The picture below is my great-grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Parker. He was born April 1878 in Harris County, Georgia; youngest child of Isaiah Parker and Charity Ann.
Charity Ann was Black and one of the slaves owned by Isaiah’s father, the Rev. Isaiah Parker. I’ve been able to find a fair amount of info on the Parker family but not much on my slave ancestor, Charity Ann. Funny thing, is that I feel so connected to her because of all the stories my grandmother (and her granddaughter) told me about her.
My grandmother, Beatrice Parker, was Thomas Jefferson Parker’s daughter who was born in 1898 when Charity Ann was still alive. Grandma got to spend quite a bit of time with Charity Ann who lived with the family until her death in 1905.
According to my grandmother, Charity Ann and her sister were girls when they sold away from their mother in Virgina. Their new slave owner was Rev. Parker and he took the girls away in a big wagon with Black horses as Grandma told it.
But as a genealogist, I was never satisfied just with Grandma’s stories – however entertaining they were. I’ve always wanted to know more about Charity Ann and here’s what I have pieced together up to this point -
1. Charity Ann aka Ann was born in VA about 1825, which is the date of her birth given in the 1900 United State census.
2. I was told by my grandmother, who lived to 97, that Charity Ann and her sister were sold away from their mother to Isaiah’s father when they were girls. He sold the sister on the way back to Harris County GA where he had a cotton plantation with 25 slaves according to the 1860 United States slave schedules.
3. Charity Ann and Isaiah developed a relationship and had 16 children together – some of them were born during slavery.
4. To my knowledge, neither married anyone else. After the Civil War, they lived together as a common-law couple because miscegenation laws in the South preventing them from legally marrying.
5. During slavery, Isaiah’s father died and Isaiah bought Charity Ann and 3 of their children from the estate. Here’s a copy of the bill of sale dated 8 Jan 1862.
6. Charity Ann died about 1905. This syncs with my grandmother’s recollection of when she died. Charity Ann is buried in the Prospect AME church cemetery in Fortson, Georgia - the Black cemetery. Isaiah is buried in the White cemetery.
7. The family story is that Charity Ann was part Cherokee. My grandmother always said Charity Ann looked like (and these are Grandma’s words, not mine) “an old Indian squaw” with her hair in two long braids that hung below her waist.
But after my DNA test results came in last year, I’m skeptical of a Native American connection here. My ancestry composition was only 2% Native American so I believe it’s more likely that Charity Ann was part European, as I am.
8. I don’t have any info on where Charity Ann came from in VA or who the prior slave owner was but I have heard my great-great grandmother referred to as “Charity Ann Graves”. That makes me wonder if that was her name when she was sold to Rev. Parker.
I always heard that Charity Ann was born near the James River in Virginia. When I checked for Virginia slave owners named “Graves” in the 1830 Census who had female slaves under 10 yrs old (which she would have been then), there were 47 Graves slave owners of in 24 locations. Three of those slave owners lived 35 miles or less from the James River.
This may be a wild goose chase but one I’ve got to go on because there’s so little information available about Charity Ann. She’s one of my ancestors who I’ll be hot-on-the-trail of for years to come.
I wanted to share this interesting infographic from Archives.com showing the growth of diversity in America from 1820 to 2009, which was done in celebration of Family History Month. A lot of research went into this but I have to confess my first thought was – what about Africans brought to this country in slavery or what I view as “forced” immigration. If you’re wondering the same thing, here’s what happened.
The timeline in the Family History Month infographic below picks up right as there was a major shift in the politics on slavery. In 1820, the United States took a bold step when it made the trading of African slaves a crime of “piracy” that was punishable by death. From that point on, those engaging in the slave trade did so at the peril of their lives. As a result, the number of African slaves entering this country dropped to a fraction of what it used to be.
Even though the African slave trade was effectively shut down, the numbers of slaves in the U.S. continued to grow unchecked at a phenomenal rate between 1820 and the abolishment of slavery in 1865. It still boggles the mind at how convoluted political thought process could make trading slaves a crime but continuing the institution of slavery still legal? Sadly, it took America far too long to sort that one out.
As the great great granddaughter of both a slave and a slaveowner, the public and personal politics behind the institution of slavery are always lurking in the corner of my mind as I do Black family genealogy. If you decide to learn more about your family this October during Family History Month, spice up research about your ancestors by taking a peek at the politics in play during their times.