What to Do When You Discover You Have Slave-Owning Ancestors – Interview with Cheri Passey


What happens when you discover in your
family tree that you have slaveholding ancestors don’t be shocked let’s talk
about what you need to do to help others and heal howdy I’m Devon Noel Lee with
family history fanatics and we’re going to talk about that sensitive topic with
Cheri Hudson Passey how are you I’m good how are you thanks so much for having me
I’m really really good and I know a number of personal conversations and
I’ve had with people in Houston it’s it’s in the South but also viewers on
our channel who don’t know what you’re supposed to do and how you’re supposed
to process information when you discover that you have slaveholders on your tree
exactly it can it can be really hard the emotions can be really hard it can be
shocking because a lot of us are in denial we think Oh our parents or our
grandparents or whatever our ancestors have never said anything about us having
you know slave-owning ancestors couldn’t happen my ancestors would never do that
they were too poor the list goes on and on and on but unfortunately many of us
no matter where we lived in the United States will run across some kind of
document that indicates that they did either owned slaves or they were in some
kind of industry where they were supporting the system for instance I’ve
got an ancestor that was an overseer oh that was hard that was hard
yeah because an overseer is the one that inflicts the punishment because the
owners could be delightful but what if the overseer and it’s like it doesn’t
say on the census record this was a nice overseer I mean you can’t you and I know
that a lot of people think oh well if my ancestors owned slaves they were good
people you can’t own a human being it was the time we can’t you know none of
the things that our ancestors did reflects on us we are not responsible we
didn’t live in that time and we don’t know what our our actions
would have been but it’s important to know that when you find these documents
do not hide it to not be afraid don’t be embarrassed don’t think oh I can’t add
this document to my family tree what you need to do is you need to transcribe all
the information the location the slave-owners name the name of the
enslaved and get it out there on social media if your blog make a blog post if
you don’t have a blog then find and find an african-american page research page
on Facebook and just add that in the comment section just say this is what I
found this is the place this is the names of the owners whatever information
may come you know sometimes letters and books and things like that will actually
give you physical descriptions and that’s an interesting thing so pull out
in the information that you can find and get it out there so they’re descendants
and can find them because they’re searching and they’re looking and a lot
of times we’re researching this we’re researching the same family if your
ancestor was a slave owner and there was you know children that came from a union
between the slave owner owner and an enslaved person you’re researching the
same family and you need to work together because
they need all that information they can get from the documents of that slave
owner well I had a friend who would take me to therapy all throughout the fall
and he did discover that he had slaveholding ancestors and he did just
like you said okay but what he did was he actually he found someone on ancestry
who was a slave he was trying to research that area and he said I have
records for you I have records for you and the person was so receptive he said
she was in tears Oh exactly exactly we need to have that conversation and
work together if you’ve got something and somebody contacts you through an
ancestry tree or the DNA more and more we’re taking DNA tests and
people were finding out that oh my goodness I’ve got a percentage of
african-american blood you know and they’re going to result reach out to you
and you can work together to figure out where that came from
or it’s because you’ve got that connection with the slave owner so you
might not have the african-american blood but you’ve got that connection
through the the slave owner so when you get those questions answer when you get
those emails that say you know we need to connect
I need your information don’t be afraid nobody’s trying to say oh you know
you’re a bad person because your ancestors enslaved my ancestors that’s
not why you’re being contacted you were being contacted to help them to
reconnect with their family members I really like that and I guess my thing
was I remember there was a celebrity who discovered that they had had
slaveholding ancestors and then they didn’t want anybody to talk about their
story do you have any thoughts on that it’s that it’s that fear I think a lot
and he was probably embarrassed and thought maybe it would do something to
his career but like I said we’re not responsible for our ancestors actions
but we can do something positive with the records that we find those names
that are in those records the names of the enslaved haven’t been said for
hundreds of years by us transcribing writing them down and sharing them their
names are we call it releasing their names they haven’t been spoken for years
and they can be remembered and by you doing that their descendants can do
searches on the internet and hopefully say for instance you have I’m from
Sumpter South Carolina that’s one of the places where my ancestors lived if I
post that I found a will from one of my ancestors and I extract the names and
put Sumter South Carolina whatever the surname was if they get
online in search because maybe they’ve had a family story of I think my family
was enslaved by maybe this person in Sumpter and they search it bingo
anything that I put on there can maybe help them and so that’s that
connection that we need we are all one family we we need to help each other
there’s not a you and me it’s an us and we need to work together so have you had
any stories that you’ve been involved in and see people from both sides of the
slave question ruin your night and how was it was it positive with it negative
with it kind of awkward but they got through it can you tell me a little bit
about maybe one experience you’ve been involved in or aware of well I myself in
working with somebody now and we have a common ancestor and she’s been able to
send me some things about her enslaved ancestor and I’ve been able to go
through the records that I’ve been able to find on my ancestor and it you know
it’s it’s just ya know it’s a healing process for me as I found that he was
you know a slave owner and to know that I’m helping in some way it’s it’s it
isn’t a bad thing it’s not us against them as I said it’s it’s a healing
moment it’s helping them find their family and and knowing that I can do
something to help I couldn’t do anything about the situation but I can do
something now and that’s kind of how I looked at it I really like that we can
do something now and I think it’s important that if we bring to life a
story the positive that negatives and understand the culture then we can see
going further back this happen like why would anybody think this way and not not
necessarily to be judgmental like you know no just essential but prevent it
from happening again wouldn’t you agree I agree absolutely absolutely like I
said this healing is good for all of us it’s just you know it’s just it’s
amazing when you talk to people and they have work together that healing and that
sense of community and a sense of family that you get and so I would encourage
anybody don’t like I said don’t hide it don’t be embarrassed
don’t say oh I can’t put that on my tree I can’t let anybody know I can’t write
that you know to be published it’s it’s not something to be
ashamed of yes it’s it can be it can hurt and you can feel embarrassed that
your ancestors did you know did these things but you’ve got to remember it was
not to make excuses for there are no excuses for it but it’s not well it’s
well known responsibility or no responsibility but we do have a
responsibility today to get those names out to help the african-american
community find their family if you have any more questions about healing and
what did you when you find that you had slave holding ancestors be sure to put it
in the comment section below of this video but you can also reach out to Cheri tell people how they can get a hold of you sure my blog is carolinagirlgenealogy.blogspot.com can get a hold of me there or you can
email me Cherri at Carolina girl genealogy com
thank you so much and if you’re ever a part of a GenChat at she’s active in GenChat and that’s how we met exactly thank you so much and we’ll talk to you again soon

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