An “exercise” to write a poem about ones origins with the words I am from… inspired me to write this poem.

I am from the dark side of the moon, blood born, secretly shining.


I am from puma, stalking your memories, invading your minds,.


I am from Gottlieb, who left Swiss mountains 150 years ago at 18 to avoid

becoming a mercenary, moved to Missouri, created a farm. His cultivator

sets in my front garden.


I am from persons Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi, who sailed seas, met strangers, loved.


I am from Esan, a Nigerian tribe about which I knew nothing until a DNA test revealed,

ancient, black, beautiful.


I am from Latin America, Colombian, Peruvian, Puerto Rican–wanderers, explorers.


I am from Slavic peoples. Byzantine, Macedonian, Alexander the Great.


I am from brave wandering ancestors–Asian, Latin, Toscani Italian, French, German, Swiss, Slavic, Iberian.


I am from J haploid group, people who left the northern Middle East 7000 years ago,

wandered, explored, populated Western Europe.


I am from farmers, Doyle and Barbara, who grew corn, wheat, soybeans, Hereford and Charolaise cattle

to whom I carried salt blocks as a child.


I am from Sacred Corn, the nourisher, singing on hot summers, growing.


I am from the sweet smell of Jasmine, Roses, Honeysuckle, winding up walls, overgrowing gardens,

giving people hope.


I am from lemons, figs, dates, pomegranates, golden, dark, red, tropical, lingering.


I am from Stars, universal child, born on sacred ground, singing infinite songs.


Blood Quantum: A Poem for Our Time


My grandson cuts himself into 16 equal pieces:

4/16 Urhobo from Africa

3/16 Spanish from Spain

4/16 European–two Swiss German great, great-grandfathers

(Werth and Kaiser), Irish, English and who knows what

3/16 Mexican–whatever mixtures that may be

2/16 Navaho


Who am I? What am I?

Who are you? What are you?

Do we really know?

Who sets the rules?

white men



Native American




from where and for whom?


He looks Navaho:

-blue black straight hair

-pale brown skin

-obsidian eyes.

One four year old girl asks him,

“Are you American Indian?”

His six year old self says nothing.

She repeats,

“Are you American Indian?”

He says, “It’s complicated.”


The Navaho won’t claim him, too little blood.

He needs 1/4, not 1/8.

Caddy and Fort Sill Apache allow 1/16, not Navahos.

1/4 blood is for





1/8 works for Comanche and Pawnee.

Some Cherokees only want a Cherokee ancestor.


But he is none of those.

Is he Navaho?

Is he white?

The old South goes by the one drop rule:

one drop of Negro…

Is a person with 99/100 per cent white

and 1/100 black, black?

Who says?

Kids at school ask, “What are you?”

He tells them.

They say, “You’re lying.”


I only know specifically about two ancestors,

the Swiss Germans.

Another great grandfather disappeared during the Civil War.

I don’t even know his name.

Who am I?

Who are you?

I think I’ll get a DNA test.

Then I’ll know how many pieces I need to cut myself into.


Note:  This was originally published in my book “On the Rim of Wonder”.  I had a cousin send me 75 pages of ancestry information.  I looked up more myself.  That one great grandfather remains a mystery.  I had my DNA done.  It did not match what I expected from the ancestry work.

Blood quantum is the term the US government used to determine whether a person would be qualified as an Indian.  Now many Indian Nations use it to decide who can be on the tribal rolls and who cannot.



Ancestry and DNA–Part Four

Since I hit several dead ends in my previous endeavors, this afternoon I went back to all the ancestry.com hints and started more research.  My last ancestry post indicated my surprise at the DNA results.  In that post I failed to mention that the reports indicate a possible range as well as exact numbers.  Today’s endeavor made me reconsider once again because everything I was able to trace went back to England over and over again.  Although the DNA results specified Europe West as 77 per cent, it did show a possible range with a low end of 50 per cent.  Great Britain’s number is 9 per cent with a range up to 27 per cent.  My guess is that the reality is more like 20  per cent Great Britain and  60 to 65 per cent Europe West which I can trace to specific places, e.g. Switzerland mostly.  An acquaintance had her DNA done by two different sources with somewhat differing results.  I also realize that over many centuries people have migrated to Great Britain from continental Europe.  In the south the Romans were there for centuries.  However, no Italian showed up in my DNA even though I know the name of one ancestor who migrated from Italy.  Perhaps she was from northern Italy–all I can find is simply Italy so have no idea from where.  Northern Italy, unlike southern Italy, is included in Europe West by ancestry.com.

After quitting ancestry.com for the day, I went back to the matrilineal part of my grandson’s National Geographic Genotype data.  It provides a totally different type of analysis that goes back even further into history with illustrations of the movement of your ancestors over thousands of years and provides your exact Haploid Group.  I am J named after Jasmine in the book, “The Seven Daughters of Eve” by Bryan Sykes, a British geneticist.  This book traces the mitochondrial DNA of modern Europeans back to seven women located in different parts of the world.  Jasmine was the result of a mutation that occurred approximately 45 thousand years ago in the Near East/Caucasus from which I probably get that small percentage of Caucasus DNA.  Today not only are J Haploid people found in Europe but also in the UAE, Yemen, Iran, etc.  More specifically I am J1C3B which is found most commonly today in Switzerland and Austria.  Only  .2 per cent of the Genotype project participants have that DNA.  Furthermore, unless you were born in Africa below the Sahara or are a descendant of Africans, you will have some Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA, usually between one and four per cent.  My grandson has 1.2 Neanderthal.  Scientists now believe that for non-Africans, a great deal of our immunity comes from those genes.  The Genotype project provides links to a different family tree source than ancestry.com if you wish to go that route.

The book also indicates that working out your family trees with who married who and all their children may not be accurate because what is official may or may not be what really occurred.  The author tells the story of a friend who insisted his DNA get analyzed and eagerly awaited the results which provided the author with a dilemma once he realized his friend could not possibly be who he though he was.

Ancestry and DNA–Part Three

The DNA results came back two days ago; I was surprised, not exactly what I had expected.  Considering that my last name traces back to Ireland and a number of relatives on Dad’s side also go back to Ireland or England, I expected I would have a considerable amount of both.  Wrong!!  Very little:  7 percent Irish and 9 percent English.  I have almost as much Caucasus (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Georgia, etc) as I do Irish–4 percent.  Once I actually considered that and thought about my haploid group (see previous DNA posting), it made sense. There is a trace of Iberian Peninsula (two per cent) and one of Scandinavian.

I am 77 per cent western European which in ancestry.com terms encompasses, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, northern Italy (I did find one ancestor from Italy) and some of Denmark.  Looking at these results, I went back and looked at what I had learned on Mom’s side since my last DNA post. After hitting repeated dead ends for my great grandfather on her paternal side, I concentrated on the other.  My grandmother’s father came from Switzerland in 1844.  That makes two great grandfathers from Bern which would give me a certain 25 per cent Swiss even if no one else was from there.  I traced more to Alsace and the part of Germany next to Belgium.  And then there were the Dutch traced back to New York where they married in the Dutch Reformed Church, Isaac VanDeventer and Saartje Couwenhoven in the early 1700s.  I keep coming back, however, to the Swiss and nearby. Once I kept counting all of them, they numbered far more than anything else–names like Kaiser and Werth (the two great grandfathers), Zimmerman, Spainhauer, Fiscus, Rufener, Meyer, Binckele.

Today, a fourth cousin found me through the ancestry site, sent me a message, and the site sent me information on two third cousins.  They can actually “match” using family trees.

Although I have discovered the majority of what I wanted to know, I will continue to attempt a search regarding the one great grandfather.  While searching, I remembered a story my aunt told me, how she never knew him because the story she was told is this:  He went to town one day and never came back, simply disappeared.  Eventually, he was declared dead–the ancestry info has a birth date in Tennessee but no recorded date of death.  My great grandmother eventually remarried and this husband raised her children by my great grandfather.  My aunt even took me to the cemetery where the second husband was buried.  I thought I would remember the gravestone, but I could not find it when I returned years later.  If I had only written down all my aunt told me.

Ancestry and DNA–Part Two

My cousin on my father’s side sent me 75 pages of ancestry information.  Much of it goes back to the 1600s except for some ancestors from Switzerland.  My great grandfather, Gottlieb Werth, was born in Bern on 1832.  He married my great grandmother, Elizabeth Townsend, in Andrew County, Missouri, in 1867.  Her Townsend ancestry goes back to Rayham, England, in the early 1700s and further back to 2nd Viscount Charles Townsend who was born in Rayham in 1675.  Charles married Elizabeth Pelham from Sussex in 1698.  Their descendants went to North and South Carolina in the 1700s, but eventually moved to Indiana in the early 1800s.  Elizabeth Townsend was my grandmother’s mother. My grandmother was born in Andrew County, Missouri, in 1872.  Her name was Lillie Belle Werth.  Because my dad was born late in her life and was the youngest child by many years, I never knew her.  She is my only grandparent who did not live to at least 80.

Looking at the other side of Elizabeth Townsend’s ancestry, her father married Catherine Zimmerman in Andrew County, Missouri, in 1867.  The Zimmerman side of the family goes back to North Carolina in the late 1700s and early 1800s.  However, Catherine’s grandfather, Johann Christian Zimmerman, was born in Hof, Nassau-Dillenberg, Germany.  From Germany he went to Pennsylvania and died in North Carolina.  The record even goes back further, mostly to Bern, Switzerland, and the Meyer name in Germany with no specific place mentioned.

Elizabeth’s grandmother was Catharina Fiscus who was born in Surry County, South Carolina in 1782.  Both her parents were from Pennsylvania–York and Lancaster Counties.  The Fiscus line goes back to Pfalz, Germany.  Catharina’s mother was Anna Elisabeth Spainhour who was born in Pennsylvania in 1762.  Her father was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1719, and died in Surry County, North Carolina.

On the Townsend side, Elizabeth’s grandmother was Mary Voyles.  She, too, was born in North Carolina.  However, her ancestry goes back to Westmeath, Ireland; Ballybrunhill, Carlow, Ireland;  two ancestors from Danbighshire, Wales; and one great grandmother born in Italy in 1747.  A number of these people finally resided in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, and then in Indiana.

I can never thank my cousin enough for all this.  After attempting to start the same task on my mother’s side of the family and spending hours, often hitting dead ends, I cannot even begin to imagine how many hours he spent compiling so much information.

Monday, I mailed in my DNA to ancestry.com.  I also provided what little I was able to find to date on Mother’s side of the family.  Since I am a woman, all I will be able to get is the results for my mitochondrial DNA.  As mentioned in the first ancestry post, my guess is that I will have a lot of Ireland and England as places of DNA origin.  However, I have learned from friends and my grandson’s experience that surprises frequently arise.

Ancestry and DNA-Part One

A couple of years ago my grandson decided he wanted to know more about his ancestry.  He joined the National Geographic Genotype Project.  Through that I learned my haploid group.  The Project separates paternal and maternal information.  His maternal haploid–which would be mine–is J1c3b.   The J haploid was named for Jasmine, one of the seven daughters of eve from the book by the famous Oxford geneticist, Bryan Sykes. Jasmine lived in the area which presently encompasses parts of Syria, Iraq, and Iran.  This group was the last to migrate to Europe. In fact some theorize that they brought agriculture to Europe. Currently Haploid J is found in most of Europe and the Middle East except for the people who live in Lapland.  However, the more specific J1c3b is not found in the Middle East any more but mostly in northwestern Europe.  www.eupedia.com/europe/Haploidgroup

Since I teach high school and am not teaching summer school, one of my summer projects is to investigate my ancestry more thoroughly.  My cousin has extensively investigated my father’s side.  Through his investigations, I discovered my last name did not come from where I had thought.  Those ancestors are from northern Ireland and left there in the late 1600’s.  For some reason after living in the United States, their descendants changed the spelling of their name from Lytle to Lightle, my last name.

Yesterday, I ordered a DNA kit.  Given all the information I already have and my haploid group, I am very curious as to what these results will indicate.  It will provide no information about my father’s side because women can only trace back generations of mothers.  However, since it is my mother’s side about which I know nearly nothing, it will be new information.  As I progress on this quest, I will share what I learn here on my blog.  Here’s to happy ancestry hunting.


Several months ago I decided to participate in the Human Genome Project through National Geographic.   When I called to order the kit, the young man reminded me that as a woman, I would receive only one half of my ancestry, the female half.  Since women do not have a Y chromosome, a woman can only trace her female family line through her mitochondrial DNA.  He suggested I use my grandson’s DNA so I would receive complete results.  Of course, that meant that in the end, I would have to factor in what I knew about his father’s family and deduct that to determine my own.  After the Geno 2.0 kit arrived, we took his cheek swabs and mailed them off.  This week when we returned from an 11 day family road trip, the results arrived.  With the results came detailed explanations of human migratory history and even comparisons of populations with DNA most like his.  Although none were close, the top two groups were people in Bermuda and Mexican Americans.  Luckily, the information contained a detailed explanation of the people of Bermuda.  The Native American results I expected since his great grandfather was Navaho.  Other parts came as somewhat a surprise. Once again I am taking a poetry class and now working on publishing a book of my poetry so I decided to write a poem about this experience.

The results loom before me on

the computer, percentages:

Northern European, Mediterranean,

Native American, Neanderthal,

sub Sahara African, South African–

as in the Bushmen in the Kalahari,

Northeast Asian, Southwest Asian.

Suddenly, calculations move through

my brain.  I look again, add, subtract,

recalculate, stare, ponder. Is there

a family secret I missed?  How will

I know, from whom?

Everyone I could ask is dead.