Experts help Local 10 News' Betty Davis peel away layers of her past

See what part of DNA tests most surprised chief certified meteorologist

By Calvin Hughes - Anchor, Troy Blevins - Graham Media Group

MIAMI - You know her as Local 10 News' chief certified meteorologist, but like everyone, what is visible to the public eye hardly scratches the surface of who we are.

"I would like to know that part about what's in me. Who I am. Where I came from," Betty Davis said. "I really want to know that."

Marlis Humphrey, president of the Florida State Genealogical Society, and Diahan Southhard, a DNA consultant, teamed up to help Davis peel away the layers of her past.

"Are there any stories about your family that you remember?" Humphrey asked.

"I don't have a lot of oral history about my mother's side of the family, but my father's side..." Davis said.

"You do, yeah," Marlis asked.

Much of that history comes from her father's sister, her aunt Margaret Davis.

"She was pretty certain that her mother was Native-American," Betty Davis said.

Betty Davis had also been told that past relatives on either side of the family likely came through the slave trade from Africa.

"In Betty's case, we found out, not surprisingly, that her maternal line is from Africa, directly from Africa," Southhard said.

In fact, her DNA tests came back 76 percent African, 23 percent European and 1 percent Asian, but the part that surprised her the most? Of that European background, she's 8 percent Irish.

She was also surprised to learn there were no Native-American markers in her DNA. Southhard explains how that can happen.

"There are a lot of reasons why you don't have the genetics of a particular ancestor, because you got 50 percent of your DNA from you dad and 50 percent from your mom, but the other 50 percent of what was theirs is lost. It's gone," Southhard said. "So what if the Cherokee DNA marker that Betty's family had was in that part she didn't get?"

On her mother's side of the family comes the part Davis suspected. Her third-great-grandfather Henry was a slave dating back to the 1860s in Webster County, Georgia.

"There was a slave owner, James Jowers, who has 41 slaves that are living in eight slave houses, and Henry would have been about 15 years old at that time," Humphrey said.

Her relative is actually listed as property in the slave holder's will, with a value of $600.

But Davis was happy to learn that there are relatives on her father's side of the family who she didn't know existed.

"Genetically, it's a solid connection," Southhard said.

"I'm going to look through this and see who the cousins were that I was matched with, and I think I may try to reach out and see who they are," Davis said.

As the one sharing her story, Local 10 News' Calvin Hughes was also stunned to learn that, after going back thousands of years, he and Davis are connected.

"They do have a common origin, and if we were able to go back those thousands of years, we can find the ancestor they both share," Southhard said.

"This is good stuff. Thank you," Davis said. "I'm glad I did this."

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