A nomad with roots: calling all expats to research the past

Replanting your roots shouldn’t mean losing them

In March 1920, my grandmother lived with her parents and siblings in Jacksonville, FL. They shared a home with the parents and younger brother of A. Philip Randolph. She was attending Boylan-Haven School for Girls, a private school for Black girls that Zora Neale Hurston attended about 20 years earlier (and coincidentally my Mom would attend years later). She had just turned 12. Her mother had just died.

Her mother’s death was most likely a significant factor, but not the only reason for her father’s difficult decision to migrate north – just a few years before his own death in 1926. My grandmother and her family left behind the remarkable life they established in Jacksonville and moved to Philadelphia, PA.

Florida East Coast Railway station - Fort Pierce.Photo courtesy:  State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/798

Florida East Coast Railway station – Fort Pierce. Photo courtesy: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/798

Years later, my father was born in Philadelphia. I was born in Philadelphia. And none of us ever knew much about my grandmother’s life in Jacksonville. What was her mother like? What was the relationship between her mother and father like? What were her friends like? Why in the world did she live with A. Philip Randolph’s family? So many untold and forgotten stories.

Grandmom (second from right) and her sisters

Grandmom (second from right) and her sisters

My grandmother’s story is only an example. Migrations end up being a common cause of disconnected family ties and disrupted family narratives. In my research of other family histories, I often come across family migrations that tie almost directly to when the family communication broke down. It’s as if people move and don’t want to look back.

Makes me think. So many of us are migrating nowadays. And not unlike our ancestors who migrated in all directions and distances, we have no intentions of returning to our former homes. Are we also making the same mistake of leaving behind histories to be forgotten? Are we doing enough to know and remember where we’ve come from?

airplane

I want to help document and share more of our histories. So I’m looking for expats and other nomad-minded types who have picked up their roots at some point. Let me research your family’s history. And let’s change this pattern of memory loss.

Need more incentive to join this quirky expat research mission? We can talk about a discount. And you’ll be on the cutting edge of the expat genealogy craze (not a thing).

Some options:

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6 thoughts on “A nomad with roots: calling all expats to research the past

  1. This is really cool. I would love to do more research on my family’s history. Guaranteed it would be harder since my parents are from Africa, and most things are neatly documented. But still very cool!

    Like

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