Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Miracles of DNA: Our Family Reunion in Ghana, Africa

This is my first blog post for 2017. I am very happy to make this blog post about our dream-like family reunion in Ghana on December 11 & 14, 2016. There will be other blog posts about our spectacular week in Ghana.

My cousins (R to L), Dr. Leroy Frazier, Andre Edwards, James Johnson, and I with our host William Obeng in the middle. My cousins and I all are descendants of Luke Edwards (Ogbar Ogumba) and Lucy Edwards of Panola County (Como), Mississippi.

During Memorial Day weekend of May 2016, my cousins and I discussed the possibility of traveling to Ghana at our Edwards homecoming celebration in northern Mississippi. One of my cousins, Dr. Leroy Frazier, my maternal grandfather’s great-nephew, was already set to travel to Ghana in December. By Labor Day weekend, I had not made the final decision if I was going to accompany them to Ghana or travel there in 2017. I had always wanted to visit Ghana, especially after receiving two DNA matches to Ghanaians, both on my mother’s father's side. One of the DNA matches is Kweku Folson of London. Both of his parents were Ghana immigrants to the UK. His family roots hailed from Winneba and Cape Coast, in the Central Region of south Ghana, and his family are of the Akan people. Kweku’s IBD (Identity by Descent) match to three cousins from the Reed/Edwards side of my mother's family on the same chromosome revealed our ancestral connection to the Gold Coast (Ghana). See this March 2016 blog post for more details concerning this significant DNA match to my Edwards lineage. 

On September 5, 2016, which was Labor Day, I checked my family's DNA accounts to see if any new DNA matches appeared. This is something that I do almost daily. Three months prior, I was able to generate a pseudo-DNA Lazarus kit in GEDmatch for my deceased maternal grandfather, Simpson Reed, using three of his children, including my mother, one of his baby brother's daughters, who is 95 years old, a great-nephew, and 10 Edwards cousins, who had also taken an autosomal DNA test and had uploaded their raw data files to GEDmatch. My grandfather was the grandson of Prince Edwards (a son of Luke & Lucy) of Panola County, Mississippi, his mother's father. While I was scrolling through the list of my grandfather's DNA matches in GEDmatch on that September day, I came across a foreign-looking name that appeared to be African. Her name was Nana Faba Idun. She was also a DNA match to my mother's brother. I immediately contacted LaKisha David, the person who manages Nana Faba's account, on Facebook. She responded within an hour!

To my joy, LaKisha informed me that Nana Faba was an elderly, 81-year-old Fante woman who resides in Elmina, Ghana, where she was born and raised, and the town where Elmina Castle, the slave dungeon, was located in the Central Region of south Ghana. This is the same region where Kweku Folson's family roots are from. She became my family's 3rd DNA match to Ghana! Also to my joy, LaKisha immediately connected me with four of Nana Faba's granddaughters, Rita Quaigrain Owusu, Rhoda Quaigrain, Efua Martin, and Ivy Gyaaba Martin, who were also on Facebook. They immediately embraced me and Cousin Leroy. Nana Faba's granddaughter, Rhoda, who resides in Canada, and LaKisha are best friends. In May 2016, both of them had traveled to Ghana, and while they were there, LaKisha collected saliva samples from Rhoda's mother and maternal grandmother, Nana Faba, for the AncestryDNA test. After receiving the results, LaKisha subsequently uploaded their raw data files to GEDmatch, an effort for TAKiR, the African Kinship Reunion project.

At this point, I then decided to make the trip to Ghana in December with my cousins to see our ancestral homeland. I had only three months to prepare. We arrived in Accra, Ghana on the night of Saturday, December 10, 2016. Two days before arriving, Cousin Leroy received the final confirmation that we were going to be able to meet Cousin Nana Faba Idun and her family. They happily agreed to the "family reunion." To say that I was excited is a gross understatement. The adjective "euphoric" doesn't properly describe how I was feeling! A family reunion with African cousins was something that was beyond my wildest dreams. Just several years ago, I never fathomed that something like this would even be possible! But DNA technology and the efforts of LaKisha and Rhoda, and her grandmother's willingness, made this possible.

One of Cousin Nana Faba's daughters, Faustina Quaigrain, resided in the suburban village of Kasoa, which is adjacent to Accra, the capital city of Ghana. Therefore, the first part of this monumental family reunion was with Cousin Faustina, her husband, Chief Dr. Kennedy Quaigrain, and grandchildren and great grandchildren of Cousin Nana Faba there on Sunday, the day after we arrived in Accra. What a great way to start our visit to Ghana! 

We were warmly welcomed into their home in the Ghanaian traditional style. We conversed about the significance of this family reunion, which was reuniting them with African-American cousins whose ancestors were likely taken away from the Gold Coast, and our reconnecting with the blood descendants in Ghana. Cousin Chief Quaigrain discussed the importance of family connections and maintaining those family ties. We reiterated the effects of the transatlantic slave trade (The Middle Passage) on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. We expressed to the family how we are just four out of thousands of African-American cousins that they have. Chief Dr. Quaigrain also gave us a brief history lesson about the Fante people of the Central Region of Ghana. The Fante people are a subgroup of the Akan. He poignantly expressed, "Since you all made the great effort in traveling thousands of miles to Ghana to connect with us, we take great pleasure in opening our home and welcoming you all, our family, back home to Ghana." Hearing those words touched our hearts deeply. I felt my eyes watering.

With the daughters, son-in-law, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren
of Cousin Nana Faba Idun in Kasoa, Ghana

Chief Dr. Kennedy Quaigrain discussing the importance of family with us. (Photo by Andre Edwards)

The second part of this great family reunion occurred that Wednesday, December 14, in Cape Coast, Ghana. Our host, William Obeng, and his family planned a Homecoming Reception for us that night, which was attended by over 100 people from the Central Region and Accra. We had no idea that the Obeng Family would literally roll out the red carpet for us! Local dignitaries, their family and friends, as well as the Ghana media, were in attendance to welcome us "home." We were simply in awe. Not only that, since Cousin Nana Faba Idun resided nearby in Elmina, she was able to attend the reception, along with her daughters and grandchildren.

At the reception, we laid eyes on Cousin Nana Faba Idun for the very first time. For a minute, I just sat there and stared at her. I was in disbelief about what was occurring. I simply could not believe it! To garner DNA matches with African cousins is colossal within itself, but to meet that relative in person in Africa took it to a wonderfully greater level that I never imagined. I kept saying to myself, "Is this happening for real?" It was real.

As we sat at the table, talking and laughing with the family, our family, we felt a bond that was no longer hidden and broken. Even one of the camera men stated, "It seemed like you all have known each other for years." We knew that the ancestors were happy. It did not matter at all that we did not know exactly how we are related. This was one of the inhumane effects of American chattel slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. Nonetheless, just the simple fact that we were blood family who had returned back "home" to Ghana was all that mattered. According to LaKisha, Cousin Nana Faba's brother, Joseph “Kawantwi” Arthur, remembered childhood stories from their elders about ancestors being taken away from the Gold Coast, never to return. On December 11, 2016, after over 200 years, they returned home through us. I thank God and the ancestors for this wonderful blessing!

My cousins and I with Cousin Nana Faba Idun, her daughters, and grandchildren in Cape Coast, Ghana

Cousin Nana Faba Idun of Elmina, Ghana and me

Cousin Leroy talking and laughing with Cousin Nana Faba and her granddaughter, Rita

People from Ghana at the Homecoming Reception in Cape Coast

Ghana TV News station 3 at the Homecoming Reception interviewing my cousins and me

Thursday, September 29, 2016

DNA and Genealogy: These Findings Can’t Be Coincidental


The image above is from the will of William Edwards Sr. (1780-1855), dated November 14, 1855, Panola County, Mississippi. He had moved to Mississippi from Henry County, Tennessee, around 1837. He left his wife, Margaret Edwards, five of his 33 slaves: LUCY, HARRIET, PETER, PRINCE, and JEFFERY (Source). Prince Edwards (born c. 1830) is my mother’s paternal great grandfather. On the estate inventory, Lucy was given a value of $0. A preponderance of evidence strongly indicates that she was the mother of Harriet, Peter, Prince, and Jeffery, who were named in the will, as well as additional children who were not named in the will but were valued on the estate inventory. Based on oral history accounts and genealogical evidence, the father of her children was Luke Edwards Sr., who was born around 1790. According to my cousin, Dr. Jeffrey Ogbar, Luke was born in West Africa and purchased by the Edwards from a slave ship that anchored in Virginia. Additionally, family elders had written down that his true African name was Ogba(r) Ogumba. Luke Sr. was valued at $150 on the estate inventory. With these facts in mind, recent DNA and genealogical discoveries appear to shine a spotlight on Grandma Lucy. And these observations and findings can’t be coincidental. Follow the trail of DNA and genealogical clues.

OBSERVATION 1 (Genealogy): The Trail Goes Back to Georgia

Comparing the reported birthplaces in the censuses, I observed that several of Grandma Lucy’s children (or someone) reported Georgia as their mother’s birthplace. In particular, Luke Edwards Jr., who was probably the oldest, or one of the oldest children, consistently reported Georgia as his mother’s birthplace, per the 1880 and 1900 Panola County censuses. This is from the 1880 census from

Note: His father’s birthplace was reported in 1880 as “unknown.”

THEORY 1: Census data strongly indicates that Grandma Lucy Edwards was born in Georgia, around 1797. Her approximate birth year was based on a combination of the slave inventory of William Edwards’ estate, taken on Dec. 15, 1855, where she was the only one who appraised at $0, and the 1850 slave schedule, which indicates that the oldest enslaved female who was owned by William Edwards in 1850 was 53 years old.

OBSERVATION 2 (Genealogy): More Leads to Georgia

Although the 1850 Panola County, Mississippi census reported that both William & Margaret Edwards were born in North Carolina, the state of Georgia was reported by their son, Dr. William Edwards Jr., (or someone) as his father’s birthplace, per the 1880 Attala County, Mississippi census. Shortly after the Civil War, he had moved to Kosciusko, Mississippi. To add, in the 1850 census, William & Margaret’s oldest son, Robert Edwards, was reported as being 40 years old and was born in Tennessee. Both William & Margaret were born in 1780. This is from the 1880 census from 

THEORY 2: There had to be a reason why Dr. William Edwards Jr. (or someone) reported Georgia as his father’s birthplace. This indicates a likely presence in the state of Georgia at some point. These findings suggest that William Edwards and/or his parents probably migrated from North Carolina to Georgia after 1780, and then William and Margaret were in Henry County, Tennessee by 1810, the approximate birth year of their oldest child, Robert Edwards. Perhaps, William Edwards purchased or inherited Grandma Lucy while he was in Georgia. (Unfortunately, no information has been found so far about William and Margaret’s parents, as well as their marriage record.)

OBSERVATION 3 (DNA): A Revealing DNA Match Named Tracy

Using the “People Who Match Both Kits” option in, I observed that Tracy’s father shares a recognizable amount of DNA, ranging from 9 cM to 43 cM, with descendants of Grandma Lucy Edwards, including my mother, her brother and sister (great grandchildren of Prince Edwards), and four of their Edwards cousins (1 great grandson and 3 great great grandchildren of Peter Edwards). Utilizing GEDmatch’s chromosome browser, I observed that the DNA sharing is across multiple chromosome segments with several of them. I also observed that everyone matches on chromosome 19 on overlapping segments. See below. That means that everyone descends from a common ancestor. Interestingly, Tracy shared that her father and his family roots are from Floyd County (Rome), Georgia.

THEORY 3: This DNA match to Tracy is the first DNA evidence indicating a definitive connection to the state of Georgia, and it also suggests that Grandma Lucy had truly come from Georgia. Based on the amount of DNA sharing with Tracy’s father, perhaps one of his ancestors was Grandma Lucy’s sibling? I needed more evidence.

OBSERVATION 4 (Genealogy): Tracy’s Paternal Family Tree Provides Clues

The key to finding ancestral commonalities is by comparing family trees. Fortunately, Tracy provided me with names of her father’s parents and grandparents. I was able to take his family tree back several more generations. Most of his enslaved ancestors were transported to Georgia after 1840 from North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. His only ancestors who were in Georgia around 1800 and earlier, during the time frame when Grandma Lucy was born, were his Ware ancestors. His third great grandparents were Jordan & Lucinda Ware, both born c. 1815 in GA, according to the 1870 Floyd County census. 

Since there were white Wares in Floyd County too, I also researched and observed that the slave-owner might have been Edward Ware (1787-1861), who owned over 70 enslaved people in 1860. His burial and a brief biography were found in Find-A-Grave. Edward Ware was born in Amherst County, Virginia and had moved to now Madison County, Georgia, near Danielsville, with his parents and siblings sometime around 1790. After marrying Sarah Penn, the daughter of Wilson Penn, in 1821, they settled in Floyd County. The Penn Family had also migrated from Amherst County, Virginia.

THEORY 4: Based on these findings, I wondered if Grandma Lucy may have been connected to the Wares of Georgia. I needed more evidence.

OBSERVATION 5 (DNA and Genealogy): Another Revealing DNA Match Named Latricia

With the previous theory in mind, I searched among my mother’s DNA matches in AncestryDNA, to see if anymore DNA matches had a Ware in their family tree. I found one, named Latricia, and her Wares were from Tallapoosa County, Alabama. Her mother only shares 9.4 cM with my mother. Her public family tree shows that her mother's great great grandfather was named Clark Ware, who was born around 1820. Georgia was consistently reported as his birthplace in the 1870, 1880, and 1900 censuses. I also observed that there were numerous other black and white Wares in Tallapoosa County, as well as in adjacent Chambers County. Many of them were born in Georgia. Interestingly, another Jordan Ware, who was born around 1830 in Georgia, was also in the area. This can’t be coincidental. Even more revealing, I clicked on “Shared Matches” and observed that Latricia's mother also shares DNA with three Edwards cousins. That can’t be coincidental, too! Fortunately, I soon realized that Latricia had also uploaded to GEDmatch. She shares DNA with my mother and three Edwards cousins (two great great grandchildren of Peter and one great great grandson of Grandpa Prince) in the same area on their chromosome 17. See below.

I researched further and learned that the slave-owning Ware family in that area was headed by Philip Ware (1786-1853). He and his family had moved to Alabama from Georgia around 1840. Yes, Madison County, Georgia! Per the 1850 Tallapoosa County slave schedule, he and his son, Jonathan Ware, owned over 60 slaves. Born in Amherst County, Virginia, Philip was a first cousin to Edward Ware of Floyd County, Georgia. He had died in 1853, while visiting his sister in Madison County, Georgia, according to Find-A-Grave.

THEORY 5: Latricia is likely related via Grandma Lucy, and the roads seem to be leading back to the Wares of Madison County, Georgia. Perhaps, this is where Grandma Lucy was born? Still, I needed and desired more evidence.

OBSERVATION 6 (DNA): A Third Revealing DNA Match, Mr. Payne

In AncestryDNA, I observed that my mother shares DNA with another Ware descendant, Mr. Payne, whose great grandmother, Lavada Ware, and her father, Richard Ware, were from Tallapoosa County, Alabama. He shares 16.7 cM over 2 segments with my mother. I clicked on “Shared Matches” and observed that Mr. Payne also matches 5 Edwards cousins! A famous quote states, “Once is chance, twice is coincidence, and a third time is a pattern.” There’s a pattern!

OBSERVATION 7 (DNA): A Fourth Revealing DNA Match Named Steven

GEDmatch’s Tier 1 tool, called “Triangulation,” identifies and confirms triangulation groups from your DNA matches. Tier 1 utility tools are only available to people who donate at least $10. People in these triangulation groups all share a common ancestor, since they share DNA in the same area on one or more of their chromosomes. With this cool tool, GEDmatch placed a DNA match named Steven and his mother in a group that contained them, my mother, and three Edwards cousins (1 great great grandson of Prince and 2 great great grandsons of Peter). Utilizing GEDmatch’s chromosome browser, I observed that Steven matches everyone, as well as my mother’s first cousin twice removed, on chromosome 17. Not only that, as shown below, he matches Latricia in the same area (see observation 5).

Since Steven’s GEDmatch number begins with an “A”, which means that he took the AncestryDNA test, I looked for him among my mother’s DNA matches. I found him, and fortunately, he had a public family tree. Since the connection is on his mother’s side, I investigated his mother’s ancestors. His maternal grandfather was from St. Mary’s County, Maryland. However, my eyes bucked when I observed that his maternal grandmother and her family were from Nelson and Amherst County, Virginia! My eyes also got even larger when I observed that one of his great great grandmothers was named Gabriella PENN.

In Observation 4 above, I explained that the wife of Edward Ware, who owned a plantation in Floyd County, Georgia, had married Wilson Penn’s daughter, Sarah Penn, before they moved from Madison County to Floyd County in 1822. Like the Ware Family, Wilson Penn was also originally from Amherst County, Virginia. He died in 1811, in a portion of Elbert County, Georgia that became Madison County later that year. Fortunately, I found Wilson Penn’s will and estate record on In his will, he instructed his wife and his executors to sell his land and estate for the benefit of his wife and their children. An inventory of his estate, taken on Jan. 9, 1812, contained the names and “value” of 13 enslaved people. One of them was named LUCY! She was “valued” at $400. Also, one of the executors of his estate was Edward Ware.

Source: Georgia, Wills and Probate Records, 1742-1992 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.

THEORY 6: I don’t know if this was Grandma Lucy Edwards, but these findings open the gateway to further research of Georgia records for confirmations. She may be my Lucy, or she may be her mother, or she may be another family member, but the fact that there was a “Lucy” among Wilson Penn’s slaves, considering the aforementioned DNA and genealogical findings, renders this to be more than coincidental, in my opinion. 

Conclusion: These DNA and genealogical findings added more to the developing narrative of my Edwards family history. This was made possible because multiple members of the Edwards family have taken a DNA test and adhered to my recommendation of uploading their raw data files to GEDmatch. Additionally, all of the aforementioned DNA matches had a public family tree. As a result, we now know a little bit more about Grandma Lucy’s likely origins in northern Georgia. We now know with much certainty that our ancestral origins likely go back to the Amherst County, Virginia area, and by a forced migration, one or both of Grandma Lucy’s parents were likely taken to Madison County, Georgia, shortly before 1800. Somehow, William Edwards gained possession of her, either by a purchase or maybe as an inheritance, and she was transported to Henry County, Tennessee before 1817. Then by 1837, when she was around 40 years old, William Edwards moved her, Grandpa Luke Sr., and their children to Panola County, Mississippi, near Como. To add, quite possibly one of Grandma Lucy’s ancestors was an African from the Malagasy people of Madagascar. See Trekking the Edwards DNA Trail Back to Madagascar. Yes, I love this DNA stuff!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Africa’s Major Contributions to Civilization


On Monday on MSNBC, Iowa Republican representative Steve King, with his white supremacist mentality, made an ignorant claim that white people have made more contributions to western civilization than other “sub-groups.” He stated, “I’d ask you to go back to your history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about, where did any other sub-group of people contribute more to civilization?” I continue to be in awe of the ignorance that many with his mindset spew from their mouths.

If they have read anything at all, they seemed to have read the works of many European historians who have credited the Greeks, Romans, and other Europeans for the sciences and technologies that contributed to the development of civilization. Those historians revised history to support their ideology of white supremacy. They have even claimed that ancient Egyptians (Kemites) were “dark-skinned whites” who built the pyramids. Maybe they did not know that even “Egypt,” a country in North Africa, means “Black.” Maybe they closed their eyes to the fact that “Kemet” means “Land of Black People.” They deliberately tried to hide the fact that Kemites (people of Kemet) and Nubians had migrated across central and northern Africa to West Africa, greatly influencing the diverse, West African cultures from which we African Americans descend from. Contrary to their mendacious history, many groups of people have greatly contributed to civilization. However, I want to take a quick break from genealogical and DNA blog postings to highlight some of the many contributions from Africa. Civilization and humankind emanated from Africa.

A plethora of sources unmistakably show that the origins of many scientific inventions truly hailed from Africa. Unfortunately, we – the descendants of Africans who were forcibly extracted from their homeland and enslaved in America – have been falsely taught that our ancestors had little or nothing to do with the development of civilization.  Obviously that was a huge lie. Anthropological evidence has shown that advances in engineering, mathematics, navigation, physics and other fields of science occurred in purely African societies long before it was previously believed possible (1). Many things that we utilize today should be credited to the historical accomplishments of Africa. I will expound on a few.

Paper, Alphabet, Ink, and Pen

Many inventions from Africa contributed to the birth of every technology that exists today. Of those many inventions, scholars such as John G. Jackson (1993) believed that the greatest inventions were the paper, alphabet, ink, and pen.  The Kemites of northern Africa discovered the need for something other than stone to write upon; therefore, they invented the paper from stripes of papyrus reed. The word “paper” was derived from the word “papyrus,” a Kemetic word that originally meant “that which belongs to the house.” The ink was made from a combination of vegetable gum, soot, and water. James Henry Breasted (1915) asserted that writing has played the single most important role in the uplifting and advancing of civilization – a greater role than any other intellectual invention in the history of Humankind (2).  Clearly, many technologies of today would not have been conceived efficiently without the Kemites’ ingenious inventions of the paper, alphabet, ink, and pen.  


Another great invention of mankind was the invention of the calendar by the people of ancient Kemet. Through their meticulous study of the sun, moon, and stars, they were able to precisely calculate the flooding of the Nile River which was vital to their ability to farm. The Kemites discovered that the movement and position of the sun and the moon had a direct effect on all objects on the planet Earth. From this revelation, the astronomers of Kemet were the first to develop a solar calendar which divided the year into 365 days with 12 months of 30 days each. An additional five days were interjected in the end of the year. These five days corresponded to the birth of the Gods (Netcherw) Osiris, Isis, Horus, Set, and Nephthys, who were the progenitors of the human race (3).  Successive civilizations went on to create their own calendars, owing much to the pioneering development in ancient Kemet.    


Electricity is the “fuel” for most technologies today. Many devices simply will not operate without electricity. The world has now become so dependent on electricity, that many people will find it extremely difficult to live without it. When I researched to determine the inventor of electricity, several sources credit that invention to the Greek scientist, Thales of Miletus. Even in their book entitled Electricity by C.A. Coulson and T.J.M. Boyd, the following statements were made:

The fact that a piece of amber, when rubbed, will attract small particles of matter was known 2500 years ago by Thales of Miletus.  From this simple experimental fact has developed the whole science of electrostatics, which deals with the properties of electricity at rest.  Indeed the very word electricity is derived from the Greek word for amber, η’λεκτρον.  Since the beginnings of physics with the Milesian school of philosophers in the sixth century B.C., a great deal of experimental knowledge of electricity has accumulated, especially in the last 200 years (4).

Numerous other sources also extended credit to Thales of Miletus. Scholars claimed that he discovered that when amber was rubbed with other materials, it became charged with an unknown force that had the power to attract objects such as dried leaves, feathers, bits of cloth, or other lightweight materials. Of all the sources investigated, all of them omitted the fact that Thales of Miletus received an education in ancient Kemet. His ability for keen observation can be contributed to the Black people of ancient Kemet. He studied in Egypt and Babylon, bringing back knowledge of physics, astronomy and mathematics. Documented evidence shows that the Babylonians copied and obtained all of their knowledge from the people of ancient Kemet. Although the Kemites did not directly invent electricity, their influence and teachings enabled Thales of Miletus to discover this invention that had an enormous effect on the world of the successive generations.


In the area of mathematics, the papyrus rolls, the limestone chips, and the leather rolls clearly outlined many of the rules of arithmetic and geometry by the people of ancient Kemet. The longest roll, which was written by the Kemetic scribe, Ahmose, is known as the “Rhind Mathematical Papyrus” after Alexander Rhind who brought it to Europe. Some of the mathematical equations in this papyrus included the Pythagorean Theorem, methods for determining the surface of the triangle, rectangle, and circle, and methods for determining the volume of a sphere.  Long before the Ahmose papyrus was written, Kemetic mathematicians were already guiding the construction of pyramids and measuring the cotangent to guarantee that the pyramids would be stable. Even our present-day decimal system is a direct result of mathematics originated by the Kemites.

Ancient Kemetic mathematics did not die; it simply blended into the new mathematics of the classical period.  Books by Greek classical mathematicians fully acknowledge their debt to ancient Egypt (5). As Greek city states developed, a number of Greeks traveled to Egypt to study. In fact, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, said that “Egypt was the cradle of mathematics.”  Eudoxus, who was Aristotle’s teacher and a foremost mathematician of his time, had also studied in ancient Kemet before teaching mathematics in Greece. Isokrates and Plato were profoundly influenced by ancient Egyptian philosophy. Euclid learned mathematics in Ancient Kemet before applying it elsewhere. However, many Western historiographers will vehemently deny that the origins of mathematics came from ancient Kemet.


Yes, medicine! Society has become accustomed to crediting the beginnings of scientific medicine to Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived in the 5th century B.C. He was given the distinction as being the “Father of Medicine.” Physicians all over the world take the semi-sacred Hippocratic Oath upon completion of their medical studies. Although Hippocrates has exercised an immense influence on medicine for nearly 25 centuries, he never gave himself the title of “Father of Medicine.” Additionally, it is very evident that Hippocrates and his students drew heavily upon the theories and practices of ancient Egyptian medicine (6). 

Researchers have discovered that the Edwin Smith Papyrus is the oldest medical manuscript in existence.The papyrus was published in 1930 by James H. Breasted. He spent ten years translating the document. It is believed to have been written by Imhotep, a descendant of a distinguished architect named Kanofer and who was recognized as the “Egyptian God of Medicine” (7). Although written during the 18th dynasty of ancient Kemet, this manuscript is actually a late copy of an original first produced early in the Old Kingdom sometime between 4400-4200 B.C. (8) 

In ancient Kemet, the first anatomical descriptions appeared in a systematic way in the Edwin Smith Papyrus.  More than 200 different anatomical parts have been described in the manuscript. Also, forty-eight different injuries to the head, face, neck, thorax and spinal column and the appropriate surgical methods for attending to them were also described in this papyrus. Other medical information related to dermatology, dentistry, gynecology, tumors, cardiovascular system, obstetrics, and many more were found in the Ebers Papyrus, which was written around 1500 B.C. From these extensive medical transcripts of ancient Kemet, Europeans were able to grasp vital knowledge of the field of medicine.


The descendants of Africans in America endured many years of physical, inhumane bondage known as chattel slavery, the worst kind of slavery that ever existed. However, a new form of bondage permeates throughout our society. Mental slavery has been implemented by the deliberate withholding of African history and the rewriting of history by people of European descent to justify their self-proclaimed superiority. Also, mental slavery thrives because of an ignorance of the correct history of this world that is not being taught in our schools. It is of dire importance that the truth is told and passed down to the next generations. Our history did NOT begin with slavery!


(1)   Ivan Van Sertima (Ed.), Egypt, Child of Africa (New Brunswick:  Transaction Publishers, 1995), 262.
(2)   Antoinette T. Jackson, Why Kemet? A Cultural Awakening, An African-Centered Journey into Ancient Egypt, (Oak Park, IL:  Seshat, 1998), 24.
(3)   Anthony T. Browder, Nile Valley Contributions to Civilization, (Washington, D.C.:  The Institute of Karmic Guidance, 1992), 75.
(4)   C.A. Coulson and T.J.M. Boyd, Electricity, 2nd ed. (London:  Longman, 1979), 1
(5)   Sertima (Ed.), Egypt, Child of Africa, 325-326.
(6)   Ivan Van Sertima, Egypt Revisited (New Brunswick:  Transaction Publishers, 1993), 325.
(7)   Jamieson B. Hurry, M.A., M.D., Imhotep, The Egyptian God of Medicine (Chicago: Ares Publishers, 1987), 4.
(8)   Sertima, Egypt Revisited, 329.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

DNA Uncovers an Unknown Brother

Recently, this new “predicted 4th cousin” DNA match appeared among my AncestryDNA matches:

Fortunately, "Ms. Herron" had a small public family tree. It only contained the names of her deceased parents, Richard Herron (born in 1913) and Nunnie Mae Sargent (born in 1929). Both were born in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. It also contained the names of her maternal grandparents. Since she was sharing 49 cM over 4 chromosome segments, I assumed that our MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) may be discoverable. That amount of DNA falls in the range of third to fourth cousins. See ISOGG sharing chart here. However, I was not aware of anyone in my family being in Tallahatchie County.

Have you ever seen or heard a name, and you swear that you have seen or heard that name before? You think hard about where you have encountered the name, but to no avail. Then, out of the blue, your memory is jarred. That happened upon seeing the Herron surname. It looked familiar to me. Where on earth have I seen that name before? I wondered.

Several weeks later, my memory was suddenly sparked when I was not thinking about it. I was looking at the profile of one of my DNA matches, named Ivy, whose connection I was aware of. Ivy shares 15.9 cM over 2 chromosome segments with me. Her great great grandfather, Random Briscoe of Marshall County, Mississippi (born c. 1816), and my mother’s great great grandmother, Margaret “Peggy” Milam of Tate County, Mississippi (born c. 1829), were siblings. She’s my mother’s 4th cousin and my 4th cousin once removed.

Uncle Random and Grandma Peggy’s parents were Adam (born c. 1783) and Sarah (born c. 1798). The family had been previously enslaved by Edward Warren (1775-1842) in Williamson County, Tennessee and Marshall County, Mississippi, before the family was split up in several different directions by 1845. I clicked on “Shared Matches,” and “Ms. Herron” appeared. She also matches Ivy. I suddenly remembered that the Herron surname was connected to Edward Warren. One of his daughters, Nancy Ann Warren (1810-1845), married a man named John Herron (1806-187?).

I quickly retrieved the genealogical information I had collected on Edward Warren’s family, to verify the migration of John & Nancy Herron. Lo and behold, they had migrated to Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. Nancy had died there in 1845. John died there after 1870. Therefore, I started to focus on Ms. Herron’s father’s lineage. However, before I reveal my findings, I feel that I need to recap more about Grandpa Adam and Grandma Sarah and their children to highlight a few significant things first.

After Edward Warren brought them to Marshall County, Mississippi in the 1830s from Tennessee, he fell on hard times. He wrote a bill a sale on August 14, 1839, to sell Adam (age about 55), Sarah (age about 40), and their children, Random (23), Sam (14), Margaret (10), and Caledonia (8), to his cousin, James Warren Briscoe. See below. I don’t know what transpired after the bill of sale, but they were never sold to James. Random was sold to his brother, Notley Warren Briscoe. Read more about that discovery here. My great great great grandmother Margaret (Peggy) and her brother Sam were sold to Joseph Milam of Tate County. My November 2014 blog post, DNA Does It Again – Another Long Lost Sibling Found!, discloses how DNA led me to find Aunt Caledonia in Arkansas.

. . . the party of the first part (Edward Warren) do hereby bargain sell and confirm to the party of the second part (James W. Briscoe) all the following described property to wit: six negroes viz; Adam aged about 55 years, Sarah aged about 40 years, Sam aged about 14 years, Margaret aged about 10 years, Calidonia aged about 8 years, Random aged about 23 years and one half of the growing crop of cotton in cultivation by the party of the first party...

After finding this bill of sale, I wondered if Grandpa Adam and Grandma Sarah had more children who were not named in that deed record. Edward Warren’s estate record verified that they were a longtime married couple, although their marriage was never legally recorded due to the unjust laws of the land. Also, I should add that both Grandma Peggy Milam and Aunt Caledonia Ellis named one of their sons Henderson, but Grandma Peggy’s son was mostly called “Hence.” The great great granddaughter of Aunt Caledonia’s son, Henderson Ellis of Camden, Arkansas, shares 51 cM over 4 chromosome segments with my mother and 42 cM over 3 chromosome segments with me. I wondered about the name Henderson.

Now, I will reveal my findings of Ms. Herron’s paternal family tree. Researching census records in, I found her father, Richard Herron, living in a household headed by his father, Eddie Herron, in Tallahatchie County. Eddie was born around 1878 in Mississippi. Therefore, I decided to research the 1880 census to find the name of Eddie’s father. My eyes bucked when I saw 2-year-old Eddie Herron living in the household of his father, Henderson Herron! His age was reported as 65, and his reported birthplace was Tennessee. They were enumerated in the Oakland district of Yalobusha County, Mississippi. The western city limits of the town of Oakland is the Yalobusha/Tallahatchie County line. Eddie’s Social Security application in verified that Henderson was his father. Let’s look at the names of Henderson Herron’s young children, particularly the ones with the red arrows.

Source: 1880 U.S. Census, Oakland, Yalobusha County, Mississippi. Household of Henderson Herron, Line 8-17. Year: 1880; Roll: 669; Family History Film: 1254669; Page: 202A; Enumeration District: 208; Image: 0607. Source: Ancestry.Com. 

Henderson Herron named three of his children ADAM, SARAH, and MARGARET! Naming patterns are very often great clues to identifying family members. Many enslaved African Americans named their children after their parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, etc. Historian Herbert Gutman wrote extensively on the topic of naming patterns in his book, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925.

To be sure that John Herron owned “human property” in Tallahatchie County, I researched the 1850 slave schedule. Indeed, twelve (12) African Americans were enslaved by him. His oldest enslaved male was reported as 34 years old. Since the slave schedules do not contain their names, we can only assert with high certainty that the 34-year-old male was most probably Henderson. John Herron died after slavery, so his estate/probate record will not contain “human property.” Fortunately, his son’s picture, grave, and biography were in FindAGrave, which provided the following information:

“From Panola County History, p. 372: William Andrew Herron's paternal grandparents were Thomas Herron (1786-1823) & Mary Herron of Williamson County, TN. They had 8 children. John Herron (1806-?) was the second child. He married Nancy Ann Warren on Dec. 20, 1832, in Williamson County, TN. After Thomas Herron died in 1823, his widow Mary moved in 1836 with her family to the Long Branch community of Yalobusha County, MS. John & Nancy Warren Herron accompanied his mother Mary Herron to MS, and their first child, William Andrew Herron, was born in Hardeman County, TN, en route to MS. Mary and her son John and their families later moved to Tallahatchie County. After Nancy's death, John remarried and moved to Panola County, and his mother, Mary Herron, moved to Ellis County, TX.” (Source)

Based on the evidence presented, as well as the DNA evidence, I theorize with much certainty that Henderson Herron was another son of Adam and Sarah and Grandma Peggy Milam’s older brother. Henderson was Ms. Herron's great grandfather. This would make us to be third cousins twice removed who share 49 cM of DNA over 4 chromosome segments. Perhaps, when Nancy Ann Warren married John Herron in 1832, her father may have "gifted" or sold Uncle Henderson to them. He was around 17 years old. I hope to find a deed of gift, bill of sale, or similar record in the future. I can’t help but wonder if Grandma Peggy ever saw him again. The area in Tallahatchie County where the Herrons resided was about 40 miles south of where Grandma Peggy eventually ended up in Tate County. She became the mother of 13 children. If they didn’t reunite then, they are now reunited, spiritually. Thanks to DNA!

Slave Ancestral Research Tips From this Discovery:

(1)   Study the slave-owner’s family tree. Note the names of his daughters and their husbands. Document the migration patterns of the former enslaver’s children. Some of your family members may have been taken to those places.
(2)   A genealogical record, such as the enslaver’s will, estate record, deed record, etc., may not always contain all of the children of a particular enslaved woman. Consider the possibility that some children may have been sold or transferred to an enslaver’s son or daughter before he died.
(3)   Pay attention to the names that your enslaved ancestors gave to their children. Naming patterns are solid clues.
(4)   Google searches can led you to some great information. Do effective “googling”. However, try to verify all found information.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Resurrecting My Grandfather


Simpson Reed, my mother’s father, died years before I was born. If he had been alive when I was born, he would have been in his 90s. He was born just over 15 years after slavery in Tate County, Mississippi. My mother, aunt, and uncles adored him. Mom once stated, “If a man is even half the man my father was, he'll still be a great man.” Grandpa Simpson was 43 years old when he married his first wife, Addie Person. They had three children, with only their oldest surviving. Addie died in childbirth. Several years later, he married my much younger grandmother, Minnie Lee Davis. He was 55, and she was 27. Five additional children were born, including my mother. Unfortunately, the only picture the family had of him got lost before I was born. The best I can do is display this picture of three of his 10 siblings, his oldest brother, Jimmy Reed (1872-1959), his sister, John Ella Reed Bobo (1882-1974), and his youngest brother, Pleasant “Pleas” Reed (1888-1966).

Jimmy Reed (1872-1959), John Ella Reed Bobo (1882-1974), & Pleasant “Pleas” Reed (1888-1966)

Although a picture of him cannot be found, I now have something that’s even better – his DNA! I have been able to recreate 73.7% of my grandfather’s genome, sort of like resurrecting him from the grave. I personally think that this “resurrection” is a great Father’s Day tribute to him. If someone had told me five years ago that I would be able to do this, I would have given them a blank stare. How was this “resurrection” possible?

Well, I certainly didn’t have to drive down to Beulah Baptist Church Cemetery near Como, Mississippi with a shovel to dig up his grave. I wouldn’t have done that anyway. I think. However, a cool tool in GEDmatch, called Lazarus, made this possible. It is GEDmatch’s Tier 1 tool that allows users to create pseudo-DNA kits. Tier 1 utility tools are only available to people who donate at least $10. (GEDmatch’s creators produced a great and free DNA utility tool, so I happily donated.) These pseudo-DNA kits can be surrogates for a deceased ancestor. Lazarus was added to GEDmatch in 2014, and I finally decided to explore it. How does it work?

Lazarus creates a pseudo-DNA kit by comparing and identifying DNA shared between the people in Group 1 and the people in Group 2. Up to 10 people can be in Group 1, and they must be the target Lazarus ancestor’s children or grandchildren only. It’s not recommended to place a grandchild, who is a child of one of the children being used, in Group 1. Why? Any DNA that he/she could contribute is already in the parent’s DNA. Up to 100 people can be in Group 2. They must be relatives of the target Lazarus ancestor who are not direct descendants. This includes siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. Never place children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren in Group 2. This “resurrection” was done in just three steps.

Step 1: I kept the default threshold settings at 700 SNPs and 6 cM.

Step 2: I entered the kit numbers for my mother, aunt, and uncle in Group 1.

Since my grandfather is the target Lazarus ancestor, my Group 1 contained three of his children, my mother, her brother, and her sister. A parent gives half of his DNA to each child randomly. However, each child doesn’t inherit all of the same DNA from that parent. Different children will have some of the same DNA from a parent, as well as some different DNA from that parent that his/her other sibling(s) didn’t inherit. My aunt inherited DNA from my grandfather that my mother didn’t inherit. My mother inherited DNA from her father that my uncle didn’t inherit. You get the picture? Therefore, because three of his children were in Group 1, more of my grandfather’s DNA was identified. 

Step 3: I entered the kit numbers of 15 family members in Group 2.

These family members included my grandfather’s niece (one of Uncle Pleas Reed’s daughters), his oldest brother Jimmy Reed’s great-grandson, and 13 of his paternal and maternal cousins. These cousins range from first cousins twice removed to third cousins once removed. That’s one of the advantages of testing multiple family members and having their raw data in GEDmatch. If a spouse of the target Lazarus ancestor is living and is in GEDmatch, you can also place them in the optional SPOUSE field. The Lazarus program will extract out that spouse’s DNA from Group 1.

After you click “GENERATE,” Lazarus will perform its magic! When a kit is processed, the results page will contain three charts. The first chart (Contributions) will show every matching segment between the people in Group 1 and the people in Group 2. The second chart (Resulting Segments) will be an accumulation of all of the segments that were used to create the new pseudo-DNA kit. The end of this chart will show the total number of cMs that were generated. See below. The final chart will show the original kits with the utilized segments.

If at least 1,500 cM (centiMorgans) of DNA are not extracted from the groups, Lazarus will not produce a pseudo-DNA kit. Adding additional children or grandchildren in Group 1 and/or more relatives of the target Lazarus ancestor in Group 2 can increase the number of generated cMs. To my pleasure, 2,726 cM of my grandfather’s genome were extracted. A person’s full genome contains 3,700 cM. Therefore, my 18 family members yielded 73.7% of my grandfather’s DNA. Cool, huh?

Now, I have a new DNA kit in GEDmatch, as if I had collected my grandfather’s saliva, sent it to an autosomal DNA company such as 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or Family Tree DNA, and uploaded his raw data file to GEDmatch. Well, almost. But 73.7% of his DNA is a significant amount to work with, right? If you match kit no. LL802351, then you are related via my maternal Granddaddy! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Special Homecoming Birthed by DNA

Peter Edwards’ Descendants Come Back “Home” to Mississippi
Front row (L to R): Verena Thomas-Hooks, Myra Bryant, Donna Edwards
Back row: James Johnson, Harriet Edwards, Brian Edwards (aka Keith), and Pastor Lee Edwards
(Picture by Verena Thomas-Hooks)

DNA was the catalyst to a very special homecoming on this past Memorial Day weekend in northern Mississippi. On June 25, 2015, a new and close DNA match appeared in my GEDmatch accounts. Dr. Kemberly Edwards matches my mother, her sister, her brother, and their father’s niece, Cousin Armintha, sharing the most with my uncle at 87 cM. Kemberly also tested her father and uploaded his raw data file to GEDmatch. He shares 138 cM of DNA with my uncle, 108 cM with my aunt, 73 cM with my mother, and 64 cM with Cousin Armintha. That’s considered a significant amount of DNA in genetic genealogy. The Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) is genealogically discoverable and within four generations. Another Edwards from Canada had already been among their matches in 23andMe, and I had been wondering, “Who in the world went way up north to Canada?” I was clueless. Additional Edwards subsequently tested their autosomal DNA, with all sharing significant amounts of DNA with the Reed Family. Brian Edwards, the president of their National Edwards Family Reunion Board, even shares 181 cM of DNA with my mother. The predicted relationship in 23andMe was “second cousins.”

These DNA matches, along with oral history clues that had been there all along, led me to definitively unearth the father of my mother’s paternal grandmother, Sarah Partee Reed (1852-1923). For 23 years, I had assumed that Grandma Sarah’s father was someone who had also been enslaved on Squire Boone Partee’s plantation in Panola County, Mississippi, with her mother, Polly Partee, who was the head cook during and after slavery. My assumption was wrong as two left shoes! Grandma Sarah’s father was a man named Prince Edwards, born c. 1830. He was also the father of her brother, Square Partee Sr. (1858-1904). Utilizing DNA triangulation, I discovered that the same Edwards DNA matches also closely match three of Uncle Square Partee’s descendants on overlapping chromosome segments. A subsequent 67-marker Y-DNA test from FTDNA also verified the paternity.

Grandpa Prince Edwards had been enslaved nearby on William Edwards’ plantation with his parents and siblings. One of those siblings was a younger brother named Peter Edwards, born c. 1835. The new DNA matches were all descendants of Peter Edwards. My contact with Kemberly revealed a very large family branch in Oklahoma, begotten by Uncle Peter. I had no idea that they even existed, prior to the DNA discovery. Discovering Grandpa Prince and learning about this family branch transpired at the same time, leaving me speechless. Uncle Peter's descendants had heard that Panola County was where their family roots originated. It was a fact documented in their family reunion books.

Uncle Peter Edwards, his wife Catherine, and his 12 children left the Como area and moved to near Sledge, Mississippi sometime before 1900. Taking advantage of land ownership opportunities, his children started their exodus to the West, migrating to Wewoka, Oklahoma around 1908, after the territory gained statehood in 1907. They never returned to Mississippi. A grandson, Jefferson Edwards, even migrated to Alberta, Canada in 1910, where many descendants reside today. As one of the pioneers of Amber Valley, he is noted in Black Canadian History. His son Elmer and Elmer’s daughter are the Canadian DNA matches in our 23andMe accounts, with Elmer sharing 89 cM of DNA with my aunt. Descendants of Uncle Peter Edwards from Oklahoma City, Dallas, and Bakersfield, California decided that it was time to visit "home," after over 108 years.

The homecoming began with a Welcome Ceremony at the Jessie J. Edwards Coldwater Public Library on Saturday morning, in Coldwater, Mississippi. The former Mayor Dr. Jessie J. Edwards formally welcomed them back home – cousins he never knew about, too. Dr. Edwards is also a great great grandson of Grandpa Prince Edwards. Other descendants from Mississippi, Memphis, and Kansas City, Missouri also welcomed our new-found cousins back home. This group picture was taken at the library.

Family group picture at the Jessie Edwards Public Library in Coldwater, Mississippi

After the welcome, we visited Fredonia Church, to view history beyond the genealogical paper. Fredonia was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. We viewed the grave of William Edwards, who died in 1855. After his death, his son Dr. William Edwards Jr. inherited the plantation and 33 enslaved people, including Grandpa Prince and Uncle Peter. We also saw the grave of Squire B. Partee, who died during the Civil War, in 1864. We reflected on what it must have been like for our ancestors to be enslaved in a land that regarded them as property and subhuman. We felt their spirit during the homecoming. We now stand on their shoulders.

Established in 1836, Fredonia is considered to be the oldest church in Panola County. It is located six miles east of Como. A number of slave-owners in the area attended this church. A slave gallery extends along the east wall of the church. We saw it through the windows. The local librarian had volunteered to retrieve the key and give us a tour inside of the locked historic church, but her unexpected, uninformed absence certainly did not dampen the energy, spirit, and purpose of this great homecoming. Our enslaved ancestors likely dug most or all of the graves there, over 150 years ago. This is a picture we took after William Edwards’ grave was located. It had broken over time and was laying flat on the ground.

Family group picture at Fredonia Church near Como, Mississippi

We also stood on the land where William Edwards’ plantation was located. A cooling cloud with a nice cool breeze hovered over us as we read a litany and poured libation on the land to commemorate our ancestors. Luke (aka Ogbar Agumba) and Lucy, the parents of Peter, Prince and more, were likely buried somewhere on that land. Flowers were placed on the property. Based on William’s 1850 will, he left 320 acres of that property to his wife Margaret, which was to be inherited by their son after her death. The exact coordinates (range, township, & section) of the property were recorded in his will. Great great grandson, James Johnson of Oklahoma City, wrote this poignant note on social media, “From the toils and heartaches of our ancestors working this land, we exist and prosper today, from coast to coast and from Canada, through the big state of Texas.” This group picture was taken on that land.

Family group picture on the land where William Edwards’ plantation was located near Como, Mississippi. We suspect that the "big house" was located on top of the hill behind us.

After the libation ceremony, we toured the small towns of Como, Crenshaw, and Sledge, retracing the steps of Peter Edwards. Afterwards, the descendants of Bill & Sarah Reed sponsored a Soul Food dinner for our newfound Edwards cousins in Horn Lake, Mississippi. We ate, laughed, talked about our respective histories, and made plans for the future. Dr. Leroy Frazier, a descendant of Grandpa Prince Edwards, even encouraged the family to consider going full circle, back to Ghana, West Africa in the future. For more info about the DNA discovery of our Ghana roots, read my blog post, Trekking the Edwards DNA Trail Back to Ghana. Then, on Sunday, we worshiped at the Simon Chapel Baptist Church near Como, where many other Edwards family members, who remained in Mississippi, were laid to rest. Uncle Peter’s great grandson, Pastor Lee Edwards of Dallas, Texas, delivered a powerful, encouraging message.

Although we believe Uncle Peter died in Mississippi before 1910, his family grew by leaps and bounds out in Oklahoma and California. He now has over 2,000 descendants in the United States and Canada. The family boasts a number of notables, such as Dr. Lee Patrick Brown, the first African American mayor of Houston, Texas (1998-2004), who is a great grandson. He was also the first African American commissioner of police for Atlanta, Georgia, during the infamous Atlanta Child Murders, and he also became the first African American Police Commissioner of New York City, leading the largest police department in the nation. A grandson, the late Walter James Edwards, became the first Black millionaire in Oklahoma City during the 1940s, owning a number of businesses, including a hospital, a real estate company, and other businesses. He was featured in an Oklahoma City television news special during this past Black History Month. See this link. We never knew that they are our cousins until the DNA discovery!

This will certainly be a homecoming that we will never forget. Verena Thomas-Hooks of Oklahoma City, a great great granddaughter, wrote the following on social media, “The end of a most memorable weekend and the beginning of lasting relationships, meeting new cousins.” Uncle Peter’s great grandson, Brian Edwards, also wrote, “I can't tell you how much it meant to us to be able to retrace the steps of our ancestors in that region. We will share all of our experiences on our next National Family Reunion board conference call.” This homecoming happened because of the wonderful technology of DNA.

Here's a short video clip during our tour of the grounds of Fredonia Church after discovering William Edwards’ grave.