The Melungeons blog

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Can DNA Reveal Your Roots?

Can DNA Reveal Your Roots?

Tuesday, Jul. 05, 2005 By ANITA HAMILTON

Growing up in Appalachia in the 1950s, Brent Kennedy always believed that he was of English and Scotch-Irish descent, just like everyone he knew in his hometown of Wise, Va. But when he saw the film Lawrence of Arabia in 1962, he noticed that his family looked more like the Arabs in the movie than the British. Kennedy had inherited his father's light blue eyes, but he had his mother's black hair and in the summer would get a deep tan. He had heard a story about his great-grandfather being barred from voting in the early 1900s because his skin was too dark. "I thought, What's wrong with us? Why do we look funny?" When he asked his mother, "I was told to shut up. I really didn't know who I was," he says.

Last December he finally got some answers. After taking a $199 DNA test offered by DNAPrint Genomics in Sarasota, Fla., Kennedy was told he was 45% Northern and Western European, 25% Middle Eastern, 25% Turkish-Greek and 5% South Asian. "I felt freed," he says. "Suddenly there was an explanation for a lot of the shame and embarrassment in the family." As an adult, Kennedy had learned that his mother's family belonged to a mixed-race group called Melungeons who lived in the Appalachians. While their exact ethnic origins are unclear, Melungeons were united by their dark complexion and the discrimination they faced from lighter-skinned neighbors. Kennedy became so interested in his heritage that he wrote a 1994 book called The Melungeons. But it wasn't until he took the DNA test, he says, that he felt he had unlocked the mystery of his ancestry.">>


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