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Ancestry & DNA

Ancestry & DNA

“Back where I come from, where I’ll be when its said and done. I’m proud as anyone. That’s where I come from.”_Kenny Chesney

My family is from Kentucky and Alabama. I have always considered myself as simply a black girl from Kentucky. A brown girl from Kentucky. A brown-eyed Kentucky girl. I knew I had some black, some brown, some white, some question mark. When I was a little, my dad and I traveled around to libraries in the tri-state area, researching his family tree. We found some of our family, slaves, listed alongside the livestock. I’ll never forget using my finger to follow the lines and seeing the listing for slaves: 2. Those two were My People. Where I came from. The great-grandmother I met when I was little, her parents were slaves. I’ve heard stories of how adorably scared she was the first time she ever saw a car coming down her road because when she was born, cars didn’t exist. My great-grandmother, her name was Carrie, she was born in 1897 and she was a beekeeper. We are both so close and so far away from our past, our history.

I was interested in learning all the info I could re: my ancestry DNA for a lot of different reasons and one of them was to know fersure exactly who I should root for next time the World Cup comes around. I’m always gonna be “Wavin’ Flag” but besides the American flag, which other flag could I, should I run around with? I’ve always considered myself an American first and always will. I am VERY American. I took a personality quiz once that told me I had a “fear of the exotic.” I’m still not quite clear what that means but maybe it’s true. I’m easily weirded out by new things as I feel like a lot of people are. Well, people like me. My husband is one of those people who never gets freaked out by new things or places. He is an excellent traveler and I am not, although I am getting better. I am getting better because I learned to watch how my husband travels and I just do what he does. He immerses himself completely in wherever we are going/are.

We get to a hotel, he uses the hotel soap/shampoo, checks out the local coffee shops/restaurants/places. He wants all new experiences, all new things. I seek comfort in the things I already know and love. When I get to a new city I like going to a Target, a Starbucks, the same places I go to back home. I bring my same shampoo and use it, I bring my own pillow. I don’t try to immerse myself in whatever they have going on, I try to recreate home. I’ve slowly learned to allow myself to do both. The first time my husband and I went to the beach together, as soon as he realized I wasn’t living THE BEACH LIFE he called me on it. I wanted to get showered and dressed for dinner…put on real shoes and everything and he was like GIRL THIS IS BEACH LIFE and suggested we go in our swim suits and flip-flops to the fish house on the beach, eat and drink like the locals. He was right. Now when we go to the beach I 100% LIVE THE BEACH LIFE.

I am getting sidetracked on BEACH LIFE right now because we had a foot of snow this week, subzero temperatures. What I’m here to talk about is my genetic makeup, my Ancestry DNA results and what those little percentages claim to say about me, where my family is from. The food, the flags.

INSERT DRUM ROLL for my official DNA numbers and stuff.

I am 72% African which includes:
22% Nigeria
19% Ivory Coast/Ghana
12% Cameroon/Congo
19% trace regions (Senegal, Mali…)

And 28% European which includes:
16% Scandinavia
6% Great Britian
6% trace regions (Ireland and Europe West)

SWEET. I believe this puts me deep into African/Scandinavian Princess category, which is something I’ve always suspected. I wrote about Vikings last week and who can blame me? It’s in my blood right? So are African beaches. I think I could live a pretty sweet beach life on the west coast of Africa, have fresh fish and beers for breakfast, never wear shoes. It’s who I am. I’m ready for forever beach life. AND I already love African food. Here’s a Nigerian Jollof Rice recipe here or here and this gorgeous Nigerian salad! I’m real big on eating as many colors as I can so I especially love the salad. I also found recipes for lots of Nigerian stews and soups and I love stews and soups. Cozy food and meals to share.

This Scandinavian smörgåstårta (Sandwich Cake) has always fascinated me! Now I know why…it’s because I’m 16% Scandinavian and 100% positive I wanna make and eat one of these things. Same for Rose Hip Soup because I love a LOT of things and one of these things is EATING FLOWERS. I love eating flowers. Eating flowers makes me feel like a really adorable little animal. Flowers are delicious.

JAM BAND ALERT! I’ve watched the VH1 Documentary where Dave (Matthews) & Trey (Anastasio) Go To Africa a billion times, Dave singing with Orchestra Baobab. Dave is South African. The reason Dave Matthews Band is my favorite band is because their music has always sounded like World Music, to me.

I love African music (love Orchestra Baobab, esp. this song b/c it is my jam.) and Irish music and I listen to a lot of world music anyway. Especially in the summer. Sometimes I hear African music and Irish music or Spanish music and I get hungry. I connect the things in my brain and although I’m slow to be travel-adventurous, I do so love to cozy up in an ethnic restaurant and try new things, listen to new things, open my mind to new things. I love speaking Spanish, hearing Spanish. I grew up traveling a lot across the United States, been to Canada and Mexico, but not so much to other countries or overseas. That being said, DEAR WORLD I AM READY NOW. I wanna go so many places! I want to go on an Outlander tour of Scotland. My husband found out he’s mostly Scottish, which makes sense because I adore Scottish men, Scottish accents, Jamie Fraser. And also, I want to drink in an Irish pub and go out to dinner in Barcelona. Everything, so many things.

The United States is such a baby and I want to see and touch old, old, old things. Places and history and humans completely different from me, the same too. I was once white-knuckled about branching out but now I’m so wide-eyed about it and the only thing truly holding me back are the travel funds. But we save and plan and dream big dreams. Lord willing, I’ve always pictured my husband and I as traveling missionaries when we get older. Maybe go and live here and there and hang out with people and sometimes not hang out with people and sometimes just drive and drive to the west in a fancy RV with deep-freeze air conditioning. And I don’t mean to get sentimental everytime I write one of these (yes I do) but honestly there is so much to see and do in the world and so little time to do it and I want to see it and I want to do it.

Leesa Cross-Smith

Leesa Cross-Smith is a homemaker and writer from Kentucky. She is the author of Every Kiss a War and the editor of WhiskeyPaper.

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About The Author

Leesa Cross-Smith

Leesa Cross-Smith is a homemaker and writer from Kentucky. She is the author of Every Kiss a War and the editor of WhiskeyPaper.

  • Megan E. Evans

    How did you find the out the DNA ancestry stuff, Leesa?

    Thanks for this essay. Loved reading it. I am also VERY American, and I’m a several generation hazel-eyed Kentucky girl.

    • Leesa Cross Smith

      Thanks much for reading Megan! I got a kit from Ancestry dot com! Took a couple months to get my info back and it’s around $99 altho sometimes they have sales! 🙂

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