It’s been a while since I have written a personal blog post. I have been strapped down by my studies and trying to spend quality time with my family. As most of you know, I am a dual Master’s student at Simmons College – changing to Simmons University come fall semester – majoring in history and archives management. I am set to graduate in May 2019, and while I am beginning the process to write my Master’s thesis, I must also come face to face with the daunting task of deciding what’s next.
Of course, my family comes first. I know that whatever I decide will be in the best interest of my family. At the same time, I also must follow my own dreams. I have been given the opportunity to apply for a Fulbright Scholar award and apply to continue my studies. These opportunities come with having a supportive family.
While I intend to apply for both, my heart is set on furthering my education. Fulbright would be an opportunity of life time. If awarded, I would go to Kenya, specifically the ancestral towns of my husband and his maternal family. I would conduct research on the people and culture of the Luo tribe. I would analyze which characteristics influenced my husband in his upbringing. I would investigate his family history. Looking at the family identity and how culture and genetics married to create his unique identity. I would also see which customs and traditions are similar to those of African Americans. Identifying what aspect of culture slavery couldn’t erase would be fascinating and an insight into the shared cultures African Americans have with our African mother nations.
On the other hand, I am really intrigued with trying to achieve a PhD before I turn 30. With a PhD, more opportunities are available. I’m sure many of you can guess what my PhD would be in; however, while this post is an explanation into where my head is at, it is also a comparison post into the fields I am most interested in. Let’s begin at the beginning:
I was born in Texas and adopted shortly after birth to single woman of Italian (Sicilian) descent in Medford, Massachusetts. As a young child, I was introduced to family history. I listened to my grandparents talk about their ancestors and their ancestral home in Italy. In school, we did family history and family genetics projects, but I always used my adoptive family. From a young age, I was curious to know who and where I came from. Fortunately, during my senior year of high school, I was able to meet and connect with my biological family. To this day, I continue to have a relationship with them. My birth family helped me begin to chart my own biological family tree. I dove head first into genealogy: digging in the archives to find records and using ancestral DNA testing to help advance my ancestral understanding when the records began to dwindle. I didn’t know it, but genealogy would soon become the answer to my life and how I identify.
After graduating from high school, I packed up and moved down South. I attended Spelman College. Initially I was interested in veterinary medicine, but my love for genealogy was stronger and I made a career change. I was an English major with a minor in African Diaspora and the World. I studied the African American literary experience, as well as the cultures and histories of African people within the Atlantic African Diaspora. My studies focused on utilizing ethnography – the scientific description of the customs of individual people and cultures – and ethnology – the study of the characteristics of various people and the differences and relationships between them – to garner a better understanding. The anthropological research I did, led to a better understanding and methodology in conducting genealogy research for myself and others. After finishing my undergraduate career a semester early, I began taking courses in genealogy research with the aspirations of becoming certified. While I am now a professional genealogist, I still want to get my certification.
Genealogy deals a lot with archives and archival records, as well as history and historical context. This knowledge is how I found my way to Simmons College. My studies here have been primarily centered around race and the African American experience, as well as digital record creation and management. In order to understand the next phases of my life, I defined the fields that I am studying:
Genealogy: the study of family and is a continuous tracing of ancestors
Anthropology: the study of humanity
Cultural: the study of human societies and cultures and their development
Archaeology: the study of human past and present, through the materials, which humans left behind
Historical: pertaining to the ancient historical sites
Ethno: focuses on creating a connection between the past and the present
History: the study of past events, particular in human affairs
Social: pertains to the history of ordinary people and their strategies and institutions to deal with life
Cultural: examines the narrative records and descriptions of knowledge, customs, and past arts of a group of people. Combines the approaches of anthropology and history to examine language, popular cultural traditions, and cultural interpretations of historical experience
Public: deep roots in the areas of historical conversation, archival science, oral history, curatorship of museums and other related fields.
Archive: a collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution, or group of people.
Looking at the definitions, I began to see a pattern. Genealogy, anthropology, and archaeology are all subfields of history. I looked deeper and forced myself to think about what it is career-wise I truly want to do.
I am interested in learning more about African Americans in terms of identity. I want to investigate how this particular community relates to other African communities within the diaspora, as well as understand the generation implications of slavery and what forms of resistance were executed. I want to take part in documentaries and become an expert in the field. Additionally, I would like to continue to practice genealogy on the side and take on clients to bring in side revenue. Utilizing methods from each historical field would enhance the family understanding and experience for clients, especially when analyzing various sites and artifacts.
Each discipline highlights a better understanding from a different view point. My interest in African American history within the African Diaspora can be looked upon from multiple lens through one individual. From a genealogy standpoint, I can really look at the family dynamics. See how a family lived and evolved over time. Look at the economic and political implications on one family. Looking at the same family and applying the understanding of archaeology, I can analyze the materials left behind by the family. I can explore slave plantations that the family may have worked on or compare how the descendants today compare with the ancestors back then looking at which artifacts were kept sacred or looking at which tools are used now versus then. Anthropology and archaeology are alike. Archaeology is a subfield within anthropology. While trying to understand a family in their place of time, I can look at the broader scope of the society and culture, or cultures, that they were living around and identifying with. History is a harder one to discuss in narrower terms. However, understanding social, cultural, and public history helps to better understand the historical context in which the family lived and one hardships hindered them and which opportunities they may have missed or taken advantage of. Utilizing archives enables me to learn more about first hand accounts, identities of the family, and just more knowledge in general that may help to depict the family as human.
Coming at one family from these various viewpoints enables the creation of a much larger narrative. There are many stories within history. As an African American, I believe it is my duty to help give these stories life. Whether through nonfiction accounts of my studies or through historical fiction to enable an interest through a much larger audience, the multiple sides of looking at one subject can be breath taking. Looking at one family, I can understand an origin. I can put names to the bodies and bring forth the artifacts they used and locations they resided. I can bring to life the emotions and historical context in which they lived. I can create a human connection with the past and present. This is what I want to do. I want to take individual families and bring them to life draw connections with the present generations.