Melungeon-L Archives

Archiver > Melungeon > 2001-01 > 0978816068

From: Jean E Vaughan <>
Subject: Re: [Melungeon] Re: To tell or not?
Date: Sat, 6 Jan 2001 13:21:08 -0800

On Sat, 6 Jan 2001 12:26:37 EST writes:
> HI Guys!
> I think each family is different and this is a difficult thing to
> have to deal with. In my case I told some of my family and not others.
> couple of the ones that I told were not pleased, but they didn't shun
me for
> telling them.

Wish that had been the case in my NICHOLS - BROWN line. My grandmother
died back in 1939, and my mother, who passed away two years ago now, had
psychgenic amnesia ... she could remember almost none of her childhood
and what memories she did relate were often false; she had almost no
tangible mementos from the family, and no surviving siblings ... the
whole family had disintegrated and gone their separate ways, long before
she was married or I was even born, and as my mother got up in years, my
sister and I were very anxious to solve so many of the mysteries in our
history. I started out, knowing only that our grandmother was Dora Bell
something or other, from Green something Kentucky and that grandpa was
named Peters, originally - maybe - from West Virginia. Mother, who was
born in Washington state, wasn't even sure of her own sister's name!
Which turned out not so surprising since she had totally changed it,
sometime around 1926, and apparently never spoke to her sister again.
Took years before I could even get my mother to admit her mother's maiden
name, because .... oh dear!!!! ... it was the same last name as her step
brother's last name, and that meant ...????? Well, it wasn't as bad as
she probably imagined - grandma DID marry a cousin with the same last
name, and that was her first husband. Her maiden and first married names
were the same.

I spent years searching, even took over as publisher of the family name
newsletter [had to let it go for a while, and hope to be starting up
again, soon] and found all sorts of Nichols ... but not mine. Learned
some of my grandmother's family's given names, and by using a nationwide
telephone directory on CD, found listings for a few people with the same
name as a possible son, and wrote a sort of generic letter to about a
dozen people ... and much later, got an answer back from a distant
cousin who was picking up mail for the relative in a nursing home. He
wrote me two letters, gave me some clues, and admitted he wasn't really
at all interested in his family history ... and then disappeared.

But, I was able to locate two of my grandmother's sisters - or maybe half
sisters - and when they didn't respond directly to my letters, I started
sending them free copies of the family newsletter, hoping that might stir
up some response ... Nada! After two or three years, I DID get a phone
call from a young woman, a great grand-daughter of one of these women,
who was somewhat interested in her family history ... and she informed
me that one of the sisters had all the family photo albums and admitted
remembering something about my grandmother, and the girl was all set to
go interview her. And so, I devoted the next issue to the Nichols in
Kentucky and sent that on ... and THAT was the end of THAT! Apparently,
I was getting far too close to the deep, dark family secrets. These
women all had that ethnic "look," of olive complexions and dark coloring,
and had been passing themselves and their children off alternately as
Irish or Italian, depending on their neighborhood and situation,
sometimes even changing their surnames to match the current story .... I
haven't been able to contact any of them since, even the young lady who
first called me. And I have to believe it's all because I was maybe
going to be telling the whole world that they weren't really "White."

The most important sources to me for more information have been other
members of this Melungeon list, who first found me on one of the Kentucky
email lists ... and they've bent over backwards to help me with more
information, as have others of you who aren't even relatives [maybe!].
And, reading Dr. Kennedy's book and communcating with other Melungeon
descendants has helped me in my decade long search for answers to my own
mysterious medical problems.

My own feeling is .... we are what we are. We could lie about it,
alter the facts that we publish, and try to obscure our origins if that
was our wish, but the truth is, we cannot now change what and who our
ancesotrs were ... and not all of us would want to! I'm proud to learn
of my Melungeon and Native American ancestry .... what I've learned of
some of my other, "lily-white", Anglo-Saxon, colonial aristocracy
ancestors hasn't been quite so admirable as some of those nice members of
the DAR would have people believe! Several of them might have fought in
the Revolutionary War ... and even on the winning side ... but
personally, they were not always so noble. Some of them got away with
murder .. literally! What matters more now, is who WE are ....

So, as a semi-professional genealogist, and personal family historian,
I'm maybe not going to take out a full page ad in the New York Times to
declare our ancestry, but I am going to record our family history as
accurately as I possibly can, given my limits within the all too natural
tendency to always be somewhat favorable to one aspect or another, and
let my descendants make their own decisions on what to do with the
information. At least I will have tried to give them as truthful a
version as I can. And in the case of our family, I feel it is vital
information to understand the implications of our ancestry as it applies
to our potential medical background. In that alone, I believe I owe the
full truth to my children.


This thread: