When I purchased an AncestryDNA kit, I also began piecing together my family tree. It is something that I have wanted to do for over a decade after experiencing an awful family reunion. It happened around my freshman year of college, and it was planned by distant cousins who didn’t even label our branch of the family on the family tree. We were the biggest portion of the branch that showed up to the festivities, but we weren’t even labeled as family! There hasn’t been another major family gathering since then, and I’ve been trying to put a bug in my older cousin’s ear that she needs to spearhead the event planning. Well, here were are a decade later, and nothing has happened. I took matters into my own hand and started working on my family tree. It has become addicting.

I have not spent a great deal of time researching my paternal side of the family because someone previously did it. Instead I’ve placed my efforts into my maternal side of the family, and I’ve added 305 people so far. It’s funny to call my grandma and ask questions like, “How are we related to Rose again? I know she’s our cousin, but how?”

I was surprised to discover that my family has lived in the same 50 mile radius since before the Emancipation Proclamation. We stayed in rural Louisiana for generations, and I still don’t know how to feel about that fact. I find it interesting that no one became a part of the Great Migration. African Americans were headed north for a better life in droves, but my family stayed in an area that didn’t appear to have anything to offer them. Why?

At some point, I need to conduct additional research at the family cemetery. My family is buried in a small cemetery in the middle of nowhere. It doesn’t even show up on the map, and it really is the creepiest place. To get there, one has to drive along the highway adjacent to railroad tracks for about 10 minutes. Then cross the railroad tracks and make a right onto a gravel road surrounded by trees with no signage. There are several trees alongside the gravel road so you can’t see anything. At some point the gravel road turns into just dirt, and an opening to left appears where many of my maternal family is buried.

It’s a place I wouldn’t dare go alone, and I only recall going twice. Right at the entrance of the gravel road, there’s a particular tree where a family friend hanged himself. It is always muddy there out in the middle of nowhere where no one would hear your screams in the midst of an emergency. The cemetery is also a few miles away from a shipyard that was recently added as a Superfund site, meaning there’s a high chance the bodies are laying to rest in highly contaminated soil.

It’s so much easier to trace non-African descent. I was able to trace that small trickle of European blood all the way back to France without a single issue. Slave records and documentation is a bit more difficult. Slave records for one of my family members has the name of the slaveholder and a slave list only with ages. How unfortunate.

That trickle of French came through a African slave woman who was a midwife to an Acadian family. That’s were the moonlighting came from. I’m vaguely familiar with Acadians. They came from Canada by way of Nova Scotia by way of France. They were basically run out of Canada and forced to make a new life in Cajun Country, Louisiana. Ever heard of the phrase “cajun coonass?” That is the stock from which I come, ladies and gentlemen. Now I doubt my 4th-great grandfather, the Confederate soldier, ever took a claim to the son who carried his surname, so I don’t feel obligated to accept that title.

It is phenomenal to see how far my family has come. We spent generations in rural Louisiana without access to proper education. Hell, my grandmother discontinued her education in the 5th grade. We really started from the bottom and now we’re here!

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