It has been a while since my last post. Well I have graduated, and a new chapter begins. I don’t have any new discoveries—only thoughts.
I notice that many newer people who have gotten into DNA genealogy are only interested in the most uncertain and ever-changing aspect of it, the ethnicity mix. (Heck, I even initially was swept up in it and posted my and my sibling’s results in a post.) These are the same people who refuse to believe the more concrete and never-changing part of the science, the matches. After a certain percentage of centimorgans of DNA shared, the odds of it being a false positive is null.
There are not many African Americans into genealogy, and this is a shame. We could really help each other piece things together. (Genealogists helping fellow genealogists is also a problem that I will bring back up later.) Many African Americans who cross over to DNA genealogy and not part of the people in the above paragraph usually have a one-tracked mind. They see a population that their DNA shows an affinity with and make an assumption that they are part that population. An example is that AncestryDNA shows I have a small percentage of Finno-Russian. I may very well have Finno-Russian. It is also may be Native American. The area that is now made up of the countries of Finland and Russia has been proven by peer reviewed science papers to be an area where some Native American tribes actually came from. (Believe me; I am not chasing that Indian princess relative that so many who take these tests are interested in. I am just looking for the real ancestors that made me.) Basically, I am saying a little knowledge of history should be accompanied when interpreting your results. That was just one example of hitching on to one aspect of one’s results and not investigating further.
Many people, not just African Americans, get hung up on a surname not showing or a place not appearing among their matches. I have said it before and will say it until I lose my ability to speak: DNA trumps oral history and recorded documents. (I have not much more to add to that. You either believe it or you don’t.)
A huge dose of genetic science by all should be attempted to be understood when interpreting your results. This is mainly the companies’ fault though. They advertise in such a way that leads consumers to believe that once you receive your results all your genealogical and ancestral questions will be answered. This is not the case. You have to work very hard to figure out what the DNA is telling you. I always provide my matches with a link to Kelly Wheaton’s Beginners Guide to Genetic Genealogy.
I visit many DNA-genealogy based groups, forums, communities, and message boards, and the snobbery among those who feel like someone else has nothing to offer them (because of lack of family knowledge, small pedigrees, or not coming from the “right” branch) is disheartening. I get that people want to give just as much as they can get, but many people lack family knowledge for legitimate reasons. Simply not being told, being adopted, not having funds to spend on documents, and or not having the luxury to travel to ancestral homes or genealogical databases are all valid reasons. These people are still as much related to those ancestors as the “hoarding” genealogists are. I, myself, do this in hopes that I can freely share what I discover with anyone who will listen.
The last thing that I really think genealogy, specifically genetic genealogy can benefit from is a standard that all companies, geneticists, and casual dabblers should adhere by—an internationally recognized board, if you will. And this is where I may turn those who deem themselves “citizen genetic scientists” off. This board needs to be filled with equal parts citizen genetic scientists and actual degree-holding geneticists. How can you discuss genealogy without a genealogist? On the same hand, how can you discuss genetics without a geneticist? On these aforementioned forums, I see a lot of well-respected folks saying opposite things or with agenda and company loyalty. That is not a standard.
In other news, I bought a better Web site that I was going to migrate to. It is much more complicated than I had anticipated.
I find it hard to write or talk about my parents. The funny thing is that I did not really know my father. My half siblings, no relation to him, knew him better. After his death in 2001 I came to know him better, although I had not seen him since 1980. And my mom…well, she was a difficult person to show love to because she was a difficult person to show love. Even through all the anger, there has always been an overwhelming feeling of love for her.
James “Jerry” Vernon Louie was born December 24, 1947 in Lexington, Mississippi to Edna Mohead/Moorehead and John Louie. He was a Vietnam veteran. From my half siblings, on both sides, he liked to make people laugh. He also wrestled with his own depression. The latter played a part in his alcoholism. Still, I heard he was gentle and reflective.
Irene “Punch” Virginia Roberson was born March 8, 1931 in Greenville, Mississippi, although she was raised in Shelby. Her parents were Fannie Mae Pearl and Willie Roberson. She was superstitious, ambitious, and strong. She liked to laugh and spoke her mind. And she fiercely protected her children.
I honestly am not sure how important genealogy would have been to them. I get the feeling that my dad would find recent ancestors more interesting than those beyong three generations, and my mom would be more interested in romanticizing certain parts. I sense they would be more interested in the “now” and not the “then.” I respect that and understand where that comes from.
Our past, this includes our ancestors’ pasts, shapes what comes from our DNA tomorrow. No, I do not believe that we have no control over our destiny, but I do believe we are influenced by what came before us whether we realize it or not. I do not only do genealogy for my ancestors. I also do it for myself, my current relatives, and my descendants.
We came from someone, not something. We are going somewhere.
I am still trying to place the puzzle together. My main genealogy goals of 2014 are as follows.
1. Where does our Louie line lead/ Where was the first Louie who stepped into the New World from?
2. Who were Ben Moorehead’s (Mohead/Morehead) parents?
3. Who was Webb Roberson’s (Robinson) father?
4. Was great grandpa John Louie’s wife (my great grandma) Lenora Howard or Elnora Davis?
5. How do I fit into the Turner/Ivey/Sledge clan?
6. Do I belong in the Yancey/Bartlett/Thornton/Graves clan?
I have genealogy photo envy. I admit it. It is not a begrudging envy of those with photos of their ancestors. It is a longing envy; a longing to have photos of my own ancestors. Hell, I don’t have any of my mom and only two of my dad. My mom, as probably discussed in an earlier post, thought if someone captured your image they could do magical, often bad, things to you. Therefore, she hated taking pictures. Even me and my maternal siblings don’t really have pictures of ourselves as babies and children either. This may stem from her Mississippi Delta upbringing where I have read was the birthplace of hoodoo, a form a voodoo. I can’t speak much of hoodoo or voodoo, because I do not know the particulars and only found out recently that the difference between the two was not just in spelling. And my dad…I did not grow up knowing him, so that is why I have no pictures of him.
I would love to add a picture with every post. A picture would go well with when I write about my grandmother Fannie Mae Pearl-Shorter or when I write about my great grandfather’s Ben Moorehead’s (Mohead/Morehead) corner store in Leflore county, Mississippi, from the 1930s–which was something special for a black person in that era. I also wish I could place a name to the face of my great great grandfather Whylie Wilson, who I speculate gained his freedom when he was 16, which was 26 years before emancipation. More than anything, I wish I had more photos of my mom and my dad, Irene “Punch” Virginia Roberson and James “Jerry” Vernon Louie.
I am glad to see the sea between genealogist who use DNA as a valuable tool and strict paper genealogists is drying up. Paper genealogy got me back to the early 1800s on a few of my lines. For black Americans that is pretty far back.
I have always been a lover of stories, fiction, nonfiction, science fiction etc… . In my mid-20s I realized that I had no family stories of my own. Most of my friends had and conveyed them without even knowing they were doing so. My many siblings and I could only say that our mom was from Mississippi and still had family in Mississippi. I grew up not knowing my dad, so that was even more stories unrelayed.
Science fiction for a good decade was my fiction reading of choice. I have been fascinated by science, itself, but some smart science fiction that dealt with the biology of humans, human existence, and genetics made science more understandable for me. So when I heard of people using DNA in assisting with genealogy (history and science combined), I was excited. Problem was that initial tests were $1000 or more. Me producing that much money for a test would have been a work of fiction, for real.
In 2011 DNA testing became more affordable and the prices have since dropped. Therefore, I have gotten my autosomal DNA tested at three companies, five of my sisters’ austosomal tested at one, one brother’s tested at two, had mybrother’s and my mitochondrial DNA tested at two, and my brother’s paternal (in essence, my father’s) paternal Y-DNA tested at two. Yes, you can call me a DNA junkie.
What is it that I hope to learn and how does it tie into genealogy—my story
Although the paper trail, documentation, and oral history have guided me back further than most people expected I could go, many lines still have gaps. Even those lines that go back to the early 1800s have a chance of getting back to the 1700s or 1600s or beyond. One of my hopes is that DNA will help me bridge the gaps and blaze a trail as far back as I can go.
Before testing, the certainties that I could tell you about my family was that we were mainly from Mississippi, we were mainly of African descent, we were mainly of slave descent, and, because of the nature of slavery, we probably had some European blood. After testing I can tell you that many of my DNA matches are mainly from North Carolina, therefore my family was probably there before being enslaved in Mississippi, we have matches to Nigeria and Ghana, my DNA matches seven modern-day African areas (with Cameroon,/Congo, C’ote d’Ivoire/Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria being the top regions), we range from 13% to 25% European and my DNA matches six European areas, one suspected black ancestor successfully made it to Canada before the end of slavery, two suspected European ancestors were brought over as slaves (one English and one Irish), and my father’s father’s father’s father’s line leads to Belgium. Now, some of this knowledge came from collaborating with my DNA matches on what they knew of their own history. Without the DNA, I would not have been led to these clues.
Another important thing that I am getting from DNA genealogy is proof that oral history or written documents cannot provide. DNA autocorrects the mistakes or “mis-leads” that have been left from the past. It does not give instant answers, afterall it is a tool that you have to work hard at. It challenges what you have been told or even what you have seen some times. This can be quite scary for some. But it is so exhilarating when you actually confirm that you were on the right track with your paper trail and in your oral history.
For me, knowing that an ancestor passed down a piece of themself that made me is something more powerful than science or belief. It is mystical and mesmerizing. It pushes me on with my genealogy because I want to discover who they were, every good, bad, or ugly detail.
All of my siblings only share one parent with me. Below is exactly what segments on the chromosome that we match.
I was planning on a longer and different post and that is still to come, but I wanted to salute my dad, James Vernon Louie (1947-2001) a veteran who served in the Vietnam War. Thanks to him for sacrificing so much for us. He deserves more than I can give this night but rest assured I am working on a post that is worthy of him.
Effie Wilson was my great grandmother. She was born in about 1875 and spent most of her life in the counties of Claiborne and Jefferson, MS, in the Delta. In 1920, she had 10 living children. They were Nancy, Willie, Lillie, Rachel, RT, Ibby/Abby, and Esther (later in life she would go by Estelle). They were all fathered by Willie Shorter. Her other children, Mariah, Frankie, and Fannie (my grandmother) were all fathered by Howard Pearl. Effie’s mother was Abby/Ibby Tilgman and Whylie Wilson, and her siblings were Wiley, Thomas, Robert, Whylie, Bettie, Jane, Henry, Lucy, Ibbie, Ida, Ollie, and Charley.
Effie, born a Wilson, became a Shorter, then a Pearl, a Shorter again, and a Smith (via Robert Smith). There may have been some other name changes along the way. Following Effie through the decades on the census was interesting. I always knew when I had found her because she was always with her kids. She had enough of them with her for me to know that I had the right person. In a few censuses, her mom was with her.
I have not heard any oral stories about Effie. In fact I did not know her name until I was 26. I have one picture of her, which I also saw when I was 26. Effie, you have not been forgotten. I hope your life was filled with joy and laughter.
Genealogy is truly a cutthroat business. I mean some people feel as if they are sole owners of those that came before. I find the notion quite ridiculous because it is the descendants who belong to those who came preceded us, and by our mere existence, they own us. I begin this with the mind to discuss the types of genealogist that I have come across and have issue with.
As stated above, I have a real problem with “ancestor hogs.” Those are people who don’t want to share information but will drain you dry of any information that you may have. I am not advocating that genealogist become like me, but I share freely. I want my ancestors to be remembered. In fact, the lack of research that others are not doing on some of my lines makes me sad.
There are those who want you to do things in the manner in which they would. I am me. One thing I like about me is that I walk to the beat of a different drummer so well that I am actually following the surging riff of an electric guitar. That will not change. So the jazz hands that keep trying to tend to my tree and place all this manure that this gardener is not ready, willing, or able to tend to at the moment should tend to their own. There are good reasons that I don’t need to justify and will not explain as to why I am taking the road that I am taking on my journey.
I am mainly black (yes, I use this term more easily than African American), but have some white ancestors. I am just as connected and proud of both groups that I descend from. I want to know all of who made me. Along my path, I have come across three types of researchers. The first are those who couldn’t care less about race and just want to figure out our connection. I like these people a lot. The last two make me want cut myself, make a salt and vinegar solution, and use the edge of a knife to rub it in my wound. I am thinking of those of you who feel as if I should not research my European ancestors and only focus on my African ancestors and those European cousins who, even the nice ones, have a sense that our European ancestor is really just your ancestor who raped, had sex with, made a mistake with, or had some fun with (pick your theme) my ancestor and created something that is really not connected to your ancestor at all. I call both of these types of genealogist the “deniers.”
Now, people can create a myth or choose to research in whatever manner they deem fit. I only have an issue when it impedes on me finding out who I am. The former does not slow down my progress but irritates me, because they feel a need to email me and tell me where I need to focus. The latter can be split even further. A good majority give information but still refer to our common ancestor as their ancestor, make apologies for their ancestor, and express anger at their ancestor. Well, I can do all of that for our ancestor on my own.
The latter in that category, if they do accept contact, offer very little information or say there is no way we can be related. Well, I have taken DNA tests to supplement what little oral history that I have. In fact, I am a science gal and believe the science way more than any oral history. The stories usually speak of familial connections, whereas DNA speaks of a genetic connection. There is a difference. Surnames, family stories, pictures, and such are more indicative of familial connections. I am interested in sorting out the genetic connection; although, I am not saying familial connections are not as important. I am not trying to figure out my bloodline because I want something such as money, a phone call, an invite to the next family reunion–things that my genetic relatives may feel like I am not entitled to. I want only what is owed to me, and I can prove ownership with my and my known families DNA. That is giving my ancestor a seat at my pedigree table. Therefore, with the ways that names changed, the manner in which census takers and transcribers recorded it, and the sordid history in which blacks took names, the fact is that not even a good amount of my third cousins will share many of the surnames that I know.
The last type of genealogist that irks me is the genealogist who tries to create a fact out of a fallacy. These are the people who will never admit their tree is wrong. They can have a mother in the tree giving birth to a child after her recorded death, see that their supposed grandfather Ryan Bennett married their supposed grandmother Louise Jones but still leave “grandpa” Jack Avery in their tree, etc. And those of us who consider ourselves DNA genealogist are no better. People will swear up and down that the science is wrong if we cannot place our matches, if we don’t see the Cherokee princess’s DNA (insert whatever ethnicity some people consider exotic), do see some signs of DNA we don’t want to see, or “close” paper trail cousins aren’t matching.
No, my tree is not ready for primetime either, but I state that and look into it when others suggest that I may have gotten it wrong. I welcome that. And there are times when I don’t change things right away. I do acknowledge erroneous information as erroneous information though.
My rant is up and time for a drink now.
I traced my Roberson line to the counties of Scott and Bolivar in Mississippi. Webb Roberson was my great grandfather, and he was born in 1863 to Mary. I do not know Mary’s last name, but she was born in Georgia. Willie Roberson was my grandfather and Webb’s son.
I started my genealogy journey barely with grandparents’ names on one side. My mom was from Shelby, Mississippi. She had come here in the late 60s, estranged from her then husband and already with 9 kids. (She would in the end have 12; I am the youngest.) She never talked much about her family. A few times, I would remember her talking with my grandmother, who still lived in Shelby. My grandfather used to visit quite a bit as well. She would mention colorful names, when speaking with my grandmother, like Sonny Boy, Pumpkin, Sidda Baby, Sug (as in Sugar), and Red. Later, I would learn that she was known as Punch and not many called her by her given name.
My grandfather went missing when traveling from Mississippi to Chicago to visit my mom when I was four. He may have been in the first stages of Alzheimer’s. My grandmother died when I was 12. The last time that I saw her I was a lot younger than that. When I was ten or so, we discovered that we had been living just a block away from my mother’s nephew and his family.
The assumption among my siblings and I was that my mom had lost contact with her family in Mississippi, especially after the loss of her parents. Even after discovering her nephew lived so close, we still thought that she was not in contact with them. I discovered that she was always in contact with someone from her hometown or some who came from her hometown when I placed an ad in the Shelby, Mississippi newspaper. It was my attempt to claim information that my mother said she did not have. It was information on her grandparents. Well, within less the week, my email box was flooded with not-so-distant relatives. I was told that my mother spoke with someone at least once a week and that she often visited. They gave me loads of information. My mother later corroborated this information and had a few pictures.
I have my suspicions on why my mother was so secretive. I will address those assumptions in another post.