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Second and a half generation?

Irrespective of whether 1st generations are the ones who are born first in the new country vs. the ones who immigrated, [See the previous post] what would your child be if say you are 1st generation and your spouse is 2nd generation - Is your child “second and a half”? Curious to know what people under such circumstance (or similar) call themselves?

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This is an interesting question that never occurred to me before. My wife’s father is a first generation Polish immigrant, but her mother is an American with mixed heritage. My wife never calls herself “second generation Polish”. I think in these cases, the idea of “generation” disappears. She simply says, “I’m half Polish”.

However, I would imagine that it would be a problem if her mother was second generation Polish, in which case her heritage would be clearly Polish, but she won’t be able to say what degree of generation she is.

Dyske April 23, 2006, 7:26am

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My mother is an immigrant, my father was not. I describe myself as first-generation on my mother's side.

Richard April 26, 2006, 11:12am

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Generations are discrete - there's no such thing as a "half generation".

Chris April 28, 2006, 2:17am

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That's an interesting question. THe reason, I think, that nobody has a definitive answer is that it's relatively recent that noticeable numbers of people who are either immigrants or in a close enough generation to bother counting married outside their immediate group. And these groups tended to come in distinct waves--so anyone of the same approximate age could be counted to be in the same generation.

Now, of course, neither of these is particularly true. There's no reason to believe that someone's mother and father will be from families that immigrated at the same time, or even that they'll belong to the same group--even if one or both of them come from families that immigrated fairly recently. But I imagine it will take language a while to catch up to this.

Avrom May 3, 2006, 12:56pm

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I'd put in that it depends on which side was the most culturally important in raising the child. If the first generation mother's family were there for the child's every birthday, holiday, etc., while the second generation father's side only made appearances at birthdays until age ten and very few holidays, the child is second generation.

Think of it in terms of the Hispanic (non-white) category on demographic polls. My father is white, my mother is Hispanic -- I check the "caucasian" box because it was at my paternal grandparent's house that holidays were. The maternal, Hispanic, side had little to do with my eventual character.

After all, isn't first/second/third-generation just a mark of character to show how assimilated or unassimilated you are?

jeffrey May 12, 2006, 2:48pm

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I think that's the intention, yes, but it doesn't do a very good job of it. There are neighborhoods where immigrant families can live for five generations with little perceptible cultural change; at the same time, there are children of immigrants who are entirely assimilated.

Avrom May 15, 2006, 10:08am

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Oh, come on now. What if the parents were 1st and 3rd? Um, let me see. Two 1st's would have a 2nd. Two 3rd's would have a 4th. Would I take the average of 2nd and 4th to get a 3rd generation child?

How about a 2nd and a 7th generation parent? would that yield a 5th and a half generation kid? How could I tell the difference if the parents were 1st and 8th generation? or 4th and 5th generation?

I love this website.

p May 15, 2006, 12:08pm

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that "P" is me!

porsche May 15, 2006, 12:09pm

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I'm 2.5 gen and I define it by when your first ancestor arrived. My father is the son of immigrant parents and my mother came over at 3 years old. I say I'm 3rd gen. How can I be the same number of gens as my father?
And how can my native-born mother's sister (whose older siblings and both parents are all foreign born) be the same generational status as me? That doesn't sit right at all.

Besides, if you have a native-born parent your experience is nothing at all like someone who grows up where bth parents are foreign born.

2.5g July 31, 2006, 2:43pm

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I guess most people tend to go with the paternal side of the equation in a patriarchal society.

One of the early comments raises another interesting issue. dyske writes "My wife’s father is a first generation Polish immigrant, but her mother is an American with mixed heritage." Do you mean native american as in Cherokee or Sioux? My guess is you mean white american. If that is the case then a few generations back your wife's ancestors were also immigrants.

I think your ancestors have lived in a america beyond the living memory of your family or your parentage is so mixed up that it is hard to distinguish you forget the entire genealogical mess and simply refer to yourself as american

So 2.735 generation 25% Polish 50% French 12.5% English 12.5% German should just call themself American

Dyslexic August 2, 2006, 1:55pm

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I prefer fractions. I'm 3/4 Irish, 3/16 Maltese and 1/16 Italian.

Synt October 22, 2006, 3:46pm

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Strange question, but one that applies to myself. I was born in Canada and became a naturalized citizen of the USA in my teens. My father is a 7th-generation American of German descent. My mother is a 1st-generation Canadian whose mother emmigrated there from Scotland.

The way I've always referred to this is that I'm 8th-generation American on my father's side (regardless of being an immigrant), 2nd-generation Canadian on my mother's side. I don't plan to move, so my kids will be 9th-generation Americans, or children of an immigrant, whichever they prefer. Both are accurate.

It's not as though someone is fully one thing and cannot be described in many ways. Besides, if we kept better records I might be able to pinpoint the ancestor that was first considered "German" and be able to claim a certain generation rank for my German ancestry, just like I can for my family's American and Canadian history.

Bill Wiltfong April 14, 2008, 7:55am

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