One thing doing genealogy teaches you is that you are NEVER exactly who you THINK you are. For over 36 years, I’ve researched my roots. On my dad’s side of the family, my journey has taken me back through slavery and slave-owners in Georgia and North Carolina. But I’ve only been able to get back to great-great grandparents and not on every line.
I’ve had far more success researching my mother’s line which has taken me back to known ancestors from Bermuda, England, Scotland and Germany. As of now, there are some lines I’ve gotten back to medieval times in England!!
For years, I’ve thought about taking a DNA test but just got around to doing that recently. If you’re wondering what all the fuss is over DNA test in family research, here’s a video that explains it better than I ever could –
To get started, I sent for a DNA test from Ancestry.com. When it arrived, I filled the little vial with my saliva (apparently a rich source of DNA) and waited about 5 weeks to get my results. Here they are (and who I am) –
54 % West African
34 % British Isles
7 % Scandinavian
5 % Uncertain
Like many BLACK people in the USA, I knew my genealogy was mixed. And I specifically knew that I had many ancestors from England and Scotland. But the Scandinavian link was a complete surprise!
Apparently the DNA test shows your lineage back hundreds, even a thousand years. None of the modern day Scandinavian countries were around then. So, according to Ancestry.com, the results show that I have Viking ancestry. Go figure.
Did a Viking really wander through my family tree??
My maternal great-grandmother, Jennie Daisy Hood was born in the tiny little town of Waterford, Pennsylvania on March 12, 1867. She was the daughter of Andrew Coover Hood and Clarissa Scribner. By all rights, Jennie should have stayed a small town girl, married a young man who her parents knew and stayed in the area where her family had been since right after the American Revolution. But she didn’t.
I’ll never know what – but something drew Jennie away to Washington, D.C. where I found her in the city directory in the mid-1880’s working as a chambermaid. This probably meant that she was working in a private home doing housework and making a meager wage as the “help”. I need to do more research to see if I can find out who my great grandmother was working for in that job so far away from home.
During her time away in Washington, I believe she met her future husband and my great grandfather, Prince Albert Weaver. There’s so much I don’t know about him but I do know that he was born in Pittsburgh and grew up in D.C. So it’s likely that Jennie and Prince Albert met there. They married in Cleveland, Ohio on September 2, 1889 – an event that was not celebrated by Jennie’s family because Prince Albert was African American and Jennie was White.
In fact, from the time Jennie got married, her father never spoke to her again. Despite this she would make periodic visits to her hometown of Waterford. I wonder if she thought her father would get over the fact the she had an inter-racial marriage. But according to the oral history of our family, he ever did.
Apparently, though, Jennie continued to visit her mother and eventually take her oldest daughters along – Hazel and Clarissa. Hazel was my grandmother. Here they are as girls:
As the story goes, on one visit when my grandmother and great-aunt were in their teens, their grandmother announced that perhaps they shouldn’t come to visit again because the girls were beginning to show their “colored heritage”. According to our family history, Jennie was outraged by this slur against her children. She never visited her parents again. It’s sad to think that my great grandmother lost the relationship with her parents because of racism.
Recently I was on hot on the trail of my great grandfather, Francis Walton Batchelor. This is my father’s father’s line and goes back through Harris County, Georgia. I have to admit, I’ve procrastinated on researching the Batchelors, in part because of the challenges of researching Black family genealogy back through slavery.
I was blessed to have known my great grandfather. To my childhood eyes, he was a frail but handsome old man who loved to sit in the front room of my aunt’s house and regale us with stories from the old days. Great Grandpa died in 1961 at the age of 91 years old. Here’s a picture of him back in the day with four of his daughters:
In my research, I found Great Grandpa as an infant in the 1870 census. His race was listed as “Mu” which was the abbreviation for “mulatto”. The term mulatto was officially used as a racial designation on the United States census from 1850 to 1930. By definition, at least in this country, a mulatto is a person who has a White and a Black parent. There are good discussions of mulatto at Blended People of America and Afrigeneas – helpful if you want to better understand the historic nuances of race that have an impact on African American genealogy.
As I reviewed the census records, though, they showed both Great Grandpa and his father, Luke Bachelor (sic) listed as mulatto. But Great Grandpa’s mother was listed in the same 1870 census as Black. Later in the 1900 census and beyond, Great Grandpa’s race was listed as Black. Hmmm…
Could Luke actually have been mulatto? Yes – if he had a White father, although I have no documentation of that yet in my research. But could Great Grandpa be officially designated as mulatto if he had a mulatto father and Black mother. No – and that’s where the disconnect comes into play.
What I’ve come to realize from this and research on other family lines is that sometimes my ancestors were listed as mulatto because of the census-taker’s subjective view based on their appearance. This is why when I see the term mulatto, it raises a red flag for me to be extra-vigilant to make sure I don’t get side-tracked in my research because a census taker made a mistake more than 100 years ago.
To date in my family research, I have identified only two ancestors who are technically mulatto because they have one Black parent and one White parent. They are:
1. My other paternal great-grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Parker, was born in Harris County, Georgia in 1878. His father was Isaiah Parker, a White man and my great great grandfather. Isaiah was son of Isaiah Parker, the senior, a slave-owner and also my ancestor. Thomas’s mother was Ann or known in our Black family history as “Charity Ann”. She was a slave on the Parker cotton farm.
Charity Ann and Isaiah had 17 children together during and after slavery. My great-grandfather was the youngest. The story of Charity Ann and Isaiah is a fascinating one but that’s a post for another day. My great grandfather Thomas died in 1963 but I don’t recall ever meeting him. Here’s a picture of him that I have at home in one of those old-fashioned frames with the “bubble” glass:
2. My maternal grandmother, Hazel Edna Dickinson (Weaver) who was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1891. Her father, Prince Albert Weaver was African American, born in Pittsburgh and raised in Washington D.C. Her mother was Jennie Daisy Hood was a White woman from Waterford, PA. Prince Albert and Jennie married in 1889 in Cleveland. It is my great grandmother’s line that I’ve traced back to the American Revolution and the early days of colonial America. Here’s a picture of my Grandmother Hazel, who died in 1946 – five years before I was born:
One of the big lessons I’ve learned in 36 years of researching my family history is not to let subjective information like, what I call, “the mulatto factor” stand in the way of getting the real facts about who my African American ancestors really were. And that’s the challenge if you’re doing Black family genealogy – take the records you find as clues and do further research to determine if you’re headed down the right path looking for the next generation.
History will thank you.
One of the problems I’ve had over the years is that it is sometimes impossible to uncover details about my female ancestors. This isn’t just a problem in doing African American family history. It comes with the territory when you do genealogy. So I was really excited when I discovered that I can identify my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s and, well – you get the drift.
What this means is that on my mother’s line, I’ve found my women ancestors 10 generations back. In their honor, I’ve listed them here so they will never ever be lost in time.
You’ll notice that I introduce my female ancestors by their maiden names and that’s a tip for you. Always identify women in your family tree by their maiden, not married names. If you don’t have that maiden name for a particular ancestor, put her first name and then “unknown” for the last name. You can always add the maiden name later .
Now, meet the strong women who made it possible for me to be here:
- I am the daughter of Alice Vivian Dickinson who was born on June 18, 1919 in New York, NY. She married my father, Thomas Melvin Batchelor in 1945. Mom was the 2nd generation of women in our family who went to college (my sister and I are the 3rd). Mom earned her BA in Spanish Literature at Howard University and later received her Master’s degree. Mom is still living and is 92 years old – God Bless.
- Mom is the daughter of Hazel Edna Weaver who was born in Cleveland, Ohio on January 8, 1891. Grandmother was a pioneer in our family – the first woman who went to college. She graduated from Howard University in 1917 with a Bachelor of Science in Math. She married my grandfather, Frederick William James Dickinson who was originally from Bermuda.
- Grandmother was the daughter of Jennie Daisy Hood who was born in Waterford, PA on March 12, 1867. She married Prince Albert Weaver in Cleveland in 1880. They were an interracial couple and her father never spoke to her again because of that.
- My great grandmother Jennie was the daughter of Clarissa A. Scribner who was born on September 27, 1837 in Ballston Spa, NY. Her husband was Andrew Coover Hood whose grandfather and great grandfather served in the American Revolution.
- My great great grandmother Clarissa was the daughter of Luransey (or Luransa) Frazier who was born February 27, 1796 in Leyden, MA. Luransey was the wife of Alexander Scribner of Ballston Spa, NY. Alexander’s father and grandfather were also Revolutionary War soldiers.
- My 3rd great grandmother Luransey was the daughter of Sally Page who was born in 1768 in Bernardson, MA. Sally was the wife of Michael Frazier of Franklin County, MA. Michael’s family name was originally Frizzell (or one of the 9 variations of spelling I found), but he changed the name back to the original Scottish spelling. Michael’s father was a Revolutionary War veteran.
- My 4th great grandmother Sally Page was the daughter of Sally (aka Sarah) Cunnabell who was born about 1753 in Boston, MA. The name Sally was sometimes used as a nickname for Sarah. Sally Cunnabell became the wife of David Page, also of Boston.
- My 5th great grandmother, Sally Cunnabell was the daughter of Sarah Crafts who was born on June 17, 1729 in Boston, MA. Sarah married John Cunnabell and they left the comfort of Boston to become early settlers in Western Massachusetts.
- My 6th great grandmother, Sarah Crafts was the daughter of Anne White who was born on January 24, 1711 in Boston, MA. Anne was the wife of Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Crafts and mother of their son, also Thomas Crafts, who was one of the original Sons of Liberty and a member of the real Tea Party.
- My 7th great grandmother, Anne White was the daughter of Sarah Wilson who was born in 1688. I don’t know where Sarah Wilson was born but she married my 7th great grandfather, Edward White in 1709. Obviously I’ve got some more research to do to figure out where she came from originally. With a little luck and a lot of patience, maybe I can actually discover who this particular Sarah’s mother was and add another generation of strong women to my family tree.
Who are the strong women in your family history?