Are you a “warm fuzzy” researcher who gathers only information that can add proud, happy memories to the family story? Or do you record the good, the bad and the ugly and take what turns up on your family tree stoically?
I try to be both, but acknowledge I’m someone who faces some human failings and compartmentalizes others. Do I really want to know whether one of my Civil War forebears went AWOL? Not yet, it seems.
My “warm fuzzy” roots are never more evident than at Thanksgiving, when I long for simple line drawings of Pilgrims and turkeys and Indians to color. After all, my Mary Allerton, just 4 years old when she rode on the Mayflower with her parents and siblings, might never have reached adulthood — and the distinction of being the last living Mayflower passenger — if not for the assistance of the Indians during those early years in “Plimoth.”
And I choose not to dwell on the identities of ancestors who died in the French and Indian Wars, supposedly “by Indians,” in three states. I felt badly about Samuel Burbank, who was abducted in 1746 and sold to the French in Quebec, where he died of yellow fever; and relieved that his son, Caleb, was one of those released. My grandchildren have Quebecois ancestry also, but that’s a story for another time.
After all, American Indians fought shoulder-to-shoulder with “the patriots” in the Revolutionary War and in every war since. A plaque honoring Indians who served this country was placed by the Maine Daughters of the American Revolution 99 years ago on a boulder near the Catholic church on Indian Island.
Four of my grandchildren have Loring and Francis and Mitchell ancestry from Indian Island, so I have quite enjoyed exploring their Penobscot roots. The inclusion of their Frank “Chief Big Thunder” Loring, a Penobscot guide and showman, in the current exhibit at the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor drew me and my husband to Mount Desert Island for a recent visit.
It’s a wonderful exhibit curated by Harald Prins and Bunny McBride, authors of “Indians in Eden.” It is open Thursday through Saturday the rest of this year, and will be up in 2012, as well. I enjoyed picking up the handset to listen to former tribal Representative Donna Loring talk about Frank Loring, her great-grandfather, and what he means to her.
Afterward, perusing a display out in the hall, I found my “warm fuzzy” wilting. The cause was a copy of a 1755 proclamation by one Spencer Phips, then lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The document declared the Penobscots “Enemies, Rebels, and Traitors to his Majesty King George the Second.” It “required” his Majesty’s Subjects “to embrace all opportunities of pursuing, captivating, killing and Destroying all and every of the aforesaid Indians.” It further stated that a bounty had been voted by the General Court of the Province, promising 25 pounds for a female Penobscot of any age or a male Penobscot under age 12, and 50 pounds for a Penobscot male over age 12. Scalps of Penobscots under 12 would earn a little less, 20 pounds.
The document may be found on the Abbe Museum website at http://www.abbemuseum.org/phips_bounty.html. The page refers to “Documentary History of Maine,” Baxter Manuscripts, Vol. 24 Page 63, and also the Androscoggin Historical Society at http://www.rootsweb.com/~meandrhs.
So in addition to taking land and spreading disease and paying Native Americans such as Loring to share stereotypes rather than their real culture, we — the white people, the European descendants — sought scalps.
If we really want to honor family history, we can’t let the “warm fuzzy” cover up what’s true.
Here’s a chance to learn from someone who knows his stuff about Native Americans in Maine. James Eric Francis Sr., Penobscot Nation tribal historian and director of the nation’s Culture and Historic Preservation Department, will speak on “Henry David Thoreau’s Visit to Maine and His Penobscot Guides on the Wabanaki Trail,” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, at Waterfall Arts, 256 High St., Belfast. The exhibit is up until Nov. 23.
The free event is sponsored by Waterfall Arts, Unity College’s Center for Environmental Arts and Humanities, and the Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance. Donations will be accepted. For information, call 338-2222 or visit http://waterfallarts.org.
Guilford Memorial Library will sponsor a “Getting Started in Genealogy” workshop 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, at the library on Route 15 in Guilford.
I am pleased to lead this beginners’ workshop, which will focus on Maine resources, and have been doing Piscataquis County genealogy for more than 30 years. I will bring pedigree charts and handouts on genealogy resources for those attending.
The Penobscot County Genealogical Society will offer a webinar at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, in the Lecture Hall at Bangor Public Library. Those attending are welcome to bring genealogy books they want to sell. No meeting will be held in December.
For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at http://bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties/. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.