Ancestors and the Tracing

I read the saga of a Black man who wrote about tracing his ancestry back to Africa. He told about his family and what it means to him to know where his ancestors originated. It was an interesting story but as usual, I began to think about all the things that makes knowing the true story unlikely.

               What I am talking about is genetics and history. Yes, history. A Black person’s ancestral history is much different than that of a White person. A White person, i.e., can say they are Italian, that they come from a small Italian town named…, their relatives still live there, and their names are…, and they can trace and name their relatives back centuries. Their family tree is branched out covering hundreds of years and, possibly, thousands of names.

               The Black person can trace, with difficulty, ancestral names back, perhaps, almost two hundred years. Then a DNA sample will, hopefully, show where in Africa his relatives originated. This is the reason there is a large gap in the chain of relatives belonging to one particular Black person. It all started like this. Black people were enslaved in Africa. While enslaved, many were raped and later bore those children. While traversing the Middle Passage, slaves were raped, and many bore those children. When the slaves finally went ashore in America and other places in the Caribbean, they were sold, many separated from their children, never to see or hear of them again.

               Many people believe that the sad and disgusting saga ended there until freedom came after the war. These people would be wrong again. The slaves, while on the plantations, were raped and bore those children who were sold to other plantations or kept on the plantation to grow up to be workers and trading commodity. Most house staff and artisans of the plantation usually were offspring of the plantation master or mistress. The slaves were property, like animals, to be done with as the owner chose.

               Before the Civil War the slaves were listed, for taxation purpose, in ledgers. At that time there were only numbers in the place of the slave’s name. After the Civil War the ledgers contained the slave’s name, the last name is usually the slave owner’s last name. That is a good thing for ancestor hunters but there is another big problem. If a slave escaped the plantation, the slave usually changed his name. Then there is the problem of breeding farms. These farms bred many slaves to be sold to many plantations. Some plantations had its own form of breeding which made the plantation seem richer.

               Then to top all of this, for all people, White, Black, Brown, whatever, there were always houses of ill-repute that, before contraceptive material, produced children. Today men and women mate with other than their lawful mates and have children.  There was and is the situation of people hooking up with people that work for them and produce children. I know of a man that I graduated from school with that was so light skinned that he could pass for White. He took that leap and is still passing for White today.

               I am okay with ancestry tracing, but I disagree with the person that will tell me they can exactly trace my ancestry/DNA through all the stages. Maybe they can do it for a White person whose family have been true and never strayed but not me. I am Black and know where the family tree limb starts to bend, and I know there are snapped branches. I have seen pictures of my great grandparents (they came from North Carolina), they were dark skinned. My grandmother and mother were light skinned. My grandmother married a Cherokee Indian. What is my complete ancestry/DNA? I would love to know but it is not to be.

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