I’ve spent the last forty-five years doing family research and family history. I’ve interviewed some of my older relatives who have now passed on and I’m grateful that I had the foresight to do that. My only regret is that I did not start sooner. This process started around 1977 with the premier of the movie “Roots” the dramatization of Alex Haley’s book by the same title. At that time the process of research was tedious and required many hours spent in the state archives, searching through microfiche and volumes of census indexes. Thank goodness that process has been made easier by extensive reading and sitting at the keyboard of my personal computer with such sites as Ancestry.com to find a wealth of information that I could never have imagined in 1977.
Then along comes DNA. Wow! If you want your myth of your family history shattered, get your DNA done. Believe me after the initial shock of your results, you’ll be glad you had it done and it will open up a family story that you never knew existed.
For instance I was sure that all of my relatives arrived in the Americas about 1619 or later on slave ships and that it would be neigh impossible to trace them back beyond that point or even to that point because no one cared enough about them to keep such records. Well that was totally incorrect. DNA analysis helped connect me to the time of the conquistadores, the indigenous peoples of the Americas and European ancestors of Northern and Southern Europe.
You see I am one of those southern Americans of the United States that actually does have indigenous DNA on both my mother’s and father’s side of my family. There’s not a lot of it and one must go back to my 10thgreat-grandfather, Robin “Tucker” Pattanochus, 1590-1676, Nansemond, Virginia. That puts us at the time of the Conquistadores from Spain and Portugal. It’s a long way back but the DNA is there none the less. That DNA analysis connects my ancestors to indigenous people of North America, Central America, the West Indies and Western South America. Not only that but some of those people arrived long before Columbus. That’s right, some of the Conquistadores came, conquered intermarried with indigenous men and women and stayed in the Americas. They themselves were often mix-race people of African, European and Asian DNA heritage. Sorry to break this to you, but we’re all related, no matter how our skin tones appear.
What’s the story behind this upheaval and redistribution of humankind? Well it’s the age old game of conquering and ethnic cleansing. It is always difficult to decide on a starting point but for the sake of brevity, let’s start with the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. That was a time of religious wars in Europe which pitted groups of people who were tired of being imposed upon by the Catholic Church and decided it needed a spiritual renewal. No need to go into details here, but if you need to refresh your memory, do a little research on the period. If you were like me at the time that it was covered in Western Civilization, my eyes glazed over because after all the way my professor covered the topic it was about a lot of white Europeans fighting each other and had nothing to do with me. Wrong! Europe has always been multi-ethnic but because of the way history has been taught most of us are unaware of that fact. Now thanks to Ancestry, the availability of historical documents and DNA analysis, we know that a lot of those Huguenots, Calvinists, Lutherans and others were people that also had my DNA mix.
Many of those Protestants were crypto-Muslims and Sephardic Jews who were being pushed out of Spain and Portugal after having ruled there for over 700 hundred years. For many of them, their origins had been from Africa, not Arabia or the so called Middle East and when forced to leave Europe, it started an exodus that included relocating to the New World of the Americas. Starting with the West Indies and eventually spreading to the main lands of North and South America. I now understand why I have DNA matches with cousins in Barbados, Haiti, Jamaica, the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico and the Indigenous people of North America.
Then there was the shock of reading the information in the following documents:
“26 May 1741: George HINSON of Washington Parish was presented for living in adultery with a mulatto woman, Margaret MOZINGO, the wife of Francis CHANDLER. The case against George HINSON was dismissed on 27 February 1741/2 when it was suggested to the court that he had run away.” They later married and settled in North Carolina.
Please note, turns out that Mozingo is not a Spanish name; it is an African name. Margaret is a direct descendant of Edward Mozingo 1685-1754. She is also my 6th great-grandaunt.
My Mozingo ancestors did not inherit their name from a white slave master. Many of them were slave masters and passed this African name on to their white descendants. This probably disqualifies me from receiving reparations.
In 1700 several hundred French Huguenots migrated from England to the colony of Virginia, where King William III of England had promised them land grants in Lower Norfolk County. When they arrived, colonial authorities offered them instead land 20 miles above the falls of the James River, at the abandoned Monacan village known as Manakin Town, now in Goochland County. However it appears that some Marthals were successful in the West Indies in Jamaica and/or San Doming (Haiti) before immigrating to the US. My branch of Marthals seems to have arrived in the British West Indies prior to relocating to Virginia. Gradually they intermarried with their English neighbors. Through the 18th and 19th centuries, descendants of the French migrated west into the Piedmont, and across the Appalachian Mountains into the West of what became Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and other states.
In all of my schooling from elementary school through college, in every history class, I had been taught that my name Marthal was from my ex-slave master. I was made to believe that all of the “Black” Marthals had been slaves of the “White” Marthals. A closer examination of my family history revealed something different. I received my name the same way that all the other Marthals received their names; from a past Marthal progenitor, Pierre (Martel) Marthal. He was my 4th great-grandfather, not my ex-slave master. His wife, my 4th great-grandmother was a “free woman of color”. She was not his slave. And it so happens that all of those white Marthals were my relatives; you know, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.
Pierre (Martel) Marthal 1768-1854 seems to have migrated from San Doming (Haiti) to Virginia around 1800 with my 4th great-grandmother, his African/Haitian wife, Poursineth 1790-1854. They later settled in New Orleans not long after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. At his death, he bequeathed Poursineth and their children portions of an estate that included as its assets 19 slaves. This assured Poursineth and her children continued prosperity in the South. This too probably disqualifies me from being eligible of reparations.
Their son Robert (Martel) Marthal, born in Virginia, about 1805 was my 3rd great-grandfather. In 1840 he lived in Washington, Washington, District of Columbus and was the head of household of nine “free people of color”. At some point, Robert’s son, Aaron, born 1831, my 2nd great-grandfather relocated to District 11, Davidson County, Tennessee. He is listed on the 1870 census in Nashville, Tennessee. My great-grandfather Shelton Marthal 1848-1906, farmed on land that he owned free of mortgage in Wilson County, Tennessee. His son Henry Marthal 1891-1946, my grandfather was a farmer and owned, free of mortgage, 90 acres. Unlike it has been so often taught in our schools, they were not given their land by a benevolent white person or an ex-slave master. They either purchased or inherited the land form their fathers and/or neighbors.
My father, Roy Marthal 1915-1978 was a construction worker and concrete finisher. He helped construct Interstate 24 across the Cumberland River in Nashville. One weekend, before it was complete he took me to stand on the edge of the partially completed structure to look down on the Cumberland River. Though we did not own a car, he took time off from work in the fall of 1965 to deliver me, his only child by Greyhound Bus to Asheville, NC and then by taxi to Swannanoa NC to attend college. Now if you think the men in my family are remarkable, don’t let me start with the story of the women. We’ll save that story for another day.
This history comes right down to me, Barbara G. Shannon Marthal who currently resides in Mount Juliet, TN in 2022. Life in these United States of America was at times grim, trying and challenging but with our commitment to self-determination and a tenacious work ethic, it has been filled with incredibly amazing triumphs. The United States of America has lived up to and will continue to live up to its promise of opportunity for all, due to the courage and spirit of each of its citizens and due to the brave fighting foresight and fortitude of our ancestors. THANK GOD I’M A COUNTRY GIRL!!!