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.

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