I traced part of my family history back to 1490. It was really simply. I just googled the Sephardic name, and I landed all the way in a European harbor city on the Iberian Peninsula. I learned that one forefather traded in wine, another was a troubled philosopher, and then one potential forefather was a statesman who advised the king. I know at which streets they lived. I know where they’re buried. I know how much taxes they paid. I even know what some of these men looked like. And that all from one simple google search.
Very impressive right? One would think that I would be happy, but I’m not. You see, these men entered my bloodline either through raping my enslaved African foremother or because producing offspring with a lighter skintone gave said enslaved foremother a better chance at survival in the pigmentocracy of the times she lived in. Those are not options to be proud of. I don’t want to celebrate the achievements of a rapist enslaver and his family or be proud of the history of the persecutors as a descendant of the persecuted.
What was even more saddening is the fact that there was no information on the African female ancestor and her ancestral lineage. No information on which city she was born in, or what her father did for a living. No info on where she was buried. Nothing. Not even a name; the space reserved in the online document for her name was left empty, or said “unknown”. Documentation for these African women usually started all the way in 1863.
It says a lot about how these African women were viewed back then, when the people who obviously saw the importance of recording family history, didn’t bother to record their African family history.