Identity is a messy topic, no question about it. Just ask my German-speaking
grandmother whose 1941 application for naturalization listed her as being from Austria (which is
crossed out), Germany (also crossed out) and Galicia, Poland. She was actually (we think) a
Galizien Deutsche born in Neudorf-by-Drohobycz in Austria-Hungary. She eventually listed herself as Polish
on her naturalization certificate. I can only guess, but I think she did so in part because it was much
more popular to be Polish than German in the USA in 1941.
We readily throw around terms like "American", "German" and "Polish" without really thinking much about what
they mean. And it is good thing we don't think too much, otherwise we'd be never get beyond the first
word. These are necessary oversimplifications of categories that overlap, move, shimmer, consume one
disappear with time, experience and perception. One can't define what is Swedish or Chinese any
more than one can define the flavor of an orange, the taste of a pear. Genealogy is, in part, the
study of these mysterious tastes.
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