Tag Archives: Oklahoma

Debunking Family Tales

My twin and I have spent our lifetimes researching our family ancestry. We began in our grammar school days asking why we didn’t have grandparents like our friends. “They died,” my father said. When we wanted to know more about them, his answer was “Let sleeping dogs lie.” That ended the conversation.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

We pummeled Mother with questions. She believed she was French and Native American. She told me stories about her grandfather who was a medicine man. “He could make a sound like someone knocking on the door, but when I went to see, there was no one there,” my mother said. Then she talked about his magical powers. “He made a table walk. I saw it when I was a little girl.” I wasn’t surprised. Levitation seemed normal to me because I had recurring dreams where I rose and floated in the air twenty years before Sally Field and the Flying Nun TV series.

“When the gov’ment,” Mama’s tone emphasized the mispronunciation like a forbidden word, “wanted the Indians to sign the roll, my father wouldn’t sign up.” No matter how often she told this story, a sad look clouded her face. “He said they would move us far away like they did the others. That’s how them Indians from someplace else ended up on the reservation next to us.”

My favorite of Mama’s stories of how she was afraid when the Native Americans came to buy tobacco from her father. It must have been because he camouflaged his roots with his French surname. She could have done the same. Instead, she acknowledged her mixed blood in her teen years when she married an Englishman.

My twin and I traveled thousands of miles in our search to document our ancestry. We thumbed through books in public libraries and family history centers in a dozen states. We dug through courthouse records. We shivered in cemeteries—some shrouded in fog and others drenched in rain. We donned wide-brimmed hats and carried water bottles through burial grounds on blistering summer days. In 1990 we visited the headquarters of the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Oklahoma—the tribe our mother believed to be her heritage.  Disappointment overrode the anticipation as I read the pages of the Dawes Rolls. None of my direct ancestors had enrolled.

Back to the stories of my great-grandfather’s magical powers. Perhaps she said my grandfather—not hers— because her grandfathers died before her birth. And the reservation next door to my grandfather? History seems to establish those parcels as tribal lands long before. But these family stories continued to trickle down through the generations.

And then came DNA testing.

My twin and I submitted our test kits in late 2017. The results proved the majority of my heritage to be French and English as I anticipated. I stared at the minor percentages.

No Native American ancestry.

All my 22 chromosomes matched my twin’s results. But I knew that. Family stories said my mother had no prenatal care with any of her pregnancies that spanned 25 years. When her last delivery became complicated, one of my brothers went into town in search of a doctor. Meanwhile, my father’s sister, a midwife, assisted in the delivery of identical twins. When the physician arrived, his main chore was paperwork for two birth certificates. The women who witnessed the at-home delivery of mono-mono twins are dead, the stories buried with them. But FTDNA will retain the records of our exact chromosome match for 25 years.

Now that’s family history.

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 Biological Parents, DNA, and a Tent: Move over Rachel Dolezal

Life offers multiple choices.

Biological parents are not included.

© Violet Carr Moore, 2006-2015

Rachel Dolezal says about the couple who claim to be her parents, “I’m not necessarily saying that I can prove they’re not.” She adds, “But I don’t know that I can actually prove they are.” She questions her birth certificate because it was delayed a month before official recording. Rachel claims to have been born, or at least lived, in a teepee, then skirts the issue later. Looking for somebody born in a tent? Forget Rachel. Look my way.

My sister and I, Monoamniotic twins, were born in a farm labor tent camp near the end of the Great Depression. Mother had no prenatal care. No physician. No hospital bed. But wait! There’s more. Maybe I should say there’s less. The tent had no electricity. No running water. No sanitation facilities.

Nancy Dragoo Carr 1915

Nancy Dragoo Carr 1915

My dark-skinned, black-haired mother born in Indian Territory before Oklahoma attained statehood, depicted her Cherokee/French image. Growing up pallid blondes, my twin and I looked nothing like her. A yearning to learn about our ancestors, not parentage doubt, triggered our genealogy research.  One year, my twin in California was so convinced of our Cherokee heritage, she identified herself as part Native American on the federal census. Far away in Louisiana, I checked the Caucasian box on my form. What a quandary that presents. With no ancestral DNA and the absence of our grandfather’s name on the Indian Rolls when we visited the Cherokee Nation at Tahlequah, Oklahoma, we can only document our maternal French heritage and paternal English roots.

Like Rachel’s claim, my birth certificate is questionable. It’s signed by a physician, but the women present said our father’s sister, the midwife, had facilitated the all-natural delivery before the doctor arrived. My weight isn’t accurate, or so I’m told. The hanging cotton scale wouldn’t weigh such a light bundle, so the newborns combined eight pounds was halved and recorded as individual weights.

Cotton Scale-001

One certainty is this snapshot of twin babies on a standard pillow backed by a quilt dividing the bedroom from the kitchen in the tent where we were born.

Babies in tent-for blog

 

 

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Prince Albert, Grandpa, and Me

Burlap bagsGrandpa Carr stored used cans in a bathtub-style container attached to the exterior wall near the back door of his house. He hung coarse burlap bags filled with cans on sixteen-penny nails above the bin.  The brown bags blended with the unpainted boards so it looked like a house with large goose bumps to me, his tiny four-year-old granddaughter.

Prince Albert Tobacco Can

Grandpa had nothing to entertain me while the grownups visited, so I climbed up the side of the big tin tub and peeked inside. A bright red Prince Albert® Tobacco can within reach was irresistible. I retrieved it and climbed down. I flipped the oval hinged lid and filled that small can with dry Oklahoma dirt.

Red DirtI was having great fun until Grandpa came outside. With a very stern look, he told me not to play with the cans. He said The Government needed tin for The War and he might get a dime for that little can. I didn’t understand who, or what, The Government was, but I knew Grandpa meant business. He took the can out of my hands, shook out the dirt, and dropped it back into the bin.

I cried but he didn’t change his mind. He insisted that my twin sister and I play far away from that side of the house where he saved his precious cans. My good times at Grandpa’s were over. All I could think of was how much I wanted to play with that tobacco can.

I have no memories of Grandpa Carr other than the indelible mark that incident made in my life. I wonder how much he was paid for that prized can. Whatever he received, it wasn’t enough.

Roll of Pennies

 

This memoir excerpted from Double Take, reminisces of the Carr Twins, available in print soon.

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