Last summer, I read Roots by Alex Haley. The book had been on my subconscious for several years now, back when I read a story about it in Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul. Up until that time, I’d never read it before, but I finally read it. Haley’s novel is an epic, that of over 900 pages and at times I wasn’t even sure if I’d get through it, but I kept going with the mindset that I couldn’t quit now. I think it was well worth it. It’s not a happy tale, one filled with violence of all kinds, and little reprieve. Intellectually, I know that this sort of thing happens, but emotionally I just wanted it all to stop and had to take breaks from the book when it became too much.
Why did I continue reading it then if it was so intense? Because I think it’s important for these kinds of stories to be told to the world at large. Not many African American families get lost in the cloud of slavery since so many weren’t even given the benefit of names. Alex Haley was very fortunate to have been able to trace his lineage all the way back to a specific African tribe and be able to go back and meet them and see how they live in current day.
I tell this story because I had a hard time finding anything out about my great-grandfather’s Native American heritage. Even in the early 20th century, being a Native American was almost as bad, if not worse, than being an African American. If you were able to get away with being white, you marked yourself as white.
I came across this when I found my great-grandfather’s World War I Draft Registration. On his registration, he marked that he had brown eyes and black hair, but was white. I was very confused when I first saw this, because why would he say he was white when he didn’t look white? After all, my parents had told me he looked very much like a Native American. And that’s when I was told about Native Americans getting a horrible treatment even in recent years.
I haven’t found much else about him, nor his mother and her people. When I finish with my direct line, I’ll go back and look for them, because this story is still with me. How sad is it that we humans have so much hate that we wipe out the names and stories of an entire people.
I’ve wanted to do a DNA test but I don’t know how to obtain one outside of AncestryDNA (a family friend has allowed us to use her account, so going through Ancestry is not an option) nor do I know how much it costs. Maybe one day I’ll get that done and see where in the world all my ancestors come from.
On another note, I’m much into Find Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. I watched the first three seasons, but I haven’t seen anything about a fourth seasons yet. If it’s already out, it went under my radar. There’s another ancestry show, but I forget what it’s called. I like this one because it has real genealogists looking for everyday people’s roots (aka not famous people). This is another show that seems to be on sporadically/under the radar and when I finally realize it’s on, I’m only able to watch two episodes before it’s off the air again.
This has been a hemorrhage of information and not necessarily what I lined out in my goals from last post, but I wanted to write about it. I’ll get back in line next time (hopefully).