On the day I received my bachelor’s degree in music, my father told me that I was the first person in his family to graduate from college. It was a fact I’d never known.
Years later, while digging into genealogy, I learned that my paternal grandparents–the generation that emigrated to Boston–received only a few years of schooling. Some of my great- and great-great grandparents had no education and used X to sign their names.
This didn’t surprise me. My family lived in western Ireland, the area hardest hit by potato famine. Somehow they suffered through severe poverty, cold, starvation, and disease. Their lives were about survival, not adult and child literacy. X spoke volumes to me.
My story is not unique. Most immigrants share a similar tale of escaping poverty and disease in search of a better life and education for their family. Look back a few generations in your ancestry and you’ll discover where your X is.