There is nothing evil about wanting to know who your ancestors were. Genealogy has exploded in popularity as the internet has made it easier to do. To me, it’s on a par with stamp collecting in cultural significance.
People forget or are simply ignorant of what made America. Initially, the British saw its value as being mainly a penal colony, and subsequently dumped as many of their criminals, insane, and poor into it as possible. White, indentured servitude was the common lot of most pre-revolutionary Americans. Not quite as bad as black chattel slavery, but nearly.
Then in the late 19th century, Europe flushed itself and tens of millions of poor immigrants arrived, mostly from southern and eastern Europe. They landed, spread out, and bred many of us.
So, we really are a nation of mongrels, bred from Europe’s refuse. Even if you have an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower, odds are he or she wasn’t a person of substance in Europe. More likely a wheelwright or brewer.
We have reinvented ourselves since day one and continue to do so.
My point is that my personal “identity” is my own personal fiction, or, if you prefer, work of art. I create and recreate myself as I go.
My earliest ancestors arrived here in 1780, post revolution, but pre-Declaration.. They were impoverished German farmers fleeing the draft and looking for land. Later, some Scots and Irish got added to the mix.
Aside from the fact that I enjoy philosophy and whiskey, I can’t see that they have much to do with the current version of Mike Essig. Knowing about them doesn’t hurt me, but it no way adds to who I am, though I’m grateful they had the gumption to make the trip.
My last name, Essig, is the German noun for vinegar. I do admit to being occasionally acidic, maybe that is my true inheritance. Or coincidence. In either case, as Popeye said, I yam what I yam. :)