Incest? Endogamy? Pedigree Collapse? What even is that?!Family Tree Problems briefly explained.
(These are just some of the inevitable things genealogists uncover, and today we are going to distinguish between these three terms.)
Incest occurs when close family members have a romantic relationship. That could be brother and sister, father and daughter, mother and son, or grandparent and grandchild. Below is an example of how this can show up in some family trees.
Endogamy is defined as the tradition of marrying only within the boundaries of a local “community, clan, or tribe”. It is also a term used to define cousins marrying cousins. This practice was used as a form of resistance against integration with “outsiders.” There was a time that this was an acceptable custom in many cultures and ethnic groups around the world. Today, we now know that such practice may lead to an increase in genetic diseases and in extreme cases possible group extinction. To determine whether your family tree is endogamous, the practice would have to be continuous throughout many generations.
Pedigree Collapse, a term used by genealogists to describe one or few isolated incidents of people in family trees that share an ancestor and marry each other. Whether intentionally or not, this event causes a “collapse” on the family tree. An example would be 1st or 2nd cousins marrying each other as they would share the same grandparent or great grandparent.
In short: Incest occurs when close family members have a romantic relationship and shows up in your family tree when they have children. Endogamy happens when cousins marry cousins repeatedly over many generations. A Pedigree Collapse occurs in your family tree when two people marry and share the same ancestor which can at times be an isolated event or occur a few times.
Side Note: There are many endogamous populations around the world. So, if you’ve taken a DNA test and believe you come from an endogamous population, it is possible to have a “false match.” I will explain all about this in my next blog post!!!
( All ancestor chart examples were made by Jasmin Kateri using tools in the program MacFamilyTree 9. )
Like most genealogists, my interest in the field of genealogy peaked during my investigation into my Dominican Ancestry. I had started with minimal information given to me by my late grandmother, family members and a few documents my relatives shared with me. After an almost yearlong investigation, I was able to trace my family lineage back seven generations. Doing so has been one of my most significant accomplishments. This journey has allowed me to connect with some incredible people along the way, and to be able to tell my children where they come from is priceless.
Here are some helpful tips to consider when investigating and unwrapping the jewel that is your Dominican Ancestry.
If you can, talk to your relatives.
Your relatives will have important information that can guide you in your investigation. Inform them of your intentions to research your family lineage. Make a note of important dates, names, and events. Ask for pictures and other relevant documents that you can extract information.
Search through databases dedicated to Dominican Genealogy
In my research, I’ve utilized data collected and maintained by Mr. Marcos Heriberto Hernandez Brea, Coordinador de la Base de Datos for Proyecto Genealogico de Raises Quisqueya. I’ve enjoyed sharing some of my findings with Mr. Hernandez Brea and collaborated with this project in the Dominican Republic. You can find more information below, along with links to other helpful resources for Dominican Ancestry.
Take your time.
Websites like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org are helpful resources for searching through records from the Dominican Republic. Keep in mind the information you are looking for may not be indexed and readily available using the search engine alone. These websites make their collections accessible to the public to allow researchers to search through thousands of scanned records by locality.
You might not find what you’re looking for, but don’t give up hope.
Some records may not be published online. For researchers in the states, that can make it somewhat challenging to fill in gaps from specific time periods, but don’t lose hope. Records and other collections can still be published and shared with the public. Patience is key. It’s also important to note that the spelling of names, especially those on handwritten documents, may differ from how you spell it. It does not mean the information is not out there, so it’s worth looking up different variations of the name you’re researching.
Persevering your Dominican Family History is a beautiful thing!
I had so many questions I wished I could’ve asked my grandmother when she was alive. My children will surely have some of the same questions about who they are, where their family is from, and why they look the way they do. Answering these questions can instill a strong sense of self in my little ones. How ever you chose to preserve your family history, whether it be a book or elaborate family tree, it should be a piece of your heritage that can be passed down and expanded for generations to come.
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” —Marcus Garvey
For years it’s been common family knowledge that my great grandmother was Taino from Puerto Rico; however, for centuries, scholars believed that the Taino people were extinct after the invasion of Christopher Columbus. How could this be a possibility? Even without the backing of science, my family stuck by this claim.
Mama Rosa. August 2nd, 1935
A few years ago, geneticist Maria Nieves-Colon led a scientific study that confirmed Taino DNA is still very much alive and flourishing through the veins of many decedents of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands. Thanks to the recent advancements, my AncestryDNA results showed that I carried 15% of Indigenous DNA. Those who know me well know that I can become obsessed with research, so I decided to investigate the minute I got my results.
The word ‘Taino’ translated means “Good People” and references to the Arawakan Natives that settled in the Caribbean from South America. The land was blessed, abundant and the Taino’s’ respected it. As inhabitants of their land, they mastered agriculture and cultivated crops like yuca, corn, and sweet potato. According to historical accounts, Taino’s lived their lives as happy, gentle, and friendly people. They were skilled craftsmen and invented things like the hammock and the canoe. The communities were inclusive, self-sufficient, and thriving before Christopher Columbus’s arrival and Spanish rule.
Columbus’s first unintentional stop in the new world was the Bahamas, where he had his first encounter with the Taino people. Columbus quickly noticed the gold the Tainos were donning and went back on his ship, the Santamaria, searching for more. The Santamaria crashed on the northern part of the island Hispaniola which today is known as the Dominican Republic. Columbus left several men on the island to set up a colony and sailed back to Spain, where the Europeans celebrated him. The Spaniards and the Taino’s relationship started out promising as Taino’s nature was generous.
“They will give all that they do possess for anything that is given to them, exchanging things even for bits of broken crockery. They were very well built, with very handsome bodies and very good faces…. They do not carry arms or know them…. They should be good servants.”– Excerpt from the Diary of Christopher Columbus.
After some time, the relationship between the Tainos and the Spaniards began to disintegrate. Spain was quick to claim the islands that Columbus invaded and gave him the title of governor. Columbus returned to Hispaniola with ships to fill with gold for the king and queen of Spain. Instead, he found a local chief had murdered the men left behind. The Taino chief in charge was said to own an abundance of gold on his land and war quickly broke out between the two groups. Columbus and the Spanish conquistadors overpowered the Tainos and drained the land of its gold.
The Taino way of life was dying, and enslavement resulted in the inability to sustain life quality. Taino’s over the age of 14 were forced to give gold to the Spaniards, and those did not produce enough gold were brutally punished. If the Taino people were not dying at the Spaniards’ hands, they would die from the diseases they had carried over for which they had no immunity.
“They forced their way into native settlements, slaughtering everyone they found there, including small children, old men, pregnant women, and even women who had just given birth. They hacked them to pieces, slicing open their bellies with their swords as though they were so many sheep herded into a pen. They even laid wagers on whether they could slice a man in two at a stroke, or cut an individual’s head from his body, or disembowel him with a single blow of their axes. They grabbed suckling infants by the feet and, ripping them from their mothers’ breasts, dashed them headlong against the rocks. Others, laughing and joking all the while, threw them over their shoulders, shouting, ‘Wriggle, you little perisher.'”-A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolome De Las Casas.
Within a few decades of the European invasion, more than 90% of the Taino population was exterminated. Some natives fled to the mountains to escape Spanish rule, but many fell victim to the Spaniards’ advanced weapons. Many Tainos starved and committed suicide at alarming rates, including killing their children so they would not have to be subjected to the enslavement and horrendous acts carried out by the Spaniards in the name of Christianity.
The actions of Christopher Columbus and his men were criticized by many in his colony. Word got back to Spain about the tortuous and barbaric acts Columbus used to govern Hispaniola. He was found guilty of crimes against the Spanish and the Natives. Christopher Columbus was arrested and sent back to Spain. He was no longer permitted to visit Hispaniola. He had one last voyage in the Caribbean before dying in prison.
A study funded by the National Science Foundation found that 61 percent of all Puerto Ricans have American Indian mitochondrial DNA. This is believed to be a link to Taino ancestry. So traces of Taino can be found engraved on stones in mountainous reigns of the Caribbean and can be found embedded in the DNA of many descendants of the Caribbean.
The terrorist reign of Christopher Columbus left a devastating impact on the entire population of the Taino people. However, it did not put a dent on the Taino impact or influence in our culture today, and on a day like today, it should not be overlooked. The English language has incorporated words that come from the Taino origin. Words like hurricane, canoe, tobacco, and hammock all derive from the Taino language. Inventions of the Taino’s are still used today. The generosity and giving nature of the people in Boriquén is still alive today. Christopher Columbus was not a hero. He was a terrorist. This why I will always choose to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day.