One of the great things about our Facebook community is seeing the stories being shared of people making connections through Ancestry.com. While it may take a little courage to reach out to someone you don’t know, even if they do seem to be related, the rewards typically outweigh any initial misgivings. Last week I found one such story from one of our members. I’ll let her tell the story.
A few years ago I received a copy of a photograph of my great-great-grandfather from an elderly cousin. While I had the photograph, I initially didn’t have what was written on the back—the story of that great-great-grandfather’s son, born to one of his slaves.
When I learned of the story, I began a four-year journey to find descendants of his slave child. Finally, a few months ago, I found a newly posted family tree for this man on Ancestry.com. I wasn’t sure how my new-found cousin would react to the knowledge that we shared the same great-great-grandfather and the circumstances. But, I also knew, how difficult it is to trace southern African-American ancestry, so I reached out to him.
Well, to make a long story short, my cousin, Carol White, was delighted and emotional about discovering her Anglo-Saxon roots and the stories and documents I was able to provide. We have both embraced our kinship and ancestry. The child was educated by his father, became a teacher and minister and died a hero giving the comfort of prayer to passengers—white and black—aboard a sinking steamship.
There is much more to the story of the slave owner, the slave who bore his child, and the child. I had already participated in AncestryDNA, and Carol agreed to take the test as well to hopefully add further evidence of our relationship. Her results came back last week—we are a match! It’s rare for the descendant of a slave owner to seek out descendants of slaves, but I can tell you, my personal journey was well worth the trip.
Donna Humphrey Donnell
Donna is working on writing an article on the story of Charles and Joseph White and the research she did to learn their story. We hope Donna gives us another shout out when the article is done so we can learn more about her experience. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Donna!
About Juliana Smith
Juliana Szucs Smith has been working for Ancestry.com for more than 16 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program, and is currently on the clock working towards certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists.