A Black-Canadian family’s possible connection with Stratford Hall

Some readers may not be aware that a few weeks ago, a story came out about Elise Harding-Davis, who believes she is a descendant of a slave woman named Kizzy, who could possibly be the half-sister of Robert Edward Lee, the Confederate army commander. Kizzy would be the daughter of an enslaved woman and revered Revolutionary War commander (but poor businessman and debtor), “Light-Horse Harry” Lee. This oral tradition has come down through her family and more can be read about it HERE.

Stratford Hall’s Director of Research composed a blogpost sharing what she could find from documentary records about the possibility of a “Kizzy” (or similar/related spellings). You can find her post HERE.

So I’m curious what y’all think after reading that? To what level should we weigh oral history on subjects that were considered taboo or improper to write about or converse about in Euro-American communities? African and African-American and Native American/Indian people often have richer oral histories than are written.

What say YOU however?



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6 responses to “A Black-Canadian family’s possible connection with Stratford Hall

  1. Any suggestion on books discussing immigration to Canada by escaped slave?

    • I don’t claim to be any expert on the subject of enslaved people’s flight to Canada. However, one very useful source is Benjamin Drew’s A North Side View of Slavery published in 1855. That book is online HERE. Another book that came out recently that follows the relationship between one slaveholding woman from Kentucky and her slave who became a runaway but kept in touch with her owner’s family from Canada. The book is called Cecelia and Fanny: The Remarkable Friendship Between an Escaped Slave and Her Former Mistress. I have not read it myself but the story sounds fascinating.

  2. Oral history can be a reliable source of info if you have historic, scientific or concrete proof to back it up. I have been able to document and validate my family’s oral history with historic and scientific proof. Regarding the Lee family, I have a black friend who is a direct descendant of Robert E. Lee himself but she has not come forward as she is doing the exact same thing that I did. She told me it better be tight if and when she goes public with the info as one can imagine the uproarious reaction she would encounter claiming to be a direct descendant of Bobby Lee as it shows the “marble man” to be human! One forgets that his wife was crippled severely with rheumatoid arthritis and probably gave up her wifely nocturnal obligations as her disease progressed.

    • Thanks Anita for your comment. Of course, I am well familiar with your family’s history which is fascinating.

      I have been able to also document oral history with written records. However, this is not often the case. It is so terribly difficult to prove interracial sex and definitely even more difficult to prove deep care and love.

      Yet, I think that you touch upon something that we all need to keep in mind: human beings are human beings. That is why I would not be surprised if Light-Horse Harry Lee had an enslaved child whether or not this family’s story is that person.

  3. Another interesting thing about my friend, her eyes and upper face are a dead ringer for Robert E. Lee! She has the those same intense eyes! Physical features can be transmitted back around seven generations. I forget the gentleman’s name but he is a direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson and does a living historian interpretation of his famous ancestor. This man looks exactly like his ancestor with the tall good looks, features, red hair and receding hairline. The resemblance is uncanny to say the least.

  4. I am in discussions with a family that has similar oral history about another well-know American historical figure. (I do not feel at liberty to say more at this point.) However, I can discuss my research plan. The research would involve using both solid historical and genealogical research techniques in original records, as well as Y-DNA testing of multiple lines of descent from both the slaveowner and the enslaved ancestors to determine the likelihood of a relationship through both documentary and genetic evidence. There is an added difficulty due to the lack of surviving direct-line male descendants of the historical figure. This is the reason for using multiple lines of descent among other known survivors of the slaveowner’s Y-DNA line.

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