For those Gypsies who do not
understand I am sorry. For those who do I thank you for understanding.
I may never be excepted by the
Gypsy Community because I was never raised among them. But I know
Who and What I am, it was told to me all of my life and I am proud of my
days traveling with my mother. Proud to have been born who I am,
and proud that I still hear the songs and music of a people that I barely
remember but feel in my heart. I may never be excepted but I will
always remember and I will see that my children and grandchildren will
remember as well. And
for so long as we remember it will remain in the hearts of our family,
and that is all that matters.
Romani customs and traditions are as diverse as the number of Roma nations and the countries they inhabit. Generally, there remains a fine cultural thread which holds the Roma people together, no matter where they may be. One thing to keep in mind while reading these articles is that what may hold true for one Roma nation in one part of the world may be very different for another nation elsewhere.
Editor's Note: The Romany Traveller Family History Society in Britain has released this article about the Vlax Romani population. For more information contact the address at the end of this article.
Romani organizations everywhere receive a small but regular stream of letters from people claiming to be Roma, or who claim Romani descent, asking for information on the organization, and sometimes asking how they might add their support to the cause. All help is welcomed, but it is clearly not enough in itself for an individual to present himself as a Gypsy in a letter without substantiation.
This raises the question of
what is a Gypsy, and how may an individual legitimately claim that
ethnicity. There are at least two aspects to legitimizing ethnic identity:
(a) what the individual sincerely believes himself to be, based on upbringing, cultural and/or linguistic heritage and membership in an ethnic community, and
(b) how other members of the ethnic community in question perceive that individual. In other words, while you may regard yourself as a Gypsy, do other Gypsies similarly regard you as a Gypsy?
When a Vlax Rom moves into a community and establishes contact with the local Romani population, he is first of all questioned as to his family background. In fact such a newcomer upon first meeting is asked not sar san (how are you) but kasko san (whose are you) and kas zhanes (who do you know). Members of the community will then place telephone calls around the country to verify the identity of the new person, and to ascertain that he is not in trouble, or being excluded (gonimé or bolimé).
There are very many people who have one or more Romani ancestors, but for whom contact with the community has been lost through out-marriage, or the decision to withhold ethnic continuation from the next generation. Strictly, since descent is patrilineal, a Romani woman marrying a gadjo (non-Romani man) becomes a member of that man's family, and is hence out of the community. Children of such unions are not considered Roma by Roma. A non-Romani woman marrying a Rom becomes the daughter of her Romani family and her children have the choice of joining the ethnic community, given the right social circumstances.
Belonging to a Romani ethnic community, and being able legitimately to identify oneself as a Rom or Romni, means interacting socially and frequently within that community, and maintaining certain cultural behaviors, in particular those dealing with ritual pollution, food preparation, male/female relationships and so on. For Romani- speaking Gypsy populations, use of the language is essential. Among some Australian, American or European Romani groups for example, you will be excluded from certain functions if you cannot participate using the Romani language. It alsomeans recognizing yourself as a person of color, i.e. as non-white, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
If you genuinely know yourself and are known by others to be a Gypsy, and want to be recognized as such by the Romani organization to which you are applying for membership, you will need to supply as much genealogical evidence as possible, in particular the names of individuals within the Romani community who can vouch for you. If you suspect that you have a
forebear but know little more than that, organizations such as the Romany
& Traveller Family History Society in Britain, 6 St. James Walk, South Chailey, East
Sussex, BN8 4BU) exist which can help you to trace your family's roots, especially if they
trace back to the Romanichal community.
The Patrin---------------------------Dedicated to Romani (Gypsy) culture and history
Gypsys Across America-----------This page will be providing you with links to sites of Gypsies
Wagons, Caravans, Vardos-------The Romany Vardo of the English Gypsies & others
Gypsy Folk Medicine---------------Health the way it has been done for centuries
Assoc. of Gypsies/Romani International
Yahoo Direct link to Gypsy Culture---Search the net for more links to the gypsy culture