Saturday, April 26, 2008

Field Trip!

So, I 've talked my husband into going down to Southern Ohio for a few days vacation next month (read - I twisted his arm until he cried "mama"). Actually my favorite guy is really cool about cemetery hopping unless there are a lot of bugs on the scene.

The deal is that I get to do some down and dirty research in each of three counties I need to visit in order to quench that thirst my Thacker obsession has created. He will drop me off at the appropriate building in the morning and come back and pick me up at noon. Then we will go tombstone searching, or whatever else strikes our fancy.

Because I am limited on time, I'm going to have to be super organized and pick which pieces of information are the most important to pursue.

For example, in Gallia County, I am on the hunt for the Edwill Thacker vs John Hawk court case that occured in about 1841. This case went on to be heard by the Ohio Supreme Court and clarified Ohio's Black Laws.

In Jackson County, I am looking for probate records or land records for David Thacker. I believe David to be the father of my Nicholas Thacker. Since David farmed and owned land he either had to leave a will or the land that he owned would have been subject to right of inheritance. What this hopefully means is that I may be able to find out if Nicholas is his son and who the siblings of Nicholas were.

Also in Jackson County, I want to get copies of several Thacker marriages. Then if I have enough time, I would like to find out where David and Sally Thacker are buried and go to the cemetery.

In Vinton County, there are marriages, newspaper announcements and death records I want to lookup. Curry Cemetery has a lot of Thacker burials - so that afternoon, I know I will be busy!

To be honest, for the last three months, it has been all that I can do, NOT to jump in my car and head south. You have no idea, how hard it has been to work, write and take care of business when all I can think about is - hmm.. what's the best way to approach this research problem, or how can I go about solving that part of the Thacker mystery. And each time as I figure out which path I will take to solve each new problem, I want to get started on it right then and there. Ah, real life is such a pain when I have genealogical puzzles to solve!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Am I A Racist?

So let’s get this out of the way – right now. Am I a racist? If you mean that, I think one race is brighter, smarter or any “er” than another, then the answer is a resounding no. If you mean, by a racist, that race does sometimes “color” (pardon the pun) my thinking, well that is an altogether different animal.

For example, it would feel good to vote for Obama, – as if I were taking a personal stand on the topic of race. But in all honesty, though I think he is great speechmaker, and that he has a lot of potential, I think he just isn’t there yet. So does voting for him make me a racist feeling the way I do? Or does not voting for him make me a racist? Or does just asking the question make me a racist?

So, why is it that I am not publishing my “Thacker Chronicles” on the News-Messenger’s blog? I could give you some very concrete reasons – like I think the topic rates it’s own blog, that it would only have limited appeal to readers, that I can have the freedom to add pictures and posts in a way that I can’t with the News- Messenger gig. And they would all be true, but they are not the main reason, that I have stuck this blog in a small out of the way corner of the Internet.

The truth is that after the initial surprise at finding that I have a bi-racial limb on the family tree, I’m actually excited by the prospect. The perfect scenario for me – that I find I have, along with my European roots, both African American and Native American roots. If I find that one of those racial roots do not exist in my family history, I will be sad in the same way, you feel that momentary pang when the doctor says “You have a boy (or girl)” and you have to say goodbye to the imagined daughter or son you will now never know.

But I share that bi-racial twig with others on the family tree. Do I have the right to decide that they all should be as excited as I am about my find? Some of the immediate members of my family have greeted the news with a “how cool” attitude – others are merely blasé. Still others didn’t want to hear what I had to say on the matter, but I think they are coming around.

But do I really want to break the news to cousins I never talk to by putting it on a newspaper blog – a blog that the editor often puts portions of in print? I don’t think so.

So am I a racist – well I don’t know, maybe. But I think if you want to call me anything, the word coward might be appropriate. I prefer the term sensitive – sensitive to other people feeling differently than I do.

What do YOU think?

Monday, April 21, 2008

So, I begin

Marriage Bond of David Thacker and Sally Lemay

Okay, one of things I love about the Library of Virginia is the inter-library loan program. I have an easier time accessing County records of Virginia than I do the ones right here in the State of Ohio!

I took a day off of work on my birthday (April Fool's Day, appropriately enough) and I went to Birchard Library and ordered three county films from Louisa County, Virginia. The total cost to yours truly, $2.45 which was the cost for Birchard Library to insure the return of the three films to the Library of Virginia.

I thought carefully about which films I would order. I finally made my selection:

1. Reel 52,Marriage Bonds, 1813-1818, No index

2. Reel 12, Deed Book U, 1833 - 1835, Unpaged index, 619 p. & Deed Book V, 1835 - 1837, Unpaged index, 600 p.

3. Reel 27, General Index to Wills, No. 1, 1742 - 1947.

I know that the Thacker, Napper and Freeman clans came to Gallia County in the mid 1830's. I can trace my ancestors back only to Nimrod Nicholas Thacker and his wife Frances who were married in Jackson County, Ohio. I suspect that Nimrod - ok from now on I'm calling him Nicholas, is the son of David Thacker and Sally Lemay.

Near the time of her death there is a record of Sally Thacker being baptized into the Catholic Church at the home of Nicholas Thacker in Vinton County. It gives Sally's parents as Anna and John Lemay. I had read that Sally Lemay and David Thacker were married in Louisa County. I knew that information had to come from somewhere so I started with the marriage bonds.

All I can say is after going through each frame of the Marriage Bond film, I was oh so happy to move on to the Deed Book which was blessedly indexed.

You can see that I found the marriage bond, and I found a lot of other little goodies that I will post on as time permits. So, I now have confirmed one piece of my puzzle - I just don't know how important the piece is.

Notice that it lists Annis Lemay as the mother, and William Gibson is listed along with David Thacker as giving bond.

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.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Prequil: An Ah-Ha! Moment

So, I learned a few days ago that my great-great-grandmother Fanny McCune, whom I had been unsuccessfully looking for the last seven years, actually was Fanny Marcum — which explains why I couldn't find her! Technically her name was actually Francis Thacker. Her mother, Clarinda Thacker, had Fanny (or Francis) four years before her marriage to Enos Marcum.

My family had discovered the McCune name from her daughter's death certificate. Having recently purchased “Evidence Explained,” I was being a dutiful family historian and adding my huge backlog of death certificate information to my software database.

I had done about three of these, when I came to the death certificate of Lizzie Cope Smathers, Fanny's daughter. Hmm, I said to myself, looking at the record under 200% magnification, that McCune doesn't look very clear.

So, I went to take a quick confirming look at the death certificate of Lizzie's brother — John Ceope. (No, that's not a typo; this family started adding an extra “e” to their name — no doubt just to confuse me.) John's daughter, Claudia, had been the informant and she had listed the name Fanny Marcum for the mother of John.

Now, I'd like to say that this was the “AH-HA!” moment for me, but no, it wasn't. Because instead of thinking Ah Ha, I was thinking — Hmm, the granddaughter didn't realize that her grandmother's last name was McCune.

So, I set aside Lizzie's death record, and went on to the next one. A little while later all that putting sources and citations into my database was getting a bit old, and I was itching for a reason to stop. So, on a whim, I went onto and typed in “Francis Marcum,” and as I expected no viable candidates appeared in the search results. Not wanting to end my little break quite that quickly, I then typed in “Fanny Marcum” and once again, as expected, no match for my Fanny.

Still not ready to face the large stack of death certificate input that lay ahead of me, I typed in “Francis Markum,” and there she was aged 16 in the 1880 census. Some simple searches on, a cross check to the Vinton County Web site and some more searching on Ancestry and things that hadn't made sense before now suddenly did.

So about 45 minutes after I should have had my “AH HA!” moment, the light bulb finally went on. Funny to think that if I hadn't gotten “Evidence Explained,” hadn't been taking care of database housekeeping matters, hadn't had online access to Ohio Death Certificates, hadn't subscribed to and hadn't been looking for an easy distraction, it might have taken another seven years for me to solve the riddle of Fanny McCune/Marcum. Sometimes, genealogy is just like that.

Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!

Note this post first published online, January 25, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online

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