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Research & Reflection on Your Family Story


If you who don’t have much information about your family’s origins, see note at the end of this page. Thanks!


As you reflect on the material covered in David’s Roots Deeper Than Whiteness article, consider how your family story fits into this historical analysis. We are particularly interested in your thinking about your family as part of a larger wave of migration. Once you have reviewed the resources listed below, and (potentially) done a little bit of your own research, please write down observations in preparation for Session Two.

David closely addresses early British settlers who came primarily into Virginia in the 1600’s. Of course there are other, distinct early waves from Britain during this time period (Albion’s Seed is a helpful and thorough source on this, for your reference).


The articles listed below are focused on European immigrants who came after these initial, early waves from the British Isles. Please pick articles relevant to your family experience, to supplement your thoughts on where your family fits into the larger picture.


We recognize that the following list is not comprehensive. If you would like to share other materials with class members (or review what others have shared), we welcome you to drop links to books, articles, videos, etc into this shared google document (clicking on the link should allow you to write into the document directly online; if you have trouble, send us your materials at and we’ll add them for you.) 


White immigrants weren’t always considered white — and acceptable – Brando Starkey / The Undefeated (10-20 min read)This article looks at waves immigrations from southern and eastern Europe in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, considering: Italians, Greeks, Poles, Hungarians, Slavs and other European groups.


When the Irish became white: immigrants in mid-19th century US – Patrick McKenna / The Irish Times (7-15 min read).


How Jews Became White Folks — and May Become Nonwhite Under Trump – Karen Brodkin / Forward (10-15 min read)We will be sharing more materials specifically for Jews after session 2, so that they are available to you during the two week break between sessions 2 & 3.


Short note for those of you who don’t know much about your family: 


We want this coursework to be accessible to everyone who takes the class, regardless of how much you know about your particular family of origin. Understanding that ancestral recovery is a lifelong journey, we hope that the information and activities we share in this class will be helpful to everyone, regardless of where you are in this journey right now. With this in mind, you might consider the following points:


  1. First off, if you're feeling like you don't know where to start, we hope that our genealogical research training on February 20th will be of use to you. However there is much we can do to learn about our family stories even without tons of specific family history data. 

  2. Much of the course will be looking into general patterns that have occurred within the process of migration/immigration and assimilation that has taken place somewhere along the line for all of us who are now categorized as white.

  3. Assimilation into whiteness does obscure or even obliterate ethnic or cultural belonging. However, most folks know something (or assume something) about their family origin (such as whether or not you are Italian, or Irish, etc). Because we are looking at larger patterns and migration waves, we feel you can read a lot into the little bit that you know, and then continue to flesh this out further over time.

  4. If you know absolutely nothing at all about your family origins (other than that you and your parents/grandparents are “white”), then it’s likely your family history is similar to what David describes in the Roots Deeper than Whiteness article of the early British settlers. You can always get at least a little insight by doing a general Google search on your last name, and any of the “maiden” names of family members before you, as a very simple starting place. 

  5. Also keep in mind that we are considering ancestry in broader terms that your family lineage alone. We are also considering ancestry of culture (which could mean, where in the states does your family live? where have they lived over the past few generations?), as well as ancestry of the social collective of whiteness.

Return to the course participant page.

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