How an AncestryDNA test led to a mind-blowing discovery about his history.
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AncestryDNA

In 1838, Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to the state of Louisiana.

And Jeremy Alexander — an executive assistant at Georgetown University — is a direct descendant of one of them.

All screenshots via Upworthy.


Alexander learned of his lineage thanks to an AncestryDNA test that he took in 2014. It was an astonishing discovery and one that gave him a clearer picture of his identity and, more importantly, the history of his family.

"It's a good sense of mind just to be able to call their names," he says. "To identify, to make them human."

What followed is a moving story of self-discovery — for Alexander, for the descendants of the 272, and for Georgetown. Check it out right here:

"He took a DNA test and found out he is a descendant of slaves who were owned and sold by the institution he currently works for."

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, May 31, 2017

It all started when Alexander wanted to know just how far back his roots go.

Since 2008, Alexander and his wife, Leslie, started building their Ancestry family tree right after their son was born. They wanted to trace their family history back as far as they possibly could in order to learn the names of distant ancestors over multiple generations.

Alexander building his family tree on Ancestry.com.

He'd been curious about where he came from and would even ask his elders to tell him stories about relatives he was never able to meet.

So it was no wonder that Alexander was ecstatic when he was finally able to take the AncestryDNA test to dive deeper into his heritage. And Ancestry made it easy to connect with a family member Alexander had never met, who had some interesting information about her own story — that turned out to be part of his story as well.

"I received an email [through Ancestry] from Melissa Kemp, my third cousin, that I was a descendant of the Georgetown 272 slaves that were sold back in 1838," he remembers. He was the descendant of Anna Mahoney, who later became Anna Mahoney Jones, a woman who, with her son Arnold and her sister Louisa, were transferred from Alexandria down to Louisiana in this sale.

The Katherine Jackson Ship manifest with Anna, Arnold, and Louisa Jones' names on it. Seeing this document, and the age of her son Arnold, had a profound impact on Alexander because his son was the same age Arnold was at that time. Image from National Archives and Records Administration, via Ancestry.com

"I couldn't believe that she just told me this information. I had to tell her, I said, 'You have to understand, Melissa, that I actually work for Georgetown University. That's where you're talking to me right now. I'm sitting here in my office.' She was blown away."

Soon after Alexander learned about his connection to Georgetown, the university also decided to finally make amends for its history of slavery and offered a formal apology.

"We hosted two major events," says Marcia Chatelain, associate professor for the history department at Georgetown. "The first was to offer a formal apology to the descendants of the 272, and then we rededicated two buildings on Georgetown's campus."

It was a truly powerful event for Alexander and one that moved him to tears. No doubt the message that Georgetown delivered was one he'll remember forever.

"As we seek to more deeply understand our story," said Georgetown president John J. DeGioia, "we too deepen our understanding of our shared American story."

"We offer this apology for the sins against your ancestors."

A deeper appreciation of our past can undoubtedly light the way toward a more unified future.

"It was so powerful," Alexander says about the event. "It brought me to tears because I never expected to hear anyone apologize, to say they are sorry to me for their acts of slavery."

"I look at that as a wonderful first step in terms of a healing process," he adds.

"When you really look at the whole event," he continues "and especially even the messages after that, everything was about, 'Let's get through this healing process together.'"

Now, Alexander is looking to the future and hopeful that his son, Jesse, will grow up in a different world.

Unlocking the richness of his past has changed Alexander's approach to fatherhood for the better. Plus, with Georgetown setting a new tone for the future, he is less worried about the challenges Jesse might face.

"My son is really going to have a great sense of pride to know that he came from strong people," Alexander says. "All we can wish is that he will do better in America. And that's what we wish for Jesse, is to have that better opportunity."

Several years ago, you wouldn't have known what QAnon was unless you spent a lot of time reading through comments on Twitter or frequented internet chat rooms. Now, with prominent Q adherents making headlines for storming the U.S. Capitol and elements of the QAnon worldview spilling into mainstream politics, the conspiracy theory/doomsday cult has become a household topic of conversation.

Many of us have watched helplessly as friends and family members fall down the rabbit hole, spewing strange ideas about Democrats and celebrities being pedophiles who torture children while Donald Trump leads a behind-the-scenes roundup of these evil Deep State actors. Perfectly intelligent people can be susceptible to conspiracy theories, no matter how insane, which makes it all the more frustrating.

A person who was a true believer in QAnon mythology (which you can read more about here) recently participated in an "Ask Me Anything" thread on Reddit, and what they shared about their experiences was eye-opening. The writer's Reddit handle is "diceblue," but for simplicity's sake we'll call them "DB."

DB explained that they weren't new to conspiracy theories when QAnon came on the scene. "I had been DEEP into conspiracy for about 8 years," they wrote. "Had very recently been down the ufo paranormal rabbit hole so when Q really took off midterm for trump I 'did my research' and fell right into it."

DB says they were a true believer until a couple of years ago when they had an experience that snapped them out of it:

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

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Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

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