Monday, July 17, 2017

DNA Links Adopted Child to Jesuit Slave

DNA kits were one of the Christmas gifts I gave to my husband, Jerry, and my daughter Dana. I was in Cuba when an email was sent on April 12, 2017 to me by Judy Riffel, the lead genealogist for the Georgetown Memory Project. I arrived home on April 16th  which was Easter Sunday, so needless to say, I didn't check my email until the next day.

Judy stated a DNA kit I administered to D.J. was a match for Frank Campbell, a man who had been enslaved by the Jesuits of Georgetown and sold down river to a plantation owner in Louisiana. She also asked me if D. J. was a GU 272 descendant which refers to the 272 slaves sold and the name of the association that was formed by the descendants. To say I was stunned by this news would be an under-statement. 

I immediately sent Judy an email. I told her that D.J. was my daughter Dana Johnson and I gave her the kit for Christmas. Then I dropped the bomb: Dana is adopted!  Ordinarily, one would expect my child to be a GU 272 descendant because I am descendant. What are the odds that an adopted child who was born in California in 1971 would be a descendant of a GU 272 slave??? We are both GU 272 descendants but descend from different ancestors! My ancestors are Butlers and Dana's are Campbells. I learned of Dana's connection to Frank Campbell on April 17th, the same day an article by Rachel Swarms, published in the New York Times on April 17, 2016 which drew world-wide attention to Jesuit slave holdings in the USA.

Who is Frank Campbell? On March 12, 2017, Swarms wrote an article, "A Glimpse Into the Life of a Slave Sold to Save Georgetown," in the NYT. The article was about Frank Campbell who  was a part of the 1838 sale of  slaves to Jesse Batey. Frank's photo was discovered in a scrapbook that belonged to the Barrow family, a big-time slave-owning family. What is the significance of this photo? It is the only photo that exists of a Jesuit slave who was sold in 1838.

As soon as I learned of my daughter's connection to Frank Campbell, I asked Janette Birch, a member of the Butler Team, to assist me in researching the Campbells in California. I finally had a name to research! Janette sought assistance from Barbara Brazington, another Butler Team member, and a Campbell descendant was located in California.This Campbell is too old to be Dana's father but he has three sons. The father does not bear the Campbell name but his mother's maiden name is Campbell. Now all I need to do is to determine which of these sons was 20 years old in 1971. 

Another article was published about Frank Campbell on May 24, 2017, "Echoes of Injustices: The image of a slave brings closure to a Terrebonne parish family." This article provided me with the names of the descendants of Frank Campbell. My first reaction was to call, but I decided  a letter would be less intrusive. I picked one descendant to write who was featured in the article and on the TV news and sent a letter about my daughter and  her connection to their grandfather. I was a little anxious while I awaited a response. Finally, after an agonizing week, I received a response. The descendant agreed to make attempts to assist me in the search for Dana's father, but needed more information. I looked for my copies of the adoption documents and couldn't find them. They are around here somewhere, probably in one of the boxes in the garage where it  has been since my move to Spokane 12 years ago. I asked my daughter to send her copies and they are on their way. By the time this article is printed in the Digital Digest, I will have an answer. 


  1. Wow that is very interesting, especially the surname Campbell. I have a couple of generations of Nancy Campbells from North Carolina and Campbell county Tennessee. I think both were white and married Vanderpools before heading to Missouri

  2. Charles, If I can trace back far enough there may be a connection to your Campbells.

  3. Charles, If I can trace back far enough there may be a connection to your Campbells.