Sunday, August 23, 2009

Slavery - Can We Talk?

I just read a blog by Luckie Daniels, Our Georgia Roots that got me to writing. It is a subject that I have thought a lot of about as I research. Luckie asks the question Could we be desensitized to slavery?

My maiden name is Cotten. When I was younger, some would call me "cotton picker." I hated it. Other than that, the subject of slavery didn't bother me. It was a fact of life, my ancestry. Besides, it was very far away. It didn't touch me.

Now, though, I am fascinated by the subject and the history of the Civil War. I know it is because of my addiction to genealogy. I now know that some of my great grandparents were slaves. My grandparents who I knew very well were just one generation away from slavery. I want to know all I can about them and my ancestors. It is frustrating that I can't find more out because of the institution. Slavery is a taboo subject for many slave and slave owner descendants. It prevents the sharing of information because of some subliminal guilt and resentment held on both sides.

So my answer to Luckie's question is no, most people aren't desensitized to slavery. I wish they were. Yes, slavery was evil but it is on a long list of the inhumane, evil things people have done and still do throughout history. If we could become desensitized to the subject of slavery, there would be no old wounds that need healing. If we could respect each other as part of the one family of man, then we could have objective discussions on so many levels. But I'm not holding my breath for that to happen soon.

I am desensitized. Just give me the information I am searching for. I don't hold you accountable for what your great-great-great-granddaddy did to my great-great-great grandma. I don't blame you. I want just the facts, thank you very much.

Friday, August 7, 2009

My genealogy habit

It is ironic to me that I am addicted to genealogy. The irony lies in my perception of myself as an outsider to my own family.

I first became interested in genealogy because my husband’s family and my father’s family came from the same section of Mississippi. My husband Craig had a cousin that everyone said looked just like me. Craig’s mother’s maiden name was Dillon. I knew I was related to Dillons. So I embarked on this ancestral trail to make sure I wasn’t related to my husband by blood. So far we are not.

I also was competing with my aunt Adrene Warren for archival information. Adrene did a considerable amount of legwork in finding out who the Koonces were. This was my maternal grandmother’s family. But my aunt stopped at that one line. She refused to research any other surname. She wasn't interested. So I jumped into the search in defiance to my aunt.

Wanting to know how in the world I fit in this crazy quilt of a family was probably another incentive to me as I continued to search for more ancestors. That and being nosy probably are what keeps me going after I hit my head on the brick walls of genealogy. Yet I still wonder why is it so important for me to know.

There are so many people that don’t care about their past. They are more interested in the here and now. Isn’t that the way it should be? But I believe there also needs to be someone that keeps checking the rear view mirror of our lives so that we don’t go off the straight and narrow path; so that we treasure what is beautiful and unique about our particular family; so that we don’t forget the precious and the notorious individuals that share our genes. There’s usually at least one person in the family who is the clearinghouse of that information. Maybe that's it. Maybe that's the reason I am hooked on genealogy. I'm on a mission. My mission to be the clearinghouse publisher.