Genealogy Adventures

New Year, New Project: Stronger Together – the Story of US

It’s a new year (Happy New Year too!) and this year Genealogy Adventures will be defined by a new focus on research. At this point, I have to give credit where credit is due. Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign slogan, Stronger Together, crystallized and galvanized the focus of a genealogy project that has been brewing for the past two years or so.

The central theme of the project focuses on how millions of Americans – regardless of melanin, religion, culture, or ethnicity – are related to one another. Even if you only have one ancestral colonial line, that’s enough to connect you to millions of fellow countrymen and women.

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Map of the early American colonies.  Image courtesy of www.trinityhistory.org

It’s not necessarily a project based on changing hearts and minds. It is designed to make Americans think, and learn about the earliest period of the American colonies.

Over a decade of research has resulted in a rather large and extensive family tree. It’s a tree that enables me to apply all of my Big Data marketing analytics experience in order to identify and understand patterns and trends. It’s like applying the basics of ‘big data’ to genealogy. So what is ‘big data’? Boiled right down, it’s a collection of data from traditional and digital sources, usually for a company, which represents a resource for streams of discovery and analysis. Companies collect data about their customers in order for forecasting / trending, and issue-related purposes. Put another way, large data sets can be analyzed in order to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.

I started applying the same methodology to my genealogy about a year ago. It’s been a truly revelatory experience.

So what associations and patterns has my rather large family tree revealed?

Roughly 63% of my ancestral American African descended, European, and Native American lines converge in the Northern Neck and Tidewater regions of Virginia.

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The Tidewater region of Virginia in the early colonial period. The project will initially focus on an area defined by Isle of Wight in the southeast, to Middlesex in the northeast, to Henrico (including Powhatan) to the northwest, down to Surry in the southwest. Image courtesy of virginiapioneers.net

It’s not surprising. Northern Neck and the Tidewater regions are among the oldest parts of the Virginia colony. My lines converge there as early as 1607 with the founding of Jamestown. I

In terms of my African ancestry, some of it leads straight to some of the 20-odd Africans who were brought to the Northern Neck area of Virginia in 1621.

My paternal mulatto Bates, Price, Woodson, Fleming, Christian, and Pleasant lineages have deep, ancient roots in the Northern Neck region with connections to some of the known 20-odd Africans known to have been in this area (Cornish, Goings, Cumbo and more).
native-american-territories
Map showing different Native American territories in the eastern half of the United States in the colonial period.  My own genealogy includes the Pamunky, the Catawba, the Shawnee, and the Mahican people. Map courtesy of http://www.emersonkent.com Click for larger image

Another 48% of my American ancestral DNA converges in the Quaker stronghold of southern Pennsylvania: notably Chester, Berks, Delaware, and Lancaster Counties in southeast Maryland.

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Image courtesy of http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com

This 48% is roughly split evenly between three groups. 

Two-thirds of these groups were European. The first third are Quakers from Scotland, Wales, and England.  The second is a mix of non-Quaker Scottish, Irish, and German ancestors. The final third of my early colonial period kin were Native American, African, and Jewish peoples. DNA tests strongly suggesting that relationships between these three colonial groups of people happened at a higher rate of frequency than even I could have imagined.  

The final 4% of my DNA in early colonial America can be found within the Puritans of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

Not unsurprisingly, as colonists moved from north to south, as well as westwards, they carried their DNA, connecting millions of Americans to one another. While I know that not all who carried their DNA into other parts of the US will have mixed DNA, I’d wager that a statistically significant number of these family lines carried an ethnically mixed ancestry. It’s something that I’m seeing in countless DNA results of my DNA matches. As I’ve already covered in 1667: The Year America was Divided by Race, colonial Americans who were not part of the governing elite didn’t attach importance to melanin levels. They worked, ate, and caroused together.  They also married and/or produced children together. Millions like me will be the children of those unions.

Let me not forget the Spanish and the African descended people who were in America along the southern part of the East Coast long before the arrival of the British. Exploring and occupying territory from Florida to Tennessee, they probably made a genetic contribution to the colonial DNA pool (see  Exploring North Carolina (the Spanish), The North Carolina History Project via http://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/exploration-in-north-carolina-spanish).  This came as a bit of a revelation.  I had no idea the Spanish had made it as far north as Tennessee in their exploration of the continent.

So 2017 already sees me in the midst of some serious fundraising. An initial US$ 250K to get the ball rolling with an eye towards US$ 1M overall. A small army of professional genealogists, genetic genealogists, researchers, anthropologists, historians, two American research universities, a technology university, and the British National Archives doesn’t come cheap. Nor does an estimated 5,000 DNA testing kits.

Why so many DNA kits? Quite a number of colonial records have been lost through uprisings (e.g. Bacon’s Rebellion), war (i.e. the American Revolution and the American Civil War), fire, etc. DNA testing and triangulating DNA results is one route to restoring lost and forgotten colonial family branches to an American family tree. Testing more than one person per line will be an important step.  It covers what I refer to as ‘non paternity events’; in other words, the off-chance that somewhere along a familial line a man who is believed to be an ancestor’s father turns out not to be.  Hey, it happens. We’re just being realistic.

It’s also why we’re including the British National Archives.  It has an impressive archive of American colonial era documents: everything from land grants, to tax rolls, to probate, and court records.

Of course, my inner academic is already thinking about educational outreach, and learning materials, for middle and senior schools as well as universities.

That’s the backdrop to Stronger Together – The Story of U.S. I’m psyched to have the opportunity to share it with you.

2 thoughts on “New Year, New Project: Stronger Together – the Story of US

  1. Wow Brian, this is awesome! Excited for you! I have just discovered the British National Archives and will be visiting there in Feb/March as I will be in London…can’t wait! Let me know if I can do anything to help while there.

    And again, I really must put you and my husband together to at least chat…you have similar fascinations.

    Also, can I say, I love the way you use the word melanin…so much better than ‘race’ whatever the hell that is?!

    Cheers Steff

    Warm regards Stephanie Kemp Writer, Editor, Copyeditor & Proofreader Steff’s Writing & Editing Services

    Phone +1 301 547 1212 http://www.stephaniekempwriter.com >

    1. Thank you, Stephanie. Lol get ready, the British National Archives is kind of like being a kid in a candy store. ..there’s just so much great stuff, it’s hard to decide where to start.

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