Well, I have finally discovered our family secret, and it isn't anything I would ever have dreamed, and yet it fits so perfectly with many mysteries in my experience. In fact, this secret has provided the key to so many facets of my life that I am going to try to write a book about it. So, I won't continue with the saga on this website. I do promise to continue passing along interesting tidbits from my on-going research, genealogical and historical. And I will say this: it isn't any of those three possibilities I outlined in the previous post, although one is pretty close, that is, may be possibly related to my secret. If you have been following my story and feel let-down by my continuing to conceal 'the secret,' then please email me, and I'll try to make it right.
A review of the measley five clues that have sent me into hours and hours of research, nail-biting, and volumes of fascinating reading:
1) my mother said her hair was true black, not brown, and she wanted me to clearly know and remember this!
2) my mother's and her father's eyes were hazel, and, according to Mom, 'hazel' was an uncommon eye color - again, something that was important to mom, if slightly vain
3) she always wanted me to spell Susquehanna for her when I was five and six years old, and to remember that the Susquehanna Indians were not fierce and warlike, (as she predicted I would someday hear), but generous, noble and altogether wonderful people
4) She told me our family had a secret.
5) My DNA report showed that I have a lot of Iberian (Spanish and Portuguese) and Italian, and Moroccan, North African, Arabic and Turkish DNA-matching. Also, sub-Saharan DNA, but not that much, down at the same levels as I have Irish and Danish - the two ethnicities I believed I was! By the way, the woman in this picture (above), my mother, is supposed to be English and Irish.
Okay, the plot thickens. Research has revealed:
1) A group of old-time Americans called 'Melungeons' claim ancestry from the Chesapeake Bay area, circa 1500's, including Turkish, Arab and Portuguese antecedents, along with other European, Native American and African input as well. DNA testing shows many Melungeons do possess high levels of Iberian and Italian ancestry, leading some to believe their ancestors were more than the occasional Portuguese sailor or runaway Turkish slave, but possibly escapees from Spain's Inquisition (!) which targeted Moors, Sephardic Jews and Conversos (Jews who had earlier converted to Catholicism). A Jewish acquaintance recommended I read the book, "The Dogs of God" by James Reston, which I am now doing. (This book will curl your toes)
2) Brewton Berry has written a book 'Almost White' (1962) about Melungeons and other 'tri-racial isolates,' and their communities' style of co-existing with old-time social groups (white, indian, black, mulatto) who did not accept them, leading me to believe that my mother and her friends may have been 'passing' as 'white' although they themselves were somehow self-identified as 'almost white.' Whether this was due to some admixture of black or native american blood, I was not sure.
Many of my mother's friends had the surnames attributed to the Melungeons. A major difference is that in the South, laws were passed that hamstrung the Melungeons, whereas in the North (Pennsylvania is just barely 'north' by the way), there was greater freedom to move around, to work, go to school, vote, serve in the military, etcetera. Once the coveted 'W' was next to your name on the census, you could relax. The people in the South often were really forced to live in tight-knit communities, whereas in the North, I believe that although they still intermarried and hung out together for the most part, they had a little more 'wiggle-room' and could live more interspersed throughout the general population, which numbered among it many native americans, african americans and more recent european and caribbean immigrants. The 'old families' could get a little bit more 'lost in the crowd' up north. Nevertheless, 'they felt' they didn't really fit in with these other groups, and maybe sometimes it was born home on them, too. Anyway, this is my theory.
3) My mother and her friends fit the 'old time American' category who might be of early mixed-race parentage among indentured slaves and servants, so maybe this explains the 'secret,' the admiration for the native americans, the fact that my mother deferred to whites as well as blacks when it came to things like 'boarding the bus,' (an example Berry gives of the behavior of 'mestizos')- rather than what I believed, namely that she was just so humble, so fair, so self-deprecating, etc.
4) Another possibility is that they were as 'white as the driven snow.' Certainly my mother's father's father's people go all the way back to be numbered among the founders of Bucks County, a very prestigious county today in Pennsylvania. My great-grandfather was a Civil War hero, losing a leg while carrying the colors at the battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg.
I've traced the family back to the 1700's in Pennsylvania, with the earliest relative on one branch, at least, having been born in Penna in 1644. I will continue the search and bring back the pearls to share with you on the blog. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your proposed solutions to this mystery.
I've got a lot more to say about all of this, but I'm just taking some time out to say that I've been in a very even-tempered sort of mood for a couple of days now. I wish I could feel this way more. During all this recent devling into my ancestry, my dna, etcetera, I've gotten very wound up, lots of energy running through me. It all subsided just a few days ago, when I discovered my great-great-great grandmother was one of the prolific Livezeys of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. I used to have a friend who made a joke about how many Livezey descendants there are. Turns out I'm one of them.
I also wanted to list some of the books I've been reading and getting so much from.
"Having Our Say, the Delany Sisters' First One Hundred Years." A delightful compendium of interviews with two elderly black mestizo ladies (Brewton Berry uses the term 'mestizo' for tri-racials) - part white, part native american, part black and black-identified - when they were 101 and 103 years old.
"Whiteness of a Different Color." A sociological study of U.S. immigrants, such as Italians, Turks, Poles, Jews, and others who were not seen as 'white' for some period of time.
"Mulatto America." A more informal study of being mixed race (black, white, indian) in America.
"A History of Madeira 1500" Just because my dna report said that the population I most match today resides in the Madeira Archipelago
"A History of Bucks County" I've found a large number of antecedents in 18th century Bucks County Pennsylvania.
"One Day's Journey More." One man's look back over the development of black Philadelphia.
"The Sweeter the Juice." A genealogical memoir of a black American family who trace their roots to Martha Washington's family.
"The Melungeons" by N. Brent Kennedy. A genealogical memoir and speculative exploration into reconstructing Melungeon history. Not scholarly, and no claim to be. Very colorful and interesting and fills in some gaps for me.
"Children of Perdition." A sanitized white-washed version of Melungeon history, but if you want the facts without the oral history, genealogy and intriguing speculations this one is the latest on the subject.
"Almost White" by Berry Brewton. An anecdotal social study of mixed race groups mostly in Virginia and the Carolinas, prior to 1960.
"The Dogs of God" by James Reston. A history of the Christian reconquest of Spain from the Moors; it promises to shed more light on Christopher Columbus and a great migration of Jews and Moors from Spain and North Africa to the New World, spurred by the Inquisition. He also ties 1492 into what's happening in the middle-east right now. A friend thinks my dna report indicates ancestry from this place and time.
"The Seven Daughters of Eve" by Brian Sykes. An entertaining exposition of mtDNA theory that traces everyone in the world back through their mothers to something like 22 original women. He focuses on the 7 original mothers of Europe. He also discusses Polynesian mtDNA lines at some length. A fascinating and highly readable book.
"Blue Arabesque" by Patricia Hampl. A beautiful book in which the author relates and connects insights and experiences to her fascination with the artist Henri Matisse, particularly focusing on his 'odalisques' period and his time spent in Morocco and along Le Cote d'Azur.