Growing up, like any kid, I never thought about where I was from or what I was. I knew I was a kid and that was it. Until about 4th grade. We were learning about Thanksgiving. We were given the classic story. Europeans came over to the Americas, It was a hard winter and Native Americans helped them. They had a big feast, the first thanksgiving. That story sparked an interesting idea in me. People were already here and they didn’t look like the people I see everyday. Also the pilgrims traveled here from somewhere else. The pictures in the history book showed the Native Americans with bows and arrows, brown animal skin clothes, long pony tailed hair, feathers as accessories and brown/tanned skin color. The Europeans had on those hats with the buckles on them, black clothes and they were pale with blonde hair.
After that I asked my mom about it. I was then taken on a journey through history that I was not prepared for at the time. It would take some time for me to fully download all the information she gave me. Before I left elementary school another question was in my mind. In history class we always talked about Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and civil rights. Then we learned about slavery. So! By the end of my elementary years I wondered, “Does my ancestry start at slavery times? Is there anything before that? That thought was quickly forgotten about, because I was a tween boy and like all boys that age I was an idiot, LOL.
As the years progressed I had another assignment that would spark my interest in my history even more. I had to make a family tree. Now at the time I thought, Easy! My great grandmother was still alive. I even had a few great-great grand uncles and aunts still alive. I only did about 4 generations. After I got through with my immediate family, my aunts 7 kids, my dad’s side whose mom was 1 of 14 kids and a gaggle of cousins I was like, yea, I have enough info. The day came to present our work.
Now just a little background, I was at a predominately Caucasian school. When we presented our work I was shocked at how they knew they had German, French, and Welsh descent. They only had a few members on their trees as opposed to my like 50 people. What should have felt like a win made me feel less accomplished. I needed answers. I refused to believe my family’s story started during slavery. SO! I began to ask my parents about our family and wow, I learned some interesting facts.
I did what any person would do. I started with my parents. Well, um, it was interesting what I was told. I had African, Native American and European ancestry in me. I noticed how my dad was kinda fixed on that European and Native American side. My Mom said the same but never really committed to that answer. I would later find out why. It was like she doubted it. Not my dad, he was confident in what he told me. I then spent the next few years casually bringing the topic up in random conversations with random family members.
Here’s what I thought as a result of what I was told:
African – about 35%
European – About 30%
Native American – About 30%
Blackfoot (not making that name up)
Time moves forward as it does and at this point in my life I was in college. I had an ancestral identity of who I am. Then I was hit with another bombshell.
I was attending an HBCU (Historically Black College/University). Like I said before I had an ancestral Identity that I was pretty confident about. Then I started talking to other students about ancestry in general. Oh, you’re probably thinking, “How did that topic come up?” The topic of our backgrounds would come up because I was a history major. Mostly every student there said the same thing when we spoke about our ancestors. We all said variants of the same backgrounds
The only other variant was the Caribbeans. Very few times we heard Spanish or Asian. I was like how are we all saying the same things and not related to each other. I was confident as an individual but I totally lost confidence in what I thought was my ancestral background.
I never finished school (not because of this, that’s a whole other story). I went back home. Then I received a Christmas gift that would give me some answers. You have to remember I went to college in the early 2000’s. The first time DNA was fully sequenced was in 2003. I was slated to graduate in 2004. I remember watching shows about celebrities finding out their ancestry. I was amazed. Even if it was a show and a lot of the information was not fully accurate. The science was there. Our history is in our DNA. We have traits, behaviors, ailments and everything that makes up (mostly) who we are, right now, in our DNA.
A dim light in the tunnel
I don’t recall the exact Christmas but I do remember what I got. It was a small box. On it, it said, Ancestry DNA Test. My mom got a 2 for 1 special, one for her and one for me. My brother and his wife did the 23 and Me test the previous year. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to take the test.
Fast forward years later and I finally took the test. Yup! I held on to that box for years. After years of being told what I was kinda scared to find out what my DNA would say. Life and fear held me back and even now I don’t know what I was afraid of. After going through a hard time in my life I finally got the courage to do a lot of things. One of them was taking the test. One of the few times you can spit on something and it’s ok, LOL (I know, bad joke, but come on).
Weeks later, I got my results
To be continued in Part 2