Photo: (c) iStock.com / fcscafeine (#511580382)Many of us at Kairos-Milwaukie UCC are on a journey to learn or revisit our families’ immigration stories and see how they connect with our country’s immigration history or our own lives and values. Most importantly, WHY did our ancestors immigrate to the United States? Were they motivated to come here because they suffered religious persecution, poverty, racial intolerance. Or, turning those reasons on their positive heads, did they come searching for freedoms and opportunities they felt they could not realize in their home countries? We often don’t know the reasons but can begin to understand the connection by researching our ancestors.
Connecting my own myriad ancestry dots is a puzzle with many missing pieces, some of which I am finding in unlikely places. My first name was a last name several generations ago. The Macy family history has a long reach in the United States. The best known Macy is probably Thomas Macy, who emigrated from England to Massachusetts in the mid-1600s. A lifetime Baptist, he was at odds with the Puritans who were the center of the political and spiritual life. Church attendance was compulsory and its upkeep financed through taxation. In the summer of 1657, Thomas Macy harbored four Quakers for less than an hour in his home during a severe rainstorm. His neighbors reported his generous but unlawful act. In May 1657 a law had been passed against harboring ‘any of the cursed sects of Quakers’. His act of kindness caused the Court to fine him 30 shillings and to be admonished by the governor.
Two years later, Thomas Macy and 17 others purchased land on Nantucket Island. He, his family and five others rowed there in a small boat — a journey still perilous today. Nantucket was not subject to the strict Massachusetts Bay Colony Puritan regulations.
Native Americans on the island helped these first white settlers make it through the first hard winters. I don’t know how he treated them or others who were in a less privileged position than he was as merchant and local magistrate. There are many more pieces to connect. However, it’s heartening to know this part of my family history — that at least some of my long-ago ancestors did some kind deeds and worked against intolerance.
We are on an amazing journey to discover more of who we are through learning more about our ancestors — not so much the statistics of their birth and death dates and places, but the WHY of their immigrations and their life changes. It is a sacred journey I am happy to take.
We would like to plan our next Immigrant Welcoming event for Sunday, November 26 (I know,  I know, it's thanksgiving weekend, but it's the only day that really works...)  ....a brief introduction to the history of immigration and locating our ancestors’ places on the timeline.

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