Unlocking the Past Through DNA Heritage Travel With Genealogist Nicka Sewell-Smith: 'Let's Go Together' Season 2, Episode 26

"The most incredible part of it is matching you to other people."

A portrait of Nicka Smith who is smiling and wearing a hat
Photo: Courtesy of Nicka Smith

It's safe to say we're all ready for a little adventure in our lives.

Be it big bucket list journeys or staycations to get to know your own hometown, we're here to celebrate the return of travel, including romantic getaways, family vacations, reunions, and everything in between. And we're honoring it all with new episodes of our podcast, Let's Go Together, which highlights how travel changes the way we see ourselves and the world.

In the first season, our pilot and adventurer host, Kellee Edwards, introduced listeners to diverse globe-trotters who showed us that travelers come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. From the first Black woman to travel to every country on Earth to a man who trekked to Machu Picchu in a wheelchair, we met some incredible folks. And now, in our second season, we are back to introduce you to new people, new places, and new perspectives.

On this episode of Let's Go Together, Edwards sits down with genealogist Nicka Sewell-Smith, who answers all our questions about tracing family histories through DNA testing and heritage.

"DNA has completely revolutionized genealogy and family history," Sewell-Smith said. "There really is no other way to say it. And I'm not even speaking in terms of the percentages or what's called admixture, where you're this percent from this location and this percent from that location. While that can be useful, the most incredible part of it is matching you to other people. And as someone who is a descendant of the formerly enslaved who comes from folks who were sold away from their families, it's the number one way that we can try to reconnect ourselves to the branches of our families that have been completely severed away from each other."

As for those who are unsure about diving deep into their genetic makeup and planning a trip around what they find, Sewell-Smith says take it slow and stay within your comfort zone.

"I always tell people to do what you're comfortable with. You should know all the ins and outs or the possible positives and negatives of anything," Sewell-Smith said. "It's something new, it's something emerging. That is going to scare people. And so, of course, if you don't feel comfortable, don't do it."

But if you do, Sewell-Smith says you'll likely see a big reward.

"The discoveries that I have made with genetic genealogy, with DNA, there is no way I could've made those discoveries in my family history without that," Sewell-Smith said. "It was literally the only way I was able to find those things."

Ready to hear more advice from Sewell-Smith? Listen as she shares it all on Let's Go Together, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Player.FM, and everywhere podcasts are available.

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