What Discovering My Ancestry Taught Me About Race and Privilege

My 9th-great-grandfather William Bradford

I was pretty disappointed when I found out that I did not in fact descend from the great artist and inventor Samuel Finley Breese Morse. That caused me to rethink my pen name, one of my son’s names, and my web development company that plays off of that Morse Code guy and I guess I can stop holding out hope for that royalty check from every time someone makes a joke about Morse code.

But besides that, the process of uncovering my ancestry and genealogy has been fascinating. I was excited to learn that 5th great-grandfather fought and died in the war for American Independence and my 9th great-grandfather was one catalysts for the Great Puritan Migration, a Mayflower passenger, and the second governor of Plymouth Colony, William Bradford. I also found out that I am third cousins to the second president of the United States, John Adams and revolutionary and beer namesake Samuel Adams.

John “Lackland, King of England, Soft Sword” is my 24th great-grandfather

Further back, our direct ancestors include most of the 25 Magna Carta Surety Barons (eg William “Lord of Belvoir” d’Aubigny), and, oh yeah, the Plantagenet kings of England (Henry I, Henry II Plantagenet, John “Lackland”, Henry III, and Edward “Longshanks”). I see a resemblance between me and John for sure. And of course, we’re direct descendants of William the Conquerer, The Duke of Normandie (Rollo), and Charlemagne.

Not a bad lineage after all!

Privilege

But that made got me thinking. I come from these impressive families that pretty much invented America. My people have been here for nearly 400 years. According to Marxism and privilege theory, I should own the whole damn country by now. After all, The rich and powerful pass on their wealth through inheritance and because the state doesn’t steal all the wealth from people when they die, descendants of the thieving European colonists are automatically powerful.

3rd Cousin 8x removed President John Adams

What’s more is at least one of my ancestors (Enos Futrell) owned slaves. To many SJWs, that fact alone meant that I was a slave owner myself and am filthy rich from the free labor of Africans. I am literally Hitler.

Well, unfortunately for me and my bank account, none of that is the case. I don’t own America and any wealth my ancestors gained off the backs of slaves completely dissipated before I was born. My great-great-grandfather, Joseph Kelso Morse, was orphaned at the age of seven and was at the mercy of an adoptive family with kids of their own. Any wealth from that line was abruptly cut off at that point. The middle-class wealth I do have was earned by me with a bit of  help by my hard-working mother who didn’t graduate college and was a single working mother by the time I was three years old.

3rd Cousin 8x removed Samuel Adams

The problem with the inheritance theory of privilege is that, in America, wealth transfers dramatically from one generation to the next. There is high turnover in America’s high-income earners (only half million-dollar earners between 1999-2007 repeated the milestone) and at least with my lineage, the number of children outpaced any given parent’s wealth, meaning each generation had to make it on their own.

And for those in the literally-Hitler crowd, the same generation of my slave-owning ancestor contained 128 people, a couple of which were nearby Quakers, a group known for facilitating the Underground Railroad to free slaves. Many people make up ancestry and while many people descended from slave owners, they may also have descended from abolitionists.

Race

I also sent away a jar of spit to have my genes sequenced. What I found wasn’t particularly enlightening. I’m pretty much white: 82% British and 12% Irish with some trace East European and Scandinavian. The one interesting finding from my genes is that I’m more British than Britons typically are. I’m 82% British whereas typical natives are only 60% British. Go figure.

Solely based on this genealogy, you’d think that I would be ready to abdicate my position that race is fake. Clearly, I’m white, so race is a legitimate classification. But that would be a part to whole fallacy that you wouldn’t fall into because you’re so smart.

My wife also had her genes sequenced and the picture was completely different.

The highest population group for her was only 21% and her genome constitutes markers for populations of Europe, the Americas, Africa, and trace genes from Central Asia. She looks Mediterranean, which some may consider white, but she is clearly more diverse than that. Her lines came from two melting pot regions of Acadiana and Puerto Rico, so relegating her to one race would be inaccurate at best.

My wife’s diverse genealogy

These genetic findings further show that race is an arbitrary, inaccurate classification and should not be used in science let alone legislation.

It was a surprise to me to find that I was a direct descendant of King Edward “Longshanks” (especially after his despicable portrayal in Braveheart) and William the Conqueror, until I discovered that people today with English ancestry are related to about 86 percent of the English population in 1066. That means that there’s a high chance that I was at least related to several kings and queens. Even despite pedigree collapse, we all have about 2 million ancestors from 1200 AD and the amount of overlap is considerable. It is estimated that everyone on Earth is no more than 50th cousins to each other.

I highly recommend that everyone research their ancestry and take advantage of the inexpensive technology that enables us to discover our genealogy (you can even save $10 on your AncestryDNA here: http://refer.dna.ancestry.com/s/jsmorse). With more information, the closer we’ll come to understanding that arbitrary racial classifications are counterproductive and that we’re really all part of the same family tree.