Part III: The DNA Trail from Madagascar to Virginia

Please follow and like us:

This is Part III of a blog series about my Malagasy ancestry. This time, I will be discussing my Malagasy ancestors who arrived in the Tidewater region of Virginia in the early 18th century. In Part I, I showed how one can still see the ethnic admixture that our Malagasy ancestors left our family with that show up in our DNA even today. Part II discussed how my NY Malagasy ancestors, now admixed with West African, Dutch, and Native American DNA, left New Amsterdam/New York in the late 1600s and ended up in the Tappen Patent in Bergen County, NJ.

This blogpost is dedicated to my VA Malagasy, West African, Native American and European ancestors whose lives were dictated and circumscribed by the institution of slavery in VA. I especially dedicate it to all those ancestors who were sold South as slaves out of Richmond, VA and whom will remain unknown to me forever. That being said, their DNA still lurks in my veins leaving a tie that still binds us together after all these years. I may not know my unknown ancestors’ names, but, thanks to DNA, I now know cousins who link me to them. May these ancestors all rest in eternal peace knowing that they are still remembered. We are because they were. I am a proud descendant of slaves indeed.

 I would like to thank the following people for inspiring me to write this blog:

Wendy Wilson-Fall for writing her book, Memories of Madagascar and Slavery in the Black Atlantic, which detailed my 8th great-grandfather, Robert “King” Carter’s participation in the Madagascar to Virginia slave trade. More importantly, it detailed what my Virginia Malagasy ancestors faced once they arrived in Virginia and how their memories of Madagascar were passed down to their descendants in an oral form. From one Malagasy descendant to another, I want to say thank you for telling our ancestors’ stories.

Reber Dunkel, retired professor and sociologist at Randolph-Macon College, for his endless assistance in helping me find out more information about my 3rd great-grandmother Crittie Anna Lee, who was born on Shirley Plantation, in Charles City, VA, as well as her mother, Ann Perkins. They are my earliest known Virginia Malagasy-descended ancestors.

Fonte Felipe for his amazing blog, Tracing African Roots, in general as well as for him sharing DNA information that he has collected from Malagasy AncestryDNA tested individuals with me for this blog. Please click here to read his post on Southeast African DNA in the Americas. Fonte has been on the vanguard of analyzing African DNA throughout the African Diaspora. 

Phillip Troutman, Assistant Professor of Writing and History at George Washington University, for his research on the domestic slave trade out of Richmond. His blog on the Virginia Slave Trade visually shows the numbers of enslaved people from Virginia who were sold South between 1790-1860. His current work on “crowdsourcing genealogy” is also very commendable as he has been re-creating family trees based on Information Wanted ads that were placed in newspapers after the Civil War by recently freed enslaved people seeking to locate their relatives.

Ana Edwards, Chair, Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project, for being a kindred spirit who has been speaking truth to power on behalf of all the enslaved people who were sold South out of Shockoe Bottom and their descendants wherever they may be. In words matched with deeds and alongside of Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, Ana has been on the frontlines in Richmond,VA advocating for the preservation of Shockoe Bottom as an historic site.

Joseph McGill, Founder, The Slave Dwelling Project, for continuously and unflinchingly telling the stories of enslaved people and being the current voice for all those who lived and labored in houses/homes that weren’t built for them. The public outreach and education he has and is providing is a noble act indeed. I am thankful for his friendship.

 

‘ The Tidewater Virginia Region

 

 On Truth Telling….

Within the past few months, two white supremacists marches have taken place in Charlottesville, VA — one where a true truth teller was killed — over the removal of Confederate statues. While the Confederate statue issue and the NFL #TakeAKnee protests have dominated national headlines, the issue of how this country has represented itself comes into view ever more clearly. How can we, as Americans, have a fruitful, productive conversation about race when we can’t even acknowledge the stain that slavery left us with centuries after the fact? Slavery is not a black issue. It is an American issue. At it’s root, the colonization of this country was built on Native American genocide and African chattel slavery. It was a long thought out process that led to the death, rape, and enslavement of people, including my ancestors. It was, by no means, a pretty process as portrayed by those in power then and now. On the contrary, it was a very ugly venture undertaken by those who laid claim to a land already inhabited by millions and who brought in enslaved people of African descent to meet their labor demands. The history of how this nation came into existence is now being contested by those of us who are intent on making sure historical truth matters. And it matters now more than ever.
 
The obligation that I have to my all my ancestors is to tell the truth. As their descendant, I have the benefit of historical hindsight which provides me with a lens whereby I can tell their true stories — the good, bad, and ugly. If this country is to be made GREAT(ER), then all of our diverse histories need to be told and not just the history of the majority. My Native American ancestors were here from the beginning of time and some of my Atlantic Creole African ancestors arrived at the same time as my European ancestors in the early 1600s. Make no mistake though, most of my ancestors were here before the mass migration of European immigrants arrived in this country starting in the mid-1800s. I am not alone as there are many, many African-Americans with deep colonial roots in this country. We, too, sing America and our ancestors built America — for FREE.
 
I want to point out that while this blogpost is focused solely on the enslaved Malagasy, who arrived in Virginia in the early 1700s, it details how the institution of slavery made them “African-American” over time and led to their dispersal all over the Deep South.
[For a discussion of the enslaved Malagasy who arrived via the illegal slave trade or came as indentured  servants, please consult Wendy Wilson-Fall’s book]. Because of the oral histories passed down by our Malagasy ancestors and now because of the availability of mtDNA/Y-DNA tests, many African- and Euro-Americans have been able to discover their Malagasy roots. I hope this blogpost helps people with Malagasy ancestry to understand how their ancestors arrived in Virginia and then ended up elsewhere. The migration of enslaved Malagasy people can be traced —even without a known Malagasy ancestor — because of the genetic map they left behind in our DNA.
 

Pre-1700 Tidewater Virginia: We Were Here From the Beginning 

The invented history of Europeans being solely responsible for making this country what it was, or came to be, is based on lies. The success of European colonization was built on the subjugation of Native Americans and Africans. Native Americans provided their colonizers with the skills they needed to survive in a land that was “new” to them as they were original occupiers of this country. When Europeans did arrive in the Tidewater region of Virginia in the early 1600s, there were around 14,000 Native Americans — the Powhatan, the Pamunkey, the Chickahominy, the Patawomeck, and the Rappahannock — residing there. Their interactions with these Native Americans resulted in a vicious land grab that ultimately led to Native American genocide within the first 100 years of contact. By 1700, the Native population declined to 1,900 individuals, an 85% decline in population, due to slavery, disease, and non-stop warfare which ended in their deaths, according to Anthony Parent.
 
The first Africans to arrive in the Tidewater region of Virginia in 1619 were Atlantic Creoles. They were part of the transatlantic exchange of cultures that resulted from the initial contact between Europeans and Africans on the West Coast of Africa, starting in the 15th century , which was transported to the Caribbean and the Americas. Atlantic Creoles had already mastered the languages and cultures of diverse European colonizers, were familiar with their trading ventures, and utilized this knowledge to better their circumstances when they were able. They arrived in VA as both indentured servants and as enslaved persons. Some were freed after their indentured service ended and became property owners. Others were enslaved for life.  With the English discovery that this “new” land supported tobacco growing, the rush to settle the colony and profit from it became greater. Between 1619-1697, 13,000-20,000 Africans were brought to VA to begin a lifetime of perpetual servitude. The number of Africans dramatically increased with “blackness” alone becoming associated with slavery. From 1698-1774, 96,000 Africans were imported into the Virginia colony as slaves.
 
The Europeans — primarily the English, Scots, and Irish — who arrived in Virginia in the early 1600s, were a hodgepodge mix of characters, including sons of elite English gentry, merchants, adventurers, ex-convicts, etc. The Virginia Company developed a “headright” system to encourage immigrants to settle there. Starting in 1617, elite planters who sponsored an indentured servant received 50 acres of land for paying their fare to VA. Indentured servants then had to labor for a period of 7 years under strict terms. These indentured servants saw their service as a means to an end — one in which they became landowners as well. It should also be noted that these indentured servants routinely worked along side of, intermarried and had children with, and ran away with enslaved people and Native Americans.
 
From the beginning, the elite class of planters controlled the governing branch of the Virginia Company and later the House of Burgesses. This enabled them to exploit the headright system to their advantage which led to the ownership of large tracts of land for themselves and their families. Land speculation soon surfaced and had devastating consequences for those indentured servants who completed their service terms. Faced with not being able to purchase land, they were forced to become tenant farmers or move to frontier areas that were considered dangerous due to Native American incursions. In 1676, Bacon’s Rebellion became the first uprising in VA. It was a rebellion that saw white indentured servants uniting with enslaved Africans against the ruling class in power. In response to the Rebellion and, in recognition that the supply of white indentured servants was drying up, numerous laws were enacted to codify the institution of slavery in Virginia and forever separate the poor from aligning together in the future.
 
A timeline of laws codifying slavery in Virginia can be found here. 

 

The Importation of Enslaved Malagasy (1719-1721)

 
http://www.slavevoyages.org/assessment/intro-maps
 
 
Between 1719-1721, there were seven slave ships that arrived in the Tidewater region of Virginia with enslaved Malagasy in their cargo holds. These vessels were the Prince Eugene and the Henrietta, which both sailed twice, the Mercury, the Gascoigne Galley, the and the Rebecca Snow. As I previously noted in my Part II blogpost, the voyage from Madagascar to the East Coast of the US was 4-6 months long and most likely included a stopover on the island of St. Helena  to replenish supplies. I can only imagine the horrors that enslaved people went through during this Middle Passage. That they even survived is a miracle in itself as well as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. It’s no wonder that the average mortality rate was as high as 31% on these voyages. Part of the mortality rate was due to the fact that the enslaved were already slaves in Madagascar having been captured by other ethnic groups before being sold. The rest had to do with the despicable, inhumane conditions inherent on any transatlantic slave ship voyage. One of the most harrowing accounts is that of the Gascoigne Galley slave ship that arrived in VA in 1721 from Madagascar with 133 slaves, out of 192 individuals purchased. The slaves on this ship  had contracted a disease that caused their eyes to come out of their sockets. There were roughly 1,300 enslaved Malagasy who ended up in Virginia during the 1719-1721 time period. 
 
Please note that there was also an unknown slave ship that arrived in Virginia from Madagascar in 1686 that had 210 Malagasy onboard. This would mean around approximately 1,500 enslaved Malagasy survived the Middle Passage and took up residence in Virginia. 

From Kevin P. McDonald’s Book, Pirates, Merchants, Settlers and Slaves (2015)
 
It should also be noted that the Carolinas received an unknown number of enslaved Malagasy as Charleston was settled by planters from Barbados. Enslaved Malagasy were imported into the Carolinas for their rice production skills. By 1700, half of the  slaves — roughly 16,500 individuals — in Barbados were of Malagasy descent. Between 1679-1718, there were 27 voyages from Madagascar to Barbados. Likewise, Jamaica also received 2,000 slaves between 1685-1719.
 

Robert King Carter: My Slave Owner 8th Great-Grandfather and Major Importer and Purchaser of The Enslaved Malagasy in VA (1719-1721)

As Wendy Wilson-Fall discusses in her book Memories of Madagascar and Slavery in the Black Atlantic, Robert “King” Carter was the major investor in the Madagascar to Virginia Slave Trade as well as the major purchaser of the enslaved Malagasy who arrived in the Tidewater region of Virginia. He also was my slave owner 8th great-grandfather. No one chooses their ancestors and I, in no way, shape, or form, will ever condone his abhorrent behavior as it relates to slavery. I just can’t as long as the blood of people he enslaved still runs through my veins. However, I will tell the truth about his life.

When Robert “King”Carter (1663-1732) died, the inventory of his 40 page will was a testament to his status as “King” of colonial Virginia. His will stated that he owned 300,000 acres of land, 57 plantations and quarters, around 800 slaves (click here for a list of names of the enslaved) and £10,000 of cash. He added a codicil in his will that forever linked the enslaved and their descendants to a particular plantation or quarter. An enslaved person could be relocated to a different plantation if a Carter daughter inherited those slaves as part of her dowry and they would become part of husband’s property. Of course, enslaved people could be sold at any time.

Over the course of his lifetime, Robert “King” Carter amassed great wealth from the tobacco trade and other businesses which led him to become one of the wealthiest men in Virginia. He also was very much a part of the elite ruling class and served in the House of Burgesses for years. His sons followed in their father’s footsteps and later maintained the family’s wealth and political dynasty for generations. One of the ways he increased his family’s wealth was to form alliances, via the marriages of his sons and daughters, to other “First Families of Virginia.”  The Byrd, Burwell, Randolph, Armistead, Page, Fitzhugh, Harrison, Braxton, Wormeley, Mann, and Berkeley families, among others, were all affiliate families to the Carters. His extended family and businesses were completely intertwined. Wealth begat wealth.

 
Carter and affiliate family plantations from Memories of Madagascar and Slavery in  the Black Atlantic


While Robert “King” Carter was certainly a man of great wealth, that wealth came at the expense of my enslaved ancestors and others. In order to harness this free labor force, Carter employed several methods to exert his control. One of the ways was for him to strip these saltwater Africans of their ethnic/tribal identity by giving them English first names only. He also separated members of the same ethnic group into different quarters where they could not communicate with each other. Within a generation or two, we can easily see how enslaved Africans became “African-American” as they began to lose knowledge of their own African cultures though not entirely.

Robert “King” Carter also used violence to manage his enslaved population. Whippings, beatings, and the killing of the enslaved were routine during slavery. The Carter Papers provide us with a goldmine of information in HIS words. In these papers, we learn about a runaway slave named Madagascar Jack — whose name clearly reflected his Malagasy roots — who on August 22,1722 was returned to Robert “King” Carter as a runaway slave.  Carter then sought permission to have him mutilated in order to cure him of his runaway habits. Despite having his toes amputated, Madagascar Jack apparently continued to runaway. Five years later, on October 10, 1727, Carter wrote about how he didn’t want Madagascar Jack to go to his new Corotoman Plantation though many other enslaved people ended up at there. In one letter, Carter also mentioned mutilating another slave named Ballazore.  Back in1710, he mutilated Bambara Harry and Dinah. These mutilations were a form of torture that my 8th slave owner great-grandfather boasted of “having cured many a negro of running away by this means.” I can’t help to wonder if any of my Malagasy-descended ancestors were the subjects and victims his abuse.

 

Robert “King” Carter’s letter dated October 10, 1727

Most of the enslaved Malagasy that Robert “King” Carter purchased in the early 1700s were women and children.  These women would have been coerced into mating with men of West African or European descent when they first arrived —most likely not of their own choosing considering they had no control over their fates or bodies. The formation of somewhat more stable families would only come later. Such was the nature of slavery. The children born from these enslaved Malagasy women would have been first generation  ”African-Americans.” As you will see from the admixture charts later, African-Americans are truly a diaspora population. But, some of these children would have also “passed” as Euro-American with their African-American and Malagasy roots being totally obscured.

 

I want to add here that Robert “King” Carter did have a grandson, Robert Carter III (my 1st cousin 8XR), who became known as “The Great Emancipator.” In 1791, Robert III signed a Deed of Gift that led to the emancipation of 500-600 enslaved people over the course of 30 years. This was one of the largest number of enslaved people being emancipated prior to the Civil War. Nomini Hall is the plantation that he inherited from his grandfather and where his enslaved people labored. Robert III was clearly influenced by his Baptist religion. He was one of many slave owners who began to question slavery and start to embrace abolitionism. John Pleasants III, a Quaker, also emancipated his slaves in his will. When his son, Robert Pleasants started to execute his wishes after his death, other family members sued him to prevent these emancipations from going forward. He was successful in court and went on to free hundreds of enslaved people. He then hired his formerly enslaved back as paid laborers and provided schooling for them. Robert went on to become an ardent abolitionist. Curles Neck Plantationwhich was owned by the Pleasants, was only 8 miles from Shirley Plantation and the Pleasants no doubt owned enslaved Malagasy and their descendants.

 

Me and my 8th Carter cousin, Erika Kirsten Holder, proud cousins of the “Great Emancipator”

My Family’s DNA Trail From Madagascar to VA

I have five colonial lines that can be traced to Virginia on my maternal African-American side. One line is from my 3rd great-grandmother Mary Johnson, on my maternal grandfather’s side, from Greenwich, CT who was born in VA in the early 1800s. She somehow ended up in CT, but we have no idea where in VA she was born. My maternal 2nd great-grandparents on my grandfather’s maternal side, William H. Jackson and Katherine Davis Jackson, were born in VA, but they moved to Newark, NJ sometime by 1880. My Jackson/Davis/Thomas/Brookins line was from Charlottesville, Fork Union (Fluvanna County) Fredericksburg, Lynchburg, Waynesboro, and Farmville, VA. On my maternal grandmother’s side, my great-grandmother’s Lee/Carter/Mitchell line was from Charles City, Petersburg, Richmond, and Dinwiddie County, VA. My 2nd great-grandfather, James D. Mitchell, moved to Boston, MA after the Civil War and married a first generation Irish-American woman named Julia Lennihan. It is his maternal line that was of Malagasy descent. I have every reason to suspect that some of my grandfather’s VA ancestors also included people who had Malagasy roots as we shall see.

 

My Virginia Ancestral Towns

On my Lee/Carter/Mitchell line, we have oral history that was passed down indicating that my 3rd great-grandmother, Crittie Anna Lee, was born on Shirley Plantation and that she was the daughter of Charles Carter Lee, an older brother of Gen. Robert E. Lee, and an enslaved woman named Ann Perkins. She was married to Mortimer Mitchell, another mulatto. We had a male Mitchell tested amd hie has a Euro Y-DNA.We don’t know much about how she met Mortimer or where he came from. His background may have been similar to hers. Our Mitchell ancestors found their way to Union troops where Crittie and Mortimer worked as a nurse and cook until the end of the war. After the Civil War, they resided in Namozine, Dinwiddie County, VA until their deaths. They were farmers who owned their property. Five of their children ended up moving to MA, PA, and NY by the late 1800s.

 

My slave owner 4th great-grandfather, Charles Carter Lee

 

Number of Slaves at Shirley Plantation over time

We were told that Crittie was Black and Native American on her mother’s side. This was quite plausible since African-Americans with colonial roots in Virginia were known to have intermarried with Native Americans in the area. Her son James was also referred to as “The Old Indian” in the Stoughton, MA where he owned a farm and a store in the early 1900s. My aunt Helen also told me of how many people thought that James’s son, my Uncle Bill, was of Asian descent as well (see photo below).

 

P Rev. James William Mitchell aka My Uncle Bill

In her book, Memories of Madagascar and Slavery in the Black Atlantic, Wendy Wilson-Fall points out that the oral history of Malagasy descendants often includes mention of their phenotype. The physical descriptions of enslaved Malagasy includes references to their yellow skin, hair, and eyes. Because Madagascar was settled by people from East Africa and Southeast Asia, their phenotype was probably similar to those enslaved people who were of African and Native American descent. Again, Native Americans and Africans were slaves who labored together in the early years of colonization. Generations after the first Malagasy arrived in VA, some of their descendants may have forgotten their family origins and chose to remember what their ancestors looked like. Hence, many people may have oral history of ancestors being Black and Native American when they were in fact of Malagasy descent or, more likely, were of West African, Malagasy and Native American descent like my family.

 

An example of the Black/Native America oral history from a Malagasy-descendant

 

People of Madagascar

Returning to Crittie’s death certificate, her age at the time of her death was 69 years old. However, on US Census records from 1870-1910, her birth year ranges from 1825 to 1846 so it is hard to confirm her exact age. Reber Dunkel, retired professor of Randolph-Macon College, has been helping me locate Crittie and her mother at Shirley Plantation. He believes her first name is unique and uncommon for the time so it may have been a first name that was passed down. In his research, he has found 2 Critties listed as slaves at Shirley Plantation’s sister plantation, Hickory Hill in Hanover County. Ann Butler Carter (my 1st cousin 6XR), daughter of Robert Hill Carter, received 1717 acres of land and 70 slaves from Shirley Plantation from her father, a brother of my 5th great-grandmother Anne Hill Carter, as a dowry when she married William Fanning Wickham. Her sister, Lucy Carter (also my 1st cousin 6XR), received a similar dowry when she married William’s brother, Edmund Fanning Wickham. It has been documented that the first enslaved people employed at Hickory Hill came from Shirely Plantation. It is quite possible that my Crittie may have descended from one of  these two Critties. Likewise, Reber is also exploring the possibility of an ancestral link with the Hickory Hill Critties and Critta —Crittie is the diminutive form of the name —Hemings, sister of Sally Hemings. John Wayles, their father, owned The Forest plantation which was located in Charles City County where Shirley Plantation is located. I’m still searching for more info on Crittie, Ann Perkins, and her Perkins slave owners. I expect to take more trips to Virginia to do more family research.

What we do know about Crittie is that her line connects to known Malagasy descendants like the Raglands, Dickersons, Parhams, Carters, Lees, etc. via our DNA cousins. Given the fact that Robert “King” Carter tied his enslaved people to the properties where they were born, coupled with him being the major purchaser/importer of enslaved Malagsy, and our oral history as well, we can assume that her matrilineal line may be a Malagasy one. Crittie has an elderly great-granddaughter in NYC,  who also has a daughter, that we can administer a Full Sequence mtDNA test to confirm definitively. We are tracking them down now to test as I write this blog post.

The major goal of FTDNA’s Malagasy Roots Project is to identify people who have Full Sequence mtDNA or Y-DNA haplogroups that are found in Madagascar and connect them to their cousins who are of Malagasy descent. These particular DNA tests offer the most conclusive evidence of Malagasy ancestry. That being said, there are indicators of Malagasy ancestry that can be found by looking at autosomal DNA test results in combination with local history, Malagasy entry points into the US, oral history, etc. I want to be very clear that admixture tests alone are NOT an indicator of Malagasy ancestry. There needs to be more corroborative proof.  My fellow blogger  Melvin Collier documents his discovery of his Malagasy roots in his blogpost doing exactly what I have always recommended. Through his analysis of his family’s autosomal results, he has been able to confirm his Malagasy roots and connect with a Malagasy DNA cousin.

 

Detecting Indicators of Malagasy Ancestry Using AncestryDNA

 
Fonte Felipe, a fellow blogger, has graciously shared some of the data he has been analyzing related to Malagasy people who have DNA-tested at AncestryDNA. He has documented the country backgrounds of Malagasy descended individuals. It is striking to note that most Malagasy-descended people who have tested at AncestryDNA are African-American and/or of West Indian descent followed by people of Euopean descent from the United States and Europe and the Spanish Caribbean. This is a testament to just how large the Madagascar Slave Trade to the Caribbean and the Americas was in the late 1600s to early 1700s.
 
 
Info on Malagasy AncestryDNA Matches/Fonte Felipe
 
For the past few years, I have been analyzing how Malagasy ancestry manifests itself across all DNA testing companies. Using my family’s M23 haplogroup — which is only found in Madagascar — as a control group, I have been documenting the geographical regions that may be indicative of Malagsy roots. On AncestryDNA, we definitely see a combination of East/South/Central Africa geographical areas along with an Asian component which isn’t surprising since Madagascar was settled by people from SE Asia and East Africa. Regarding the African geographical areas, one of the things Fonte noted is that, in addition to SE Bantu as a region, one also sees that the Cameroon/Congo region is also somewhat high. The Cameroon/Congo admixture may be coming from Mozambique. This no doubt reflects how the Bantu Expansion spread from West to East Africa. Please note that the West African trace regions found in today’s Malagasy would not be the same trace regions as our Malagasy ancestors who arrived in the United States centuries ago though.

 

List of African regions for Malagasy DNA-tested individuals/Fonte Felipe

 

Historic Bantu Expansion

 

Map of Madagascar Ethnic Groups

 

Fonte also shared three Malagasy AncestryDNA ethnic admixture profiles with me. In the first chart, this Malagasy individual is probably Merina from the Highlands because of the higher percentage of Asian admixture. Fonte didn’t have much info on the 2nd Malagasy profile other than that person was from Southwest Madagascar from the Atsimo-Andrefana region, but you can see how this person has more East African admixture than Asian admixture.

 

Malagasy Profile 1/Fonte Felipe

 

Malagasy Profile 2/Fonte Felipe

 

“ Malagasy Profile 3/Fonte Felipe

 

Fonte has had the most contact with the 3rd Malagasy profile. This Malagasy person had a Makua ancestor from Mozambique. He is from Northeast Madagascar and is also part Antankarana and Antaimoro.

In general, looking at these three profiles, we can gather that the African components include SE African Bantu and Cameroon/Congo. I did notice that in Malagasy-descended African Americans, we also see South-Central Hunters and Gatherers. This designation may have to do with where enslaved Malagasy originated from centuries ago which is why we don’t see it in these present day Malagasy profiles. The Asian component could be any combination of Asia East, Asia South, Asia Central, and/or Pacific Islander (Polynesia and Melanesia).

Here are three profiles representing my family. My cousin Mildred is a direct matrilineal descendant of our shared 2nd great-grandmother, Laura Thompson who had the M23 haplogroup. Helen is my maternal aunt and reflects our two Malagasy lines from NY (Thompson/Pickett/Snyder)  and VA (Lee/Carter/Mitchell line). Our cousin Barbara is on our Jackson/Davis/Thomas/Brookins line. As a point of clarification, any of the geographical regions included as main regions may reflect recent ancestry coming from other ancestors from those regions as well. Most of the Malagasy indicators would be found in “Low Confidence Regions” as this would reflect ancestry from those areas centuries ago. For a more detailed discussion of Malagasy admixture, please refer to my Part I blog post which can be found here.

 

AncestryDNA Admixture Chart for Mildred (M23)

My cousin Mildred has a DNA match whose family is from Edgecombe County, NC and has an ancestor from Madagascar.

A Madagascar ancestor of a DNA match

AncestryDNA Admixture Chart for Barbara

 

Here are 2 of my Mitchell 2nd cousins 1XR. We share the same 2nd great-grandfather, James D. Mitchell. They would be my aunt Helen’s 2nd cousins. Their grandfather was my great-grandmother’s brother, James W. Mitchell.

 

AncestryDNA Admixture Chart for Suzette 

AncestryDNA Admixture Chart for EC

 

Please note that the profile below is of my 3rd cousin 1XR. Cyntania is a descendant of my 2nd great-grandfather’s brother George Mitchell. Notice how Cyntania admixture profile doesn’t show any Asian component. DNA is randomly inherited so this should not be a surprise. She is a perfect example of why it is best to test multiple people within a family. She is a direct descendant of our Crittie, but apparently she didn’t inherit her Asian DNA, according to AncestryDNA, and neither did I as a matter of fact  though it does show up on my other DNA admixture tests.

 

AncestryDNA Admixture Chart for Cyntania

AncestryDNA Admixture Chart for Teresa

Teresa’s DNA Tribes SNP Analysis

Though I have five colonial lines that begin and end in Virginia, my family never had any oral or written history that documented our ancestors in the Deep South. After taking several DNA tests, I now am acutely aware of the fact that I have VA ancestors who were sold South out of Richmond, VA. With their permission given, here are a few DNA cousins I match whose AncestryDNA admixture charts, surnames, and locations match my Virginia Malagasy-descended ancestors and other VA DNA cousins.

 

Ahmad is on my Lee/Carter/ Mitchell line via a Parham 

Shirese is on our Lee/Carter/Mitchell line via a Mitchell

Nicole is related to us on our Lee/Carter/Mitchell line via a Franklin

 

Here are some of the DNA Malagasy-descended cousin matches that my aunt Helen and I have that reflect surnames on our family tree either via VA slave owners or their slaves of Malagasy descent who were sold South out of Richmond, VA.

 

A Lee descendant

A Smith descendant

A Hill descendant

A Robinson descendant

A Byrd descendant 

A Jackson descendant

A Jones descendant

A Davis descendant

A Carter descendant

A Franklin descendant

 

Surnames of Malagasy Descendants

Here is a list of surnames that are found among both my VA and NY Malagasy-descended ancestors AND NY and VA slave owner ancestors who purchased the enslaved Malagasy who arrived in NY and VA in between 1664-1698 and 1719-1721. Some of these surnames are found in both states. I have also added the surnames that Wendy-Wilson Fall compiled on her Ancestry.com Rootsweb page back in 2003. Click here to see her original list.

Alexander, Banks, Barnes, Barker, Bateman, Baylor, Belsches, Beckinridge, Beckwith, Blanchard, Bowman, Braxton, Bennett, Brown, Bundy, Burnette, Burwell, Byrd/Bird, Calhoun, Carter, Catlett, Chu, Clark, Clay, Coleman, Cowan/Cohen, Crenshaw, Crosby, Cunningham, Dandridge, Davis, DeGroat/DeGroot, Dickerson/Dickinson/Dickenson, Dorsey, Epps/Eppes, Fanning, Fisher, Fortune, Franklin, Gillette, Grant, Grimes, Hamilton, Hammond, Harris, Henderson, Hicks, Hill, Huff, Jackson, Jefferson, Johnson, Jones, Kemp, Lee, Lewis, Mahammitt/Mahomet, Madinglay,  Mann/Manuel, McCaw, McDaniel, McKizzick, McKeel/Keel, Meriweather, Michie, Milligan, Mitchell, Moten, Nevins/Nevius, Overton, Patillo/Patilla/Tiller, Parham, Perkins, Peterman, Peterson, Pickett, Pleasant, Pointdexter, Prescott, Primus, Puckett, Quarles, Ragland, Ragsdale, Randolph, Robinson, Sandidge, Scott, Simmons, Smith, Sisco, Sitwell, Snyder, Spotswood, Spurlock, Steptoe, Taylor, Terrell, Thomas, Thomson/Thompson, Towshend, TenBroeck/Timbrook, Turner, Vanderzee, VanDunk, Van Duyne, Van Horn, Van Ness, Van Riper, Watson, Williams, Wilson, and Winston.

 

Not our Ann Perkins, but clearly a Malagasy-descendant surname!

Please note that Wendy Wilson-Fall has started a Mapping Memories of Madagascar site where she seeks to document both enslaved and free Malagasy-descended individuals. Please click on the red hyperlink above to add your ancestor’s name to her interactive map.

 

Ragland and Dickerson Connections: It’s a Small Colonial World After All

I want to mention the Ragland family in colonial VA as this family routinely purchased slaves of Malagasy descent. On our Carter and Lee side, my family is related to Evan Ragland, the “immigrant,” who arrived in VA from  Somerset, England in the mid-1600s. The Raglands were of English and Welsh descent. Evan was 14 years old when he was kidnapped, along with John Davis, from Somerset and shipped out of Bristol, England to labor as an indentured servant for Stephen Pettus in colonial Virginia. He then married Stephen’s daughter Susana after his term expired and went on to inherit land. He also owned an unknown number of enslaved people. Evan’s personal history was indeed the stuff that indentured servants dreamed of when they arrived in this country.
 
Charles Ragland, a descendant of Evan, wrote a book where he estimated that between “1640 and 1680 up to 100,000 children may have been kidnapped in Britain and sold to the highest bidders in America.” As indenture servitude began to decline after the 1660s, abduction became a common practice. Ragland states, that  “such protests (and increased interest in voluntary emigration) had brought the practice to an end around 1679, in which year a captain was hung for kidnapping an eleven year old boy.”
 
All Euro-descended Raglands in the US are related to Evan Ragland. Their extended family spread out from VA and ended up in West Virginia, the Carolinas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and Pennsylvania throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. They took their enslaved people with them as they moved out of VA and purchased more enslaved people as they built their wealth off of the backs of the enslaved. The dispersal of these white planters and their slaves went hand in hand with Native Americans being subjected to both physical relocation to other parts of the country as well as policies that can be considered genocidal.
 
African-American Raglands are descendants of children fathered by Ragland men and Malagasy/West African/Native American women and those unrelated enslaved people who took their surname before and after they were emancipated. The Raglands lived in the same locations as my Carter ancestors — Charles City, Richmond, Spotslyvania, New Kent County, Dinwiddie County, Prince George County and other VA locations. The two families also intermarried. It should come as no surprise that my family shares a genetic tie with both Euro- and African-American Raglands who descend from the early Malagasy people, who were bought and sold, in Tidewater region of Virginia.
 
 
A European-descent Ragland

An African-American Ragland of Malagasy descent

Jill Ragland and Janine Colbert, our F3b1 Malagasy descended cousins

 

Although Jill Ragland has the Ragland surname, her mother Janine is the one we are related to via a distant Malagasy ancestor though her dad may also be a Malagasy descedant. They are part of the Malagasy Roots Project and her mtDNA haplogroup is F3b1 which is one of the Malagasy haplogroups that is found in Asia and Madagascar. Though for some reason they didn’t show up on her main AncestryDNA page, Janine also has Asia South and Asia Central admixture on the AncestryDNA phone app. Janine’s maternal Malagasy F3b1 ancestors probably arrived in Georgia from Virginia. It looks like her connection to my family is because of ancestor who was sold South.

It should be pointed out that the Ragland Plantation in Petersburg is now a Bed & Breakfast. The website is geared towards promoting the aesthetics of the place. However, there is a history of the Ragland Plantation on the site that mentions both Reuben and John Davis Raglands’ active involvement in the domestic slave trade out of Richmond as slave traders, bankers, and as  part of the insurance industry that oiled the engines of slavery. It also appears that John Davis dropped his Ragland surname when he was a slave trader which was a great way to disguise his hideous complicity in the slave trade for future generations.

There was another Ragland descendant who owned Sylvie, a woman of Malagasy-descent, whom he later freed in his will along with their children and his other enslaved people. His name was William Ragland, Jr.  (1780-1849) from Louisa County, VA who was a descendant of Evan Ragland via William, Sr. > Samuel> John > Evan. He died at the age of 69 of typhoid fever in 1849. Sylvia/Sylvie was 40 years younger than William. This type of situation was common among some slave owners and their relationship reminds us of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. From the newspaper below, we learn that in addition to emancipating his enslaved people, William had set aside $20,000 (which would be $617,000 in 2017) when he died and instructed his executers to buy land in Pike and Jackson Counties in Ohio. The executers related how they bought land and settled almost 100 formerly enslaved people between 1855-1860.

 

The Jackson Standard 10/19/1866

 

In the book Free Blacks of Louisa County Virginia, it’s worth noting that William Ragland, not only emancipated Slyvia/Sylvie and their children (Lousia, Martha, Lucy, Ellen, Betsy, Sylvia/Sylvie, Jr., William, Jr, and Samuel), but may have also emancipated her sisters, Mary (mother of Thomas, Margaret, Henry, David, William, Nathan, and Franklin) and Esther (mother of Nathaniel, John, Catherine, George, Polly, and Sally) and their children. Sylvia/Sylvie, Mary, and Esther were 34, 37, and 42 years old when they were granted their freedom. There was a 70-year old woman named Judith Ragland who may have been their mother or aunt. It seems like William Ragland was another slave owner, like Thomas Jefferson, who kept his very enslaved family close to him. I am certain that these African-American of Malagasy descent women exercised their own agency as they recognized the privilege they had relative to other enslaved people.

Another William James Ragland (1810-1876) who was a cousin of the William above and also a descendant of Evan Ragland via Fendall> Pettus> John > Evan, listed Mary Agnes Meriwearther (1829-1892) as a “friend” in his will and left his entire estate to her and his “natural” and “confirmed heirs” — Nannie James Meriweather, Mary Adeline Meriweather, James Edward Meriwearher and John Meirweather.  In the 1880 census, Mary Agnes is listed as a widow and is living with her son Harry who is 14 years old. It’s uncertain if John’s middle name was Harry or if this is a son by a different father. We know very little about Mary Agnes and nothing about how she felt about her life other than what she wanted recorded on her tombstone for all to see. She simply stated “I fought the good fight.” Only she knew what that meant and the rest of us are left to wonder what she meant. Mary Agnes is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Richmond, VA alongside of many well-known African-Americans.

 

Mary Agnes Meriweather ….”I fought the good fight.”

 

Another colonial family that had ties with both the Carters and the Raglands was the Dickerson family whose ancestors resided all over colonial Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC. They then moved to other states as the United States expanded South and West as they cleared the land of Native Americans. Griffin Dickerson/Dickinson/Dickenson, the “immigrant,” arrived in Virginia in the early-1600s. The spelling of their surname changed over time and is found in the historical records spelled as  Dickerson, Dickinson, and Dickenson. Like the Carters and Raglands, the Dickersons accumulated their wealth initially due to the tobacco industry that was predicated on slave labor. They also lived in the same exact areas as the Carters and Raglands and no doubt procured their slaves from the same sources as those two families. [As an aside, one of Robert Carter III’s 300-acre property in Richmond County was named Dickersons Mill].The Dickersons certainly received a share of the enslaved Malagasy who arrived in the early 1700s as well as their descendants over time.

 

A Euro-American Dickerson descendant

 

TB’s ancestor, Griffin Dickerson

My family is related to both Euro- and African-American Dickersons.  I have several Malagasy-descended DNA Dickerson cousins. One of whom is Eugene Dickerson. His Dickerson ancestors were from Spotsylvania County, VA,  a location that matches one of Robert “King” Carter’s plantations. It appears that there was a Hugh Mercer Dickinson. (1811-1888) in Spotsylvania who was a slave owner with 26 enslaved people documented in the 1850 and 1860 census records. There was also an Elisha Dickinson who was a slave owner in 1783 in Spotsylvania with 11 slaves. More research needs to be done to see if this family was the slave owners of Eugene’s ancestors. Eugene and my family also have other DNA cousins in common like Shirese Louie and her siblings. By the way, in following Hugh Mercer Dickinson’s tree, I noticed his grandmother was a Quarles— a surname that Shirese also has in her tree.

Eugene also has a grandfather, Thomas Frazier Dickerson (1872-1992), who married Hallie Sandidge (1892-1934). Hallie’s side has 2 other Malagasy-descendant surnames, Scott and Jones. The white Sandidge family, another early colonial family, are found in New Kent, Lousia, Spotslyvania, and Amherst counties which again are where the Carters, Raglands, and Dickersons lived. There are records in the book Free Blacks of Louisa County Virginia which contains the names of several Sandidge enslaved people who were emanicpated in Richard Sandidge’s will. 

 

Eugene Dickerson

 

 

Nicole Dickerson, Eugene’s daughter

 

From the book Free Blacks of Louisa County Virginia by transcribed by Janice Abercrombie

 

 

Eugene and his family were unaware of their Malagasy ancestry. I truly hope that I have provided them with some clues to further investigate their Dickerson-Sandidge line. With the help of other DNA cousins, they may be able to find even more info. The next step for them should definitely be Full Sequence mtDNA and Y-DNA tests.

Another interesting Dickerson/Dickinson/Dickenson tidbit is Richard Henry Dickinson whose ancestors are probably related to Griffin Dickerson/Dickinson/Dickenson as well. R.H. Dickinson was one of the major slave traders in Richmond from 1840 up until the Civil War. He operated under the slave trading firms of Dickinson and Brothers and as Dickinson, Hill & Co. Between 1846-1849, he sold 2000 enslaved Virginians South annually. In 1857, his firm earned $2 Million in slave sales. Click here for a timeline of R.H. Dickinson’s slave trading years. I also found an ad that was placed in a Richmond newspaper where Dickerson was selling the slaves owned by John Wickham (my 2nd cousin 5XR), the son of Anne Butler (Carter) Wickham and William Fanning Wickham of Hickory Hill Plantation. That William Fanning Wickam used R.H. Dickerson’s slave trading firm attests to family ties that spanned generations. In the auction, 130 enslaved people were sold — some of whom may have been my ancestors as his mother was a Carter from Shirley Plantation. John was only 25 years old when he passed away and already was a man of wealth.

 

Estate Sale for John Wickham, including enslaved people

 

Richmond: The Epicenter of the Domestic Slave Trade (1790-1860)

 
A slave coffle…
 

A discussion of Richmond being an epicenter of the domestic slave trade, behind New Orleans, is essential if we are to understand the migration of African- and Euro-Americans with Malagasy roots to parts of the Deep South. After the African slave trade ended in 1808 in the wake of the Haitian Revolution, we see that the growth of the domestic slave trade coincided with the genocide and displacement of Native Americans from their lands and the rise of cotton and sugar plantations in the South and Southwest. Virginia was a tobacco growing state and, as the land became overworked and degraded over the years, the planter class looked for ways to harness and unload their surplus enslaved labor. They did this by first migrating to, and settling in areas, that had been cleared of Native Americans in the South and Southwest and they took their enslaved people with them. These VA planters also unloaded their surplus enslaved labor by selling these people South out of Richmond. As the cotton and sugar trade grew, the planter class were joined by others seeking to enrich their station in life by buying and trading enslaved people. The accumulative wealth of European-Americans in this country was built on the enslavement of millions of people of African descent. 

https://virginiaslavetrade.wordpress.com/ Phillip Troutman

Eyre Crowe, Waiting for Sale Painting, 1861

https://virginiaslavetrade.wordpress.com/ Phillip Troutman

 

From 1790-1860, as Phillip Troutman in his Virginia Slave Trade blog makes abundantly clear, 45% of enslaved people sold South came from Virginia.  According to Michael Tadman, an estimated 350,000 enslaved Virginians were sold South out of Richmond from 1820-1860. That number is probably a lot higher as we will never know how many enslaved people were sold between 1790-1820 or how many free Blacks were kidnapped and sold South as well. I should also add here that,  in 1850s, there were a quarter of a million mixed race slave children in Virginia. This means that slave owners were making and selling their own children for profit, according to David W. Blight.

 

A list of slave ads

A depiction of a slave auction

And obituary of a Nancy Carter from Richmond who ended up sold in TX/Shared with me by Sherri Thomas, a 3rd great-granddaughter  of Nancy Carter Vining

 

Information Wanted Ad looking for Richmond,VA relatives

 

Slavery was never designed to promote Black family reunification. On the contrary, it was an institution that was hellbent on destroying the ties that bind. When considering the impact of the domestic slave trade on African-Americans, whose ancestors were from Virginia, we need to be aware that most of the enslaved who were sold were between the ages of 15-25 years of age. However, according to the historian Steven Deyletwo-fifths of antebellum slaves were younger than 15 and one-third were younger than 10 years old. The youngest of enslaved victims may not have known who their parents were having been taken from them at a very young age, housed in slave pens, sold a couple of times before ending up at auction houses before being transported South. Even with DNA testing, while we may locate some of our DNA cousins who are the descendants of our VA ancestors, there will be many more ancestors who will remain lost to us forever. Slavery caused a major disruption in our family trees and family history. Tears.

 

I Like My History Black…Hold The Sugar: Historical Trauma and The Sanitization of Slavery

 
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Oct. 2017


 

I was blessed to have the  opportunity to speak at a symposium on “Universities, Slavery, Public Memory & The Built Environment” at the University of Virginia-Charlottesville this past October 18th-20th and I sat on a panel on “Cemeteries, Slavery, and History.” Over the course of 3 days, panel after panel was devoted to serving up history that was the blackest EVER. The true history of how this country was founded; how slavery was experienced by people of African descent, how certain individuals and institutions profited off of Black bodies before and after death; the role that universities played in propagating slavery and the corrections being made now to rectify the mistakes of the past;  the current state of Black cemeteries and the need to preserve them; the current excavations of slave sites at plantations today; and the on-going incorporation of the voices of the descendants of slaves at plantations, among other topics, were discussed at length. The history at this conference was 100% SUGAR-FREE! The “sugar” that was left out can be compared to all the myth-making, lies, and omissions that have been left out of the historical record in order to make slavery more palatable to the masses. At the conference, I was among kindred spirits who are promoting a corrected, more inclusive view of history. One that, I strongly believe, can heal this country in time. A history built on lies is just that as it obscures truth; whereas a history that is based on truth — one that embraces our diverse histories — allows us to have an honest discussion about how we can learn from this country’s past.  It was only appropriate that I wore Joseph McGill’s Slave Dwelling Project fundraising t-shirt “I like my history black…hold the sugar” because it spoke to me. I like my history, in its truest state, with NO added sugar.

 


DISCLAIMER: I’ve debated for months now on how to handle this section of my blog because it is all bitterness that is based on truth. I have decided not to go into great detail as it may trigger people, but have included articles and books in my reference section for people to read more info on their own, if they choose to do so. 

 

Bitter Black History.. Truth Personified/Location unknown

When we consider the legacy that slavery left that is still with us today, it should come as no surprise then that African-Americans suffer from historic trauma. Historic trauma is a term that refers to the collective emotional and psychological wounding of an individual or group of people caused by traumatic past experiences or events. As descendants of enslaved people, African-Americans suffered repeated personal traumas due to slavery for centuries. Some of those personal traumas included physical abuse, torture, slave killings via dismemberments, burnings, lynchings, mutilation, male and female rape, incest (slaveowner/sons and daughter), male and female forced slave breeding, family separations, etc. This country has done a very good job at minimizing and whitewashing it’s history when it comes to people of color. Why? Because the ugly truth hurts and the coffee is bitter beyond belief. Acknowledging and reconciling our shared historical truths is a necessary act that has the potential to heal this diabetic nation. Too much historical sugar is very bad for you.

This historical trauma is still with us and can be seen in Malagasy-descended African-Americans today. I think about my friend Michael Twittywho just came out with his book, The Cooking Gene. In the book, he recounts how his 3rd great-grandparents, Jack and Arrye Todd, and their children were separated and sold South out of Shockoe Bottom via Lumpkin’s Jail, the Devil’s Half Acre, one of the worst slave jails in Richmond. Arrye was of Malagasy descent and the Todd family — whom I descend from on my Carter side — mostly likely acquired Malagasy enslaved people as the Todds owned plantations in Gloucester County, which is near the York River, and were in-laws to my Carter ancestors. That Michael carries intimate knowledge of his ancestor’s forced separation because he is a family historian with VA roots, shows exactly how some of us still carry the burden of our ancestor’s lived experiences with us every day. That Michael’s middle name “William” is a tribute to his 3rd great-grandfather’s younger brother who was sold South is another testament to the ties that bind us to our ancestors. I attended one of Michael’s talks where he was asked if he ever considered changing his name to an African one since he now knew one of his West African lineage names. His response was that, although he didn’t really like his first or last name, his middle name “William” was handed down for generations to family members as a way of remembering one who was lost to slavery. This is a perfect example of how our oral history reflects a proven historical truth. In case you are wondering, I proudly claim Michael as a distant Todd cousin.

10,000 lbs. of sugar right here…

Another person I claim as a cousin on my Lee/Carter/Mitchell side is my friend Sam Lemon. He wrote a book, Go Stand Upon This Rock, a novel about his 2nd great-grandparents who escaped from Virginia, at different times, as runaway slaves. His book is based on the oral history that was handed down to him. Sam’s family history is one of victorius survival. I call it that because it is filled with enough bitter coffee that you can drown in it. Yet, his 2nd great-grandparents were able to survive slavery — if you can even call it that— and go on to produce descendants who excelled beyond anything they could have imagined. We must remember that, as descendants of enslaved people, we ARE our ancestors’ hopes and dreams….or at least we should be.

Sam’s Malagasy ancestors were from the Tidewater region of Virginia, including Hanover, Sussex, Surry, and Southampton counties. Some of these counties are close to Dinwiddie County where my Lee/Carter/Mitchell ancestors were located. Among his many surnames, two are definitely associated with Malagasy ancestry. They are Byrd (in-laws to my Carter ancestors) and Parham (who married into my Mitchell line). He is also genetically related to Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemings descendants as I am, but via a Bowles ancestor. Critta Hemings married Zachariah Bowles. Sam’s paternal grandmother was Annie Byrd Mickens, whose mother was Ella Bowles (1854-1936) from Hanover County, VA and she lived in the same location as Zaxhariah in 1820. In addition, Sam also has admixture indicators of Malagasy ancestry. I feel pretty confident that one or both of his 2nd great-grandparents had Malagasy ancestry.

Below is a Facebook correspondence I had with Sam about his 2nd great-grandmother, Martha Jane Parham. Tears, tears….

 

Photo of Martha Jane Parham/From the collection of Sam Lemon 

Sam’s Uncle Washy who escaped with his mother Martha Jane. He doesn’t think Cornelius was his father./Photo from collection of Sam Lemon

 

Martha Jane Parham was ”a slave breeding” woman. That description of her is way too sugary sweet for me. She was an enslaved, repeated rape/gang rape victim for a decade between the ages of 14-24 years old. Her lived experience was a crime against humanity. It is no wonder she never spoke about it for speaking about it would have certainly caused her to relive such horrific experiences over and over again. I completely understand that. Her experience was a traumatic one that occurred in her formative years. Her silence was an act of self-preservation — a necessary act of erasure in itself.  For her, it was better to concentrate on the future. Martha Jane was probably like other formerly enslaved people whose experiences during slavery were so hellish beyond belief that they made a conscious decision to try to forget the past. As slave descendants this means that we have two levels of historic erasure to deal,with when researching our ancestors. On a macro-level, we have to deal with the historical erasure that this country has in general about slavery as well as, on a micro-level, the historical erasure that formerly enslaved ancestors employed to save and preserve their very souls. We can call this survival skill simply “soul preservation” which is similar to Daina Ramey Berry’s emphasis on the “soul value” that enslaved people placed on their own lives.

Martha Jane Parham married Cornelius Ridley in Virginia. Cornelius was the mulatto son of his slave owner, Col. Thomas Ridley, III (1809-1875) and an unknown enslaved woman. Thomas Ridley, III was one of the wealthiest men in Southampton, VA and owned Bonnie Doon Plantation (also known as “Jerusalem”). The Ridleys also owned the Buckhorn Quarters. [As an aside, I was able to recently tell Sam that, on Thomas Ridley, III ‘s maternal Wright side, he is related to George Washington.] Cornelius and his sister Rosa were raised in Thomas’s household and were house slaves as so many children of slave owners were.

According to Sam, Cornelius met Martha Jane, who was enslaved at the neighboring Fortsville Plantation and was owned by John Y. Mason. Cornelius married her knowing that her primary job was to be forced mated with other enslaved men to produce children that would add to her slave master’s cumulative wealth and those children could be sold away at anytime. I can only imagine how much pain that brought him just knowing what Martha Jane had to endure. In the early 1860s, because he could pass for white with his very fair skin, red hair and green eyes, he walked away and ended up with Quakers who shepherded to freedom in Media, PA. Martha Jane, with the help of the United States Colored Troops and Quakers as well, was reunited with him after she escaped from Virginia during the Civil War. However, Rosa’s fate was very different. More tears..

 

Cornelius Ridley/From the collection of Sam Lemon

In looking into Cornelius’s family history, we learn that he had an older sister who was approximately 11-13 years older than him. He called her Rosa, but census records document her name as Mary Ridley. It is quite possible that her name was Mary Rose/Rosa Ridley. The oral history that was passed down to Sam and his family was that she was sold South never to be heard from again.  A slave manifest lists her age as being 18 years old, born around 1826, and her skin was the color of  “copper.” When she was sold, Cornelius would have been around the age of 12-13 years old. Surely, the loss of his older sister was seared in his memory at that age. Rosa may have been the closest person he had to a mother. Just looking at Mary Rose/Rosa’s full name among a list of other enslaved Virginians should break your heart. These were people who were separared from their own flesh and blood probably forever. They would now be known by their first name only —their prior identities submerged.

 

1844 New Orleans Slave Manifest 

Rosa was shipped to New Orleans in 1844

 

Cornelius’s Rosa was sold to George Apperson, a Richmond slave trader who also owned a slave jail across the street from Lumpkin’s jail. Apperson sent 308 people South to New Orleans between 1844-1847. His New Orleans slave trading partner was none other than Solomon Northrop’s slave trader/owner, Theophilus Freeman, who was considered one of the most violent slave traders. Starting in the 1840s, Apperson and Freedman sent VA enslaved people South by ship rather than overland chained together in coffles. Apperson advertised his trips in VA newspapers thus guaranteeing a scheduled time whereby those interested in buying enslaved people could plan their trips. These ships would sometimes make port calls in Charleston, the Lower Mississippi (Natchez), and finally New Orleans. Enslaved people would have been destined for the cotton fields of the Deep South or Lousiana sugar plantations.

 

Ads George Apperson placed in newspapers

From Michael Tadman’s book Speculators and Slaves: Masters, Traders, and Slaves in the Old South, p.232

Sam’s family never knew what happened to their Rosa after she was sold. Again, part of the generational historic trauma we suffer as descendants of enslaved people is not knowing what happened to the people we loved and lost due to slavery. If Rosa looked like Cornelius, she may have been sold South as “a fancy girl” which is to say sold to become a perpetual sex slave/rape victim. Fancy girls commanded very high prices. They were sold to the highest bidder to become sex slaves shared among slave traders themselves, forced into concubine arragements by sexual intimidation, or to become prostitutes in brothels. Many of these women appeared white in color which afforded those who bought them the right to live out sexual fantasies in ways that white women couldn’t because of cultural norms. There were cases when such “fancy girls” litigated their “whiteness” in court as a way to earn their freedom which I consider a form of resistance. It is a bit ironic that slave traders, who found people of African descent sub-human, would routinely engage in long-term relationships with “fancy girls,” have children with them, educate their children in the North, and emancipate them. A lot of those children later passed as white.  Sam doesn’t know what happened to Rosa and it is this intergenerational grief that has kept him and his family in a state of mourning until today.

 

In the words of Sam Lemon in 2017

 

As a descendent of Crittie and her mother Ann, I pray for the day when I can learn more about them and the lives they lived. I only know what our oral history tells us. It’s only a very brief overview that was handed down in our family. I still want basic questions answered about them like did Crittie have siblings, did she have maternal grandparents, and where did Ann get her surname from, for example. Like many African-Americans, I live wiith the full knowledge that I have ancestors who will be forever unknown to me. Tears…But, I will always keep hope alive that someday, if I keep looking, I might just find something new about them. Hope is one thing I KNOW my ancestors had. You see, they hoped their descendants would do better than they did and we did.

As a descendant of slave owners whose lives were documented in prime time and whose words can be found in Carter Papers at various libraries and archives, I know more about them than I do about my own African-American Malagasy-descended VA ancestors. I struggle with acknowledging my slave owner roots simply because of the traumatic baggage this knowledge brings. I am the descendant of slave owners who became quite accomplished by benefiting from that evil institution called slavery. As part of the ruling planter class throughout the 17th-19th centuries, they were the architects of what the Virginia slave system came to be. It has taken me years to even put them on my family tree. Crittie knew who both her parents were. The oral history she passed down told us the story of how she came into being. She was a product of a slave rape. Because of that, I can’t drop the qualifier “slave owner” before naming my Carter-Lee ancestors. I’ve cried tears knowing that my 8th slave owner great-grandfather, Robert “King” Carter, took pleasure in mutilating, punishing his slaves, and stripping them of their original names; I was rendered silent when reading the words of my slave owner 8th great-uncle, Landon Carter, who portrayed himself as a “benevolent slave owner” while deeming his enslaved people —runaways — as ungrateful though he whipped, brutally punished, and sold their family members; and I was rendered utterly speechless when reading about how my slave owner 2nd cousin 7XR cousin, George Carter, who routinely purchased 13-15 year old virgins at slave auctions, wrote back to his sister Sophia that his business was between him and his God after she chastised him for his behavior.

 

Landon Carter’s letter from July 10,1777

 

George’s June 20, 1816 letter referenced here 

 

Being the descendant of slave owners, like the Carters and the Lees, is mentally and emotionally burdensome. I have to remind myself often that they were products of their time and that slavery was just a fact of life for them. I have chosen to tell the truth though about how they accumulated their wealth off the backs of the enslaved, including my ancestors, and how they treated these people over time. I will continue to recognize those Carters and Lees who were on the right side of history. By the way, I have a distant cousin named Rev. Robert Lee  whom I hear has been making waves down in Virginia. I hope to meet him one day. I am also more than willing to “Come to The Table” with any Carter/Lee descendant to have meaningful, productive conversations about our shared history. That is all that is required of me, as a descendant of Crittie and Ann, and that is all I am willing to do.

 

African-American Malagasy-Descended Slave Resistance: The Struggle to be Free

Though African-Americans of Malagasy-descent were enslaved, they did resist oppression in a number of ways in colonial Virginia. Despite having different levels of success or plain failures, these enslaved people engaged in acts of resistance and played an active role in trying to change the circumstances of their involuntary servitude. From escaping and ending up in maroon communities in The Great Dismal Swamp (much to the chagrin of my Carter and Byrd ancestors who were investors in the Swamp), to engaging in acts of abortion, infanticide and suicide, to seeking freedom on foot by running away, to performing every day acts of resistance to their very real oppression, the descendants of these first Malagasy enslaved exercised their right to self-determination. I don’t know if any of my ancestors were part of Gabriel’s Rebellion or Nat Turner’s Rebellion. What I do know is that my cousin Sam Lemon’s 3rd great-grandfather, Col. Thomas Ridley, III was in the Southampton Militia and took part in the capture and prosecution of Nat Turner and his followers. Four of his slaves at his Buckhorn Quarters took part in the insurrection. Curtis and Stephen Ridley were executed. Matt Ridley provided the evidence that was used against them all and his life was spared though he was banished from VA. The fourth unidentified Ridley slave was killed in the course of being captured. Curtis Ridley was worth $400 and Stephen was worth $450 at the time of their execution by hanging. However, their collective “soul value” was incalcuable. Did these four individuals have Malagasy roots? We can’t say for sure, but they were in the same places as others who did have Malagasy roots so I will proudly claim them as our own. As I said in my Part II blogI would like to think that some of my Malagasy-descended ancestors stood up for themselves. Certainly, Black lives mattered to them then as they do to us now. I can only respect the decisions they made which no doubt did, or could have, resulted in their deaths. I praise their names for slavery was a hellish enough condition to be in that they chose to take a stand knowing full well the price they would pay if discovered. Respect! 

 
Nat Turner’s Rebellion/Execution of 2 Ridley Slaves

 

Col. Thomas Ridley, III Slaves


Runaway Slave Ad
George O. Ragland’s runaway slave ad that came with a $500 reward. Washington, the runaway, was a descendant of a Ragland.
 

Erased No More: The Historical Truth About Shockoe Bottom

 

Kindred spirits, me and Ana Edwards

 

When I first started doing the research for this blogpost, I had no knowledge of Shockoe BottomFor years, I shied away from researching my Virginia ancestors because the research seemed so daunting and it is. I had no idea that Richmond was second to New Orleans as an epicenter of the domestic slave trade. Shockoe Bottom was the largest slave trading district on the East Coast. It was a concentrated area that was home to 40-50 auction houses, slaves jails and pens, banking and insurance industries, law firms, hotels, shipping and railroad lines offices, apparel stores for slave clothing, a cemetery, etc. An estimated 350,000 enslaved Virginians were sold out of Richmond forever separated from their loved ones via coffles, ships, and railroads. Many died there as well. Click here  for a visual map of the district produced by the University of Richmond. This site was built over in 1816 and it’s past erased.

In 2008, during an archaeological excavation, Lumpkin’s Jail was found and just like that darkness came to light. Those of us who believe that there are places that are sacred understood immediately what a gift we had received and knew that we had to preserve this site for the future. However, the mayor of Richmond at the time, along with a public-private Richmond revitalization group,  started to develop a plan that would turn Shockoe Bottom into a baseball field with a hotel and stores around it. The plan to re-bury  such a sacred, historical, and culturally significant site for millions of people of African descent is as wrong as it is unconscionable. Moreover, it is an attempt to deny us a space to honor our ancestors in a respectful way at a time when the city of Richmond continues to embrace it’s Confederate history. This historical erasure and denial must stop. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has listed Shockoe Bottom as an endangered site because of this. 

Reber Dunkel, having read about my battle to preserve our extended family’s burial ground in Greenwich,CT, introduced me to Ana Edwards. She is indeed a kindred spirit who matches my passion for preserving sacred historical sites. I can’t add anything else to what she has already stated about the significance of Shockoe Bottom so I am going to end with her written words. Please click here to read her statement on the significance of Shockoe Bottom to African-Americans in particular, but to all Americans in general. I support her and the excellent work she is doing in Richmond.

I would also encourage others to start writing about  their family histories so that we do not contribute to our own ancestors’ historical erasure.  There is power in our pens which is why I chose to have blog pages devoted to my African-American, Latino, Caribbean and Cape Verdean fellow bloggers. I want to share and celebrate their ancestor discoveries with them. Remember that the act of writing itself was a form of resistance that some of our ancestors were punished for in their lifetimes. Let us elevate the memories of our ancestors as we write them back into historical record.

In conclusion, when I took my place at the podium at the University of Virginia-Charlottesville for my “Cemeteries, Slavery & History” talk, the first thing I said was that, after spending a year alone telling the story of the desecration of our extended family’s Byram Cemetery/Byram African-American Cemetery all over NY, NJ, and CT,  I was happy to be among kindred spirits. I can’t thank Joseph McGill enough for inviting me to speak there in the first place. Although the topics that were discussed were not for people who want to consume vast amounts of historic sugar, it was the best place for me to be at this time. To be among so many black history truth tellers was a great experience. I especially want to salute all the people below for making my trip a memorable one. 

#FeelingGrateful  #SlaveryUVA  #KindredSpirits #BlackProGen

 

Dr. Lisa Goff, Dr. Lynn Rainville, Dr. Matt Reeves, Dr. Taj’ullah Sky Lark, and LAX,I Lark

My Lyon-Green-Merritt cousins, Barbara Walthall and Julie Shell

My Crew: Renate Yarborough Sanders, Kenyatta Berry, Tierra Cotton Kellow, and Shelley Murphy

Leontyne Clay Peck, a distant cousin

Joseph McGill

Dr. Lynn Rainville

Dr. Ana Lucia Araujo

Dr. Phillip Troutman

Dr. Daina Ramey Berry

Dr. Lucia Stanton

Dr. Marcus Martin

Dr. Matthew Reeves

My distant Randolph cousin Prinny Anderson

Dr. Robert S. Wolff

Mama Murphy

Dr. Ellen Fernandez-Sacco aka mi prima who was with me in spirit!

 

References:

Madagascar:

McDonald, Kevin P. Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves: Colonial America and the Indo-Atlantic  World. CA:  University of California Press. 2015.

Platt, Virginia Bever. “The East India Company and the Madagascar Slave Trade.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 26:4 (October 1969), pp. 548-577.

Wilson-Fall, Memories of Madagascar and Slavery in the Black Atlantic. OH: University of Ohio Press. 2015.

 

Colonial Virginia Slave Trade:

Berlin, Ira. “From Creole to African: Atlantic Creoles and the Origins of African-American Society in Mainland North America.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 53:2 (April 1996), pp. 251-288.

Gomez, Michael A. Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South. NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1998.

Kulikoff, Allan. “The Origins of Afro-American Society in Tidewater Maryland and Virginia, 1700 to 1790.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol 35:2 (April 1978), pp. 226-259.

Lafoon, Florence. “Slave Life in Virginia Between 1736-1776 as Shown in the Advertisements of the Virginia Gazettes.” Honors Theses. University of Richmond: UR Scholarship Repository. 1940.

Morgan, Philip D. and Michael L. Nicholls. “Slaves in Piedmont Virginia, 1720-1790.” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 46:2 (April 1989), pp. 211-251.

Parent, Anthony S., Jr. Foul Means: The Formation of a Slave Society in Virginia, 1660-1740. NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 2003.

Stanwood, Owen. “Captives and Slaves: Indian Labor, Cultural Conversion and the Plantation in Virginia.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 114: 5(2006), pp.434-463.

Tilson, Albert H. “Friendship and Commerce: The Conflict and Coexistence of Values on Virginia’s Northern Neck in the Revolutionary Era.” .”  Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 11:3 (2003), pp. 221-262.

Virginia Historical Society. “Slave Owners Spotsylvania County, 1783. The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 4:3 (January 1897), pp. 292-299.

Walsh, Lorena S. “The Transatlantic Slave Trade and Colonial Chesapeake Slavery.” OAH Magazine of History, Vol. 17:3 (April 2003), pp. 11-15.

Wax, Darold W. “Preferences for Slaves in Colonial America.” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 58:4 (October 1973), pp. 371-401.

 

Carter/Lee Family Documentation:

“Carter Papers.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 5:4 (April 1898), pp. 408-428.

Epperson, Terrence W. “Race and Discipline of the Plantation.” Historical Archaeology, Vol. 24:4 , Historical Archaeology on Southern Plantations and Farms 91990), pp. 29-36.

Isaac, Rhys. Landon Carter’s Uneasy Kingdom: Revolution and Rebellion On a Virginia plantation. NY: Oxford University Press. 2004.

“Lee Family of York County,” Virginia. The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 24:1 (July1915), pp. 46-54.

Levy, Andrew: The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter, the Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves. NY: Random House. 2005.

Mapp, Alf, Jr. “ABright Thread of Virginia History: Notes on the Corotoman River.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 52:2 (April 1944), pp. 104-114.

Morton, Louis. “Robert Wormeley Carter of Sabine Hall: Notes on the Life of a Virginia planter.” The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 12:3 (August 1946), pp. 345-365.

Quisenberry, A. C. . “The First Pioneer Families of Virginia.” Register of Kentucky State Historical Society, Vol.11:32 (May 19113), pp. 55-77.

Wyrick, Connie H. “Stratford and Lees.” Journal of the Society of Architectural  Historians, Vol. 30:1 (March 1971), pp. 71-90.

 

Domestic Slave Trade:

Baptist, Edward E. The Half Has Never Bee Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. PA: Perseus Books. 2014.

Bancroft, Frederic. Slave Trading in the Old South with New Introduction by Michael Tadman.SC: University of SC Press. 1996.

Deyle, Steven. Cary Me Back: The Domestic Slave Trade in American Life. NY: Oxford University Press. 2005.

Gudmestad, Robert H. “The Troubled Legacy of Isaac Franklin: The Enterprise of Salve Trading.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Vol. 62:3  (Fall 2003), pp. 193-217.

Howell, Isabel. “John Armfield, Slave-trader.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Vol. 2:1 (March 1943), pp. 3-29.

Johnson, Walter, Ed. The Chattel Principle: Internal Slave Trade in the Americas. CT: Yale University Press. 2004.

Johnson, Walter. Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market. MA: Harvard University Press. 1999.

Mann, AlisonT. “”Horrible Barbarity”: The 1837 Murder Trial of Dorcas Allen a Georgetown Slave.” Washington History , Vol 27:1 (Spring 2015), pp. 3-14.

Martin, Bonnie. “Slavery’s Invisible Engine: Mortgaging Human Property.” The Journal of Southern History, Vol 76:4 (November 2010), pp. 817-866.

McInnis, Maurie. Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and The American Slave Trade. IL: The University of Chicago Press. 2011.

Schermerhorn, Calvin. The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860.CT: Yale University Press. 2015.

Sublette, Ned and Constance. The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry. IL: Lawrence Hill Books. 2016

Tadman, Michael. Speculators and Slaves: Masters, Traders, and Slaves in the Old South. WI: University of Wisconsin Press.1996.

Trammel, Jack. The Richmond Slave Trade: The Economic Backbone of the Old Dominion. SC: The History Press. 2012.

 

Slavery:

Abercrombie, Janice. Free Blacks of Louisa County Virginia. GA: Iberian Publishing Company. 1994.

Araujo, Ana Lucia. Reparations For Slavery and the Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative History. NY: Bloomsbury Academic. 2017.

Araujo, Ana, ed. et. al. Crossing Memories: Slavery nd African Diaspora. NJ Africa World Press. 2011.

Berlin, Ira. Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. MA: The Belkap Press of Harvard University Press. 1998.

Gutman, Herbert G. The Black Family in Slavery & Freedom, 1750-1925. NY: Pantheon Press. 1976.

Hunter, Tera A. Bound  in Wedlock: Slave and Free Marriages in Nineteenth Century.MA: The Beknap Press of Harvard University press. 2017.

Morgan, Philip. Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century in Chesapeake & Lowcountry. NC: The University of NOrth Carolina Press. 1998

Ramey Berry, Daina. The Price For Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, From Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation. MA: Beacon Press. 2017.

Resendez, Andres. The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America. NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2016.

Sandefur, Timothy. “Why the Rule Against Perpetuities Mattered in Pleasants V Pleasants.” Real Property and Trust Journal, Vol. 40:4 (Winter 2006), pp. 667-677.

Schwartz, Philip. “Emancipators, Protectors, and Anomalies: Free Black Slaveowners in Virginia.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 95:3 (July 1987),  pp. 317-338.

Williams, Heather Andrea. Help Me to Find My people: The African American Search for Family Lost in Slavery. NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 2012.

 

Slave Narratives/Slave Sexual Abuse/Interracial Gender Dynamics:

Baptist, Edward E. “Cuffy,” “Fancy Maids,” and “One -Eyed Men”: Rape , Commodification, and the Domestic Slave Trade in the United States.” The American Historical Review, Vol. 106:5 (December 2001), pp. 1619-1650.

Bardaglio, Peter W. “Shameful Matches”: The Regulation of Interracial Sex and Marriage in the South Before 1900″. In Martha Hodes, ed. Sex, Love Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History. NY: New York University Press. 1999.

Blight, David W. A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped To Freedom. NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2007.

Block, Sharon.  “Lines of Color, Sex, and Service: Comparative Sexual Coercion in Early America.” In Martha Hodes, ed. Sex, Love Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History. NY: New York University Press. 1999.

Brown, Kathleen. Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia. NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1996.

Derbes, Brett Josef. “Secret Horrors: Enslaved Women and Children in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, 1833-1862.” The Journal of African American History, Vol 98:2, Special Issue: “African Americans, Police Brutality, and the U.S. Criminal Justice System: Historical Perspectives” (Spring 2013), pp. 277-290.

Foster, Thomas A. “The Sexual Abuse of Black Men under American Slavery.” Intersections of Race and Sexuality, Vol. 20:3 (September 2011), pp. 445-464.

Gross, Ariela. “Litigating Whiteness: Trials of Racial Determination in the Nineteenth-Century South.” The Yale Journal, Vol. 108:1 (October 1998), pp. 10-188.

Hartman, Saidiya. “Seduction and the Ruse of Power.”  Callaloo, Vol 19:2 , Emerging Women Writers: Special Issue, (Spring 1996), pp. 537-530.

King, Wilma. “Prematurely  Knowing of Evil Things”: The Sexual Abuse of African American Girls and Yong Women in Slavery and Freedom.” Journal of African American History, Vol. 99:3 (Summer 2014), pp. 173-196.

Perdue, Charles L., ed. et al. Weevils in the Wheat: Interviews with Virginia Ex-Slaves. VA: University of Virginia. 1976.

Stevenson, Brenda E. “What’s Love Got To Do With It: Concubine and Enslaved Women and Girls in the Antebellum South.” The Journal of African American History, Vol. 98:1 (Winter 2013), pp. 99-125.

White, Deborah Gray. Ar’n’t I a Woman: Female Slaves in the Plantation South. NY: W. W. Norton & Company. 1999.

 

Resistance:

Allmendinger, David F. Nat Turner and The Rising in Southampton County. MD: John Hopkins University Press. 2014.

Camp, Stephanie M. “The Pleasures of Resistance: Enslaved Women and Body Politics in the plantation South, 1830-1861.” Journal of Southern History, Vol. 68:3 (August 2002), pp. 533-572.

Diouf, Slyviane. Slavery’s Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons. NY: New York University Press. 2014.

Johnson, Walter. “The Slave Trader, the White Slave, and The politics of Racial Determination in the 1850s.” The Journal of American History, Vol. 87:1 (June 2000), pp. 13-38.

Lee, Deborah A and Warren Hofstra. “Race Memory, and the Death of Robert Berkeley: “A Murder…of…Horrible and Savage Barbarity.” The journal of Southern History, Vol. 65:1 (February 1999), pp. 41-76.

Perrin, Liese M. “Resisting Reproduction: Reconsidering Slave Contraception in the Old South.” Journal of American Studies, Vol. 35:2, Part 2: Warring America: Encounters of Gender and Race (August 2001), pp. 255-274.

Sayers, Daniel et.al. “The Political Economy of Exile in the Great Dismal Swamp. International Journal of Historical Archaeology, Vol. 11:1 (March 2007), pp. 60-97.

Schiebinger, Londa. “Feminist History of Colonial Science.” Feminist Science Studies, Vol. 19:1 (Winter 2004), pp. 233-254.

Snyder, Terri L. “Suicide Slavery, and Memory in North America.” The Journal of American History, Vol. 97: 1 (June 2010), pp. 39-62.

 

Black Cemeteries/Archaeological Artifacts:

Rainville, Lynn. Hidden History: African American Cemeteries in Central Virginia. VA: University of Virginia. 2014.

Valch, John Michael. “Afro-American Domestic Artifacts in Eighteenth Century Virginia. Material culture, Vol. 19:1 (Spring 1987), pp. 3-23.

 

 

 

 

45 thoughts on “Part III: The DNA Trail from Madagascar to Virginia

  1. Your blog is a wonderful example that combines different forms of documentation, oral history, DNA and an ample helping of social history that contextualized these lives. A great way to combat the denial and attempts at historical erasure many of us face when doing this work. The past is very much with us, and I’m blessed to be able to call you my prima.

    1. Thanks for your comments, prima! They mean a lot. I hope this blogpost encourages others to dig deep and look the larger picture of how our ancestors migrated to different parts of this country due to slavery. There are clues out there yet for us to discover.

  2. Cousin Teresa, I just finished reading your blog, and I am speechless! It is astonishingly well-researched, definitive, authoritative, towering, powerful, passionate, informative, insightful, enlightening, revealing, heartbreaking, and a damning indictment to the sadistic institution of slavery and the centuries of physical and psychological damage it has caused countless human beings, spanning generations. But it is also a stirring and awe-inspiring testament to the courage, endurance, and unbreakable spirit of our noble ancestors, who continue to live through us — their heirs — as we fight on with truth to fulfill our covenant with them, and our sacred duty to manifest their dreams of freedom and victory over suffering and oppression. By virtue of our very existence, they are free. On behalf of all of us who share your love of genealogy, my heartfelt and eternal thanks to you, for your strength, courage, and scholarship.

    1. Cousin Sam, thank you for allowing me to tell your family history as it is an intrinsic part of American history that people need to learn. As a nation, we can’t shy away from those parts of this country that are ugly and where bitter seeds have been sowed. All of us need to recognize and acknowledge the role that slavery played in making this country great in the first place. As for Rosa/Mary Rose, we will continue to search for her and keep her in our memories forever. As long as we remember our ancestors and say their names aloud and clear, they will NEVER be lost to us. ❤️❤️❤️

  3. Thanks cousin for this wonderful information. I am apart of the lee/carter/mitchell line as a Parham. In fact my birth name was Robert Lee Parham III before I changed it to Ahmad Ansar in 1990. Now everything makes sense about my relatives and who I am in America. Knowing family and who is your family is very important. Cousin Teressa has done outstanding work. DNA does not liar and gossip does. I was always told that Parham’s from Virginia were not related to me. But I fact the plantation in Virginia was a breding plantation and a seriously big one too. Sending babies and children all over the south. My grandfather was born in Mississippi then moved to Memphis. Then he moved to Greensburg, PA. And so on. I know from ancestry DNA that I have 31 % Cameroon and Congolese with masgy and other west African cultures and that’s 76% and the other 24 % is mixed with Europe, native and Ect.
    Thank you again cousin Teressa 😊

    1. Cousin Ahmad-
      You personal family history and your connection to our Lee/Carter/Mitchell line is one of a Mitchell/Parham ancestor being sold South. Your direct ancestors probably didn’t remember where Parhams originated because of the age that ancestor was when he was South. But, today you know the TRUTH and that bitter truth connects you to the large Domestic Slave Trade out of Richmond. I am so happy to have made your acquaintance and am glad that now you know that not only can you claim Virginia as an ancestral home, but also Madagascar. Your ethnic admixture, which includes Southeast Asian and East African Admixture, family surnames, and location provided the clues. Much love and thank you for sharing your info,with me.

  4. Cousin, wonderful job of making sure our ancestors will never be forgotten. The research you have done is inspiring. Without you I would have never known about my Malagasy roots. Your post is well-written, articulate, and a shining example that African Americans can breakthrough the walls of enslavement.

    1. Cousin Shirese,
      Thanks for your kind words. We’ve been on this DNA journey for almost 4 years now. You and your siblings have been partners on this journey with me. I am so glad that we’ve discovered that we share Malagasy Roots!

  5. This is a fantastic journey. I didn’t have time to read all of the information. However, I will take time out of my schedule to read about this extremely well researched and intriguing account of your family’s history and journey! Thanks for sharing — Leontyne Clay Peck

  6. Wow, really enjoyed this installment of the Malagasy saga in the Americas. I believe my Malagasy connection may have began in VA but there are people who I match and some who don’t who are matching the Malagasy person who have Choctaw and LA ancestry. So there is definitely a southern connection from my angle.

    1. Thanks you. I’m glad you enjoyed my post. Something to consider is that you may have ancestors of Malagasy descent who were part of the Trail of Tears. Again, the VA enslaved Malagasy arrived in the early 1700s. The Trail of a Tears was much later. I encourage you to keep digging.

  7. This is an amazing piece of work done with love, dedication and honesty. The research that was necessary to compile this project had to be mustered with an idea to “speak for the ancestors.” Indeed, the ancestors should be smiling down at Teresa Vega with love.

  8. Very informative and explains a lot as far as dna and locations. I also have Hanover and Louisa County, VA roots. Something worth pursuing as far as genealogy.

    1. Tonya-
      Thanks for your comment. There is info out there so keep digging. Because I discuss the antebellum timeframe, you will need to locate your family’s slave owner and the person’s family to find clues about yours. Look for probate records, family letters, manumission records, church records, etc. Because of slavery, our ancestors’ documentation may be difficult to find. I would also advise you to look at some of the older BlackProGen videos on our YouTube channel as we give a lot of advice on where and how to do research on African-Americans. Good luck!

    1. Yes, indeed, Lynn! African-American cemeteries and burial grounds matter. Thank you for your ground breaking book that documents some of the African-American cemeteries in VA. The panel you put together was an awesome one.

  9. Truly outstanding on so many levels! Your blog has always resonated with me because of the extraordinary passion and scholarship you display in each one of your posts while uncovering and sharing your family history. This particular blog series on your Malagasy Roots i consider to be nothing less than pathbreaking. I am proud & grateful that i have been included in your eye-opening research!

    You have provided such compelling and detailed coverage of your own personal family history. And at the same time you have also very carefully shed light on the broader context enabling other people to draw many valuable lessons from it. Even for people without any Malagasy roots this excellent blog series will be both inspirational and very relevant because of the many common themes Afro-descendants face when wanting to trace back their African history.

    I highly admire how you combine insights from various complementary fields of knowledge to produce such valuable insights. To be specific: DNA testing (incl. admixture analysis but also haplogroups and IBD matches); genealogy; oral traditions; local, national ánd global history. This mutually reinforcing approach is something i also firmly believe in and strife for in my own research efforts.

    I love your lucid & lively writing style. The historical account of how the Malagasy connection came to be is complex and requires a great deal of consulting various academic and sometimes obscure sources. I am very impressed how you managed to present this in such an engaging and highly educational text! Also very commendable how you provide your readers with such a wide range of practical research strategies & resources (surnames, haplogroups, references).

    I am deeply touched and inspired by your drive to counter & reverse historical erasure. You are so right to be articulate in stipulating the urgency of this topic. As a fellow blogger i also recognize and greatly appreciate all the hard work and long hours you must have put into all this. But most of all the sheer dedication, respect and love for your ancestors is clearly shining through. You have certainly done them more than proud!

    1. Thank you for your beautiful comments. I am so appreciative of all the DNA admixture analyses across the African Diaspora that you have provided people of African descent. The DNA analysis work that you have done is part of why I’ve been able to tell my family history story the way I have. I hope more people read your blog and likewise are able to learn from it as I have done. Keep up the good work!

  10. “there are indicators of Malagasy ancestry that can be found by looking at autosomal DNA test results in combination with local history, Malagasy entry points into the US, oral history, etc. I want to be very clear that admixture tests alone are NOT an indicator of Malagasy ancestry. There needs to be more corroborative proof. ”

    “As a point of clarification, any of the geographical regions included as main regions may reflect recent ancestry coming from other ancestors from those regions as well.”

    Totally agreed with both statements! Admixture analysis (based on your autosomal DNA) is often misunderstood or even mocked because it doesn’t conform with unrealistic expectations. Unjustly so as i have found AncestryDNA’s Ethnicity Estimates to be very insightful as long as you know how to correctly interpret and remain aware of inherent limitations. I am convinced that especially by comparing with results for confirmed Malagasy persons many valuable insights can be gained.

    In addition to the three Malagasy screenshots you already posted i have collected the summary results of a dozen DNA matches for one of the 3 Malagasy profiles which has been shared with me. Judging from both the names, birth locations as well as admixture breakdown all these person are most likely to be fully Malagasy. Here’s the link to an overview:

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/10L5OimmhXCUIHgHJhQfNWpKV7hNmAPOPzIi2v186I6w/edit#gid=14697884

    Obviously more data is needed but this can already be quite indicative of what to expect when it concerns DNA inheritance from a Malagasy ancestor (as described by AncestryDNA). It’s still open to interpretation of course. For example any “Cameroon/Congo” or “Southeastern Bantu” amount reported for an Afro-descendant is more likely to have been inherited from a Central African ancestor. Congo and Angola being far greater sources of enslaved captives than Madagascar throughout the Americas. However it could also be a combination of both in some cases. I found it very striking that you also happen to have an early Angolan ancestor from the Dutch-colonial period!

    In regards to the “Hunter-Gatherers” amounts reported for Afro-descendants i would again assume that a Central African ancestral scenario is bound to be more likely in most cases. It’s only being reported as a minor trace region for 3 out of the 12 possibly Malagasy DNA matches. And only as a minimal amount (<1%) for the three profiles shared with me. In my survey of African AncestryDNA results i have seen higher and more consistent scores being reported for Congolese people and even surprisingly Liberians and Sierra Leoneans. In the last case it's possibly indicative of remnant DNA inherited from an extinct population once living in the Guinean rainforest zone which may have been similar to Central African Pygmys. See these pages for a complete overview:

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1_sjsM56m-0ewGu1RlWbg2MtEwhWJrcbc4sRnvpkUquU/edit#gid=1788753882

    https://tracingafricanroots.wordpress.com/ancestrydna/african-results/

    When it comes to the Asian breakdown i would say that in absence of any recent Chinese or Southeast Asian admixture the AncestryDNA regions of "Asia East" and "Polynesia" in particular stand out as possible indicators of Malagasy ancestry. Even when not exclusively so of course! The Southeast-Asian category on 23andme will probably be more reliable and can be used as a corroboration i suppose. For a discussion of how the "Asia East" and "Polynesia" regions apply for Madagascar when compared with actual Southeast Asians see this page:

    https://tracingafricanroots.wordpress.com/ancestrydna/east-asian-polynesian-results/

  11. “What we do know about Crittie is that her line connects to known Malagasy descendants like the Raglands, Dickersons, Parhams, Carters, Lees, etc. via our DNA cousins. Given the fact that Robert “King” Carter tied his enslaved people to the properties where they were born, coupled with him being the major purchaser/importer of enslaved Malagsy, and our oral history as well, we can assume that her matrilineal line may be a Malagasy one. Crittie has an elderly granddaughter in NYC, who also has a daughter, that we can administer a Full Sequence mtDNA test to confirm definitively. We are tracking them down now to test as I write this blog post.”

    Very impressive that in your research you were able to find Malagasy roots not only dating from the Dutch Colonial period on your NY/NJ side but also in addition by way of Virginia! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Full Sequence mtDNA test for Crittie’s great/grand daughter will be conclusive! But otherwise i suppose autosomal DNA matches from not only Madagascar but also Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles or even South African Coloureds might be highly indicative (even if other ancestral scenarios might still be valid as well).

    If you were to make a rough estimate, how much of your own DNA do you think can be attributed to your Malagasy ancestors?

  12. “A discussion of Richmond being an epicenter of the domestic slave trade, behind New Orleans, is essential if we are to understand the migration of African- and Euro-Americans with Malagasy roots to parts of the Deep South”

    “For years, I shied away from researching my Virginia ancestors because the research seemed so daunting and it is. I had no idea that Richmond was second to New Orleans as an epicenter of the domestic slave trade. Shockoe Bottom was the largest slave trading district on the East Coast.”

    Indeed! The awareness of the genealogical impact of Domestic Slave Trade within the US should be increased. Very appropriate that you also included sections on historical erasure and historical trauma! I had no idea about the Shockoe Bottom district either. Thank you for providing all the useful links!

    You often hear about Charleston (SC) being reffered to as the “Ellis Island for African Americans”. But i wouldn’t be surprised if actually Virginia will have been most significant in the formation of African Americans as a group in its own right. When considering the full extent of the African origins of African Americans as well as proportionwise we should therefore also take a closer look into Virginia’s Trans Atlantic slave trade patterns (incl. also by way of the West Indies, eventhough this might have been less significant than sometimes assumed).

    You make a very compelling case that the Malagasy descendants Diaspora was extended to the Deep South by way of the horrific Domestic Slave Trade. These forced migrations often originated in Virginia itself as you have demonstrated or also in surrounding states which might have been settled initially by Virginia colonizers (such as Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland). But Malagasy descendants from Virginia might also have ended up in the Mid-West and the Northeast as in your case, often also occurring through voluntary migration.

    I have blogged about a very similar dispersion of African origins by way of Virginia:

    “The Igbo Connection for Virginia & Virginia-Descendants”
    https://tracingafricanroots.wordpress.com/2015/06/24/the-igbo-connection-for-virginia-virginia-descendants/

    I found it very intriguing in this regard that you mentioned the inventory of Robert Carter’s Slaves held in Virginia 1733. I followed the link (http://carter.lib.virginia.edu/html/C33slaves.html) and unsurprisingly given forced creolization most people are only listed by their first name without any additional details. However two “Ebo George”s are mentioned as well as a woman named “Ebo Sary”. These are undoubtedly referring to their Igbo (=Eboe) background! In addition a few of the other names also suggest African (and perhaps also Native American?)origins although i am not quite sure on the specifics: Balizou, Cuffee (most likely Akan derived), Cundo, Dembo, Mingo (interestingly also his child named the same way), Rumbo, Sonco. Also very interesting to see “Madagascar Jack” as well as Bambara (=ethnic group from Mali) Harry and Dinah being mentioned in Robert “King” Carter’s correspondence. A valuable testimony of the ethnic diversity to be found among his enslaved labour force, even if only very limited and incomplete of course.

    1. Fonte-
      I am enjoying this conversation. I want to respond to several things.

      1) I never thought about what percentage of my ancestry would I consider Malagasy. No clue. Probably very little. The DNA Tribes SNP calculated it at 2.9%.

      2) I chose to only speak about the Malagasy enslaved who arrived in VA in the 1719-21 timeframe. Of course, there were earlier enslaved Malagasy who ended up in Charleston, Virginia, and in the Northeast in the mid-late 1600s. Wendy Wilson-Fall also discusses enslaved Malagasy who may have arrived via the illegal slave trade in FL/GA. We must also remember that Spanish and French slaveowners may have also brought them in via New Orleans.

      3) According to Lorena Walsh (see references), most of the Slaves who arrived in Tidewater, VA were from the Bight of Biafra (Parts of Nigeria and Cameroon), Angola, The Gold,Coast, Senegambia, Madagascar, and Sierra Leone. Most were from West and Central Africa. You are correct in pointing out the diversity of the enslaved early population in Virginia.

      4) The expansion of the United States coincide with dispersal of enslaved people from Virginia. Self-emancipating people could have ended up anywhere. That being said, the domestic slave trade played a huge role in sending people to the South.

      1. The reason i asked about the estimated Malagasy ancestral proportion is because i am fascinated by the whole interplay between genetical inheritance on the one hand and genealogical descent on the other. As you know the two will usually not be perfectly correlated. I find this overview to be very useful:

        https://tracingafricanroots.files.wordpress.com/2017/08/ancestrors-dna-contribution.png

        In tracing Malagasy ancestors the “fortunate” circumstance is of course that they happen to have a unique Southeast Asian component. Especially when showing up as a haplogroup this can deliver conclusive evidence.

        However due to recombination and dilution across the generations these DNA markers (incl. also autosomal admixture) are less likely to appear, or only as low confidence Trace Regions. Which might complicate one’s research.

        I found it very striking that you have identified atleast two separate sources of Malagasy roots. Because in that way you might expect some kind of reinforcement of their genetic inheritance. Sort of similar to the way Native American DNA is showing up consistently for Puerto Ricans despite the fact that their “full blooded” Native American ancestors will mostly be traced back to the 1500’s.

        Having one single ancestor from the 1500’s or even the 1600’s would normally not show up in a DNA test (except as haplogroup) because of dilution beyond a detectable threshold. However if a particular ancestral component is widespread within the genepool of a given population it might get “recycled” in a way because it is passed on through both maternal and paternal lines.

    1. Thanks, Melvin! You have certainly showed that there is a way that we can find our African-American Malagasy descended ancestors. More importantly, that we still share genetic links to Malagasy living today.

    1. Andre—-
      Dropping knowledge is what I do. 😂😂😂! Glad you enjoyed the post. You have deep colonial roots as well. The early colonial history of Virginia makes me wonder what if this country had taken a different road prior to the codification of slavery…Anyway, Nicka Smith will have a good giggle over your comments.

  13. Cuzzo-

    This is an amazing display of critical work. You have appropriately synthesized and applied sophisticated parsing of history. I am overly impressed.

    You and I have yet, another cousin in common- Nicole Lawrence. We share about 33cMs and cannot figure it out- this may provide a clue.

    I am also seeking excellent sources on black population movements from Connecticut into Vermont circa 1820-1850, and causality. If you know of any please let me know!

    Cheers,

    Rosario

    1. Rosario-
      We got roots! Nicole seems to be related to both my NY and VA Malagasy lines. I am sure it is via the NY line that we are connected to you. I am looking forward to investigating our link further. It would be awesome if we could trace our tools from NYC to CT and then to VT. Thanks for leaving a comment, cuz!

  14. In my search for my ancestors, I was directed to your blog as I’ve just discovered my great grandmother Mary Ragland (Yates) was the daughter of Martha Ragland and Joseph Williams. Please email me if you get a chance.

      1. Thank you so much! I don’t want to get too excited, but I feel this is a correct connection as my great grandmother listed Jackson County Ohio as her birthplace on her marriage certificate and oral history from my grandmother (her daughter in law) is that she came from the hills of southern Ohio.

  15. Thanks for this amazing scholarly work. It is a towering achievement in Malagasy ancestry research and exposes the complexities of how it intertwines with colonial America and in this third part Virginia. It forces me to re-examine my own Malagasy roots to see if there is a Virginia connection. As I’ve told you privately I’m going to tell you publicly … WRITE A BOOK CHILD. … LOL

  16. Teresa Vega thanks for this amazing scholarly work. It is a towering achievement in Malagasy ancestry research and exposes the complexities of how it intertwines with colonial America and in this third part Virginia. It forces me to re-examine my own Malagasy roots to see if there is a Virginia connection. As I’ve told you privately I’m going to tell you publicly … WRITE A BOOK CHILD. … LOL

    1. Thank you, TL. You are part of my family story as well. We know you have a NJ/NY link to my family and you may just have a VA link as well. It’s going to be interesting tracking the migration of these enslaved Malagasy and their descendants. By the way, after I finish Part IV, the book will come quick. LOL. Thanks for your continued support.

Leave a Reply