Today we go back to the root of who we are and have become. Ancestry and genealogy are hot hobbies and people want to know about their heritage. In keeping with that mind-set, we want to know, “Where do you come from?”


Part 10: The Mother Land – Our ancestors all came from somewhere else. Tell us what you know about your ancestral homeland. Delve into your heritage. Relate a story passed down in the family about it. Are there traditions that are still observed? Write a poem about it.



I’m exactly half Italian, and half Irish.
One would assume this fusion
would increase the predilection toward explosive behavior.

I blew that theory all to pieces.

Copyright © Marie Elena Good – 2012



Polonia, where the falcon flies
above your land in your hallowed skies,
I long to walk where my ancestors lived.

You have given me a name and you
have given me a heritage, it is where
the root of this poet is grounded.

Founded in freedom, your borders
had changed with regularity though wars
and confiscation, oh blessed nation

where the falcon flies. My heart swells
with Polish pride and my eyes fill with
your wonder. I am under your spell.

From Oświęcim and Igolomia and Poznań
to America, the connections elicit sighs
for you Polonia, where the falcon flies!

Copyright © Walter J. Wojtanik 2012

166 thoughts on “THE MOTHER LAND – PROMPT #75

  1. Hummm – this is tricky. I am from a ‘melted-pot’ of unknown ancestry, a bit of this, a bit of that, some sugar I am sure, hot pepper (yes) mixed with seasoning salt. Dash of wine to make it smooth. Meat, veggies and nuts, with added yeast to help the growth. Mixed and stored over time as more of these and those are added then plopped upon a board and kneaded to help it blend.

    the pot keeps growing
    as ‘this and that’ is added
    to the family mix.

  2. Marie – you make me smile. Walt your rightful pride shines through.
    Had not planned to post so early, but was typing as I thought about the prompt – and the truth came out! 🙂

  3. As with Marjory:

    I say, by the names:
    Yates, and Cullen.
    Herron on one side, likely English.
    My father’s mother,
    said to be Dutch,
    might have been Deutsch
    (an unsafe
    nationality for two world wars).
    Her cows were Jersey,
    and Hereford.
    Hogs: Hampshire, Poland China. And
    I remember
    an old Dominicker hen. But small
    mention of human origins.

  4. Where do I come from ?

    Old Tom, Young Tom,
    Tom and his son Tom
    of Norfolk* on my father’s side.

    A nineteenth century Maloney,
    refugee from potato famine in Ireland
    on my mother’s side.

    A mixture of pragmatism,
    common sense and superstition,
    fighting spirit, humour
    and musicality the result.

    *Norfolk, England, not Norfolk Virginia

  5. This first one was my immediate response and the one that follows begged to be written too. Great prompt…love what you’ve done with it poetical peeps and gracious hosts!! BIG Sunday smiles to all!

    Horsehair Brushes and Turpentine

    Pull the tincture of cobalt blue wide across the horizon,
    handle the angle afresh, umber thickened timber
    branches extend, a welcome to the woods.
    Yes, feel the still reflective pool
    add a dab of deep navy for contemplation,
    tint the edges of all with titanium white;
    the brightest thoughts, wishes and desires.
    I come from a land of etchings and spilt paint,
    generations of women who’ve answered willingly;
    rising to the call for creativity in their hearts.

    Copyright © Hannah Gosselin 2012


    Splash of English a dab of German,
    flecks of Norwegian show mostly in my bones;
    blonde and blue-eyed while the rest contrast,
    (my immediate family have brown hair and dark eyes).
    Give the brush a hint of Native American
    explains my sister’s olive complexion,
    (and a tan I’d always be envious of).
    Pull the palette knife swiftly, if you will, in the ink of Irish,
    fashion in a crisscross action the bright plaid of the Scottish
    and while you’re at it gather in the liquid dense tips of bristle
    all the colors of the rainbow and give that masterpiece a generous spattering.
    Yes, there, now it is perfected…roots grouped richly in umber loam,
    the collective tree of life reaching tall and broad on this crisp canvas of blue.

    Copyright © Hannah Gosselin 2012

  6. Pingback: Origins « Metaphors and Smiles

  7. Oh dear, still running way behind, so I am taking the easy way out for now: posting a poem fro 2010, and hoping that I can ease back into a writing routine again soon. For now, here’s Mór, (Hungary). 😉

    Mór, Hungary

    Hungarian is Greek to me
    and what little German I recall
    is either silly or profane,
    still, I would like to visit Mór

    Scavenge the local town hall,
    or library, for old documents
    recording family deaths,
    marriages and births

    or a cemetery, perhaps,
    where I might put flowers
    on graves of great grandparents,
    great uncles and aunts

    There’s family there I’ve never met,
    I’ll bet, distant relatives twice,
    and thrice, removed, second cousins,
    and thirds, and maybe more

    Only a note in Ellis Island records
    I will likely never get there
    at least, not in this lifetime,
    still, I would like to know Mór

  8. I’m a mix of German and Irish (I know, I know), but wrote about this:

    Luck of the Irish

    Emerald eyes, the isle
    where you kiss the Blarney Stone,
    flattery the pattering
    of eyelashes, shy-
    a rosy blush on ivory skin.

    You dance jigs with leprechauns
    through miles of clovered fields,
    hoping good luck might cover up
    ill-tempered streaks

    that appear in briny air
    faster than the changing tides
    a slap of water, frothy suds
    drown, one’s own confessional
    a cure-all, redheaded dolls
    who frown upon the word NO,
    so up the ante on the charm.


    I was born Bahen, a name unique.
    I was told it was Irish, but even Ireland
    said it could not be so.
    I still claimed to be Irish.

    I was 55 before I discovered
    that it had been changed at Ellis Island
    from Behan, definitely Irish.
    Someone could not spell.

    A research project in grade school
    showed my real heritage:

    More concisely, I am American.
    We Americans are a mix
    of all the wonderful cultures
    this planet has produced over its lifetime.

    The strength and richness of America
    comes from this diverse mixture.
    Though it has not always been smooth
    we are who we are because of it.

    Now my last name is Polish,
    and my children can add
    Polish, Slovak and Russian
    to their American heritage.

    I hope that the wealth of our ancestry
    continues to add diversity,
    for the more we include
    the richer our family becomes.

  10. I’m posting a recent poem for now. As someone who’s been functioning as the family historian for almost 15 years, I know there are more stories lurking in my files that can be turned into poetry.

    Those Mountain Women

    I come from a line
    Of strong mountain women,
    Rugged as the terrain they called home.
    Great-Granny and her life steeped in grief,
    Burying babies and a husband taken by typhoid,
    Looking so tiny and frail
    But tough enough to carry on.
    And then Grandma,
    Difficult times made more desperate
    When abandoned to raise six children alone.
    They wasted no energy on complaints and blame;
    Understanding the immensity of their burdens,
    They persevered,
    Driven by necessity and fierce love.

    As years have passed,
    More generations of daughters
    Have scattered across the country,
    Feet planted on the rolling prairie,
    In the blazing Texas heat,
    Under endless Colorado skies,
    With burdens of their own to bear
    But with the same fierce love of family,
    A part of their hearts
    Still rooted back in West Virginia,
    Still channeling the strength
    Of those mountain women.

  11. “Bones”

    Do you see this nose? A thin lumped map—
    legacy from the Viking era enmeshed of Norseman
    and warrior tribes.

    Three quarters of my bones descend from men who
    wore homespun wool tunics, who sailed aloft in
    longships, from Fredensborg county in the kingdom
    of Denmark with patriarchal surnames ending in “strom,”
    along the coast and inland from Sunne, Värmland County,
    Sweden, these are the sons of Magnus, sons of Peter,
    sons of the fair and strong.

    Do you see these shoulders? Inherited from Great Grandma
    Anna, the Norwegian washer-woman who carried the
    weight of her new world upon those hefty muscled girders
    of hers.(My brothers always said I should have been a
    quarterback. These shoulders used to throw a mean spiral.)

    Do you see these phalanges from finger-tip to finger-tip?
    These hold the final quarter with dexterity that descend
    from the story that peaks our kin, out of the Nebraskan soddies—

    where one room housed the hopeful, one skillet held the
    chicken that ran loose from its head. Here a twin was born,
    a twin of a twin, from a gaggle of kids to work the prairie,
    a grandfather who would one day marry an English woman
    of noble blood,

    descending from Knighted Sirs named Thomas and Daniel,
    who sailed an ocean and begat and begat and begat
    from pilgrim New England to surname Custis to
    surname Dandridge to Martha’s second husband:

    Mr. G. Washington, to General Lee—those men upon
    horses, who carried a sword for men not yet born.

    These bones of mine, these mapped bones so dry, this thin
    lumped nose, these girded shoulders, these hands carry a
    wealth of America mixed with Nordic pride.

  12. Where Do You Come From?

    One set of grandparents sailed
    to American, speaking Russian
    and Yiddish. The other set left
    from Romania, demure doll-like
    woman, and a tall, loud, laughing
    man, who was familiar with
    local social clubs and Turkish

    I never met the Romanians,
    but did become close
    to my Russian grandparents,
    even though communication
    was always iffy. She baked,
    I ate, and it all worked out.

    Blue eyes come from my Romanian
    grandfather, love of food and makeup
    from my Russian grandmother,
    thick hair from all.

  13. Where Did I Come From

    “And now that she’s yours – your history becomes her history – that’s all you need to remember.”
    (advice given to my parents when they were given “non-identifying” info upon my adoption in the early fifties – and it turns out, this was the rule, not the exception)

    I was a lucky child, one of the chosen ones
    Other people had to have their babies
    But I was chosen … the implication hits
    Eventually – if I was somewhere waiting
    To be chosen, how did I get there?
    And didn’t it mean I had to be un-chosen
    That is to say — left, abandoned—first?
    Questions that were not to be asked then …

    Years later I would seek out my birth mother
    Not trying to uncover a heritage
    But a medical history – something else deemed
    Unimportant back in the day …

    Reeling from confirming a legacy of lunacy
    Wondering whether this was what I’d sought
    Or was I hoping to negate the truth
    I ignored most of the other information
    For months, maybe even as long as a year.

    When you’re trying to get un-mental
    That takes up almost all your time
    Validating you have inherited genes
    That give you a predilection for insanity,
    One you are most likely going to pass on
    Can be somewhat all-consuming, plunging you
    Further down the rabbit-hole then ever
    You thought possible, given that you figured
    You had bottomed out long ago …

    By the time I rallied and became convinced
    That having my mental health status authenticated
    Could only be helpful, after all – the more information
    I had, the more likely my health could be improved
    As could my children’s, should the need ever arise –
    Knowing my roots was anti-climatic to say the least

    Still, my birth mother, bless her heart, was gently
    Persistent – sending me “pedigree charts” – a term
    I at first found offensive until I realized her brother
    My birth-uncle, had done some actual genealogical
    Research and this was a valid term for the findings

    As I began to feel better mentally, my curiosity
    Piqued – going from no roots to a family tree
    Became fascinating and I started to trace the branches…

    I had to hand to Children’s Aid in Ontario
    They had made some effort, it seemed, to match
    Me to parents with very similar ethnic backgrounds
    No wonder people used to say, “Oh – I would have
    known you were John’s daughter anywhere!”
    We may not have shared DNA or blood
    But we both had ancestors in Scotland and it seems
    Mom and I each had come from a long line of Brits
    Not exactly the same British folks but still …
    Close enough that we shared blond hair, blue eyes
    and ruddy complexions – even an affinity for plaid…

    So it turns out I do hail from the British Isles
    My love of the pipes maybe does run through my blood
    I am anxious to visit where my actual ancestors
    Lay beneath sod and see if I feel anything familial
    About the place and the people there
    I recently learned I lost an uncle at Dieppe
    And have been studying that history a little more now

    My birth mother originally tried to provide me with
    Information about my birth father and from time to time
    I toy with the idea of searching for him even though
    He would have to be quite old by now – when first I met
    Her, I asked where she thought I might start looking for him…
    Since her thoughtful suggestions were, “prison” or “a cemetery”
    I didn’t feel too encouraged to look … that could be, as the kids
    are fond of saying “TMI”.

    • Oh beautiful soul … a wonderful, powerful read. Your geneology may be sketchy in some respects, but you are most definitely leaving a rich love heritage to your children and grandchildren. And they will know some medical background that you had to seek out. Bless your heart!

      Marie Elena

  14. The story of my heritage is simple, as most of my ancestors are Romanian (the rest were ethnic Germans living in Romania). I was born in Romania, immigrated to the US with my family, then came back after some time. I believe my personal heritage is a mix of the people and experiences encountered in both of these countries – my roots are neither here, nor there. Bearing that in mind, here is my poem:

    Braided Strands

    I am a rope bridge straddling the Atlantic
    my palms cocooned within Michigan’s water,
    my Black Sea heels pivotally implanted.

    Two inverse lands made me their curious daughter,
    their colors wound around my fragile guardrails,
    my hybrid blood besprinkled with saltwater.

    These braided rope-strands hold my Ole’mamma’s tales,
    my father’s idiosyncratic manner,
    my Schwabisch Ole’pappa’s talent for details,

    the segments of my first-grade daily planner,
    my first friend’s zany, enthusiastic grin,
    my first achievements on a paper banner,

    the tilt Grandmother impressed upon my chin,
    the lank reveries to which my kin are prone,
    the veil around my mother’s cameo pin,

    firm bonds with a language mirroring my own,
    a sum of inciting scholarly demands,
    the way north-eastern rain infiltrates each bone.

    Straddling inverse shores, my oddly-braided strands
    course along imprints of these assorted hands.

    © Andra-Teodora Negroiu, 2012

    • This is lovely, Andra. It stands alone as a poem; your”braided strands” connecting with the larger world & still remaining personally yourself.

      • Thank you for your comment, Marian! I wanted to express the way the strands connect me to the rest of the world, but also how each strand carries a bit of the people I love inside it. I think we are all shaped by the little day-to-day actions of our friends and family, particularly during childhood – that is, in my opinion, one way to look at our heritage.

      • Thank you, Jlynn and Sharon! I believe that the details and little brushstrokes are just important the idea itself when writing a poem. I am very happy to hear that you liked them! 🙂

    • Beartifully written. 🙂

      Must stop commenting for now (chores are calling) – hope to be back later.

  15. Polyglot

    What language shall I speak for you
    tonight? Ignore the laughing scar
    the tell-tale marks on cuff and hem
    the hair pushed back, the darting pulse

    And let me sing a lullaby
    of waving corn, of bullet trains,
    of mountains high in India
    of all the pieces of my life

    kept hidden in the cloth-bound book
    you pulled from my cagoule today,
    words running from the rain, planets
    yearning to find a home – with you.

    • Andrew, this is marvelous! Sometimes the history we want to tell others, the inside details “kept hidden in the cloth-bound book” are more revealing than the reality-bound stories, with their all-too-tangible laughing scars and tell-tale marks.

  16. A Swede One Night

    met a Swede one night,

    and indeed as the saying goes,
    one thing leads to another,

    which was my father, one
    of twelve children from many
    one thing leads to another,

    but as Dad always said,
    the past is best left

    where you leave it –
    Every family has two sides.

  17. To save the cost of carving,
    the stone reduced
    his grandmother’s first
    and middle name,
    Cornella Caledonia,
    to C. C., assigned to
    oblivion by the time
    those told by those who
    her knew her are gone.

    The traditions he prized
    were closer to home,
    this county, the acres
    within walking distance
    most often, at times
    as far as the mules
    could pull the cart.

    By the time I knew
    I needed to sit and talk
    at length with him,
    exploring my own past,
    my own forebears,
    he drifted off to sleep
    between the questions,
    waking with a start,
    picking up a tale
    where he’d left off.

    About his own roots,
    he had to ask my father,
    his son, “Where did they come
    from, Ellis? Was it Ireland
    or I-o-way?” Gently,
    without mocking, my father
    answered, “Ireland, Daddy.”

    Suddenly I understood
    his relentless drive to grow
    not just all crops but especially
    potatoes, even when his eyes
    failed him so that he often
    plowed right over the plants,
    he grew them, enough,
    more than enough, for us,
    for the whole county,
    I’d venture, storing them
    in the cool crawlspace
    beneath his house, using
    them as an excuse to drop by
    my first home, a grocery sack
    loaded with potatoes, still
    dusty with Zip City soil.
    “They may be a little
    shivelled up,” he always said.
    “Just rub off the sprouts.”

    It all adds up, in the hard times
    his own blood spoke to him
    of hunger, famine, blight.
    Never let go to waste food
    that forestall starvation.
    I imagined I heard the fiddles,
    the lonesome hornpipes play.

    * I know it should have shriveled, but Papa Coats never worked the r into the word. He was the most gentle, generous of men.

  18. Not my own ancestry, but a classroom experience that still makes me laugh. True story:

    Older than the usual guest presenters,
    he also had a heavy accent,
    bushy eyebrows, a hint of humor
    buried deep. Entering the class
    of high school juniors
    in a chicken farming rural school,
    he was asked, “Where are you from?”
    and gladly told them his home country,
    ignoring the edge of sarcasm
    from the boys who asked. Instead,
    he asked them too, “Where do you
    come from?” and listened
    as they told him the specific community,
    Wittenburg, Stony Points, Taylorsville,
    until one hard case, arms crossed
    defiantly across his chest, responded,
    “I come from my mama.”
    Without flinching, the gentleman replied,
    “Ah yes, another very large place.”

  19. Overflowing

    Our family melting pot
    Overflows with ancestors
    From all over the world
    remaining unknown
    Sometimes a country, Germany
    Perhaps Wurtenburg

    Our Grandmother
    Shocked and alone
    Her husband –to- be
    dead from fever
    Strangers from Moravia
    taking her in
    like one of their own.
    She married grandfather
    A traveling man,
    Once again, alas,
    Nights filled with tears

    The Irish and Scots had found
    Better hills in old Kentucky
    Squirrel stew and cornbread, too
    Plucking their guitars and banjoes
    Their songs still sung today.

    The Quakers from England’s
    Southern shore barely escaped
    Their cruel laws
    Only to settle on Delaware’s shore
    Where once again they tried
    To pray away laws still more cruel

    Struggles still carried on today
    And probably tomorrow, too.

    • Although the story of your family is laced with difficult times and some nights filled with tears, there is also strength to be found in these things. The songs and struggles that continue to be sung and respectively carried on over time indirectly bind generations together.

  20. Stories Before Me

    My parents taught hard work and honesty
    and though Mom attended church,
    none of us five girls were made to go
    But I always held if I knew God existed
    I wouldn’t be content at keeping my distance.
    I wanted to be intimate with Him,
    and when I was fourteen I learned
    that was possible in Jesus.
    So I dedicated my life to Him
    in complete devotion.

    Getting to know Him was new to me
    and a great adventure. Imagine my surprise
    when my genealogist sister discovered
    we came from a long line of pastors,
    including Samuel Maycock who was appointed
    to be the pastor of the first church at Jamestown.

    The Maycocks, when living on an acreage outside the fort,
    hid their infant daughter Sarah
    during the Jamestown massacre of 1622.
    Samuel and his wife were murdered,
    but Sarah went on to marry George Pace
    whose father Richard had warned Jamestown
    and saved those living within the fort.
    Another ancestor, Captain Drury Pace
    was a chaplain in the revolutionary war.

    Some of my ancestors, Scotch Irish,
    came over to the U.S.A in the 1600s
    and settled the area in Pennsylvania
    where I grew up. My sister has an original deed,
    dated 1796. That land is now part of the
    State Game Lands.

    My great grandfather married
    and was widowed on their ninth child.
    On a trip, he met and married another,
    failing to tell her he already had nine kids.
    It’s reported that he simply said, “Here’s your family,”
    as he introduced them upon arriving home,
    my Grandfather Bill being one of them.

    So my grandfather Shannon was born in the area
    but my grandmother was from Kentucky.
    She shared a grandmother with Billy Ray Cyrus
    about seven generations back.

    The Scotch Irish was a wild bunch
    taking the new land by storm,
    with “the Bible, a gun and a bottle of whiskey.”
    I dropped the gun and whiskey,
    but cling to the Bible.

    • Wow … what an interesting heritage! I just read the part about about your great grandfather to my husband. We are both sitting here just shaking our heads. 😉

      I love your final sentence.

      Marie Elena

      • Good job Con. It is alot of fun and challenge to find out these “names” that we call our ancesters. Grandpa Matthew must have been a real gem. Aunt Nancy said she he brought his new wife Mary home, all she was was about nine sets of eyes peeking out at her. And the thing about it was…she stayed!! LOL.

    • Nine children – wow! Your great-grandmother must have been a very brave woman. I admire the fact that your family kept their faith intact through all these generations.

  21. Great examples Marie and Walt. I’d love to stay and read, but have no time right now. Still packing. Took the time this morning to put together this little one for the prompt. It sort of says it all.

    Recipe for Self

    Grind emerald into moss
    Taken from the little people,
    Add leaves from tartan greens,
    Mix with “Saxon via Hastings”
    For the perfect blend of flavors;
    On the side take Native civilization
    With a thing for alphabets and toss;
    Add dressing with sea’s tang
    For the journey to the table,
    And enjoy the resulting dish.


    Oklahoma and Mississippi

    rooted down in the rubber city

    a match made in heaven

    eventually found their home in northeastern Ohio

    where Indian Okmulgee creek

    and Mississippi hot chocolate meet

    they were grafted from different trees

    they joined in oneness and those roots sunk deep

    that’s why we still call it home

    yielding precious fruit, so, so sweet

    just add a hint of Irish

    and you’ve got the motherland

  23. Never Forget

    I have stood on the battlefields where blood was shed and seen the ghosts of the walking dead. I let their pain and history seep into my soul, haunted by the mysteries buried on a knoll. I need to go back and feel the earth, a place that is just a fraction of my birth but the connection runs so very deep, I can ‘never forget’ their restless sleep. So while the bagpipes play up on the knoll, I weep for each departed soul … wrapping the music around my frame an invisible kilt that goes by one name – Scotland.

    thistle tea cup
    drinking in the blood and tears
    one page at a time

    (Note: I am primarily German and Norwegian but from one Great-Grandfather comes my wee bit of Scottish and that thread has been more alluring to me than my more prominent heritage. I am from the Clan Graham and the clan motto is ‘Never Forget’. The ‘Thistle’ is a national emblem of Scotland.)

    • Michelle, so much of history is made on these battlefields … The place I come from, Romania, also has a history marked by many such battles and has evolved through time into a sort of melting pot of Latin, Hungarian, Germanic, Slavic and Turkish influences (among others :)).

  24. Bella Famiglia
    (Beautiful Family)

    My family tree roots are stunted
    as the “old-timers” have all passed on.
    There used to be letters from
    relatives in the homeland.
    They have disappeared along
    with the stories and the
    fuzzy details.

    It was said our surname was
    chopped off upon arrival at
    the lovely lady’s island.
    (but, who knows for sure?),
    many with my maiden name
    can be found in phonebooks
    across this land.

    My first name begins with a letter
    that doesn’t even exist in the
    Italian alphabet. I continue to
    defend my heritage to the naysayers
    who contend my hair is the wrong
    color and my skin to pale. (ever
    been to Northern Italy?)

    Just try to beat me in a game of “Morra”
    or taste a better Wedding Soup.
    True, my children are twenty-five
    percent more Italian than I am.
    Maybe that’s why they can eat
    pizza for breakfast, lunch
    and dinner…Bellissimo!

    © Kelly (Conti) Donadio 2012

  25. Playing a little catch up

    Shore Not Certain

    When it comes to a homeland
    I have no security
    Norway only an eighth
    Throw in some German
    Irish, English, and
    If you believe my great grandma
    From Texas
    A little Cherokee too
    If I was a puppy
    You’d find me at the pound

  26. Pingback: PART 10: The Mother Land | Two Voices, One Song

  27. Pingback: From Whence I Came | echoes from the silence

  28. From Whence I Came

    Strange, but when in my developing years
    Talk of my ancestors rare struck my ears
    Little was muttered from whence I came
    As if there might be shame in my name
    Perhaps no one cared
    Perhaps no one dared
    Perhaps my lack of question’s to blame

    As of late there’s a spark of curiosity
    ‘Bout those that came and went before me
    So far I’ve discovered links to the Irish
    A mixture of Welsh, topped off with Scottish
    As I dig in the file
    All points British Isle
    With little from anywhere else on the list

    Since coming to America all is quite plain
    Just about all generations lived in Maine
    I and my brother escaped the North cold
    Traveled the world, breaking the mold
    The South is home for me
    The South is where I’ll be
    With my wife and family until I grow old

Comments are closed.