150 Year Anniversary/African Ancestry Q&A with Shiloh Member
Q. What caused your interest in your ancestry?
A. I have always had an interest in family and connecting one family member to another. In the study of my family history I researched back to the enslavers and I wanted to know how my ancestors were acquired and from what countries? I also wanted to find a sister that I knew existed, but I did not know her and she did not know that she had any siblings.
Q. What made you participate in the African Ancestry web site?
A. I read and heard about the African ancestry research being performed by Dr. Rick Kittles, director, Institute of Human Genetics, associate professor of Medicine and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the results that were to be produced. I anxiously waited for about two years. This seemed like the exact information that I was looking for and needed.
Q. When did you know you were the first to be selected to be on the African Ancestry web site? How did it feel to be the first?
A. I was notified in late March 2013 that I would be recognized during African Ancestry’s 10th anniversary. I did not think about being first because I have known for several years that I was the first to have my DNA tested for this project; however, I was honored that Gina Paige, president of African Ancestry, Inc., chose to recognize me in the celebration of their 10th anniversary.
Q. What organizations have you participated in that involve ancestry?
A. I have not participated in any formally organized ancestry organizations. I have attended the annual National Archives Genealogy Fairs and interacted with Dr. Elizabeth Clark-Lewis, professor of History and director of Public History Program at Howard University. Dr. Clark-Lewis directed me on many aspects of my family history research. While not specifically about ancestry, I was a member of Shiloh’s Veterans History Project Committee in 2006. At that time, we interviewed 13 Shiloh members who were WWII veterans for this Library of Congress-sponsored program. The interest in my family history ignited my interest in our veterans’ history of service to our Nation.
Q. How did you feel when your country of ancestry was determined?
A. I was excited and thankful to know it. I did not have any preconceived notion of what country my ancestors would be identified with so it was just good to know. I am a descendant of the Bamileke people in Cameroon, the Mbenzele people in The Central African Republic, and the Hausa people in Nigeria.
Q. Have you interacted with African groups in the U.S. resulting from your ancestry testing?
A. No, not groups but a few individuals with the same ancestry.
Q. Have you visited the countries of your ancestry, if so, what impact have the visits(s) had on you and your family? What plans are you making to visit them if you’ve not done so?
A. No, I have not visited my countries of ancestry, but I have read about them and their people.
I am not making plans to visit the countries, but I would like to connect with some of my relatives in those countries who share my ancestry. I understand that some of the people in those countries are doing research to find some of their relatives who were taken away. That would be an exciting find using DNA.
Q. Why should we as African Americans focus on our ancestry?
A. We should focus on our ancestry because it gives us a sense of being complete. Our self-esteem is likely to be greatly enhanced no matter what is found in our history. It is all good because it has come together to make us who we are. Blessed and highly favored.
Q. What guidance would you give to those interested in pursuing their ancestry?
A. First, start by writing down all the ancestors that you can name. Then gather any oral history (through interviews) from individuals who are still living, and any history you can remember that was told to you. Verify that history through research. I would also like to start classes on family history research for children starting at about age six. This should greatly enhance the children's self-esteem and their desire to learn more about their ancestry in an educational setting.
Q. What are your feelings or reflections as you think about Shiloh’s 150 years of service?
A. Shiloh has guided the community by truly being Majestic, Steadfast and Victorious. Shiloh has been the spiritual leader for the community over the past 150 years by providing biblical guidance for the mind, body and spirit. Not only has Shiloh provided spiritual guidance but Shiloh has held true to Deuteronomy 32:7 which reads "Remember the days of old: consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you". Shiloh has done an excellent job of recording its church history over the last 150 years for its members and the community so all will remember. We should preserve our family histories as Shiloh has done so that our families will also know and remember.
Q. If Shiloh members want to know more about how to connect with their ancestry, how should they contact you?
A. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org