A PHOTOBLOG DOCUMENTING AMERICAN ORIGINS

We didn’t talk a lot about genealogy stuff a lot when I was a kid. Both of my parents had experiences as kids that they didn’t like to talk about and I think that relates to them not wanting to talk about the past. I remember doing a family tree and it was hard to get information from my parents. They didn’t seem to know anybody’s real nationality.

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I came to the USA when I was 15. I wanted to get out of my house. My mom treated me like a slave. I got a job babysitting. When I met my husband, I was ready to do something else. I didn’t care if he’d marry me or drop me off at a gas station. There was nothing for me in that hole. He invited me to move to Michigan with him after 2 weeks when I was 17.

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Both my parents are from Guatemala and it’s interesting because they didn’t meet until they came to Chicago. It’s even more interesting to find out the connections that they had at some point: my mom was friends with my dad’s sister and my dad worked for my mom’s father. 

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My family is from Romania. My father immigrated in May of 1995 and my mom, my brother and I followed in September. I was 6 years old. My parents were relatively well-off in Romania; they never looked to come here.

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When I was a little kid, I wanted to know where we were from. Turns out, my 5th great-grandfather came over here apparently penniless because when he left Amsterdam the boat stopped in England and there the people had a tendency to make them spend a lot of money.

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My mom moved here from France when she was four. My grandma grew up in France. My great-grandparents moved from Hungary to France because they were communists and they wanted to be where it was more liberal. I’m Jewish so the Holocaust really interfered with my grandmother’s childhood.

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There’s Cherokee Indian on my grandmother’s side. I think her mom was probably ¾ or full Cherokee Indian. It had always been a joke in our family that my mom belonged to a ‘pony tribe.’ ‘Pony’ because my mom was 5 feet tall and ‘tribe’ referring to her Indian heritage. This is a picture of my grandmother, and all her daughters all the way to my mom.

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My name is passed down from my dad’s dad who came to America when he was 12, did the whole Ellis Island thing. Went to Chicago. Grew up on the west side and talked about racism. He would say there were a couple of Irish dudes that would make fun of his grandma because she only spoke Italian. Everyone just hated everyone back then. – Rocco

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I was adopted so I don’t have any family history. My husband really wanted me to do the ancestory.com thing so we did that and found out that I am 49% Irish and the other 51% Western European. It was really cool because our grandkids came out with very red hair and that was cool to connect that. We definitely want to go to Ireland some day and see how we’re related.

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My parents were immigrants to Australia from Uruguay. I was born and raised in Australia but there’s definitely a lot of prejudice for whatever reason, they’re afraid of people from other places. I am very appreciative that they migrate there, it changed the way my life turned out.

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On my dad’s side I’m second generation Korean. His father came over from Korea very early. He was escaping a bad home environment. I think he arrived in Hawaii in 1912. He ended up in Chicago and worked as a cook in a Chinese restaurant.

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Crawford is a Scottish name. They’ve been in this country for so long we tend to think of them as Appalachian. My great-uncle was an entrepreneur. He lived a long way from the hard road and hauling corn that far wasn’t profitable but he discovered that if he liquified it into mash and then distilled it into a commercial product the profits were higher.

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I’m probably ¾ German and ¼ Irish with a little Swiss in there. My maternal grandfather’s family came from Southern Germany, the Bavaria area. My father’s family came from Northern Germany, north of Berlin. I got to visit both of those places.

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My father’s family is primarily from Northern Europe, in particular Belgium and if you go back before 1830 that means the Netherlands because that’s when Belgium won its independence. My father’s grandparents came. His grandmother was German and his grandfather was Belgian.

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Before the US, we’re from Sweden, Germany, England, and Ireland. I don’t have a clue on the history. My family’s been here a while. My girls are half that and half Guianese. Their dad’s mother came over to the US when she was 18. On the transfer over, their last name got a typo and they just kept it. The girls do all the traditions. Their father’s family is very traditional. Their grandma was actually an arranged marriage. – Katy & her girls

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My mom’s family is the product of 2 German families immigrating around the same time. They came over to be farmers. I’m not sure why; I think it was just a good opportunity. There was cheap, fertile land. I’m the descendant of working Germans.

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The very interesting story is about my great-grandfather who came over on the boat from Germany. They started out the trip with 10 children and the 2 parents but only 3 of the children made it to America. One of them was my great-grandfather.

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My grandma is 100% German/French. They were in the French Huguenots. They started changing their last names leading up into World War I. My grandma’s grandparents came from France to Newark and were working in the factories. My grandma’s dad was born in Newark but moved back to Germany because he didn’t like the conditions.

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My family is from Scotland. Grandpa Christie had a store in town here. When they remodeled the town they put facade over it. Later on they took off the facades and went back to natural. I was always proud of that sign. Grandpa had three sons. Evidently, he was quite rich. He gave each of his sons a farm. My dad was the youngest so he got the homestead. – Helen, on her 90th birthday

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I don’t know if you’re aware but for an immigrant to practice medicine in America you have to take licensing examinations which is 4 parts in English. Each of them is a big hurdle especially for someone who doesn’t know the language. I didn’t know any English when I started college. I took courses, my books were in English, I forced myself to read in English, to learn new words, etc.

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My great-great-grandfather came from Scotland. We have mixed, probably Dutch, English and Scottish. I’m told my maiden name is Irish. When I lived in New York, where everybody pegs you for what your nationality, they thought I was Polish but I’m not.

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My family’s Swedish. We came destitute to America and moved to Minnesota. It wasn’t safe to be a Swedish person, we didn’t outwardly say our names because we didn’t want to give away that we were immigrants. So when my great-great-grandparents put my great-grandparents into school, the 2nd grade teacher offered us a more Americanized spelling of our last name. That way if they hid their accents better they could be considered for jobs that would make a living wage.

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My family is from India. My mom came here first when she was around 12. They just came for a better life. My grandpa wanted to be a professor. He taught math and science. My grandma became a researcher for IBM. It was a big deal at the time.

My dad was born in Africa. Surprise!

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Google Capt. George Wellington Streeter. – Wayne

His wife:  He was a shyster.

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My maternal grandmother was born in Konigsberg, it was Poland at the time. She came over she was 5 years old. There’s a picture downstairs of her just before she left with her grandparents. They knew she was going to leave with her parents and they took this picture knowing they were never going to see her again. They never did see one another again.

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I suspect my relatives came here for the very same reason other people are now: because they wanted more for their families They wanted a better way of life and America was that place at that time just like it is for some people now.

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Most of my great-great-grandparents were immigrants: Hungary and Sweden. My great-grandmother had ancestors that go back to the American Revolution. Beyond that, her mom’s parents were immigrants from Hungary, they owned the first cab company in Gary, IN. So there’s a fun fact. But really my dad gets all the bragging rights with ancestry to Dvorak and Sir Isaac Newton. – Aaron

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My mother is part Irish and French. My dad was German and French. I like the French heritage, anything French is awesome. They were French Canadian. I’ve always been drawn to French things. It might be my grandfather’s influence. He was a very cool guy. My mom would use some French words. Everybody was proud of being French, even if it was French Canadian.

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My parents are both from Jamaica. My dad initially left Jamaica when he was 16 and he went to New York to join my grandma who was working as a nurse there and sending money home to raise the kids. My parents actually maintained a long distance relationship. They broke up at first, they met at like 13 years old, but they would write letters. My dad had sent my mom an engagement ring by mail when she was still in Jamaica.

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My dad’s grandma was actually born here but her parents brought her two brothers over from Hungary. Every Christmas we still make a nut pastry called Nut Rolls, or kiffles in Hungarian. My dad’s father was English but he was born here. They moved to Alberta, Canada and the winters were so harsh that his dad actually lost his leg from frost bite.

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Mom and Dad grew up in the same neighborhood, actually rode the same horse to school once in awhile. They go way back in this area. My mom’s dad was a hobo; he rode the rail and died before I was born. So I’ve got a hobo for a grandpa, don’t know where he was from. Mom always preached to us that we’re mutts. Heinz 57 she would say. We’re Scotch, Welsh, Irish, Dutch, and Indian. 

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My dream was to come here to study and work because it was really hard in my country to go to college. Even though I love my Colombia, my family, I had a dream to make my life bigger.
It is not how I pictured it. I was naive. I was sheltered. I really didn’t know much about life. I was crushed when I got here.

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1958 my grandmother came over from Italy and settled in the Philadelphia area, it was a Little Italy. So she settled with a bunch of Italians but did learn English and became a citizen. I later found out she was a mistress. Apparently, my grandmother moved here pregnant with my mom. Her real father was this architect that she had met in Naples. And he had her in a little apartment like something out of the Sopranos and she was the other woman.

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My father was born in Liverpool, England. He was orphaned at an early age because his parents died of Tuberculosis. Everybody was dying of Tuberculosis back then. His family was Catholic so they sent him to a Catholic orphanage. When he was about 13, he was sent to Canada because that’s where they sent the orphans. They sent him to a Catholic, French-Canadian family near Ottawa. They were sort of like indentured servants.

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My maternal grandmother and grandfather came from Poland when they were a young married couple. She already had a child, a boy, and lost a child en route in the ship. They went on to have 7 children and my mother was right in the middle. My grandfather was a mason and carpenter and my grandmother took in laundry.

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My dad’s family was French. That’s where my last name came from. It used to be spelled Campeau, but when they moved over here for some reason they dropped the ‘e’ which gives it the true French spelling. That’s why no one can pronounce my last name.

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My grandparents’ parents came over from Czechoslovakia so that’s where I’m from, half of me at least! They like to Polka dance. Frank will throw it down! – Olivia

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My mother’s father’s side, they came from a combination of Ireland and Great Britain because my great-grandfather was a rent collector for a British land owner who owned land in Ireland. One of his tenants was named Mary and they fell in love. He decided that Mary and the rest of the Irish were getting the shaft from the British, which they were,

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I have a very blended family. My dad’s from Lebanon, my mom’s from Indonesia and my step-dad’s from Trinidad. It’s almost every continent. When my family gets together, no two people look the same. I feel like that’s so American.

Every single one of my parents came over for school. My parents met at Wayne State and got married there.

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My mother is from Caracas, Venezuela and my dad is from Bueno Aires, Argentina. My father came to America with his family in the 70’s. My mother ended up coming to study English when she was 19 and then never left. They met because my dad’s best friend was dating my mom’s cousin and so they met on a blind date. My mom was not interested, at all. My dad was just persistent and won her over eventually.

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My dad’s side is really interesting because his dad, my paternal grandpa, is a naturalized citizen from Mexico. He got his green card and was a painter for the University of Texas. Then he became a citizen so he had his own painter company.

My great paternal grandpa came from Italy or so I was told. His last name was LaFranco but then I heard later that he was actually French and his last name was LeFrancais but they changed it when he came over during WWII.

On my mom’s side, they’re from Texas for as long as I can remember. We were in Texas before it was even Texas. – Jasmin

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I’m a quarter French, Irish, German and Lebanese. My mom’s father was first generation but his family was originally from Serhal, Lebanon. I’ve always considered myself a quarter Lebanese but that town was originally part of Syria. Today it is part of Lebanon. My mom always said growing up that it was bad to say they were from Syrian.

My grandma’s family were the first French settlers that settled Detroit. That’s pretty cool. – Lori

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My mom was probably only a quarter Polish but her mom was always proud of her Polish heritage because she taught herself the language. Her husband was right from Poland. His last name was spelled with lots of y’s and k’s. Her favorite story was she’d see him sitting in the chair reading the newspaper from Poland and he’s laughing laughing, she goes, what’s so funny old man? He’d say, if you’re so smart girl American girl, you read it you figure out yourself! So she taught herself Polish with the help of the neighbors. 

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My last name is Scottish. The further back you research the purer the ancestry but as you get closer to yourself it’s more mixed. We come from all different ancestries especially in this country. We’re such a melting pot. We’re not perfect. But we integrate, we meet people from other ancestry. They marry and by the time you go down a few generations, you’re from everywhere!

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Grandma’s family was very wealthy and powerful. So when the Japanese invaded China, they took Grandma’s parents’ house as their house and forced them to live in the gatekeeper house at the front of the property. Sometimes they would hide under the hospital beds so when the Japanese went through and did checks they wouldn’t know they were there.

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My grandmother came over as a kid from Scotland. She was 1 of 4 sisters and they used to all sing together as they cleaned up at the end of a meal. Apparently they had amazing voices. Her family was split by 2 feuding clans, Bruce and Wallace. It was sort of like Romeo and Juliet whoever ended up getting together because they were not supposed to mix but it was a while ago. – Katie

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Grandma and Grandpa came over in 1907 when they were first married. My grandpa wanted to leave Czechoslovakia to avoid the Austrian military. His brother hadn’t gotten any papers yet, so he used his brother’s ID to get through Ellis Island. In 1919, he became a citizen and he was a good patriotic American but he came illegally. I’m a couple generations removed so I don’t think they’ll try to get rid of me but if ICE comes to the door I’m hiding under the bed. – Jan

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I know there’s Polish and I know there’s Hungarian. On my mom’s side of the family we have stuffed cabbage around the holidays and it’s really good. On my dad’s side we used to go once a year to a Polish restaurant in Bay City that is super traditional. They have stuff that you’ve never heard of.

Oh wow, I forgot the nut rolls. They’re literally called Hungarian Nut Rolls. – Craig

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My grandpa is literally from Scotland; we have a family crest. But we haven’t kept anything traditionally Scottish, except my beard. His family followed his father to Canada for work. My grandpa was a preacher. He got his first church when he finished school, he was 21. Can you imagine being 21 years old and being the religious leader for people of all ages? 

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My husband, his whole background is Irish and his mom is directly from Poland. She came over when she was 4 years old. When I married into their family, nobody hugged. I was the one that started the hugging tradition. I remember hugging my sister-in-law and she just looked at me and said, we don’t do that, and I said, well I do. It’s something so basic, you think everybody does it, but his family really didn’t! – Doreen

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My yiayia, grandmother in Greek, came here when she was a teenager from Greece. My papou, that’s grandfather, came when he was in his early twenties to start a business. There wasn’t as many opportunities in Greece. He just wanted to come to America. Yiayia and Papou only spoke English to my dad and his sisters because they were very proud to be Americans and they wanted them to have the full American experience. – Angela

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My dad’s from Southern Germany and my mom’s from Canada. She moved here when they got married. It was a conscience decision on her part not to become a citizen. But my dad’s a citizen, he became a citizen when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I remember helping him study for the test, things that I was learning in school he had to learn too. You know, when you’re 9 that’s kind of exciting, teaching your dad something.

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My parents are immigrants. They immigrated from the Netherlands in 1953. They had gotten married in the Netherlands and my dad could not find employment there. He had a brother that was living in Michigan at the time and I don’t know how it all came to be but his brother hooked him up with a job at Bil Mar, a turkey processing plant. Anyway they came by boat in February and my mother was pregnant with my oldest sister. Her claim to fame is she says she’s the only one on the boat that wasn’t sick.

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It initially started with my grandparents’ grandparents that came to America from the Netherlands. They came over on a ship at Ellis Island. With my dad’s side of the family, since he’s African American, his family has been here since the, I want to say, early 1800’s. But as my mom did more and more research she found out that her ancestors were slave traiters and built ships that went to West Africa which is where we think my father’s family is from. It is extremely probable that my mother’s ancestors brought my father’s ancestors to America which is real weird.

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I need to ask my sister, Swede I want to say? We’re just like down home Southern people. My dad married my mom and immediately came to Michigan with his two brothers to get jobs at General Motors. They all three shared a little apartment until they could all get jobs at GM. While my dad was up here my oldest sister was born. She’d already been born and while my mom was in hospital with her the town flooded. The whole first floor of the hospital was underwater. My dad paid a guy in a rowboat to take him to the hospital. He climbed through a window to see my sister for the first time. 

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We thought my grandma was Puerto Rican but then after doing some research we found out that her parents were actually born in Spain and then moved to Puerto Rico and had their children then. So then my grandma moved here, it was kind of funny, she really played that ditzy housewife of the era that she grew up in. She spoke Spanish, French and English. She was a very smart woman

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My father is German mainly and some Irish, my mother is Polish 100% and then my husband is French so my girls are the melting pot. Stir the pot, be the pot. – Monica

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My grandfather came from Canada and he walked or road his bike from there down to Detroit. There he worked his way up to be a cop. He was a bicycle cop, not a motorcycle cop, and he was chasing speeding cars on Belle Isle that was his whole job. He stayed with the police all his life and ended up as Deputy Police Commissioner. – James

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According to my grandfather, Jacques Cartier is a direct descendant of ours. My grandpa, his name was ‘Frenchie’, that was his nickname, he was French. He was a character. – Michael

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My father came as a diplomat from what was then Pakistan. We went to Washington D.C. My parents went back relatively soon and I stayed back just to finish up the last few months of 10th grade and I’m still here. When I finished 10th grade, then I said ‘I’m going to try to accelerate and finish high school’.

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On my mom’s side, I know that they’re all Irish, like full blood Irish except for my grandma I guess she’s Polish. Anyway they’re from Ireland like Irish Irish. Their last name’s Moran. That’s about as Irish as it gets unless they had a Mc in front of it. It’s kind of funny when people are like, ‘oh my God, what ethnicity are you?’ I’m definitely more than a quarter Irish.

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My family is from Nottinghamshire, England. My great-great-grandma got pregnant when she was 16 which back then was super frowned upon. Her family decided, when the child was born, they would ship her to America. So that’s where my great-grandma came from.

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They’re from Quebec, my mom was born there. She’s still Canadian, she’s not an American citizen. Her sisters all got their American citizenship but she didn’t want to.

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Part of us were Native Americans, mom’s grandparents were Indian so they probably came when God made the…We are Scotch, Welsh, Dutch, Irish, and Indian. We are mutts. We have Indian blood in us and I think that’s where I get my high cheek bones, and why mom’s hair didn’t go grey. Her grandma was an Indian. We are the Blackfoot Tribe of Northern Michigan, but my feet are not black, I’m just saying. – Helen

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My grandpa, the Jamaican one, he was born there obviously. He came to the U.S. for work because he didn’t want to be stuck in Jamaica. He knew that if he stayed there he would not have a good life and growing up he knew that all the well off people of Jamaica moved to New York. They worked for a really long time and then they moved back to their homeland so that’s exactly what he did. He actually worked on the Twin Towers.  

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Wellington, NZ, WWII, my father was a wounded American sailor out walking with a friend. They saw a couple of girls approaching and (he) said see that one on the right, I’m going to marry her. So he said, ‘excuse me, do you know what time it is?’ and here we are. That was a love story.

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Natalie: My husband’s parents are straight off the boat from Italy…they owned a business for 42 years, like a pizza place…let’s order Domino’s-yeah right, we can make anything better than that stuff and when we do eat that stuff it’s crap you know? So we can never go out to eat at an Italian restaurant because it’s all gross. It’s for real.

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My mom’s family is from Sicily my great-grandparents came over here and got married and lived in Chicago and had a candy store. – Julie

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My great-great grandpa came to here from the Netherlands and he bounced all over the country from what I understand. My (other) grandpa was born in Canada but I think his family came from Germany. Interesting thing, my grandpa was born there in Canada he was 3 and a half pounds or something they put him in a shoebox next to the wood stove to keep him warm the doctors all said he should have died. – Luke

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I don’t know anything about my family’s heritage really besides when my brother and I were curious and we looked it up and the heritage of my last name is Welsh. – Chelsea

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