Not unless your ancestors owned mine

Solveig Whittle
Woodinville, WA

In 1992 I moved to Seattle and began working at a new job. The first week I saw in the company email roster that someone else had the same last name as I did. I dialed his extension and introduced myself as a new employee. My last name is not common here, my father was born in England. I said, excitedly, “Maybe we’re related!” He said, “Not unless your ancestors owned mine.” The conversation ended there, pretty much. We haven’t spoken since. Now, we live a few miles away, in the same town. We both have sons who attend the same elementary school, in fact, in the same grade. As far as I know, our sons don’t know they are related. But a few years ago, I saw his son at a fund raiser, and I swear, our boys share some physical traits that I recognize from my father’s family. I know the story: my family tree split generations ago and some came to Louisiana. They probably became slave owners. I am fairly certain he is my geographically closest living relative. But this issue of race keeps us apart, and it makes me sad.

 

Not unless your ancestors owned mine

Solveig Whittle
Woodinville, WA

In 1992 I moved to Seattle and began working at a new job. The first week I saw in the company email roster that someone else had the same last name as I did. I dialed his extension and introduced myself as a new employee. My last name is not common here, my father was born in England. I said, excitedly, “Maybe we’re related!” He said, “Not unless your ancestors owned mine.” The conversation ended there, pretty much. We haven’t spoken since. Now, we live a few miles away, in the same town. We both have sons who attend the same elementary school, in fact, in the same grade. As far as I know, our sons don’t know they are related. But a few years ago, I saw his son at a fund raiser, and I swear, our boys share some physical traits that I recognize from my father’s family. I know the story: my family tree split generations ago and some came to Louisiana. They probably became slave owners. I am fairly certain he is my geographically closest living relative. But this issue of race keeps us apart, and it makes me sad.

Not unless your ancestors owned mine

Solveig Whittle
Woodinville, WA

In 1992 I moved to Seattle and began working at a new job. The first week I saw in the company email roster that someone else had the same last name as I did. I dialed his extension and introduced myself as a new employee. My last name is not common here, my father was born in England. I said, excitedly, “Maybe we’re related!” He said, “Not unless your ancestors owned mine.” The conversation ended there, pretty much. We haven’t spoken since. Now, we live a few miles away, in the same town. We both have sons who attend the same elementary school, in fact, in the same grade. As far as I know, our sons don’t know they are related. But a few years ago, I saw his son at a fund raiser, and I swear, our boys share some physical traits that I recognize from my father’s family. I know the story: my family tree split generations ago and some came to Louisiana. They probably became slave owners. I am fairly certain he is my geographically closest living relative. But this issue of race keeps us apart, and it makes me sad.

Tweets by Michele Norris