Understanding Who I Am

As we grow up, our identity becomes uniquely ours. Many go through life experiences to understand who they are, while others seek knowledge from the past. Genealogy is that bridge. Genealogy, or family history, is the research to find the stories that make us human. Through genealogical research, we can help our future selves understand who we once were, but also discover who our ancestors were through the documents that they left behind.

Being a genealogist, I have documented my own life in various ways so that those trying to research me in the future will be able to understand who I am and who I am becoming. I learned to do this, after attempting to research my own families. There are times when I run into road blocks because information was not preserved or captured well. However, identity is more than just the stories. I took a journey through self-discovery by finding the ancestral origins of my ancestors. I wanted to know the people from whom I descended, but I also wanted to know the locations.

In doing such research, I was able to trace both my biological family and my adoptive family back to various origins. I have ancestors in my biological family whom are Native American, French, Italian, Spanish, African, and I’m sure more that I have yet to discover. I was able to follow the paper trail to determine these origins and then reverted to ancestry DNA to discover more about my ethnic percentages. I was shocked, but also elated to see who I really was. I was born than the definition that society placed over me based on my skin complexion. I am proud to be an African American. In my eyes, African American is more than just being “Black.” I understand the confusion. There are people who are born in Africa and then come to live here and they have children here. They too are African Americans; however there is a historical difference. I am an African American who is a product of the history of the making of the United States. I have ancestors who were enslaved here. They poured their blood, sweat, and tears into the soils of the earth in order to help me become who I am today. I am a product of slave rape, because I do not doubt that some of my ancestors are children of a slave master and his enslaved concubine. I am an African American with mixed-racial heritage because of being part of that historical story that puts a dent on the façade that the United States tries to front.

My identity is not clearly defined. I am also an adoptee. My adoptive family is a part of me. Everything I have learned about life and how I view life is become of them. I am a product of the values and teachings of my adoptive family. My biological family gave me physical traits and characteristics. I may have acquired a few mannerisms from them, but those mainly stem from my adoptive family. My interests may run parallel to some of my biological ancestors, but the way I approach those interests may be different due to how I was raised and how I was taught by my adoptive family.

I was adopted to a single woman, and I was an only child. She is of Italian American ancestry, whose ancestors mainly originate from Sicily, Italy. Her ancestors likely boarded the passenger ships to America hoping for a better future. Life in Sicily was rough. The Italian War of Unification was more detrimental than aiding for the Sicilian people. As a result, the Padrone took full advantage. People became enslaved to their own brethren. People were left sick and hungry, dying painful deaths. My adoptive ancestors wanted to provide a safer and more secure life style for their own children. Yet, life in the United States was no easy adjustment. The Padrone was here too. Not only were the Padrone an obstacle, but so was society. Society was prejudice towards Southern Italians. The largest recorded lynching was that of twelve Southern Italians who were accused of assaulting an officer in Louisiana.

My identity is a combination of the ancestors who gave me blood and those who gave me value. I value family as a whole. I also see that to have a family and care for that family, it takes hard work, determination, and dedication. Life is not easy. My ancestors have been through far worse than I, so I can only continue to live up to the life that both sets of ancestors paved a way for me to live.

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