Friday, October 16, 2015

Morris Keller's DNA Results

Morris Keller Jr.
Vacherie, La. circa 1995
Original held by Julia Dumas

Why DNA?

Genealogy is detective work. Most of it is theories and stories confirmed through documentation. As the paper trail dwindles, so do the leads. So, I wanted (no, I needed) to use DNA to fill in the blanks. It has verified my work, so that I don't look like a crazy lady who makes up stories about dead people.

About DNA:

First, know there are three types of DNA: autosomal, mitochondrial and paternal Y-DNA. Each reveals something different regarding one's ancestry. The autosomal DNA can reveal mixtures between people from different continents based on genetic mutations. This is how DNA companies estimate an ethnic breakdown. The mitochondrial DNA is passed down from mother to child and changes very slowly, so scientists can go pretty far back in human history showing where the mother's mother's mother's (etc.) line originated thousands of years ago. The same concept is the same for all men, who carry Y-DNA, but it reveals the history of the direct paternal line.

So, without further ado, here are the DNA result for Morris Keller Jr.

Autosomal DNA

Paternal Y-DNA 

By far the biggest surprise regarding Morris' DNA results was his European paternal haplogroup.

Paw Paw's paternal line is of European origin (specifically from Basque Country along the French/Spanish border). Before my research, I never knew of any European ancestry on the Keller line. However, there has been a claim of Native American ancestry through Pop Jules Keller, who was said to have worn a long braid and Native American attire. I also know that he had blue eyes, which is an interesting mixture of features for an American Indian.

Through my research, I learned that the Keller line does have European ancestry through Pop Jules' grandfather Michel Keller, who was the son of German immigrant Nicolas Keller and his wife Agnes Schexnayder, who was of German and Belgian descent. Michel had a sexual relationship with Celeste, an enslaved black woman who gave birth to a son, Noel Keller, Pop Jules' father.

Perhaps there is Native American ancestry along Pop Jules' mother's line. I know that the tribes of southern Louisiana were matrilineal, so in their tradition the child was always of the mother's nation. At least this is my theory regarding my blue eyed, hair-braided, bead-wearing Indian ancestor we call Pop Jules.

Mitochondrial DNA:
Paw Paw's maternal DNA confirmed African ancestry from the Yoruba and Fulbe (aka Fula/Fulani) peoples from the Sahel region. The Fulani people were nomadic herders who originated in Eastern Africa. They were traditionally Muslim. The Yoruba people lived in city-states in what is presently Nigeria. Yoruba culture has remained in the Carribean and southern Louisiana through Masquerade dancing, which we have incorporated in our Carnival festivities. 

On the Keller line, I have confirmed our family's link to both groups of people. At least two of our enslaved ancestors were of both of these nations. Pierre, a Yoruba man, was the husband of Charlotte, a Fulani woman. From their union they had at least three daughters, one of which was named Celeste, who was the grandmother of Pop Jules Keller.


  1. I wondered if he were your grandfather when he popped up in my matches!

  2. Bam, this is what I am concluding also. With my paternal grandmother being a Keller (with grey eyes and long black hair) we assumed it was Indian. I truly believe it is more of a mulatto trait(s). My mother and her sister attended Pop Jules funeral as young teens (or pre-teens) and remember him well (or at least his appearance). The blue eyes and braids are burned into their psyche till this day. They were told their grandfather (Jules brother) was part Indian but no one knew anything more. Strange times for sure. Good stuff cuz.......really look forward to meeting you one of these days!