Thursday, October 2, 2014

Who is Gracy Parmer?

or, Why genealogy is so much fun.

Genealogy is fraught with puzzlement which may be why some people choose to get entangled in it. I tried it for a time.

I hope I can condense this enigma  to an understandable example of the stuff family researchers come up against.  The one common factor to be found in researching this person is a statement of birth year, 1728, and that she was born in Virginia.  Nothing else has been verifiably established, but that has not stopped the family tree builders from asserting her position as matriarch of a Parmer/Palmer clan, the one to which I belong.

William Branham, a.k.a. William Parmer, born about 1743 in Albemarle County, Virginia, who died in 1822, is verifiably recognized as progenitor of the Palmer line into which I was born.  It is asserted that his mother was Gracy Parmer and his putative father was William Branham.  In seeking records, though, one will find that it is almost as though, having need of a mother for Mr. Branham/Parmer, one was posited by someone. She came into existence of necessity and disappeared conveniently, leaving no footprints.

Yet if you look at various family trees, there you will find her, including one in which it is stated that she died in childbirth at William's advent, and another in which she supposedly gave birth to two additional children, one when she was fifty years of age, and the other at age 59!

William went by the Branham name for the first fifty plus years of his life, then he filed for legal change of name to William Parmer.  An affidavit by acquaintances asserted that William "was illegitimate" and he was "fair born" to a woman with red hair.  Come now the family researchers yet again.  One I read after went into a long and detailed historical analysis showing why, in his opinion, this tidbit points to the likelihood that mother Gracy Parmer was a Monacan Indian, and that she was in fact married to Richard Branham, and hence William was not illegitimate at all, but now he was seeking to evade a recently passed law in Virginia requiring inhabitants of mixed race to register as such.

And so it goes.

Again I ask, Who is Gracy Parmer?


Dragons Alley said...

For you folks who have been in this country a long time you have lots of places to look. Those of us who are more recent immigrants hit the wall quite soon...and then stupid relatives make up stupid names...Don't get me started. LOL I can get lost for days in census records etc it is fun...

Pearl said...

Gracy Palmer was a woman. :-)

I'm with Dragons up there. My family is fairly recent, I know nothing beyond great-grandparents, and my father's side changed the spelling of the last name because of a heated argument of the Catholic vs. Protestant variety.


vanilla said...

Grace, sources are virtually endless. Time to study them? Not so much. Data is no more reliable than the people who enter them; and near-illiterate census takers are no exception to the rule.

Pearl, you are very likely right. As for name changes, my maternal grandfather changed the spelling of his last name, but there is no interesting story suggesting that religion or politics had anything to do with it.

Vee said...

I don't really worry about family history, but did have an interesting discussion about the change of spelling with our cuz. I don't think he credits our grandfather with making that change. Is there documentation to support that he was the one who made that change?

Secondary Roads said...

Genealogy is fun and interesting, but before one starts down that path they should be warned of unpleasant surprises. A family's oral history may have been "sanitized" to protect the guilty.

There is also the opportunity for very pleasant surprises. That's what has motivated me to pursue our family history.

vanilla said...

Vee, I do not have any legal documents. What I know about it (little) is what I learned from that cousin's father's research. Grandpa and his brother Chris both moved West and both added the second "R", which their father never did. Their Uncle Henry apparently also added the "R", but he was the only one of tha generation to do so.

Chuck, surprises come in many ways when researching the family roots. An interesting thing to me is the number of families that seem to go to some lengths to "connect" themselves to Native Americans. And many such connections are legitimate, but I suspect that many are spurious, as well. There are four junctures in our family tree where such claims are made, but only one of them seems substantive enough to be believable.