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The Advantages of Knowing Your Past

For those lucky people who have been given a true sense of their family history my story may seem quite unusual. However, today families ar...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

DNA Heritage Mapping

While I immerse myself in the DNA genealogy study, serendipity strikes really hard.  I've been delving into heritage percentages and have found surprising results in a few areas, not surprising in others.  Once and only once, for a week, I traveled to Spain.  To this day I haven't left, in my mind and spirit.  That sounds weird, I know.  But, two strange things have happened in my life to scar me and touch my soul deeply.  They came very unexpectedly.

First, was my trip to Spain in 1996, I believe.  Dates, in my own life, sometimes evade me.  Dead people, no problem!  Spain moved me in ways that I still am trying to understand.  It was easy to write the experience off to an American leaving their country for the first time.  That should have explained a lot.  But...it was much deeper I would find.

My time in Spain and Portugal was spent exploring.  I have visited Santiago de Compostela and Fatima, two of the major holy places in the world.  While these holy places were great, my experiences in both Spain and Portugal hold spiritual experiences I'm still trying to understand.
We'll stick to the ones in Spain, for now.

Spain did something to me.  What, I still don't quite understand, but I believe DNA may be a large part of that.  I could not explain why I, who could not speak a word of Spanish, besides perfunctory greetings, could communicate so well non-verbally with Spanish people.  Not just that, but people were drawn to me for some odd reason.  A feeling of these people being my relatives surged through my veins.  It was odd!!  Part of me was very freaked out, the other part was amazingly calm.  If you know me, calm is not a place I visit often, so it's a big deal.

Fast forward to DNA testing.  Once I became a better student of DNA findings I delved deeply into where all of my heritage could be broken down.  Yep....a large swath, from far back, was all over Spain.  All practically equally divided between Cataluna, Castilla y Leon, and Galicia.  Galicia was were I visited and felt like I should have never left.  Weird...huh?

The hard part is finding out who in my tree this comes from, even if that will be possible.  Some surprises, some not.  Here's my surprises:  1. Orkney Islands, off of Northern Scotland
2. Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish

The rest makes sense, I know where my French comes from, my Irish, my west Scottish, my German, Austrian, English, even the Native American.

I would suspect my Spain connection is through my early Virginia Chesapeake tribe that was documented as being different in complexion and culture than other natives encountered in other regions by the English.

The other experience is one I don't share because it's so text book "spiritual sighting", like seeing Jesus in my potato chip.  In Lisbon, Portugal I was fortunate enough to take a monastery bus tour.  This was stunning beyond words to be in cathedrals build in the 13th through 16th centuries, the tombs of Kings and Queens everywhere.

There was one, I believe it was the very famous Jeronimos Monastery and church, in Belem, yet pictures on-line do not reveal my memory.  It could have been the church in the Alcobaca Monastery, I just cannot be sure.  In this cathedral, after viewing famous tombs with the tour guide, I decided to go off on my own.  I approached the area close to the altar and was drawn to my right.  It was a bit dark, but I looked up and there was a huge statue in between others of a woman that must have been Mary.  I looked into her big dark eyes and felt a serge through my body of massive grief like I have never felt before or after.  I saw tears in her eyes and I sensed a deep sorrow for humanity.  Time seemed to stand still and I had to force myself to look away or my heart would explode.  I literally ran to the people on the tour with me and said, "Please, can you come with me and look at something?".  She was a dead statue with different eyes and "nothing" when I returned.  "Do you see anything?" I asked.  "Like what?" is what I heard and they walked away.  I must have lost my mind, I thought.  To this day I look at every picture I can find on-line of that cathedral and find no pictures of this massive statue.  There was also an eye above the altar in the ceiling.  I can't find that either.  Was it Jeronimos or another monastery?

This area of Lisbon dates back to the "Discoveries".  The time was exploratory travels to other worlds.  The picture above is the monument to the discoveries in Lisbon.  I went to the top and looked down on this map, which was quite extraordinary.  Many of the landings in Native "America" are what blended Spanish, Portuguese, and even Dutch into the blood of the Native population all along the sea coast from Canada to the tip of South America and the Islands.  Is this a purely spiritual connection or does this course through my DNA?

All of this, for me, just proves how deep my feelings of emotional connection.  I've not always been comfortable with my extreme sensitivity and have lamented on being somehow cursed.  It's scary and uncomfortable, or at least, was more so in the past.  I'm starting to let it be a part of me and not hide it or be embarrassed by it.  It's not easy!  I like things in a neat, explainable box, but these were not the cards I was dealt.
This journey has been a fascinating roller coaster that I am beginning to love more and more.

How about you?  What fears keep you from sharing your experiences?

Friday, August 25, 2017

All Things Needful

Trying to juggle several careers has been exciting, but it's time to focus more thoroughly on what is my driving passion, genealogy and history (with a bit of a spiritual connection).  So, my wife, Beau, and I have begun to transform our true paths into one representative website.


Beau is a spiritual healer and jewelry designer.  Right now you will find only her offering.  Please stay tuned for my addition of genealogical service packages and bookstore!

We look forward to serving you on your journey whether it be to advance your soul searching or getting past your genealogical brick wall to those just starting to dip your toes into unfamiliar territory, which might be scary and daunting.  Our jobs are to listen and help in any way we can.

Peace and kindness to us all!

All Things Needful

Saturday, August 19, 2017

You can run, but you can't hide!

With the attack at Charlottesville recently, it's interesting to see news about white supremacist looking to DNA testing to prove their "whiteness".  You will, no doubt, in the near future hear these very same people denounce the findings of DNA because it doesn't serve their agenda.  Good!

Happily, for us all, DNA testing will only prove what we should all accept, we are an amalgam of everything and everyone.  We are all brothers and sisters.  The sooner we celebrate this the sooner our lives will be happier and content.  So, even though I desperately seek every ancestor and every place those ancestors lived and died, I use this information to uncover history in it's truest form, with question marks.  The truth is never easy, never black and white, never done by just a few heroes.  Genealogy can help us work with historians to uncover the many layers of truth and mistakes.

As spiderman says, "with great power, there must also comes great responsibility"😎

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Dead Files

Recently, I was hired to do some time sensitive research for the Travel Channel program "The Dead Files".  While I can't discuss the details until after the program airs, sometime in December or January, it was a thrilling chase!  Unfortunately, I was slated to appear on the show with Steve Dischiavi, but the research segment they had chosen to film got scrapped.  It happens....

Before this I had never seen an episode of this show, so I did a cram viewing session.  As you can see by my other posts on serendipity I have a leaning toward paranormal belief.  The show is quite thorough at background genealogy and history research whether you are a believer or skeptic.

The one indisputable thing that I found eerie is how each house has proven unusual deaths, usually many over generations. For me, I felt a sense of these souls needing their stories to be told.  This is what happens to me so very often.  It was surprising to find I didn't feel uncomfortable at all with this research on unusual deaths, quite the contrary, my detective radar is still working on more findings.

The Dead Files

Sunday, August 6, 2017


 Serendipity…. finds me…. finds my friends, and leaves no other explanation except “meant to be”.

 I’ll leave out the background details, but my friend grew up with a biological mom and step dad.  The only mention of a biological father was with no name or idea of how to find him.  How can you find this guy…right?  So, DNA came along, yet my friend was hesitant.  Maybe, at the least, he can find his mix of nationalities at best.  Recently, something just said “it’s time” and away went the test to the lab. 

The results were no less than shocking!  My friend grew up very close to a mother who is Native American and a step father with step siblings.  Looking kind of the part of an American native led his life to certain things being taken for granted. Also, his mother’s memory was of a possible Scottish descent for the father because he had red hair.  So imagine his surprise when the test came back as 47% (50% of your DNA comes from each parent) Ashkenazi Jew!  What the…????

If that wasn’t enough of a surprise, there was an aunt connection right off the bat through the same testing site!  She responded immediately and said her brother remembered the very short-lived relationship with his mom and really wanted to talk to him.  Wow!!! Lift jaw off of the floor...

Then…. the serendipity became deep…. the biological father was in a VA hospital where he was diagnosed just weeks earlier with stage 4 esophageal cancer, among other things, with a very bleak outcome.  He had never married and had no other children.  If my friend was ever going to find his father, it HAD to happen now…before it was too late.  The father was so overwhelmed with joy to find out, not only did he have a son, but he had grandchildren!  I’m blown away…..

My friend flew to meet his father and get to know his long-lost Ashkenazi Jewish Heritage. He was able to spend days getting to know his father and extended family that flew in as well.  7 days after my friend left his father's side he passed.  I cannot fathom how he feels right now, very few of us can.  But, this is more proof for me that there is more at work here in this life than any of us can explain.  My journey is to touch this path, discover and tell these stories. 

This came directly after doing a fast-extensive research project for a TV show, soon to be shared in a post.  Stay tuned….

Thursday, August 3, 2017


This is a tough topic for me and has painted a large portion of my life.  I cannot explain the responsibility I feel to at minimum discuss my historical past, and how knowing and witnessing this past will in some way help.  Maybe it just helps me, I don't know.  But, I feel compelled to express my view of reparation.

I am American, British, Irish, Scottish, German, Swiss, French, Native American, Scandinavian, Portuguese, Spainish, Sardinian, West African, and very far back Turkish, Greek, and finally Neanderthal.  You know what....that pretty much covers the world.  I am earth, yet I am not just one of the above, so am I nothing?
On one hand my ancestors served, on the other they destroyed.  So...what does reparation mean to me.  What do I claim as my heritage?  Does only royal ancestry count?  I have been told by certain genealogist, yes…but alas, they are dead wrong.

I’ve been seeing something within the Native American community that concern me, that I see as the continuation of a pattern of destruction and suppression. Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of postings, with pictures, by people who claim Native American heritage (the “Diluted”), who are subsequently accused of not looking “native” by others who fear that their Native American heritage is being stolen (the “Purists”).  Purists condemn anyone who claim native heritage without having been raised on a reservation, or has diluted blood (e.g., less than 80% native blood). This does nothing for the Native community as a whole, except exacerbate the pain and emptiness which already burden Purists.  My question to Purists is, “Do you really want to use the same tactics used by the Aryan Race to destroy and suppress ‘mongrels’?  The same tactics used by White Supremacists?”  Please....no....
I understand why tribes have to have regulations for membership in a tribe, because of recognition from the US government.  That does not have to influence treatment of those who just want to celebrate their heritage without affecting tribal recognition, I know that can be a gray area sometimes, but again, a small minority. 

This behavior is similar to what happens in the black community when someone with "light" black skin color dares to claim his/her black heritage even though s/he had a white mom or dad.  In the 1800's, such were listed on the census as "mulatto."  This was and has never been viewed as a positive term. It was often used to suppress, even within the black community, traumatizing those who were ostracized by the very people who should have embraced them.  Many in the black community viewed mulattos as “privileged,” because they could frequently pass as white. Some mulattos could and did advance themselves with the help of white privilege.  Would they have been better off staying within the black community?  Should they have stayed within the black community and accepted the shame and isolation of that choice?  Why should Purists force a choice upon mulattos that they themselves need never make?  

How do we heal inter-communal racism? Black, red, yellow…. It might be helpful to first remember that there are no absolutes, only shades of gray, exemplified by my own ancestry.

On my mother's side (which is predominantly from the south and southwest), I cannot find one direct ancestor that fought for the south in the civil war, nor owned slaves, not one, yay, right?  BUT, on my father's side, not only do I have direct ancestors who fought for the south and owned slaves, I also have two Native American chiefs (Werowances) whose progeny owned slaves (and possibly the chiefs as well).  (Yes, Native Americans in the south sometimes owned slaves!  I can delve into this for pages, but let's stay on point.)

Also on my mother's side, I have a direct ancestor who, in his time, was a well-known buffalo hunter in Kansas.  He massacred an amazing number of buffalo.  It hasn't been proven yet, but his grandfather was adopted and was believed to have been Native American.  

Whites who hunted buffalo and owned slaves.  But also whites who didn’t own slaves. And Native Americans who did own slaves!  Who the hell am I?  Do I celebrate my white ancestry and feel ashamed of my Native American ancestry? Or do I feel ashamed of them both? How should I reconcile such surprising discrepancies?  This is where, for me, reparation is important.  I learn about all of my ancestry.  But more importantly, I honor all of my ancestry – the good and the bad and, more frequently, the grey. I think that it’s okay to feel a connection to my Native American ancestry even though I look and am predominantly white.  I do not take anything away from anyone (including Purists) by doing this.  I serve the buffalo by showing their beauty to others in pictures on my Facebook page and elsewhere.  Someday I hope to put my hands on a buffalo and weep. This will heal me and maybe even the buffalo.  Or maybe just me, I don't know.

Elsewhere, I honor my West African heritage by referring to my black friends as “my brothers and sisters,” and by acting as witness to and shining the light on racism through Facebook posts and discussions with those who don't get it.  Does this very small part of my DNA come from one of my slave owning ancestors?  Probably.  I honor all of it.  I acknowledge the beauty and pride in us all and in all the heritages we represent.  I do everything I can to keep them alive regardless of the comprise in my own ancestry.  Do I do enough?  Probably not, but I will continue to honor and support every one of them in any way possible to help heal racism.  It takes nothing away from anyone to do so.  How about you?

I understand the desire to hold one’s heritage close, within one’s heart.  That is not permission, however, to push others away from their desire to also honor history – history that is shared by both Diluted and Purists.  Yes...you can share.  I know, there will always be those who will try to use "heritage" to their advantage.  But, really...what can they gain? They are a very small minority.  Should we let this small minority deepen racial wounds? Why, when there is support and healing to be gained by including everyone in honoring your heritage?  I'm not here to tell you what you should do.  But I do urge you to consider your own role in this spectrum. And I encourage you to share in the comments the ways in which you act to help heal these old wounds.

I started writing this article the day before reading about the UN announcement last year (making the rounds again on Facebook) about it's findings on US Slavery Reparations.  Serendipitous this would find me right as I was finishing the article. It's important to note that the UN just had recommendations, no "orders"...... 
“a formal apology, health initiatives, educational opportunities…psychological rehabilitation, technology transfer and financial support, and debt cancellation.”
 Washington Post article 2016

An amazing hero, Peter Norman showing what reparation is all about.  Peter Norman

Clearly, this won't happen.  Here's a little history on slavery reparation for more in-depth reading.