MENOMINEE - At the turn of the 20th Century, my grandparents came to America from northern Italy in search of a better life. America promised them the opportunity to improve themselves through hard work. They embraced this challenge, and carved out a successful life for themselves and their children.
Imagine you doing this leaving your family, never knowing if you will see them again (millions never did); traveling across an ocean just months after the Titanic sank, arriving in a country not knowing the language, and without support having to travel across that country in search of a job.
Put yourself in their shoes. Would you take that risk? Most of us would not. The risk was huge, but they persevered despite all of the odds. They found jobs; learned to speak and write in English (in their homes, they spoke their native language); became American citizens; and they voted.
These immigrants transformed America, from a rural to an industrial nation. If you're interested, you might want to explore these following suggestions to reconnect with their struggle:
1) Memorabilia - If there are letters from your grandparents or great- grandparents, read them as they may reveal their personal struggles.
2) Living great-grandparents - Some are still living and are a true wealth of information on how life was like. Dust off that video recorder.
3) To show appreciation of their struggles; locate books on the immigrants' life in America at the turn of the 20th Century.
4) Web - For additional information search the web to see if your grandparents or great-grandparents arrived at Ellis Island.
5) Honor them by making something of your life.
Successful they were, maybe not in riches, but in life. What held them together was their faith in a higher power. They put their life in His hands
This is the beginning of a trilogy of articles on our grandparents, parents, and their descendants. If you would like to comment on any of these articles or have ideas to share, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Paul is the administrator at Menominee Catholic Central Elementary School. His columns, which explore family relationships, are published monthly in Lifestyles.