Connect To The Youth In Your Family By Connecting Them To Their Family History

Monday, February 2, 2015

He Knew Where He Came From

James Herschel Taylor and his parents.
Photo provided by and used with express permission of PBS Communications.
And that is just one of the many reasons genealogists across the board absolutely adore James Herschel Taylor.  James was recently featured on the PBS show Genealogy Roadshow (The St. Louis Central Library episode which aired Monday, January 19th, 2015) and he captured everyone's attention and hearts.  Josh Taylor and the producers reached out to us, at Family ChartMasters, to create a chart for this young man and you can read about that here.  What I'd like to focus on in this post, however, is more about how James knew where he was descended from before the research and DNA testing was done to show him a more complete view of his ancestry.

If you take a look at his story on the Genealogy Roadshow website (you can find his segment roughly between the 33:17 and 42:43 minute markers), James talks about where many African Americans have roots and ancestry.  He talks about how much he hopes his ancestry leads him to West Africa with Nigerian ties, and how much he wants to be from the Mali Empire (because they were an educated and highly organized empire... seriously,  this kid!).  He goes on to say some profound statements.  He says on the show segment about why he wants to know where he comes from and it's along the lines of it being because it would "Bring me honor and bring my family honor."  He then goes on to say how he wants to know where his ancestors and history are because "It would give me better self-esteem and self-standing."  Honestly, if you have not watched the show, go watch it.  He's so amazing!  He said, in just a sentence, what I have been saying and teaching for years to people much older and with much more life experience than him.  And he gets it!  How incredible.

One thing that really jumped out to me was that his DNA findings revealed his family ancestry derives from exactly where he hoped it would.  All I could think of was that he wanted to be from the Mali Empire in West Africa *because* that is where he is actually from.  He felt that connection in himself and he was drawn to that region and had a need to learn and discover what he could about that Empire because it was his.  We talk about feeling pulled or "just knowing" something within us about our ancestry and James is the perfect example of it.  He even said, after Josh Taylor presented the findings to him, "My brain just wants to jump out of my head and say 'That's what I told you! I knew where you were from!'"  And that's the whole point.  He knew because that ancestry was in him, pulling him to discover more about his roots and his foundation.  James is the perfect example of heeding that call and pull we all feel when we think of our histories.

Working on a chart for him and his family, and then being able to see it presented to him on the show is just the icing on the cake to this story.  The real joy is that James had a desire to find his ancestry and to know exactly where he came from.  He that pull felt within him and then the research proved he was right.  And if you look at that sweet boy's face on the video, there is no doubt that his self-esteem and self-standing just shot through the roof when he discovered his feelings were right all along.  Talk about a successful perspective story right there!  What a great kid and what a great story!

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