Posted by Juliana Szucs on February 3, 2014 in AncestryDNA

20140201Charles J White Joseph W White-resizeOne of the great things about our Facebook community is seeing the stories being shared of people making connections through While it may take a little courage to reach out to someone you don’t know, even if they do seem to be related, the rewards typically outweigh any initial misgivings. Last week I found one such story from one of our members. I’ll let her tell the story.

A few years ago I received a copy of a photograph of my great-great-grandfather from an elderly cousin. While I had the photograph, I initially didn’t have what was written on the back—the story of that great-great-grandfather’s son, born to one of his slaves.

When I learned of the story, I began a four-year journey to find descendants of his slave child. Finally, a few months ago, I found a newly posted family tree for this man on I wasn’t sure how my new-found cousin would react to the knowledge that we shared the same great-great-grandfather and the circumstances. But, I also knew, how difficult it is to trace southern African-American ancestry, so I reached out to him.

Well, to make a long story short, my cousin, Carol White, was delighted and emotional about discovering her Anglo-Saxon roots and the stories and documents I was able to provide. We have both embraced our kinship and ancestry. The child was educated by his father, became a teacher and minister and died a hero giving the comfort of prayer to passengers—white and black—aboard a sinking steamship.

There is much more to the story of the slave owner, the slave who bore his child, and the child. I had already participated in AncestryDNA, and Carol agreed to take the test as well to hopefully add further evidence of our relationship. Her results came back last week—we are a match! It’s rare for the descendant of a slave owner to seek out descendants of slaves, but I can tell you, my personal journey was well worth the trip.

Donna Humphrey Donnell

Donna is working on writing an article on the story of Charles and Joseph White and the research she did to learn their story. We hope Donna gives us another shout out when the article is done so we can learn more about her experience. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Donna!


Juliana Szucs

Juliana Szucs has been working for for more than 19 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program.


  1. Jennifer

    I would be interested in knowing the family line. More importantly, why would you post the fact that your grandfather was raping or having sex and or an affair with a slave. Most of the time, the children of slaves, regardless of who the father was were not recognized. Something does not seem right with this story.

  2. Juliana Smith

    We all find unexpected stories in our past and we have to come to terms with what we find. Donna and Carol have done this and we think that theirs is an inspiring story of how family history brings us together.

  3. Robin

    Why NOT share it? It’s what genealogy is all about. How wonderful that these descendants have found each other! I can’t wait for the rest of the story! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Dianne Coleman Yarbrough

    What a wonderful story, Donna and Jennifer! Thank you for sharing. Thanks to 23andMe, we have learned that the famous abolitionist, Moses Roper, who wrote an autobiography, “Narrative of My Escape from Slavery,” is the half-brother of the great-great-grandmother of my children’s father (my ex-husband). The mother of Moses Roper was a “mulatto” slave owned by Moses’s father, Henry H. Roper, a wealthy tobacco planter in Caswell County, N.C. While researching this line, I have also found a second “mulatto” in the 1850 Census, Patrick Co., Va., who was probably not a mulatto, but a melungeon. The censuses often called melungeons, Indians, romas, and others of color a “mulatto.” A whole other story and an entire new family of ancestors just waiting to be discovered and acknowledged. Without any one of our ancestors, we would not be here. Whatever their race, and whatever the sad or happy circumstances of their birth, we should give them all the honor, respect, and gratitude that they deserve. Why I love genealogy!

  5. Vicki Hunter

    This is what genealogy is all about! Everything and everyone in your past is all a part of who we are. I love the challenge of the search for my past, but what I find is sooo much more interesting. It explains family customs and traditions. Sometimes, it even explains complexions. I grew up knowing my father was of Irish heritage. I always wondered why he had such dark hair and why he got such a deep dark tan. I found out while doing a family tree project in junior high school. My grandmother sent me up to her attic and told me to look through a drawer of old stuff that she had. Her grandfather came to the US on a whaling ship from Portugal. He was from Faial, Azores Islands. He settled in Portland, Maine where he married an Irish girl. I am still working on that branch of my tree and from some stuff that I’ve read there may also be Moorish ancestry as part of my heritage. The Moors were the North African Black Muslims. Explains the dark tan!
    It’s things like this from my past that are part of who I am today. While my skin looks one way, who I am on the inside, in my DNA is soooo much more!

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