Friday, October 13, 2006

Sacramento Professor Claims to Find Lost Jefferson-Hemings Daughter

It's rare that I find a genealogy story in my local newspaper. But today's Sacramento Bee has got a good one.

We're all familiar with the controversial story of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. It is said that Jefferson had children by his slave Sally Hemings (whose name is often misspelled "Hemmings.") Four of those children survived into adulthood, three males and one female. Historians and genealogists have been able to trace the descendants of the three sons, but many have regarded the daughter, Harriet Hemings, as irretrievably lost to history.

The Bee reports this morning that a professor retired from California State University, Sacramento, has found Harriet Hemings in a most unlikely place: his own family tree. And the story has an unusual aspect to it. While most of the media stories about the Jefferson-Hemings affair focus on the black descendants, Professor Tom Best is white. [I couldn't help noticing that Tom Best bears a resemblance to a well-known Sacramento attorney also named Best, who was one of my favorite professors in law school].

Read the rest of the story here. (May require registration). Also of interest is the report of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation on the matter of Sally Hemings.

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