finding your roots

I guess I’m part of that 10%

Valeria W. March 27, 2012

It was an interesting show tonight, and I was intrigued by the fact that only 10% of African-Americans descend from freedmen. I am African-American, and on my mom’s side, her father’s ancestors fought in the Civil War as Union soldiers from Ohio. But most of the ancestors on her side, I believe, were deeply ensnared in the bondage of slavery until the end of the Civil War. All except for one great-great grandmother from the Philippines, who married an American soldier from the 9th Cavalry Regiment during the Spanish-American War. When they settled in the States at the time there was no such thing as raising biracial children, and Asians were kind of the odd guys in a three-caste racial structure, so she adapted to life as a black woman with a black family in America.

On my dad’s side most of the family arrived in Ohio before the Civil War. Some were Virginia slaves captured in a Shawnee/British Loyalist raid on Martin’s Station during the Revolutionary War, spirited away to Canada and released into a life of freedom years later in Ohio. (More info here: Another line descended from Thomas Woodson, a freedman made famous by the claim that he was the firstborn son of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson, and whose parentage continues to intrigue historians, and whose immediate descendants founded Wilberforce College. One ancester from whom I get my surname was born a FPOC in Mobile, Alabama, and according to records, his father was born in France. While the other lines in my dad’s lineage have been well-researched, a couple relatives of mine are researching this latter line from Mobile, AL, and I wish Dr. Gates could help us out with this one!

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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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