Her name was Corean. This is what I know of my paternal ancestry. While my maternal grandmother left her “memoir” for each of us after her death- an incredible and hilarious account that makes me forever grateful for her life- I know very little about my dad’s side of the family. This is, of course, the story of African Americans. Except for a lucky few, there are no records of our family beginnings. For me personally, this gap of history is even more profound because my dad so seldom makes an appearance in my life.
The truth is, my dad cannot stay out of prison for more than a few years at a time. Also true, is that he grew up in poverty, in a state that was not, still is not, progressive in any way. He spent the first 13 years of his life knowing that as far as the law and society were concerned, he was inferior. He was told both explicitly and indirectly that he didn’t really matter, didn’t really have a place in this world. I can’t help but think that all of that, all of those years of knowing your life was worthless, led him down the path he eventually ended up on. Yes, it is easy to just say he made bad choices. He did, no doubt. Yet I think about the times when I have been down in my life, the times where maybe I felt out of place and unloved, and yes, those were times that I made bad choices, too.
The last time my dad and I were in touch with one another I hounded him for details. I’m not sure why, I guess knowing that each time we’re in touch may be the last, but I just felt like I needed information from him. This is how I learned about Corean, my great-great grandmother. She was half white, my dad said. I wanted to know so much more about her. How did she end up with a white parent? Surely, that was a story, most likely a sad one. How long did she live? Where was she from? My dad had some information and it felt like such a gift. But my questions were not answered because my dad was released from prison shortly after telling me about her, and when he is free, he forgets about me.
I tried to do my own research. I found a digitalized portrait of a Corean online and I really want to be able to claim her as mine. I’m not sure if the date of her birth matches up, though. And I don’t even know if she would have the same last name. I did stumble upon a piece about the Fannin-Mims plantation in South Texas and I think possibly this is where we begin. It’s all speculation, of course, and I keep asking myself, “Why does this even matter?”
I don’t know why it matters, but I think, aside from general curiosity, it’s connection that I am seeking. I want to know that there is something that ties me to the past, bonds me to people from generations before. It’s an odd feeling not knowing exactly where you come from. It feels like there are too many holes in my story and I want a more complete picture. I know having this information won’t be life-changing, but I would love to be able to say with certainty, “These are my people.”