The September 17, 2006, issue of Parade Magazine asks in its lead article, “If you had a one day to spend with someone who’s gone… who would it be? What would you do?” The article by New York Times best-selling author Mitch Albom, is written from the frame of reference of having one more day to spend with a deceased, beloved family member. Everyone it seems has a loved one they’d like to see just one more time.
But what if you could choose to spend one day with someone, anyone, on your family tree? Who would that be? Why?
Like most people, I would find this a very difficult question, because there are so many ancestors I would love to see if not for a day, at least for an hour. But if I had to choose just one, it would have to be James Bowie, a free man of color in Louisiana in the early 19th century. As I’ve mentioned before, my cousin Steven Bowie has done substantial research on this ancestor of ours, the results of which may be found at the site linked here. But Steve has been unable to pinpoint James Bowie’s paternity. So that would be the first question I would ask James Bowie. Naturally I’d want to know from him about his wife, Chaney, and about life as a free man of color in Louisiana during the 1800s. And then I would tell him about the remarkable lives of his many, many descendants.
As an alternative, I’d pick Charlotte Manson, the earliest named direct ancestor I can find in the Manson line.
Charlotte Manson was born either in the Carolinas or in Georgia near the end of the 18th century. Space most likely, she was the.daughter of Scots-Irish immigrants to in America. I have been unable to trace the family past Charlotte. I’ve written about Charlotte before. She was the mother of Jane Manson, and the grandmother of Matilda Manson, who is my third great-grandmother. Showing my lack of imagination, but my desperate genealogical curiosity, I would ask Charlotte a lot of obvious questions. First, I wanna know who her parents where and when they came to America. Could she have been the daughter of George Manson of Savanna, who’s listed in the 1793 tax rolls of Chatham County, Georgia? Or perhaps her father was either James, John, or William Manson, all of whom appear in the 1799 tax lists in Jefferson County, Georgia?
The 1790 federal census of South Carolina enumerated space Mary, George, John, Thomas, and William Manson, all of whom could be the parents of Charlotte Manson. One Wright Manson turns up in the 1800 census of South Carolina. Charlotte might have been the offspring of one of the several Mansons who arrived in Savanna in September of 1775 aboard the Georgia Packet. These immigrants included Barbara, Elizabeth, and Thomas Manson. That same month ship called the Marlborough also docked in Savanna, with at least three Mansons onboard. So I’d want to know from Charlotte which of these folks she’s related to.
Then I’d have to ask Charlotte a rather indelicate question: who was the father of her daughter Jane?
Of course I’d also ask Charlotte about life in 19th-century Georgia. And I would tell her all about the incredible people who are her many descendants. She would be amazed and no doubt proud to learn of the historical results of her apparently out of wedlock relationship with a man described in court records simply as being “of the Creole or Indian race.”
September 18, 2006 Monday at 1:51 am