Maternal Kin, Oral History, Virginia

Mystery sister.

In the early 1940s, my uncle recently said, a mysterious woman appeared at his grandparents’ house. My uncle alone was there because he stayed with them sometimes during the school year; his aunt Marion was his teacher. In the manner of the day, no one bothered to introduce a child to an adult, but he gathered that the woman was Papa Allen’s sister. This was a surprise to him, as he had not known his grandfather to have any such relatives. The woman looked much like Papa, with very light skin. He never saw her again, and whether she ever returned he cannot say.

Who was this woman? She was not Emma Allen Whirley, John Allen‘s younger half-sister, who was not light-skinned and probably was dead by 1940. Could she have been Nannie, the 5 year-old listed in Graham and Mary Allen‘s household in the 1880 census of Charles City County? Nannie’s birth predated Graham and Mary’s marriage, and it is not clear which is her parent. Her pale skin suggests that Mary was her mother, and her father was, perhaps, the same white man that begot John. No other record of her has been found.  She may have been the mother of Junius and Milton Allen, the grandsons recorded with Graham and Mary in the 1900 census, but I suspect that they were born to Emma before her marriage. Otherwise, if Nannie is the woman who appeared on Marshall Avenue just before the outbreak of World War II, she has eluded detection in the record.


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