Roots are a part of anything that grows. To encourage strong growth above ground, one must attend to the roots. Good soil allows roots to move freely, take hold, and absorb all the benefits available. An event last year encouraged me to dig deeper and uncover unknown facts about roots. Not just any roots, but MY ROOTS.
In late September of 2022, I embarked on an adventure with a dear friend, Denise. Our destination was Sorbo San Basile. Denise’s ancestral roots grew and remain in this cute little town. It was quite the excursion and Italy was simply beautiful. This trip was meaningful to her and it was an eye-opener for me. I learned a lot about how significant it was to connect with your roots. What I did not realize was the impact of this journey on my life.
Imagine having records of your ancestral journey. Going to the home where your ancestors lived, in a town where the current residents knew the family name. Joy filled the air with excitement, as Denise shared photos and names from the past. The family name was a recognizable one and each person asked questions as best they could – even with a language barrier. The residents of this beautiful small town were excited that this American came to connect with her roots.
Walking through the town, down the hilly neighborhoods, we attempted to avoid cars that barely squeezed through the narrow streets. The scenery was amazing, the views breathtaking, and talk quickly spread through the town of the American and her friend who came to visit. One lady rushed over to take a look and chat. After a bit of conversation and sharing of pictures, Denise realized this woman was a cousin. Joy was shared through tears and smiles. It brings me joy to have witnessed this act of connecting with one’s roots and homeland.
There were many other beautiful adventures on this trip, from the gardens, the foodie adventures, lounging in Ischia, and the shopping in Positano. I made cantaloupe gelato, hand-thrown pizza, and amazing lunch options. We even made it to Pompeii, which was a dream come true for me. I remembered telling my parents that I wanted to visit Pompeii and participate in an archeological dig. Participating in an archeological dig has not happened. This is a dream, in the queue to become a reality. I must say, simply seeing the remnants of Pompeii was quite the experience. Amid all the beauty and history, a feeling that I cannot describe evolved into a directive. I needed to uncover more of my roots.
The urge to discover your ancestral roots allows so many emotions to come into play. Some people have documentation, family photos, records, and in some cases verbal validation of family history. Elders who want to talk and share, have been recorded or handwritten notes document stories of the past. It is in these stories my yearning to know my roots became my priority. I needed to know my maternal roots.
My brother was my guinea pig for the Ancestry test. We sent in a sample of his saliva. Once the results have been documented, Ancestry sends the results. This was great and what a melting pot my gene pool is on my paternal side. This left me wondering about my maternal genes. Didn’t that gene pool matter? It mattered to me.
In the early days of its existence, African Ancestry began advertising and I knew that one day, I would submit my DNA. This has been a dream of mine since I was a teenager. Knowing what tribe I could say my lineage was from has always been important. The opportunity to find out my maternal roots was about to become a reality. I have always been curious – which drove my parents nuts! I ordered the testing kit and didn’t tell anyone. It was my secret gift to myself.
The kit came with three swabs. My daughters participated in this mission of discovery by swabbing my mouth. It was important to me for them to be a part of this ever-important task. I performed the final swabbing. Registering my kit and then mailing it was quite an emotional experience. Once the kit had been mailed, more questions popped into my head. What if the result were inconclusive? Did I do the swabbing correctly? Would the swabs provide enough DNA? Would it get lost in the mail?
The first email came notifying me that it had been received. A few weeks later another notice came stating the results were in. This is where things get strange. The test I requested was from my maternal side of my ancestry. The results arrived via email on my Mother’s Birthday. Perhaps this was a gift from my mom. or simply a coincidence. I notified my daughters the results were in before I opened the email. Was I finally going to embrace more of my roots?
My hands shook as I moved my mouse to open the email. Through my tears, a new truth unfolded. My love for agriculture and working with my hands was a part of who I am.
I am 99.7% of Temne descent via my maternal lineage. According to research, in the 15th century, the Temne people migrated from Guinea and settled in Northern Sierra Leone. Understanding my connection to this earth has truly made me happy. It seems the Temne people were known to be connected to the land. Traditionally they grew rice, cassava, millet, and kola nut. They also grew and traded peanuts and tobacco. I have so much to discover about the Temne people who proved to be survivors and knew how to work the land. The Temne are known to have been excellent farmers.
Knowing a little bit about both sides of my gene pool has made me even more proud of my sharecropping roots. Knowing that most likely, finding the village my people are from may never happen, is real. However, knowing some of the cultural aspects of my ancestors means the world to me.
I must say, I look at my test results almost daily and smile through my tears of joy. Roots matter. Knowing more about the history of your family matters. When I think about it, no matter what trials and tribulations my ancestors went through, our roots are still here.
I cannot wait to explore more about the Temne people, Sierra Leone, and just maybe find more relatives. Perhaps they will be Elders with good memories, who are willing to share. Visiting a place where perhaps our ancestors walked, touching the soil, and looking out over the waterways that brought them to a new land, will be quite the experience.
In the meantime, I am dreaming of going to Sierra Leone. I wonder what grows in the gardens there? What an experience that will be…
Teri, Cottage in the Courtby