All my life I have felt a great absence and need to find out where I came from. This arose from knowing that my great-grandfather had been abandoned as a baby.
Sadly, my great-grandfather was never adopted and his temporary surname became permanent and inherited by us.
My mother’s family also had a story, one that was again about lost relatives and that sounded more like rumour than anything real.
“Our ancestors had been shamed and ruined when their son ran off with a slave.”
This was never a comfortable story for us to tell or hear, especially growing up in a city where the rich had built their mansions on the backs of peoples stolen from their homelands.
Slavery was an especially uncomfortable topic for the family, the shame of our ancestors had become our shame – for their having ever believed they could “own” someone.
A few years ago I was offered the chance to take part in National Geographic’s Genographic Project, I jumped at the chance with the hope of getting a vague idea of where we came from. The results would be very surprising.
My father’s family was shown to be 100% homegrown Anglo-Saxon.
The big surprise and moment of pride, love and uplifting was the discovery that my mother’s family legend was real. With one little twist.
It was us who were descended from a union between a man and a woman liberated through love. We needn’t feel the shame of shames, it was our ancestors who had suffered, and had not been the ones inflicting the suffering.
Whoever my greatest grandmother was is not clear. She herself came from a mixed lineage of African and Native American ancestors. Where exactly in Africa and the USA? I do not know how easy that would be to find out. And to be honest, it doesn’t matter.
Much like knowing my true bloodline, finding a blend of native religions and spiritualities from the UK, North America & Africa and their union in hoodoo and voodoo feels like coming home.
I have a lot to learn, but here and now I will live these paths and not just dream of them. My years of searching and seeking may finally have passed.