DNA findings helped me find my African, European origins

Life before my ancestors landed in Virginia

In late March 2023, I located an ancestor whose 1850 career title on the U.S. Census Slave Schedules was “Slave owner.” After 15 years of searching, I am unearthing exciting finds in my genealogy quest to locate ancestors.

I am not mentioning his name of the slave owner and that of certain other early family members until my Good Genes Genealogy Services business partner and maternal first cousin concludes his verification of my research. As genealogists, we are bound by our professional standards and ethics in ensuring accuracy although record-keeping on our Black ancestors was not as precise.

DNA results have contributed to my findings.

There are two kinds of regions in your ethnicity estimate. When women’s DNA first became allowable to test nearly 15 years ago, I jumped right in. The results have been surprising me as my data is periodically refined. For instance, I did not estimate the high percentage of my European DNA results.

From Ancestry.com, my results are published below.

Total: 1150%50%100%
Cameroon, Congo & Western Bantu Peoples19%2%21%
Benin & Togo6%2%8%
Ivory Coast & Ghana4%0%4%
England & Northwestern Europe0%4%4%
Southern Bantu Peoples0%2%2%
Nigeria—East Central1%0%1%
This chart shows the percentages of each ethnicity you inherited from my parents. Source: ancestry.com

What this means in common terms

  1. My DNA results are the closest estimate to 100 percent findings due to my gender.
  2. There are four discrete groups in the male DNA.
  3. Women inherit only three from this grouping.
  4. DNA testing puts the “gene” back in genealogy.
  5. DNA is one of many tools for genealogists. When used properly, it tracts direct-line ancestors and many cousins.
  6. DNA results help to fill in the blanks of the stories that we are building aboout our ancestors.
  7. Note that all of the extra cousins you inherit from the DNA results are not tested via your DNA results. You will have to contact them one-by-one to verify your linkages.
  8. This is a process.
  9. Be patient with the results and keep asking questions of the experts along this journey.

Three (Genealogy) Cheers for High School Yearbooks!

Women’s History Month Honoree: “Beautiful People” Mentor Mary Dean Harvey Evans

Omaha (Nebr.) Central High School Yearbook 1973

This photo collage from my high school days in Omaha, Nebraska, is a precious find, a true jewel. The photos showcases the members of Wantu Wazuri, an organization of Omaha Central High School Black students. It was formed and mentored by our ancestor, noted educator and children’s advocate Mary Dean Harvey (later Evans).

It was Mrs. Harvey — as we referred to her then — who listened to the small number of Black students attending Central HS. We wished to be “heard” and “seen” in a more significant way while matriculating among a larger number of peers comprised of European, Jewish and Caucasian ancestry.

Mrs. Harvey saw it fit to include Wantu Wazuri in her busy teaching day that began with our meetings in her homeroom at 7:30 a.m. Looking back, it must have been quite a power move for Mrs. Harvey to gain the school administration’s permission to allow an all-Black club to form. Central HS was and remains one of the nation’s top college prep high schools with an outstanding listing of alumni. Omaha CHS alumni include famed actors (Inga Swenson, Henry Fonda, Dorothy McGuire), celebrated musicians and philanthropists (Wyonnie Harris; Peter, Susie Jr. and Susie Buffett), stellar athletes (Gayle Sayers, Ahman Green), politicians, human rights advocates and authors (Brenda Council, Dr. Rodney Wead), my grandmother (Helen Wilks Owen Douthy), other relatives and my parents (Dr. Rodney, Angeline Wead).

Mrs. Harvey chose the name of Wantu Wazuri because of its Swahilli word for “beautiful people” and linkage to a larger organization. We routinely celebrated with song, recitations, and group sharing of triumphs and struggles. It was quite a time in Mrs. Harvey’s room that established our success strategies in academics and community outreach.

Beyond High School History lessons

What I re-learned as I researched the genesis of the Central HS name of Wantu Wazuri is that our gathering was a quasi-branch of the 1970-organized college student group by the same name at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. I am not sure if Mrs. Harvey formally connected with the UNC organization. However, I am sure the Louisiana-born educator was intentional in ensuring her Central HS students focused on positive academic and social objectives in a mirrored way as the original Wantu Wazuri organization. UNC’s Wantu Wazuri was later renamed the Black Student Union. According to its Facebook page, the UNC Black Student Union “… we’ve been observing and improving the general welfare of Black students at @uncwilmington.”

The Central HS Wantu Wazuri club clearly modeled the college organization. The CHS photograph features one of our Wantu Wazuri community service projects, a Christmas food drive. My sister, Denise “Candy” Wead Rawles and brother, Owen “Gene” Wead, and I were members of the Wantu Wazuri group. My best friends, Debbie Marshall and Leilani Garret, were also members. We were joined by other cool friends such as Drusilla Dillon and John Pennington (see above photo). I recall our Black History Month programs, wearing our African-themed clothing and singing our theme song. These memories bring forth the importance of the extended village serving as a central circle of love during those great years at Central before my family moved to Chicago, IL at the beginning of my junior year.

My sister, upon seeing the photograph that I retrieved from www.ancestry.com, told me that “it made her day.” I told her the same was true of me for findilng this gem.

The Take Away for Genealogy Researchers

  • Start your research with a hunch to locate an ancestor.
  • Mrs. Harvey was the primary ancestor I was seeking.
  • Go to the source of your interaction with the ancestor. I chose my Omaha High School and the year of my oldest sister’s graduation year to locate Mrs. Harvey.
  • The initial hunch paid off: I gained a photo collage that led to other revelations.
  • My find is resulting in at least three other ancestral stories involving Mrs. Harvey who was not a “blood” relative, yet was my favorite mentor and influencer from my high school days.
  • Let the research lead you: Mrs. Harvey’s obituary and newspaper tributes also opened additional information about her that I temporarily forgot. It unlocked other brick walls about family ancestors.
  • Celebrate your great find(s).
  • Publish your findings — no matter how limited.

Honoring the “Champion for Children” Mary Dean Harvey Evans

History lives through the legacy of Mary Dean Harvey Evans. She not only served the Omaha Central HS students for seven years and worked in the Omaha Public School System for nearly 20 years, Mrs. Harvey was a highly regarding state leader for two governors in Nebraska and Georgia.

Mrs. Harvey continues to teach me valuable lessons. She emphasized education, contextual thinking and sharing our stories. Her leadership has added great value to my genealogy research.

Thank you, Mrs. Harvey, for providing me with this jewel of a find through the hunch that she often told us to follow. She insisted that our internal controls — our hunches — would never let us down. Mrs. Harvey, again was right.

Let the spirit of Mrs. Harvey be your guide in genealogy research.

How Your Ancestors Can Help You … Today

Whenever I host a workshop or add comments during the questions and answers and the topic of how ancestors help in our everyday lives, I always refer to the Family Bible = U.S. passport equation.

The Holy Bible containing handwritten records for the Ellis family. Collection of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, gift of Clara Ellis Payne

This authentic Family Bible is an example of what the U.S. State Department would accept to prove the birth of an ancestor or you, if its birth announcements continued to current times.

Check out more genealogy tips on goodgenesgenealogyservices.com, on https://www.facebook.com/goodgenesgenealogy

Great resources to gather your family history

To gain more information along the family I use our family Bibles, lots of conversations filled with questions, journals and books as seen below.

… and the February 2023 Sankofa workshop book

This workbook accompanies the two-part workshop
  1. Go to GoodGenesGenealogyServices.com
  2. Next, select the Genealogy Store.
  3. Select e-book.
  4. The customer information will populate for payment of the $5 workbook especially designed for Hillside International Truth Center February 2023 workshop participants.

Meet us Saturday, Feb. 11th for the 3rd Annual Sankofa Month Genealogy Workshop

Get your workbook! On sale now

February 2023 workbook for genealogy workshop

As half of the Good Genes Genealogy Services Team, I am honored to  facilitate offer our third annual Black Genealogy workshops, 10 – 11 a.m., Saturdays, Feb. 11 and 18, 2023, in partnership with Hillside International Truth Center, Atlanta, GA.

It’s free! Sign in for the virtual setting via Zoom.


Meeting ID: 861 4830 0328
Passcode: 02112023
Dial: 929 205 6099 US

Hillside’s leadership generously is offering our workshops for free. My maternal first cousin , Mark S. Owen, and I are genealogists and facilitators for our genealogy workshops. The workshops are open to our worldwide audience.

We specialize in “breaking down brick walls” to find the “hard-to-find” Black ancestors whose histories are usually intertwined with others from contrasting backgounds, such as former slave owners. We have several success stories in helping genealogy workshop participants and other clients to locate their “lost” loved ones. Hillside’s Presiding Bishop Jack L. Bomar, is among those who learned a “great blessing” of family history through the Good Genes Genealogy Services’ research about his family.

Sankofa Genealogy workshop attendees are asked to purchase the companion workbook. Go to our website and select “Genealogy Store.” You will be able to download your copy after selecting the book cover image (see below) to pay for your book. All proceeds offset our free and low-cost, year-round genealogy consulting services.

Mark and I are also the co-authors and Veverly Byrd-Davis is the book designer and illustrator of the cover.

As a preview to the first workshop, we will explore the “natural” and online ways to find your ancestors whose heritage is from the African diaspora. Participants will also learn helpful tips and receive encouragement from the valued benefit of locating and celebrating our individual and collective Black family ancestries.

Coming Soon!

Good Genes Genealogy Services is offering its 3rd Annual Black Genealogy Workshops

We’re offering our next installment of workshops centered on researching and locating Black family ancestry results.

When: Saturdays, Feb. 11 and 18, 2023, 10 – 11 a.m.

Who: Good Genes Genealogy Services in partnership with Hillside Interational Truth Center

What: You will need to purchase the e-workbook, available online, beginning Feb. 7, 2023.

Where: Via Zoom


Meeting ID: 861 4830 0328

Passcode: 02112023

Dial: 929 205 6099 US 

Treat yourself to a sweet deal for Black History Month: Our E-book

We published our January 2023 e-book in honor of our grandmothers.

It is a genealogy treat. Go to our bookstore, Lulu Publishing and enjoy! You can also check it out on the major book sites — Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. — beginning Feb. 1, 2023.

Thank you for your support.

Keep digging to find “lost” ancestors in cemeteries, burial records

Pay attention.

Olivia J. Garland did just that and pushed memories from her childhood to discover a forgotten cemetery where her great-grandmother, America Virginia Fields, was buried in Henrico County, Virginia.

Garland remembered the rural path to funerals that she traveled as a girl. Garland’s remembrance of those county roads in Virginia and her interest in locating her great-grandmother’s grave, led to the uncovering of a “buried” cemetery. The great-granddaughter of Fields, also utilized land records, historical and cemetery records, volunteers and her determination to find the final resting place of her precious relative and nearly 20 other persons.

The campaign to locate others buried at the site continue.

Her story is encouraging to those who believe they’ve reached brick walls in Black family research that cannot allow for great outcomes. America Virginia Fields

Pay attention to the conversations, remembrances of childhood experiences, Bibles, diaries and other family materials.