An interest in discovering our deep ancestry has been shared for several decades by scientists who ponder how our DNA may function to preserve critical memories. They have speculated that memories about survival in turn can help us and our families continue the journey our ancestral legacy has begun.
Perhaps we all have moments that prove the scientists' theories of ancestral memories: those transcendent moments of connectedness with our past, our roots, our families, and our homeland. Those are the moments that keep genealogists awake at night, tracking down one more document on a paper sojourn that rewards them with the riches of being a part of an incrementally increasing family.
Richard Mullins was a genealogy enthusiast, so I know he understood those feelings. Richard's ability to bring us along on his journey was one of the elusive qualities I have attempted to convey in Singing from Silence. Thanks to the eloquence of his lyrics, we can each experience a personal version of his journey.
". . .Once I went to Appalachia, for my father he was born there--
And I saw the mountains waking with the innocence of children
And my soul is still there with them, wrapped in the songs they brought. . ." Rich Mullins, Here in America
Documentation proves that Richard descends from this Letcher County Mullins line:*
Richard Wayne Mullins
John A. Mullins, Jr.,
John A. Mullins,
David C. Mullins,
Andrew Jackson "Andy" Mullins,
"Old" Booker Mullins (and I'll stop here for now).*
*Noted Mullins researcher Gary Mullins has kindly corrected the line described above to the best of his knowledge after thirty years of study of his family line, for which I am grateful.
"And the lady in the harbor
She still holds her torch out
to those huddled masses who are
yearning for a freedom that eludes them. . ." Rich Mullins, Land of My Sojourn
The new science of genetic genealogy has developed to the point of providing highly precise confirmation of deep--some call it "tribal" ancestry. For this we rely on the genes that have been transmitted from father to son on the yDNA segment. Follow this link to a description by Elizabeth Shown Mills of both methods: the paper trail, and the genetic techniques used by researchers to establish an individual's origins. This article was recently published in the New York Times:
The immediate connection Richard expressed in A Legacy, A Liturgy, and a Ragamuffin Band is with America, which all of us here can appreciate. The ancient connection Richard expresses in this album is to the country of Ireland; the future homeland, the Kingdom of Heaven.
“And on my way to early meeting
I heard the rocks crying out
I heard the rocks crying out”
--Rich Mullins, The Color Green
Genetic genealogy was not around while Richard was alive, but the yDNA of some of his male Mullins cousins has been tested. The results have not been without surprises, which you can read about here:
Gary Mullins is himself the administrator of this project. From these tests, we conclude that Matthew Mullins cannot possibly be part of Richard's paternal genetic line, due to a non-parental event in the early 1700's. Richard's not related to "Irish Jim" Mullins, either.
Each of us here in America mix many lines of national heritage. Of all the lines of ancestry he might have claimed, from French to English to Welsh or anything else, Richard consistently identified himself with Irish heritage. So with these surprises in his genetic roots, how Irish was Richard Wayne Mullins, really? It was a question native Irishman Steve Stockman had raised in his interview about Richard on the Homeless Man documentary:
Steve Stockman: "This idea that he was Irish. I've no idea where it came from. I think it was half Irish and half everything and half about five different things, which you can't be half of, but he wanted to have a claim to it. And I'm not sure if that was his name Mullins or whether it was coming to Ireland and seeing it and falling in love with some kind of mythology of it. But certainly "The Color Green" was an Irish song and the Chieftains I know influenced that, and he played the hammered dulcimer I'll bet like the Chieftains would if they'd ever seen a hammered dulcimer."
--The Homeless Man, Documentary
Was Rich Mullins truly a son of Ireland, or were his connections with the land and her stories simply the product of creative genius? The most recent research on his y-DNA line reveals a surprising answer to a great many questions about Richard’s Irishness, and his deep love of the mythology of Ireland. I’ll be discussing those questions and the most updated research findings in my next post.
*Thanks to Gary Mullins for his corrections.
* Thanks to my dear friend Beverly Walker for her encouragement.