Resistance Genealogy

In genealogy, we always have receipts.

Family History Information For...

Ken Cuccinelli

Aug 30, 2019

Their Own Two Feet

As the new public face of the Trump administration’s draconian immigration policies, acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli has wasted no time stirring up collective ire. Most notably, he set off a firestorm of criticism by rewriting the iconic Emma Lazarus poem that has long functioned as a kind of unofficial American immigration mantra. “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,” he proudly told NPR’s Rachel Martin, who somehow resisted the urge to burst out laughing and/or slap him upside the head...

Ken’s grandmother Josephine Policastro Cuccinelli was also the Jersey-born daughter of Italian immigrants: Gaetano Policastro and Maria Ronga...

A teenaged Maria Ronga (her birth certificate indicates she was 17) arrived at Ellis Island in November of 1903 with her widowed 48-year-old mother... The “Record of Aliens Held For Special Inquiry” list indicates the reason they were held, abbreviated as “L.P.C.;” it stands for “Likely Public Charge.” So yes, the great-grandmother of the man now beating the drums to tighten the public charge rule was…labeled a likely public charge herself...

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Joe Arpaio

Apr 9, 2018

Hey, Joe Arpaio! Your Grandma Was a Chain Migrant!

Notorious former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, currently running for a Senate seat in Arizona, has made no bones about how he feels about illegal immigrants. Let's say he is a bit — how shall we say? — hard core. But what of Arpaio's own immigrant roots?

Total number in family chain: 13 (14, if you include Donato himself)...

Arpaio routinely punished immigrants for not speaking English — “They are in the United States, and they should start speaking English,” he said in 2006 — given that his own father belonged to a fraternal organization in Massachusetts that was still keeping records entirely in Italian in 1931...

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Steve Bannon

Sep 11, 2018

Trevor Noah Uncovers The Immigration Status Of Steve Bannon's Ancestors

Noah then explained that his team had hired a professional genealogist to dig into the immigration history of Bannon's ancestors. They discovered that "Bannon's great-great grandfather Lawrence Bannon arrived in the U.S. from Ireland by the 1850s, at a time when America's borders were so open that Irishmen could just walk into the country with no passports, no visas, no background checks of any kind."

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Sen. Rafael "Ted" Cruz

Mar 7, 2018

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Ann Coulter

Dec 6, 2017

The Immigrant Ancestors Ann Coulter Wishes She Didn't Have

All eight of her paternal great-great-grandparents (four couples) came to America from Europe. Six of these eight were Famine-era arrivals from Ireland, while the other two were from Germany. Her Irish ancestors wouldn't have been welcomed with open arms as can be seen from these typical 19th century political cartoons...

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Rep. Bob Goodlatte

Mar 21, 2018

Why Are Children and Grandchildren of Immigrants So Eager to Keep Immigrants Out?

As soon as I realized that Carl married Kentucky-born Marguerite in 1914, my memory bank sent out a flare. Wasn't this that time period when …? Yes, it was. By marrying a foreigner, Marguerite had lost her American citizenship. Thanks to bad timing, Goodlatte's grandparents had fallen into one of the pitfalls of the Expatriation Act of 1907...

On October 30th of that year, [Goodlatte's grandfather Carl] petitioned for naturalization, but in so doing, lied in his paperwork. One of the requirements for citizenship — dating back to 1795 — is five years of continuous residence in the United States, but as we've just seen, the Mentzendorff family spent a chunk of 1919 in Europe...

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Laura Ingraham

Aug 9, 2018

John Kelly

May 11, 2018

How John Kelly's family history compares with the immigrants he wants to keep from entering

On his mother's side, Kelly's great-grandfathers worked as a wagon driver and fruit peddler, according to Mendelsohn's research. These were not skilled positions, obviously. It's not clear that any of Kelly's immigrant ancestors had significant educational backgrounds. From one such record, Mendelsohn learned that John DeMarco, the fruit peddler, still didn't speak English after more than a decade in the country. His wife Crescenza — Kelly's great-grandmother — lived in the United States for more than 30 years without learning the language.

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Tomi Lahren

Sep 7, 2017

Tomi Lahren, Meet The Great Great Grandfather Prosecuted For Forging His Citizenship Papers!

I ordered the court file, which included Dietrich's grand jury indictment, in all its 14-page glory. Tomi Lahren's great-great-grandfather was indicted on two separate counts, for “willfully, unlawfully and knowingly” making a false affidavit in connection with a naturalization proceeding, and for forging a naturalization document, in violation of the Naturalization Act of June 29, 1906.

The grand jurors accused him of swearing falsely to the date of his declaration, and of altering the original papers (“with a knife or steel eraser or other instrument unknown to the Grand Jurors”) to make it look like his declaration of intention to become a citizen had been executed in 1911 rather than 1909, apparently because he'd let too much time elapse before completing the naturalization process.

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See also:
  • The Revolving Door Citizenship of Tomi Lahren's Great-Great-Grandfather - It is patriotism of convenience, and I can't help but wonder whether it can be inherited.
  • Except the 1930 census says Tomi's 3x great-grandmother had been here for 41 years and still spoke German. Her 2nd great-grandmother had been here for 10 yrs. Spoke no English. Her great-grandfather's 1895 baptism from MN? Recorded in Norwegian.

Jason Chaffetz

Dec 20, 2018

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Vice President Mike Pence

Jan 25, 2018

Mike Pence's Immigrant Saga Makes a Case for Compassion

Although Mike Pence claims that he “grew up on the front row of the American dream” thanks in part to his Irish immigrant grandfather, he's not keen on migrant workers or chain migration. Other positions he holds on matters as wide-ranging as pregnancy prevention and government-provided safety nets were shared by many in the era of Richard Cawley, the grandfather he's so fond of mentioning, and the consequences for his family were far from trivial...

Turning to the family's Ellis Island saga, his grandfather and four of his siblings came to America (only the eldest remained in Ireland). They were so orderly that they immigrated in age sequence with James starting things off by going to an aunt in Illinois. He then helped Richard who helped Thomas who helped the sisters — one of tidiest set of chain migration links I've ever encountered...

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Jacob Wohl

Mar 2, 2018

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Dana Loesch

Sep 4, 2018

Friendly Fire: The Unexpected Family History of the NRA's Spokesperson

To summarize, research shows that Loesch's:

  • father lost his father to gun violence
  • paternal grandmother lost her husband to gun violence
  • maternal grandmother lost her father to gun violence and almost lost her mother
  • maternal great-grandmother lost her husband to gun violence after surviving his attempt to shoot her

This doesn't include Loesch's own account of her aunt who narrowly escaped being shot by her husband. And all of this was essentially friendly fire in the sense that every incident occurred on home turf and involved family members and patrons.

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Stephen Miller

Aug 2, 2017

Rep. Ron DeSantis

Jul 31, 2018

Meet Your Great-Great-Grandmother, Ron DeSantis

On February 5th while they were at sea, the U.S. passed the Immigration Act of 1917 which was intended to limit undesirable southern and eastern European immigrants such as Luigia and her family. Fortunately, it wasn't implemented until May 1st. Otherwise, she and her daughters could have been denied entry due to the freshly imposed literacy requirement. They had squeezed in with a margin of ten weeks...

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Jesse Watters

Jul 31, 2018

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Rep. Devin Nunes

Apr 26, 2018

Why Hasn't Devin Nunes Assimilated Yet?

One of Nunes's grandfathers was born in Tulare in 1919 to Maria, the sister who had arrived with her whole family in 1908. These tight bonds were surely comforting, but likely made it harder for immigrants to assimilate. Here's Maria again in 1930 — 22 years after arriving in America — still unable to speak English...

It also seems that becoming an American citizen was not a priority for Nunes's family. Some of the nine immigrant relatives listed in the initial chart never went through the naturalization process, but here's a summary of those who did. Collectively, they took an average of 30.8 years from their date of arrival to do so...

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Dan Scavino, Jr.

Jan 11, 2018

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Rep. Paul Gosar

Jan 30, 2018

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Rep. Steve King

Mar 13, 2017

See also:

President Donald Trump

Jan 11, 2018

Under Trump's new immigration rule, his own grandfather likely wouldn't have gotten in

The policy, the Raise Act, would introduce a point-based system for new applicants to enter the United States. In addition to speaking English, points would be awarded based on answers to these other questions that Miller mentioned: “Can they support themselves and their families financially? Do they have a skill that will add to the U.S. economy? Are they being paid a high wage?

Were that policy in place in 1885, Friedrich Trumpf would likely not have gained entry to the United States. The immigration record for his arrival that year indicates that he arrived without an identifiable “calling”: The word “none” sits next to his name in that column.

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Kanye West

Jan 11, 2018

Kanye, Meet Your Great-Uncle

Like countless others, I was confounded by your recent comment about slavery being a choice, so I decided to explore your family tree (as a genealogist, that's my instinctive response to many circumstances)...

Whenever your travels should next take you to Louisiana, I hope that you might consider squeezing in a visit to pay tribute to this great-great-great-uncle of yours because he was far more heroic than his modest headstone might suggest. You see, Pvt. Daniel A. West was born free and made a deliberate choice to help those who weren't.

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James Woods

May 8, 2018

Kris Kobach

Oct 8, 2018

Kirstjen Nielsen

Jun 15, 2018

And now, the definitive responses to...

"But My Family Came Here LEGALLY!"

All Possible Responses To "They Should Get In Line And Do It The Right Way, The Way My Family Did," With Citations (Also Jokes)

Hello, it’s your friendly neighborhood immigration attorney back again to provide you with everything you need the next time someone starts trying to tell you about how their family came “the right way” and anyone who wants to do it like their ancestors did should “get in line.”

Yes, your ancestors probably did come here legally — because 'illegal' immigration is less than a century old

For those clamoring for a wall against immigrants, it may come as a surprise to learn that there were no federal laws concerning immigration until well into the history of the United States. When people say “my ancestors came here legally,” they’re probably right. For the first century of the country’s existence, anyone could land here and walk right off the boat with no papers of any kind, just as Gumpertz did. Coming here “illegally” did not even exist as a concept.

Think your immigrant ancestors came here legally? Think again

Crediting yesteryear's immigrants with following the laws is like calling someone a good driver because they never got caught speeding on the Autobahn.

#ResistanceGenealogy Round-Ups

NEW: #ResistanceGenealogy Merchandise!

NEW! #ResistanceGenealogy is raising money for KIND (Kids In Need of Defense) through merchandise on Etsy! Your t-shirt or sticker proceeds will go towards helping migrant children obtain legal counsel at the US border.

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#ResistanceGenealogy In The News

She saw anti-immigration politicians as hypocrites. So she launched ‘resistance genealogy.’

On the morning after Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) broke a record for the longest filibuster in the history of the House of Representatives — an eight-hour defense of immigrants — a Baltimore amateur genealogist named Jennifer Mendelsohn sat in her home office and logged onto to begin her own form of protest.

[Washington Post - Mar 13, 2018]

They spoke out against immigrants. So she unearthed their own immigrant ancestors

If you think the ongoing immigration debates don't apply to you, Jennifer Mendelsohn has some news: They probably do. Mendelsohn, a journalist, author and passionate genealogist, has been using people's public family history to beat back some of the uglier claims about immigrants and how they fit into US history. She calls it #resistancegenealogy, and it only takes a few online tools and some instinctive sleuthing for her to call out public figures who oppose common forms of immigration.

[CNN - Jun 23, 2018]

Your Grandma Was a Chain Migrant!

Jennifer Mendelsohn, a freelance writer based in Baltimore, has a low tolerance for bad faith. Last summer, after Stephen Miller, the White House senior policy adviser, went on television to support a bill that would penalize immigrants who didn’t speak English, Mendelsohn took to Twitter. “Miller favors immigrants who speak English,” she began. “But the 1910 census shows his own great-grandmother couldn’t.” Her tweet, which included a photograph of a census document indicating that Miller’s ancestor spoke only Yiddish, went viral. “It’s hilarious how easy it is to find hypocrisy,” Mendelsohn said. “And I’m a scary-good sleuth.”

[The New Yorker - Feb 5, 2018]

Journalist Traces Family Histories Of Lawmakers Who Speak Out Against Immigration

As President Trump and Congress debate what's next for immigration, one journalist is working to trace the immigration roots of lawmakers and other public figures who are in favor of a crackdown on the issue.

[WBUR - Jan 26, 2018]

Fighting Anti-Immigrant Bias, One Family Tree At A Time

If all Americans were to trace their family history back just a few generations, the overwhelming majority would discover that they’re the products of immigration. And that would be a good thing, says the journalist and amateur genealogist Jennifer Mendelsohn.

[NationSwell - May 4, 2018]

Genealogist: Chain migration helped Pence family

Genealogist Jennifer Mendelsohn reviews the ancestry of various members of President Donald Trump's administration, including Vice President Mike Pence.

[CNN - May 12, 2018]

Also by Jennifer Mendelsohn

How social media spread a historical lie

A mix of journalistic mistakes and partisan hackery advanced a pernicious lie about Democrats and the Klan. Now, not only can partisans and malicious actors manufacture fake news, but they can falsify history as well.

[Washington Post - Mar 14, 2018]

Missing from the immigration debate: receipts

Myths and secrets — some benign in the "fruit seller" vein, some far more explosive — can burrow themselves into family narratives with surprising ferocity. But genealogists come along and unpack them. And it's receipts that are sorely missing from the current debate over immigration policy.

[Los Angeles Times - Feb 9, 2018]

Children Can't be Born Before Their Parents: A common-sense guide for genealogical beginners

To say that the availability of online records has revolutionized genealogy would be an understatement. For new genealogists, going online for the first time can be like visiting a sumptuous buffet table, brimming with tantalizing delicacies. The good news is that there's so. much. good. stuff. The bad news is that it's easy to overfill your plate and end up feeling sick.

[MyHeritage - Dec 20, 2017]

So You Want to Take a DNA Test...

There's been nothing short of an explosion in consumer DNA testing of late. How do you decide which test to take and with which company? Before you start, it's important to clarify why you're taking a DNA test. If it's just because you're curious about your ethnicity, you might want to test at whichever company is having the best sale.

[Medium - September 13, 2017]

No, You Don’t Really Have 7,900 4th Cousins: Some DNA Basics for Those With Jewish Heritage

When I first got my results, I excitedly reached out to many of those listed as probable “second to third cousins,” certain I would soon be trading kugel recipes with them. Over time, I became increasingly puzzled and frustrated why I couldn’t connect a single one of them to my known family tree. I quickly discovered that Jewish DNA is, well, different from other DNA. If you are expecting that your DNA test will create a clear-cut breadcrumb trail taking your family tree back to the days of King David, think again.

[Medium - May 23, 2017]

About Jennifer Mendelsohn

Photo of Jennifer Mendelsohn

Jennifer Mendelsohn is a seasoned journalist and ghostwriter. A former People magazine special correspondent and Slate columnist, her work has appeared in numerous local and national publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Politico, Washingtonian, Tablet, Medium, McSweeney's, and Jezebel.

A member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, Mendelsohn serves on the board of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland.

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