Down the rabbit hole again

From time to time I get lost in genealogy searches on and end up deep in a rabbit hole. Currently, I’m in a deep, deep one looking for records to validate a family legend.

Evidently, this oral history legend has been passed down through my mom’s side of the family generation after generation after generation. Legend states that somewhere in my family tree, an ancestor took a Native American squaw for a wife.

For years I’ve looked up and down the branches of the tree for evidence of this but found nothing to substantiate this claim. A whole lotta German and English, some Welch, a possible French connection but no Native Americans.

Until now.

I found some obscure records that my 7th great grandfather on my mother’s maternal side took a Saponi squaw for a wife in 1720. The little-known Saponi nation were a Siouan-speaking people who lived primarily in North Carolina and Virginia. They are reported to have merged off and on with other tribes for protection against other tribes as well as colonists. More can be read about the Saponi/Sappony nation HEREHERE and HERE.

My 7th great grandfather, John Campness Austin, reportedly was born in Kent, England in 1701 and immigrated to the Americas on the Forward Frigate. He ended up as a land owner and the Constable of Lunenburg Co., Virginia.

Enter Hannah Honor Love….the supposed Saponi squaw that may or may not have been adopted by a European family and given a new name. However she came to be, she caught my grandfather’s eye somewhere around 1720 in Virginia. Obviously, there are not a lot of reliable records for the common folk from the 1700s so details are a bit sketchy and there is no reliable information prior to her marriage. My guess is, if a colonist took a Native American woman as a wife, there would be some “talk” around town so records might not be very accurate on the circumstances behind such a union. Some records state my ancestor married twice…once to the Saponi maiden and second time to a woman named Hannah Honor Love. Some reports claim she is the same person. There is a story that five of her sons claimed a Saponi bloodline in a Virginia court. Whatever the case, it’s closer than I’ve ever been to uncovering any info to support the legend. In any case, Hannah was given land and other property in John’s 1758 will so she was a woman property owner in colonial America, which may be a feather in her cap regardless of her heritage. Her death is recorded around 1788.

One of her sons, my 6th great grandfather, went on to be a Sergeant Major in the Virginia Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. He is also listed as a Colonial Soldier of Lunenburg County VA during the French and Indian Wars (1754-1763).

I have really no idea if the information I found is accurate. It was always a fun myth to perpetuate that my ancestral line could possibly boast of Native American blood…..even though it might just be a fraction of one drop.

But, then I look at my grandmother and her ancestors and I think….well….maybe. From the coal black eyes to some facial features, I think there might be some Native American heritage….or maybe I just want to see it.

My 3rd great grandfather. I can totally see a connection.

My grandmother, born in 1899. She would have made a beautiful Saponi maiden in her youth as well as a wise woman elder in her later years.

Wherever the truth lies, I’m still a sucker for genealogy searches. I can lose daaaayyyysss pursuing possibilities.

How far back can you trace your ancestry?



12 thoughts on “Down the rabbit hole again

  1. I may have told you this before, but the older I get the less I care (haha!) …

    For me, it depends on who’s asking …

    We’ve traced our history back to France and Germany, and later in America even having three brothers that fought in our revolutionary war. We even know the township nearest my relatives’ home. I’ve visited there and, frankly, I kind of wonder why anyone would ever leave. But, history is messy and I’m sure there was good reason.

    Now, when my daughter asked that same question for an assignment in sixth grade, my answer was a lot more creative, beginning with our great, great, great, great, great grandfather, who was a chef working for the empire in China. His claim to fame was born of an accident in the kitchen when he let the fire get a little too hot and his dumplings stuck to the pan. Having nothing else to serve the emperor, and fearing for the loss of his head over his mistake, he served them with a bit of soy sauce, calling them “Sticky Pots” as if their crust was intentional. Turns out, the emperor was a fan and they became a favorite dish at the palace.

    Those weren’t his only famous dish, however. When a French maiden visited the palace, bringing with her treasured samples of foods from Europe, she was invited into the kitchen where she introduced my ancestor to the “potato”. Knowing no other method of preparation, he used his wok and oil to fry them until they were crispy, and served them to the emperor as China Fries. Well, the young French maiden and my dear relative fell in love and eventually moved back to France where they opened a small restaurant. There, he used his dumpling trick on the much more available resource but, aware that prejudice has always been a part of history, he renamed them for his new audience and French Fries were born!

    I wound that story on through multiple generations and locations across the globe, not knowing that my daughter was buying every word of it, and she documented my stories in detail for her “heritage” report.

    To this day, whenever one of them makes a comment about where we came from I start in again … though I usually get bonked on the noggin by a flying object before I finish counting the generations.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t gone very far back – only to my parents’ parents to learn exactly where they came from and when – My mother’s mother was French and came from Belgium, and her father was German and came from Russia. My father’s parents were Norwegian from Norway. All of them migrated to North Dakota. I keep thinking maybe someday I’ll dig deeper, but I never have.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lisa, isn’t genealogy utterly fascinating? Many years ago, a friend of my who lived in France worked my my family roots and discovered some amazing things about my Italian family from Italy. That’s one of the reasons why I would love to visit one day.

    I don’t think it matters if the information you found is 100% accurate , because like you said….it’s such a fun myth. And interesting too.

    Don’t you love vintage photographs? I always think people looked so much more interesting back then – eyes and the character in their face.

    Your grandmother was stunning!

    Thanks for sharing your genealogy journey, my friend! Enjoyed! Have a AWESOME weekend! X

    P.S. Have you ever seen the show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” Excellent show.

    Liked by 1 person

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