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From Basque shepherd to Bantu warrior, a journalist ventures deep into his family’s origins

Three Mozingo generations together: Joe Mozingo with his son and father.
Three Mozingo generations together: Joe Mozingo with his son and father.
Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times © 2010

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Delving into your family origins can be exciting or even shocking. For Los Angeles Times reporter Joe Mozingo, it was the latter. He set out to trace his father’s lineage and the origin of “Mozingo” and discovered something rather surprising. Instead of the Italian or French Basque origins for his family name, intensive genealogical searches showed the actual origin of his family: Africa. Mozingo’s ancestor, an indentured servant living in Virginia in the 1600s, started an intricate lineage that has been in the United States for 293 years. The mystery that long shrouded the true family tree of the Mozingos lays with 200-year old census and court case records, that show how his ancestor was among the few to win freedom in the courts. But within his journey for answers, he unearthed complex emotions towards race and slavery within his own family and other relatives living in the U.S. Mozingo shares his genealogy and experiences in three part series in the Los Angeles Times.


Joe Mozingo, LA Times staff writer who for more than a year traveled across the country meeting other Mozingos and researching his ancestry in courthouses and libraries and online.