THOSE WHO STAYED Arrives in Nassau June 10th: Pre-Order Your Copy Today

I’m excited to announce that we’re introducing Those Who Stayed in Nassau on Saturday, June 10 with a book signing at Logos Bookstore.

Having been a Logos customer for years, I’m beyond thrilled that my own book will now be part of their great Bahamian history section. Plus, I’m looking forward to meeting some of you Green Turtle Cay and Abaco descendants at the event and discussing our shared ancestry!

A tip for Little House by the Ferry readers — Logos is now accepting pre-orders for the book. Given the volume of inquiries we’ve had, and since I’m bringing a limited number of books with me, I’d recommend that you drop by the store as soon as you can and get your order in. 

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with Logos at (242) 394-7040 or info@logosbahamas.com. And of course, you can always contact me directly.

I’d be grateful if you’d forward this blog post to anyone you think might be interested in Those Who Stayed, or in attending the June 10 event at Logos.

Hope to see you there!

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The Best Online Genealogy Forum for Bahamians

If your family tree is rooted in Bahamian soil and you’re interested in tracing your ancestry, check out the Bahamas Genealogy Group (BGG).

The Best Online Genealogy Forum for Bahamians - The Bahamas Genealogy Group

(May 2, 1938) The wedding of Clarence Pedican to Lillian Saunders, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahamas. (Photo courtesy of the Albert Lowe Museum.)

It’s a Yahoo group of 600+ members, all Bahamian or of Bahamian descent, and its purpose is to promote and preserve quality Bahamian genealogical and historical information. Continue reading

Bahamas DNA Project – Untangling My Family Roots

DNA vials 5

Some people’s family trees grow in neat, tidy branches. My ancestry is more like a twisted, rambling vine, or a set of tangled Christmas lights.

On the Bahamian side, my ancestors include Eleutheran Adventurers (English Puritans fleeing religious persecution in Bermuda, who settled on the Bahamian island now known as Eleuthera), British Loyalists who fled the U.S. and settled in Harbour Island and Abaco following the American Revolution, and at least one pirate.

Faced with a cholera outbreak, potato blight and political unrest, my Dad’s great-grandfather moved his family from Germany to Jamaica in 1834. My paternal grandmother’s heritage goes back to Curacao, Cuba and the Danish West Indies before bringing her to Jamaica where she met and married my grandfather.

Because of the relatively tiny communities in which many of my ancestors lived, I often find I’m related to the same person through different pathways. For example, I’ve discovered that three of my four maternal grandparents are direct descendants of Wyannie Malone, a Loyalist widow said to have settled Hope Town, Abaco in the late 1700s. Long story short, I’m the human equivalent of a Bahamian potcake.

Hard to believe that one of these tiny vials holds my complete genetic history.

Hard to believe that one of these tiny vials holds my complete genetic history!

One of the speakers at this year’s Island Roots Heritage Festival was Peter Roberts, administrator of the Bahamas DNA Project, a private, non-profit organization that connects people who share Bahamian ancestry and traces their origins in Africa, Europe, and North America.

DNA testing, Peter explained, can help determine whether others with your surname are related to you, and identify family connections that may not be traceable through other genealogical research methods. It can also scientifically verify traditional genealogical research, and locate relatives you never knew you had.

Peter also recounted some of the many success stories that have emerged from the Bahamas DNA Project. For example, DNA testing has shown that Bahamians with the surname Albury (i.e., my Mom) can trace their ancestry back to medieval European nobility. And though most assumed that the Bahamian Lowes (including my 2x great-grandmother, Jessie Lowe) were of British ancestry, testing shows that their roots are actually in Mexico, Portugal, Brazil and Tanzania, and their heritage can be traced back to pirates. Matthew Lowe, a well-known pirate in Bahamian history, was my 8x great-grandfather.

I’ve wanted to participate in the Bahamas DNA Project for a while, and after Peter’s presentation, I signed up on the spot. Submitting my DNA sample was easy. I just swabbed the inside of my cheek with a tiny brush (plus another one, for backup), sealed the brushes in the tiny vials provided in the test kit, and mailed off the samples.

Genetic Makeup

My genetic makeup, from FamilyTreeDNA.com

I ordered two tests: mtDNA and Family Finder. The mtDNA test traces maternal DNA passed from mothers to their children, male or female. It traces your maternal line (i.e., your mother’s mother’s mother, etc.), and is best suited for revealing deep ancestry. (Men with paternal ancestry in the Bahamas can also order a y-DNA test, which traces your father’s father’s father’s line.)

Family Finder helps to locate more recent genealogical matches (i.e., within the last 10 generations or so.) It’s an autosomal DNA test that compares your DNA with that of others who’ve been tested, and identifies people who share parts of your DNA.

After about eight weeks, I received an email with a link to my results. Here’s just some of what I learned:

214px-King_George_V_1911_color-crop

King George V

Genetically, I’m 86.6% Western European (specifically from the Orkney Islands in northern Scotland), 5.9% West African (from the Mandinka and/or Yoruba ethnic groups) and 7.4% Middle Eastern (Mozabite, Palestinian, Bedouin, Bedouin South, Druze, and/or Jewish ethnicities.)

I belong to Haplogroup T2, a subset of Haplogroup T. (A haplogroup is basically an ancestral clan, kind of like the Vikings or the Celts.) Haplogroup T is believed to have originated in Africa about 45,000 years ago. Over time, this group spread into northern Italy and eventually throughout Europe. About 10% of modern day Europeans, Palestinians, Turks and Syrians belong to Haplogroup T, which is found in particularly high concentrations around the Eastern Baltic Sea, Ireland and west of Britain.

220px-Jesse_james_portrait

Jesse James

Some better-known members of Haplogroup T (and therefore, people with whom I share maternal ancestry) include Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, American outlaw Jesse James, and Kings George the I, III and V of England.

As for more recent relatives, my DNA tests have revealed dozens of people world-wide with whom I share DNA — and therefore, at least one common ancestor. In some cases, the connections are quite far back in time and difficult to trace. But in many cases, the DNA test shows that the connection is fairly recent. I’ve been in touch with some of my newly discovered relatives and we’re comparing family trees and DNA results in an attempt to identify our common ancestors.

Though quite a few Bahamians of European descent have been tested since the Bahamas DNA Project began in 2004, the project is eager to have more Bahamians of African, Chinese, Greek, Lebanese and Native American ancestry participate.  Depending on what tests you choose to have done, prices range from $49 to $199 plus postage, though if cost is a concern, you can request sponsorship.

To participate in the Bahamas DNA Project, visit the project website, their Facebook page, or the Bahamas DNA Project Page on the Family Tree DNA website.

 

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Who Do You Think You Are?

r"Ma May" Marion Mayfield (Gates) Curry 1902-1984 Photo date unknown

My Great-Grandmother
“Ma May”
Marion Mayfield (Gates) Curry
1902-1984

Last Tuesday evening, I watched a terrific TV show on TLC called Who Do You Think You Are. It’s not a new program, but somehow, I’ve missed it before now.

Each one-hour episode features a celebrity who’s interested in learning more about his or her family history. Featured celebrities travel around the U.S. (and in some cases, internationally) meeting with historians, visiting libraries, local archives, museums and cemeteries, and retracing the lives of their ancestors through birth, death and marriage records, newspaper archives, court documents, military service records, etc.

Though I found much to like about this show, two concepts in particular resonated with me, probably because I’ve found them to be true in my own genealogical research.

First, address one question at a time. Rather than taking a shotgun approach, the celebrities on this program seek to answer one specific query or research one particular ancestor. Christina Applegate wanted to learn more about her paternal grandmother, while Kelly Clarkson focused on her great-great-great-grandfather.

As you trace your roots further back in time, and each generation brings an exponential increase in the number of ancestors, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Focusing on one issue or ancestor at a time makes the task less daunting.

"Pa Herman" Herman Thomas Curry 1890-1958

My Great-Grandfather
“Pa Herman”
Herman Thomas Curry
1890-1958

Second, be prepared for whatever you find. Understand that what you discover may surprise or upset you, and could potentially alter the way you view your ancestors and, ultimately, yourself.

Christina Applegate, for example, uncovers some unexpected and disturbing details about her grandmother. In my own research, I’ve encountered surprises more than once — and not all were pleasant.

I suppose it’s only natural to hope our ancestors were decent, moral folk, but it’s easy to idealize them to an unrealistic degree. The truth, of course, is that they were simply and imperfectly human. From time to time, they made poor choices. They made mistakes.

Ultimately, I guess all we can do is accept their imperfections with the same empathy and understanding that we hope future generations will show us.

One thing did irk me about this show. At times, it felt like nothing more than one big commercial for the Ancestry.com website. Don’t get me wrong. I think Ancestry.com is a fantastic tool for genealogical research. But the amount of product placement within the show was so heavy-handed that I found it distracting.

That aside, if you’re interested in genealogy, you’ll probably enjoy Who Do You Think You Are. It airs Tuesdays nights on TLC. Full episodes can also be viewed online. 

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