An Interlude

(November 22, 2018)

Before I excavate and share my ancestors’ lives from the 18th Century, I want to take a moment to say a few things that have been on my mind.

First, there is nothing famous or special about my own family’s background as it relates to American history. I am not a Mayflower descendant (though my ancestors married into those families). I am not born from a colonial governor of Massachusetts or any of the New England colonies. I am not descended from wealthy or well-known people in history.

Second, my ancestors were ordinary people living ordinary lives, taking advantage of colonial opportunities to farm land, to establish towns, to raise their families. And some engaged in extraordinary violence to accomplish those goals. The opportunities to farm the land I can only see now as theft from indigenous people – even if there was a bill of sale or treaty/agreement with the indigenous people; there was no way to predict at that time, or to imagine the unimaginable: that colonists would end up betraying the agreements with devastating effect.

Third, excavating the documentation of my ancestors and their role is difficult given that my ancestors were not well-known or movers/shakers in their societies. While I have done my best to connect the genealogical dots between generations, I may have some errors in my family tree (which is looking more like a forest these days). Errors are common in genealogical research.  I have also had my DNA and my parents’ DNA tested. I may write more on that in the future.

Fourth, I am not the only person confronting this painful past of my ancestors as it relates to the impacts of colonization and enslavement. Thomas Jefferson’s descendants have tackled this process, and much has been written about them.  I have these mentors to thank for inspiring me:

  • Coming To The Table, which I have mentioned in previous posts; attending the National Gathering in June 2018 was humbling and inspiring. I am particularly grateful to Jodie Geddes and Thomas Norman DeWolf whose book will be released in 2019.
  • Inheriting the Trade, by Thomas Norman DeWolf. He documents and confronts his family’s role in establishing and profiting from the slave trade in America, and particularly in New England.
  • Gather at the Table, by Thomas Norman DeWolf and Sharon Leslie Morgan. Together the authors share their own experiences of acknowledging the traumatic impacts of enslavement.
  • Traces of the Trade, PBS documentary about the DeWolf family.
  • For years I have been fascinated by Professor Henry Louis Gate’s genealogy program called Finding  Your Roots.  By watching the episodes, I learn a bit about some of the research sources/techniques, and I am inspired by the impact the stories have on those whose roots are being explored. I absolutely love it — we need more of this, in my humble opinion.

Fifth, there are many others who are facing this past and present head-on. While we may cringe in agony over the violence and pain our ancestors caused, we do not look away from it. My personal reckoning is part of a larger national reckoning we need to have in this country. We are trying to tell the truth about it, rather than continue to buy the “white washed” version of American history.

Finally, I am a grateful coward. Part of me is grateful for the relatively low readership this blog is getting. The people who are reading it and commenting are kind and lovely people who understand what I am doing and why. Their support means the world to me. On the other hand, if the blog had more readers or went “viral” I would likely become a target of some very hostile opponents. I do not want to be a target of that type of attention and that makes me a coward. So, for now, I am comfortable doing this as I am.

Soon, I will begin writing about my 18th Century ancestors. thank you all for reading this.

2 Comments on “An Interlude

  1. Continue to enlighten us as you embark on your continued journey, let no one steal your joy!


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