When you’re in a pandemic and are semi-retired, you have more free time. I thought I’d fill in what genealogy I had. It’s been interesting. First, I did Ancestry.com and got the whole breakdown on where I was from. It’s pretty much what I expected: northern Europe and England. It also lets you build your family tree.

My daughter did 23andme and so did my wife and I, mostly for the health and traits issues. I found out that 56% of people with my genetics can’t carry a tune – which I can. Also, I only had a 38% chance of having a cleft chin, which I do, otherwise the accuracy is amazing. I have a slight tendency toward getting diabetes, probably if I get older and fatter. But it’s all percentages.

They also give you a list of your genetic relatives. Both my wife and I had over 1,400 each. There are lots of third and fourth cousins. All you have to do is figure out how you are all connected. The only way to really do that is to contact them.

So, I was a bit surprised when a Black lady messaged me wondering how we were connected. I checked out our connection. We are fourth cousins. That means we probably share the same great, great, great-grandfather.

I’ve been filling in my genealogy fairly accurately. It’s sometimes difficult to find the correct information. Dates can be off. People’s names get misspelled. Some documents are difficult to read. I am pretty sure there are no African Americans in my genealogy, which means that a distant grandfather most likely impregnated a Black slave. It sort of brings the Black Lives Matter issue smack right into your face.

On my father’s side, we came to this country in the mid-1800s from Germany and Switzerland, so it had to be on my mother’s side which goes way back to the 1600s. Most of my ancestors were in the northern states or Canada during the time when Nicole’s great, great, great-grandmother got pregnant. There was only one ancestor that fit the bill: Gabriel Holt, my great, great, great-grandfather, born in 1800, who had a 160-acre farm in Tennessee.

We can never know for sure if Gabriel was where Nicole’s lineage came from, but I do know that his son-in-law, Eli McCullough, fought as a Confederate for the 15th Regiment of the Arkansas infantry in the Civil War. I cannot find any date for when he died or when Gabriel’s daughter, Catharine, died. My great-grandfather, Eli Davis, was born in May of 1861, the month after the Civil War started. His younger brother was born in 1863. I found one date where Catharine died in 1863, perhaps in childbirth or after childbirth (that happened a lot in those days), but I can’t confirm that. As far as Eli, he probably died in the Civil War, lost in the confusion, another casualty to ignorance and racism. My mother’s maiden name is McCullough. I am just glad I had other ancestors that fought on the right side of history.

I can’t imagine what Nicole’s great, great, great-grandmother went through, born into slavery, used like an animal, but she somehow survived and started her own lineage. I know what her descendants had to go through, though. Systemic racism and intimidation were everyday events. Try to vote? Maybe they’d make an example out of you and your family would find you hanging from a tree. Want to buy some property? Good luck getting a loan. Looking for a job? Get to the back of the line. Just thirsty for a drink of water? Sorry, that’s a White’s only fountain. Want to get a bite to eat? Maybe you’d get spit on or your head bashed. Got robbed? No sense going to the cops. Going to trial? I am sure that all-White jury will do the right thing.

Many of the statues to Confederate generals were put up during the Civil Rights movement in the ’60s as well as all the Confederate flag waving. It had nothing to do with preserving history. It was a way of sending a message to descendants of former slaves. The message? White lives matter the most. And don’t forget it.

So now some people are upset that people are holding signs and yelling, “Black Lives Matter!” They yell back, “All Lives Matter.” Yes, of course all lives matter. They are missing the point. They aren’t saying that Black lives matter more; they are saying Black Lives Matter also. And if they are tired of systemic racism and getting gunned down by cops when they aren’t even armed, can you blame them?

Things are way better when it comes to race relations than they were 150 years ago. Or 50 years ago. The only way to make it even better is to shine light on it. And to Nicole, all I can say is “Black Lives Matter.”

Don Urbanus is a resident of Burson.


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