Discovery Genealogy With Atsila Yona
I remember my elders telling me, "We come from Indians." ever since I was a little girl. I was a bit skeptical because the information they said didn't match what my history teachers told me. It wasn't until I was older that I started researching my genealogy. I started a free trial on Ancesty.com in 2017 and started looking at documents of my family lineage.
I was able to find multiple documents of my family in the 1800s, and it turns out the oral history my elders told me about my lineage checked out. They were telling the truth. In the beginning, I thought I had to have documents of my family being labeled as "Indian" in order to prove my ancestry. With people of darker hue, that's not always the case.
Many of my ancestors were labeled black, colored, and negro, which are apparent signs of reclassification and paper genocide. For those who don't know, paper genocide is where colonizers purposely reclassified Original Americans as a different race of people to keep us from receiving benefits and compensation we deserve. Classifications are based on skin tone more than racial origins. The light-skinned Origines/Natives were labeled white most of the time. Census takers purposely reclassified the darker-skinned Origines black, negro, and colored because we didn't look like a stereotypical native. A lot of Original Americans were dark-skinned, so racism, prejudice, and colorism played critical roles in Original Americans being classified as a different group of people.
Check out my new book Discovering Genealogy here to learn more about my ancestry and how to find yours.
To add to these facts, "Indians" who didn't live on the reservation were automatically reclassified and assimilated into society.
The most surprising thing that I found out about my ancestry is that I have ancestors from Mexico. I found that out on Dia Los Muertes (The day of the dead holiday). I suggest researching your ancestry on Dia Los Muertes. Light a candle and give an offering to your ancestors.
Many of my ancestors were farmers, and some were business owners. In 2019 I was able to trace my lineage to the 1700s and found documents of my French ancestry. It wasn't shocking to me due to the fact that my father would always tell me we had French ancestry and that he could speak French when he was younger. My 4th great grandfather was French, and he didn't own my 4th great grandmother. She was free. Also, on my French side, I had an ancestor fought in the Revolutionary War.
*UPDATE: I recently found documents of my great grandfather being Choctaw and my great grandmother being Moari.
I have an ancestor who fought in the civil war, and yet he wasn't a slave either.
My maternal grandmother would always boast about her mother being a full-blooded Cherokee. It turns out grandma was onto something. As I researched her side of the family, I noticed my 2nd great grandfather was originally from Georgia and traveled to Texas around the same time the Trail of Tears happened. Go figure.
I used to feel like I wouldn't find anything, but I got farther back then what I thought. If you're researching your genealogy, DO NOT GIVE UP! Things will be revealed in time.
Here are some tips and tricks when it comes to researching your genealogy.
1. DON'T GIVE UP!
Ancestry sites are always updating their websites, so if you can't find something, now, give it time. You may find the answers you're looking for.
2. Talk to your elders!
Talk to all your elders and write down the oral history they give you. That's how you find leads and be able to match oral history with documentation. Trust! It helps to know what to look for!
3. Save the documents you find!
Save. Save. Save. You can't go wrong keeping and collecting documents. Keep them in a photo album and teach them to the younger generations so that'll way they know THEIR history and not a generalized history that doesn't pertain to them.
4. Be prepared to see incorrect information on your ancestor's (and even elders) documents.
You think teachers purposely mispronounce and misspell our names now just wait till you see how the census takers wrote our ancestor's names. They made the most straightforward names into a scrabble game. I have an ancestor named "Sylvester," and they spelled his name Sylvaster or Sylvn. I was super aggravated. This is also another form of reclassification. They misspell our ancestor's names, changed their genders and location on the documents to keep us from researching our lineages. Keep that in mind.
Other than Ancestry.com here are a few other websites you can discover your genealogy (and yes they are free):
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