I want to wish all my readers a Happy 4th of July! May you have wonderful and safe celebrations. The area where I live is very dry and I’m hoping my neighbors go out to watch fireworks so the firefighters can have some rest.
Today is the day we celebrate the Declaration of Independence. The event that lead to the colonies breaking free of England’s rule and setting out on their own course.
As I was reading the various social media feeds of my genealogy friends, I saw many posts about American Revolution ancestors. Many people even have roots back to the Pilgrims.
The thought occurred to me that compared to a lot of others my American roots are young. I have what I refer to as “new immigrants”. My earliest ancestor to make it to America’s shores were the Kelly and Dolan’s who came over from Ireland during the Potato Famine around 1848. The Jones followed from Australia around 1855.
And then, there is a 25 year old gap before anyone else jumped the pond. The real wave of immigration for my family starts around 1879 when my Great Grandfather’s sister, Madeleine (Mazeres) Menaud, decided to get on board a ship and make her way to San Francisco from Ogeu les bains, France. We don’t know her reasons for coming but perhaps she was here seeking work.
In 1882, the Azoreans came. The Pacheco’s and de Braga’s were part of the migration to Hawaii–a long line of Azoreans and Madeirans who were contracted to work on the sugar plantations that were in dire need of cheap labor as their industry grew. Whole families migrated to populate the islands and fill the labor shortage.
The rest of my French ancestors filtered in, taking their time to do so.The Segalas, Breilh, and Mazeres families made their way to San Francisco starting with Madeleine around 1878, but got serious around 1885. Their migration was different than the Azoreans. They came over one or two at a time, tried to establish themselves, then paved the way for the next sibling to come over.
My Grandpa Lassalle was the last one to come to America. He left Ogeu les bains in 1907 and made his way from Ellis Island to San Francisco. My Grandpa left France to avoid conscription in the French Army. Ironically, when WWI broke out he was drafted. As he was on his way to France, the war ended–fortunate for him! Later when one job was not enough to feed and shelter a family of 8 during the Depression, he joined the National Guard. While his second job kept food on the table, this move caused animosity amongst his neighbors who didn’t think a foreigner should be allowed to hold two jobs when real Americans couldn’t get one. My Grandfather was a citizen by this point, by the way.
When I think about the 4th of July, the beginning of the revolution, I think of how our founders and their followers set the groundwork that made America a welcoming place for immigrations. My ancestors surely would not have come otherwise.
So, though I don’t have any ancestors in America during the revolution, I reflect on those that came later. They arrived almost a hundred years after the revolution, riding the wave of a different revolution, the Industrial Revolution. They arrived in different parts of the country and with different motivations, but all eventually ended up in the San Francisco Bay Area right around the time the earthquake struck. It’s just a coincidence, really.
Most struggled with the language, worked in difficult conditions for long hours, and stuck primarily to the neighborhoods and communities where others from their home country lived. They kept their language and traditions for the most part. But, each contributed in their own small way to the success of this nation–or, at least, their own small piece of it. Whether it was through their work, through protest or voting, or through military service, they became a part of the American fabric like so many others. Their children had more opportunities than they had and were that special blend of American with roots in other parts of the world.
So, I give thanks to the founders of this nation and the great foundation that they set for America. And, I think of how my immigrant ancestors were very much a part of those who came for a better life–and still do today. I wouldn’t be here without them!
Enjoy your celebrations!