It was fairly early in my appraisal career, maybe 12 years ago. I was appraising a late 80s/early 90s vintage low-end tract home. I met the homeowner, shook hands, and started the process. For those that don’t know, we start outside of the home, measure it, take photos, and look over the condition. Then we go inside. This particular home was a 2 story home, so when I go inside, I first go to the garage, then upstairs. As I was walking through the home and up the stairs, it was impossible to miss the many paintings of a black woman on the walls of the home. The homeowner was also black.
When I came downstairs, I asked the homeowner a simple question: “Harriet Tubman?” His answer was an emphatic “YES!” I said “Are you related?” An even louder “YES!!”
For those of you who might not know who Harriet was (I have readers outside of the US), she was very instrumental in the ending of slavery in the US. So much so that she will be replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. In other words, she’s kind of famous. Back to the story.
I stuck out my hand and said “Hi, I’m your cousin Bill.” The look of confusion was priceless. So I explained: “You, of course, know the story of Harriet Tubman. She married a freed slave, John Tubman, where her name came from. Tubman is a family name of ours – my mother grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. John Tubman built the family home, and was freed after the construction was completed, by my Great or Great Great grandfather Tubman. So, I’m your cousin Bill!”
He thought it was hysterical. He couldn’t wait to tell his family. I’m sure the story has made many of his family reunions.
Interestingly, I was talking with my 96 year old mother a couple of months ago, and reviewing her family tree. It seems that the tree is lacking a few branches, as there are instances of the same last names cropping up quite frequently in marriages. There are lines where they really, really didn’t belong – from one side of the tree back to the other! When I asked her about the possibility of close cousins marrying she said “Well. Back then, there just weren’t that many choices on the Eastern Shore. You had to marry someone!” It seems I’m related to quite a few Tubmans. In multiple ways.