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Americans explore family roots in Luxembourg
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Americans explore family roots in Luxembourg

3 min. 17.09.2013 From our online archive
Last week, a group of 16 US citizens travelled Luxembourg to explore their ancestry as part of an annual trip organised by the Luxembourg American Cultural Society. Wort.lu/en caught up with the group at the end of their journey to talk about family ties and what Luxembourg means to them.

(CS) Last week, a group of 16 US citizens travelled Luxembourg to explore their ancestry as part of an annual trip organised by the Luxembourg American Cultural Society. Wort.lu/en caught up with the group at the end of their journey to talk about family ties and what Luxembourg means to them.

For Myra Johnson, the trip to Luxembourg was the “journey of a lifetime.” Myra only recently started researching her family history, but knew that her great grandparents had emigrated from the Grand Duchy to the US in the 1850s.

“They arrived in Minnesota and became farmers there. They had six children, one of which was my grandmother.”

In Luxembourg, Myra was able to visit her family's home, and although she did not meet any relatives, the current residents of the house were able to shed more light on her family's history.

Rekindling the family heritage

For Michael Ley from Illinois, the trip was also a chance to learn more about his family's history. “I did not have the heritage passed through to me,” he explained, saying that his great great grand parents quickly integrated into the international community when they arrived in Wisconsin.

However, after the death of his father, Michael found that he had conducted some genealogical research and decided to continue exploring his family's roots in Luxembourg. “The heritage is getting rekindled.”

Originally winemakers from the Moselle, his great great grandparents left Luxembourg in the 1840s and 1850s, eventually becoming landowners and raising cattle. And while Michael did not meet any relatives on his first trip to the Grand Duchy, he is working on establishing contact with the help of the Luxembourg American Cultural Society (LACS).

Luxembourg exceeding all expectations

The Discover Luxembourg tour, which was organised by LACS for the fifth time this year, includes a wide programme, with visits not just to Luxembourg City, but also destinations such as Vianden, the Family of Man exhibition in Clervaux, a Moselle river cruise and trips to the US military cemetery and Battle of the Bulge battlefields.

The trip came to an end on Sunday with a special dinner at the Alvisse Parc Hotel.

“The beauty of Luxembourg City and the countryside is overwhelming. It exceeded any expectations,” said Myra. But both Myra and Michael were even more impressed with the Luxembourg people and the warm welcome the group received in the Grand Duchy.

“The highlight for me was meeting the people and seeing how similar in many respects the Luxembourg people here are to Luxembourgers and their relatives in the US,” Michael said, while Myra added: “I'm very impressed with how  we were welcomed here. I never expected that. The way we were greeted, the attention paid to us. I didn't expect this kind of involvement.”

Both Myra and Michael are already planning to return to the Grand Duchy and also gaining Luxembourg nationality to even further connect to their roots.

Working on securing the future

President of the Luxembourg American Cultural Society Kevin Wester has already taken this step and this year was the first time he travelled to the Grand Duchy with a Luxembourg passport in hand.

“It feels like I am reclaiming a part of myself that's Luxembourgish, that I'm very proud of. It makes me feel more connected. I'm excited that I'll be able to vote in the next elections. It makes me feel motivated to learn even more about Luxembourg. Now I have to work on learning Luxembourgish, which is probably the most difficult thing,” Kevin said.

With the interest in Luxembourg very much still alive in the US, the Luxembourg American Cultural Society is working to ensure its own future. New developments will be added to the society's cultural centre in Belgium, Wisconsin, and LACS is working on creating an endowment fund and finding new ways to fundraise.

“We want to increase our staff and our outreach programmes not only in the US, but also to do more exhibits in Luxembourg, and it all takes funding,” Kevin said. To preserve the past, “we need to secure the future.”

To find out more about the Luxembourg American Cultural Society visit www.luxamculturalsociety.org