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WWL:Getting Back to Our Roots
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
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In this episode:

How do you connect with your family history?


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49:22 minutes (23.7 MB)
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Note: This program originally aired on December 5, 2008.

Today, Where We Live, we're getting in touch with our roots. We all associate ourselves with an ethnicity or a culture.  Whether we're of African, Irish or Columbian descent  - most of us want to know something about our ancestry or family history. Coming up, WNPR Producer Catie Talarski leads us through her journey to get in touch with her Polish heritage. And, we'll talk to Hartford Courant columnist Susan Campbell and Duke professor Tom Ferraro - author of Feeling Italian: The Art of Ethnicity in America - about searching for their roots.  And we want to hear from you.  Are you interested in your ancestry?  How do you connect with your family history?  Which ethnic group to you relate to - and is it possible to consider yourself, say "Italian" if you've never been there?

Join the conversation!  Add your suggestions, questions and comments below. 

Proud to be Polish, Feature by Catie Talarski

8:28 minutes (8.13 MB)
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Listener Email from Bob

According to the records I have, I was born in Cook County Hospital on  February 1st, 1945 and was subsequently adopted from an adoption
agency in Chicago, IL (the Cradle) in 1945.         About 10 or 12 years
ago I contacted the court that controlled the adoptions files of and was told that I was not permitted to know anything about my parent(s). I am deeply interested in my heritage and would appreciate any suggestions that might reveal my roots.
Thank you,
Bob Lane

Email from Al

I enjoyed your show the other day about ethnic groups living in America and their heritage. You asked for emails ... so here is my story.
When I was in my mid 60s I realized that I was the last generation to know our grandparents who emigrated to this country in 1909. Thus I began searching for our ancestral town. It had changed names over the centuries and the Ellis Island records had an older name.
The small town in the Abruzzo region was once called Corfinium in Roman days, then Pentima and finally to Corfinio. I have been to Corfinio and have met the people many times over the past 5 years. It feels like home now. Only one person speaks English in the town ... the hotel owner.
Here is where things get interesting: As I researched my ancestral town I discovered that in this little town, nestled between mountains, was where Italia (Italy) got it's name!
Corfinium was the center of the Peligne nation, a group of Italic tribes that had been conquered by the Romans in 400-300BC. They were fierce warriors and Rome had to make concessions to them in the end. However, because of this, they were not granted full Roman citizenship ... and did not have much of a voice in Rome.
To keep the story short, due to injustices created by the Romans, the central Italic tribes banded together and formed their own capital at Corfinium in 100BC. They had a Senate house and Forum for self governing. The also minted money to pay the troops and this coin was inscribed with the name "Italia". Thus, it was at this time that the name of Italy was created.
Corfinio also has a museum dedicated to the Peligne nation and the fact that Corfinio is the birthplace of the name of Italy!
Since we are a video production house, and have created 3 full-length DVDs about Italy, we decided to make a documentary about Corfinium/Corfinio. We visited Corfinio last September and shot video for 3 days, met with the museum curators and mayor. We are just beginning the editing process and it will take several months to complete.
So this is my story ... and there is much to say yet. If you would like more details, please let me know. I have the entire script of the documentary that I can share.
Also, it would be my pleasure to be a guest on your show if you think this material is worthy.
For further information:
      Our Blog: http://aldimarvideo.blogspot.com/
      Our Website: http://aldimarvp.com/
Thanks for reading, and have a grand week,


Getting Back to Our Roots

I loved that President-elect Obama identified himself as a mutt. I think most Americans can rightly wear that label. As a teacher of genealogy, I delight in helping my students discover the threads that combine to make each of their unique mutt ancestries. I proudly wear my own English, French-Canadian, Irish, Native American and Scottish ancestry and am pleased to say that my children are industriously incorporating new ethnicities into our family story by mariage.


I enjoyed listening to the show and the interest that people have in finding out where they are from.  My story is probably common.  My parents divorced, my mother remarried and her new husband adopted my bother and me.  We lost half our family until I started doing geneology.  I'd always heard my father's family was no good, never amounted to anything.  Also heard that we come from a very small family.  Hah!  On my father's side we are related to many presidents, artists, actors, writers, poets,politicians, clergy and further back to three or four royal lines.  Almost twenty years of research I now have almost 100,00 relatives in the family tree...some small family!!

On a personal note, though.  Finding that many ancestors suffered from depression and some committed suicide helps me to understand myself and my moods as well as those of my children and grandchildren.  The tree holds people who marched to a different drummer.  I rather identify with so many of them and now no longer feel like a misfit.  I think it helps make a child whole who suffers through divorced parents or death of a parent. 

This in-depth and thoughtful

This in-depth and thoughtful piece reminds me why I listen to public radio.


Proud to be ethnic American

As social animals we always feel a need to belong.  However, how far are we willing to go to fullfill that need?
At what point to we proudly embrace our American ethnicity?  I see generations of people talking about ethnicity and how proud they are to be ???-American.  How many generations will it take to have people in the US feel ethnic American? 

When people come and ask me where I come from I tell them "I am from Chicago", this repsonse usually encourages further questions like: "No, what is your race/nationality?"  If I have the time and energy I usually try to educate them and teach them that ethnically I am American.  My nationality is American (specifically U.S.A.) and My race is white.  I grew up in Chicago and Puerto Rico oblivious to all this ethnic disctinction, however as I reach forty three and become consious of these "burning" social issues my awareness encourages me to challenge these so called accepted ethnicities and fight for my American Ethnicity.

Genealogist encourage people to go back and lookup their lineage?  But, how far do you go?  Do you accept ten generations as your lineage?  How about twenty? If you go back far enought you will obviously find that your ancestry is from Africa (for those who believe in evolution) or that your ancestry comes from Adam and Eve (if you believe in creationism).  So am I supposed to accept that you are ???-American even when you don't speak ??? language, rarely follow any of the customs if you follow them at all, and you grew up watching Howdy Doody, Scooby doo or the Brady bunch ?

I am sorry if you can't be proud enough to be Ethnic American, I am!