Globally linking African American families and other histories. Check out posts @goodgenesgenealogy on wordpress, fb, twitter and via email@example.com. Also check out @goodgenesgenealogy on wordpress
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.
Cameroon, Congo & Western Bantu Peoples
Benin & Togo
Ivory Coast & Ghana
England & Northwestern Europe
Southern Bantu Peoples
This chart shows the percentages of each ethnicity you inherited from my parents. Source: ancestry.com
What this means in common terms
My DNA results are the closest estimate to 100 percent findings due to my gender.
There are four discrete groups in the male DNA.
Women inherit only three from this grouping.
DNA testing puts the “gene” back in genealogy.
DNA is one of many tools for genealogists. When used properly, it tracts direct-line ancestors and many cousins.
DNA results help to fill in the blanks of the stories that we are building aboout our ancestors.
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.
This is a process.
Be patient with the results and keep asking questions of the experts along this journey.
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.
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.
Paying tribute to loved ones and building family histories
Camden, Tenn. – About 340 miles northwest of Atlanta, lies a small community with a big heart that was originally named “Tranquility.” The community counted as one of its more than 3,000 residents a special lady, Delia Mae Tharpe, mother of Dr. Jack L. Bomar, Executive Bishop/Senior Pastor of Atlanta’s Hillside International Truth Center.
Ms. Delia, as many called her, was funeralized on the third Saturday of January admist a mountainous cool afternoon. It would have been an ordinary “homegoing” service, except Ms. Delia was anything but ordinary. Her extraordinary life on earth for 81 years is one for the history books. I barely knew Ms. Delia, meeting her perhaps once. Yet, nearly 55 persons, including my mother, Angeline Wead and me, traveled five hours each way to share with hundreds of others to celebrate the life of this lady.
What caused us to travel early on Saturday morning and return late that evening, is what I will share later in this blog.
Delia Mae Tharpe, September 28, 1941 – January 14, 2023
Just one day earlier, was the funeral for my maternal cousin, M. Madeline Wilks Matthews, who I’ve known all of my life. Her service took place in St. Louis, Missouri. My mother was the eldest cousin to Madeline. I was asked to write her obituary, which was delivered to her church secretary with all the love and care that I could deliver. Madeline was a bright light who was on this earth 93 years.
Margaret Madeline Wilks Matthews, Aug. 30, 1929 – January 7, 2023
The lives of Madeline and Ms. Delia were different and yet there were a few similarities. Both ladies lived full lives, sang in their church choirs, held many positions in church leadership, and each worked more than four decades in their respective fields. Madeline did not have children; while Ms. Delia bore nine children and had many grandchildren. Madeline was active in politics and in her retirement years, she gained additional education and served as a substitute teacher and paraprofessional in special education.
In short, I am proud of Madeline’s accomplishments that began in her college prep Omaha Central High School years where she excelled in academics, music, other creative endeavors, and as student government leader. As a young high school graduate, she was denied employment in her hometown because she was Black. That’s why she ventured south of Nebraska to Missouri where she lived the next nearly 80 years and endured the sadly typical ups and downs of trailblazing, independent thinking and working women.
Madeline in high school
Ms. Delia’s life couldn’t have been easy by usual, societal measures. She was a “dedicated and hard worker for more than forty-three years at Henry I. Siegel, ‘the H.I.S. factory’ in Bruceton, TN as a press operator,” according to her obituary. She bore nine children and raised them in humble conditions with such love, leadership and purpose as shared with laughter, sympathy tears and memorable message.
Her life was inspiring as experienced by hundreds in the near standing room-only chapel where the roomful of upright flower displays served as fragrant reminders of the depth of her influence in this hamlet of about 3,000 residents within 5.7 square miles of the Tennessee hills.
So impactful was Ms. Delia’s life that a young lady who was seated behind me said that she attended the service even though she lived in the area, yet did not know Ms. Delia “that well.” Eula Eikerenkoetter, widow of the late, popular minister, “Rev. Ike,” was there. So were several messages of condolences in the form of proclamations and recognitions that included many Atlanta City Councilmembers.
A guide for genealogy researchers
Family genealogists can learn many lessons from our new ancestors while honoring their time on this earth and their vibrant spirits. The obituaries, the services are the beginning of sharing the legacies of the families. Usually, many blanks are filled in that often break through the typical brick walls found in Black ancestry pursuits.
Ensure the obituaries are well-researched and well written. Many eyes are on the obituaries. Besides family and friends, other entities utilize the information for legal, government, insurance, retirement, military (if applicable), social and community purposes.
The best way to achieve the best written obituaries is through preparation that is based on accurate written and oral information.
When written and oral background is provided for the deceased loved one, engage at least one friend or family member to edit and fact-check. This is not the time to worry about whether anyone has hurt feelings about fact-checking another’s input. This is about getting things right for the legacy of the individual and accuracy for larger purposes.
The way the services are rendered are usually the best examples of how persons lived. Take notes.
During the service, the songs that are sung, the scriptures that are read and the officiants are all indications of the best parts of the deceased lives.
Meet the persons who spoke at the services. At minimal, offer condolences to them as well as the family members. As a maximum benefit for the family researcher, politely seek more information from the individuals either after the service or another time.
The burial or final resting places provide additional insight into family histories. My cousin, Mark S. Owen, partner in Good Genes Genealogy Services, often teases me that I am fixed on cemeteries and death certificates. It is for good reason. There are details such as health information and other bits of information that can benefit the living from the official documents. At cemeteries, I walk the grounds, especially if the recent ancestors are placed in family plots. There are often other clues about our extended families and friends based on surnames and first names found on the cemetery markers.
After receiving new and/or best information, please record and update family records. Family members deserve vibrant and verified information. Studies show the positive mental and spiritual health benefits from individuals learning more about loved ones.
Step back a few times during this process and reflect on how you feel during the process. Often Mark and I take time to release and “breathe” to ensure that our emotional health is intact. Researching, updating and engaging in this process is sometimes taxing for individuals.
Celebrate the lives of our ancestors. They deserve our respect, understanding and accurate depictions of their lives.
As we research our ancestors, don’t be so anxious to join them this writer points out in a great New York Times piece …
“You know what’s anti-aging? Death. Let’s be happy we’re aging.”
Photo by Monica Garwood
— Carol Walker, the character played by Angela Bassett in the film “Otherhood”
New York Times, September 30, 2021
This is the final installment of “In Her Words.” Thank you, always, for reading and supporting our work.
By Lisa Selin Davis
When Kate Winslet won an Emmy this month for her performance in “Mare of Easttown,” she called her character a “middle-aged, imperfect, flawed mother” who “made us all feel validated.”
Ms. Winslet, 45, had something in common with the night’s other winning women. There was Hannah Waddingham, 47, from “Ted Lasso,” and Julianne Nicholson, 50, from “Mare of Easttown.” Gillian Anderson, 53, took the Emmy for supporting actress in “The Crown.” And Jean Smart, 70, won outstanding lead actress in a comedy series for “Hacks.” Women over 45 were suddenly the biggest winners of the small screen.
Compare this with the 1950 noir film “Sunset Boulevard.” Its protagonist, Norma Desmond, is a washed-up silent film star considered far too old to reinvent herself for the talkies.
Her age? Fifty.
Back then, and until quite recently, anything past 40 was considered ancient in Hollywood years. “It’s always been this youth-obsessed industry,” said Yalda T. Uhls, founder and executive director of U.C.L.A.’s Center for Scholars & Storytellers.
Men could find roles whatever their age, but women might disappear from the screen during perimenopause, or emerge a few years later in supporting roles, usually as dowdy, eccentric or senile grandmothers, evil stepmothers or spinster aunts.
“If you were 45, or certainly 50 or over, these were the parts you could get: a dying patient or a meddling, horrible mother-in-law,” said Susan J. Douglas, a professor of communication and media at the University of Michigan and author of “In Our Prime: How Older Women Are Reinventing the Road Ahead.”
Even if some of these so-called hagsploitation films of the 1960s, like “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” or “Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” were good films, they portrayed older women as mentally incapacitated or murderous.
Ageism is a pervasive problem, both in Hollywood and in the United States at large. The National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 82 percent of older adults reported experiencing ageism on a regular basis, including being exposed to ageist messages and jokes suggesting older adults are unattractive or undesirable. Women experienced more ageism than men, the poll found. Yet older adults’ attitudes toward aging were pretty positive: 88 percent reported feeling more comfortable with themselves as they got older.
A report from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media concluded that even now, there is a dearth of roles for older actresses, and the roles that do exist portray them as senile, homebound, feeble or frumpy. In the highest-grossing films from Germany, France, Britain and the United States in 2019, there were no female leads over 50, the report said, and just one-quarter of characters over 50 were women. Only a quarter of films passed what the report called “The Ageless Test,” meaning they had one female character over 50 who was significant to the plot and was presented in “humanizing ways and not reduced to stereotypes.”
But it’s possible that this year’s Emmy winners are a sign of changing times, changing demographics, and changing — or long-ignored — tastes. So how did we go from “frail, frumpy and forgotten,” as the institute’s report is called, to Julia Louis-Dreyfus playing a hilarious, diabolical and still-sexy politician in “Veep,” or Sandra Oh starring as an embattled professor on “The Chair,” or Angela Bassett, Felicity Huffman and Patricia Arquette starring as unappreciated mothers who take back their lives in “Otherhood”?
“We are in the midst of a demographic revolution,” Dr. Douglas said. As of 2019, there were just under 72 million baby boomers and over 65 million Gen Xers. “There are more women over 50 than ever before in our society. And millions of them are not really ready or eager to be told to go away and obsess about their grandchildren without participating in and doing other things.”
Amy Baer, president of Landline Pictures, which debuted earlier this year to focus on the over-50 crowd, said aging had become a much more “dynamic experience” — less about retiring than about starting something new. “They may have raised children and they’re finally at a place where they can focus on themselves professionally and personally,” Ms. Baer said. “They may be changing jobs. They may be finally falling in love after being professionally focused.”
She says this shift — living longer, living better — is just one reason that portrayals of older women in Hollywood are finally improving, both in number and scope. Women over 45 are being cast as leads in complex roles, sometimes the best roles of their careers.
It began with a couple of outlier films in the early 2000s, Ms. Baer said. Two romantic comedies from Nancy Meyers — “Something’s Gotta Give,” starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson, and “It’s Complicated,” with Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin — portrayed women in their 60s as romantically desirable leads. The films had enough commercial success to alert industry gatekeepers to an untapped audience. They started to realize, Dr. Uhls said, “there’s a market we’re not exploiting here.”
That audience had both time and money, and was conditioned to going out to the movies, but could adapt to streaming. The media for and about this market appealed to other demographics, too. One of Netflix’s first streaming megahits, “House of Cards,” starred Robin Wright, who was 46 when the series debuted, as the frosty mastermind of the country’s most powerful couple. Not long after, “Grace and Frankie,” a comedy about two vibrator-designing octogenarians, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, became a hit among many different demographics; it’s now Netflix’s longest-running original series.
This content is “consistently successful and has crossover to a younger audience,” Ms. Baer said. “There’s an insatiable need for original content right now in the space that we’re in.”
When executives at the independent studio MRC Films approached her about Landline, Ms. Baer said she did a “back of napkin” analysis on 25 years’ worth of films for and about older people and found that almost all had good returns on investment. “I’m not saying they succeed on the level of a Marvel movie, but they absolutely are financially successful,” she said.
The key, Ms. Baer said, is telling the right kinds of stories, especially those that don’t pander to older people. “We’re creating content that is entertaining, relatable, and deals with life experiences that anyone over 50 is going through,” she said, but that people under 50 can also enjoy.
Landline’s first project, “Jerry and Marge Go Large,” will star Annette Bening and Bryan Cranston in the true story of a retired Michigan couple who found a loophole that allowed them to win big in the Massachusetts lottery and use the winnings to help their town.
Projects like these allow female actors who once would have had dwindling work opportunities to explore new parts of their ranges. Consider Frances McDormand’s Oscar-winning performance in “Nomadland,” or Ms. Winslet’s acclaimed role in “Mare of Easttown,” both roles that required looking like non-Hollywood types.
“Great actresses are kind of enjoying being nonglamorous and not trying to look 20,” Dr. Douglas said. “They’re looking their age and they’re proud of that and they work with it.”
Suddenly women are being celebrated for embracing their age. Or as Angela Bassett’s character, Carol Walker, says in “Otherhood”: “You know what’s anti-aging? Death. Let’s be happy we’re aging.”
“Every actress I’ve had a conversation with has been incredibly embracing of our mission and really excited,” Ms. Baer said. “These are all women who are still in the prime of their career and are not ready or old enough to simply play the grandmother.”
This is not to say that ageism will evaporate or that face-lifts will all of a sudden become obsolete (or that there’s anything wrong with playing the grandmother!). “We’ve got a real turnstile moment here,” Dr. Douglas said. “On the one hand, there are more older celebrities and public figures who are out there embracing their age, while at the same time we still have ageist stereotypes.”
The opportunities for older women are not without limitations, either. “Most of the roles are straight, white women,” she said, as the Emmys painfully revealed.
We urgently need more representations of older women of color, older queer women, older working-class women, and also more stories of strong female friendship, Dr. Douglas said.
Honoring the legacies of pioneering lives led me to my triumphant sorority sister, Alberta Odell Jones. She was a magnificent leader who became Louisville, Kentucky’s first African American City Attorney. She was the first female of any race and ethnic background to hold that post. Yet, despite her progress, including that of becoming Cassius Clay’s (Muhammad Ali) attorney who wrote his first boxing contract in 1960, she endured a tragic end-of-life at the hands of hateful people.
Today, my mother reminded me that she has not received any genealogy social media posts from me. Oops. I have a few blog sites and social media sites that my cousin, Mark Owen, and I have host. Join on @GoodGenesGenealogy on WordPress. I invite you to go to our page and join the conversation.
Good Genes Genealogy also has a Facebook page and Twitter page. Since February 2021, our team began publishing e-book and now have moved to monthly online publications widely distributed on major sites and on our site.