Monday, May 02, 2005

My Family Tree

My Family Tree is a story of my father's family on his father's side: Much of the information I obtained from my father's Aunt Pauline (my grandfathers sister) who lived in Savannah, Geaorgia until her death in the early 1990's. Some parts of this story is fiction, or as I imagined it must have been since I do not have accurate data to support my African ancestors version. But the main characters I present are all true. The life of Aunt Pauline, whom I met in the early 1970s and interviewed, just out of curiosity, is also true & fascinating. I will include her story as I take this trip back into the Lives of my Ancestors. These are decendants of Judge James Moore Wayne, a US Supreme Court Judge. His relationship with his slave mistress, Nancy Clifford is where I begin. I will introduce her first as I imagine myself stepping on the shores of Malawi, East Africa, sometime back in the early 1800s.

Chapter I: The Waters Edge
There had been several, scorching hot days in Malawi, formerly known as Nyassaland, East Africa. Tracing back in history, the year was sometime in the mid 1800's when by the waters edge Nancy went off to wash clothes and never returned! When she didn't return home by nightfall, her family became worried. They tried so desparately not to lose anymore family members, now Nancy was missing.

I can still hear her momma crying out, "Nancy, Nancy"! "I pray to God she's not taken!" But O, what must have been her worst nightmare, for a slave ship was docked by the wateredge for days. And had just pulled away from shore, when the family realized Nancy was gone.
No one expected Nancy would have been stolen and sole into slavery, she was very frail, only 13 years old. The man who purchased her was a prominent, Supreme Court Judge from up North. This Judge had a plantation in Savannah, Georgia. Judge Wayne needed several strong Negroes to provide service for his household and land holdings. Nancy was beautiful, with an attractive figure though slim, and Judge Wayne made sure she was kept in his household as their personal maid.

The Family History
I've known about Judge James Moore Wayne for more than 40 years, I even tried to do a mini research on him during my early days in college but all I could find at the time were a few news clippings identifying him as an abolishionist. He was not in favor of slavery, yet he owned slaves. From the Family Tree outlined for me by Aunt Pauline Stoney, he had a family up North, a wife and three children and fathered three children with Nancy Clifford. This was the beginning of my Family Tree, on my father's side. Nancy had two sons and one daughter by Judge Wayne. The sons died early but his daughter, Elizabeth Wayne, was called Danny, according to my father's Aunt Pauline. Her mother, was Danny's daughter and so as I make my way through the listings and the notations I will bring this all familiar story in the lives of black Americans to light. My dad, Bob Stoney, passed away in 2003. He was not too eager for me to do much research into his family history. I suspect he felt embarrassed by the knowledge of being the great grandson of a white Judge, especially knowing how this was so frowned upon during his lifetime. Dad was born in 1919; lived during the depression and was not too eager to discuss the awful effects of slavery and rascism. Although he was very lightskinned, with green eyes he often shunned even eating in restaurants as recent as the 1980s. He was self conscious about his coloring and eyes, knowing all too well, blacks only looked like that if they had white blood running in their veins.
He would say to me, "Babe, these people don't want us eating in their restaurants!" Remembering, back when there were signs, that read, "For Whites Only"!
O Dad, those days are gone! Boy was I wrong! (to be continued!)
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