Monday, August 13, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy - Week 33

Week 33: Ancestor Legend.
What is your favorite ancestral legend or family lore? Who originally told the story and what was the claim? Have you been able to prove the story true or false? What steps did you take to do so?

We had the usual Indian princess story.  Well, she wasn't exactly represented as a princess - just that one of the grandfathers in the chain had a mother who was half-Indian.  We never knew exactly where - although at one time my granddad sat and figure for awhile and then told me thought he was perhaps 1/8th Indian so my mother was 1/16th and I would be 1/32nd.  Choctaw.  If my granddad was 1/8th Indian then the generation of the full-blood would have been his great-grandfather or great-grandmother. Hints were that my grandfather's grandfather, Elijah "Tom" Comstock was the carrier of the Indian blood.

Once I began the genealogical journey, I realized that the story just didn't work.  If Tom's mother was "half Indian" as the story went, the full-blood Indian would have been back another generation and my granddad would have been 1/16th, not 1/8th.  But there was a bigger problem.  Tom's parents are well identified.  The Comstock line is just about as English as it's possible to be - descendants carry the most common Haplogroup found in the British Isles - the Atlantic Modal Haplotype.  His mother was Nancy Goodman - the most likely candidates for her parents were an Abraham & Nancy Goodman living in Maury County, Tennessee in the early 1800's. This isn't carved in stone, but they are the only viable candidates in that time and place.  Nancy Goodman had married her Comstock husband, Ephraim, in Maury Co in 1823.

Nancy Goodman had also been wrongly identified in some of the family genealogies as being from Graves County, Kentucky - the grain of truth is that some of her probable siblings lived later in Graves County, 1850's and later.  But Nancy never lived in Kentucky.  And the likelihood of her being of Indian heritage seems remote - by scant evidence, the Goodmans had arrived in Tennessee via North, then South, Carolina. The only census when Nancy Comstock appeared under her own name was 1850 and she did indeed state she was born in South Carolina.  Goodman is a very common name among British Isle folks.

The claim of Choctaw heritage didn't fit the above locations too well, not for Nancy, nor for her probable parents - they were primarily located in Mississippi.   This added to the puzzlement...  

I've had autosomal DNA testing done by both FamilyTree DNA and 23andMe.   If there was ever a single drop of Indian DNA in my body, it's gone.  I've found paper trail + DNA matches all over my family tree - some as far back as 8th and 9th cousins.  It seems unlikely that every trace of Indian DNA would have disappeared, but I'm told it could happen.

What I did discover is this, which may have influenced the family "tradition". One of my 4th great grandmothers, gg grandmother of the maternal grandfather who furnished the Indian heritage story, was Dorothy Amos Poindexter (1805-1846) whose younger brother Micajah did indeed marry a Cherokee lady in Kentucky by whom he had two sons before her untimely death.  Grandsons and great-grandsons were enrolled in Oklahoma and rightly so - because of the area where they were living they were included on the Choctaw rolls, even though they were Cherokee.  Some of Micajah's Indian descendants were denied because they claimed through a later wife and through Micajah's mother, neither of whom were Indian - they were apparently unaware of the true identity of Micajah's first wife.

Over 800 members of the vast Poindexter family applied for Indian rights but most were refused as most of the other lines could not prove their descent. Their confused and confusing testimony is an amazing read as few could even agree on the same Indian connection in the same generation.  Much of this testimony can be found on Fold3, the Guion Miller Rolls and the 1896 Dawes Applications.

I don't believe that the Indian story originated with my Granddad, although he seemed very proud of it.  It's well known in the family that old Elijah "Tom" Comstock loved to tell a good story and there does exist a letter by one of his wife's sisters claiming that Tom Comstock was said to be "part Indian".  Old Tom lived long enough to have told the story to his grandson [my Granddad].  I very much suspect the story originated with Tom.  I also believe the story actually applied to Micajah Poindexter's family - Tom may very well have "borrowed" it - he also may have been simply one of the carriers of the various Indian stories that seemed to proliferate throughout the Poindexter descendants.

I am convinced that it is all just a bedtime story.  We have no Indian heritage.