Where are you from?

The East Armuchee farm where I grew up, 1996

Growing up in the rural south, people never ask, “Where are you from?” (unless you have an unfamiliar accent that automaticaly marks you an outsider). It’s assumed that you are American and, more precisely, Southern. There’s no ethnic or national identity beyond that.

But living all my adult life in New York City–a virtual stew of world culture–people ask you all the time, “Where are you from?”

In the early years I always said, “Oh, I’m American.”

“No, I mean, where is your family from.”

This is where I always fumbled. “Ummm… well, I grew up in Georgia.”

“Noooo… where do you come from? What country is your family from?”

“Like I said, we’re American.”

“But everybody comes from somewhere else.”

“Well, I have no idea really.”

And it was true. No matter how many people would tell me they were German, Italian, Greek, Israeli or any other number of countries, I had no clue where I came from. It’s not that New Yorker’s are astute ancestry researchers. The question has nothing to do with genealogy. The fact is that most people you meet in New York have relatively shallow roots in this country. Even for those who were born here, there is a strong cultural identity to their motherland and they quite clearly think of themselves as German (or whatever else).

Even today I’m still unclear how to answer the question in a way that doesn’t confuse people. Through genealogy I’ve learned that while I’m about as Southern as you can get, I’m simultaneously more Yankee than many seasoned New Englanders. I have ancestors who served the Union in the Civil War and many more who served the Confederacy. With at least two distinct family lines originating (in this country) in Pennsylvania Colony and the most recent immigration in my direct lineage being the early 19th century, I’m a tried and true American. There’s just no other way to put it. All lines of my family have been here so long that any other identity was lost generations ago.

But if you really want to know… I’m mostly British with a fair amount of Irish and a bit of German, Sweedish, and Swiss in me. It’s a pretty cool discovery, actually, and I’m still learning about it. Take a trip into the past with me as I explore this and more on Jordan’s Journey.

How do you¬†answer the question: “Where are you from?”

8 Responses to “Where are you from?”

  1. Charlotte Jordan Griggs says:

    I will enjoy your journey! Great pictures! Can’t wait to seethe finish!

  2. Jim Pope says:

    Very interesting. Keep up the good work.

  3. joyce says:

    I have watched your video about ten times now. As a fellow researcher their was something just keep digging into my soul. Every single frame of the video I could feel the passion you have and to share it so others could feel it. I felt the journey, I saw that you are a young American man by heart and soul, I felt the quest that you are on to know your ancestry. I knew the feeling of going to the archives and wondering what will I find today. Your message is powerful for the ones that can related to our passions to learn all we can about our ancestral history.

  4. Brian says:

    The same thing goes for me! Growing up in the midwest, I never EVER heard the question “where are you from,” but have heard it countless times in New York. All I can say is that the name Heck sounds German, and that my mother once told me that her mother told her they were descendants of Mary Queen of Scots. Perhaps I need to delve into some genealogy as well and figure this out.

    • Jordan says:

      You definitely should delve into it. I’m certain you would discover some interesting things. I’d be more than happy to help you get started if you like. Just send me a private message if you want to give it a shot.

      One interesting note… one of the lines I descend from his Peck. They came from Germany and were originally Beck. The spelling was changed to reflect the German pronunciation. I wonder if Heck is in any way a related name?

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