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Memory and history

This is the recording of work that's been done over the past four years but also a work in progress. Because of various reasons, many of the photos I post here were not taken by me and were given to me by other people. I will try my best to post credits when I know them but please don't swipe photos and claim you took them. If you're family then you can take it up with them.

Vavasseur Family reunion, 1907
photo provided online by Christophe VanderHogan-Landry
(My maternal grandfather is the young man near the middle of the front row wearing a suit.)

Félicité de Kerlegand's adventures

My cousin just made a post on his blog about our 5th great grandmother Félicité de Kerlégand and her story:

The original owner of Félicité and her 3 kids (Agathe, Raphaël and Jean Baptiste) was Jean-René GUIHO de Kerlégand, a royalist from Bougenais, France.When the revolution broke out, Jean-René was exiled to the Caribbean with his wife and kids in 1783.There, he appears purchasing land in Saint-Domingue in the 1780s and enlisted as a merchant ship officer under Jacques de Mun.

When the slave insurrections began on Saint-Domingue, he again fled with his wife and kids, and apparently a slave named Félicité.

(Saint-Domingue was the name of the island that is now split into Haiti and the Dominican Republic)

The family made it to Maryland, where they were naturalized, although Félicité was still a slave. Later the family moved to Missouri, and later on, to St. Martin Parish, LA. Apparently Félicité and her grand-daughter Elisabeth Castillo belonged to Marie, the family's oldest daughter (an "old maid"), who freed Félicité in her will and gave Elisabeth to her niece Noémi with the understanding that she was to be taken care of by Félicité and freed when she was 30.

Well, Noémi was a minor, and her parents wanted to send her to finishing school, so they put the 15 year old Elisabeth up for auction anyway -- and Félicité bought her!

Yes, just freed, didn't read or write, according to this, but cagey enough to know what was what and to either have saved up the money already or gotten someone to loan it to her. Five years later, Félicité emancipated Elisabeth, my 3rd great-grandmother.

Elisabeth married Jean Stéril Narcisse Rochon. I've mentioned her daughter Josephine already.

AncestryDNA results

I decided to do the AncestryDNA test, which is different from most as it claims to do autosomal genes instead of mDNA or Y-chromosome (of course, I couldn't do the latter in any case, being female). It also claimed to cover a shorter time frame than mDNA or haplotype testing, about 1000 years instead of 10,000 or more. This seemed intriguing, so I tried it out. Here were my results:

Scandinavian 48%
West African 25%
Central European 14%
Southern European 10%
Uncertain 3%

I was surprised about the Scandinavian part. Here's what the test results said:

Your genetic ethnicity ties you to Scandinavia, which includes the modern-day nations of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. While the Vikings were feared by the coastal towns of medieval Europe as seaborne raiders and violent pillagers, they were also well-travelled merchants and ambitious explorers. They raided the Mediterranean coast of Africa, settled areas as far south as the Black Sea, and traded with the Byzantine Empire. And it was a Norse sailor, Leif Ericson, who is credited with being the first European to travel to North America—500 years before Columbus.

And it wasn't just the Vikings who had an irrepressible urge for adventure. In the days of the mighty Roman Empire, the Goths, originally from Sweden, wandered south and settled in what is now eastern Germany. In the year 410, they invaded and sacked Rome, setting the stage for the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire.

The rise of the Viking culture spread Scandinavian ancestry far throughout Europe. Their earliest coastal voyages took them to Scotland, northeastern England and established the settlement of Dublin, Ireland. As their power continued to grow, the Vikings spread farther afield, down the Volga River in Russia, to the coast of France and Spain. But perhaps their most famous accomplishments were the oceanic voyages across the Atlantic, establishing villages in Iceland and Greenland and exploring the northern coast of Canada.
There was nothing in any of this regarding Native American ancestry, so my theory that James Ivey was Native is sort of less likely, and gives me a good reason not to have to wade through all those particular James Ivey's at least. I do know of at least one Native American in my ancestry, which may account for the "uncertain" part, as she lived in the 1600's, and that's pretty far back.

(I realized just now that I have never written about her -- she has a very interesting story!)

Found out a few things ...

1) My mother's true birth year (yay for the 1940 census!)

2) I got an email thread from my cousin today talking to my aunt in which she related a story Caroline told her, about how Caroline was born illegitimate, and was given to the (black) maid to raise as hers, and her real mother was white.

Okay. Interesting.

Dec. 18th, 2011

It started with someone on my Facebook posting this, which led me to here (awesome site, btw), which made me look on this page.

Why? Because my mother's sister insists that she and my mom went to high school in Maryland, which is very odd, seeing as their parents worked at the premier black high school in Louisiana. The only way this made any kind of sense is if they had some sort of family connection there in Maryland.

So what do I find?


1. Mary Cunningham, born say 1730, was living at John Kinsman's on 13 November 1750 when the Charles County, Maryland Court presented her for bearing a "Mullatto Child" by information of Constable Alexander MacPherson [Court Record 1750, 140]. She may have been the ancestor of

i. John, head of a Washington County, Maryland household of 3 "other free" in 1800 [MD:570].

ii. Benjamin1, head of a Hampshire County, Virginia household of 10 "other free" in 1810 [VA:818].

iii. Philip1, head of a King George County, Virginia household of 8 "other free" in 1810 [VA:193].

iv. Benjamin2, head of a King George County, Virginia household of 5 "other free" in 1810 [VA:193].

v. Cyrus, born about 1777 when he was bound as an apprentice, registered in King George County, Virginia, on 28 May 1799: of a dark yellow Colour aged about twenty two years and about five feet ten inches high is now a free man, has served William Hooe, Gent., of this County twenty one years [Register of Free Persons, no.10].

vi. Philip2, Jr., head of a King George County household of 2 "other free" in 1810 [VA:195].

vii. Nancy, head of a Goochland County household of 5 "other free" in 1810 [VA:688].

viii. Jas.(?), head of a King George County household of 1 "other free" in 1810 [VA:195].

ix. Charity, head of a Northampton County, North Carolina household of 2 "other free" in 1790 [NC:76].

I suppose if I can't find out who Kate is from one end, I'll try looking at her from the other. In any case, this is pretty cool


The other development came when I ventured over here to post about the above, I found out that I had a PM ... and guess what I found!

(bless you, ms_geekette!)

I can't get the photo to load, but it shows a girl named Fanny in his estate, along with naming his wife Nancy, his sons John and James, and his friend Elisha Bennett, who was to execute the estate.

So now I know I'm on the right track! This document proves that Thomas and Nancy Thompson of Logan County, KY owned Fanny, so it confirms that I have the correct Thomas Thompson.


Now to find out who Fanny's parents were. There were several adults listed on the list, and I suppose one of them could have been her parents. We shall see ...

A plague of Thompsons

Come to find out that Thomas Thompson b. 1755 had a brother named William who had sons named ...

... wait for it ...

John and Thomas.

So which John and Thomas Thompson who lived in Kentucky bought and sold Fanny?

No idea. :(

Wordless Wednesday

Caroline (Ivey) and Joseph "John" Hiram Chrétien, with their two youngest daughters Elizabeth and Rose-Marie. Taken sometime in the early 1940's.

My new project

For a while I've been unhappy with the sheer number of people in my tree, mainly because a good chunk of them aren't related to me at all, being my the family of my husband, who is adopted. It's a particular problem when looking at my Ancestry hints, because I'm not sure if a name is even mine or not.

He hasn't looked into opening up the adoption records, partly because (I think) that he doesn't want to find out some terrible secret, and partly because his mother is vehemently opposed to it. She has always felt insecure about not being able to have biological children, is elderly and frail, so he's let it drop for now.

But as much as I love my inlaws (and their family), seeing as I'm doing this in big part so I can give my children information on their actual heritage, my inlaws' genealogy doesn't interest me that much. So I'm going to separate out their tree so I can work on my side without having to slog through all of them.

Moving thousands of records is going to take a while.

The 1865 wall

Most people who don't have ancestors involved in the forced African diaspora to the US know very little about the "1865 wall". But to those of us who do have these ancestors, it's something that you have to deal with all the time.

What does it mean?

In 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation nominally ended slavery in the United States. Before that, slaves in most of the US (some notable exceptions being Latin Louisiana) were never mentioned by name in the censuses, so the only way you could find out even basic information such as an ancestor's first name was through other means such as a bill of sale or a will deeding the slave to someone in the family. People kept better records of their horse breeding than they did of their slaves.

The other issue that arises is that you're never quite sure if your ancestor was slave or free, unless you find clear proof of his or her freedom (such as land ownership, tax records, marriage certificates, and other things that slaves generally weren't allowed to have). Which means you have to get extra-sleuthy. It also means you have to research a whole lot more people, because the only clues you have to find a slave is through their masters, and all you have to go on is a last name.

A third issue is that some people changed their last names after they were freed and got as far away from their former masters as they could (which you can't really blame them for), but that just makes you crazy if you think about it too long. Those people pretty much drop off the grid as far as the genealogist is concerned, unless you can find a relative that didn't change their name and find their old name that way.

So it's a challenge -- and I have it easy, not being visually coded as "black". People return my emails on Ancestry (up until I mention slave masters, of course -- then it's about 50/50), and I don't expect too much trouble when I finally get around to driving to Mississippi or Georgia to look up records. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for others who aren't so lucky.