Part II ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

I’ve been neglecting this blog so today I’ll postpone work on The Paper and The Taxes to clean up at least one loose end.

We left Emmitt Smith as he was embarking on a search for his family.

On the macro level, he was able to go back six generations. I’ve gone four with my Lane relatives from Connecticut to New Jersey and then into the eighteenth century, into where else? Virginia. On my father’s side, the trail ends deep in the bayou at three generations with his mother and just two with his father.

When Smith went knocking on doors in Burnt Corn, Alabama, he brought me back to my first visit looking for my Petry family in Abbeville, Louisiana. I knew that we were related to a family of Robinsons, but I didn’t know how. The nice man at the cultural center sent me to Dr. Darrell Robinson. I called his office. His receptionist said, “Oh, come on over.” He had mainly an ob-gyn practice so I sat among the pregnant ladies. He saw one patient and then came out and introduced himself. He explained that he was not from around “these parts,” that his wife was.

Dr. Darrell said if I wanted to find Petrys I should go to Imam’s, a hair salon in the center of Abbeville. There I found Cousin Jeretha Petry Ardoin, a descendant of my grandfather’s brother. She sent me to “Uncle Eldridge,” who was a generation older. By the time I had driven past the shotgun shacks to the edge of town, word had arrived that “the Yankee” was on her way. (I thanked my lucky stars that the rental car had Louisiana plates).

Uncle Eldridge was the one who told me that my great-grandmother (his great-great-grandmother) was “mixed Indian.” Looking at Uncle Eldridge I could easily believe it. His skin was truly copper colored, as my dad’s was after a summer in the garden. Better, when Uncle Eldridge turned sideways, his profile could have been used as the model for the chief on the old Indian head nickel.

Just as Emmitt Smith hit a brick wall with his ancestors in Virginia, I’ve not been able to find any information by Cambry Brown. Even the spelling of her first name is open to interpretation: Cambra, Cambry, Cambray, Combry, Cambrey, Combrey, Combery, Cambria, Cambis, Comere – that last may be a variation on grand-mere for grandmother.

And speaking of Native American, I found it interesting that Megan Smolenyak told Emmitt Smith his DNA showed seven percent Native blood. The show couldn’t pursue that issue because of time limits. Likewise, they left alone the information that the twelve percent European blood  from “several” sources. The fact that he had among the highest percentage of African blood she’d ever seen was fascinating, as was her statement that she had never encountered anyone in this country with 100 percent African blood.

The colored marriage license book in Alabama was no surprise. Even the Hartford, Connecticut, city directory listed the colored people in the back of the book until after the Civil War started.

I feel bad that Ancestry is able to exploit these stories and seems to be disguising how expensive it is to do the research necessary to unearth the information the historians and genealogists found for Emmitt Smith.

To end on a “coincidence?” note: He drew mystical significance from the fact that he always wore No. 22 when he played football and then found his ancestor in deed book 22. It felt exactly right to me. Extra weird he went to Ouidah Museum of History as part of his search. My closest Louisiana cousin’s first name? Ouida.


One Response to “Part II ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’”

  1. ‘Coincidences’ « Lizr128′s Blog Says:

    […] haven’t done any coincidences for a while. Last mention was ‘Part II ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ Last actual entry ‘Another […]

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