At 1:20 am March 6, a major piece of my ancestral puzzle was uncovered: I received the results of my DNA testing from Ancestry.com.
Despite the e-mail rolling in in the middle of the night, I immediately turned over in my bed anxious to find out “who I am,” so to speak, but then hesitated for a moment with a bit of nervousness about what the results might actually reveal. When I finally clicked the link, the diagram on the left is what I saw — a vast mix of origins I didn’t quite know how to process. As I glazed over the regions, countries, and percentages, I experienced sort of a weird feeling. Though now I had proof of where my ancestors were from, there were almost too many places to feel connected to.
When I (obsessively) watched Henry Louis Gates’ “Finding Your Roots” specials back in the day, I remember individuals being linked back to specific people in one or two countries and here I was all over the freaking map, with a lot of West, South, and North Africa here, a little less Irish and British there, some Native American, and a dollop of Polynesian that I’m just going to ignore right now because I have no explanation for it. I didn’t quite know what to do with all the information I had right away, and judging from the responses of friends and co-workers neither did they. While some of my closest friends reacted with comments like “Oh, so you are black!,” other people said things like, “wow you’re almost a white lady,” or “I would freak out if I had anything less than 80% African DNA.”
But before I got all in my feelings tragic mulatto style I revisited the names and dates in my family tree and realized these results gave me a deeper connection to those distant relatives and proof of our relation. Before I had this information, I connected with a cousin of mine whose grandfather is my grandfather’s brother and he told me there was a book written about our family titled The Forgotten People: Cane River’s Creole’s of Color. The book tells the story of Marie Thérèse dite Coincoin, a woman who is said to be the daughter of two slaves, presumably from the Ewe tribe of Togo. Marie, a slave, had four children with a slave from the Natchitoches Native American tribe in Louisiana, but was chosen to be the concubine of a French man named Claude Thomas Pierre Métoyer, with whom she had several children and who eventually freed her. With her freedom, Marie embarked on numerous entrepreneurial endeavors and was eventually able to buy the freedom of her four children who were born into slavery, and allegedly her own plantation, which she worked on. One of her daughters, Marie Thereze Don Manuel De Soto, married a Spainard named Louis Ramos Victoriano and it is from him that I get my surname Victorian.
As I compare this story with these results, the 12% of my DNA that is from Benin/Togo provides proof that Coincoin was indeed my maternal fifth great grandmother and her daughter’s husband Louis Ramos Victoriano is represented by the 2% of my DNA that is from the Iberian Peninsula, and the 3% of me that is Native American represent’s Coincoin’s first partner, Chatta, as well as the Cherokee influence from my father’s side (and the Irish as well).
This experience is the one I wanted to have when I began tracing my roots. I wanted to put more than names and dates on my family tree. I wanted stories I could tell and be proud of and that would help me more understand my own identity and not just the physical characteristics of my makeup but also character and personality traits. Ancestry.com and the connections I’ve built there have helped me do that. And though I still have a little ways to go connecting all the dots, now I’ll have a definite — although lengthy — answer to provide the next time someone asks “So what are you?”