… And Then it Falls Apart

I had always considered myself half Cooke, half Mungin. I had never really considered that Mommy had a maternal line, much less that it would figure so prominently in her story. She may have carried the Mungin name, and may even have spent a number of years with the Mungin family, but the fact of the matter is that she spent at least the first six years of her life with the Olivers. So she was likely more Oliver than Mungin.

I returned to my burgeoning family tree (thanks in large part to my husband’s unbelievably large family) to see what I could come up with on the Olivers. From my sister’s visit with the Mungin sisters, I knew that Pearl’s (my grandmother) parents were Mack and Dianah or Diana. A fellow researcher was able to find records that confirmed her name was Diana Johnson, daughter of Ned and Scilla (probably Priscilla) Andrews.  Ned and Scilla had seven other children; all of whom are listed in census records as “Black.” Records on Diana are somewhat of a jumble: there is a Dana Andrews listed as a child of Ned and Scilla who may be Diana, and she, too, is listed as “Black.” However, Diana Johnson would have to have been Mulatto since all of the children she and Mack, Sr. had were identified as Mulatto (refer to my previous post on the determination of the four census classifications of people of color).  So, it appears that Ned Andrews was mostly likely not Diana’s father. This was not an uncommon occurrence, as I had found evidence of this on the Mungin side (which I will discuss in a future post), and the literature on life on plantations is rife with instances of slaves being raped by overseers and owners. But, for me, it constituted another bitter disappointment; another dead-end in my attempt to define who I really am.

I had no more luck with Mack, Sr., my great-grandfather. His mother’s name was Maria, doubtless born into slavery in 1835. Her husband-of-record was Jake Wade. Both of them are listed as Black in census records.  They had three children, Gus, Ida, and Mack: all listed as “Mulatto,” all with the last name Oliver. So, while Maria was definitely my great-great-grandmother, most likely Jake Wade was not their father.

Having reached a dead-end going backward, I decided to try to find present day connections. Since I now live in Central Florida, it would be a very simple proposition to run up to South Georgia for a day or two should I  manage to locate a fellow Oliver still in the area.  Odds were good, since my research showed that Grandma Pearl had seven full siblings and four half siblings.  I was thrilled to find that a Mack Oliver around the same age as Pearl’s brother had settled in Sarasota and had a family. That exhilaration was short-lived, when I came across a Georgia death record for a Mack Oliver,  parents Mack Oliver and Anna Johnson,  who had died in Darien, GA in 1923. Dejectedly, I deleted all Mack, Jr’s would-be family from my tree.

I found a Pearl Oliver, born about the same time as my grandmother. Her death certificate said she was born in Georgia, and died in Ohio. It made sense that, in the 1920s a woman who had borne a child out-of-wedlock might leave that child behind and go somewhere else where she could be viewed as “respectable.” Pearl and her husband had 5 children, and some of them appeared to still be alive. If I could contact one of them, or  one of their children, perhaps they would have more information about the Olivers. I contacted the owner of one of the trees that contained this Pearl…hoping…  It took almost two weeks to get a response. No. That Pearl had been born elsewhere in Georgia, and her mother’s name had been Olivia. One by one, I deleted all of these would-be relatives from my tree. That left me with a mere five generations of Olivers, including Mommy and me.

The Olivers remain, in my heart and mind, an island. I have found nothing connecting any of the surnames to any plantations in the area. The mix of Mulattos and Blacks suggest the husbands-of-record are not my authentic ancestors. Feeling afloat, with visions of brightly colored ribbons blowing lazily in the breeze, I sat and wondered how I would ever find any grounding on my maternal side.

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