This post by Gayle M. Irwin
I recently received the results from my AncestryDNA kit, which I mailed into the company just after Christmas last year. It took quite a bit of time to get those results because of the influx of DNA kits around that time of year; at least, that’s what the email updates which I received in January and February said. Within the results I received, I found several surprises. More on that in a moment.
For as long as I can remember, my father and his siblings and their father claimed Native American heritage. I grew up thinking I was 1/16 Cherokee. My father often referred to his father’s mother as ½ Cherokee; her name was Lozane Ard. She married a man named Samuel Lonit Mansfield, whose father was also Samuel Mansfield and whose mother was Ella Locade Baham. I’ve been able to trace Ella’s (who is mostly known by her middle name, Locade) family several generations back. Dad’s grandmother Lozane had a father name William Pinkney Ard, and her mother’s name was Rachel Williams (we think – William P. Ard had three wives, at different times, thankfully, but still not quite sure which woman was Lozane’s mother at this point). William Ard’s mother was Margaret Ard – his father was possibly William Beavers but that is not a known fact either. It seems Margaret had several children but most records indicate no male (ie, husband) living with her other than her male children. So, there’s a mystery. Many of us wondered if the Native American lineage was brought in at this point, and that seemed to be the accepted fact, and the story passed down through generations, including to me.
Now, for my DNA results. What was not surprising was that I’m 42% western European and 26% Scandinavian. My mother’s parents were German/Swiss on her mother’s side and Danish on her father’s side; in fact, her grandparents were full German and full Swiss on her mother’s side and full Dane on her father’s side. They are easy to figure out. Within the western European is also French, and that for certain is from my father’s side (the Bahams), so that wasn’t much of a surprise. What came next was: 9% Iberian Peninsula, which includes Spain and Portugal, and, an even bigger surprise: 13% African, with highest percentages traced to Nigeria, Senegal, and the Ivory Coast/Ghana. And, the biggest surprise of all: NO Native American, not even less than one percent.
Interestingly, I used to joke that Dad’s side of the family may have African blood. Dad and all his immediate relatives grew up in Louisiana, and not much was really discussed about ancestors. Just snippets here and there, and of course, the claim of Native American heritage. So, lightheartedly, I’d say, “I wonder if there are skeletons in the family closet, like slaves.” And that may not be far from the truth. I discovered a possible ancestor: a slave a man named Honore Baham. However, the more I dug, the more I found that to be less possible. I did discover that Honore was still a slave when he was 30 years old; he belonged to the Baham family, and he was emancipated in 1820 by Renez Baham, brother to the man who seems to be my 4th great-grandfather: Louis Jeanbon Baham. So, Honore the slave, when he was freed, received the last name of Baham (and he could have been the son Renez and a slave woman – there are indicators to that possibility); therefore some of the mix-up in the family tree.
Thus far, I’ve traced some of my heritage back to the 1600s, with people coming from France to Canada then to Alabama and on in to Louisiana, via different generations. Another branch came from France directly to Louisiana. There seems to be some mixed blood, likely a French ancestor marrying, or simply living with, a freed black woman. I’m trying to learn more about this branch of the family tree.
I’ve found family crests on some of the sides who hailed from France. I’m also learning more about this part of my heritage.
My neighbor, Marian Kingdon, is assisting me on this ancestral journey. She loves genealogy and has traced her family lineage as well as her husband’s, and she’s excited to help me; and I’m grateful for her help. I’m fascinated about the different findings we’ve discovered. I know there’s more about my family tree that I’ll be learning in the weeks and months to come.
Tomorrow is my 56th birthday; I’m more than half-way through my expected life-span. And I continue learning more about my heritage, surprises and non-surprises alike. I recently bought a DNA kit for my father and sent it off a few weeks ago. I likely won’t know results for several more weeks, but I’m looking forward to putting more pieces of the ancestry puzzle together. I wonder if we’ll find more surprises from Dad’s DNA results… or perhaps by further digging into the names and lives of our ancestors. It’s a fun, exciting, and yes, somewhat surprising journey!
Now more than a half-century old, and on the cusp of 60 years of age, I’m learning about my heritage … and I’m thankful I can do so, surprises and all.