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Monday, October 6, 2014

Finding Your Roots - Ancestry of Champions

In the second episode of the Finding Your Roots series, we get to explore the Ancestry of Sports Champions: Billie Jean King, Rebecca Lobo and Derek Jeter.

Billie Jean King is a legend in the Tennis world. She won 39 Grand Slam Titles including 20 Wimbledon Championship titles (singles, mixed and doubles) and became the first tennis player to be named by Sports Illustrated as Sportsman of the Year. For someone so accomplish, Ms. King did not know much about her family history, specifically, her paternal grandmother.  She knew her grandmother was adopted but that was it and Ms. King also thought she had Seminole Indian heritage.

Through Dr. Gates research, we find the family bible which Ms. King didn't know existed.  The clues in the bible led to her adopted grandmother's birth record which told us that Ms. King grandmother was born in a girls home for unmarried young ladies.  Another surprise was that Ms. King is 100% European and not a drop of Native American blood.  Dr. Gates also found a picture of King's great-grandmother, the mother of her adopted grandmother.

Like Ms. King, there's a large number of African Americans who believe they have Native American ancestors. Sadly, DNA has proven that theory wrong.  For me, my Ancestry DNA results stated that I have 2% Asian ancestry and 1% Melanesia ancestry. In fact, my Mom has the same results. According to 23andme, Mom and I both have 1.4% Asian and Native American ancestry and less than 1% Oceanian ancestry. These results made my Mom "giddy" that she has Native American ancestry but not as much as she had hoped.

Another athletic champion on this episode was Rebecca Lobo.  Ms. Lobo is currently a basketball analyst who has an Olympic gold medal and has won a WNBA championship. When I first heard of Rebecca it was many years ago when she was featured on another series about cancer.  At the time, Lobo's mother was battling breast cancer, sadly her mom lost the fight with this disease and I was hoping that Rebecca's segment was going to talk about her medical history but that wasn't the case.

Dr. Gates provided Rebecca with a copy of her great-grandmother's handwritting.  Rebecca was amazed at seeing her ancestor's handwritting.  I know how that feels. A relative gave me a copy of my paternal great-grandmother, Fannie Sherrod Powell's letter to her mother.  I cherish that letter.

The third athlete featured in this series was baseball legend Derek Jeter.  Derek's mother is Irish American and his father is African American. The researchers trace Derek's father's roots to a former slave name Green W. Jeter who lived in Alabama. On the 1870 census, Green W. Jeter had $250 in personal property. Dr. Gates stated that Green Jeter's wealth suggested that Green's father could had been white and perhaps Green's former owner.  Because Derek is a male and the male DNA doesn't change, Derek's DNA would be the exact DNA as Green Jeter and Green Jeter's father whomever that might had been. Well, Dr. Gates was able to get DNA from a descendant of Green Jeter's owner, James W. Jeter. The DNA results confirm Derek and the descendant shared the same DNA, thus Green Jeter's father was James W. Jeter.

I unfortunately have yet to have a male relative to confirm specific ancestor origin such as my Mom's paternal grandfather who was supposed to be Native American.  Meanwhile, on the 1870 Wayne County, North Carolina census, my great-great grandfather, Charles Becton, was listed as having $200 worth of personal property but no one has ever said that Charles was a a child of his slave owner. I just thought that grandpa Charles got his money through hard work but perhaps some way or somehow he got his money through an inheritance.

As Billie Jean King stated on the show, "Champions adjust!" Well the ancestors featured in this episode are examples of individuals who through struggle were able to adjust. Maybe that's why their descendants are all Champions.


  1. Awesome! Enjoyed my read:) Its amazing what DNA can do!!!!!

  2. Yes it is. Thanks for stopping by Gardner ' s daughter.