08:00 AM

When Your Family History Isn’t What You Thought


For most of my life, I was under the impression I was German and Norwegian. My mom lived in Germany for a year and my dad had visited in his early 20s to understand more about his German heritage. While I don’t remember meeting my great-grandparents, I knew their names, their stories, and their personalities. My mother’s mother had meticulously documented her family’s history, and I sat with her while she rattled off a web of names, pointed to who married who and which relatives bequeathed our side of the family antiques from the homeland. As a kid, I could fill in my family tree for school projects and wore thick Norwegian sweaters for Christmas photos. We started every meal with a German blessing “Gesegnete Mahlzeit,” and knew the terrifying story of Father Christmas and his bundle of sticks.

So, knowing my history, it was funny that I fell into Irish Dancing. For 12 years of my life, I would travel to Ireland multiple times a year for dance competitions. The Irish friends I made always asked how we ended up so involved in a culture we didn’t share, to which I shrugged and said I loved the music and it was a lot more exciting than ballet.