For Denice and I our story was introduced to us in the early 1970’s as young children. Our grandfather, Percy Carl, would take us on walks to our family cemetery in Pine Hollow Oyster Bay, New York. This is where our great-great grandfather, David Carll, and other family members are buried. Our grandfather would pay his respects to his mother and father, aunts and uncles, and to his grandfather David Carll. It was then, he would begin to tell the stories about David Carll and other family members buried in the ground where we stood. He connected us to our past. More interesting to us was the fact that David Carll’s wife of 30 years, who died before him in 1899, was not buried next to him. She was buried in a cemetery a mile or so up the road from the Pine Hollow Cemetery. This is when we found out she was white. When she died she was not allowed to be buried in a colored cemetery. David Carll’s headstone bears his name and the regiment he fought with, CO.I 26 U.S. CLD. INF. As a young boy our grandfather, Percy Carl, knew and talked with his grandfather, David Carll the Civil War soldier. Our grandfather also told us stories of when he was a boy and how he would see President Theodore Roosevelt, when he returned to Oyster Bay for his summers away from the White House. Our aunts and uncles would tell us stories as well, but when our grandfather spoke, we all would listen. He would tell us stories of David Carll, and our family history and it was always intriguing. What made these stories so much more interesting to us, was the stories that were told to us on the land David Carll purchased with his Civil War bounty – land that is still owned by the Carl family today, over a 150 years later in the town of Oyster Bay, New York. When we were in our teens, Denice’s mom would take us to the Church of Latter Day Saints in Plainview, NY to view old census records. This is where our search for records and documents began.
Our grandfather passed away in July of 1987 at the age of 87. However, the seed he planted in us early resulted in us going further, researching and learning more about our family history and the contribution our great-great grandfather David Carll made to our nations.
Our collection of family photo has pushed us to learn more about our family history and the individuals in the photos. We wanted to have a better understanding of who we are. Each person in these photos had a story to tell. Our great-grandfather, Frank Carll, looked like a white man to us. Most of his siblings looked as though they were white. The simple fact was they were half white. These were the children of David Carll, the Civil War soldier, and his wife Mary Louisa Carll who was white. This simple fact left us all wondering how did they do it? How were they able to be married at a time when the country was divided by Civil War? How were they able to raise a family of 9 children during reconstruction? When we looked at our family photos of our relatives, this is what drove us to find the answers.
Denice was the first one to encounter the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion (DDFR) through a personal contact. What we discovered at the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Roadshow was that we had a remarkable story to tell. It was a story that is entrenched with social, economical and racial overtones. It’s a story that has not been told in history books or in the class rooms. However, it is a story that is part of our history and we felt compelled to tell it and share our American experience. This has led us to writing a book about our family history.
Our experience with DDFR has been such a positive experience. The platform allows us to share our photos and story to a wider audience. The Roadshow at the MIST Harlem was an awesome experience. Meeting Thomas Allen Harris was a great pleasure and an inspiration. His documentary, “Through a Lens Darkly“, has truly moved us as we found common ground with Mr. Allen’s work. By him allowing us to share our story on his stage was an awesome thing. His work is very much in line to what we are trying to accomplish. It is our hope to someday bring the story of David Carll to the screen in the form of a documentary.