Got a little Indian in your family background?

Elizabeth Warren, who is running for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, got into a bit of trouble earlier this year. Warren, apparently, always claimed she had some American Indian in her family background. That was the tradition handed down by her family.

But since this is the political silly season, her claim soon came under fire, and people started accusing her of a) not having any Native American blood in her veins and b) that she had used her supposed Indian heritage to advance her academic career. Now it looks as if Warren has been vindicated and that she does indeed have some Native American connections in her genealogy.

Lots of people claim to have American Indian roots. My family has claimed for years that there was an Indian somewhere in our background. However, all I’ve been able to find is that one of my ancestors was captured by the Indians, and held for awhile, but later released. High cheekbones, like some of my Lantz family line boast, are no evidence of Native American blood.

I don’t know if you’ve watched any of Henry Louis Gates’ “Finding Your Roots” episodes on PBS (you really  need to watch every one of them if you already haven’t), but he discussed this theme of American genealogical history during at least a couple of his series’ episodes. I was surprised to learn that the Indian blood story is very common among African Americans, as it is among many white Americans. But just like whites, the actuality of finding a Native American ancestor is pretty rare among blacks.

Here in Kendall County, we had a few whites who had Indian wives and children who made there homes here during the pioneer era. Frederic Countryman and his wife En-Do-Ga lived down near modern Newark, while David Laughton and his wife, Waish-Kee-Shaw, lived in what became known as AuSable Grove along modern Reservation Road. Both the Countryman and Laughton families had children, although it seems as if Waish-Kee-Shaw had only one child, a son, named Joseph Laughton.

But in the 1820s and 1830s, people didn’t boast of the Indian blood in their veins. Early settlers and characters such as Peter Specie, who were of mixed-blood, described themselves as French, not métis. And, of course, south of the Ohio River and west of the Mississippi, Indian blood was not considered any kind of something to boast of.

Actually finding that drop of Indian blood in your veins (if it exists at all) through genealogical research is often a challenge. But the good news is that if you become the candidate for high office of a major political party, the media will do all the genealogical heavy lifting for you.

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Filed under Fur Trade, Illinois History, Kendall County, Oswego, People in History

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