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“A People not insensible of the sweets of rational freedom”

On 13 Jan 1777, the Massachusetts legislature considered a petition from eight black men on behalf of “a great number of Negroes who are detained in a state of Slavery in the Bowels of a free and Christian Country.”

That petition drew on the natural-rights philosophy that underlay the Declaration of Independence and similar documents in the preceding years. The authors wrote:

That your Petitioners apprehend that they have, in common with all other Men, a natural and unalienable right to that freedom, which the great Parent of the Universe hath bestowed equally on all Mankind, and which they have never forfeited by any compact or agreement whatever—But they were unjustly dragged, by the cruel hand of Power, from their dearest friends, and some of them even torn from the embraces of their tender Parents, from a populous, pleasant and plentiful Country—and in Violation of the Laws of Nature and of Nation and in defiance of all the tender feelings of humanity, brought hither to be sold like Beasts of Burden, and like them condemned to slavery for Life—Among a People professing the mild Religion of Jesus—A People not insensible of the sweets of rational freedom—Nor without spirit to resent the unjust endeavors of others to reduce them to a State of Bondage and Subjection.

Your Honors need not to be informed that a Life of Slavery, like that of your petitioners, deprived of every social privilege, of every thing requisite to render Life even tolerable, is far worse than Non-Existence—In imitation of the laudable example of the good People of these States, your Petitioners have long and patiently waited the event of Petition after Petition by them presented to the legislative Body of this State, and can not but with grief reflect that their success has been but too similar.

They can not but express their astonishment, that it has never been considered, that every principle from which America has acted in the course of her unhappy difficulties with Great-Britain, pleads stronger than a thousand arguments in favor of your Petitioners.

The ask was for a law to free all adults enslaved in Massachusetts, and to ensure the liberty of all enslaved children when they reached the age of twenty-one (essentially treating them as apprentices).

The legislature didn’t enact such a law. The Massachusetts courts eventually made the first big step to making slavery unenforceable in the state.

Here are the signatures and marks of the eight men who submitted the petition, as shown in its digital form, courtesy of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery and Anti-Segregation Petitions project.

The most famous of those men was Prince Hall. Others joined with Hall in the first African-American Freemasons lodge.

Today I’m focusing on the sixth man, whose given name was Nero. I’ve seen his surname transcribed as Funelo, Funilo, and even Suneto. I posit that that surname was Funels, a phonetic spelling of Faneuils, and that this man had been enslaved by one of the Faneuil family.

TOMORROW: Nero Faneuil in court.

Let Genealogy Help You Find your long lost Invisible Irish

Let Genealogy Help You Find your long lost Invisible Irish Relatives

Invisible relatives may pertain to those people who are difficult to find or are hidden relatives perhaps. A relative can be considered missing if he or she does not appear even in one of the volume of records containing your family’s history. Detailed information of your invisible relative can be hard to uncover. You don’t probably suspect that he or she exists before you begin your research.

You need to know some of the reasons why such things happen.

-Women are most often categorized as invisible relatives. Keep in mind that women didn’t have legal identities of their own in many countries. They are not regularly mentioned in community records. In Ireland, property was rarely registered in the name of a woman from 18th to 19th century. When registration of civil marriages took place in 1865, only the father’s name of both couples is listed.

-If family members disapprove a relationship, thinking that it can bring disgrace to their family, they hide it consciously. For example, a widow who wanted to marry again but her children are all grown up.

-It runs in the tradition of the Irish, they always want to portray the best face and feet forward. They omit sad memories from the tales about their family. Thus, infants and young children who are already dead were never mentioned again.

-Some common records used in genealogy research are incomplete. The contents have entirely missed important things about the person. Maybe, they failed to anticipate that the latest generation would likely want to know about their origins. Some census in the U.S has this problem. Former spouses were never mentioned on the record as well as the date of immigration until 1900.

So, some Irish who are just starting to find their genealogy can face a lot of challenges. It is advisable not to rely much on what they find on the written records. However, any piece of information is important to help you in your research. No matter how small the information is, you can unravel many things once you dig deeper.

Never assume that the norms in the 20th and 21st century made sense 50, 100, or 100 years ago. Try to learn and understand that norms vary according to time and place. Considering all the records (both Irish and American) are helpful in solving the jigsaw puzzles of your life, in case your family already migrated in the U.S. This process is also similar in other countries.

There are factors that you should concentrate on when finding an invisible Irish relative. Checking the census can be effective in finding the persons who are related to the one you are looking for. Another is to learn some significant traditions associated with the place. For example, in Ireland, the naming tradition is very popular. Irish men name their oldest son after their grandfather. If the person is already married, then search for the marriage record. Take note, during the 1860, divorce is not favored in Ireland. So, better check for death records also in case the name changed.

Finally, be patient as your research progresses. After all, it is worthwhile to embrace your origin again and find the missing part of your life.