Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Does This Woman Look Native American To You?

     I still haven't found any evidence concerning the origins of my 3rd great grandmother Pelina Carter, who as you may recall was purportedly a Native American. Which is not to say I haven't learned a few things along the way.  I have found my ancestor was not an Indian Princess, and neither was anyone else's.  Native Americans didn't have those hereditary positions.

     I also found that quite a few were  integrated into white society, becoming, "invisible", in the records as Native Americans.  It seems there was a US government assimilation project designed to "civilize" Native Americans into European culture, (why didn't I hear about this in high school?), from the time of George Washington! 

     I learned too,  there is an excellent chance I will never find the information I seek.  Native Americans were not enumerated in the census until New York did one of their reservations in 1845, you can find it here.  Of course I searched it, but found no Carters.  I did find that many Native Americans went by very European sounding names, one census even gave their original name along with the Americanized one, others gave only their Native name.  

     Adding to the difficulty, there was a racial component.  In the 19th century, some people felt embarrassment at having a Native American in the family tree and tended to hush it up.  George on the other hand embraced his ancestry, in fact his obituary says his father Silvester was born on a reservation, and that George himself went to live on one for a time.

     Which presents yet another problem, there were no reservations nearby. The Senecas left Seneca Point, moving to western New York, around 1779 when General Sullivan and his troops marched through destroying their villages and crops.  This was 38 years before  George's obit says his father was supposedly born there in 1817.  Perhaps there was a small settlement of Senecas who had drifted back to their ancestral home, or never left the area and that was where Silvester was born and George went to live?

Mary Carter
     While trying to unravel this conundrum I came across a photograph of a woman named Mary Carter that caught my eye.  Mary was born in NY around 1783, the same time frame as Pelina, and just to make it interesting, her son was born in Naples, NY--about 10 miles from Seneca Point.  I know the odds are astronomical that this woman is in any way linked to Pelina, but her features don't seem European to me, though maybe that's wishful thinking on my part.  I'd love to know what you think...

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