African American Genealogy: Guest Blogger: Bill Grimke-Drayton, Descendant of the Slaveholding Drayton Family in America and Barbados
This blog is the first of our posts for the Carnival of African American Genealogy. A blog carnival comes together when a number of bloggers write about a specific theme. The Carnival of African American Genealogy is an ongoing series of African American themed blog entries which will result in many new published records and much dialogue between descendants of slaveholders and those they enslaved.
The theme of this carnival is Restore My Name: Slave Records and Genealogy Research. We are honored to welcome guest blogger Bill Grimke Drayton for this first carnival. This first carnival is hosted by Luckie Daniels from Our Georgia Roots and Our Alabama Roots.
Bill Grimke-Drayton is a direct descendant of the slaveholding Drayton family. The Drayton family had plantations and held slaves in Barbados, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Texas.
Above: Bill Grimke-Drayton, 2006
Trip to Drayton Hall Plantation
Bill knew that his family was involved in rice cultivation in America, and that his family held many hundreds of slaves over time. In 2006, he made an emotional journey to Charleston, to rediscover and confront his family's history. After visiting Drayton Hall, the Drayton family's ancestral home in Charleston, South Carolina, Bill immersed himself in coming to terms with his family's slaveholding history.
To learn more about Bill Grimke-Drayton's reconciliation efforts, please visit his website Grimke-Drayton: From Slavery to Reconciliation.
Here, Bill shares his candid response to the questions posed by the Carnival of African American Genealogy.
Question: What responsibilities are involved on the part of the researcher when locating names of slaves in a record?
Bill Grimke-Drayton: It is important that he or she sees whether others have been on genealogical message boards who have access to family oral histories. In most cases the oral histories will be the only record available. I have a case in point where through Ancestry.com I am now in contact with another researcher whose named ancestor was a slave on one of our own family plantations. From results of a DNA test the researcher has discovered his African roots.
Question: Does it matter if the record(s) are related to your ancestral lines or not?
Bill Grimke-Drayton: No! I have been engaged in documenting the family trees with copies of censuses etc of African American families with the same surname as me. It has been a fascinating journey and I have found possible links to the family plantations, although this has been difficult to prove due to so-called "watershed" year of 1870, when before this year we have records mostly of slaves with only their first name. More and more people are keen to find their roots – even back to the plantations, because that may enable them to go even further back to Africa. This is where DNA results become absolutely critical.
Question: As a descendant of slave owners, have you ever been pressured by family not to discuss or post about records containing slave names?
Bill Grimke-Drayton: No! I'm even collaborating with a distant cousin who is a professional genealogist. Through African American clients, she has become aware of the personal nature of slavery as it effects individuals.
Please visit Bill's website Grimke-Drayton: From Slavery to Reconciliation to learn more about his efforts to share, and come to terms with, his family's slaveholding past.