I was born in Missouri, but my parents moved our family to Arizona when I was 11 months old. They bought a house outside the Tucson City limits in a new sub-division just north of the Papago (Tohono O’odham) Indian Reservation. I attended the newly built Mary Lynn Elementary School that was about 3 blocks from our home. It was a very diverse school, as a matter of fact, White kids were the minority. I grew up with friends of Native American, Hispanic, African American, Chinese, and Anglo ethnicity. We all got along very well.
At least that was at school. At home, I experienced a totally different atmosphere. Both of my parents were born and raised in Missouri. I do not know what may have happened in their lives to make them this way, but they both were the most racist people I ever knew! Every joke told at home was racist. Remarks were made about people in the grocery store or at the gas station who was “different” from us. I was so confused. According to my parents, ¾ of my friends were sub-human, but according to my experiences, 100% of them were MY friends! It was very frustrating.
A couple of weeks ago I received an invitation on my Authors’ Facebook page to join the “Gibson Genealogy Group”. My first thought was “How did they know I had Gibson’s in my trees?” then I realized I have had that page for over 6 years and I probably wrote something about my Gibson ancestors. So, I joined the group and responded to the survey of who my Gibson’s were. Walter Gibson (1718-1782), my 5x Great Grandfather is one of my brick walls. Thanks to this group I now know why I couldn’t find information on Walter. He was a Melungeon! I know, my first thought was probably just like yours “a what?”. A Melungeon was considered by outsiders to have a mixture of European, Native American, and African ancestry. Researchers have referred to Melungeons and similar groups as “tri-racial isolates,” and Melungeons have faced discrimination, both legal and social because they did not fit into America’s accepted racial categories. I can’t help thinking about how upset my parents would be to find out that my dad wasn’t all Anglo!
I want to share these experiences with future generations because I believe I have learned a valuable lesson in having to make the decision to not accept my parent’s racists views. I understand that try as we might, we cannot legislate tolerance or acceptance. It has to be a change of the heart and a love for our fellow man, no matter what their ancestry is. This stance has not always gone over well, especially with my mother. 34 years ago, after I became a widow with 3 children, she disowned me because I married a Hispanic man. We are still married, and I do not regret the decision I made. I now have 9 beautiful grandchildren, 3 of them are white, 2 are half-black and 4 are half gypsy. We are one, very happy, loving family!
Now I will spend time researching my Melungeon roots, hoping to discover where this part of me comes from. I can’t wait to share this with my family. I can hear my youngest Grandson say “Grandma, that’s just FREAKY!”
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.