CeCe Moore is a professional Genetic Genealogist and one of the keynote speakers today at Rootstech.
Genetic Genealogy – or DNA research – has boomed in the last few years, and the findings that are coming out of it would have been unimaginable even ten years ago. The experiences of our forebears really do affect us in many ways.
People are now often taking DNA tests out of curiosity, and the results are leading them to try and follow up with the paper trail. One example of this was CeCe’s own brother-in-law. He had grown up with a strong oral tradition in his family that they had native American DNA. So, hearing about the DNA tests that CeCe was working with, he thought he’d take one to try and prove this story.
But his test came back with 0% native American DNA and 6.6% African DNA. His mother was still alive so she got a test which came back indicating that she was 12.25% African. CeCe started to investigate her brother-in-law’s ancestry via the traditional paper trail. She managed to trace him back to an illegitimate child of Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings.
CeCe’s brother-in-law now knew he was the descendant of enslaved people.
According to the 1924 racial integrity act from the Virginia General Assembly, anyone with 1/32 or more African blood was declared to be black, with all the restrictions and discrimination that went along with that. That corresponds to 3.25% of African blood, and CeCe’s blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned nieces and nephews would have been classed as black until that act was repealed in 1967.
Discovering slave ancestors has a profound effect on many people, and changes the way they view history.
But our DNA can affect us in other ways. Before he knew he was descended from Jefferson, CeCe’s brother had visited Jefferson’s house and felt an immediate connection with the place. Coincidence? Maybe, but science is now showing that we CAN be affected by events which have happened to our ancestors.*
Through her work with adoptees, CeCe often sees the connection between biological relatives. Reunited families often share personality traits and behaviours that adoptees did not share with their adopted families. The same car, the same hairstyle, the same clothes – none of these things are unusual. Epigenetic changes to our genes affect their expression and turn them on or off, resulting in a form of genetic memory. Once again our ancestors are affecting our lives.
CeCe is able to use genetic genealogy in the same way she does with adoptees to help a few high profile cases of people who don’t know who they are, like Paul Fronczak and Benjamin Kyle.
DNA testing is solving family mysteries old and new and changing peoples lives.