persecuted groups, it can also “empower those who seek to divide, deny and disenfranchise.” DNA with the Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” debacle is mentioned, along with others of primarily European descent attempting to gain access to programs for underrepresented people. Let me be clear – it is wrong to try to gain entry to a privilege that was not established for you. In my genealogical experience, people who have taken DNA tests typically do not take them for the purpose of undermining the system. Most take them because they want to know who their birth parents were for health reasons, where their immigrant ancestor originated, or to compare their results with family members to determine which got what genetic material from each parent.
Knowing that information does not make me want to hold an indigenous group today responsible. It was wrong to steal children then, just as it’s wrong to separate children from their immigrant parents today. Learning this occurred in my family’s past makes me even more vehemently opposed to what is happening at our border. Understanding what my immigrant family members were fleeing in the old country makes me more empathetic with today’s people who are seeking asylum. Remembering that my grandparents were targeted by the KKK and my father’s WWII Army placementwas made due to his German sounding last name (DNA now shows more French then German but who knew back them because there was no DNA tests!) allows me to listen to the message from historically disenfranchised groups to gain their perspective.
Historian George Santayana got it right, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Correlating genealogy with racism is wrong. I know my family’s past because I am a genealogist. My ancestors made mistakes just like every human does every day. I strive to learn from their mistakes and follow their examples for what they did correctly.
No one inherited a racism gene. Racism’s root is fear of not being in power, of losing privilege status and therefore, of becoming indigent. My definition of poor has nothing to do with money; I define poor as those who lack a moral compass. I’ve met poor wealthy people and rich poor people, as I bet you have. Interesting that the fear of having no money sometimes results in those who have it in become overly controlling at the expense of others to keep it and those that don’t have it, trying to differentiate from another group to make themselves feel superior. Those kinds of people unite in their shared biased worldview and make it bad for all the rest of us. It leads to a closed mindset and a regression to what we see happening with leaders across the world – derogatory name calling, ostracizing, categorizing, and segregating. Communication ceases which only separates us further.
Please, let’s stop dividing ourselves by age, race, gender, place of origin, religion, sexual orientation, education level and career choice. The Human Genome Project showed that we all share humanness, we are all one. Our search for our ancestors isn’t the problem. Finding your family’s story and relating it to the world today to make for a better tomorrow is imperative.
Shopping for holiday DNA kits? I want to caution you about your upcoming purchase. In the ever changing world of DNA, the results you receive won’t be the same a year from now and I’m not talking about mutations to your chromosomes.
The more people that test, the larger the database (duh) and that increase results in a refinement of the ethnicities listed. I’ve lost count of how many times Ancestry.com has emailed me that my results have been altered. Make sure that you or whoever you purchased the test for, understands that the results are fluid.
Once you’ve wrapped your head around that concept, you need to be cognizant of the bigger picture – that your DNA results might just disappear. Yes, you paid for them but that doesn’t mean they will be available forever.
I was one of the early testers on Ancestry.com; a few years after I had my X tested they moved to autosomal and no longer supported my original results. The only way I could access DNA match was to be retested.
Now the granddaddy of DNA testing has announced that they will be ceasing operation in June 2020 – National Geographic’s Genographic Project. That project, launched in 2005, was an anthropological study to identify historical migration patterns. Geno2 was unveiled in 2016 and now that is coming to an end. Although the purpose of that project was not genealogical, families often were interested in the long term historical findings hiding in their DNA.
At it’s inception the project was voluntary but I missed my local test date. When the company decided to expand for a cost, it was pricey for my family’s pocketbook so I didn’t participate. A colleague did and I was intrigued by the colorful interpretive guide that she received – just what you’d expect from National Geographic. Eventually, when the price dropped, I did purchase a kit.
If you have results, you must download and save or you won’t be able to access after May 2020.