DNA testing, and its uses thereof, have come a long way since its humble beginnings in the United Kingdom, where it was first used in forensic science to assist police detective work, and also to resolve paternity and immigration disputes.
Today, its use has an ever increasing impact on both individuals and the study of humanity as a whole. It has become an invaluable tool to assist in the branch of science concerned with identification of specific haplogroups and sub-branches of the various races of humanity. This branch of science is concerned with identifying not just WHO you are, but WHERE your family roots originate from.
As the testing becomes more refined, and test results become more specific and detailed, it is revealing truly startling revelations about humanity’s true history, and just how our ancestors’ journeys across various continents took us to where we are today.
Today’s advancements in DNA testing have allowed many people to finally discover their true & complete family history, something that only a few years ago would never have been possible. Among them is my cousin Leonard “Lenny” Trujillo of North Hollywood, Ca. Lenny, a retired postal worker, had longed to discover his complete and accurate identity and to uncover his familial history on a deeper level than what our family’s written records and oral history could provide. Thanks to recent advancements in DNA testing he was finally able to do so. Here is Lenny’s amazing and inspiring story, told in his own words:
The Sum of Me: by Leonard “Lenny” Trujillo
I was born a little brown boy behind the Orange County Curtain in 1951. The post war economy was booming, the cold war with the Soviet Union was on, and the right wing politicians of the season were holding their alleged anti-American hearings in Washington D.C.
Unfortunately, my sisters and I were not taught Spanish in the home, although both my parents and grandparents were fluent in Spanish. By the time I was in 3rd grade my family settled in Brea, California. Brea was almost entirely Anglo-American, some Hispanics and one or two Asians. Brea was a de-facto “Sundown Town” until the very late 1960’s, with no African-American students and no African-American residents.
For my elementary school project I actually wrote a letter to Rafael Trujillo, longtime dictator of the Dominican Republic, to inform him we shared the same surname. His office responded, and sent me 2 large volumes of the history of the Dominican Republic. Rafael was assassinated in 1965.
Although I was a confused kid, I always maintained interest and remembered the elder’s conversations. They spoke of a woman living on the same street as my grandmother, whom they said was Indian and a cousin of my grandmother. I heard my maternal 2nd great grandmother was born at the Los Angeles pueblo and she was Native. And there were the intriguing stories of my paternal ancestors from New Mexico who established the first settlement in Riverside, California in the 1840’s and were described as Native Americans.
I have always concluded much of my identity by looking in the mirror. The reflection is who I am, regardless of what contemporary society dictates. When I completed the 2010 census, I was again discouraged, as the choices did not satisfy my vision of identity. The census categories were: Hispanic, (Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicano), Puerto Rican, Cuban, other (Argentina, Colombia, Salvadoreno, Spaniard.
For race, I had the choice of White, Black, African-American, Negro, American Indian or Alaska Native, other, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Native Hawaiian, Samoan or Some Other Race. American Indians were further described as: a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America AND who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment. I checked “Some Other Race.”
If I had lived in 18th century New Mexico, I would have had an additional census
choice: that of genizaro. Genizaro’s were Native American individuals who were captured during inter-tribal warfare and sold or traded to either the Spanish or other Native Americans. The Genizaro was forced into servitude slightly different from outright slavery. These displaced peoples were forced to abandon their native culture and learn the Spanish language, the Catholic religion and were given Spanish surnames. This is where in about 1730 my family obtained the surname Trujillo.
The Genizaros were from the Hopi, Zuni, Comanche, Yuta, Apache, Navajo, Zia, Pawnee, Kiowa and Paiute Tribes. Families always pass down oral history. This oral history is mostly accurate, although somewhat romanticized. In 19th century California everyone’s great grandmother fed the infamous “bandits” Joaquin Murrieta and Tiburcio Vasquez. In 20th century Northern Mexico, everyone’s grandmother fed and everyone’s grandfather rode with the noted revolutionary Pancho Villa. My family had some tales that the Trujillo’s came from Spain, landed in St. Augustine, Florida and made their way to New Mexico. I also heard my 3rd great grandfather Lorenzo Trujillo was a Pueblo Indian from New Mexico.
I actually had cousins, aunts and uncles who proudly traveled to a region in Southern Spain named ‘Trujillo’ and returned with Trujillo family coat of arms, etc. This contradiction was difficult to accept as I heard these same relatives proudly proclaim Lorenzo Trujillo was Pueblo Indian. In his book, “A Colony for California”, Tom Paterson wrote on page 124, “Lorenzo Trujillo and some of the other settlers were said to have been Pueblo Indians, although one account says that Trujillo himself was a Comanche who had been captured as a child and raised by Pueblos.”
As these questions of identity consumed me, along came DNA breakthroughs. After viewing the National Geographic documentary ‘Journey of Man’, I was hooked. This documentary traced Man’s journey out of Africa: one branch headed south to India and on to Australia. After visiting Australia, the researchers returned to India to confirm the theory of shared DNA between some in India and the Aboriginal people of Australia.
Another branch traveled out of Africa, through the modern day Middle East, probably through Persia and into Central Asia. The researchers discovered a man living in Kazakhstan who carried the same DNA as those individuals who left the Middle East for Central Asia. At this point mankind split in 2 directions: west to Europe and east to Siberia. The people of Siberia crossed the frozen (now submerged) landmass of Beringia and entered the Americas through Alaska, some 10 to 15,000 years ago. DNA testing confirmed these are indeed my direct male ancestors.
I began my first DNA testing the Y chromosome. Only males carry the Y chromosome and this Y chromosome is passed down intact between generations from father to son to grandson. Haplogroups are the major branches of the human paternal family tree. Each haplogroup has many sub-branches.
My hapolgroup was determined to be Q1a3. This haplogroup is not exclusive to North and South America, as it is found in low frequencies in Asia and Europe. At this point, without further testing, I could not conclude my direct male ancestors were Native American. My DNA advocate stated, “Probably the most remarkable finding in your analysis is the extreme rarity of your DNA sequence as a whole …”. I thought I was the “Missing
My next test (the “Walk Through The Y Project”) hit the jackpot, which led a scientific breakthrough resulting in a New Native American Haplogroup. In addition, my population finder results are as follows: 43.69% West European, 37.73% Native American, 12.84% Middle East-North African and 5.74% East Asian-Siberian. Population Finder results are your personal genetic ancestry that reflects the last 100-2,000 years (about 4 to 80 generations).
Finally, my quest to find the sum of me advanced significantly with the assistance of continued scientific DNA discoveries. I am most grateful to pass this gift to my 7 year old grandson, who is only beginning to establish his identity. The DNA each of us carries is like the tree rings of our ancestors. Our mirror reflection is like the surface of the ocean or the Earth. Below that surface is another world waiting for exploration. As more individuals perform DNA testing, particularly those with Native American ancestry, we will get a clearer picture of our ancestor’s migration patterns in the Americas.
Confirming my Native American ancestry hasn’t altered me. My respect for Mother Earth endures, as does my respect for my ancestors and those descendants who are yet to be born. It just all makes a little more sense.
I actually appear in the video seen below: “Discover the Journey of You.” I can be seen discussing the findings of my DNA testing, and what it means to both myself and to science, at minutes 2:50 and 11:40-15:00.-Lenny Trujillo