Found myself doing a deep dive into ancestry.com and my genealogy… yes, I can trace my ancestors back to the revolutionary war, civil war (both sides) and all the way back to Charlemagne.
As I read the stories of my DNA linked, 6th Great Grandfather, General Israel Putnam I find I am quite disgusted and sickened. Of course I know that my ancestors were a bunch of murderous colonialists and I’m not ok with the stories of conquest – they murdered the indigenous peoples of this land for greed and wealth. And don’t get me started on my 4th Great Uncle Robert A. Toombs, who left his position as a US Senator with secession and became the first Confederate States Secretary of State. He thought “slaveholders and non slaveholders deserved equal treatment” and “were the rights of the South violated,” Toombs declared, “Let discord reign forever.”
We all get to make our own choices and I am incredibly grateful to have been raised by progressive, open minded people who have fought for human rights for generations. That is the other side of my history and legacy, it does not fix all the warmongering, it does help ground and strengthen my resolve when following my history is so horrifying.
Oh yea… and as far as I can tell the ancestors were on the wrong side of the Salem witch trials as well. Something I feel deeply saddened by.
Although I could, I’ve never joined the Mayflower Society, Daughters of the Revolution, Union, or Confederacy. Besides the Union, it never felt like a fit. I will celebrate my ancestors who were amazing in other ways, I cannot celebrate colonialist destruction, genocide, or slavery – all for the profit of the privileged few. It continues to kill us and our world to this day.
I do think it is important to reflect and be aware of history. From reading about Toombs it sounds like he was an excellent politician and a charmer – people listened to him. If I have a single centimorgan shared across a single DNA segment of this, let me use it for justice, equality, and human rights.
My cool ancestors did things like start the Birth Control League (later Planned Parenthood) fight for Women’s Suffrage, and founded a NAACP chapter. Thank goodness, those are my people too. Although it does leave me feeling like I have a lot to live up to!