My Ancestry

Remember about two or three years ago when the trend of sending in some of your DNA to 23 and me, or ancestry.com was popular? Well my parents decided to participate and therefore sell their genetic information and, because they are my parents, mine as well to advertisers. Online personal privacy is a different subject, but my ancestors won’t know the word privacy after my mother digs up every last word of gossip about them. I know that over the years my mother has told me these seemingly crazy stories about my ancestors while I sat on the couch not paying much attention while on my DS. What I do know is where my ancestors came from thanks to those previously mentioned businesses. On my father’s side I have a lot of Scandinavian and German ancestry, and on my mother’s it’s French and English. My ancestors might have been vikings or colonists travelling to the new world. I travel a lot as well, I have to take a 7 hour drive from my home in PA to go here. So in a way we are very similar.

My Family’s Migration

Little is known about the Dunning’s (my paternal familial lineage) prior to their arrival in the United States in the mid 19thcentury. Our family has yet to do extensive research about the genealogy. However, what we do know is that our family originated from several parts of what is known the United Kingdom, came to the United States, and first settled in southern Indiana. They bought a small farm with a large farmhouse without electricity or running water. The family remained on this farm until the outbreak of World War II. During this time, my grandfather and his 8 brothers were subsequently drafted into the military and deployed to various parts of the world. Following the war, my grandfather moved from Indiana to Dayton, OH to begin a career in the growing auto industry where he would eventually meet my grandmother and established our immediately family in Ohio.

The Valero’s (my maternal familial lineage) are newer to the United States having only immigrated here less than 100 years ago from Italy. Much like my paternal grandfather, my maternal grandfather came to the United States, specifically the Midwest, to take advantage of the growing manufacturing industry.

While very different regarding culture and family structure, both sides of my family are very similar in the sense that they both came to the United States for the vast amount of opportunity that was present in this country. Simultaneously, while they remembered where they came from it was very important for them to assimilate into their new home once they came here and have great pride in being American.

Migration of my family and connection to class lectures

My parents migrated to the United Kingdom to attend college in the 1980s. Due to this migration, my sisters and I were born in the UK but have lived in Ghana most of our whole lives. The 1980s in Ghana was a decade with a spur events and social developments. There were two coups; one successful and one attempted in that decade alone. More than one million Ghanaians returned to Ghana after being expelled from Nigeria. There were also a lot of widespread bushfires that badly effected crop production. Ghana was in its Third Republic led by a military coup leader who was infamous for eliminating opposition. That environment was rendered unsafe, however my parents also used it as an opportunity to achieve higher education abroad.

Linking their story to this week’s lectures, my parents migration story can be referred to the reversal migration due to the fact that they immigrated to Europe from Ghana, an ex British colony. Ghana was still largely used as an economic system in the 1980s due to the successful harvests of the fruit cocoa and other spices. Cocoa prices on the world market were not high at the time and therefore did not favour Ghanaian farmers. At that time also, there were a lot of semi-skilled workers in Ghana who wanted to expand their work skills and they . knew that could be done abroad. This was the case of my parents who were not married at the time. My father was the first to migrate in 1982 and then my mother followed in 1984. Research shows that males were likely to migrate more than females due to their educational level being higher than women so this could explain why my father went first.

U.S.-Mexico Exploitation of Migrant Workers in the Bracero Program

After careful thought over the two sides of the immigration issue in the Obstruction of Injustice piece, I desired to call attention to a third, more sinister side to the immigration debate some years after this time: employer exploitation of migrants. My great-grandfather from my mother’s side, named Joseph, was from Mexico and had gained employment in the United States during the first years that the Bracero program was in operation. The Bracero program itself was implemented during World War II in order to offset the U.S. worker shortage, accomplished through transportation of Mexican men north to take over vacant jobs. It lasted well until the 1960s.

During his time in the United States, Joseph frequently had to move around to different areas to fulfill his work duties, which largely consisted of harvesting tomatoes and later cutting cotton. Most of the work in the Bracero program consisted of this type of work, being difficult jobs out in the fields for hours on end. One would surmise that, as important that the additional work effort was to the U.S., that workers would be compensated well. This was definitely not the case, as some workers had necessary work equipment given to them, but docked from their pay. In the cases of some field workers, their physical health was put in jeopardy, as they were made to till fields with twenty-four-inch rakes, leaving them with serious back problems. Joseph did not stay in the program as long as his brothers did, returning to Mexico disillusioned with the whole work scheme.

The final nail in the coffin of supposedly “fair” worker compensation was the withholding of most of the workers’ pay after their permission to work had ended. In the case of Joseph, as my great-grandmother recounted, he was unable to receive any of the accumulated pay he had been rightfully owed. As a wartime bracero, ten percent of his US wages were withheld by US employers and placed in American banks to be sent to a bank in Mexico. When my great-grandmother went to collect the money under his name, the bank would deny ever having had that type of money for him in their possession. In sum, it was a double-sided form of exploitation from the U.S. and Mexico at the time. The story of Joseph is not that far off from the prior 19th century development of U.S. exploitation of Irish and Chinese migrants in terms of hazardous work conditions and poor compensation.

The Emblem of the Radish: Finding My Roots

As an nth-generation American with an ambiguous cocktail of Western-European blood in his veins, I know little of my ancestry beyond tidbits that were deemed interesting enough to share around the dinner table from time to time. My father has told me that our family name, Reddig, was bastardized from ‘Rettig’ (a German surname meaning ‘radish’), presumably upon entry into the United States. If my ancestors were German, then I think it would be safe to assume that at least a few of them came to the US over the course of the 19th century, when European immigration to the US was at a high.

Beyond that, I can’t say I know much else. My mother’s side of the family has been on the continent even longer, so the stories I’ve heard are even more vague and difficult to verify. If legend is to be believed, then one of my ancestors emigrated from England alongside William Penn in the 17th century, becoming among the first Quakers to populate the new colony of Pennsylvania. If this is indeed the case, then this ancestor of mine would have come to the colonies seeking refuge from religious persecution–a trend that pushed dozens of Protestant religions out of England at the time.

Despite the mythological appeal of my mother’s heritage, I find my father’s side of the family, populated by generations of long-forgotten radish farmers, to be the more interesting and, incidentally, the more relevant to the subject of this class. I hope to become more familiar with this side of my ancestry so that I might better understand how my personal history fits into the larger narrative of the globe (or at least Europe and North America) in these recent tumultuous centuries.

Week 12 Response

I do not have adequate information about my family’s heritage, because I only know what my mom has told me and I have never taken a DNA test. But what my mom has told me, was that I have Irish, Cherokee Native, and African American in my blood. So from this information, my knowledge about my ancestors migration is not too great. However, my immediate family of seven and I have moved around the United States several times. I was born in Cleveland, OH then moved to Phoenix, AZ after I finished kindergarten, where we lived from when I was in first grade to third grade. After I finished third grade we moved to Ringgold, GA where we lived for three years then moved to Atlanta, GA where we lived for three more years. After I finished my freshman year of high school, we moved back home to Cleveland, OH where we all currently live except my oldest sister who still resides in Atlanta.

I’m not sure that my migration story relates to any developments in the 19th or 20th centuries. But if any development is similar, I think it would be  westward expansion. I think so because my family and I moved out West, it was only for three years but we still expanded our knowledge and got to experience life in the Western US. We did not move there to attain land, but one of the houses we lived in there had many acres of desert behind our backyard so I can see why the US wanted to expand to the west.