An Immigrant’s Progress

Trees are funny things. They are held in place by tiny, hidden roots and they come into incredible power through millions of branches, big and small. It is sometimes hard to see where one root or bough starts and the spider webs of vessels and twigs stop. The more I unearth my history, the more I understand why families are likened to trees. There are so many stories and people that are unseen, dispersed, or tangled up; it is nearly impossible to try and discern one segment from the entire saga. It is kind of like watching Superman figure out that he was Krypton.



Courtesy of Northern Sun

Courtesy of Northern Sun

The first branch of my story begins at home. Like every tree, there is so much beneath the surface; but, the reader and looker must start somewhere solid. My family is definitely the most solid thing I know. And so is the town where I grew up, Scranton. Here’s a quick background: both of my parents’ families immigrated to the US in the 1900s, coming through NYC and traveling a short distance to Pennsylvania. Scranton is two hours from both NYC and Philly, making it a haven for new immigrants wanting some land and a thriving industry. Most of my friends have a similar story but have an Irish or Italian heritage – we are all a true mixing bowl of alphabet soup. So, it is not surprising that my parents are a mix of 5 different nationalities and have different traditions, religions, and food.


However, one day, my uncle decided to root around in our background. In 1995, before the internet became what it is today, my uncle went to the court house and dug up census information all the way back to the turn of the 20th century. (He is from Indiana and extremely interested in the odd and quirky family into which he married.) Maybe it was the sauerkraut, pierogies, and lentil soup that threw him for a loop, but whatever it was, it took him down an incredible path to undiscovered territory. He found out that my dad’s family was Serbian, a fact that my grandmother vehemently refuses to believe because it was so taboo when she was growing up. My great-grandfather had filled out the census form with “Serbian” when he first moved to town, but then did not list it any other year (corroborating my grandma’s feelings). We never knew until then! And we never would have known if my uncle didn’t look around. There was no reason to, right? But it does explain so so much. Like, why my dad can tan at the drop of the hat and why jet black hair seems to run on that side of the family. Not to mention some unexplainable idioms! These are such cool gems.


My grandmas have shared so many stories with me about their immigration and integration into American society. Their stories might be a little bit different than most because of the interesting town in which they lived. But, it doesn’t change the fact that each story has its own roots and flourishings. For my family, America held and holds the hope for prosperity. We all hope, dream, and work for it every day. Our ancestors have created a forest of trees from a variety of different plantings. We are strong and we all got here because someone planted roots.


I really am the American way, along with so many other incredible human beings that make up this country. Share your story with us at !

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