Monday, June 12, 2006

White like me

I used to do a little internet genealogy research, and from time to time I'd get an email from someone claiming to be a long lost relative wanting to know if there was any Indian ancestry in some surname line.

My research was taken off what my grandparents did and nothing they found, and nothing I subsequently found indicated any Indian ancestry. It doesn't mean it isn't there. There are a few lines we can't trace back. No records...the provenance of my ancestors simply vanishes into the mists of time. That's the way it is.

To my view, genealogy is a bit of pot luck. You might as well be proud of what you get, 'cause you certainly can't change it. But for some reason the frequentish emails about Indian ancestry used to get up my nose. I never got a request for evidence of being descendant from Black or Chinese or anything else. I replied to one respondent that I'd found no evidence, but that one should be careful about claims for Native American ancestry because often progenitors who were rumored Indian may well have been part African - and that, either way, at the time, these ancestors may have actually taken steps to conceal their own parentage which would make it hard to know for sure. Sad as it is, that's the way it was.

Bring it up to modern times and we have DNA testing to supplement handwritten entries in the family Bible. My Dad just took one of those tests (from a place like this, if not this company) and phoned with the results yesterday. I didn't speak to him myself, but the Vol-in-Law took the message. My father is 91% European, 5% East Asian and 4% African. The East Asian is not a surprise, his mother was Finnish - and there's a lot of Asian admixture. And to be fair the African is not really a surprise either. My family has been in America for a long time.

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