Family Racism

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Filed under Research Notes

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.

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My Great Grandmother in Her Later Years

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:

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Young Hazel and Clara Weaver

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.

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Karen Batchelor About Karen Batchelor

Karen Batchelor is a genealogist and founder of ExtremeAncestry.com where she blogs about more than three decades of climbing her family tree. Learn more about her here and connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Comments

20 Responses to “Family Racism”
  1. PatriciaChambers says:

    Wow! What an amazing story..so sad that among family members racism should raise its ugly head…Good luck as you continue to research. Hope you find more family stories! (Maybe some happier ones?!)

  2. HeatherWilkinsonRojo says:

    A sad story, but a common one I’m afraid. The side of my family that went to Hawaii never came back to Boston to visit because they were considered “colored”. That was at least three generations ago, and now my cousins in Hawaii and I are beginning to meet for the first time in over 100 years. Its sad to think of all that was lost in those intervening generations.

  3. fergusonsarah says:

    I love the old photos here,reminds me of my grandparents…

    •  @fergusonsarah I like old photos too – they’re like an anchor to the past. We don’t have a lot so I really treasure them and love to share them here. I’m glad you like our family photos:)

  4. LauLau81 says:

    This really helps a lot especially for me…

  5. Charlotte74 says:

    I am really interested in reading the story here…

  6. KelliMallard says:

    Hi Karen, I just now visited your blog for the first time.  I found it via Google, where I did a search for my great-great grandmother, Frances Martha Hood (1871-?).  She is a sister of your great-grandmother Jennie.  For years I have been trying to find out what happened to Frances and her husband, Edward Waldron Bernard.  He was born in Brooklyn in 1862 and, according to an old family letter, “was killed” in 1898.  Edward Waldron never got to meet his son (my great-grandfather) Keith Edward Bernard, who was born in June 1898 and died in January 1982. 
    I long to know how Edward Waldron Bernard died, and what happened to Frances and his baby son afterward.  I know my great-granddad ended up in Michigan, where his son (my grandfather Keith Bernard Jr.) still lives to this day.  But I don’t know much about Frances, her trail disappears after the turn of the century.  I think she may have remarried, but I have no idea how to find out.  One of my treasures is a book she owned AND SIGNED, that was passed down to me as a child by Great-Grandpa Bernard. 
    I love working on the family tree, but life and four children (ages 6 to 18) have kept me away from it for a few years now.  Hopefully I can get back in the saddle soon, and try to solve the mystery behind my great-great grandfather’s death.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kelli –

      So glad to hear that we’re related! Is your gg grandmother the one they called “Mattie”? I think they settled in Cleveland at some point. Years ago I had a wonderful phone conversation with your grandfather, Ted – right? I was planning to go visit him in Battle Creek but he passed away before we could meet. One of the great regrets of my genealogy journey. There’s a lot of backstory to our family history that I’d love to share when you have time. And I’d love to see the book from Frances!! So keep in touch and I hope we get the chance to talk. Are you on Facebook?

      Karen

    •  @KelliMallard Kelli – it’s great to meet you (sorry for the delay in responding). Is Frances the sister they called “Mattie”? Small world that it is – I had the chance to talk with your grandfather “Ted” back in late 1981. I had a visit planned to see him in Battle Creek and then he passed away. I was so sorry I missed meeting him. Stay in touch – I have some research on Frances’s side of the family that I’d love to share with you when you have some time. It’s pretty amazing!!

  7. Shesaknitter says:

    I recently found someone with whom I share a great-great grandfather.  I wrote to her, responding to something she had posted online quite a few years ago, she wrote back to me, excited about my contacting her, and then, when I wrote to her again and sent her some photos, she did not write back.
     
    I am trying to give her the benefit of the doubt – maybe she is just busy, or something, but I am wondering if the shock of finding that I am not white was too much for her.  I realize that I may never hear from her again. Bummer.
     
    I would be sad if that were the case, but the good news is that in the one message she sent me responding, she told me a lot that I did not know about this common ancestor, like where he was born in Scotland, that there are military records for him, what kind of work he did later in life,  and a bit more of the story about how he had left his two daughters on the island where he had been married to and lived with their mother.  I also learned who his father was, so that give me the name of another ancestor from one generation further back!  
     
    Supposedly, when their mother died, this man left the island and went back to the U.K., married, and had another family from which this person I just met is descended.  My one regret now, if it turns out that I never hear from her again, is that I did the big “reveal” about myself as early as I did. I could have learned a lot more, perhaps.  She told me that there is a photo she has of my great-grandmother.  I may never see that now. That would have been really wonderful to see.
     
    I am finding all sorts of fascinating information about my family lately:  among my ancestors are Wampanoag Native Americans who were sent to Bermuda to be slaves after losing (to Puritan colonists) in King Philip’s War back in 1676.  I also know of the origin of one African ancestor, who was from Senegal. There are also Cherokee and Choctaw on both sides (my father’s and my mother’s) along with Scottish (both sides) and Irish (mother’s).
     
    Very sad when race sometimes gets in the way of some of these great connections that are to be made.
     
     
     
     

    • Karen says:

      Guess who got distracted from blogging and missed your comment!! First, I’d take a chance and try again to contact the woman who’s related to you. She may have been busy (like me!!) or just needed to process a little. But it’s worth another try to connect with someone who you can share family history with – and yours sounds so interesting!! Btw – my grandfather was Bermudian and I have family there. Who knows – maybe we’re connected:) And we both knit.

      Thanks so much for stopping by:)

      Karen

    •  @Shesaknitter Sounds like you opened the door to a relationship that may take some time to grow. Please don’t give up on your relative!! The good thing is that she shared some invaluable information with you already. Maybe you can circle back and touch base again with her. Keep me posted, OK? 

  8. msualumni says:

    This is such a fascinating story on so many levels. That Reconstruction timeperiod is an odd time for a white woman–from New England no less–to legally marry an African-American. I’d be curious what the state laws were then. The picture of the girls is lovely, but I can imagine they had a difficult life. That Prince Albert managed to not get lynched is also pretty note-worthy. The resilience & internal fortitude Jennie must have had to overcome the level of racism & triumph with love. Wow. Thats why I love family history research. It takes us down many paths we probably may not have thought much about otherwise.

    •  @msualumni Because Prince Albert and Jennie were in Cleveland, I think the environment was less violent (no lynching) but I’m sure as stressful for an interracial couple as anywhere else. You are so right – family research can take you down some completely unexpected paths!! Thanks for your insightful comments:)

    • Karen says:

      I’ve heard some family stories about the challenges Jennie and Prince Albert faced. It wasn’t an easy life but they chose to be together and they stayed together despite the odds. I’m proud to be descended from such brave people!

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