One might assume that when Susan made that fateful decision to live her life as a white woman, she severed all ties to home and family. But apparently, that was not entirely the case. While we know that many of her descendants knew absolutely nothing about her (and their!) African ancestry, some family relationships continued. We know that when Susan, after traveling and living abroad for more than ten years, returned to Canada with her English husband and four young children, they were going to join her brother, Thomas Christian.
Betty Kurkjian (daughter of Cyril Gee, niece of J. Ronald Gee, Mona’s first cousin) shared this memory of Susan:
My mom and my older sister and I had to move from Detroit to Windsor and we took up residence with my grandmother at 182 Lincoln St. in Windsor. My aunt Dorothy was living there as well. Prior to WWII, my family lived for a short time with Grandma Gee in Windsor.
My mother did not get along with Grandma Gee and said Grandma spent a good deal of her time in her room reading her bible. Well in a way I couldn’t blame her. I was around 4 years old and my sister was 9. I’m not sure we were entirely welcome. My mom was the one who told me most of grandma’s background, although I know she did not know of her African heritage.
My mom told me while we were living with her, she would occasionally disappear to visit a sister who had married an African Canadian. So perhaps she wanted to maintain that family relationship.
Mom said Grandma had quite a temper. She remembered her chasing my dad around the kitchen with an iron frying pan when she was upset with him.
Cousin Jean Bridges, a descendant of Susan’s sister, Ada Vincent tells us that when she was visiting cousins in Cleveland:
I remember opening the door for a man who dropped by for a visit. It was later in the day explained that he was “a gone white relative.” It seems that when he traveled nearby, he did drop by to visit his cousins. Many have found it easier to find employment, education and opportunities if one could pass as white.
Who that “gone white relative” was I can’t say, but I have a hunch that it was my grandfather’s brother Cyril – just a feeling.
So what would Susan think of us … researching the census records of three countries; examining ship passenger lists; tracing her travels through Europe; discovering her secrets that weren’t so secret after all; taking DNA tests; and eventually meeting cousins from a branch of the tree that some of us didn’t even know existed? (My grandfather, J. Ronald Gee, had 16 first cousins who at various times were described in census records as Black, Negro, colored, non-white and mulatto!)