I really am Irish, I guess

This is fascinating, because all the Census records I came across suggests that she was black.

I discovered only recently that my maternal grandmother’s brother Ernie, born in 1904, was arrested in 1928 near Syracuse, NY and that he spent nearly five years in prison in Auburn, NY. Apparently, he was spending time with a young white woman, her father didn’t like it, and helped manufacture a charge of rape against Ernie.

In the mounds of papers filed in anticipation of him being paroled in 1932 was this “social history” such as his education, his military service (none), religion (Catholic – I did not know that), marital status (single), and family background. His father, Edward Yates, had died in 1910 at the age of 58. His mother, nee Lillian Bell Archer, remarried to Maurice Holland in 1911. (His Census track is fascinating, born either in Texas or Mexico, depending on what Census one checks.)

This, though, was the kicker for me. It indicates that she was of Irish descent! This is fascinating because all the Census records I came across suggests that she was black. Surely she was partially black, but as the rules of the time would suggest, anyone partially black was considered black. And that’s still largely true of most mixed-race people; see Barack Obama, Halle Berry, etc.

Lillian, my great-grandmother though, at least on this document, was Irish, and that’s reason enough, besides my name, to be wearing the green. Oh, and Ernie, who agreed to live an “honest and upright life” married Charlotte Berman, a white woman of Eastern European descent, in 1937, and did just that until he died in April 1954, just 50 years old, when I was but one. I have no first cousins, but most of the second cousins I’m close to, including the one who retrieved this prison record, are his grandchildren, who, I suppose, are all a little Irish, too.
***
Creepy old Simon and Kirby comic: Nasty Little Man

Green Light, Red Light

Arthur’s maybe a little Irish

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

7 thoughts on “I really am Irish, I guess”

  1. Rog..did you forget about your mother’s father’s mother…Margurite?

  2. I didn’t forget about her. The info re her that I had was that she was English, or maybe Irish. You have something more definitive?

  3. You said, “Surely she was partially black, but as the rules of the time would suggest, anyone partially black was considered black. And that’s still largely true of most mixed-race people; see Barack Obama, Halle Berry, etc.” Something similar is true in New Zealand, too: Anyone with any Māori ancestry is considered to be Māori, though for things like iwi (tribal) scholarships and such they need to be able to show their whakapapa (genealogy). Not everyone who is predominantly Pākeha (of European ancestry) can do that, or even wants to. On the other hand, there are apparently no Māori without at least some Pākeha blood, too.

  4. If “ethnic” was real, we would ALL be “Black.” That’s the truth, Ruth. NO matter where you trace the European or other roots, including Inuit and First Tribes, the true cradle of civilization is AFRICA. The term “Middle East” is a Western designation.

    Put our palms up, and we’re all the same color, virtually! Amy

  5. Sorry I missed this on Monday! Genealogy is fascinating to me. I lose all track of time when I’m deep in ancestry.com!

  6. I knew Ernie after he married my sister Charlotte. I never recall his mentioning an Irish background but he did claim that his family was part American Indian. Ernie told us that he and his brother had done some flying in early aircraft. I remember that because he poo poohed Lindbergh’s accomplishment of flying solo across the ocean. Ernie claimed that anyone that flew could do that with the equipment and support that Lindbergh had.

  7. I was listening to Henry Louis Gates on “Finding Your Roots” on WGBH in Boston. He happened to mention that many African Americans claim to have some American Indian in their blood but very few actually do. It made me think of Ernie.

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