Posted by Ancestry Team on October 13, 2014 in Entertainment, Research

“You have your mother’s eyes,” or “Like father like son,” are phrases we commonly compliment or tease family with, yet we take for granted that we know those details—not everyone does.

In February of this year in an interview with Essence magazine, Michaela Pereira said, “Like many adopted kids I wondered about my birth parents. I was especially curious about my father. So much of who I am on the outside—my skin color, eye color, and hair—is because of him. My identity is inextricably tied to a man I do not know.”

Several years ago Michaela had an emotional first meeting of her birth sister on her biological mother’s side, and since then the two have forged a strong relationship. Sadly, their mother lost a long battle with cancer before she and Michaela could be reunited.

When Michaela reached out to us, she let us know that she had been unsuccessful in learning about her birth father. But she was intensely curious about her ancestry on his side and wanted to know if there was a way to learn about her paternal ancestors without having the benefit of information provided by him. She felt that the focus for her should not be on locating a person but instead exploring the roots of her birth father’s family.

Because the focus was no longer on identifying information, we turned to Plan B: take an AncestryDNA test. The AncestryDNA test results have two parts: defining your ethnic roots and connecting you with cousin matches. When her results came in a few weeks later, they confirmed what she suspected: she is African and European, but was surprised to learn that there were trace amounts of DNA from all over the world. While the AncestryDNA test does not call out Caribbean roots specifically, the traits are there: Jamaicans typically have African, Native American (which includes the original inhabitants of Jamaica, the Taino), and European roots, which Michaela has. She is largely Nigerian and Irish. Her trace regions of Italy/Greece, Europe West, and Iberian Peninsula suggest she has Mediterranean roots as well.

The surprise came when we reviewed her cousin matches, which compares your DNA with the 500,000 other people who have taken the test, and based on the amount of DNA you share, gives a relationship range. Michaela had several 2nd and 3rd cousin matches, which is very close! Because one of these suggested cousins had linked their DNA results to their public family tree, we could look at the deceased members of their family to see where they lived and died. Carefully reviewing cousin matches is important, because the results don’t show if they are cousins from your mother’s or father’s side of the family.

Picture of Montego Bay, Jamaica, circa 1900, the same time Michaela’s ancestors lived. The picture is from the Library of Congress Photo Collection on Ancestry.com.
Picture of Montego Bay, Jamaica, circa 1900, the same time Michaela’s ancestors lived. The picture is from the Library of Congress Photo Collection on Ancestry.com.

 Amazingly, the public family tree was full of people from Jamaica, with pictures of them to boot! Because of the sensitive nature of Michaela’s adoption, she respectfully decided to not contact them.

However the birth and death places in the matching cousin tree helped her learn specific locations in Jamaica that she would never have known otherwise: St. James Parish, Jamaica.

The name of that little parish in Jamaica became the catalyst for Michaela discovering for the first time the culture and legacy she yearned to connect with for so long.

Michaela_BrothersArm

 

During her trip to a Rastafarian village, her guide said, “Hold on to a brother.”

There is something powerful in having a tangible, physical connection to not just the places of your heritage, but the people who you share that heritage with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

WATCH MICHAELA EXPLORE HER ROOTS 

 

MORE EPISODES ON CNN
They travel the world to chase the story, but this time the story is their own. Join the journalists of CNN as they explore their … roots. More behind the scene stories:

6 Comments

  1. What an amazing story. It’s so interesting to consider how much both our upbringing and genetics contribute to who we are as people. The natural curiosity about our roots is why it’s so important to ensure we preserve our own memories for future generations.

  2. BRIDGET ELLWOOD

    Good Day Michaela!!!
    I watched your ‘adventure’ discovering your “roots” with deep appreciation for your unstinting vulnerability… truly beautiful…I am a pastor’s wife in Toronto, and love on people a lot of the time, who battle with their “Identity”…some with similar history’s, as you so beautifully portrayed. I just wanted you to know that your story will help (hopefully) millions…it brought HOPE that so many need… You are a “Woman of Substance and Excellence”… and as you laid your heart out for all to see, your natural gift of encouragement shone through!!! Thank you!!! Much love from the chilly north, Bridget hxhxhx

  3. Denmark Sherriffe

    As a Jamaican myself, I understand how warm we are as a people and watching this, your roots-trace, is just moving. I saw a genuine act of feeling “belonging” throughout this video… One love sista!

  4. Maureen

    Thanks for sharing your experience in tracing your roots. This to me was touching to know you wanted to know your father’s side and because of the nature of the adoption you are somewhat limited. Sometimes we who are blessed with knowing our real parents take this for granted and so I want to express how gratifying it is to know you have made it to become such a successful person. Your experience touched me…God Bless…

  5. Carole

    So happy for Michaela! She was the reason I watched KTLA Morning news in Los Angeles and I’m still a fan.

  6. Luan Faulknor Binkerd

    Michaela !! you’re a true Jamaican ,watching you every day ,you display your heritage . We American , Jamaican LOVE LOVE LOVE YOU GIRL .KEEP LAUGHING YOU BRING TASTE TO CNN MY FAVORITE STATION .ONE LOVE NO PROBLEM.GOD BLESS . YOUR ANCESTORS LOVE CHURCH .

Comments are closed.