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.

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