Enter your mom on the first leaf: Enter her name, date of birth, location of where she was born, and death information if applicable.
My mom was Airlessa Sheppard born in 1923 Graycourt, South Carolina passed in December 2000. The family moved to Washington, D.C. when she was a teenager. She wasn’t married when she had her first son, and became a single-parent aagain, after she and my dad separated. I first reunited with my mom for good when a trip to Washington, D.C. in 1974, for vacation turned into a permanent stay. We stayed in D.C. for the next eleven years. My three brothers however, remained in California two of them still minors lived in fostercare. I love living amongst people who share my genetics and learning that our ways are similar. In this time, I really learned a lot about my mom and my maternal family. They had a lot of information. Her father was a Sheppard from Newberry South Carolina, and her mom a Holland from Cross Hill, Lauren’s, South Carolina. My mom, and my Aunts shared with me all I wanted to know about our family when asked.
When the miniseries Roots came on, it was the first time that I was struck by the realization of the magnitude of slavery! Every year in February, schools teach black history in America, which we learn of at least six or seven prominent blacks who had been former slaves. I could name them Crispus Attucks, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Booker T Washington, Nat Turner, Sojourner Truth,and Phyllis Wheatley, but during grade school this knowledge didn’t register the magnitude that the Institution became. At that time I didn’t grasp that millions of people, including my own family, not just those seven strangers were captured and brought to America against their will and forced to labor and become chattel of people who identified as white. During the airing of Roots, that’s when it hit me! The majority of blacks in America had been enslaved! History becomes a lot more interesting when it’s personal. We were given a school project to research our own family, and I began asking questions then, and visiting the archives in D.C. From those pages and pages of dusty census records, my family emerged, my ancestors, urged me to get to know more about them, and to learn who they were and where they come from? Who do you think you are? They begged. My answer, I am you.
All that to say, all of my life I’ve always wanted to know which regions genetically my family come from in the world. This is not something our parents knew themselves. Especially since, during slavery, and even after, during the Civil War, there were many family upheavals amongst African Americans, similar to the separation my immediate family experienced but worst. The first generation to be documented by name didn’t occur until the 1870 census, and any former slave was fortunate to live that long. Even most of our third great grandparents adopted the surname of their former master because they didn’t know their African name. Generation upon generation we were forced to be disconnected from our heritage, but some of our heritage did survive. In college, I discovered in African History class that most Americans of African descent were taken from West Africa. If you’ve been following me and you’ve read my post Hoping to Write It you’d know that in 2012 my brother took the first DNA test for me. You can check my regions on that post.
My mom’s family were abducted from Cameroon and brought first to the Caribbean and then to America, from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Cape Verde too. Her direct maternal line is Tikar, Hausa and Fulani from Bankim Cameroon. We are related to the current reigning monarchy there! DNA matching confirms it.