United We Stand
Many people know who they are by their roots. They easily identify themselves with one specific ethnic group or nationality. As for me, I must be some kind of a mutt. Looking over my ancestral record, I find myself caught in the middle between several different and somewhat opposing groups.
One branch of my mother’s side arrived in America in the colonial days and settled in South Carolina and Georgia. They raised cotton, owned slaves, fought in the American Revolution, in the early Indian Wars, and fought on the side of the Confederacy in the War Between the States.
On my Dad’s side of the family, one branch came from France where they were very much a part of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. This branch came over in the 1830s, settled in Ohio and later fought on the side of the north in the American Civil War.
The DeBacker’s came from Belgium. DeBacker is a Flemish name, but my DeBacker’s were Franco-phones. In fact, when the family arrived in America in 1883 on a ship from Antwerp their nationality is shown on the passenger list as “French” and not “Flemish”. They came from a town that sits on the edge of Flemish-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia. To the Flemish speakers the city that my family came from is known as Ronse and to the French the city is known as Renaix.
Germany and France have gone to war against each other several times over the course of many centuries and much of their fighting has taken place right in my ancestor’s backyards on both sides of my family. One branch of my mother’s family lived on the banks of the German-side of the Rhine River in the Grand Duchy of Baden (Sasbach-am-Rhein) and one branch of father’s family lived in what is now the department of Doubs, not far from the Swiss border. Both sides must have felt the full brunt of the Reformation, Thirty Years War, the Seven Years War, the French Revolution, and the wars of liberation led by Napoleon I.
One branch of my mother’s family came from Northern Ireland and one branch of my father’s family came from what is now the Republic of Ireland. One branch of my mother’s Northern Irish ancestors were Protestant and another branch were Roman Catholics. My great-great grandmother (Presbyterian) married my great-great grandfather (Roman Catholic) sometime around 1864 in Belfast.