Thinking About Thanksgiving by Carol P. Christ


carol p. christ 2002 colorThanksgiving evokes deep memory and raises questions about what we are celebrating, now that we know the stories we were told about the Pilgrims and the Indians are not the whole truth about America’s early history.  I thought about all of this as I prepared for Thanksgiving this year and cleaned up for days afterwards.

Although I do not live in America, I have celebrated Thanksgiving with a group of friends in my home in Greece many times during the past twenty years.

For me, Thanksgiving brings up happy memories of family gatherings in a time when my extended family, including Mom and Dad, brothers, great-aunts and great-uncles, aunts and uncles, cousins and second cousins, gathered at Grandma’s to eat turkey with all the trimmings.  Grandma Lena Marie Searing Bergman was not only a great cook but also an excellent hostess.  Her tables were laden with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, biscuits with butter and homemade jam, corn and green peas, pumpkin and mince pies, and also with crystal, china, and silver, and flowers from her garden.

Uncle Emery, my grandmother’s older brother, told stories about life on the farm in Michigan, where they had a pony and he lost parts of his fingers in a threshing machine. We children played croquet in the garden and ran races all around it while our mothers, aunts, and grandmother laid out the feast and cleaned up afterwards.  These were the blessed days before television and televised football games came to dominate holidays in the United States. My memories are laced with the sadness of knowing that those days are in the past. Continue reading “Thinking About Thanksgiving by Carol P. Christ”

A Daughter of the American Revolution and a Daughter of Quaker Slave Owners in Long Island, New York by Carol P. Christ

I did not ever think that genealogical research would reveal that I am descended from slave owners.

My family’s early American roots are in New York and the upper Midwest—not in the American South. While watching genealogy programs that reveal slave-holding ancestors in the lines of white and black Americans with roots in the South, I have breathed a sigh of relief accompanied by the thought–not me!

I have not expended a great deal of energy researching Searing ancestors who settled in Hempstead, Long Island in the 1640s, because my Uncle Emery had already traced the family line. Bored one afternoon and wondering if my ancestor Samuel Searing had left the Hempstead Quaker community because he fought in the Revolutionary War, I entered the Searing family surname into a general internet search.

I found that my 4x great-grandfather Nathaniel Pearsall–whose daughter Sarah and her husband Samuel Searing are my 3x great-grandparents–is indeed listed for “patriotic service” in the Daughters of the American Revolution database.  As an anti-war activist, I wish there had never been a revolutionary war–we could all have been Canadians!  I would have been pleased to learn that my ancestors were all Quaker pacifists. Still, I must admit that I felt a twinge of pride to be able to trace my ancestry back to our country’s beginnings.

Continuing to follow up links to Searing ancestors, I stumbled upon the wills John and Elizabeth Searing. John was a brother of my 5x great-grandfather, Jonathan Searing.

In the name of God, Amen, April 22, 1746. I, John Searing, of Hempstead, in Queens County, being very sick. My executors are to pay all my debts. I order all my negroes to be sold, except the oldest negro boy; Also my wheat, except enough for family use. I leave to my wife Elizabeth, one bed and furniture and a side saddle, and the use of 1/2 my farm, until my children are brought up…

In the name of God, Amen, November 27, 1760. I,Elizabeth Searing, of Hempstead, of Queens County, being sick. I leave to my son, John Searing, my negro man and a bed and three blankets, etc. To my daughter, Mary Searing, a negro girl, and she is to have clothing and linen of mine so much as my other two daughters have had. …  I leave my granddaughter, Mary Searing, daughter of my son Jacob, a negro girl, and to my daughter Anne long cloak, and the rest of my apparell to my daughters.

If I am a daughter of the American revolution, I am also a daughter of Quaker slave-holders. It is well-known that the Quakers were among the most vociferous abolitionist voices in America.  Who would have thought that Quakers had also owned “negroes.” How did this come about? Continue reading “A Daughter of the American Revolution and a Daughter of Quaker Slave Owners in Long Island, New York by Carol P. Christ”


Annie Corliss was my great-great-grandmother. The Corliss name, also spelled Corlis, Corless, Corlies, Corlers, and Carlis, is derived from “careless” meaning someone who is “carefree” or “happy-go-lucky.”

Annie Corliss was the daughter of James and Mary Corliss, both born in Ireland. Her parents may have been tenant farmers, but given that their surname could refer to someone who doesn’t settle or own property, they may have been Irish Travellers– itinerant craft persons and traders, sometimes called tinkers because they mended cooking pots and farm implements.  “Irish Travellers are a traditionally nomadic people of ethnic Irish origin, who maintain a separate language and set of traditions. … Irish Travellers have their roots in a Celtic (and possibly pre Celtic) nomadic population in Ireland.” Continue reading “THE CARELESS SPIRIT OF ANNIE CORLISS: TRUMPING DESPAIR IN THE NEW WORLD by Carol P. Christ”


I carry the exact replica of MDNA handed down from mother to daughter since the depths of the last Ice Age 17,000 years ago.  My father carries  the YDNA of the Indo-Europeans handed down from father to son since the time when his male ancestors invaded Europe about 5000 years ago.   

My female ancestors moved with the seasons as they gathered fruits and nuts, roots and greens to feed their families. Some of them may have blown red ochre around their hands to leave their marks in ritual cave-wombs.

Mitochondrial DNA is passed down exclusively from mothers to their children. My MDNA “T2b” was given the name “the clan of Tara” by Bryan Sykes in The Seven Daughters of Eve.  According to Sykes the earliest female ancestor with this gene lived about 17,000 years ago, perhaps in Tuscany. Continue reading “A CLASH OF CULTURES IN OUR GENES by Carol P. Christ”

I am Beginning to Understand by Carol P. Christ

Elizabeth Kelly Inglis died in 1927 at age 62 from complications of a stroke. Secondary causes were malnutrition and exhaustion.

When I was a child, my father, though he was very close to his own parents and sister, spoke very little about his ancestors. I knew that both of his parents lost their fathers when they were small children. I was told that the Christs were German and the Inglises were Scottish and Irish. My grandmother Mary Inglis Christ was as Irish as the day is long. She prayed to the blessed Virgin and took me to church with her in the early mornings where she lit candles and whispered the rosary while fingering faceted lavender beads. She voted for Kennedy because he was Irish and Catholic—to the horror of my father and his father who had no use for the Democrats. My grandmother sometimes cried when she showed us photographs of her family, especially when she pointed to her sister Veronica, called Very. I sensed that my grandmother felt sad to have left her family in New York when she moved with her husband and children to California during the depression, but I was too young to understand fully. As far as I know, I never met any of the relatives from her side of the family, even when I moved to “back east.” Continue reading “I am Beginning to Understand by Carol P. Christ”

Body, Nature, Ancestors by Carol P. Christ

Some years ago, womanist theologian Karen Baker–Fletcher asked about ancestors following a lecture I gave on the body and nature.  I have since come to realize that ancestors are a missing link between the two:  we cannot speak adequately of embodiment and interdependence in the web of life without recognizing the ancestors whose lives made ours possible.  Our mothers quite literally gave us our bodies.  All of our ancestors gave us their genes.  Care and callousness with origins going back longer than conscious memory was imprinted on the psyches of our parents and grandparents and transmitted to us.  All of our ancestors give us connections to place.  While many black people in America can recite oral histories that begin with slavery in the United States, I come from a family where stories of origin for the most part were not valued or told.  Both of my father’s parents lost their fathers when they were very young, and my father, who was raised Catholic at a time when Catholics were discriminated against, preferred to think of our family as “American now.”  Like the hero of the film Lost in America, most members of my family dreamed of “melting right into that pot.” In the process we lost stories we need to help us to understand ourselves and the complex realities that “becoming American” involved.   Continue reading “Body, Nature, Ancestors by Carol P. Christ”

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