The Davis Family Tree: 10 Years Later, The Search Continues

Today I found another slave owner in my family history and I learned how the last name Parham was given to my paternal 3rd great grandfather, “Handy”. I also discovered that he was one of 9 slaves, owned by J.A. Parham in Barbour, Alabama. It’s funny how this information comes available, just one day after the 10th anniversary of the day that I formally embarked on this quest for ancestral knowledge.

[1860 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules (J.A. Parham)]

Since I started, I’ve found a total of 1,062 people with an additional 300 more unconfirmed. If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you may also remember that I learned my biological make-up, being from:

  • 44% Nigeria
  • 26% Cameroon, Congo & Southern Bantu Peoples
  • 10% Mali
  • 8% Ghana
  • 3% Benin & Togo
  • The list goes on with additional countries in Africa and (not surprising) various European locations ranging from 1-2% and including England, Wales, Ireland, Portugal, Norway and Greece. So yeah, a few drops of vanilla extract got added to the Davis cup of cocoa. I’ll use that side of me to apply or a bank loan!

It’s been as fun a journey as it has been shocking and, at times, depressing. I mean, it’s so exciting when you find another person, deeper along the roots of the tree, but you always know you’re coming ever closer to an abrupt stop. Each and every name that I find among my 3rd (and hopefully, 4th) great grandparents is a name “assigned” by someone outside of the family. A slave owner. And yes, one or two plantation owners are probably in my bloodline, as DNA analysis seemingly reveals.

…and as far as I know, none of them cared to preserve my ascendants’ African names. They couldn’t. Remember, Step #1 to making a slave (because you can’t just BUY a slave, you have to MAKE one) is stripping them of their identity. They must be taught that their life is not their own and that they are the property of their purchaser and his family.

But hey, I’ve talked about this before in various blogs, so I’m not going to get into it now. I just find it terribly frustrating that I have little-to-no chance of ever finding the African names of any of my ancestors. Using AncestryDNA (or some other service) is my best chance of at least knowing the locations of our beginnings. But then again, it’s almost the same for everyone: some country in West Africa, likely including the countries I mentioned.

But with dedicated effort, and a little luck, maybe, just maybe, I will find some record of a slave auction purchase. With that, I stand a chance to identify the transport ship, manifest and travel records and hopefully, ultimately, the location from which they were captured.

I’m no Alex Haley and sadly, I never sat and talked about family history back in the 60s with living family members who could provide more accurate details. I definitely don’t have the resources or money to travel like he did, but that doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen.

Yeah, I’m sad that I may never know their names, but I take pride in knowing that I come from survivors of The Middle Passage. I take even greater pride in being the son of Kenneth Davis, who was the son Doc Davis, Jr., son of Doc Sr., son of Peter Davis…

Davis may not be our original name, but I don’t and will never associate it with a slave master. It will be the link to the great men before me, from whom my blood flows. The name I proudly pass on to my sons…

…and so forth, and so on.

So 10 years later, the search continues.

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