DNA and the Diaspora

Last Christmas my younger brother gave me a greeting card telling me that he would pay for a DNA ancestry test as my present. After taking my sweet time to select a testing company, order the kit, and send in my specimen (cheek swabs), I finally received my results. After reviewing the results I called my  mom and told her, excitedly, that according to FamilyTree DNA I am 87% African (85% West African and 2% Other African).

Given that we are black people with roots in the Caribbean this news is not exactly a surprise. Based on what we know of our family history, world history, and what we see in the mirror everyday we would expect the majority of my ancestry to trace back to West Africa.

So why was I so excited? It was not because it was surprising or unexpected information, but just because it was information.  It makes it real in a new way.   A true genealogical journey is not for the faint of heart, and sometimes finding evidence that  confirms a conclusion can be just as exciting (but hopefully not as disruptive) as coming upon information that disproves a long-held belief or interpretation.

Now without further ado, here are my full, not-so-surprising results:

Family Tree DNA 7.19.17

Family tree DNA Map 7.19.17

IMPORTANT  NOTE: The main reason I had not taken one of these tests already was my struggle with how much stock to put in the results. I just started reading a book called The Social Life of DNA, which explores the level of import and authority we give genealogical DNA analyses. In addition to unpacking why I am so excited by news that is so obvious, I also hope the book will give me a tighter grasp on the science and what the results really mean, especially considering the fact that you can get slightly different results depending on which DNA testing company you use.


Thomases Buried in Corozal

Report #2 on my 2011 genealogy research trip to PanamaExactly a week after visiting the Vallee graves I returned to Corozal with my father’s cousin, Enrique, who showed me where my paternal grandfather’s siblings and their mother are buried.  Sadly, the cemetery is not well cared for and the state of the grave sites range from kinda bad to deplorable. Continue reading

Vallee Graves in Panama

Report #1 on my 2011 genealogy research trip to Panama

Last month, in just a matter of days, I went from having no idea when my next trip to Panama would take place to having a ticket booked for a ten day trip in June. The main purpose of this trip was to do genealogical research. This and my next several postings will report on what I accomplished. Continue reading

Hurricane Devastates Soufriere

An important part of my genealogical research involves learning about the places my ancestors came from by learning about their histories, cultural traditions, and contemporary social and political conditions.  As a start, I am posting the following “breaking news” regarding St. Lucia and Barbados.

Not only has a hurricane hit one of my maternal islands of origin, St. Lucia, it has apparently caused the most devastation in Soufriere, the part of the island we believe my great-grandmother once called home.  You can read about what is known of the damage here.

Another one of my islands, Barbados, sustained the most damage.  Even though they the Bajans will have to undergo their own recovery effort, they will also be offering aid to their neighbors that were affected – St. Lucia and St. Vincent & the Grenadines.