By Janice McCaffrey
I’ve been a genealogist for over forty-years. When I began there were no computers. I wrote letters to government registries, cemetery offices, and church personnel asking for help. Even enclosing the SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) didn’t guarantee a reply.
With the onset of online digitized records, books, family trees, and photos, I felt like a kid in a candy store. And most of the goodies were free!
Then Genealogical DNA testing came into vogue. First I had my son send his saliva off for three tests: 1) his ethnicity 2) his fathers, fathers, fathers DNA matches and 3) his mothers, mothers, mothers DNA matches. Years later I sent my own sample to a different organization. I like to imagine how my ancestors might have lived through the centuries.
Long before the DNA results I’d learned that there is no royal blood coursing through my veins. My ancestors were hard working farmers and tradesman (blacksmiths, weavers, saddle & harness makers, teachers, telegraph clerk, and prison turnkey). They migrated from the United Kingdom to Canada and eventually my father to the US moving to better lives. But, yes, we had bastards born out of wedlock, alcoholics, gamblers who lost fortunes, and some say insanity (though not proven).
A couple years ago my daughter and I visited Marseille France. The first day we strolled along the rampart of Fort Saint Jean beside the vibrant blue and green hues of the Mediterranean Sea. We stayed in Panier, the mysteriously ancient looking Old Town, and soaked up its ambiance. Then riding in a rental car keeping up with speeding traffic I caught a second’s image of a handsome bearded man standing on the sidewalk laughing with friends. He wore the traditional Moroccan jabador—mid-calf, off-white, cotton tunic worn over baggy trousers—and Muslim taqiyah cap.
I fell in love!
And a story began to weave itself through my brain. My protagonist, Madge a sixty-something widow, visits Marseille and finds herself on a quest. She must travel back in time to 12 century BC Lebanon to save the Phoenician civilization from the marauding Sea Peoples (see Ancient History Encyclopedia online for historic background).
Every few weeks I check my DNA results because people’s names are added as new DNA results match mine and as the organization’s DNA bank grows they tweak individual ethnicity reports. Recently I noticed that my ethnicity percentages had been recalculated a smidgen. Geographic areas are listed with descriptions of its peoples and their migrations. The West Middle East region had been added to my report. I clicked on it and read the history. At first I sat silent—in awe.
Then in delight—I laughed out loud.
Traces of the ancient DNA I proudly carry match Phoenician remains. Threads of my DNA are telling me stories to share.
Aha! Life imitates Art.
How fun! Great blog Janice.