In a widely shared clip from a Fox News appearance over the weekend, Tomi Lahren showcased just how little she understands how this country was built:
.@TomiLahren: "You don't just come into this country with low skills, low education, not understanding the language and come into our country because someone says it makes them feel nice. That's not what this country is based on." @WattersWorld pic.twitter.com/Dux0cABHar
My friend Brooke had exactly the right take:
I think all Americans appeared out of thin air, spun from whiskey and eagle feathers. My ancestors didn’t immigrate here, they sprang from the center a pile of American flags, singing the National Anthem. I’m Tomi Lahren; hire me.
— Brooke Rogers 🌻 (@bkerogers) May 13, 2018
Lahren’s statement doesn’t just display an ignorance of American history, but also a total disregard for the work previous generations have done with genealogy. Thanks to the power of the Internet, it’s easier than ever before to do genealogical research. A subscription to Ancestry.com opens up a trove of documents from all over the world; painstakingly scanned and transcribed.
Over the years, I’ve delved into this world, and unfortunately find that I am the youngest person in the room at genealogy events by about two generations. As with many trades and skills, genealogy is one of those hobbies that millennials have no interest in taking up.
When I began researching my own family, I only knew my grandparents’ names on both sides of my family, and the name of one great-grandmother. Thanks to Ancestry and a few hundred dollars spent ordering death and marriage certificates from the archives in New York City, I’ve learned an incredible amount about my family’s origins.
The investigation has come with some fascinating discoveries: after a great aunt died, her widower married his sister-in-law. These second cousins saw their aunt turn into their step-mother overnight. Also uncovered was an infant brother of my grandmother’s, buried in the family plot without a headstone or marker of any kind. That discovery was made a few weeks after the birth of my second child, and we discovered this long-lost great uncle who never saw past his first week had the same name as our new son.
What has been most personally enriching is really understanding how much the history I already knew affected my family personally. It’s one thing to intellectually know that the graves and documents belonging to European Jewry was destroyed; it’s quite another to run into a brick wall because of it. While on my mother’s side I was able to easily reach back as far as eight generations thanks to the documents on Ancestry and the work done on the site by long-lost distant cousins; I was barely able to reach back two generations on my father’s. I was able to learn the names of the relatives who made it to America, and sometimes those of their parents if their names were listed on death certificates, but nothing else.
The most humbling part of doing this research has been seeing just how little my family had in terms of money, education, and expertise upon their arrival here. The first relative of mine to arrive here did so 12 years before he died, and managed to bring over all of his adult children before dying. What I know of him is from the 1900 census: he was a tailor from Austria, spoke no English, and could not read or write. His children would be able to learn how to read and write according to later censuses, but they too would work in menial jobs and live in rented homes, bouncing around New York City over the course of their lifetimes. It doesn’t seem as though my great-grandparents were even able to afford to be buried together in the same cemetery (I’ve been thus far unable to locate my great-grandmother, though I am reasonably certain she is buried in the same location as her husband).