finding your roots

Mulatto Scottish-Irishman

Benita Law-Diao February 14, 2012

All my life, I have been told that we were Irish, Native American and African on my mother’s side of the family. Although all of my siblings are recognized as African American, my mother and all of her siblings can pass as Caucasian. I always wondered why she never tried to pass as Caucasian, although I have learned that we have relatives that have disassociated with the family to pass as Caucasian. I have known my maternal grandmother, and I have photos of my great grandmother and great, great grandmother. My genealogical research provided me with birth, death and marriage information for my great, great grandmother Polly Boyd. I thought I was pretty lucky to find information. I learned that she was a free mulatto, despite the fact that she looked Caucasian like most of her descendants. I got lucky one day and I found information about her marriage to my great, great grandfather Nelson Boyd in the Mecklenburg County, VA marriage register. That record led me to the name of Polly’s father, John Macklin. I was lucky enough to find Polly’s father in the death records for Mecklenburg county because he lived to be 95 years old and he was born in 1790. Amazing! He was identified as mulatto also. Given what Polly looks like, I can’t imagine that he was the product of an African and a Caucasian. I had my DNA tested by the National Geographic Society Genweb Project and it traced my genes to Europe. I can’t help but imagine that John Macklin’s ancestors were probably from Scotland or Ireland. I have not found any kind of Native American connection on my grandmother’s side of the family. I believe I have been lucky to find this information because my relatives have been in Mecklenburg County for more than 300+ years. I am at a standstill right now and I don’t know how to find out who John’s parents are and where they are from. Many of my relatives that I know of have been share croppers in Mecklenburg county for many generations, growing tobacco and cotton and raising hogs.

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  • garth tuttle

    April 29, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    I saw where in another post someone stated that one should not claim an ancestor “passed for white ” – I disagree, for various reasons , one of which is, that is exactly what they often were trying to do, but more to the point, others who were White made that judgement – this is how folks behaved – and still do –
    Now,: “C” caucasian is a linguistic or geographic term, only; the label of caucasian as a physical type is a non -racial anthropological classification which defines skeletal structure, especially pertaining to the shape of the face, usually also including hair type as well .
    Ainu, Hausa, Berbers, Arabs and many others are labelled as caucasian , regardless of skin tone.

  • Carlos Maclin

    May 31, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    I am a Maclin who have roots in Virginia and of course Tennessee. At birth my name was misspelled, as was my grandfathers and his son’s name as well with the k i.e. Macklin. Email me if you will. I have many questions to ask.


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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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