Legacy: Learning Your History To Build For The Future

March 15, 2020: For this first blog on Word Press, I wanted to talk about history.  I have always been a history buff, especially ancient history.  The first time I left the country (besides, Mexico, Canada and Puerto Rico) was for a three-week trip to Europe during the year I turned 50.  It also coincided with Raina’s (my daughter’s) graduation from Penn State.  We spent time in Italy and Greece.  I was in heaven with seeing the ruins in Rome and Athens. Raina pointed out to me recently that most of my major travel experiences around the world happened after I turned 50, so folks it is never too late to do anything!! We did Europe on the cheap, staying in hostels so we could buy and cook our own food.  We traveled light and washed our clothes and hung them in the room during the vacation. We were our own tour guides (but would get close to tours being conducted in English so we could hear what they were saying).  The most expensive times on the trip were when I would rebel and insist on eating out or paying to get our clothes done at a laundry or paying for a one night tour in Athens.  My rationale to my daughter was that I worked every day so should be able to splurge.  Quite frankly, doing Italy and Greece on the cheap was way more fun and informative than through the cruise I took of the Mediterranean.  The bus trips from the ship were too expensive, too short, and not fun at all. 

Graduation Day Penn State University 1974

I have also over the years taken it upon myself to make sure that historical documents of organizations to which I was affiliated were pulled together and accessible.  For example, when I left Widener University Center for Social Work Education, I pulled together many photo albums to capture the rich history of the Center and made sure that files and documents were labeled and accessible so that no one would have to go back and reinvent the wheel.  I did the same thing when I left California University of Pennsylvania.  All the old MSW accreditation documents are together, all the outcomes data is in its own binder and as many artifacts that I could find that document what happened while I was the MSW Program Director, along with the syllabi from past years, etc. were left in binders. I felt that this was important because almost no information existed to document the time that my predecessor had served in the position and he had been there for 7 years before I got there.  It was as though he never existed even though he was the first person in that position, the trail blazer upon whose shoulders I stood.  I pulled together historical information for the East End United Community Center where I have served on the board of directors since 2008.  I found old pictures and put them in albums, organized files, labeled and cataloged many of the Center artifacts. 


So, it should come as no surprise that I also began several years ago, to discover my family’s historical roots.  This is quite an interesting journey.  My original goal was to find out my “roots in Africa”.  Well, I achieved part of that goal.  Because of the history of slavery in this country, it has been difficult getting back beyond a certain point in my family’s tree.  On my mother’s side I do know that both of my great great grandfathers were born into slavery.  William Satterwhite (mother’s side) was one.  Satterwhite was probably the name of the slave owner in Saluda South Carolina. The other great great grandfather was Harry Logan (mother’s side). He founded a church in Saluda South Carolina on land that was deeded over to him by his former slave owner, whose last name was Richardson.  I did DNA testing many years ago through African Ancestry.  My mom’s people were at that time noted as descendants of the Tikar people of present day Cameroon.  Someone from Cameroon said that he would not put much stock in these results because of migration patterns over the years.  But, as I explained to him, this may be all I get in terms of being able to identify where my people originated from so I was holding on to this.  He had an identifiable origin point.  Up until I got those results, I had none.

On my Dad’s side the original Thomas male was European.  No surprises there, given the history of slavery but also because I just knew that from discussions over the years, his side of the family was African, European and American Indian.  The original DNA testing through African Ancestry confirmed that the original Thomas was European, probably from the Wales area.  There are a lot of Dutch names on my dad’s side in the genealogy records.  I recently found the name of a woman married to a Thomas who is either Dutch or German.  I can get back to my great, great great grandfather but nothing beyond that.  There is a name that I am trying to link and confirm and then everything falls in place to very early in European history.  My father’s ancestors were born free.   Josiah Thomas, who is my great, great, great grandfather, was born in Virginia and described as “hair a little inclined to red, high nose, black eyes, face freckled, bright mulatto, 5’9 1/2 inches and born free”.  This was noted in the Fauquier Register of Free Negroes, 1817-1865.  What I can’t discover is why he and, who I thought was his brother but may have been a cousin, came to the Hopwood Pennsylvania area. There are many folk tales but I can’t confirm any of them including a connection to a Jacob Thomas who owned property in Hopwood in the location of the land eventually owed by both Josiah and Henry Thomas.  The Thomas Cemetery (Bennington Road http://www.uscemeteryproj2.com/pennsylvania/fayette/thomascemhopwood/) in Hopwood is all that is left of the many acres once owned by the Thomas family.  The Jewish Cemetery in Hopwood (Holy Society-Bennington www.jewish-holy-society-cemetery) originally was part of the Thomas land.  I have that deed.  I believe Josiah Thomas’ father was European. 

My great grandfather Pickney Satterwhite on my mother’s side.  His father William was born into slavery. His wife was Anna Belle.   Her mother was described as American Indian. 

Stay tuned for more information on my family history, how you can start your own journey and build your legacy for the future.

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