Family history research can be full of surprises. Have you ever been tempted to add a pet to your family tree? I came across Sebastian the Himalayan Cat while looking at a DNA match. (The match was to Sebastian’s human dad, not Sebastian!)
I have to say, Sebastian’s people are doing a good job on tree completeness! All sixteen 2x-great-grandparents of Sebastian are identified!
I use Reunion as my genealogy software. I’ve been a Mac user since the first Macs came out and Reunion has been with me for as long as I’ve been serious about family history research. I’ve been through many upgrades over the decades and somewhere along the line some new status buttons became available. I would have never thought of this status choice for a child.
And as you can see, Sebastian’s family is in good company, since Family Pet is also an option.
Stay tuned for further Oddities in future blog posts!
A couple of months ago I was researching my 5x great-grandfather and came across a Deed of Gift in the courthouse records in Rockingham County, North Carolina. My ancestor, John Barnett, gave his nine grandchildren (including my 3x-great grandfather) a present on 6 March 1823. The Deed of Gift began innocently enough:
“To all people to whom these presents shall come. _ I John Barnett of Rockingham County & State of North Carolina send greetings Know ye that I the said John Barnett for and in consideration of the natural love and affection which I have and bear unto my beloved grand children, namely, James Walker, John Walker, David Walker, William Walker, Thomas Walker, Samuel Walker, Lucy Walker, Martha Walker & Henry Walker, chil- dren of my Daughter Ann who intermarried with Adam Walker…”
At this point, my genealogist brain said “excellent, I now have an original document with primary information directly linking Ann Barnett to her father, her husband, and all of her children in Rockingham County, North Carolina in 1823.” These generational links form the foundation of a well-documented family tree.
As I read on, the sinking feeling began as the gift was described:
“…one Negro Boy na- mely Jacob 14 years old, one ditto name- ly Charles eight years old, one Negro wo- man Nancy twenty years old, one other Negro Woman Dafney seventeen years old one waggon & five pair of Giere [geese?] 1 Black Horse 8 years old, 1 Do [ditto] 15 years old, one Bay horse 9 years old 1 Sorrel Mare 12 or 15 years old four feather Beds and furniture, one Sugar chest, also seven hundred dollars, with all the Increase of said property…”
My ancestor gave Jacob, Charles, Nancy, and Dafney to his grandchildren as chattel. He also gave any of their children away as chattel. My ancestor destroyed the desires, dreams, and relationships of these four people by owning them and selling them. This gift took place prior to the Adam Walker family’s relocation to Perry County, Tennessee, and likely tore families apart. My ancestor’s actions are part of the multigenerational transmission of harm to African Americans. This harm, or historical trauma, carries a legacy of “beliefs, ideas, myths, prejudices, biases and behaviors that are disseminated and then inherited by and/or about differing groups.” The aftermath of this legacy is the systematic and structural racism that persists in North America.
I have known for over thirty years that some of my ancestors were enslavers. I found my ancestors in the slave schedules of the 1850 and 1860 censuses with the lists of unnamed people they held in bondage. My mother discovered a scrap of paper in the Benton County, Tennessee, Historical Society records describing the sale of Mary Jane from one ancestor to another. Although never far from my mind, this information had become far from my heart. John Barnett’s Deed of Gift brought it back into my heart.
My response to this knowledge has changed. Instead of logging it away in my genealogy program and citing the sources faithfully, I have begun the process of “Transforming Historical Harms” as recommended by Hooker and Czajkowski:
Facing History Making Connections Healing Wounds Taking Action
I am finding my own way forward to face history, make connections, heal wounds, and take action. It is a small thing compared to the harm so many African Americans experienced and continue to experience. I share these early steps in my journey with the hope of encouraging you on your own.
In the past two years I have focused on learning about racism and the American history that I was not taught in school. This education will continue for the rest of my life. As a citizen of two countries (the United States and Canada), facing history is both a societal imperative and specific to my family. Reading and learning about systematic and structural racism led me to Coming to the Table (CTTT), a non-profit with a core of genealogical research dedicated to facing history and healing racial wounds created by slavery and its impact. I participate in the Linked Descendants group. With support from Coming to the Table, I became a Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience practitioner, and I am learning and practicing ways to address historical trauma. I’ve joined the U.S. Black Heritage Exchange program WikiTree project and wrote about that experience in a guest blog for Research Like a Pro. I am entering the records of enslavers and those that were enslaved into WikiTree in hopes of helping others discover their family history. As a citizen and a health care professional, I will continue to take action, speak out, donate time and resources, and be part of the long process of righting the historical harms written into history, like John Barnett’s Deed of Gift.
The story of Jacob, Charles, Nancy, and Dafney reminds all of us of the debt owed to the people who built the wealth of the North American continent. How can we individually and collectively face history, make connections, heal wounds, and take action? What’s next for you?
 Rockingham County, North Carolina, “Deed Book X,” pages 230-232, John Barnett to his grandchildren James Walker, John Walker, David Walker, William Walker, Thomas Walker, Samuel Walker, Lucy Walker, Martha Walker and Henry Walker, Deed of Gift, 6 March 1823; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L98Q-3QYR : accessed 5 November 2021), FHL Film #007517701; citing North Carolina Department of Archives and History, Raleigh.