Vy Higginsen: Pioneer, Producer, Publisher
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Photo of Vy Higginsen: G. N. Miller

Vy Higginsen DNA Project

Who Was She?

Ana Payne West

All her adult life, my grandmother wore a velvet scarf around her head. When she died in 1978, I looked at her lying in the casket and was stunned to see the scarf removed and that her hair hung to her waist. I realized I didn't know who she was. I was full of all kinds of questions I wished I had asked her before this day.

Photo above: Ana Payne West, Vy's grandmother.

More Questions

Robert West

Neither did I know many of the people who attended the funeral, including some relatives from Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia. Subsequently, my husband and I arranged a family reunion. But still there were questions: Who were my grandmother's mother and father, Robert and Mary West?' Did Robert West have any have any sisters and brothers?

Photo above: Vy's great great grandfather, Robert West.

Go Find the Others

Reverend James O. West

The oldest member of the clan, James O. West turned to me and said, "Go find the others." I took him seriously and searched for 25 years. A genealogist told me that I should stop searching because the records we needed had been burned up in the civil war.

Photo above: Rev. James O. West.

More Surprises in the Bloodline

Children of Alexander West

To my surprise, a DNA test revealed I don't have any Native American blood, however I do have 10% Asian, 33% European ancestry and 43% African ancestry.

Photo above: children of Alexander West (Robert West's great grandson).

Family Tree DNA: Connect Family BranchesClef Note

Beginning the Adventure

DNA Cousins

A friend told me about Family Tree DNA, one of the world's leading authorities in the field of genetics. I learned that I could find other people with the name West who might be looking for others. I joined the West Family DNA project on their website. Shortly thereafter, I received a telephone call from Marion West, a cattle rancher in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. "Hi, Kiddo," he said. "I think we're cousins." And so the adventure began.

Photo above: Joyce Higginson Davis, Marion West, Vy Higginsen and DNA cousins.

Join the Adventure

Geraldine Higginson

If you would like to learn more about your ethnicity or more about people who share your surname and to whom you might be related, please visit Family Tree DNA.

—Vy Higginsen

Photo above: Mrs. Geraldine Higginson, Robert West's great granddaughter and Vy's mother.

Vy Higginson Genealogy Timeline
1978 Grandmother Anna Payne West dies sparking Vy’s curiosity about her people.
1980 The West family holds a reunion in Richmond, Virginia where the oldest male relative, James O. West gives a mandate to Vy to "find the others."

Second genealogist hired comes to a dead end because the records have been burned.

2005 Vy takes DNA test expecting to discover Native American ancestry, and discovers she has none.

Vy takes surname DNA test from cousin James West which establishes a link to the West Family DNA project. James West, Vy, and their family become the first African American family to enter his white family.

2007 Vy gets a call from a cattle rancher named Marion West saying that he's her cousin.

Marion West and family invite Vy to visit the other DNA cousins in Poplar Bluff, Missouri,

New York Times covers Marion West and his wife and son's visit to Harlem. Gospel for Teens Choir performs for them.

Vy and Marion West are interviewed on Today show by Matt Lauer.

Vy and Marion appear on NBC Nightly News.

60 Minutes airs segment titled "Unlikely DNA cousins" featuring Vy, Marion West, and the Gospel for Teens Choir.

2008 Oprah Winfrey special covers Vy’s visit to Poplar Bluff, Missouri to dine with her DNA cousins for the Martin Luther King Day Special, "The Dream Lives."
2010 Family reunion widens to include others in the West family DNA project. They meet in Richmond, Virginia.
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"I found my family roots through Family Tree DNA. You can too." —Vy Higginsen

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