August 14, 2013

Who Do You Think You Are? Zooey Deschanel's Abolitionist Quaker Ancestors

Who Do You Think You Are? Episode 3 Disappoints
Last night I watched Who Do You Think You Are? with Zooey Deschanel on TCL  in partnership with Ancestry.com 

It was very good, much better than last week's episode. There was a lot of history that was new to me and I found it fascinating.

Zooey found out that her female Quaker ancestor played an important part in the 1851 Christiana Riot in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. In this skirmish a group of African Americans and white abolitionists fought off a Maryland slave owner trying to capture four fugitive slaves hidden in the town.

I was particularly fascinated by the story of William Parker, a fugitive slave who was living on Zooey's ancestors' farm. William was an abolitionist and the driving force behind the Riot

After the Maryland slaveowner was killed, William fled to Canada where he settled in the Buxton Settlement in southern Ontario. I'd been hoping he fled to the Queen's Bush settlement which is where my husband's black ancestor Jonathan Butler settled in the mid 1840s. 

He went on to be a driving force in Ontario (Canada)  and his first-hand account of the riot and his flight via the Underground Railroad system, published in 1866, can be read online at "William Parker The Freedman's Story"

A cursory search on Ancestry.com in the Canadian census records show William and his wife and children in Raleigh Township, Kent County Ontario. He represented Buxton on the Raleigh Township Council, to which he was re-elected year after year by both white and black voters. He was not Zooey's ancestor but he did have close ties with her Quaker abolitionists and I found his story as fascinating as theirs.

If you missed Zooey Deschanel's journey to find our more about her abolitionist ancestor you can watch it on the TLC website.

1 comment:

Lynne Carothers said...

I agree with your assessment. This episode was the best of this season so far!