I spent the first 25 years of my life not knowing I am Cherokee. Then, I met my father, a 6’7” blonde man with blue eyes, who told me the story of his mother: born on an Indian reservation in the South, kidnapped by missionaries and put in an orphanage to become white. 25 years later, it took one afternoon on a genealogy website to kill that family myth. We are white. Snow white. From England on one close relative, but otherwise settled around Jamestown as far back as the 1600’s.
My cousins and I are still reeling over the fact. “But grandma said”, “But they look so Indian” (and they do). We are disappointed. Being Cherokee, or Choctaw, or even Hopi according to whom we talk to, was a nice story, something we held on to, as family folklore and as a part of our identity.
To be honest, that myth is not dead yet, more like in a deep coma. I have one relative whose origins are unknown. Maybe she’s our Pocahontas.
It’s funny what genealogy will do to you. If you get the bug (and I didn’t catch it the first time, about 20 years ago), you will plant your behind on your favorite chair, eyes riveted to the screen, clicking on hints and reading scanned copies of old hand written documents on your phone screen. You won’t shower, won’t get the mail, won’t answer the phone unless you recognize the number, and eat tater tots passed their prime that you found in the back of the freezer, because there is no food in the house and you’re too mesmerized to go shopping. I don’t even really like tater tots!
I started this genealogy research on a whim. A TV ad got me. Free trial they said. As long as you sell your soul to the gods of dead ancestors.
Oh, but the things you will discover. For a second, I was on the boat with the Pilgrims, but I quickly lost track of that ancestor in the mist. No Mayflower for me. My great….grand father was a traitor to the Confederacy. Oh the shame! I am a distant cousin to the Bush family, as in Bush 41 and 43. Not my fault! And since someone was kind enough to trace their genealogy and publish it in a book about ancestors to the US presidents, I know I am a descendant of King Edward I. Ha! I knew it, I always knew it, I am a princess! However, when I went on Wikipedia to read his bio, there isn’t much to be proud of. But who cares, I am a princess!!!!!!!!!!
Sometimes you find photos. I sent one of a great…grandmother to my cousin who instantly called her “Resting Bitch Face”! Not very nice but she’s indeed quite “homely” (the grandma, not the cousin, the cousin is cute as a button). “RBF” may have had a reason or two to not be pleased. First, it was her husband who was the above mentioned traitor, and, she had 19 kids in 28 years. 19 kids. Competing with the Duggars here. If you had over 20 people to feed, with Confederate soldiers planted in front of your house to make sure your husband wasn’t selling away the South, you probably would look rather, let’s say, morose.
I was also told we were Irish on my grandfather’s side. That was trying to explain the blond genes. Not. We are from England. Leicester. Suffolk. And we were ladies, and lived in castles. But that is far back and I want to double-check the data.
And I found out this morning that one head of household owned five slaves. Welcome to the history of this country.
To make me feel better, I am on my way to buy myself a tiara!!!!!!!!!