mistakes and mishaps

I’ve been following this fellow as he struggled to rewind the mixed threads of his ancestral heritage from Northeast North Carolina. Like him, I too grasp at and struggle in an effort to build on the meanings of discoveries as they are revealed. Interpretations of things from the past sometime bring down the walls, allowing us to see clearly to earlier times. And yet, often such finds only serve to reinforce the fact that we simply don’t know and may never know enough to make honest judgments.

The following post by Justin Petrone is refreshing as he addresses an error based on the reality that we can’t safely discuss the past until we’ve gained an idea of what it was like. And in that, we will certainly make mistakes from which much too can be learned. Understanding the unbending relation between present tense and past, we’ve all heard what Donald Rumsfeld once said about the matter: “reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know”.

6 thoughts on “mistakes and mishaps

  1. Jobs Children

    I cringe every time someone local tells me their Grandma was a “full-blooded Cherokee Indian”. For African Americans, it seems to be that ancestor who was “Blackfoot Indian”, who was the source of Grandma’s straight hair. While Cherokees did occupy western North Carolina, any migrations seemed to go west, not easy. Of course, it’s possible for that rare one to have defied tradition. The Blackfoot lived nowhere near the NC Piedmont.

    From what I’ve discovered, it was a very rare occurance for early Europeans to intermarry with the very different cultures of the Indigenous people. It was much more common for an intermingling of black and white. An Indigenous ancestor became the explanation for the dark skin, or “grandma’s straight hair.

    That said, there were small reminent populations in Southern Virginia and the Carolinas that hung on by trying to be a part of the community around them and live like the colonists. They also intermarried with those around them, both black and white. These seem to have been relegated to the swampy areas ignored or unwanted by the colonists. By the 1830’s on, several families migrated out, some even coming to our area.

    The Hedgepeths in 1800’s Stanly County trace back to the Haliwa-Saponi. Others trace to the Nansemond of Brunswick County Virginia. But by and far the largest group were known as the Croatian of Robeson and Scotland Counties in NC and Marlboro in SC. We know them now as Lumbee. I traced one Stanly County family to a SC Lumbee ancestor. This family wasn’t listed as Indian until 1910. Before that they were labeled mulattos in the census.
    The large number of mulattos in Richmond County, large community of them, were Croatians working in the turpentine industry.

  2. justinpetrone

    I am unique in this sense, in that my family had no tradition of Cherokee ancestry, and no princess story. I think among people in that area though, it was sort of accepted that in the early years of settlement, the colonial period, there were relationships between the indigenous people and the settlers. It is not well documented but, unless you come from a wealthy family that left a paper trail of deeds and wills, most families in that period are not well documented. And as for laws on miscegenation, if you read the accounts of people in the border area from that time, they didn’t follow the laws. They didn’t pay taxes, and when there were conflicts and they called up the militia, they refused to go. Even in the Tuscarora War, North Carolina had to get soldiers and mercenaries from outside the colony to fight. So why would we expect them to obey any other laws? The bastardy bonds are telling. It seems there were a lot of out of wedlock births, and many people used aliases or multiple names. I have seen low levels of Native American and African ancestry in the mostly European DNA results of relatives on some lines of my family. Not surprisingly, it’s the lines where some relatives are recorded as mulattoes in various records. This shouldn’t surprise us, but it is still treated with incredible skepticism.

    1. geothos Post author

      I’m of the thought that intermarriage happened quite often, but between known whites, or at least believed so, and Indigenous people within a society already tri-racially mixed. Didn’t the Spanish, and later the English encourage settlers to marry into the Indigenous people in order to establish better business relations? And hen there is Drake’s 600? Did not the NA live in a maternal social hierarchy which meant that it was important to gain the confidence of females before there would be a chance of establishing trade between the peoples? As late as 1682 the Virginia Slave Act reads: “It is enacted that all servants […] which shall be imported into this country…whether Negroes, Moors, mulattoes or Indians…who and whose parentage and native countries are not Christian at the time of their first purchase by some Christian […] are hereby adjudged, deemed and taken to be slaves to all intents and purposes.” Who, at that time were the Moors and why question their origin? All of this becomes lost for two reasons. 1.) The migration out of Virginia occurred mostly through Nansemond County VA where records are lost, along with early Bertie/Chowan where searchable records diminish going back from the 1750’s-’70’s when they were actually plentiful. 2.) The search is too far back generationally for autosomal to be of any good and yet, if mixing was based on white men acquiring mixed or NA wives, then any mixing would not appear using Y-DNA as the female lineages disappear. For my own family, the fact that I can find at least five distinct and provable instances of racial mixing hidden within the words of a 1756 last will and testament makes me go further and question all those who likely lived nearby and similarly. We may not connect the dots though seeing they are all different and interacting within community is a huge part of our stories often overlooked.

  3. Tom Alison

    I a distant Thomas cousin and would like to connect. Lots of Johns, then a couple of Richards, etc. down to several Thomas-Smith linkages to my grandparents. I have just completed my own research and would like to share. I can also share my ancestor.com tree. Actually went to Davidson and will be passing through Charlotte next weekend.

    1. geothos Post author

      Tom, would love to see what you have. Also, we have a good FB group “Thomas Families from Northeast North Carolina” seeking to connect the dots. Many claim the heritage going back through the various generations in VA though the leaps are not solidly proven. That’s where we are trying to use Y DNA to connect distant lines coming out of 1600’s VA.


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