Monday, July 21, 2008

Nothing More, Nothing Less

A transcription found of St. Mary's Parish of Minerton, Ohio, records a baptism of Sarah Thacker performed on April 17, 1868. Sarah's birth is listed as about 1871 (that date is about a decade off) and her parents are listed as John and Anna Lemay. The baptism took place at the home of Nicholas Thacker.

It is likely that either Sarah’s baptism took place at home due to her own illness or perhaps, she was in imminent danger of dying. The 1840 census indicates that Sarah had a large number of children and the fact that she was at the home of Nicholas and Frances Thacker indicates that either Nicholas or Frances was the child of Sarah and David Thacker.

The information from this one record links my family line back through a series of wills and marriages to Sally Lemay Thacker then to Annis Branham Lemay then to Frances Gibson Branham and finally, to Gilbert Gibson of Louisa County Virginia.

The significance of this, is that a group of mixed race individuals lived in the area of Gibson's Mill in Louisa County and Gilbert Gibson himself is thought to have been a mixture of white and either African or Native American, or possibly both.

It also means, according to Gilbert's first will (which was later voided), dated December 17, 1756 that not only do I descend from a mixed race line but I also descend from slave owners.

My Pennsylvania Dutch roots and my pacifist Virginia Brethren roots have allowed me to feel clean handed when it came to the issue of slavery. I liked that feeling and took comfort from it.

While I've found myself with a slow growing banked ember of rage as I have read about the Black Laws in both Virginia and Ohio, I now find this paradoxical truth.

Where once I thought these were bad laws, I now FEEL that they were.

Where I once I felt complete and growing sympathy for my ancestors whose life and livelihood were governed by the hue of their skin, I now feel revulsion for those who participated in the evil that was slavery.

Where once I was eager to embrace, now I am eager to reject.

Where once my familial hands were clean, they are now forever stained.

And yet, these are my ancestors, for better, for worse. I will never know the number of decisions made, both good and bad that in the end, insured my own existence.

I can neither lay claim to the best among them, nor be responsible for the worst. Though we are genetically entwined, each of us who travels this world is responsible for our own lives. The debt we owe to our ancestors is the same debt our descendents owe us – existence – nothing more and nothing less.

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