“Your battery is low,” popped up on my laptop’s screen a moment after I discovered the marriage certificate information of my Great-Grandparents – Japheth Trumpet and Irene DePeiza on Ancestry.com. I raced through the living room and kitchen looking for the power cord as I thought this could be the breakthrough I needed. My information about Great-Grandma Irene – my maternal Grandma’s Mom – was limited to a couple phrases, “Born in Barbados,” was one, “Married Japheth Trumpet,” was another and finally, “Mother is Alice Francis.” As I plugged in the power cord to my laptop, I realized in order to see what the marriage certificate revealed I had to order it.
The wait left me time to imagine what could have drove Great-Grandma Irene to the United States. Maybe she saw life was more than her island. Maybe she was following the footsteps of her siblings. Maybe life in Barbados left her no choice.
However, my wait turned from imagining her reality to questions, I wondered if I could answer. Who was her father? Did she live her aspirations? How did she envision the future of her loved ones? Yet, Great-Grandma Irene made a life for herself in the United States. She had several children with her husband Japheth. Their daughter – Grandma Carmen – named her first child Irene. This is an indication that Grandma Carmen and Great-Grandma Irene had a close relationship with each other.
A week or two later the marriage certificate arrived from the City of New York Municipal Archives. Looking at the, State of New York Certificate and Record of Marriage of Japheth Trumpet and Irene DePeiza, the first piece of information that stood out was both assert it is there 1st marriage. This is in direct conflict of the information that was passed on to me. My Great-Grandfather Japheth had another wife and family back in Saint Vincent. I even met many of their children – countless cousins – at a family reunion. Did my Great-Grandfather Japheth intentionally exclude his other marriage? Did my Great-Grandma Irene know about her husband’s other wife and children? Maybe my Great-Grandfather Japheth was separated from his other wife.
Great-Grandma Irene’s sister – my great aunt – Gladys DePeiza, witnessed my Great-Grandparents marriage on October 7th, 1925. They married in Brooklyn, New York, not too far from their home on Amboy Street. They were seven years a part. Great-Grandfather Japheth was twenty-nine years old. While Great-Grandma Irene was thirty-six years old – which revealed, she was born about 1889 in Barbados.
They both identified as Colored. Back then when the census in the 1920’s asked individuals to identify color or race the options included “B” as black for full-blooded Negros, while the term “Mu” as mulatto included all other people who had some proportion of Negro blood i.e. the one-drop rule. I imagine this distinction contributed to black folks seeing each other as different. While “W” as white was inclusive to all.
Great-Grandfather Japheth identified as a Mechanic. But there was no occupation space for Great-Grandma Irene. Instead it asked, “Maiden Name If a Widow,” as if to say who or what is a woman without a husband.
The marriage certificate answered a burning question as it revealed Great-Grandma Irene’s father – my 2x Great-Grandfather – Charles DePeiza. I now had the names of both my Great-Grandma’s parents. However with a new ancestor discovered, more questions go unanswered.
*Author’s Note* I found out my great grandfather, Japheth Trumpet, was never married back in St. Vincent. He, however, had two children – by two other women – before he left his island of birth. My great uncle born in 1921, who didn’t meet his father until he was 45 years old in 1968 and my great aunt.
7 Generations – is a blog series that digs into my family tree to consider the impact of circumstances and decisions through the generations.
Rashaun J. Allen (@rashaunjallen) is the author of A Walk Through Brooklyn & In The Moment. He has been featured in several publications such as: The Chronicle, The Troy Record, Albany Student Press & UA Magazine. Find his books at www.Royalbluepublishing.com and follow his personal blog at www.rashaunjallen.com.