Jordan’s Family History

During Family History Month, it seemed right to revisit Jordan Carroll’s story.

Jordan always loved his family’s stories. From a young age, he’d soak up anecdotes from relatives. Growing up in California, he was removed from his roots back east, but he persisted in learning more about those who came before him.


“I always wanted to know more about my family history to have a better sense of myself,” Jordan said.


Where Records Fail

As he got older, he moved beyond just family lore and began digging through old documents. But like many African Americans hunting for family history, because of the scourge of slavery, records eventually failed him.


“For a lot of African Americans we do not have those records from before the mid-1800s,” he said.


The paper trail just stops at a certain point, but that’s when Jordan realized something else.


“I’m carrying records inside me, in my DNA,” he said.


Slavery and Family History

Using 23andMe, Jordan ultimately connected to a white relative he never knew he had, Tom Lawton. That connection helped reveal more of his family’s history, and his family’s connection to a plantation in the south. Jordan finally traveled to meet Tom in person, and together they visited the old plantation grounds where their common ancestor had a child with an enslaved woman


“History can be a burden,” said Tom. “It can make life complicated. But it can also bring all sorts of meaning and context to life.”


Acknowledging the past, one that includes uncomfortable truths is important, he said.


“There’s this notion of truth and reconciliation, but you can’t be any reconciliation about the issues unless there is an acknowledgment of the truth.”


For Jordan uncovering this bit of family history was important, offering him a deeper sense of where he came from and what his ancestors endured.


Check out his story here.