AfriGeneas Free Persons of Color Forum
In Response To: Re: Melungeons ()
Well put! We seem to always get back to the problem of the census (and other records) - though useful tools are still based on the perceptions of the recorder.
Back in the day - no one was doing gene testing (grin). Though small communities tended to keep track of who was who - meaning who were really "white", and who "looked" that way - as people migrated and moved - many were able to move away from being tagged as "not really white" (grin). But as you pointed out - related people in the same households were often labelled differently.
I spent a lot of time scouring records for my grandmother's birth - and passing over her birth record because I was looking for a "c" for colored on the record. Turns out she was listed as white. This is in a small community where they had to have known her father was not white - even though he "looked" white.
I've spent time laughing at the various scenarios that come to mind - perhaps the regular clerk at the county court house where births were registered was out sick and a new clerk was behind the desk - not from Loudoun county, and so when my great grandfather showed up to file - the clerk looked up - saw who he thought was a white man - and left it at that.
Perceptions are colored by human biases - a reverse of this is my father's mother - who was "white". Census taker shows up - sees her with a black husband - and lists her as black.
What is most important to me - is that I find them. Don't really care what color or "race" they are listed as - except if it gives me clues to go back further and find their parents and grandparents. And more importantly, if the records - sloppy as they may be - give me a glimpse into the past and some idea of how they were living.
For those researching FPOC, it is important to try to imagine what it must have been like to live under harsh and restrictive Black Codes, to have relatives - or friends who were enslaved, to have the constant possibility of being snatched up and thrown into slavery if caught without papers (which happened to some), to be forced to relocate, and to try to live life - and raise a family and put food on the table. Many were taught to believe that African ancestry was a taint - to be removed, or denied, if possible. Others resisted "passing" and kept family histories alive. I don't condem either choice - I'm not walking in their shoes. Just trying to understand the history.
The search continues...