African American Lives 2

AAL2 According to some sources, genetic genealogy testing rises considerably during February, which is Black History Month (as I wrote about last February). Part of this might be due to last year’s very popular TV show “African American Lives” on PBS. Starting next week (on the 6th) is the first half of the latest version of the show, “African American Lives 2.” I’ll be watching, and I think most of you will be interested in the show as well.

In anticipation of this series, Diverse Education has written an article entitled “The Value of Knowing Where You Come From.” The author of this article, Cassie Chew, recently interviewed me and a few of my quotes made it into the article. The article wonders if there is a possible genetic explanation for behaviors that run in families. For instance, one of Oprah’s ancestors appeared to have built a school on his land, and Oprah recently opened a school in South Africa. Is the appreciation of education genetic?

As I explained to the author, it is possible, but there are also many other possible explanations. For instance, the appreciation of education could have been instilled in the children of each generation by parents, which wouldn’t require any genetic component. Additionally, it is likely that if we looked hard enough we could find an ancestor who exhibited any characteristic we value in ourselves (while we ignore the ancestor who portrayed the opposite of that characteristic!). Scientists just aren’t able to currently identify genetic explanations for almost all human behavior, and the answer will certainly almost never be a gene or two. Our behavior is a very complex mixture of nature and nurture.

African American Lives 2 will air February 6th and 13th from 9 to 11pm on PBS.

10 Responses

  1. Dana Waring 7 February 2008 / 1:20 pm

    So what did you think? I watched last night and one moment stood out to me. When HLG was telling Chris Rock about the accomplishments of one of his ancestors who upon being freed, fought in the civil war, ran for public office and won, among other amazing things. Chris Rock explained how he felt like if he had had this information earlier he would have conceived of himself and his opportunities differently – that he had more options and choices than he pictured. I thought it was a great example of the psychological impact genealogy can have an a person..

  2. Blaine Bettinger 10 February 2008 / 10:28 pm

    Dana – Although there was no DNA, I thought it was a great episode. And I think the show (as you stated) made a great point of which many people are unaware – sometimes the ‘genealogy’ aspect of ‘genetic genealogy’ can have just as much impact as the ‘genetic’ aspect. People (genealogists, specifically) have been dealing with the psychological impact of learning about the lives and decisions that make us who we are today – perhaps that is why we are so willing to make the leap to genetic technology.

  3. Tyra Zilverberg 19 February 2008 / 11:58 pm

    I found your special to be of most interest, but My family has known Native and canadian ancestry. On my father side of the family his grandfather the first cousin of the wright brothers. My dads grandmother was of white (her dad and mom only known pure african in our family) escaped to Canada during the civil war. father mom was Irish, Indian an African. (looked Italian). My moms mother’s people mom’s side her grandmother was Irish/cherokee Indian. Her father was Blackfoot Indian and his mom white, and his father of African and white ancestory. While I found your note of the Indian ancestory interesting. We have always talked about the blood the runs in our family and with the people before they passed.


    her father

  4. Blaine Bettinger 20 February 2008 / 12:37 pm


    Sounds like a very diverse genetic background as well as a great genealogical challenge. After you’ve done some preliminary genealogical research, you might want to explore your genetic genealogy options, such as Y-DNA or mtDNA. Good luck in your pursuit!

  5. Tyra Zilverberg 9 March 2008 / 10:10 pm

    Hello Blaine

    Thanks for the encouragement regarding my family roots. I plan to really look into my family background in the very near future. I think our past really helps us to understand our future and
    the choices we have made in the past.

    My family as it relates to the ancestry ties to the Wright brothers is very interesting. I have Pictures of my grandmother in Canada as a young girl and of her father the first cousin of the Wright brothers. He was a well known figure and even a minster in his day. I think the stories I was told about this forbidden child my grandmother would tell a most interesting story someday. Unfortunately, all of the main players have passed, but the facts are still a strong memory in my mind.

  6. Wright Brothers DNA 9 November 2008 / 8:29 pm

    I saw a study done on the wright brothers & it classfied them as genetic Somalids.

    It shows their origin going to Britain, most likely Roman soldiers from Greece & their ultimate origin of their DNA in East Africa


  7. Somalid Race or E1b1 6 December 2008 / 3:13 am

    Wright brothers were Somalids or whatever you want to call it, but it was E1b1b1 (V13) that was in Europe for atleast 5000 years

  8. The Somalid Race 24 December 2008 / 3:10 am

    The whole concept of the Somalid race is an attempt to divide us.

    We are all Blacks, Somalids (E1b1b) are also Black. Don’t fall for YTs poison

  9. E1b1b1a1-V12 Cushid 14 January 2010 / 10:47 pm

    “Somalids or whatever you want to call it, but it was E1b1b1 (V13) that was in Europe for atleast 5000 years”

    You have to understand the affinity between Somalis & Balkan people is very close, even closer than that between Somalis & Berber!

    E1b1b1-M35 is the Meditid race
    It branches into 3 subraces:
    E1b1b1a-M78 Hamitid
    E1b1b1b-M81 Berberid
    E1b1b1c-M123 Sarawatid

    E1b1b1a-M78 Hamitid race includes Somalis who beling to the E1b1b1a1-V12 Cushid group of the Hamitid subrace, while E1b1b1a2-V13 is the Blakanid grouping of the Hamitid subrace

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