My Blog List

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It’s All In The DNA

Pekitta and I picture taken 10/1/2016 in Waldorf, MD

Ever since I took my first DNA test I’ve met a lot of distant cousins (“cuzins”), including adoptees who are looking for their birth parents. Most times, I ignore emails from people I don’t know because I don’t want my account hacked. Needless to say, I ignored Pekitta Tynes initial emails so when she finally got my attention, it was in April 2013. Pekitta said the first email she sent was in November 2012. For all of you trying to make a connection, keep trying until your new DNA cuzin answers. Never Give Up!

Pekitta contacted me because my Mom and I were her closest African American matches (3rd-5th); we all had taken the FTDNA (Family Tree DNA) test.

This is what she said:  

I was abandoned in Newport News, Virginia [on] - 25th Street downtown – Row Houses.  My sister (not sure if she is my sister though) we were both left at the same time.  We were left with the “Mother of the Neighborhood” – Her name was Momma Nancy (MN).  MN owned a shot house – A house that sells liquor illegally.  Today’s language is BYOB.  I was left at MN’s house by a man the neighborhood folks called “Walt” – Not sure of his real name.  Walt may have been in the Military – Not sure.

There is a possibility that Walt’s last name is actually Allen.  The neighborhood folks never remember a woman being with Walt.  My mother is completely unknown.  When Walt left, he told MN he was going to look for a job North of Virginia and he never came back. I was probably born between 1958 – 1962 – Since I was abandoned without a birth certificate, I don’t know when I was born.

Could your mom’s cousins (female or male) been in the Military? Travelled to Virginia but left for a job North (NY, NJ, PA, etc.)? Lived abroad? Dated a Military man named “Walt” or his nickname was “Walt” - I understand Walt was a short, handsome gentlemen with “good hair” and he talked with an accent (not sure what type of accent – Northern or New York’ish possibly).

 I don’t know many details but I will answer any questions your family may have to help me solve my mystery.  I have so many un-answered questions.  I have attached a YouTube Link telling my story of how I was able to get a passport with the help of my State Senator [Sen. Harry Reid].

Thanks again.

I asked Pekitta had she taken any other DNA tests and she said “no,” so I told her that she should.  Meanwhile, I asked a few relatives had anyone abandoned a child back in the 1960s.  Everybody said no including one relative who said, “Honey, No! I don’t know nobody who abandons a child.”  I knew that this was going to be a near impossible find especially since my Mom had over 80 First cuzins and most of them were deceased.


In October 2013, I asked Pekitta had she taken any additional tests, and she said no but she did upload her results to the database. We compared Pekitta’s top DNA matches but none matched Mom or I; however, Pekitta discovered a man who was a 2nd - 3rd cuzin.  This cuzin turn out to be a former police detective. Wow, sometimes the stars just line up!  

Around the first week of April in 2014, Pekitta FINALLY took my advice and ordered both the 23andme and AncestryDNA tests.  By the end of April her Ancestry DNA results were in and this time I matched Pekitta as a 4th - 6th cuzin.  We didn’t know what that meant but we were excited, especially since she also had a 1st cuzin match. I told Pekitta to “contact this match and tell her your story.”  Of course, this new match did not respond immediately; likewise, Pekitta was a nervous wreck.  She said that she checked her email 4-5 times a day (I wonder if folks comprehend what a response from a DNA match means.). Pekitta said that saying that she was adopted probably “scared” folks from responding. 

We concluded that Pekitta’s 3rd cuzin, Mr. Detective, was probably related to her on her Mom’s side.  However, Pekitta had another dilemma and it was her sister who was abandoned and adopted with her. Was this her “real” sister, half-sister or niece? This sister did not match Mom or I.  Meanwhile  Pekitta’s Detective cuzin (Did I say that everybody needs a cuzin like him!) started investigating.  Pekitta gave him all that she had on her 1st cuzin which was the “username” on the account. In less than a week, “Mr. Detective” gave Pekitta a name, age, address and phone number for her 1st cuzin.  But it still took a while for Pekitta to make contact with her cuzin. Her 1st cuzin thought that Pekitta was a Scam artist. LOL…her cuzin just wanted to know where her African roots originated.  Sadly, Pekitta’s 1st cuzin’s family is dysfunctional aka not talking to or no relationship at all with each other but a lot of people fall in this category.


Her 1st cuzin told Pekitta that her father was J.P. Barnes from Rocky Mount, NC. When Pekitta gave me this information, I immediately search Ancestry for J.P.’s family but I couldn’t find them. Side Note: When I discovered our connection was the Barnes line, I asked her if she had any moles and Pekitta said she had tons of moles. I said “that’s a Barnes trait sweetie!”  By June, my Maternal Great Aunt’s AncestryDNA results came in and Auntie and Pekitta were 98% third cuzins.  I told Pekitta “I knew she was a Barnes!”  I asked all my Barnes cuzins if they knew J.P. Barnes of Rocky Mount, NC but no one knew him.  So I told Pekitta to get more information from her 1st cuzin’s Dad and to have the Dad tested.  I don’t recall when but I do believe it was less than a week when Pekitta contacted me again with more information about her new Uncle.  After she gave me the information, I said “OMG, OMG! I Know Your People! And They Are Distant Cuzins To My Family!” LOL…

I told Pekitta all that I knew about them and before I could get back to her; Pekitta had called her new Aunt. I said “Oh No!” I wanted to make an introduction, especially, since one of the potential fathers was married to my Mom’s 1st cuzin. Yep, cuzins marrying cuzins.  By the end of 2014, Pekitta Tynes had found her biological parents!  She confirmed her father by asking some of her new cuzins to take the AncestryDNA test and the first person to take the test results came back as a BROTHER.  

Stephen Barnes (1815 - ?)
Isiah Barnes (1855-1878?)
Henry Barnes (1840-1917)
Willie Barnes (1883-1952)
George W. Barnes (1872-1919)
Leslie Fuller (1901-1987)
George H. Barnes (1897- ?)
M. Fuller Becton
E. Barnes (1934-2010)
This chart depicts our ancestry descending from Stephen Barnes.

Her Parents

Pekitta’s Mom was living with a boyfriend who she believed was both her daughter’s father.  They decided to finally get married but after they got married; Pekitta’s Mom discovered that she had married a bigamist.  Furious, her Mom left the boyfriend who would later find her and tell her that she could leave but the girls were staying with him.  She said “take the girls but I am not coming back to you.”  This boyfriend who was the biological father of Pekitta’s sister took them both to Virginia and abandoned them at Momma Nancy’s house.  He died refusing to tell anyone what became of the girls. 

Pekitta’s Mom had an affair with her biological Dad but she didn’t realize that he was Pekitta’s father instead her Mom thought her boyfriend was Pekitta’s father.  So Pekitta’s biological father never knew she existed.  

In the spring of 2015, Pekitta came to Washington, D.C. to meet her Mom but her Mom backed out; saying she wasn’t ready.  Several months later, with the assistance of Mr. Detective, Pekitta met her Mom. 

Our connection

Our roots are from Wayne County, North Carolina, specifically, Pikeville and Fremont.  Pekitta’s great-grandfather was George W. Barnes whose parents were Henry and Mary Artis Barnes. Henry’s death certificate stated that his father was Stephen Barnes. I said, “OMG,” that name is familiar” and it was. My great-great-grandfather, Isiah, father’s name was Stephen Barnes also. 

Henry Barnes' Death Certificate

NC Marriage Record for Isiah Barnes

Pekitta’s discovered many surprises including that she and her son share the same birth day and that former talk show host Montell Williams is a cuzin (Montell’s paternal grandmother was a Barnes.) and his parents still stay in contact with Pekitta’s aunt. 

I remember when Pekitta contact me and I told a friend about her and the friend said “Why would she do that!” I said because “doesn’t everybody want to know where they come from, especially adoptees.”  Granted, not all stories will end up like a Hallmark story but at least you know where you come from.

I admire Pekitta’s because a lot of folks would have given up but not Pekitta Tynes, in fact, she wrote a book about her quest. Pekitta said that someone once told her that adoptees were overachievers. I believe that some are and in this case, it’s true.

Sources: North Carolina Death Certificates, 1906-1930 [database on-line] Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc. 2007. North Carolina Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [database on-line] Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc. 2007.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

PRINCE...Thank You For A Funky Time!

When I first saw Prince it had to be around 1978/1979, I really don’t recall the year but I do recall the day.  My girlfriend and I had walked uptown (That’s what everyone called the business section of our rural 2 stop-light country town.) to the store and we as usual were looking through the magazines. I believe it was Right On Magazine; I’m not sure if Prince was on the cover or he was the centerfold but I think it was the centerfold. I saw this beautiful man with this huge afro, black jacket and with a streak of chest hair in the middle. I kept staring at his picture and my girlfriend peak over my shoulder to see what I was looking at and she said “Ah… he ain’t cute.” I said “YES HE IS! HE IS FINE!” We both rolled our eyes and sucked our teeth at each other but I bought that magazine! It’s funny now but by the time we made it back to her home or mine; I don’t recall which; we were back friends again. But we were only 14 and I had just falling in love.  This poster went up in my room and stayed there until I left for college.

Prince’s music was the soundtrack of my life from young teen to young adulthood. Almost every Sunday night I would be at the skating rink in Wilson, NC, and as I recall the slow skate was always “Do Me Baby!” I couldn’t skate but it was Prince and that was “my song” so I always pitifully tried to skate.  My favorite songs were “Do Me Baby,” “Let’s Work,” “1999,” “Shhh,” “Adore,” “When Doves Cry,” "Another Lonely Christmas," and “Sometimes it Snows in April”.  Lord…I was in a teenage love triangle when the “Beautiful Ones” song came out. There is something about the following lyrics that made me think Prince was “all in my head” saying what I couldn’t say: “do you want him or do you want me because I want you” but my version was “do you want her” or “do you want me because I want you.” Thanks Prince!  When he released the Purple Rain soundtrack and the movie came out, I knew I was going to have to share him with the world. But I was happy that he was getting recognized for his talent.

My First Concert
My first concert was in 1981 at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C.  Prince was the headliner!  Zapp and Roger Troutman opened the show while the Time was the second act. This was in the early days of Prince’s professional career where we could stand right there in front of the stage! And there I was with my boyfriend, standing right in front of the stage the entire show; that was as close as I would ever get to him.  Wow, I couldn’t believe that my Momma let me go with my boyfriend to this show and I was only 17. My hearing didn’t quite return until about a week later but I wanted to see Prince again and again. And I did! Including the last concert that I saw him at which was at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. in 2015.  That show was a couple days after he performed at the White House.  I couldn’t believe how my friend didn’t want to go because of the price, so I went alone. Funny, when I got in line, there were about 6 or seven females and we were all by ourselves.  I said to myself; it’s Prince; therefore it’s okay to go alone. 

Because my blog is about my genealogy research, I will say something about Prince’s Roots.  As other researchers have said, Prince Roots Run DEEP in Louisiana! But his ancestors also lived in Arkansas, Virginia, Georgia and Mississippi. I’m probably missing a state or two but Louisiana is what sticks out to me. I search his surnames (Nelsons, Shaws, Nashs, Jenkins, Phillips, and the Bonnells/Bunnells) just to find one that I might share. But that was not to be found.

I once read an article about Dorothy Dandridge and it stated that her sister-in-law and best friend was Geraldine Pate Nicohlas. Pate is one of my surnames so I "googled" Dorothy’s friend and discovered that the friend was from Minnesota. I screamed PRINCE! Prince is from Minnesota! Well of course, he was the first thing that came to my mind. I thought “could Prince be a Pate descendant?” Well he wasn’t; I was so hoping to claim him as a Blood Relative. But that was how crazy I was into Prince.

I could relate to his music because he was different, wild and sexy and he didn’t appear to care about who liked it or not. I somehow knew this when I was young teenager and it didn’t bother me.  I’m glad he never let the powers that be boxed him in. 

I Will Forever Love You!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Hey Art! Your Roots Are Showing!

I finally got another member of my family to take a DNA test! 

My half-brother M. Artis took the Ancestry DNA test on December 4, 2015 and the results came in on record time on December 22nd. I guess the folks at Ancestry were into the spirit of giving.  Thank you AncestryDNA!

Well it's official, he is my mother's son. LOL... There are times when I think that we can't possibly be related because we are soo different but Ancestry confirmed our relationship.

I once read somewhere that DNA is "randomly" passed down from generation to generation; well that also includes from child to child.  For instance, my brother and I match as 1st cousins instead of half-siblings and Gedmatch states that we are 1.5 generations removed.  

Side by side comparison of my brother and my mother's DNA Results

My Ancestry DNA Results

My brother’s father, Sylvester Artis, is deceased but with Mom’s DNA we can compare what he inherited from her and his father and some interesting facts were discovered. I inherited my Asian DNA from my Mom but my brother did not. I believe the Asian DNA comes from our maternal grandmother, Classie. Classie’s father was supposedly Native American however, another family lore said that he was from India. Perhaps there is some substance to this family tale.

Another ironic fact is that both my brother and mother have Melanesia DNA but I don’t. Like I said, some kids inherit and some don’t. Similarly, he has more Nigerian and less Cameroon/Congo and Benin/Togo DNA, than Mom and I.  

But what really surprised me is that my brother has 16% Irish ancestry while Mom only has 8% and I have 5%.  This discovery reminds me that we can never assume anything. Because my brother is darker than Mom and I, I assumed he would have less European DNA. Instead he has twice the amount our mother has. Never let the amount of melanin fool you! 

My brother’s father was a light skin African American and who had some free ancestors, perhaps his “original father” aka father’s father’s father’s and so on was from Ireland. But that is something that my brother will have to research.  In fact, it is well known that most of the Artises in Wayne, Wilson and Greene Counties North Carolina were descended from Free African Americans.   

Mr. Sylvester’s Ancestors:

Parents - Absolum and Laurina (Rena) Smith Artis:

Paternal Grandparents - Albert and Neicy Simmons Artis:

According to the 1860 census, Albert Artis’ parents, Edwin and Emily Artis, were free African Americans.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t as successful in discovering Laurina Smith Artis’ family, however, another family lore (We got plenty of these.) says that Absolum and Laurina were second cousins.

Perhaps this post will give my Big Brother The Genealogy Itch. Hey Art...want you come over to the Genealogy side!

Ancestry DNA; U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT. USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.