Ever since I saw my first episode of Who Do You Think You Are, the genealogy show where celebrities explore their family history, I’ve been intrigued about my own lineage.
My Dad’s side of the family has always been a bit of a mystery to me however I’m lucky enough to be able to trace my Mum’s side of the family back three generations.
During those WDYTYA episodes it was always interesting to see people establish a particular connection with one member of their family. In some cases they shared a similar interest, a belief, or an emotional bond after learning more about the life they led.
I’ve been wanting to find out more about where my family originates from. As cool as it is to identify being Guyanese, I know a decision was made long ago to come to those shores for a better life. From where has remained a mystery though.
My uncle who spends a lot of his time in Guyana was in London and paid my grandma a visit. As we were talking I thought it was worth a shot to ask and see what light he could shed on my great grandfather’s parents. Perhaps he knew where they originated from.
Without hesitating my uncle said: ‘Afghanistan.’
I had ideas where our family could possibly hail from, but Afghanistan would never have been one of my guesses. I’ve been so use to the idea that we’ve descended from different regions in India and in some way, he’s not wrong. Afghanistan was once part of India after all.
As the conversation continued I sat there, half listening, slowly gathering my thoughts. It made sense considering that the characteristics my great grandfather had were very similar to Afghani men. Aside from being tall, he was noticeably fair skinned and had gorgeous blue eyes. He always struck me as this ethereal being that had very different features from what you would typically associate with Indian men. All this time, his family hailed from a completely different region.
I felt a mixture of emotions the following day. I was shocked for sure, as I never really associated any branch of our family with what is now the Middle East. But at the same time it was quite hard to stomach considering all the conflict and the fighting that has torn the country apart.
You can’t help but feel an instant connection when you find out nuggets of information like this, especially when this is potentially home to your family. Then come the questions… Where in Afghanistan did my great, great grandparents come from? What did they do? What is left of their home now?
You also can’t help but become inquisitive. I wanted to learn everything about Afghanistan and especially what life was like during the time my great grandfather’s family would have been alive. Suddenly, all of my reading material now centred around this one place.
Its history makes for uncomfortable reading. Afghanistan has a long history of domination and conflict which has seen leaders killed, civilians fleeing and power struggles between those in power. Despite this though, there have been attempts to make improvements for civilians.
King Zahir Shah who took the throne after the assassination of his father wanted to modernise the region. During his rule there were efforts to foster growth with the international community and international advisers were recruited to help with further modernisation plans. Afghanistan’s first modern university was founded, free elections were introduced as well as a parliament, women’s rights, civil rights and universal suffrage.
Even with the US war in Afghanistan officially ending in December 2014, thousands of US-led NATO troops have remained there apparently to train and advise government forces. I’ve been a sceptic at the motives of the US being in Afghanistan given that there have been over 90,000 deaths since the war started. Even with a death toll this high, they’ve still been unable to fully defeat the Taliban – which was the aim of their invasion. I can’t help but think there are other motivations for them being there and if you have a read of this Global Research article you will learn more about the argument that supports the idea that the invasion itself was both illegal and morally unjustified.
As you can see, this discovery has made me somewhat invested in reading around the country, but more than anything I’m proud to have hailed from here. The people there have endured some of the most unstable and uncertain times and for this line of my family to have survived through it all is a huge blessing.
If there’s one thing I would urge this generation to do, it would be to utilise the elderly members of your family whilst you still have them around. They are the gateway to your starting point and who knows, you may be surprised with what you discover.
In order to find out more, I’ve discovered DNA tests for ethnicity and genealogical information. A great example of this in practice is when the hosts of The Real Daytime found out what regions of the world they came from.
It’ll be interesting to see where else (if at all) I hail from and I’ll definitely be sharing the results of this with you once I have them.