On Monday, I finally earnestly engaged on a project which has been eating away inside of me ever since I traced my paternal American/English side and discovered that at least one branch of my tree contains slave-holding families. It's to be expected of any family whose history is supposed to go back to the Revolution, there being a dark part of our history between us and our oft-vaunted forebears.
This moment came to me in searching for Dameron ancestors and discovering them on slave schedules, closely followed by finding records from the sale of a Dameron's estate, records which included the sale of human beings.
I had always been proud of my Northern, largely Scandinavian roots on my father's side and my recently-arrived ancestors on my mother's side, confident that my DNA bore no traces of that horrific institution. Finding out otherwise shook me to my core and made me physically ill.
At the beginning, I left that branch of the family alone. It seemed that the rest of the Dameron family research world hailed the family's possible connection to Jamestown and a manor house in England, without acknowledging that any success on this side of the pond came at the expense of the lives, dignity, and humanity of others. And I couldn't think of it without being ashamed.
Later, however, I realized how badly I wanted to know as much as possible about the concrete effects of my ancestors actions, and that more than I wanted to know about the Damerons, I wanted to know about the people they enslaved and what happened to them and their descendants. Seeking your family's history means taking the bad with the good, the shameful with the admirable, with your eyes wide open.
The posts to follow are an attempt to document my process and experiences in finding out the whole story - or at least as much as I can.