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Saturday, February 27, 2016

The elusive Native ancestors again

Last night, I commented on a post in Facebook about DNA testing to prove Native ancestry.  It got me thinking about several of my grandparents - great great and great great great grandparents - who were, reportedly, Native American - Lenape and Iroquois - not very specific.  So here they are:

Joe Odell and Minerva Oliver Odell both born in Sullivan County, NY in the early 1860s but lived most of their lives in Delaware County, NY.  They are known in the family for having taking in a great many of their grandchildren at one time or another.  After my grandfather's father remarried, Grandpa often ran away from home and went to live with them here:

Nearby lived Darius Oliver (Minerva's father) and Hannah Odell Oliver (Joe's aunt, his father's sister).  

Darius's sister, Emily Oliver married Joe's father, Ruben Odell - and the family intermarriage continued from there.  Darius, Ruben, Hannah and Emily were born in Greene County but most of both families moved to Sullivan County in the mid-1800s.  Later, some of both families moved to Delaware County. 

Joe and Minerva were double first cousins; cousins through each of their parents:  Darius Oliver and Hannah Odell married and their siblings, Ruben Odell and Emily Oliver married and their children:  Joseph Odell and Minerva Oliver married.

They were all quite poor, scratching out an existence as well as they could. They planted, they hunted, they fished, they cut wood, they gathered wild foods.  Grandpa Joe hunted with bow and arrow and my father did as well, a little.  I learned a lot, as a kid, about wild foods, from my Dad, who learned from his, who, clearly, learned from Joe and Darius.

My father and I have each had our DNA tested, for ethnic tags.  Each of our tests were gender specific:  my father's testing Y-chromosomal tags which are passed only along the direct male line; my mitochondrial test only checking tags which are passed along the direct female line.  Neither test showed any Native American ancestry.  That doesn't mean there was none, it just means that if there was the ethnicity is not found along those lines.  More testing is necessary, more expensive testing.

What I commented on last night is that at one point in my family history research, when I was politically active in Native American issues, I realized that even if I find Native ancestors, I wasn't raised in a Native tradition and I never experienced any of the hardships that Native people have faced and I have no remnants of a culture that was passed down through generations so, even if they existed, they left it behind so how Native are we?

Still, as with ALL my ancestors, I want to know about them.  And, yes, I still believe they existed and I'll keep searching as long as I can.  Right now I'm stuck on the parents of Joe, Minerva, Darius and Hannah, whose parents were also poor rural people.  I can't get back, so far, to the next furthest generation.  Who were they, where were they?  One of my cousins and I have discussed the various possibilities of who and where they were.  One of those possibilities is that they didn't have those surnames:  Odell and Oliver.  I haven't given up.

And, then there's Mom's Native ancestors....

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