When words matter

A few days ago, the Royall House and Slave Quarters posted this on their Facebook page: “Language matters…we very intentionally avoid certain terms — master, slave, owned — that we believe falsely describe these people and their relationships. Mastery can be earned, but it can’t be bought. Enslavement is a condition forced upon people, not one that defines them.”

I have thought about this a lot since I first saw the post. What terms do we use that force our ancestors into certain categories? Do we use derogatory terms, without or without know they were offensive, when describing our ancestors?

When I first started researching my Loyalist ancestor Thomas Sumner I posted something on Facebook about my Tory ancestor. While I vaguely knew the term was derogatory, I didn’t really think much about it until one of my Facebook friends firmly but nicely corrected me and told me how proud she was of all her Loyalist ancestors and how in Canada they are heroes. I have never used the term Tory to describe him since then because he deserves so much better than that. He deserves to be described in positive terms.

What terms do you use, or you have used in the past, that should be replaced with more accurate descriptions?


About bridgingthepast

Welcome to Bridging the Past. We help genealogists connect to their colonial New England ancestors by sharing with them information about the lives of their ancestors. What did they eat? What did they wear? What was a typical day like? Did my ancestor fight in a war? What was life like for that ancestor, and for the loved ones he left at home? Why did they move? Was it part of a larger movement? By answering these questions, and many more, you can bring your ancestors to life and feel closer to them. We design lectures to answer these questions and give genealogists the tools and resources to personally connect with their ancestors by fleshing out the lives of their ancestors so they are more than names, dates and places on a piece of paper.
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