The Kallman/Abrahamson Family: Exploring my Swedish-born grandparent's and siblings immigrant journey to "Amerika". Searching for cousins everywhere to share family stories, pictures, thoughts, ideas and new discoveries about our Swedish heritage and our family today.

~ This blog, like my family tree, is always a work in process. Please stop back now and again! ~

Monday

Hansen's Law

Today in my internet meandering I came across Hansen's Law:

“What the son wishes to forget 
the grandson wishes to remember.”*



Marcus Lee Hansen 1892-1938 was born in Neenah, Wisconsin to Danish immigrant parents. He attended college in Iowa and earned his PhD in history at Harvard. He was a professor of history at the University of Illinois from 1928 until his death in 1938. Professor Hansen was one of the first social historians of immigration.



In a work he called 'The Problem of the Third Generation Immigrant' (1938)*, Hansen said the grandchildren of an immigrant want to get back the ethnicity that was lost in the children of the immigrants generation.
The first generation, the immigrant generation, does what they can to preserve their ethnic identity, their language, customs, religion, foods etc of home. The second generation, the immigrants children, try to blend into American culture and really try to distance themselves from anything considered "Old World".  "What the son wishes to forget, the grandson wishes to remember".* The third generation or grandchildren of the immigrants are the ones who are comfortable with their American identity but want to experience and not sacrifice their ethnic identity or culture of their heritage. 
Wow! He was speaking about me! My grandparents, Swedish on the paternal side and Norwegian on the maternal thought of themselves as Norwegian or Swedish. My grandmother told me once "Don't ever leave your home because after that you really don't belong anywhere. In Chicago I long for Norway, but in Norway I long for Chicago." My parents on the other hand did not keep many Scandinavian customs, spoke only English to us children even though I know they were fluent in their parents tongue, and never kept in touch with cousins or family back in Scandinavia. I don't believe my Dad ever had any desire to even visit Sweden. They seemed very "American" to me. And now, here am I striving to learn all I can about my heritage and ethnic  identity! I have been to Scandinavia three times and the European continent once. I don't want to loose my "roots" that I feel had slipped away, yet I never felt anything but pride in being American. I can be wholly American and still embrace my cultural identity with pride. I AM the third generation of which Hansen spoke.
It gets me thinking about today's "Immigration Crisis". Is it so different from the "crisis"  that the country faced as millions of Europeans streamed off the over packed ships landing on our shores in the late 1800's and early 1900's? Millions from Scandinavia or Ireland, Poland, Italy, Germany or elsewhere, speaking foreign tongues, practicing foreign religions, eating odd foods, listening to strange music, dressing differently, flooding American cities and countryside looking for jobs and homes for their families? Americans of that day did feel threatened, hence strict immigration laws and the building of Ellis Island itself. 
America feared, felt threatened by, acknowledged, accepted, understood, and then embraced with pride European diversity. Will todays immigrants, decidedly non-European, also follow Professor Hansen's theory? Will todays immigrants in a generation or two be accepted as "Americans"? Will they consider themselves "Americans", yet be comfortable and embrace their own cultural/ethnic identity? And what exactly does it mean anyway to be an "American"?  Isn't that also an ever changing definition or dynamic?
I just do not know.

 - Ranae, a third generation Scandinavian-American

*Mr. Hansen's essay in its entirety can be found here in public domain, reproduced by the Augustana Historical Society Publications ↓
The Problem of the Third Generation Immigrant by Prof M. L. Hansen

The Hansen Effect by Joseph Dewey is a wonderful article that most likely explains the "Hansen Effect" much better than I have.

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