Moving into 2019 –

As I eagerly await the as yet unannounced Netflix premiere of season 5 of Luther, I have watched the official trailer, read reviews of the opening episode on British television, and read interviews with the star, Idris Elba, and the writer, Neil Cross.

Watch “LUTHER Series 5 | OFFICIAL TRAILER – BBC” on YouTube

I am fascinated by the character. Luther is a big man who brings his big walk, and gale force passions into the world of psychopaths and serial killers. Cross gives a nod to Columbo and explains that Luther is not a “Who done it” but rather a “How to Catch Them.” This characteristic is also shared with Law and Order: Criminal Intent. I definitely compare DCI John Luther’s intelligence with that of Lt. Columbo and Detective Robert Goren.

Cross compares Luther’s tendency to “cross the line” and frenetic need to be in more than one place at a time to the Vic Mackey character from The Shield. Luther is definitely not the quiet sensitive serial killer detecting empath, Will Graham, portrayed by William Petersen in the 1986 film Manhunter. (My favorite adaptation of The Red Dragon by Thomas Harris which continues to be my favorite novel in this genre.)

Watch “Manhunter (1986) [Collector’s Edition] – Official Trailer (HD)”

Like millions of other readers and viewers around the world, I enjoy peeking into the darkness as I read novels by Harris and Cross and watch movies and television programs based on their work. This is why Amazon Prime video suggested that I might want to watch Taboo. I could not look away from the darkness and unashamedly binge watched the entire season.

Watch “Taboo Official Trailer (HD) Tom Hardy (Season 1) FX TV Drama” on YouTube

If you are concerned that this focus on the dark will scar my psyche, well you should have been around when I was nine years old. That was the year I read Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The next year it was Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Shelley’s Frankenstein. Were these works not on your high school and college reading lists?

Aspects of Taboo that annoyed critics tended to amuse me. For example, James Keziah Delany was delusional. Many of the fictional characters that I have enjoyed over the past 68 years have been delusional. By today’s standards a number of important historical figures were delusional. Important historical events resulted from mass hysteria or delusions. Who decides when another person’s supranatural belief system is delusional.

And could James, a severely traumatized man, sometimes be experiencing flashbacks instead of delusions? According to his servant his mother did try to drown him when he was an infant. According to the storyline, he did play an important role in sending a hole full of enslaved Africans to a frightening death. I could go on and on.

However, the most important thing about Taboo for me is that it forced me to look more closely at some historical questions. I now have a better understanding of who ruled England during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. I definitely know more about the East India Company, the conflict with Spain over the Northwest passage to China, and the treaty establishing the border separating Canada from the US.

I have a better idea of what life was like in the British Isles during this time period. I sidestepped into some fictionalized accounts of the settling of Australia as a penal colony. I watched both the controversial Banished and The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant.

AFTER MARY BRYANT it was time to switch back to a more romantic view of Cornwall. I accomplished this by using my Masterpiece Theater subscription to finish season 4 of Poldark. WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU NEVER HEARD OF POLDARK? WE LIVE IN ALTERNATE REALITIES.

Watch “Poldark: Trailer – BBC One” on YouTube

Hey, I snuck in a viewing of Avengers: The Infinity War

After getting my Scifi fix, I jumped back in time to watch season two of Jamestown. It hit a little closer to home. For more than 30 years, I attempted to explain to students that the integrationist versus the separatist orientations among African Americans did not start with Dubois and Garvey. I loved seeing them played out on screen between Maria and Pedro.

Watch “Jamestown Series Two – Coming Soon” on YouTube

Maria’s tortuous punishment brought me back to where I was once again able to read more of the Underground Railroad.


Watching and Reading as 2018 Ends

As the 2018 book winners come in from everywhere (I feel as though I am drowning in recommendations), I am starting last year’s Pulitzer winning fiction Underground Railroad.

After months of reading about Andrew Jackson and the War of 1812 from the US perspective, I am enjoying the view of the War of 1812 from the English side presented in the FX program Taboo. I am binge watching it on HULU. This is not Masterpiece Theater.

I have been enjoying the fictional presentation of the Hudson Bay Company in the Canadian made television series Frontier. Until I started watching the FX based Taboo, I had no image of the East India Company in Canada. Now I am comparing the fictional accounts presented in the television series to what historians present as more factual.

I am especially interested in the role of the two English companies in the genocide of the indigenous people of North America and the enslavement of Africans. The television programs are very unlike those of my youth, in which Native Americans were presented as savages deserving of death and Africans as savages deserving of enslavement.

Both television programs are gut wrenchingly violent. With the English being presented as the most violent. Both shows portray the importance of class and nationality in England. The poor were very poor and the Irish were generally poor and oppressed. I have recently watched several movies with these same themes.

Ever since I was a child fascinated by the historical fiction of Canadian author Thomas B. Costain, I have not been able to resist comparing how novelists and historians present the same time period or historical incidents.

So, in addition to comparing the two television shows to historical works, I am off and running on the Underground Railroad.

I started attending school in 1950, when I was four years old. I stopped teaching school, probably for good, in 2016. That amounts to 66 years of reading books because they were required by classes in which I was a student or classes in which I was the teacher. My own choices had to be snuck in on the side.

I am 72 years old. My eyesight is failing and I can’t read as rapidly as in the past. I am also coping with constant back pain and autoimmune flares. I am very comfortable coping with these by reading and watching what I select for myself. I tend to ignore recommendations that are not on topics of current interest as politely as possible.

Of course, I am interested in recommendations for fictional (video or written) and historical (video or written) works on English history during the colonization of North America and the enslavement of Africans, as well as those that deal with the so called Underground Railroad.

“Carry me back” to the coastal plain

My homeplace is in the Alabama Blackbelt (1). According my DNA story, as told by Ancestry estimates, many of my African ancestors started the American leg of their journey on the coastal plain of North Carolina (that includes parts of Virginia and parts of South Carolina). I share a North Carolina connection with more than 1000 of my 23,000 matches on Ancestry (2). It is my intent to share this “interim report” and reading list with those matches who are interested in the journey.

I am interested in learning more about the experiences of my African ancestors in the English colonies and in the United States. Some of my DNA Cousins share this goal. In order to achieve this goal, I must learn more about the Europeans who enslaved them, including those Europeans who are also my ancestors.

I have, of course, studied Colonial Virginia. I have read books and articles and I have spent great days in Virginia’s historic triangle – While I have stood on Point Comfort, looked at the Atlantic, and contemplated what the voyage in the hold of a slave ship meant for my African ancestors, I have never looked at the history of Colonial Virginia from a personal perspective. Beyond Richmond, beyond Nat Turner, I have never focused on any location in Virginia that did not make it into the tourist attractions (3).

That is changing. Using data from DNA to help construct my “family tree,” I have followed one European ancestral line back to Colonial Virginia. The earliest English immigrant in the line that I am following arrived in Virginia in the 1630s. Being a descendant of these early arrivals in Virginia, who came from Scotland as well as England and Wales, helps to explain why I have so many DNA matches. It also explains why such a large proportion of these matches are connected to me through a specific line.

One estimate is that an immigrant to Colonial America who was born in 1650 had 67,108,864 descendants by 1980. I will never know how many of my “distant cousins” are connected to my family tree and I am content with that. Calculating the estimated number of a descendants an ancestor is likely to have me to understand the difficulty of that task –

The components of the line I am studying came together in Isle of Wight County, Virginia

“Isle of Wight County was established in 1634. Much of its history can be traced because its records were not destroyed during the Civil War. Charged by the Clerk of Court to take the records into hiding, Randall Boothe, an African-American slave, took them by wagon to Greenville & Southampton. After the war he returned them, was freed, and asked to serve as Caretaker of the Courthouse.”

The lines from which I am descended moved from Isle of Wight County, Virginia to that part of Edgecombe County, North Carolina that became Halifax County. I know even less about Colonial North Carolina than I do about Colonial Virginia. I have started to read.

It was interesting to look at maps of the two states and see that it was a relatively short distance from Isle of Wight – – to Edgecombe/Halifax –

It was even more interesting to read Boddie’s (1938) claim that the first permanent settlement in North Carolina was established by people from Isle of Wight County and Nansemond County, Virginia in 1660 or 1661. Boddie describes one of the early North Carolina settlements as including 27 families and 427 servants. I really want to learn more about the “servants.”

It appears that the primary line I am following moved to Edgecombe/Halifax after 1699. This suggests that by the time I had European ancestors born in Edgecombe/Halifax, the pathway from Isle of Wight was well worn. After I have studied the records of Isle of Wight County, Virginia and Edgecombe/Halifax, North Carolina, I will follow the migration of this line into Georgia and the Mississippi Territory.

The earliest African ancestored person with whom I am connected, thanks to my DNA COUSIN Angelis Robinson-Smith – – is Clarissa, my third great grandmother, who was born in North Carolina about 1810.

Cousin Angelis tasked me with understanding how my ancestors traveled to Indian Ridge. I have now done enough reading to say with confidence that many of my African American ancestors walked from North Carolina to the Mississippi Territory. They traveled the “Slave Trail of Tears”

Several questions about my African American ancestors’ journey from the east coast remain.

For how many, did the trip take place over generations and for how many did it occur over a few months?

How many traveled west from North Carolina to Georgia and then to the Mississippi Territory with white settler families and how many came in coffles?

I don’t know if I will find the answers to these questions in the documents that I plan to study. I do know that I will learn a great deal in the process (5).


Billings, W. M. (Ed.). (2007). The old dominion in the seventeenth century : a documentary history of virginia, 1606-1700. Retrieved from

Boddie, J. Seventeenth century Isle of Wight County, Virginia. (1938). Wilmette, Ill: Wilmette Press.

Kulikoff, A. (1988). Tobacco and slaves : the development of southern cultures in the chesapeake, 1680-1800. Retrieved from

Isaac, R. (1999). The transformation of virginia, 1740-1790. Retrieved from

Samford, P. (2011). Subfloor pits and the archaeology of slavery in colonial virginia. Retrieved from

Tise, L. E., & Crow, J. J. (2017). New voyages to Carolina: Reinterpreting North Carolina history.

McIlvenna, N. (2009). A very mutinous people: The struggle for North Carolina, 1660-1713

Butler, L. S., & Watson, A. D. (1984). North Carolina Experience: An Interpretive and Documentary History. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina

Beale, G. Nathaniel Pope and his descendants. The William and Mary Quarterly 12(3)

Heath, O.A. The Popes of Northumberland County The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Jan., 1914), pp. 209-215 Stable URL:

__. Pope Ancestry. The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Jan., 1916), pp. 194-198. Stable URL:

__ Isle of Wight County Records.The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Apr., 1899), pp. 205-315.


(1) The Settling of Indian Ridge: Thinking –, The Old Federal Road in Alabama has been surveyed –, In 1814 We Took a Little Trip –

(2) Soon after I started studying my family history, my DNA Cousin with expertise in this area used Gedmatch to estimate my Native American ancestry. She discovered that I shared slightly more than 5 cMs with the Lumbee reference group. The Lumbee are also associated with North Carolina. One of the surnames associated with the Lumbee is the surname of my maternal grandfather. The Lumbee are not important to my identity and I am definitely not interested in being a member of the tribe.

(3) This does not mean that my perspective on Colonial Virginia is romanticized. I know that around 1660, chattel racial slavery was codified in Colonial Virginia and Maryland through court decisions. When I visit Colonial Williamsburg, I think about the Founding Fathers who sat in a tavern and talked and wrote about the equality of all men while denying the humanity of my African ancestors. When I visit the battlefield at Yorktown, I think about how the hopes of Africans who fought with the Colonials in the war were betrayed.

(4) I have traced a second European line that entered South Carolina more than a century after those who entered Colonial Virginia and converged in Isle of Wight County. This line entered through Charleston, but before moving westward to the Mississippi Territory, settled in Kershaw County, South Carolina, which is on the coastal plain and closer to North Carolina than to Charleston.

(5) I can no longer afford my book habit. Each of these books was borrowed from a library. The early articles are in the JSTOR free online collection and/or the Internet Archive.

An Autoimmune Protocol Reset

I was discharged from the hospital one day after the removal of a synovial cyst and some scar tissue from my spine.  I will be writing about that experience. What is important here is that several days later I was able to push my rolling walker into the kitchen, take a frozen prepared meal out of the freezer, and heat it in a microwave oven.

That is not my customary dietary style. For years I have preferred a nutrient dense whole foods diet that excludes prepared foods, refined oils, and sugar. My lactose intolerance also means that I customarily limit dairy.   I do not cook in a microwave. By the third week after surgery, I was feeling the effects from eating the prepared foods and dreaming about the meals I would prepare for myself when I able to cook.

I was reading about food and health, especially chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases.  The autoimmune diseases with which I have been diagnosed are in remission, technically. That means that the disease activity in my body is too low to be detected by standard testing methods. However, I have been living with autoimmune diseases for more than 50 years. That means that I am one trigger away from a flare.  I tend to think of the autoimmune conditions as organic malware lurking in the background waiting for a single signal to launch an all out destructive attack on the systems of my body.

I also know that I am still living with chronic inflammation and pain. I am still living with unending fatigue. I sometimes experience nerve wracking brain fog.  I know that I am extremely photosensitive. By the first of March the need to protect myself from UV rays will require energy that I do not have. Each of these diminishes the quality of my life.

I am fighting back.  I believe that improving the quality of my life requires a complete dietary reset. I have decided to accomplish that reset using the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). Transitioning to a Paleo dietary style requires that I continue to avoid processed foods, refined oils, sugars, and dairy while also avoiding grains and legumes.

The AIP then helps to identify other foods that may be problematic for me by eliminating them for at least 30 days and then allowing for their gradual reintroduction. The foods that must be eliminated for at least 30 days are eggs, dairy, nightshades, nuts and seeds.

My approach to implementing the AIP will be guided largely by the work of Sarah Ballantyne, PhD.  In her blog ( she generously provides all the information that I, or anyone else, needs to start an AIP lifestyle

AIP ReverseI have also invested in Ballantyne’s books. The first book that I am reading is The Paleo Approach,. This book is not just for people who have autoimmune diseases. It is for anyone who wants to understand how the foods we eat, and our lifestyle behaviors influence our health.

I want to improve my own health. I must try to understand the science behind AIP. I must implement the approach in a way that fits my personal circumstances. I am thinking of it as “AIP for One – On a budget.” I have a lot of work to do.

The work is not just for me. The secondary audience for this work includes those people with whom I share an inherited  propensity toward chronic disease. For us, this may be more than a simple dietary reset. It may be an AIP epigenetic reset. Another audience for this work is anyone who is interested in Ballantyne’s presentation of the contemporary scientific literature dealing with the impact of food, and lifestyle on health.

I would love to discuss this book with people. Let me know if you would be interested in reading this book and joining in the discussion.





The Diagnosis is In

I have a cyst on my spine. Surgery to remove it planned for next month. I hope that the surgery will reduce my pain and my neurological deficits.

The cyst is probably associated with the spondylolosthesis ( discussed in previous blogs.

There are some thoughts specific to me. I have decided to take a risk as a patient. My surgeon is leaving town the next day. I am trusting his partners to care for me during the initial recovery period. This decision is also based on my past surgical experiences: so far, so good.

I am also prepared for the idea that there will be a fusion surgery in my future. I hope that once they are inside my back next month, they don’t decide that the more a complex surgery is required immediately. Recovery from fusion requires some planning.

As a health educator I wonder how wide spread these issues are among my kin. My back woes started at birth. I am not the only member of my kin group born with the spinal defects that have become more painful and debilitating as I age. I wonder how many younger kin were born with the same defects and how they are being helped to avoid the most negative consequences. It is time to talk about better spine health for future generations.



Practicing What I Preach

As a health educator I encourage people to get routine medical exams and tests. I try to practice what I preach.  I understand how difficult routine health checks can be for people with certain chronic illnesses because we often live in the land of urgent care.  I spent the spring and summer of 2017 in that land fighting allergic reactions and infections that interfered with my ability to breathe.  Breathing has a top-level priority.


The last infection left fluid trapped in my middle ear. The urgent care physician prescribed antibiotics and gave me a referral to otolaryngology. By the time I got to the exam room of the specialist, the fluid was out of my ear and the infection was gone. He insisted that it had never been there. The arrogance and the flawed logic ticked me off and that visit did not go well. Nevertheless, he diagnosed my hearing loss from my speaking volume and sent me off with the audiologist.


She thought that I might qualify for a used hearing aid at $25.  I am not quite that poor. Since then, I have been fielding calls from aggressive hearing aid sales representatives. Tomorrow, I finally have an appointment with a group that accepts my insurance.


I love this time of year! The angle at which UV rays from the sun are hitting the earth at this latitude means that this photosensitive woman can just get up and leave the house without taking loads of protective measures. THIS MEANS THAT MY NEIGHBORS ARE NOT ABLE TO SYNTHESIZE D3 FROM EXPOSURE TO SUNLIGHT. THEY NEED TO SUPPLEMENT.


This is also the time of year when I schedule routine visits with my physicians. In the last few weeks I have seen my colon specialist, yet I still need to schedule a colonoscopy. I have seen my ophthalmologist. I see him twice a year, as everyone taking Plaquenil should. I have also seen my rheumatologist. I drive on the hated I95 to see him. This is not a time in my life to be considering a new physician in this specialty.


I have also had several treatments, transforaminal epidural steroid injections under fluoroscopic guidance, from my neurologist/interventional pain management specialist. Those injections are designed to reduce the pain, numbness, and weakness that I experience because of spinal stenosis.


Since those treatments were not successful, I got a second opinion from an orthopedist. I was really hoping that he would say that some of my symptoms were being caused by the arthritis in my hip and SI joints. The orthopedist agreed with the pain management specialist. They both believe I do have arthritis in these joints but that the pain, numbness, and weakness are being referred from my lumbar spine. They both agree that I need to see my neurosurgeon.  Today I got an MRI. On Friday I see my neurosurgeon. Yes, I am dancing and singing and making like happy.


Next week I see my PCP. He is an internist. I have already been by his office to have my blood drawn so we will be going over those results. There will be a full metabolic panel. And a full lipid panel. I cannot lie to him about what and how much I have been eating. The evidence will be staring us in the face. I will use my pain and lack of mobility as excuses and he will just give me the look. Sometimes knowing better does not mean doing better.  There will also be a CBC (with differentials), thyroid levels, and a 25OHD level. These numbers do have meaning. Together we check levels against behavior and set goals for the next checkup. This usually takes about 45 minutes.


The orthopedist gave me an order for aquatic PT and my evaluation appointment is set for December 14. I am excited about that without even a hint of sarcasm. I love the water. And the therapeutic pool at Sheltering Arms is a safe place for me to have PT. I have been out of the water for too long. I miss it. I need the exercise to keep my metabolic indices within the normal range.


I have no more doctor visits planned for 2017. I start again in January of 2018 with my annual visit to the gynecologist. The dental hygienist is the next health care professional in my date book.







Just asking?

Ancestry, Genealogy, and Identity: Bookmarking the Topic

Some days I believe that the most wonderful thing about retirement is that I can read on any subject that appeals to me. However, as a retired academic, I also appreciate the freedom that I have to stop reading on any subject without having to write a literature review or a grant proposal. I can explore a topic, decide that I have found what I need to know, and then move on. Sometimes I feel the need to leave a bookmark.

This blog represents a bookmark on the subject of my identity and ancestry. More specifically it is a bookmark on the fact that “Native American” is not a part of my identity and I have no problem with the ancestral origins estimates that I received from and Family Tree DNA. According to both reports 65% of my DNA is like that of people found in Africa and 35% is like that of people found in Europe. There is no mention of Native American in either report, not even a trace. (My daughter’s report on the other hand listed <1% Native American. I now refer to that as the “ubiquitous <1%.”)

I have thought about these test results and my reaction to them. Reading a blog post by TL Dixon helped me to organize my thoughts. Dixon writes, “Native American DNA is Just Not That into You” ( After reading this post I understand that there are at least three possible explanations for why Native American DNA did not show up in my test results.

  1. It is possible that I have no Native American ancestor(s).
  2. It is possible that these two DNA tests have problems assigning Native American ancestry to my genome.
  3. My “full blooded” Native American ancestor lived so far back in time that their DNA has “washed out”.

I have looked at the options that Dixon offers for people who believe that their Native American DNA is hiding in the test. I am very new to genetic genealogy. I am just starting to use chromosome browsers. So many of these options need skills that I do not yet have. I am not motivated to put in the effort these options require. Hence the need for a bookmark.

I did not grow up with Native American ancestry as part of my family folklore. Not a single one of my kin keepers ever told me that I had Native American ancestry. I did not expect the test results to show Native American ancestry and I was neither surprised nor disappointed.

Influenced by articles like “The Great Migration and African-American Genomic Diversity”(, I have come to believe that



…any Native American ancestor of mine lived so far back in time that they have washed out of my DNA and out of my identity. I JUST AIN’T THAT INTO NATIVE AMERICAN DNA.

Interacting with cousins about genealogy through social media, I have become keenly aware of the fact that many of them have socialization and life experiences that are different from mine. Some of them strongly identify with their Native American heritage. They put a lot of time and effort into finding their Native American DNA and they want the testing companies to do a better job. I think  Angelis Robinson-Smith presents this perspective poignantly in her blog post “Looking for me in the spit: DNA Testing” (

At this point I am more into the variations in our “identity” than I am into variations in our DNA. I don’t think like a genetic genealogist. I think like a sociologist. People who have paid attention to the recent rants in which I profess the importance of macro structural sociology will find this focus on identity amusing, if not hilariously funny. I just ask them to remember that I have always had a very strong interest in human development, including the development of self-concept and identity (I do tend to use the terms interchangeably).

My work as a Certified Family Life Educator and the strong emphasis that I have placed on training parent educators clearly reflect my interest in this area. To many people I am not a macro structural sociologist but rather the sociologist who promotes Effective Black Parenting and the Nurturing Parent Programs. There is no way for me to avoid considering the interplay between the increasing popularity of genealogy and identity development. In the end, I will probably write as much about group identity as personal identity.

Genealogy has become so popular that beginners like me can be overwhelmed not just by how much they need to learn but also by the massive amount of material in different media that offer to help them learn. I am going to take a break from reading about genetic genealogy by reading about identity and genealogy. I have reached a point where I would rather read Foucault than another attempt to explain the “autosomal X.”

I am starting with Paula Nicholson’s (2016) Genealogy, Psychology and Identity: Tales from a Family Tree ( This work deals with the psychological impact of knowing about our ancestors.

In this book I explore why the growing, and apparently addictive, activity involved in tracing family histories informs our sense of who we are and our place in both contemporary culture, geographical and historical space.

This is a bookmark!