Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Following the Trail

Above is a photo of James and Jane Koonce and family.

Real life has been intruding but I'm doing fairly well at not getting off track when it comes to focusing on my research.

I was finally able to talk to a cousin I met during one of the Koonce family reunions. She answered one of my questions about the family oral legend. All of my life I have been told that part of my heritage was Cherokee. I remember looking years ago at a pictorial history of native Americans and noticing one lady looking so much like my grandmother. I thought that blood line was through the illusive Amy. However, I have almost eliminated that possibility due to the fact that the trend toward enslaving native Americans ended before Amy was probably born.

My cousin Barbara told me that my great-great grandmother Mary Jane Roberts Koonce was half Cherokee. Her mother, Judie, according to Barbara, was a full-blooded Cherokee. Here's the thing that surprised me. Mary Jane Roberts was not black at all. According to Barbara, her father, unknown, was white. Barbara says that Judie and Jane arrived in Tennessee in a wagon. They stopped because they were tired. Judie subsequently married Will Roberts who was not Jane's father. She also tells me that Jane's half-siblings were much darker than her.

Barbara didn't seem to know that Jane had an older brother named Joseph and younger sisters Partuna and Willie who were all said to have been born in Alabama. I have found them on the 1870 census in Haywood County, TN. There is also a one-year-old brother Edmond born in Tennessee. The elder Willie is also said to have been born in Alabama. Barbara's story seems to be that Judie and Jane came alone. She had surmised that they may have been part of the "Trail of Tears." After further research I know that this is impossible for Jane. The Trail of Tears for the Cherokee nation took place in 1838. Jane was born in 1861. Judie was born around 1825 so the legend may be about Judie and her mother (unknown). Barbara also recounts that Jane would often take trips to Hot Springs, Arkansas and some place in Oklahoma. She didn't know why but assumed there were relatives there.

This is another example of why you can't believe word for word the oral legends. You must investigate and verify. It is also an example of how when one question is answered another question is formed. I love genealogy!


Kristin said...

Nice photo but I hate the way people colorized the old photos. It seems to be common for generations to get mixed up in the old stories. Some truth, but further back.

Mavis said...

Oral history is tough especially when relatives are known to embellish. But what I've learned and finally accepting is there is some truth in those old family stories. It's just a matter of being able to pull that little nugget of truth out.

Great picture

Kristin said...

Exactly what I've found Mavis.

Sherry - Family Tree Writer said...

Very Interesting! I've found that, like Mavis said, there is often a nugget of truth, but it either gets smoothed over by time and telling, or gathers some embellishment over time.

I am still searching for the link to my Cherokee ancestors, but looking at my aunts photos when they were young, and quite tan, I have no doubt that it is there somewhere, hiding. They were told they were part Native American, but that was at the turn of the century and they were told to 'be quiet' about it. It wasn't until Mom told my Aunt that I wanted to be part Indian like everyone else in my grade school class that my Aunt told my mom that I was!