Broken Branches

  I am a person who is fascinated by history. I love looking into my family history, even though I don’t get to as often as I’d like. As interesting as it is to find out where I came from this activity is bittersweet. Every black person is going to get to that point in their family tree where there’s a roadblock.
        I’ll admit I’m amazed at how far back I was able to get on my family tree. On my fathers side I’m able to go back three generations. With the fathers side of his family I’m able to reach the mid 1800s without running into a slave owner just yet. My mother’s side is different. On her fathers side I’m able to go five generations back and am able to find more information about a slave owner, George Washington Cain (my great-great-great grandfather), than the black side of my family. I’ve found that George, who lived in TN, received a slave, Cynthia, from his brother somewhere along the east coast and went on to have three children with her. When it comes to this side of my family my search stops there. I have no information about Cynthia. I have no idea if she was born in the US. I don’t know what her last name was. I have no idea when she died. I don’t know who her parents were or if she had siblings. There is a possibility that she had children before and/or was married and was taken from them. That’s all the information I have about her and even that’s not even certain. This is a part of my heritage I’ll most likely know nothing about and it angers me a bit. I want to be able to say that a certain ancestor of mine came from Africa, but I won’t know who or when. As far as my white ancestors I know some come from Lancashire, England in the late 1860s. I only have the luxury of knowing their names because they are white.
        When I do my light research of my tree it hits me hard to realize that these events weren’t that long ago as we’d like to think. Sometimes it’s annoying to hear people imply that black people should get over slavery because it was “so long ago”. It really wasn’t. I only have to trace back a few generations to get to the times of slavery. My grandmother even told us of her grandmother, who was alive when she was little, who was a slave. My grandmother also told us of times when she has picked cotton. Of course with her being born in 1935 she wasn’t a slave, but it was something she had experienced as a child. It’s really scary to see all of the horrible things my people went through that happened during the lifetime of family members who are alive today. My parents were alive during the civil rights movement. They were born before Jim Crow ended. My mom was 10 when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Looking through my family tree reminds me of the hell we’ve been through.
        All of my searching has been done through My younger cousin has also been searching but through another genealogy site. She sent in DNA samples and learned that our side of the family traces back to the first woman from Africa. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but it’s a nice thought. It would be pretty awesome if she was my direct ancestor.
      As frustrating as it may be to hit dead end after dead end it won’t keep me from wanting to know more. It’s truly a journey. I have family from all over from England to TN to VA to GA to MS. I can only imagine where else in the country and abroad other family members come from. I only wish I could put names to my ancestors who were forced from the shores of Africa. I wish I knew their real names and not the ones they were given once sold into slavery. My dream would be to, one day, sit down with an expert so that I can fill in these empty branches from my family tree. A bigger dream would be to actually visit the places they’ve been. I’ll get there one day.

-Asia Aneka Anderson (c)2015

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