I enjoy genealogy because it takes me on new life adventures and experiences. This year it led me to an exciting guest appearance on the reality show Relative Race.
Relative Race airs on BYUtv and is in its sixth season. Contestants race across the country on a 10-day adventure in search of relatives they have never met, in hopes they will reach the finish line first and win a $50,000 grand prize.
Here’s how I was contacted for the show. My family and I have tested with multiple DNA services that offer online accounts which I check regularly for new interesting matches. One day I noticed a new AncestryDNA match for my father with a unique match name — 6RelativeRace20a. The match had no family tree attached and so with no information on how we might be related I didn’t reach out. A few days later my cousin Velarie who has also tested shared that she too matched 6RelativeRace20a and had been contacted by a genealogist who was working on behalf of the match to connect with biological family. Velarie and I are Harvell descendants. We figured out our match was too, identified her biological parents in our Harvell family tree and shared our findings with the genealogist.
I googled Relative Race and discovered that it was a reality TV show. Turns out 6RelativeRace20a was Anitra Canty Louis of Team Blue. Next thing you know, Relative Race producers called me letting me know Anitra had been selected as a contestant and inviting me to appear in the Day One episode of the upcoming season. I started watching Season 5, quickly became hooked, and happily agreed to appear on the show.
Preparing for the show. A lot of the prep happened with show producers over texts and phone calls leading up to our episode, the day one challenge. At some point they communicated the day they would be filming with me and I took the day off. The film crew arrived around 8 in the morning. They filmed me meeting Anitra and her husband Paul for the first time. We spent an amazing day together, touring Washington DC. Then they were off the next morning for their Day Two challenge. It was super fun to film our episode and watch myself on TV with my family. Anitra declaring me a “genealogy master” during the episode unleashed a fun-loving stream of texts and social media messages from family and friends. As we watched the episode my sons teased me mercilessly, telling me I was a terrible actor. But I was not acting; I was embracing my role as the family historian!
Connecting with new family. My passion for genealogy is driven by connecting with new family members and figuring out how we are connected and related. Anitra and Paul are wonderful people. It’s amazing the similarities you uncover with relatives you never met. When I met Anitra I started sharing our family history, about how education is a strong family value. I learned that Anitra is an educator. I also learned that her husband is Haitian just like my wife. We shared an instant connection and familiarity when we met which can only be explained by the fact that we were family.
Our shared Harvell family history. It’s been heartwarming to watch Anitra connect with and meet her biological family over the course of this season. I have traced our shared Harvell family history back to my third great grandfather William B. Harvell who helped to establish a school in Huntersville, NC (outside of Charlotte) where many of my ancestors were educated. William was born enslaved to William Robinson around 1828 and named Buck at birth by his enslaved parents Charles and Hannah. When Robinson died in 1837 Buck was willed to John Nanz Blythe. Post-civil war, Buck Blythe became a well-known black politician in the Charlotte area and a founding member of Miranda Presbyterian Church. By 1870 he’d taken the name William B. Harvell and passed his new last name on to his children.
Why you should watch Season 6. Reality Race is not your typical reality show that engineers conflict and drama amongst cast members to attract viewership and boost ratings. This is a feel-good show rooted in the importance of family. Over the course of this season I have grown deeply invested in each team’s stories of family discovery. When one episode ends, I can’t wait for the next one to air. Anitra’s journey to connect with her biological parents has been a particularly powerful one for me to experience. She courageously opens herself up and shares feelings of vulnerability and doubt that burden many adoptees. She also shares her feelings of profound thankfulness to be raised by her amazing adoptive parents. Her journey reminds all of us to maintain a broader view of family. There’s the family that you are born into and there’s the family that raises you. Because of Relative Race, Anitra now has the gift of both.
Watch Relative Race online at https://www.byutv.org/relativerace, check out Anitra and Paul’s After the Race podcast, and remember to check your DNA results for Relative Race matches. Who knows, maybe it will lead to an appearance on Season 7!