A couple of weeks ago, Sharon Morgan emailed me to let me know that someone had posted information on her Our Black Ancestry website that linked my slave owning Furman ancestors to the writer’s enslaved ancestors. This was totally out of the blue except that Sharon has been working hard for many years to make these connections happen. In her email to me, my ancestral link, Michelle Hammett-Ross, says, “Wow I am so excited to hear from you! This is like coming full circle to allow healing from the ‘bittersweet’ past.”
But this is not the first time Our Black Ancestry (OBA) has linked me to someone looking for their ancestors. A couple of months ago, Trina Roach, who lives in Germany, found me through posts about my family I had written for BitterSweet: Linked Through Slavery that she found referenced in OBA. She had irrefutable proof that my ancestors had owned hers!
OBA helps people explore and appreciate African American family history and culture. Believing that we “empower our future by honoring our past,” OBA contributes to an African American genealogical legacy that goes beyond the recording of names, dates and places into the realm of elevating genealogy to promote positive community and family values.
Sharon needs donations to continue her work, so critical to finding and linking descendants connected through slavery. Please go to her site and make a donation in whatever amount and up the chances that you too will find links to your own ancestors. In addition to donations, please input your family names into the database on the website so you can also be “found.” OUR BLACK ANCESTRY WORKS!
There are other ways to help too. OBA needs genealogists and historians to contribute data to enlarge the database and help more researchers; input from the ancestral records and documents currently held by descendants of slaveholders, usually white folks; volunteers willing to input data about enslaved people that they find in archives, local history books, court records, etc., as well as funds to help with setting up an even richer and even better functioning database (software, programming and data inputting).
Because of OBA, Michelle and Trina and I are now on a journey of discovery–of each other and our ancestors. Michelle’s great, great grandmother was a house servant at my family’s plantation, Cherrydale, located in Greenville, SC. Trina has evidence that her ancestors were enslaved by mine in Sumter County, SC. She explained, “I just became aware of your site and series [on BitterSweet].…From a vintage newspaper article entitled “Remembers Mexican War: Prince Taylor Tells of Dr. Samuel Furman, Founder of Furman University” [The Watchman and Southern, of Sumter County, South Carolina, March 15, 1916]….I know that he [Prince Taylor, her great-great-great grandfather’s brother] was enslaved by the Furman family.”
But what next? These serendipitous “findings” have produced a great yearning in me to meet my linked “cousins” in person. Hopefully if and when we do meet we will embrace each other in the knowledge of a shared but scarred history. I would expect that the three of us will have some feelings of trepidation because our encounters will demand a deep look at the realities of enslavement that bind us together. This is an essential part of our journey—to come together at the table for healing and reconciliation in a bittersweet reunion.