sharing family history with children


I remember the moment I went into labor with my first born child. While she was busy signaling (contractions) to me that she was ready for her grand arrival into the world I was quickly grabbing any necessities that had gone astray from my hospital bag. Once done with that I hit the late night road with my mother for the short trip to the hospital. I was excited and nervous all at once to meet this new little person. What would she be like? Joyful? Comedic? Smart? Sporty? Who would she look more like? Me or my husband? My mother and I stopped en-route to the hospital to pick up a pack of gum. Like any other meeting with a new person I suppose I wanted to have minty fresh breath when meeting my baby. Would she remember that her mama had minty fresh breath when they placed her in my arms for the first time?

If she ever comes back to read this blog I suppose she will definitely know that fresh breath was of great importance to me at that time. Maybe we’ll talk about this in the future if she ever asks for the story of her birth. Then she won’t need to refer to this blog.

Anyhow, this brings me to my main point of this particular post: Why should anyone share family history with children? Are the smallest of details of any benefit to children? What kinds of family stories should you share? When is the best time to share family history?
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the journey of my dna journey

A few months ago I read Alondra Nelson’s book titled The Social Life of DNA Race, Reparations and Reconciliation After the Genome. This post is inspired by that read. After I’d finished I realized that I had never quite spelled out the terms and pitfalls of my personal DNA quest and how I was going about it. And of course Nelson’s work presented ideas I’d never really considered, such as proving a genetic connection to Africa as a means of potentially receiving monetary reparations. If any restitution is to be made for what has occurred to my ancestors I have decided it will and must first come from me.

Tajikistan 2006
Gorno-Badakhshan, Tajikistan – 2006

Eleven years ago – that is when my interest in DNA and genetic genealogy began. Only 24 years of age then, I had been traveling within Tajikistan for roughly three weeks. I first explored the capital city of Dushanbe as a member of a Habitat for Humanity International Global Village team. Afterwards I took off to an even more far-flung corner of the country in the Gorno-Badakhshan region to check out the Pamirs and Wakhan Valley. Undoubtedly, my travels there remain steady in my top 3 favorite journeys of all time. There are many reasons and one of them is due to a very chance encounter with the group that would accelerate my desire to participate in DNA testing.

I had been wandering the bus station with my then guide, Theodore Kaye, (now an amazing editorial and corporate photographer) looking for a safe, not too tightly packed, vehicle that could get me back into Dushanbe safely. The ride back from Khorogh would be a journey of 16 hours along a very jagged path down the mountains. Selecting a vehicle that appeared to have my ultimate safety at heart was paramount. Then it happened. My face turned and caught sight of a foreigner like myself. We made eye-contact and proceeded with introductions, answering the why on Earth are you here questions and so forth. As it turned out the friendly foreigner, David Evans, a photographer for National Geographic, had been traveling in country with Dr. Spencer Wells’ team from the National Geographic Genographic project. They had just wrapped up collecting DNA samples from natives of the region. Teo asked them if it would be alright if I hitched a ride with them back to Dushanbe and they agreed.

From that point onward it was full-throttle drinking of the DNA juice that would lead me to take my very first DNA test. To be clear, the Nat Geo gang explained the Genographic project for sometime during our ride back to the capitol and I was in awe. Having never been very inclined towards science I was also a bit intimidated by Dr. Spencer Wells, but everyone was so down to Earth and the pitch they made as to why anyone and everyone should participate reeled me right on in.

Naturally, the first test I took when I returned home in late 2006 was the Genographic test.
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