Tag Archives: Ancestry

The Legacy of Hattie Finney Banks

10 Aug

 

Secret

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/secret/#like-244527

Would you have kept this secret for two generations? Maybe my Grandmother Hattie Finney Banks kept secret the fact that my grandfather Hugh Banks killed my Great Grandfather Daniel Finney (Hattie’s Dad) so that she could keep her sanity.  Guilt, embarrassment, shame, humiliation. I’m sure in the beginning after the murder it was all there deep within her soul, mind and spirit. But My Grandmother Hattie Finney Banks kept the secret so she could raise her three daughters (one of whom Mable was to become my mother) in relative peace, quiet and safety without passing this terrible haunting to future generations.  No judgment from me, only understanding.

 

The Legacy of Hattie Finney Banks

Hattie Finney Banks

Grandmother Hattie Finney Banks

Hattie Finney was born Feb. 1905 in the poor coal mining hamlet of Davy, West Virginia.  A real looker in her youth blessed with a great sense of fashion and good taste Hattie though living in poverty was able to enhance her beauty through thrift and the ability to create something out of nothing.

With African and Sioux blood running through her veins her beauty soon caught the eye of the young men in the town. One named Hugh Banks seemed to have good prospects. Hugh like her Hattie’s dad Daniel R. Finney worked as a janitor. Not a high living job but one that could support a wife and future children. It also didn’t hurt that he was a strong strapping young man who was easy on the eyes.

They married sometime in the late 1920s when Hattie was in her early 20s looking forward to a bright future. Their first born child Mable Banks, (My Mom) was born May 2, 1930, and then came Helen on September 13, 1931 and finally Gladys on May 2, 1935. However as time progressed and the marriage wore on the initial first joys of wedded bliss gave way to drinking and horrible physical abuse from her husband Hugh. He regularly stayed out late getting drunk, spending the food and rent money on booze. A spirit of anger possessed him and he took out all the days slights on Hattie and their young children. Hattie always put herself between Hugh and the kids when he went on these violent tirades taking the brunt of the physical beatings and verbal abuse.

Finally on April 30, 1939 after a particularly horrible beating Hattie couldn’t take it anymore. In fear of her life she grabbed her three little girls and ran to the shelter of her parents’ house not far away. A very drunk Hugh Banks in hot pursuit of his wife followed her and demanded that Hattie and the girls return home with him. Hattie’s Dad, Daniel James Finney told Hattie to stay indoors while he went out to confront Hugh. Daniel Finney seeing Hugh in a violent drunken rage refused to allow his daughter and granddaughters to go with Hugh. An argument ensued and Hugh took out a pistol shooting Daniel Finney in the chest killing him instantly. Daniel’s brother Charlie Finney saw the murder, called the police and Hugh Banks was arrested.

Hattie and her mother Mary were devastated and in addition for many years Hattie carried the burden of guilt and shame that if she had not ran back to her parents’ house for protection perhaps her Dad, a strong healthy man would have lived even longer than his age of 75 years at the time of the shooting. Her choices haunted her for a long time but at least she found peace knowing that she had protected her three innocent young daughters and pride in the great love her Dad had for his family laying down his life for them.

Newspaper Clipping of the Murder

Daniel Finney Murder Newspaper Clipping

My Grandmother strong in her Baptist Faith eventually forgave her wayward husband supplying the information for my grandfather’s death certificate after his untimely death in prison from tuberculosis at age 30. No one from my grandfather’s family came to claim the body and he is buried  in the Potters Field attached to the prison.

Hugh Banks Death Certificate

Grandfather Hugh Banks Death Certificate

Daniel James Finney

Daniel James Finney Death Certificate

Shortly after the trial my Great Uncle Clarence came for Hattie and her daughters taking them to Dayton, Ohio where my mother grew up and later met and married my Dad Edward G. Palmer a union of 40 years that produced me and my brother Stephen.

Fast forward to the year 2000 when by then both my parents and my grandmother had gone onto glory. I met my common-law husband who like my grandmother’s relationship with her husband started off with great dreams and hope for the future but gradually deteriorated into an abusive relationship from which I too sought escape. For our final year together when the emotional, physical and psychological abuse was at its worst I prayed to God that this man would leave me and he did. He left me for a younger woman. A sigh of relief. A burden lifted from my shoulders. However though his physical presence was gone his psychological presence was rooted in my mind and soul. Though I had forgiven him it took years to dig up the roots and weeds of self-doubt and self-hate he had planted within me. Spirit never fails and after a brush with death from a minor stroke at age 49 and being Blessed to see 50 I began to experience a Change of Life. Not just from menopause which began physical changes within my body but spiritual and emotional changes. During all this upheaval my ancestors were with me, guiding me every step of the way. Each succeeding year as I progress through my 50s has brought me greater enlightenment and spiritual growth. Once I made the decision to answer my calling in this life doors open, thus here I am today to carry forward my Grandmother’s Legacy and be a blessing to survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

But unbeknownst to my Grandmother and Great Grandmother a little girl cowering in front of a dusty little used attic window had peered out becoming an eyewitness to her Grandfather’s being shot to death by her Dad. Mable was always the quiet one of the three girls who took in many things but let out little.  As the Bible says  of conversations concerning Mary and Jesus, Mable Finney Banks was a small girl who took in and absorb all the things around her and pondered them in her heart……………….  From now on the events of that day would follow her all through childhood, young womanhood, and as a married woman with children and as she battled her own demons of schizophrenia. I shall take up Mable’s story in the next segment.

Thank you Sisters and be Blessed!

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My Maternal Ancestry Tree: The bond and bridge that enable me to crossover from America to Africa

2 Dec

Friday, December 02, 2011

My Maternal Ancestry Tree: The bond and bridge that enable me to crossover from America to Africa

Maternal Ancestry Journey

Isaiah 54:1-3

New King James Version (NKJV)

A Perpetual Covenant of Peace

1 “Sing, O barren,
You who have not borne!
Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,
You who have not labored with child!
For more are the children of the desolate
Than the children of the married woman,” says the LORD.
2 “ Enlarge the place of your tent,
And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings;
Do not spare;
Lengthen your cords,
And strengthen your stakes.
3 For you shall expand to the right and to the left,
And your descendants will inherit the nations,
And make the desolate cities inhabited.

 Mable Elizabeth Palmer

The eternal question, Who Am I? Many of us find the answer within our respective Family Trees.  It was obvious to me that my ancestry began in Africa, but where in that great continent did my ancestors originate.  But for me as an African American some of the branches were broken off and gone missing. 

Thus began my quest to not only discover my maternal lineage but my genetic link to Mother Africa.  Hidden within the larger search to trace my family history on my Mom’s side was the greater goal to honor my mother and complete myself as a branch of the family tree. DNA can now unlock the secrets and the past giving voice to generations of women, the collective matriarchy that ultimately formed me.  Living in a society that often devalues, trivializes and cuts Black Women down, within my personal family history lay the opportunity to validate and reaffirm self.

Family Skeletons Revealed

Hattie Finney Banks was my grandmother.  Hattie and Mattie Finney were twin sisters.  Mattie Finney moved to Illinois and married a man named Harper.  I always wondered what became of Mattie. My grandmother Hattie Banks never spoke of her twin sister Mattie.  I always thought that was unusual but I did not ask any questions.  Did not want to pry. 

About two years ago my brother Stephen and I spent Thanksgiving with our New Jersey cousins.  My Aunt told me a family story which might explain the split between the sisters and why they never again contacted each other.

My grandfather Hugh Banks, Hattie’s husband murdered Daniel R. Finney.  So Hugh Banks killed his in-law, his wife’s close relative. Hugh Banks died in prison sometime around 1940.  My Aunt went to the funeral.  She does not know the reason why Hugh Banks murdered Daniel Finney.  All this took place in the 1930s.  After the funeral Hattie took my Mom, Mable, her sisters and moved to Dayton, Ohio.  Hattie told everyone including my mother, her sisters and me that Hugh Banks had died in a coal mining accident. 

I suppose she had to make up a false story and hide the truth because of embarrassment, shame or just wanting to forget.  From what little my grandmother Hattie Banks told me Hugh Banks was a violent and abusive husband.  I guess when she moved to Dayton to be with her brothers Clarence & Willie she just want to forget the past and start with a clean slate.  I can’t prove it but somehow, some way this murder was probably behind Hattie and Mattie breakup.

23andme Ancestry

Good Ancestor News: Found out this week that through my maternal line my ancestors were from Mozambique. I belong to the maternal haplogroup L3e2b1a.

I also probably have some Nigerian ancestors. My maternal genetic makeup is 85% Africa, 12% Europe and 3% Asia.

Our ancestry and genealogy are traced through mitochondrial DNA which is only passed down from mother to child. This is fascinating information. By the way the study affiliated with Dr. Henry Louis Gates is free and they are targeting African Americans. I’ve wanted to have my DNA traced for several years and when I saw the ad in Ebony or was it Essence along with the word Free, I immediately signed up. I was so thrilled to find out this news. Now along with my African co-workers feel a more direct connection to the Motherland.

Naturally, I’ll never be connected to Mother Africa the way in which my co-workers from Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Togo, and Mali are since they were born there and have a direction connection with the culture, language and respective tribes, I feel now more of a blood tie. Now I can plan for my pilgrimage to this country of my ancestors in the next five to ten years.

I’ve shared my findings with a select group of like-minded co-workers and when I return to work on Sunday will continue to do so.

As I previously stated, Hattie Finney Banks was my maternal grandmother. I’m in the process of writing a book honoring my mother, Mable Elizabeth Palmer, Hattie’s eldest daughter. Right now I’m trying to locate the birth certificate of either Hattie or her twin sister Mattie Finney. I want and need to know who their mother, my great grandmother was. I need that piece of information for not only my research but for my literary work. I know plenty about my Dad’s family history but almost nothing about my Mom’s side. Also there is something in me which needs completion.

When I look in the mirror I see Mable Elizabeth Palmer. I see unknown people from my collective past begging me to tell their story. I must answer their cries to be heard. Before I travel to Mozambique, South Africa I’ll have to visit West Virginia and examine birth, death, prison and military/Armed Forces records that may be available.

Then in 2012 back to Ancestry.com for more research on my maternal family tree.  My maternal ancestors from Mother Africa call me and I willingly answer the call.  Our patriarchal society bows down to the greater stronger Matriarchy for only females carry the mitochondrial DNA that enable all of us to trace our roots and find our origins.  The Journey continues!!

http://www.23andme.com/

National Geographic also offers a similar test but it costs $99.95. That will have to wait until I receive my Federal income tax check next year. I want to see if genetic lineage test comes up with the same result as 23andme. I would think that for $100 the testing would be more wide-ranging and comprehensive. My goal is to find out more about my maternal lineage. My ultimate goal is to deepen my connection to my mother, grandmother and of course Mother Africa.

Donations to this Ministry can be made via Paypal using my email: deborah.palmer280@gmail.com.

Thank you and God Bless.


Mable Elizabeth Palmer

DeBorah Ann Palmer

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