Is There a Mexican President in My Black Family Tree?

Tracing Your Roots: A family legend includes assassination, a daring escape and love across cultures.

Venustiano Carranza
Venustiano Carranza Wikimedia Commons

Although family lore is that one of Jesús Carranza’s sons married Effie May Taylor, keep in mind that Jesús Carranza Neira, whose son was Venustiano, was born in 1813 and Effie May Taylor was born in 1906, which would make this Jesús Carranza’s son significantly older than Effie at the time of their marriage. It is possible that Effie married a grandson of Jesús Carranza rather than one of his sons—in fact, one of Jesús Carranza Neira’s sons was named Jesús Carranza Garza—so be sure to extend your research to grandchildren in the event that Effie married into the Carranza family through a different generation. But first be sure to check your grandmother’s birth certificate for the information on her father.

Finally, we encourage you to take a test to analyze your autosomal DNA. This will reveal your percentages of various geographical ancestries, including Native American, sub-Saharan African, European and, within European, various subregions. Mexicans, on average, have much higher percentages of Native American ancestry than either white or black Americans. A high percentage of Native American ancestry would tend to confirm the stories passed down in your family, or at least suggest that someone from Mexico, even if not a president or his descendant, is on your family tree!

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is also the editor-in-chief of The Root. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Send your questions about tracing your own roots to TracingYourRoots@theroot.com.

This answer was provided in consultation with Eileen Pironti, a researchers from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Founded in 1845, NEHGS is the country’s leading nonprofit resource for family history research. Its website, AmericanAncestors.org, contains more than 300 million searchable records for research in New England, New York and beyond. With the leading experts in the field, NEHGS staff can provide assistance and guidance for questions in most research areas. They can also be hired to conduct research on your family. Learn more today.

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