Hometown turns out to be my ancestral homeland
My sister kept a box of my father’s documents in her attic after he died. A year into my family history research she passed them on to me. Late one night I reviewed the documents closely and found my grandmother’s mother’s maiden name, Cozine, and that lead me to the first of several outstanding leads in tracing my family lines. The Cozine line travels backwards to the first 300 Dutch inhabitants of New Netherlands, known now to us as New York City. 4 sets of Gx10 grandparents were there as early as 1633. My Gx10 grandfather Cosine Garritsen was the wheelright for the colony. Thanks to the timely and important work of the New Netherland Project court documents, baptisms and other vital records are being transcribed into English for scholarly and genealogical research which helps me to understand the often overlooked history of the Dutch in early America.No one in the family has ever identified with being Dutch and it started me on the task of understanding what that means to me. My last name is Emack..a very uncommon surname here and less so abroad. Always having a desire to know myself by knowing my ancestral history I was thrilled to meet a Boston man 10 years ago, playing Elvis songs on his guitar at downtown crossing for spare change, and whose hand written sign identified him as Donald Emack. He told me he was born on the Mic Mac Reservation in Canada. This information coupled with my father’s story that his Uncle Joe “was dark and looked like an Indian” made me jump into my rusty old Volvo with my son, who was 5 at the time, and drive to Nova Scotia to find the Mic Mac link. While I did not solve the mystery then , 12 years later I now know that Emack is not a Mic Mac surname…it is Scoth-Irish, but that a branch of the Emack tree did , in fact sprout outward from the Mic Mac Reservation starting with an Emack male who married into the Mic Mac. I grew up in a small town on the CT. shoreline. I never felt that I fit in well there due to it’s conservatism and lack of diversity in it’s thought and people. But I continue to be deeply connected to the landscape and have driven my children there from Cambridge to visit the beach, roam the woods, and develop an appreciation for those things that give an old New England town it’s charm…like 200 year old houses , stonewalls and cemeteries. My second biggest discovery changed my life in a subtle but gratifying way. In my search for my ancestral homeland I discovered I grew up on i!. My ancestors founded my home town of Madison, Ct, and before that, founded Guilford,in the late 1630′s. The neighboring towns of Killingworth and Haddam regard my other Puritan progenitors as founders of those towns, as does Old Saybrook and Hartford. The pond my kids grew up swimming in turns out was my Gx3 grandfather’s farm. The property that my high school was built on once belonged to my gx8 grandparents.I have found only one document in this vast list of Puritan ancestors that Identifies one of them as a man who held enslaved people. His name was Jonathon Scranton, a well known surname in the area, and his will lists his plans for his “negro man and Indian slave” after his death. I am driven to find out more about these two individuals and to write out their story to submit to the Historical Society if there exists more documentation on them. It does not escape me that their stories, forever linked to my ancestor and the means in which they became enslaved individuals could easily continue to be overlooked. I developed a sense of ownership to the story of my hometown when I uncovered my roots there. It also made my connection to the land there and the unwavering way it has always resonated with me make sense. Intuitively I believe, deep within me the landscape made sense and I belonged to it even if I didn’t understand why. After all, my family has been there for over 300 years. Lastly I am directly linked to 3 union soldiers who fought in the Civil War. I went to an exhibit this summer hosted by my hometown Historical Society . With my 4 year old daughter in tow, I was floored to see a blown up photograph of my great, great great grandfather, Gilbert Blake on the wall. I do not know what inner moral question pressed him into service but I was overwhelmed by the site of my daughter, biracial, her father’s roots winding backward into Haiti and before that West Africa, standing in front of his photo. It was a powerful moment for me and I wonder if he could ever imagine his 4th great grandchildren identifying as Black.