Dissidents and Migration

Dissidents and Migration

Mark mentioned migration in a comment thread below about one of the possible responses to a dissatisfaction with government. By coincidence, I just received an email today from my sister about her genealogical studies of our family. It turns out that our family tree is stuffed full of folks who fled Europe to escape religious persecution:

We have Elder John White, Puritan, who came to Massachusetts in the 1630s; Alexander Kilpatrick, Presbyterian, who left Northern Ireland and the boot of the Church of England (this is the story of the "Scots-Irish") in 1730; Jacob Hermann Arndt (later the name was changed to Arrant) who came to Philadelphia in the 1730s, when virtually all German immigrants to Pennsylvania were German Pietists (a religion with much in common with Quakerism) who were being persecuted or burned at the stake in Germany; and the Huguenots forbears who had to escape the massacres in France. . . . Then there is the story of all the folks after they got here. As far as I can tell, no matter which line you trace back, no family stayed in one place more than a generation or so. This may seem more normal to you, but there are many, many people I know in Philadelphia whose families have been here for centuries . . . .
I suppose the family trees in Texas are more likely to include the wandering branches than those on the East Coast. By moving to Philadelphia as an adult, my sister was making a retrograde movement that placed her among people with a much stronger tendency to put down roots generation after generation.

It seems that my ancestors had a higher-than-average problem with authority. For myself, if I have a problem with authority, it has scarcely revealed itself in geographical movement. I've barely moved from the location of my birth, and that only at a time in my life when I was not starting either a business or a family. On the other hand, I'm in a part of the U.S. that has been settled by Europeans only for what amounts to the blink of an eye, and therefore retains something of the tradition of exiles or malcontents. Our home is built on property that, as far as I know, had never been occupied by Europeans at all before us. At most, some had run a few cattle here, more than a century ago, before most of the present woods grew up. There was a bit of commerce here before the Civil War, and even a salt works not too far away, but the Union forces put an end to all that. Things mostly grew wild again until about the middle of the 20th century, when a slow trickle of people began to move back in. These were not, to put it mildly, the sort of people who would be living in New York if only they could figure out how to get there.

Would my fugitive ancestors be horrified that I joined the Episcopal Church, barely distinguishable from the historically oppressive Church of England? Perhaps not, since the Episcopal Church today would probably strike my most dissident ancestors as a hotbed of heretical license.

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