What, you mean you don't know who you are?
Another way of asking that same question is, "What is my ethnic heritage?"
OK, actually that won't do, either; so I guess I'll just ask, "Where do my ancestors come from?"
When I lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, I raised and trained Alaskan Malemute dogs for sledding. Alaskan Malemutes are big, strong dogs — not particularly fast — but they can pull a lot of weight and their stamina is amazing. At one time, I owned the single-dog weight pull champion, a bitch named Pada. Pada weighed 115 pounds, and in 1969, she pulled a sled that weighed 3,150 pounds on snow. That was before there was an 'official' organization for weight-pulling, the International Weight Pull Association (IWPA) that holds an 'official' championship and recognizes 'official' records.
Why am I telling you this? Bear with me: Alaskan Malemutes are a recognized American Kennel Club (AKC) breed; in other words, they are considered 'purebred'. But Pada had a purple spot on her tongue that belied her heritage that includes some Chow-Chow DNA; in other words, her genealogy was mixed.
"He's one-third wolf ..."
"Oh," said Steve, "he's one-third Husky, one third Lab, and one-third wolf."
"OK," I said, "thanks."
Of course, since heredity is binary — that is, one biological father and one biological mother in each generation, it is impossible to be 'one-third' anything. But I didn't want to bother Steve with that information, not to mention the fact that there are very, very few domestic dog-wolf hybrids.
Back to the original question ...
It's more complicated than that!
But could I be sure that, of those eight great-grandparents of mine, exactly two of them were Hispanic, two were Norwegian, and four were English? Well, no, because my surname is French and my maternal grandmother's birth surname is German.
After decades of genealogical research, I have been able to determine that, within a very small margin of error, out of my sixteen great-great grandparents,
- 1 is French;
- 2 are German;
- 3 are Hispanic (from México, Costa Rica, Venezuela, and Spain);
- 4 are Norwegian; and
- 6 are English (except that one great-grandmother insisted she was half Irish!).
To whom do I relate?
Well, not really. Since I have a French surname (which was actually Boët in 1780 and then Bouet for my immigrant ancestor in 1830 and Bouett only later), a Norwegian grandfather who spoke fluent Norwegian, and two English grandmothers, one of whom had many first cousins still in England, I always felt there was a bit of a mix going on at family reunions.
So here's the tie to this website, and to my own version of LA Roots ...
Los Angeles is where all of my California Hispanic ancestors lived, including my father and his father, both of whom grew up in Historic Solano Canyon. And my Norwegian-English mother also lived in the Los Angeles area between high school and when she married my father (in Trinidad, but that is another story). So it is less who I am than what I am — that is, a product of my Los Angeles cultural background — that has had the greatest impact on my sense of identity.
I wonder how many of you have a similar experience? Let me know; I'd like to publish your stories.