I had heard about DNA tests as a genealogical tool for many years but costs were quite high and I was not convinced of their value to my research or for wider Caribbean genealogical research.
However, because of documentaries such as BBCs Motherland in 2003 Caribbean genealogists increasingly asked me if DNA tests would be useful for their research and help them reconnect with their African ancestors; I added several slides on DNA to my talks.
As the price came down I thought about taking a test – so that I could understand what was involved and if the results could actually help someone to extend their family tree or link them to their ancestral home. I was also curious if such tests would help answer these three questions:
- I do not know where my Grannum / Cranham ancestors came from and so maybe these tests would help to narrow down place of origin
- Maybe I would find a match with someone in Europe which would help me to continue my research
- My family had lived in Barbados for over 250 years. Was I mixed-race?
Mark Johnson was at the National Archives today talking about African and African-Caribbeans who served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. He described his 17 years research into the lives of the 495 Black aircrew from the Caribbean and West Africa. His extensive experience into this hidden history enable him to help curate the “Pilots of the Caribbean” exhibition at the RAF Museum Hendon (which will move to their museum in Cosford later this year) and write Caribbean Volunteers at War. The Forgotten Story of the RAF’s ‘Tuskegee Airmen’ (Pen and Sword, 2014); a sample chapter is available online at Pen and Sword.
The book describes the history and experience of Caribbean aircrew using personal accounts and archival sources. There is an appendix which lists the men who flew as pilots, navigators, wireless operations and air gunners; the list is also available on his website. The list includes Jamaican-born Colin Patrick Haworth Grannum (born Eisner) DFC, who will be the subject of a later post.
Update (8 July 2014): Mark’s talk is available as a National Archives podcast.