Monday, April 14, 2008

Prologue - It was Only a Little "m"

In that first breath of exuberance on finding my great great grandmother Francis Thacker, I failed to notice it – that little “m”. In fairness, it was sloppily written, I wasn’t looking for it, and my excitement was so high that my failure to notice was completely understandable. But it was there - sitting patiently in the 1880 census waiting for me to come and find it.

In the 1870 census, the “m” didn’t exist, so there would have been no way for me to notice something that wasn’t there. It wouldn’t be until I started tracking back to Fannie’s mother and grandparents that I would come face to face with the “m.”

The “m” I am talking about is the one that stands for mulatto.

I don’t consider myself an especially stupid person; I get the meaning of mulatto, but for some reason, as I suddenly stared at the page it just didn’t compute. I wrote to another Thacker researcher that I was in contact with and I asked her what she made of this information.

Her answer was sweet, blunt and confirmed what I already knew – “I hope this doesn’t shock you,” she wrote. And then she told me that a branch of the family tree contained an African American limb.

The week following this revelation found me staring thoughtfully into the bathroom mirror. Maybe the lips, I would think. Maybe I can see it in my lips. When I told my youngest sister and my daughter, their reaction was the same – “that explains my hair!”

If you are not who you think you are, then who are you? I was not the merely the product of centuries of European unions. I was, though several generations removed, also the product of a bi-racial line.

In the almost three months since the revelation, there have been very few days that this has not been on my mind. It is like a rash that you keep telling yourself ‘Don’t itch” yet unbidden your fingers keep straying to the very spot.

Some of the research I have been reading indicates that the background is Native American, not African American. There exist written “shouting” matches for those who fall on either side of the explanation.

Someone on one of the message boards said something to the effect that in decades past when a genealogist found the “m” in their own family line they would simply drop genealogy as a hobby. It was implied that most “whites” would rather the “m” stood for a Native American background than an African American one.

For me, my one and only goal is the truth, whatever that may be. I sit here today breathing air, because somewhere in Virginia, centuries ago one of my European gene-pool ancestors created a child with someone of another race. I suspect that each of us have such mixed origins if we travel far enough back on our family trees. My biracial background may just be a little “fresher” than yours.

Having read as much as I have been able to find on the Internet, I’m not certain what the racial background is of my Thacker family line. So I begin. And this, The Thacker Chronicles, is the record of the journey.

It was only a little “m.” It was nothing; it was everything and it is the genesis of my journey.

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