Here’s the Question

Do you think this man:

Resembles the man in the suit in this picture?

No matter how much I try to convince myself that I’m seeing things, I feel like I do. Nose, cheeks, mouth.

I’m going to have to ask my dad.

The top photo is one of Philip Phillips’s descendents. The man in the suit is my Grandpa Phillips (that’s my uncle Blain next to him and my dad playing the drum.)

Edited to add: Okay, I sent it to my dad and my dad’s first question is “Is this one of my dad’s relatives?” And I said, “That’s what I’m wondering.” And he said, “That’s for sure my dad’s nose and his ears. I can’t tell if he has dimples, but those could be our cheeks.” So, that’s Joseph Reno, who died in Kalamazoo, who is the son of Hannah Phillips, daughter of Jeruel Phillips, son of Philip Phillips.

If this is Luke’s family, he could either be the youngest son of Philip and Elizabeth, though his birth in 1808 would put his mom at 44 when he was born (not unheard of, but late) or the son of one of Philip and Elizabeth’s oldest sons–James, Reuben, Augustus, and Benjamin were all born around 1790.

Based on this picture of Joseph, I’m moving the odds of these Phillipses being our Phillipses from 25/75 to 50/50.

My dad, I think, is more convinced. He thinks this makes sense of why he was always told that the Phillips family wasn’t close–the white Phillipses didn’t want the black Phillipses discovered by their kids.

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15 thoughts on “Here’s the Question

  1. No, Bridgett has me convinced that it’s more interesting than that. It looks like the Phillipses who the government was identifying as black or mulatto in 1850 were saying that they were Indian–descendants of King Philip. This seems plausible, based on there being black & Indian marriages in New England. Bridgett points out that, if you wanted to stay free in pre-Civil War Ohio, making it clear that you were Native American was an important strategy.

    They might try to run you off, but they were much less likely to steal you or your kids and sell them south.

    What’s interesting to me is to try to understand how a marriage between Philip, who was clearly a person of color, and Elizabeth, who was clearly white, was able to happen in the 1780s in Connecticut. I don’t know much about that period at all, but that certainly challenges my notions of what was possible.

  2. Coble, if we’re not related, it changes from one weirdness–the weirdness of having a whole branch of the family kept from us–to another–that our grandfather would look so much like theirs for no reason other than just genetic coincidence.

  3. If all this happened as you’re beginning to think, I’d like to point out that Elizabeth was the key to the entire family’s freedom. Children born to an enslaved mother were slaves and Connecticut’s gradual abolition law of 1784 did not actually liberate any slaves. It only liberated children born thereafter very slowly…and the mother not at all. (A few of the most unlucky had to wait until 1848.) If the father was enslaved and the mother freeborn or free-made, however, the children would have been free as well.

    It really is a fascinating story. As Dave Menschel’s work points out, despite the law, blacks pretty much had to fight their way to freedom through legal procedures from masters who were extremely reluctant to release them.

    http://yalelawjournal.org/the-yale-law-journal/note/abolition-without-deliverance:-the-law-of-connecticut-slavery-1784%111848/

  4. Oh, no. They’re definitely not the same person. The top guy is a black guy named Reno. The bottom guy is a white guy named Phillips.

    The question is whether two people who grew up within a half an hour of each other who both come from Phillips families can look that much alike and their Phillips families not be the same family.

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