USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘ancestry’
Customs
Gestures
Kinesthetic

Ancestral Visits

Informant Info: The informant is a 21-year-old male who was born and raised in Chanhassen, Minnesota. His parents both moved to America from India when they were in their twenties. He is currently a student at USC studying Electrical Engineering.

 

Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: Do your parents, being first generation immigrants, have any traditions or rituals that they’ve passed down to you?

 

Interviewee: Every time we go to India, we take the train down to my mother’s ancestral village, like where her parents and grandparents grew up. It’s really old and small… only like 20 or 30 people live there I think…so it’s really tiny. And everyone is old, I think the average age is like 80ish, not to be rude.  But it is really, really important to my mom, so we go every time.

 

Analysis:

This story represents the significance of ancestral history. Despite leaving India and coming to America, his mother’s ancestral home is still very important her. It is where she grew up with her parents, spent her childhood, and was taught all of the values and traditions that she still carries with her today. For her, she goes to pay her respects to her ancestors and her hometown, and by doing so, the informant is also learning about its importance.

general

Family Heritage

Folklore Piece 13

 

Main Piece: Story of the Romanov Family

 

My family is distantly related to royalty through the Romanov family, and my mother told me this story as a part of our heritage.

 

“The Romanov Family rules Russia for over 300 years. The last Czar of Russia was Nicholas II, and he had been in power for over 20 years. In 1917, Russia was on a downturn in terms of following the current diplomatic state of the Czar. Their economy was on the downturn as a result of their involvement in World War 1. The Lenin-led Bolshevik revolution led what was called the Red Army in an attempt to overthrow the Czar, who’s loyalists were attempting to contain the coup, referred to as the White Army.

A curse was put upon the royal family by Grigori Rasputin, who was the advisor to the Czar. The general public blamed their misery on Rasputin because of his poor job of advising the Czar, including getting Russia involved in World War 1. Sensing something was coming, Rasputin warned Nicholas II of a prophecy: ‘Czar of Russia, if you hear the bell, it is telling you that Grigori has been murdered and you must know this: it was one of your relations who brought death upon me, and no one of your blood will live past two years, being killed by the Russian people.’

Both of Rasputin’s prophecies came try. Only two weeks after warning Nicholas II, Rasputin was killed by Prince Yusupov, who was married to a niece of Nicholas II, meaning his death was family related as was prophesized. A year and a half later, the entire Romanov family was executed once Lenin’s Red Army had seized power.

It is believed that Princess Anastasia of the Romanov family escaped the firing squad of the Bolshevik’s, carrying with her many family jewels. It is still unclear what was the outcome of Princess Anastasia, as she disappeared after escaping the overthrown state.

Imposters have tried to identify themselves as her over the years, but in 2008 there were remains found that match her DNA.”

 

Background:

 

My mom Laurie told me this story as a partial history of my heritage. I am distantly related to the Romanov family on my father’s side of the family, and my great grandmother told my mom this story once when my mom and dad still lived in Canada. My mom likes this story because it gives us a small bit of heritage in a royal family, and she thinks that is very cool to be able to say. She likes that it is historical while at the same time has a mysterious side to is, as it is still unclear what was the outcome of Princess Anastasia.

My great grandmother died before I had the chance to really have a conversation with her, let alone remember having seen her, and she had many stories about our family’s past. My Great Grandparents were raised in Eastern Europe during World War 2, as my Grandfather told me the story of how his father lost three fingers on his right hand. He was out playing in the field with his siblings when a grenade landed in front of him, and being a naïve child, ran to it to pick it up. It detonated near him, causing only damage to his hand but blowing off his middle, ring, and pinky fingers in the process.

 

Context:

 

My mother told me this story to give me a sense of where our family came from, and although we are distantly related, we still hold close to our heritage. When people ask what nationality our family is, saying Canadian isn’t exactly intriguing to people, and since my grandparents were the first generation to live in Canada, we tend to tell people we have Eastern European roots, giving this story as a background to where we come from.

This is generally told when someone asks about our heritage, and doesn’t necessarily have much context otherwise. It is usually an attention grabber, as most people would not expect my family to be of Eastern European descent, let alone royalty. Obviously the Romanov’s were overthrown, but to still have a connection to them is something I will hold on to and tell my kids about.

 

My thoughts:

 

As a kid, I loved the movie Anastasia, which was an animated depiction of how Anastasia escaped the Bolsheviks and was on the run to avoid getting executed. I like the mysterious aspect to the story in that we are not entirely sure what ended up happening with Anastasia. I personally would’ve loved to have a distant relative still in royalty but just being related to something so significant in history.

 

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Material

The Horse Statue

The Main Piece
Folk objects have been symbols for memories, past loved ones, and important places one has been to for ages. Their value is decided not monetarily, but by the owner. For instance, the porcelain horse statue Demie owns is not worth a lot monetarily, but because of its age and its passage through generations of family members, she finds it to be irreplaceable. To be more precise, the horse is a representation of her great, great, grandfather. Her family keeps it in the living room as a reminder of their ancestry and where they came from.
Background Information
My informant is Demie Cuo, a current undergraduate student at USC and friend of my close friend, Elizabeth Kim. The statue was brought to the states from China, it being one of the few possessions he owned. She is unsure why he brought the statue of all things, but it obviously meant a lot to him. Therefore, Demie cherishes it just as he cherishes it in respect for her great, great, grandfather. Her mother told her about the horse since it stems from her side of the family. Demie enjoys having the horse there because it makes her feel connected to her culture and ancestors even if she did not have the opportunity to meet them. She would also hope to pass down a folk object that would preserve her existence.
Context
She, Elizabeth, and I were relaxing in my dormitory sharing stories of our life back home. She casually brought up that if we were to ever visit her, that we would see this odd statue in living room. She began to explain the significance of it and why it was there.
Personal Thoughts
The idea of preserving my existence truly intrigues me. I had no idea that a folk object could mean that much or do so much for a family. It brings to light what small actions such as keeping a horse statue can do. I found it interesting the she placed value in the horse simply because it meant so much to her great great grandfather, even though she had never met him. It is obvious that ancestry and culture mean a lot to Demie and her family.

Legends
Narrative

The Night Marchers

The informant is an 18-year-old college student attending university in Hawaii. She was born and raised in the Bay Area, California, but has a great deal of family living in Hawaii who she visited frequently when growing up. While I was on a hike with the informant in San Ramon, California over spring break, I asked if she could talk about some traditional Hawaiian beliefs, and she described the Night Marchers.

“Basically, the Night Marchers are a tribe of old Hawaiian warriors that walk certain paths throughout the Hawaiian Islands, usually during the night. They don’t necessarily go around killing things, but if you’re caught in their path then you have to get naked and lay in the fetal position to show submissiveness. You’ll know they’re coming because you’ll hear the sound of beating drums and see torchlights. Sometimes to show that you are truly submissive to them you even have to pee yourself. You also have to keep your eyes closed and can’t look them in the eye. If you have Hawaiian blood in you, hopefully one of your ancestors will notice you and save you, but if you do not, and especially if you aren’t submissive or don’t get in the fetal position, there’s a chance the Night Marchers will kill you. Not necessarily on the spot, but there have been cases where someone encounters the Night Marchers and has died a few nights later.”

By representing warriors that fought to protect Hawaii in the land’s past, the Night Marchers are a manifestation of the island’s tumultuous past and the lengths that native Hawaiian’s ancestors have taken to protect their customs and traditions. The way in which a person is supposed to react when caught in the Night Marchers’ path highlights the considerable respect that Hawaiian natives have for their ancestors. By stripping and laying in the fetal position, anyone who encounters the Night Marchers must make themselves entirely vulnerable, showing that they do indeed have respect for their ancestry and the land. This legend shows the importance that islanders place on nativity, as having a blood-relative in the Marchers can guarantee one’s safety. It seems that the ultimate purpose of this legend for Hawaiians is to warn anyone against disrespecting their native islands, or else be prepared to suffer the consequences.

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