Societies

Member of the National Genealogical Society 2018
Member of the New Mexico Genealogical Society 2018

Genealogy Research - Thou Shall Not Judge

I have been a great advocate of not judging another era by our own standards. I still believe that we should not judge how others lived by how we live today. But it was a bit difficult to stick to my own beliefs when I made a discovery within my own family last evening.

Not all ancestral documents are easily discovered. They used abbreviations for first names, and misspelled last names. However, after all these years, I discovered one of "those documents" that all Southern families generally don't want to find - a Slave Schedule.

In a nutshell, one of my favorite ancestors, Jesse D., had purchased a female slave. Perhaps she was there to help my great-great-grandmother. Surely, she was not there to work the fields. And, she was 14 years old.

My first response was, "Jesse D., what the hell are you doing with a 14 year old? A 40 year old woman could have helped my grandmother. She would have knowledge, and enhanced domestic skills. But no, you purchased a 14 year old girl. Buddy, you just came down a whole lotta pegs in my book."

Not every family in the South owned slaves, and we certainly are saddened by discovering it within our own lines. It was allowed and legal in 1850, 15 years before the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

Ethics states that we do not alter, and we do not pick and choose past behaviors in order to falsify our family trees. Jesse D. is still my great-great-grandfather. He is still the ancestor who produced my father's grandfather, which ultimately gave my dad his middle name - Russell. He will stay on my family tree, because history being what it is, he acted upon his society's mores and not ours.

It is, however, humbling.

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