Saturday, August 22, 2020

Yes, Philadelphia Dunstons - We ARE Related!

 I need to vent.

I am a DUNSTON descendant. This is not a line I knew anything about, before I started my research in the 1990s. My grandmother, Anna Green, was the daughter of Susan Georgiana DUNSTON, who married John Wesley Green. That is where my Dunston line begins.

(As is the case with most of my lines, I have no photo to show of my great-grandmother, so I will just use this clipping from Ancestry to represent her.)

Researching the DUNSTONS
My Dunston line has been tricky to research, but I've done so with extreme care for over 20 years, now. What makes it trickiest is the fact that so many of the names are used over and over, sometimes within the same generation, and many of those names are common ones, like James, John, Anna/Annie and Laura. Because of this, I've been extremely careful about who actually gets a spot on the tree. I must be able to prove, with documents, that I have the right people in the right place - at least to the best of my ability. Anyone I'm unsure about either has a research note added to their profile on my tree, or they don't make it onto the tree, at all, but instead earn a place in my Ancestry "Shoebox," until such time that I can find definitive evidence that they actually belong to me.

Over the years, I've communicated with many Dunston descendants, all of whom have an ancestral connection to the area of North Carolina where my Dunstons are from: Franklin County. For some, the connection to this county is immediate, and for others it takes a few generations into their ancestry to get back there. Branches have conglomerated in nearby Wake (Raleigh) and Vance (Henderson) Counties, as well as a very large contingent, which migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the early part of the 20th century. And, quite a few of the Dunstons remained in Franklin County, mostly in the town of Franklinton, but with a few families in the county seat, Louisburg. (The Pennsylvania group originated in Franklinton.)

Through my research and also as a result of interactions with others in the genealogy community, I've met numerous Dunston descendants, who hail from various of the above-mentioned locations. Most of us were told, once upon a time, that all of the Dunstons from Franklin County were related. But, proving that has been a challenge, as we've worked collegially to try to explore how we might be - must be connected. In some cases, we've been successful, but the MRCA (most recent common ancestor) is so many generations back that we are not sharing any DNA to prove it. Therefore, we must rely on our carefully constructed family trees for documentation of our connections. And, in a few cases, we are not seeing any matchups on our trees, so we continue to wait, hoping one day a relationship may show us to be connected, but, if it doesn't, we continue to support each other's research and say that we are "cousins" anyway. :)

My Dunston Line
My own DUNSTON line goes back 9 generations (yes, NINE!) to my sixth great-grandmother, Patience Dunston, who was born in 1734. I first learned of Patience through the work of Paul Heinegg, the award-winning author of Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware. My direct line (below) is well documented from Patience, all the way down to me. I continuously search for, find, and add additional sources that support my findings - or, if they don't, changes are made. 

Troubled Waters
There is one line of my Dunston family that refuses to acknowledge their connection to me, simply because "they don't have those names." This is the branch that moved to Philadelphia, which is a line that descends from my third great-grandfather, Wilson Dunston (Sr.). This line, which descends from Wilson's son, James "Jim" Wilson Dunston, is documented on my tree and has come up as the connector between several of my DNA matches and me, as well as for people whose trees reflect that connection, just as mine does. There is just one problem though: it seems that the Philadelphia line, which boasts of having at least 3 family historians, has only been documented up to the generation that includes James "Jim" Dunston.  Because they are unaware (apparently) of James' parentage or deeper ancestry, they choose to denounce it or to even acknowledge and/or learn about his familial origins. So... Houston, we have a problem.

This photo was shared with me by the one Philadelphia Dunston cousin who believed and allowed me to share my research findings - the late Karen Serene Dunston. May she rest in peace. 
On the left is James Wilson Dunston, who was the son of my third great-grandfather, Wilson Dunston. He was the great-grandfather of the cousin denoted by the green dot, above. 
On the right is his wife, Harriet Ellen Fields.

This chart, created using my tree on Ancestry dot com, shows the relationship of one of the Philadelphia-born Dunston cousins and myself. (Said cousin is represented by the green dot.) The relationship, based on the sourced and documented work I've done on my tree, is undeniable. However, because this family has never heard of our common ancestor, Wilson Dunston, he, to them, does not exist; and therefore, we are not related. This stance has been taken by three different members of this particular family, over the course of a few years. I'm not going into the particulars about the difficult attempts I've made to communicate with them - even, most recently, as a result of this cousin reaching out to me - not vice versa. I understand that not everyone understands this work that we're doing; but I'm not in this to be mistreated, talked down to, dismissed and/or disrespected. I simply want to find and learn about my Ancestors, and sometimes that means encountering people who are unexpectedly (and unabashedly) ____________. (You fill in the blank.)

Concluding with Gratitude
I'm very thankful that what I've experienced in dealing with this family line has not been the norm during my 23 years of formally researching my ancestry. I've met so many relatives, on several different lines, and these are the only ones that have behaved in this way and not wanted to know or discuss anything about our shared ancestry. This Dunston line, for whatever their reasons, chooses to stay in the dark about their own pedigree. That has nothing to do with me. I thank God for the Hills, the RossesYarboroughs, Davenports, the Tredwell/Littlejohn descendants, and several other cousin connections I've made over the years - some due to the blessing of good solid traditional research, and others thanks to irrefutable DNA evidence (which doesn't lie).
I was told that this is my second great-grandmother, Laura Dunston, who was a Dunston already before she and Wilson "Wils" Dunston married. This is the only known photo I have of one of my direct Dunston ancestors. 

Walk in the Light - Beautiful Light!
Today was a slap in the face; but it will take more than this to stop me from my quest to find my ancestors and to connect with those who share them. I started this journey to find out who I am and what I'm made of. Like Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for President of the United States said in his nomination acceptance speech, as he quoted my (Ross descended) cousin, Ella Josephine Baker: "Give people light and they will find a way." And, like Joe, and like Ella, I choose to follow the light. Why? Because, just as Joe said, "Light is more powerful than darkness." 

If any of my Philadelphia Dunstons happen to read this, know that I love you, because you are my family. If you want to reach out to me, I'll be ready to share and move forward; and, just as I've told the three that I've spoken to, if you have evidence that is contrary to what my research has shown, I am open and willing to hear and consider it.

I needed to vent. 

Thanks for reading.


                                      (I do not own the rights to this music.)

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Pre-1870 African American Genealogy Research: Oh, YES, We Can!

Are records available about black Americans prior to the 1870 Census? You’re darned tootin’ they are! Many believe that the so-called “1870 Brick Wall” stifles the research of those of us who descend from these Ancestors, but that is absolutely not the case! Check out these slides from some of the presentations I do that address this topic.

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From “Researching Free People of Color in Antebellum North Carolina” Slide 12, updated June 2018. Author, Renate Yarborough Sanders. All rights reserved.                      Except for the “freedom badges,” the other record types mentioned on this slide are mostly extant, and provide helpful documentation of the lives of emancipated or free-born Blacks.

Image 2 

From “Researching Free People of Color in Antebellum North Carolina” Slide 15, updated June 2018. Author, Renate Yarborough Sanders. All rights reserved. These are two samples from the very rich collection of slavery related petitions, collected by UNC’s Digital Library on American Slavery.

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From "Researching Formerly Enslaved Ancestors" slide 15. Updated Feb. 2020. Author Renate Yarborough Sanders. All rights reserved. These are just a few sources that can be accessed to discover records of our Ancestors of color. 

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From "Finding Calvin: Following My Enslaved Through Multiple Owners - A Case Study Ancestor" Slide 12. Updated July 2020. Author, Renate Yarborough Sanders. All Rights Reserved. People often say that there’s no such thing as a slave record, but this slide shows records which certainly give us information about the enslaved.

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