Native, Born, Bred, Reared, Raised, or Just From Somewhere
Recently, Reinette Jones, a staff librarian at University of Kentucky Libraries, asked a provocative question, if I was from Kentucky. Technically I am, I lived there about fifty years ago. Emotionally, I am, my parents were from Kentucky, my grandparents were from Kentucky. Intellectually, I am, I have been polishing the soon to-be-published, History and Descendants of Jacob and Margaret (Gerber) Breintenstein of Louisville. That’s not what she meant. She was asking if I was a native, and I am not. I was not born in Kentucky, though tons of relatives and ancestors were. Like my mother, my father was raised in Kentucky. He lived in Kentucky for most of the first twenty years of his life. He was born in Tennessee, bred in Kentucky, raised there, graduated from U. K., served in the Army, worked out west for a bit and even returned to U.K. for his Master’s Degree. My sister on the other hand is a Kentucky native, left, returned, left again, lived there for a total of not quite two years. My father’s book Assessment of Virginia Coalfield Region Capability to Support an Electric Power Generation Industry, the University of Kentucky Libraries might not feel it necessary to include him as a Kentuckian in their collection policies. If my sister publishes a book, she would qualify.
Where are you from? Where were you born? Not the Same Question!
If I were on vacation and someone asked me where I was from, I would say Colorado. When I were in Colorado and someone asked me where I am from, I might say Ohio where I lived just before moving to Colorado or New Jersey where I grew up. I might even say, I’ve been here for almost 25 years, one of my brothers is a native. It’s all semantics and precision. Janice Holt Giles, perhaps my favorite Kentucky author, wouldn’t be included in the native Kentucky category, she was born in Arkansas. Of course Kentucky claims her, but not as a native.
I have lived in Colorado for almost 25 years, Ohio for more than 15 years and New Jersey for about 10 years, while my roots are mostly in Kentucky and some in Virginia, Tennessee, with a smattering of New York, Pennsylvania and parts of New England. When I was born, all four of my grandparents lived in Kentucky. Since we moved a lot, that was home base.
The phrasing of the questions makes a difference when you are researching and it matters when you are interviewing a relative to find out where to research. Some people move around and others don’t. I have lived in nine different states, moved more than 25 times. The answer changes pretty dramatically between my siblings, each of whom was born in a different state, one has six states, one has ten and one has fifteen (I think). I am not positive, I may have forgotten a move or two. Curiously enough, we all live in the same state now.
Get the whole story from beginning to end. When interiewing a subject, be sure you are asking the exact question you want the answer for:
- nativity – where were you born?
- sequence – where did you move from?
- longevity – how long have you been in this state, town, or house?
- quantity – how many times have you moved?
- geography – which states have you lived in?
If you don’t ask for the whole story, you may miss one of the most interesting parts. I know a woman who lived her entire life, nearly eighty years, in Kentucky and Florida except for about six months, short enough to be a visit. Well, that’s when she met and married her husband.
Thanks Reinette for making me think about how many questions and answers are glossed over and the wrong answers highlighted out of concern for and in opposition to accuracy, especially with regard to geography. What a seeminly simple, but open ended question!
An aside: I wonder if U.K. knows to count my cousin, Bette Henritze from Pikeville as a native?