A Little About Me:
The idea for this project started many years ago. I've always
loved the stories of my own family's immigration here. I remember
hearing them as a little girl and feeling their uniqueness and
mystery. Then several years ago I was at a party and someone started
telling how their family came over. That prompted another story,
and another, and another. All of us were fascinated by the various
experiences from so many different countries and time periods.
Thus, the decision to start collecting them began. It has always
been a slow process, as I have a full time job and am actively
involved in our children and grandchildren’s lives. But
each time I hear a new story, I'm energized to continue. They
are sweet, sad, funny, and awe-inspiring. They show people's
bravery, vulnerability, yearnings, struggles, and determination.
We are definitely a country of immigrants, but also a country
of courageous, multi-faceted, and widely divergent people. My
hope is that the stories celebrate and honor that.
As for me personally, I am a social worker in Sacramento, California.
I live with my husband, pets and plants. Our daughter is in town
with her family, living quite close which is delightful. Our
son is out of town, but we stay in contact as much as possible
with him and his family, and Skype helps!
after several years of operation
I have received numerous responses from people
over the years, mostly appreciation that this is happening.
Some have ventured their story. Others have enjoyed reading them.
Evidently, some teachers, both college and high school, have
passed out the URL and had students use it for one kind of research
or another. I even heard from one student who found the website
on her own and decided to do a similar project for her visual
anthropology class. I’m very pleased to have the connections
and comments from people. It’s an added reward for me.
As I have talked with various people, I am aware that some are
wary of telling their story when they don’t really know
how the story will be used. This is very understandable. What
is personal and possibly painful should not be exploited! I want
to assure people that I do not have any agenda, hidden or otherwise.
I am not trying to promote any ideological view other than that
these stories are valuable in themselves and should be shared.
I believe they say something about what is at the root of this
country. I cannot even say at this point what that is. I’m
not sure that should be my job anyway. Maybe after many more
stories I will feel comfortable in sharing some thoughts about
it. But for now I see this project as a forum to explore and
learn. And I hope you will, too.
I remember when I interviewed George Kren (Austria – 1938).
Being the professor that he was, he wanted to know how I was
going to focus the collection of interviews. Since he was one
of the first interviews, I had no idea. All I knew then was that
the stories fascinated me and I felt enriched by hearing them.
In most ways, that is still the main draw for me. If nothing
else happens but putting them on the website, that will be enough.
I feel very privileged to hear what the journey has been for
so many people, or for what has been passed down to their descendants.
Some people have asked me if I try to research people’s stories about their ancestors since accuracy might get lost from generation to generation. I do not. Yes, it might be very important in some ways to find the bare facts. But from a personal standpoint, the stories are what are in us, accurate or not. However we have heard them as children or our parents have heard them, that has shaped us. The stories that have been passed down carry a truth in them about what is carried inside us.
I believe the stories need to be honored. All of us who are not 100% Native American, whether we know the story or not, have people in our past who have been on this journey. I believe these stories are in us collectively in some form. They impact us as a group of people whether we are aware of it or not. I believe that hearing the stories, reciting the stories, sharing them with one another can possibly give us a deeper understanding of who we are.
Our daughter lived in Belgium for a while and in the visits with
her I was struck with constantly being impacted by history
much older than ours. Families had lived in the same area for
centuries. No one had to go far without encountering a structure
that had been there long before people other than Native Americans
inhabited our country. While I knew all of this intellectually,
feeling it, seeing it, experiencing it was very different.
To grow up in a culture that is full of immigrants and their
descendants, that is different than to know your great-great-great
grandparents grew up in the same village you did. One isn’t better or worse, it’s just different.
In terms of how I organize the story, I try to stay as close to the actual wording as possible. If someone sends me a written story, I try to use it as is. I may change a few words to make something clearer, but I always use brackets [ ] to show when that has occurred. I also may leave something out for space or clarity, and if so, I will show that through use of the ellipsis (…).
When I interview people I keep the direct quotes, again using brackets or ellipsis when I move away from direct quotes. I may rearrange the order that people say things for easier reading and understanding. If I summarize any portion of the story, I will make it clear usually by italics or indenting. Before a story is put on the website of people I have interviewed, I have them read over it to make sure I have represented them well.
I do hope you will share your story and pass this along to others. If you want to share how these stories affect you or impact you, I would love to hear that. If you have any suggestions for improving the website, I would love to hear that, too. And if you have any hesitation about sharing your story, I do hope you will at least write to me, and we can discuss your concerns.
Thank you for your interest!
stories at immigrantjourneys Dot com
P.O. Box 661467
Sacramento, CA 95866-1467