About a week ago, I had a conversation with my father about our family history. I’ve known for a little over a decade that my father’s mother’s side of the family was Native American (Delaware Indian). I’ve known for about half that time, that my Grandmother’s Uncle was an Indian Chief. However, what my father told me last week really blew my mind and made me more determined to research our family history.
He told me that my Grandmother’s father had been sold into slavery as a child, at around the age of 5. Also, his siblings were sold into slavery. One of those siblings may or may not have been sold into slavery, and that was the one that eventually went on to become the last Chief of that particular tribe.
He told me that he remembers, as a boy, being visited by the Chief, and that he was terrified of him at first, because of all the time my father spent playing “Cowboys and Indians”. Apparently, he assumed he was going to be scalped! We had a good chuckle about that! 😀
We talked about his attempts at getting more information, when he and my Aunt went to a Pow-Wow in New Jersey in the early 80’s. He was told that the Delaware Indians weren’t acknowledged because they were “unsavory” people for selling their children into slavery. The first thing that came to my mind was that it was a horrible time in history for Native Americans, and who are they to judge what others may have done to survive?! Besides, refusing to acknowledge something doesn’t negate the fact that it happened. It’s part of my family history. Why would they deny us that information?
All of this has made me extremely determined to figure out what happened, and who my ancestors are, especially on my father’s maternal side.
I’ve long admired a friend of mine, Leah, for her expertise at genealogy research. I’m very good at researching politics, religion or scams/hoaxes, but when it comes to genealogy, I’m just mystified! She seems to think that with my researching skills in general, this should come naturally to me. I hope she’s right! And I hope she doesn’t mind me being a bug in her ear.
Leah has already given me a wealth of information about how to organize the things I find. She’s answered a ton of my questions, and is being very patient with me. She dug up a few census records for my G-Grandfather, to show me what was available on Ancestry.com, and I now have my own account. She blogs about her research and great finds, and has shown me by example how to make things as easy to understand as possible. I’m very grateful to have her as a friend. 🙂
So, I’ve spent the better part of my weekend readying myself for what I’m about to take on. I’ve created a space on my computer, and figured out how to file things digitally, that will make sense to me and anyone after me. I’ve acquired a 3-in-1 printer, so that I can scan pictures and make copies for my father, so he can pass information along to his and my extended family. (I do have to say here, that I’m worried about the cost of printing so much, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.) We bought a cheap plastic storage bin, perfect for hanging folders, so that I can have a paper – as well as digital – trail. I’ve started an Excel spreadsheet, so I can keep a master list of everything I find.
Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty, and do the research, and see what I come up with. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I hope I can find everything I’m looking for, and that, in my excitement, I don’t forget to keep track of all the pertinent information. Most of all, I just hope to answer the question of why my G-G-Grandparents sold their children into slavery.