I grew up in a large, predominantly white suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. There wasn't a lot of diversity in race, but in terms of European ethnicity, my town was about as diverse as you could get. In elementary school, I remember casually talking with classmates about the nationalities of our parents and grandparents a lot, and we all thought it was pretty interesting, probably because there was a lot of variety. We were Polish, Italian, Croatian, Serbian, Greek, Hungarian, French, German, Irish, and even Lebanese. And it wasn't just that we had ethnic surnames; several of the kids were actually children of immigrants, and many more of us were grandchildren of immigrants. When I got to high school, I met some kids of Ukrainian immigrants. (Our town had several Ukrainian Orthodox churches, as well as a Serbian Orthodox Church and a Russian Orthodox Church.) It was easy to buy authentic ethnic foods, like pierogi, at one of the local churches, restaurants, or ethnic markets. I was married in my hometown and our reception was held at one of the Ukrainian Church halls - we had a delicious, delicious dinner.
I think that this is one reason I am so interested in genealogy and tracing roots - I realized at a fairly early age that people in America came from many places, and I was able to experience first-hand differences in nationality and culture. I would overhear one of my friends talking to her grandmother in Italian; We would see Irish dancers and hear their traditional Celtic music in local parades; Many of us had last names full of 'czyn's' and 'ski's' and we thought nothing of it.
What kind of ethnic environment shaped YOU? Do you think it influenced your desire to study (or not study) your famiy's roots?
©2012, copyright Emily Kowalski Schroeder