Going Places Educational Travel Blog - The Old Country
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June 25, 2014

The Old Country

I’ve been a genealogy buff for a while now, having traced both sides of my family back eight generations.  The data is fascinating and steeped in history, and reminds me of the older people in my family who were still alive during my childhood.

During trips back home to my birthplace of Chicago, we would hear my great-grandmother speaking English in her heavy, Norwegian accent. Other elders would speak German, or a mix of German and English.  A couple of uncles had Irish brogues.

Growing up just outside of Boston, I had many friends whose grandparents and great-grandparents (and even parents!) came here from Europe.  There was my best childhood friend whose family came from Armenia, I spent a lot of time with them, and sometimes consider myself an honorary Armenian!  Love the food!

Next door to them, our other neighbor was from France. She made her own wine, their house always smelled like garlic, and she hunted in the woods for mushrooms.  Who would have ever thought that, decades later, all those things would become trendy and mainstream?  She was ahead of her time.

When I went off to college, I met new friends whose families came from Poland and Russia – not just their parents – they themselves!  I learned some Polish words and phrases (most of which I can’t repeat here), and (once again) learned to love their delicious foods!

My other best childhood friend went off to college in Italy, where she was supposed to study for a year.  She met a guy, fell in love, and got married.  They ended up moving back to the U.S. and it is always such fun hearing them banter in Italian together.

In each of these cases, the older folks talked about going “back to the old country.”  Or, they would reminisce about “the old country.”  They would actually use that phrase.  Not “back in Poland” or “when I lived in Armenia”… they’d say “back in the old country.”  A lot of them never went back, sadly.  Some of the younger ones do return from time to time, especially if they still have family living in the old country.

Doing my genealogy got me thinking that I should get “to the old country” of my ancestors.  I’ve made a somewhat half-baked start! For instance, I’ve been to Ireland twice, but not to Tipperary where my Irish family is from.  I’ve been to the more touristy parts of Germany (Frankfurt, Heidelberg, the Black Forest), but not to northern Germany where my families originated (known as Hunsruck, Prussia andMecklenburg-Schwerin).

Have you made a list of ancestral places to visit, based on your own family history?  Tell us about it in the comments!


Category: For Teachers, Travel Inspiration


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