I dug into the family genealogy a few months ago, and I’ve been trying to do research since. Unfortunately I’m having a hard time finding information, so I’m throwing this out there in case someone comes across this post and can help.

My father’s side of the family is Romany. His father’s people have been in Kentucky since before it was a state. I know there are other families in western Kentucky, but they (and my own family) don’t seem to have any cultural connections to what most people consider “Romany culture”. (Which isn’t monolithic, mind you; there are Romany all over the world, and while many of them tend to have insular communities, they often integrate in some ways.) My dad’s family is all gone, and he doesn’t talk about them (for good reason, from what I hear). And he and I aren’t close anyway.

It’s hard to find decent research on the Romany worldwide that isn’t biased. Romany don’t have a longstanding literary tradition, mostly because they’re so insular.

Let’s talk about that for a moment, because in America, at least, few people know. Here’s what I’ve gleaned from my reading: The Romany came from India originally, probably fleeing from a war several centuries ago. They wound up going west, into Europe and other regions, and forgot they were from India. (Nobody knew until a decade or two ago, when DNA tests were done.) Medieval Europeans treated the Romany like shit, so they refused to integrate or bend under European oppression. So Europeans hated them more. Romany got more insular. The vicious cycle continues to this day.

There are entire cities in Europe that forbid Romany people. Even in the past few years, there have been church burnings in eastern Europe. In Western Europe, there are businesses with NO GYPSIES signs. (Gypsy is a racial slur; whites thought the Romany were Egyptians.) Whites think the Romany are beggars and thieves. Wouldn’t you beg and steal, too, if no one would hire you for an actual job due to racism? In Britain there are places Romany are forced to live together with no running water; when they have to go to the bathroom elsewhere, they’re called filthy animals. They have no running water. What are they supposed to do?

Romany live in poverty everywhere. And yes, a lot of them look down on their oppressors. I don’t blame them. Parts of Europe held Romany as chattel slaves until the 1880s. The myth of them stealing children comes from an Austrian Empress taking Romany children from their families and placing them in white homes for forced integration. People stole their kids back. But whites wrote the history books.

I’m not saying all Romany are saints. Every group of people has bad and good members. I just feel like Romany get the short end of the stick and more people should be sympathetic. Centuries of poverty and oppression have taken a toll.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to go off on a whole rant. It’s just depressing to think about.

So if you have any info about the Romany in Kentucky, drop me a line. I’d love to know more. Thanks.