27 Dec In search of the missing parts of me
There’s something to be said for knowing who you are and where you come from. There’s clarity when you have evidence, documented or anecdotal, of which ancestor first arrived on these shores. There’s closure when you can pinpoint the village that your forebear(s) left in their quest to seek a greater fortune or better life. That is the story of so many who live in this country called “America”. Unfortunately, it’s not mine.
My ancestors didn’t come here of their own free will. They didn’t come to seek a greater fortune but rather were forced to create fortunes for others. They were held as chattel, beaten, worked relentlessly from sunup to sundown, raped and dehumanized because some people were too lazy to do their own work, they would rather cross an ocean to savagely kidnap people from a foreign land to do it.
I had started my own journey into my past by signing up for an Ancestry.com membership. It’s not as easy when you try to review the limited documents kept by men who deemed it acceptable to own humans like the people who are responsible for my existence. In fact, when reviewing the slave schedules, it’s a bit unsettling and hurtful to see your ancestors listed as property with no names…..you will have to guess if the male slave listed as aged 6 is that missing great, great grandfather that you are searching for. If you are fortunate enough to find the right family that owned them, surmise the age of the ancestor and sex and where they lived, you will have a chance….otherwise, it’s not until after slavery was abolished that they are mentioned by name (which isn’t really theirs or yours – but the slave masters).
If they hadn’t survived the treacherous life that was forced upon them, I wouldn’t be here and they have my undying gratitude for defying interminable odds. Still, these people who lived during untenable circumstances and rarely saw old age were strangers to me. I don’t know their story or who they were before they were dragged to these shores.
After some years of research, I have managed to find quite a bit of information about the people I come from. I’ve found my paternal 3x Great grandparents, which is pretty amazing given that during slavery, they were listed as property. Their names were only revealed in the 1870 census after slavery was abolished and that is where I found Mr. Sam and Mrs. Rita Kelvin. I can’t find anything beyond that. Sam’s daughter is part of the couple that we celebrate during our annual family reunion: Jack and Sylvia Davis, who are my 2x Great grandparents. You will find that many names have been misspelled by the original recorders, so you will have to consider that during your search.
I’ve had less luck finding family members on my mother’s side, but I am not giving up. In these short years, I have managed to find 518 members of my extended family, 18 photos of their gravesites and obituaries, and 599 public records like marriage and death certificates.
More recently, I’ve wondered about the genetic history of my family. It’s no surprise that most African Americans are of mixed heritage, so I ventured to discover exactly what my background consisted of. Ancestry has a program that allows you to discover the totality of you. Generations before you were born, there were machinations going on that conspired together to create the person that you look at every day in the mirror. I decided to take the plunge and here are my results:
Ethnicity estimate for Renee King
REGION APPROXIMATE AMOUNT
Ivory Coast/Ghana 26%
Trace Regions 12%
Africa Southeastern Bantu 6%
Africa North 1%
Africa South-Central Hunter-Gatherers < 1%
Trace Regions 1%
Asia Central 1%
Trace Regions 13%
Iberian Peninsula 3%
Europe West 3%
Finland/Northwest Russia 2%
Great Britain 2%
Italy/Greece < 1%
Ireland < 1%
Naturally, I am curious about all of the people who are responsible for my genetics. From the people taken from their homeland to the people that owned them. There’s still so much that I have to learn and I’m not giving up. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. That’s why this DNA test is so important. Without it, I would have no idea where I came from. I will probably never know my real name. Think about it. The names that others take for granted….passed down from generation to generation is lost for an eternity for people like me. But this at least has given me a start.
Another benefit of taking the DNA test is that you will be sent the names/profiles of fellow Ancestry.com members who have taken the test and are related to you! I was sent 85 pages of 2nd to 8th cousins!! And true to my results, they are literally from every nationality – white, black and Asian. Who knows what else I will learn from these new relatives?
If you would like to start your own search, click here to get 10% off of your AncestryDNA kit. Good luck!