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By Gray Dove2

I shall always remember the day that I mailed my nearly 5 pounds of genealogical documentation to theNansemond Indian Tribal Association. The date was November 19, 1996. As I placed my carefully packed,wrapped and addressed package on the counter of the post office window it seemed as though I was giving up a part of myself. Events leading up to that day will always be indelibly stamped in my mind . . .

For three years I had worked almost nonstop putting together my Bass genealogy in hopes that I could one day document every link in my ten generations of linage spanning back to the 1638 marriage between John Basse, son of the English Captain Nathaniel Basse, and Keziah Elizabeth Tucker, a convert to Christianity and daughter of the Chief of the Nansemond Indian Tribe. Only by doing so would I then be able to gain admittance into the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association. The Nansemond Indians were once a part of Powhatan's Confederacy or Empire and originally lived along the Nansemond River in Virginia. At some point during the 17th century the Nansemond split into Christianized and non-Christianized divisions. The Christianized group eventually migrated into Norfolk County, Virginia, settling near the
northeast edge of the Dismal Swamp in the area of Bowers Hill. That area today is in the City of Chesapeake. My direct line, Andrew Bass, Sr. a grandson of John and Keziah Basse, thru their son Richard, then went South into North Carolina's Black Creek area.

It was only in January of 1994, after much searching and a few major miracles that I had managed to find my own biological roots. I had been adopted when three weeks of age. My birth name had been Patricia Ann Bass. That entire name was legally changed at the time of my adoption. After years of searching and many setbacks I finally found my siblings. Both biological parents were by that time deceased. There had been seven of us children and five of us remained. I mention this finding of my siblings as it precipitated a series of events that ultimately led to a most amazing culmination of my genealogical journey.

During the reunion with my siblings in that January of 1994, I had the good fortune to meet Edward Bass, a first cousin. I learned that it was cousin Ed's family that had commissioned Dr. Albert D. Bell to compile that genealogical treasure, Bass Families of the South. That amazing book contained, along with much other Bass data, information about the Nansemond Indians and their Bass linage. Ed told me when we first met that we were somehow descended from that marriage of John Basse to Keziah Elizabeth. At that moment, I knew in my heart that I would not rest until I had proven and claimed that wonderful heritage. I purchased another genealogical book, The Bass Family of Black Creek NC by Albert Bass, Sr. and Jr. Many days were spent in the courthouses of North Carolina and in the State Archive in Raleigh. I began to gather the needed documentation--- wills, deeds, birth and death certificates, marriage bonds and other important papers. I knew I needed to link, with hard fact, each generation one to the other. Toward the end of 1996, I felt that I had finally amassed the needed proof. The problem then became how to assemble and present it. Just handing over a five-pound box of documents could easily overwhelm even the most diligent and devoted genealogist.

I finally settled on the idea of presenting my linage and the proof thereon in book form. A large three-ring note book separated into sections. One section for each generation, with that generation's Pedigree Charts and all other pertinent data safely ensconced in glare-proof clear sheets. The wills and other old documents that were hard to read, either because of fading or the flourish of the Old English type of handwriting, I made legible by typing these documents double spaced so I could insert notes and call attention to the names I was trying to bring to the forefront in order to establish that particular link. Although this typing procedure was time consuming, it helped me to make the connections of the generations more apparent. I then inserted these legibly typed copies along with the originals into the proper sections. Each generation's section also contained a Family Group Record with the names of the father, mother and all children born of that union. I then highlighted the child thereon that was my direct line.

When finally completed, my book weighed close to five pounds. I felt such pride and a deep sense of fulfilment in knowing that I had rescued long forgotten, or here-to-fore unknown to me, relatives from the dark recesses of time. In my heart and mind they now lived again as distinct personalities. Through the study of documents I was able to piece together both the small and large events of their lives. I learned of their economic status by reading wills. Many times I would suddenly be overwhelmed by the thought that was it not for these ancestors I would not even exist! In my heart I said a silent thank-you.

The postal clerk took my package, weighed and stamped it, and on its way it went via certified mail. I later agonized that I may have left something important out. Or perhaps put too much in? Was I correct on all those dates? How did I ever think I could go that far back in time. and still be able to prove my linage and be accepted into the Nansemond Tribe. As the days snailed past and three months had elapsed my hopes began to falter. On the bright cold morning of February 12, 1997, I was at the breakfast table when the phone rang. My husband answered it and handed it to me saying in a soft whisper, " It's"Wind Song." I knew that this was my answer be it yea or nay! My heart leapt as I heard her voice telling me that I had been accepted. My documentation had been found to be valid in every regard. Oh, the rush of joy I felt! I was to be received into the Nansemond Tribe by voice vote at their next meeting . (.Note: "Wind Song" is herself a birthright member of the Nansemond Indian Tribe and the tribal genealogist.)

The much awaited day finally arrived. The meeting, with Chief Barry W."Big Buck" Bass presiding, was held in the Indiana United Methodist Church in Bowers Hill, Chesapeake, Virginia. That church was, many years ago, an Indian mission and later an Indian school. I was duly voted in and chose Gray Dove as my tribal name. I had become a proud birthright member of the Nansemond Indian Tribe. All of my fellow tribesmen, as did I, descended from that 1638 marriage . . . a marriage that took place so very long ago and yet only yesterday. This special genealogical journey was now complete. I had come full circle. The precious past had now become an important part of my future.

I have listed below some sources of information to aid those wishing to study and learn more about the Powhatan Indians of Virginia.

1. Pocahontas's People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through four Centuries By Helen Rountree.

University of Oklahoma Press

2. The Powhatan Indians of Virginia: Their Traditional Culture By Helen Rountree

University of Oklahoma

The Journey >

Birthright member of the Nansemond Indian Tribe.


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