Family Migration in the 20th Century

My family’s migration story partially fits well into the narrative of the 20th century and partially does not. For my father’s side, as pf 1492 the Totten family was living as farmers in the village of Wedmore in Southwestern England. As of the late 1600s, the Tottens emigrated to British colonies in North Carolina, at some point settling in the region of the Salkahatchee swamp in South Carolina. During this time (probably because they were illiterate and spelled it wrong at some point) their name was somehow de-Anglicized to “Tuten.” They proceeded to remain in general vicinity of the swamps of the South Carolina Low Country until my father left for college in the 1970s – they had remained in the same area for about 300 years (and some of the family remain there still). This is not a very 20th century story – they got into place long before the 20th century and stayed there while it went on.

My mother’s family are a different story. One branch arrived in New England from London in the latest part of the 1700s, but became nearly destitute near the turn of the 20th century as a result of crop failures in the region and sought jobs (as terrible as conditions may have been) in New York City. There, if DNA testing can be believed, at some point a young member of that family met an Ashkenazi Jew, who presumably would have fled from Eastern Europe during the many Progroms of the early 19th century. After my great-grandfather was killed by a Kamikaze attack in the battle of Iwo Jima in the Second World War, this part of the family relocated to Birmingham, Alabama, where they worked in support of the civil rights movement. They were affected quite a bit by the wars and violence of the 20th century, though not as much by the formation of nation states.

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