Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The One Thing I Didn't Want to Know

OK, so I'm pretty new to this genealogy thing and really enjoying the ride. Just got back from a visit back east to see Mom. Spent a lot of time copying some of her massive files too. She's been at this for about 25 years or so. The depth of her work is amazing!

Soon after I got the genealogy bug I asked Mom if any of our ancestors ever owned slaves. The question was prompted by an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? She said no, that she thought not. All of our ancestors fought for the Union. They were from Pennsylvania, Western Maryland, and West Virginia, which as we know split off from Virginia to side with the Union. Case closed. Clean conscious. No worries there that some ancestor participated in that blight on our nation's history.

Sitting on the airplane going to see Mom I had occasion to read up on the Eckharts starting with my 4th GGF George Adam Eckhart (1729 - 1806) and his son, my 3rd GGF John Eckhart (1768 - 1835). Well I just about jumpped out of my seat when I read that John's widow, Mary Ann wanted to free her slaves. How can that be?!! Oh yes, it was all true, to my deep horror.

Stuff like this makes you think and examine our life and times in contrast to the life and times of those who lives in the 18th and 19th centuries. Now I'm in no way making any excuses here: slavery is wrong anytime and anyplace. How do you justify that? You can't.

I read on and found that slaves where the most prized of all "possessions" and the values placed on these African-Americans was between $400 and $600, which in about 1800 was a small fortune.

I'm still shocked and trying to figure out how to deal with it. Do I need to feel guilty?

Location of the Eckhart Mansion now long gone, in Eckhart, Maryland.

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