I have often posted about politics in the past. Lately it has been too damn depressing. I was surfing around, however, at a Facebook page titled Historians Against Donald Trump, kicked off by the iconic Ken Burns, and some fuming and festering in the comments about illegal immigrants made me realize: you know, goddamn, at least one of my ancestors was an illegal immigrant. No shit.
What the story is, at least as my father told it to me, is that once upon a time there was a Norwegian able seaman named Michaelssen who put into port in the great city of New Orleans, and Herr Michaelssen, whose antecedents are fairly sketchy, apparently decided he had had quite enough of the seafaring life. Having jumped ship, he made his way inland, and I mean way inland, finally fetching up, like Odysseus, at a point where people didn’t know what his oar was and had to ask. We’re talking Nebraska here.
Just speculating, but I don’t think he went through an immigration office. Eighteen hundred something. He married into a German family that had entered in a more formal way, and eventually there was a daughter who married a second-generation Scots-Irishman, which is sort of a parlayed Norwegian anyway, und so weiter until you get to me.
But, you know, all very very white and Northern, which I guess is the difference. No stories of great-great-grandfather Michaelssen (who did change his name to avoid awkward inquiries, to something very drab and English) encountering suspicion from the authorities or hysteria from the populace.