Monday, November 17, 2008

A Little Hand-Wringing Angst

You will notice, of course, that I have not written a post on this blog for quite some time. It was intentional, the not writing, that is. There were individuals in my family who very gently told me that they were uncomfortable with my poking around in our racial stew. Live relatives or dead ancestors, well, the choice is obvious. Live relatives win hands down.

This doesn’t mean, however, that I have stopped the search. I haven’t. I’ve just self-muzzled myself with what I have been finding. I’ve missed the writing. It’s my own way of sorting things out, hoping for a brief moment of self-enlightenment here and there.

I had a bit of hand-wringing the other day when I accidentally discovered that my blog was listed under the category “African American genealogy.” It made me uncomfortable on several levels, not the least of which was that I knew there might be certain family members who would not be happy with that characterization.

The second issue was that I felt like an imposter. I don’t know that my ancestors had African American blood flowing through their veins, and the labeling of my blog as an African American genealogy blog made me feel as if I had been let into an exclusive club under false pretenses.

On the other hand, the classic definition of mulatto is a person of mixed black and white ancestry. So the fact that my fourth great grandparents, Nimrod and Frances Thacker, had an “m” beside their names in the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 census made my protesting that the family may have been NA as opposed to AA seem like I was just another white chick living in denial. Sending the message that having a Native American background is preferable to having an African American background hasn’t been my intention.

For someone whose only goal has been finding the truth, I seem to have been permanently perched on the edge of racial incorrectness.

At the very end of their lives, my “m” ancestors, Nimrod and Frances became “w’s.” On both of their records in the Death Register at the Probate Court in Vinton County, Nimrod who died in 1893 and Frances who died in 1901 are listed as white.

If the whole discussion of the racial make up of my ancestors creates such confusion and angst for yours truly, you have to wonder what it was like for Nimrod and Frances who lived it.


Judith Richards Shubert said...

May I say I admire your courage in writing about your discoveries and I hope this experience has not stopped you completely! Good luck.

I'd like to find out more about you, so I've tagged you in a Meme from GeneaBloggers. Go to for instructions!


Cindy said...

Love this blog! I think what you're doing is wonderful and you shouldn't worry about any ruffled feathers along the way. After all, these people are gone, no use sticking someone else's skeleton in YOUR closet. I think your family should be supportive in your endeavors to find out the details... ALL the little tasty details about your ancestors! Great blog! I've just gone back to the beginning and read most of the posts. You do wonderful research!

Dera Williams said...

Interesting. Though it remains to be proven that your ancestors had African blood, it should not be a surprise if they were indeed so. This is more common than people want to admit. Thousands upon thousands of "mulattos" crossed the color line after slavery bleaching the line. People need to get over it; God forbid that you have one drop black blood. Race is a social construct. You are white, you were raised white and will always be white despite what race your ancestors were.


Thank you Judith for your kind thoughts. As you already know I accepted your tag, and I've added your blog to those that I follow. :)

Cindy, I was very heartened by your words, and I appreciate that you took the time to comment. I am enjoying researching this family.

Dera, I think you are quite correct that this is more common than many people realize. I don't know who she was, and I probably never will, but somewhere in my family tree there was one mother, who looked down at her newborn infant and saw a child who bore the markings of another race. I don't know what she was feeling at that moment. But many centuries later, I acknowledge the fact that she existed, as did her child, and that without them I do not exist today. For me, that is what matters most.

As for the Thackers, Nappers, Freemans, Dortons and Doles, they were a very clanish group, intermarrying within the group almost exclusively in the very beginning. I often wonder if this was because they were "outsiders" to both the white and the African American communities that existed at this time in Southern Ohio's history. Thank you Dera, for taking the time to comment.

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