Friday, October 13, 2006

Where's Harriet Been Hiding?

Craig at GeneaBlogie found this one in his morning paper. A retired college professor in California thinks that his great-great-grandmother, Eliza Jefferson, was actually Harriet Hemings—the long-lost daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings who disappeared and began a new life as a white woman.

When Best attended a Hemings family reunion in 2003 at Monticello, Jefferson's Virginia plantation, the low-key professor created a stir -- his nametag identified him as a descendant of Harriet Hemings. Most people in the extended family had never seen such a claim. Harriet was the one who vanished, forever a mystery woman.

Much is known about the brothers -- Madison, Eston and Beverly -- but Harriet?

"We were all curious about that," recalled Shay Banks-Young, a Hemings-Jefferson descendant in Columbus, Ohio.

Such reunions, featuring 800 or more descendants of Jefferson and Sally Hemings, are noteworthy for being a story in black and white and all shades in-between. While some early descendants shed their ties to Hemings and lived as whites, others, via Sally's son Madison, lived as African Americans.

Said Banks-Young, who identifies herself as African American, "I have more white people telling me they are related to me than black people." [Link]

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