April of this year I saw a Facebook post about the National Society of the Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage. I had to Google what this organization was about. I learned that this was a lineage organization much like the Daughters of the American Revolution. The Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage require applicants to document their relationship to each ancestor leading back to the ‘Honored Ancestor’, an ancestor that is of African descent and was enslaved prior to December 06, 1865 in the United States of America. After I read about the organization I emailed them to find out how a person could become a member. A few days later I received an email response explaining that I would have to complete an application that included providing documented proof of my relationship to an ancestor that had been enslaved in America. They also included an application and requirements. As I looked at this application with all of this required information, I felt overwhelmed at first. How would I be able to provide documents to an enslaved person? I know my 3X great grandfather, Robert Hatchett, was enslaved, but would I be able to connect the dots with a paper trail?
According to the application, acceptable documents included vital records, census records, court records, church records, and other lineage society documentation. So the first thing I did was look through my family history binder to see what information I already had that would be acceptable forms of documents. I was happy to see that I already had birth and death certificates for myself, my mother, my grandfather, and my great-grandfather. That was four generations of documents that I already had. The two remaining generations, Peter Hatchett and his father Robert Hatchett, would be harder to find documents proving their relationship. Both were born prior to birth certificates and died before death certificates were required, so that wasn’t an option. Peter Hatchett’s name was listed as my great grandfather’s father on his death certificate. So I could use that death certificate for both my great-grandfather and my 2X great grandfather. Now all I needed to do was be able to connect my 2X great grandfather to his father, Robert Hatchett and provide documented proof that he was enslaved.
It just so happened that this was during the time that I was preparing a family history presentation for the Hatchett family reunion that would take place in June of this year. And some of my last minute research for this presentation included trying to find some additional information about Robert Hatchett being a minister and his church affiliation. I was able to find Robert’s minister credentials from Jackson County at the Arkansas State Archives that mentions that his son, Peter Hatchett, is also a minister in the county and that both men were born in Alabama. That was the linking document that I needed to prove the relationship between my 2X and 3X great grandfather. Providing the documented proof that Robert Hatchett was enslaved was the easy part of what I had left to prove. I had a copy of the newspaper article that was published in the Arkansas True Democrat from September 10, 1862, stating that he and his family were emancipated from slavery by General Samuel R. Curtis of the Union Army on July 03 1862.
Now that I had all of the required documents that linked my relationship to Robert Hatchett all I had left to do was complete the application and mail it. I put my package in the mail on June 17, 2017. I was told that it should take between 4-6 weeks from my application to be processed. I received a package in the mail on August 07, 2017 that my application for membership to the National Society of the Sons and Daughters of United States Middle Passage had been accepted. Like anytime I get good new I screamed and just stared at the certificate. At that moment I felt like all the time I had spent in libraries, the time gathering death certificates over the last two years, and my research, in general, had all been validated by my peers. My research, my application, and my family documents/records had been reviewed and accepted by a national lineage society including genealogists and historians. My ancestor’s names will be preserved in their records so that people for years to come can read about them and know our story.
Being a member of the Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage was not something that I expected or even thought was a possibility when I first started this journey. Sometimes unexpected things happen along the way that can add even more value to what you are doing. And this is why my journey continues….