Family history: Getting back to your roots

Today BlogHer’s Find Your Roots prompt asks, “What does getting back to your roots mean?” That makes me think about cultural heritage. “Where are you from?” was a  common question I got in the 1970s-80s when multicultural people were still an anomaly. If I answered “the Chicago area,” the response would be, “No, really.” Really, I was born in Chicago. Near the lakefront.

Usually, though, the question was worded, “What are you?”

“I’m a human being.”

“No, really.”

As an adult, I am deeply rooted in my Japanese tree even though I’ve never been to Japan (yet), don’t speak the language, and don’t know most of my relatives there. I was going through my mother’s old photo album full of her family pictures and discovered strangers who are probably my cousins. I only have two aunts, and I thought I knew who their children were. Except for those two.

I’m also interested in the Dutch side of me I know almost nothing about. But, thanks to these BlogHer prompts prompting my curiosity and to a genealogy-addicted co-worker, I learned the libraries in town give free access to So I renewed my library card and spent an hour discovering cool stuff online about my great-grandfather. Like he had a mystery wife… first she was there, then she wasn’t. My dad was told his grandmother died when he was a baby, but it doesn’t look like it … you never know what those old records will reveal.

Getting back to my roots would mean learning about my cultural heritage. I appreciate that St. Louis provides a lot of opportunities for me to not only learn about but participate in my Japanese heritage. Dutch culture in the States is harder to find, so other than eating Leiden cheese and pickled herring, I guess I’ll have to go to Holland, Michigan, again someday. My family went there when I was a child, and I got a pair of wooden shoes in my size. Those things were really painful to wear!

I just look like I'm smiling

I just look like I’m smiling


About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; author of Poems That Come to Mind, for caregivers of dementia patients; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), poetry, and cats
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4 Responses to Family history: Getting back to your roots

  1. Before you know it I will have you going to genealogy conferences with me!

  2. Gene Bodzin says:

    I have been enjoying your recent posts, Linda, especially your reflections on the families that produced you. My pattern was almost exactly the opposite. I grew up so enmeshed in my roots that they almost strangled me. I have spent the better part of my life trying to unearth the unique individual underneath the heavy overlay of family identity.

  3. Hi Gene, thanks for reading! You do have an interesting dilemma, although I can begin to imagine how that could happen through too many expectations. Sometimes you just wanna be you, without any familial/cultural baggage.

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