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While we’re all patiently (impatiently?) waiting for my 23andMe results, my family and I have been chating away and speculating upon the ancestry portion of the test. This gets into some philosophical and potentially controversial theories and insights.

So when we last talked about my mother’s results, I related the surprise of her 6% African ancestry. The various reactions tended to group on generational and residency lines. My brother and my three cousins who were raised outside of the boarder town, collectively laughed our heads off, pumped our fists, high-fived each other like frat boys and exclaimed “Yaaassssss!” Those of the previous generation and/or who still live in the boarder town were . . . not quite as enthusiastic.

Why does this matter? First, if you think race relations strictly run white versus blacks, let me enlighten you, it does not. While, it may not be the kindest thing to say, finding out this information was a bit of a dig to the boarder town relatives. I think it is great my mother is mixed! It means she’s a mutt of the world, in the most positive sense of the word. So consequently, I am too! It is wonderful. It is exotic, different, and  unique–very me.

The thing to focus on is the 6% portion of her 23andMe results. The average European-American is 0-4% African, meaning the African blood was very far back in their ancestry, with other DNA tests this would be labeled as a”trace” ethnicity and not something to fixate on. However, 6% is a sizeable portion. According to DNAeXplained 6% of an ethnicity equates more or less with the person’s great-great-grandparent. This generation gives us a total of 16 individuals to look at. For the record, a great-great-grandparent is considered “recent” in the genealogy and DNA fields. In fact, with some quick very general calculations, I am going to place our Awesome African Ancestor (how is that for alliteration for you?) in mid to late 1700s.

Again, why the fixation? Because it is fascinating! Mother and I want to know about this different person in our family tree. The person who added some spice to the mix. What stories do they have to tell?! What does it say about our ancestors? Who were they? What happened to them? For me, as a writer, this is a perfect opportunity to mine my tree for ideas, because, as we know, sometimes we  just can’t make this stuff up!

There are many people who assume that this ancestor was a female African slave who was raped by a white Master. While this may very well be the case, never assume! Here are some alternative scenarios for the African ancestor :

  • Female African raped by other white male on the property OR in town (who says it has to be the Master? Could be the son of the house? The Overseer? The highway man? The neighbor? You get the idea.)
  • Female African whom had a consensual one night stand or relationship with a white male. (Always an option, then and now.)
  • Female African whom was in love and/or married to a white male (it is rare given the time period, but it is not out of the realm of possibilities).
  • Male African preyed on by white Mistress (Sex slave, anyone?–This happened, do not be surprised)
  •  Male African who had a consensual one night stand or relationship with a white woman.
  • Male African who was in love and/or married a white woman.

Thus said, just because two people create a baby does not mean they are “parents.” This could be a case of African female who gets raped, but is married to a African male. The African male takes on the baby as his own child, knowingly or unknowingly. This could go the other way as well, which might seem a little more plausible given my bloodlines (but who knows?!).

The Case of the African Ancestor has us now digging again through our genealogy. We might very well need to hire a professional genealogist to do the exhuming as most of the records will be in Mexico or another foreign country. I am very excited to find this ancestor. What is his or her name? What is their story? Where did they come from? Where did they go? If they were alive today, I would walk up to them with open arms and welcome them to the family!

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