Lifelong search for African ancestry revealed for one metro Detroit women
, 2022-10-26 16:28:00,
DETROIT (WXYZ) — When WXYZ’s Ameera David first met Oya Amakisi, it was July, the summer of her 37th year on a lifelong quest.
“It started when I was a little girl,” said Oya Amakisi. “I had a deep desire to know who our ancestors are. Did I look like them? Did I have eyes like them? Is my personality like theirs?”
The journey of genealogy doesn’t begin without a stop at the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library. Oya used to skip school as a teen to spend hours in this room.
“This is the space where I would come to do research and learn about my family,” said Amakisi. “It’s like hitting the lottery every time you find a family member.”
For African Americans, genealogical research has unique challenges.
WXYZ’s Ameera David asked, “To what extent is it more difficult?”
“Slavery and families separating,” said Omer Jean Winborn from the Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society.
“Yes, it is different because unlike everybody else, African Americans were listed with the cows and the furniture,” added Winborn.
Oya had to reckon with having to search for ancestors through deeds as tokens of property. She’s found many of them. But nearly four decades in, the one thing she still doesn’t know, is where her people come from.
“What does the science allow you to do that these books don’t quite do?” asked David.
“Where records don’t exist, sometimes DNA will be that connection that I need to go to the next level,” said…
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