Question of Maternity

The possibility of George Askew having children with someone other than Harriet Berry was brought to my attention.  The evidence?  The death certificate of Bird Askew, the oldest son of what we (family members and myself) thought was from the union of George and Harriet based on what was documented on the 1880 Federal Census.

The death certificate does indeed document the deceased as Bird Askew (Ascue) and shows a George Askew (Ascue) as the father.  The mother’s name, however, is one that I do not recognize.  Who is Arlie, and how many children did she have with George?

I’ve come across this document before in the past and immediately dismissed it as the names being a coincidence.  For some reason, this death certificate will not leave me alone.  It keeps showing up and showing up, and in more recent times, it’s shown up backed by the firm belief of some fellow researchers that this is the right Bird Askew.  I am not yet ready to commit this to my research as a source.  If I did, I feel like I’d be trying to force a square peg into a round hole.  Still, I find myself having internal conversations about this revelation.  Such as:

  1. Our family history states that George Askew and Harriet Berry had eight children together.  This is based on the 1880 Federal Census, and I’ve personally seen for myself that just because it’s documented on the federal census doesn’t mean it’s accurate or true.  Especially anything prior to 1940!
  2. Maybe George and Harriet were enslaved on land near each other, met, fell in love, and had children.  While it’s highly likely that George and Harriet were both in Henry County, Georgia in 1860, I don’t get the feeling that their enslavers were in close proximity to each other.
  3. Five of George’s children were born prior to the Emancipation Proclamation.  How?  Thousands of children were born into enslavement prior to the Emancipation Proclamation through unions with other enslaved persons on the land, breeding farms, and mingling with slaves from nearby plantations.
  4. Is this the correct Bird Askew?  Can’t say for sure.  After all, our family history is not certain his name was Bird.  The name Bud has also been presented as a possibility.
  5. Why does the death certificate have Bird’s place of birth documented as Spalding, Georgia?  Good question as our family history states that Henry County, Georgia is where it all began.  This is the primary reason why I constantly dismissed this death certificate.
  6. When George and Jack were sold in 1865, where was Bird?  That’s the million dollar question!
  7. Where will you go from here?  I’m going to do more in-depth research on Harriet Berry.

Harriet Berry’s research begins with William Berry (1791-1879) of Henry County, Georgia.  My paper chase has led me to him as Harriet’s enslaver, and the man that George Askew came to sharecrop for after the Emancipation Proclamation.  I believe this is how and where George and Harriet first met.

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