Depending on your age, most African-American researchers arrive at that towering and almost impenetrable 1870 Brick Wall rather quickly. For me, depending on the line, it took only 3 generations (parents, grandparents, great grandparents). Think about that for a minute. When I started out hoping to duplicate what Alex Haley did, hitting that wall was one of the most disheartening things imaginable. I knew it was there but somehow I still wasn’t ready when I ran up against it.
When I was younger (20s and early 30s), emotionally, I couldn’t handle the WALL. I think I shed a tear for each nameless individual listed on the 1860 Slave Schedule. Along with life taking over, I think it’s why I had to step away from my research for awhile.
These days, from an emotional stand point, I can handle the Wall, although I still find myself shedding a tear now and again.
I don’t think about the Wall everyday but it’s there and yet, if I bring it down, what do I find on the other side? Just how much further can I go if I bring it down? I know DNA can take me back to Africa but it’s a hollow victory without the names of those that resulted in my being.
The Wall stares at me, mocks me, frustrates me, and yet I refuse to give in to it. To do so would be devaluing the lives of my enslaved ancestors. They didn’t give up, so why should I?
So, I will continue to plan trips to courthouses hoping to find some shred of evidence in an old master’s will or the mention of a name in a tax record. I’ll continue to write descendants of possible slave owners hoping for something recorded in an old family bible. I’ll also contact churches, cemeteries, and funeral homes hoping their records chart a course. And I’ll continue to review what documentation I already have searching for that minute piece of information that I might have missed previously. And maybe, just maybe, even if I don’t bring it down, by the end of 2011, I’ll at least have made a hole in one if not all of my current 1870 Brick Walls.
The 1870 Brick Wall on the maternal side of my family that I began working on in 2010 and will continue to work on in 2011 is that of my 2nd great grandparents, Jasper and Jane Pierce.