Born Into Slavery

A reflection on discovering that one of my ancestors was Born into Slavery.

As my connections will be aware I am very keen on tracing my Family History. I have always been fascinated by the twists and turns that the journey of exploration can take us on and these last few days have certainly seen things take an unexpected turn!

Some years ago I took a DNA Test which gave me some insights into my genealogy many of which were what I had expected.  However, I have always been intrigued by the reference to West Africa in my DNA although I hadn’t especially pursued it.

Wealth, Position and Privilege

In the last few days some research has brought me to an unexpected discovery. I have been intrigued how my family has married into the great, the good and the bad over the centuries with a number of Saints and Sinners along the way as I have written about before.

On my paternal side of the family my Great-Grandfather James was born into the wealthy Duxbury family. They are a very old Lancashire family and there is a strong focus on doing good by their local communities and those who worked for them. However, my Great-Grandfather was clearly a troubled soul who experienced some challenging times. When he married Fanny my Great-Grandmother he and his wife were thrown out of their family home and I had always assumed that it was because she was a servant girl from a nearby house.

However, I wonder if my recent discovery had more impact on my Family’s reaction to my Great-Grandfather’s choice of wife? It has certainly set me thinking.

From Boston To England

Fanny’s own Great-Grandfather was a Peter Boston born in Boston Massachusetts USA. Research into his parentage has revealed that his parents were Cato of Boston and Diadama of Massachusetts USA. The first discovery was their petition to marry which recorded them both as being “people of colour.” That in itself was enough to hit me in the stomach and remind me how different the attitudes of our ancestors were. That people were referred to in that way on something like a Marriage record seems quite extraordinary to us now.

However, more was to follow!  The next discovery was a Bill of Sale for Cato a boy of 6 years of age in Boston. A Bill of Sale for a human being?! I genuinely felt sick to the pit of my stomach when I read that here was a boy, my ancestor(!) being sold like some goods. So Cato had been born into slavery and here he was at an age when nowadays children would be going to school being sold. It transpires that he was probably of West African origin. I genuinely hadn’t expected to find that information in my genealogy research and it has raised all sorts of emotions in me along with perhaps a deeper understanding of the challenges my Great-Grandmother might have faced if those genes were clear to those in my family who chose to reject her. A mixture of anger and an amazing depth of appreciation for the challenges she encountered.

Born into Slavery

Alongside this discovery about Cato of Boston and Slavery we have also been able to establish that Diadama was a Native American from the Wampanoag, an ancient Native tribe – People of the First Light – in the area around Massachusetts.

So many emotions, thoughts and reactions to the discovery of slavery alongside so much more to discover and understand.

However, we might think our genealogy might turn out when we start to explore it we simply do not know where it will lead us!

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