Bermudian woman’s ancestry traced to Sierra Leone’s Mende people

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  • Photo by Ira Philip
Our pictures show activist Peggy Burns, (aka Nanapeggy), launching the search (for her mother Astoria's ancestors in Bermuda. Nanapeggy dramatized

    Photo by Ira Philip Our pictures show activist Peggy Burns, (aka Nanapeggy), launching the search (for her mother Astoria's ancestors in Bermuda. Nanapeggy dramatized "the moment of truth,' opening the envelope revealing her African DNA is rooted in the Mende ethnic group of southern Sierra Leone.

  • Photo by Ira Philip
Astoria Winona Ming nee Peniston, the mother of activist Peggy Burns, (aka Nanapeggy), is shown in this family photo. Astoria Winona Ming's African DNA is rooted in the Mende ethnic group of southern Sierra Leone.

    Photo by Ira Philip Astoria Winona Ming nee Peniston, the mother of activist Peggy Burns, (aka Nanapeggy), is shown in this family photo. Astoria Winona Ming's African DNA is rooted in the Mende ethnic group of southern Sierra Leone.

  • Photo by Ira Philip
Our pictures show activist Peggy Burns, (aka Nanapeggy), launching the search (for her mother Astoria's ancestors in Bermuda. Nanapeggy dramatized

    Photo by Ira Philip Our pictures show activist Peggy Burns, (aka Nanapeggy), launching the search (for her mother Astoria's ancestors in Bermuda. Nanapeggy dramatized "the moment of truth,' opening the envelope revealing her African DNA is rooted in the Mende ethnic group of southern Sierra Leone.


It was a rather solemn St. David’s Islander Peggy Burns who came to the fore in early December engrossed in an authenticity "roots" search with particular reference to her late mother Astoria Winona Ming or Peniston before she was married.

Peggy called on our help in locating Bermudians who are blood relatives of her mother. She was ecstatic when nearly thirty responded.

This social activist in the meantime had been in internet contact with the African Ancestry DNA organisation for help.

She was motivated by the belief that African people are an international racial family who share a common homeland, racial make-up, culture and destiny.

The DNA people dispatched by first-class mail results of their search. Peggy was almost ballistic when she gained possession of the results.

She dared not open the envelope, because she wanted to make a celebratory event of her discovery.

So she spared no expense inviting respondents to join her and other family members and friends at truly fabulous event at Landfall Restaurant in Hamilton Parish on Friday, January 3.

And, Landfall management and staff, outdid themselves with the complementing decor and laying on a Bermudian buffet including as starters fish chowder, soups and delicious Cassava pie.

Peggy, who is aged 64 (mature, as she put it), drew on all the drama she could command leading up, "to the moment of truth," revealing that, "my mother's ancestral roots are the Mende ethnic group of Southern Sierra Leone. You have made my evening complete and most enjoyable, and I trust that your lives have been enriched through our shared experience."

The entire event was video-graphed. Of special interest was Peggy's display of her mother's satin wedding dress.

It was in perfect condition, never dry-cleaned "because I wanted to preserve her DNA, and my plan is to take it to Sierra Leone to bury it, symbolising her return to her roots."

Next on the agenda was presentations by Africanists Denny Richardson, David (Lumumba) Hughes, Dr Muriel (Mama Afu) Wade-Smith, Tianja Bean and Ira Philip.

Young Queen Ashanti gave a powerful rendition of the song, ‘Rise’ which she composed.

Peggy's mother Astoria Winona was born January 2, 1915 and deceased on November 19, 1993.

She was a daughter of the late Lucy (Dolly) Peniston and Stanley Smith.

She had three siblings: Ismay (May) Pauline Peniston, Dorothy (Baby) Peniston and Charles Leroy (Peppy) Peniston.

Astoria hailed from Lion's Rock, Harrington Sound, Smith's parish. She attended Hattie Burgess' School at Flatts Hill.

On August 21, 1941 Astoria married Earl Moorland Vincent (Doc, Captain) Ming, and that union produced three children, Ernest Edward (Professor Eddie) Ming, Peggy Ann Winona (née Ming) (Gaddy, Penny, Poppa) Peniston, deceased, Morris Eugene (Papers) Peniston, deceased and Lois (Pie) Simmons, née Peniston of Somerset.

Astoria was an active member of the Hibiscus Garden Club; a Woman Aglow attendee; and a choir and missionary board member of Evening Light Tabernacle.

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Published Jan 12, 2013 at 7:31 am (Updated Jan 12, 2013 at 7:31 am)

Bermudian woman’s ancestry traced to Sierra Leone’s Mende people

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