Way Back Wednesday: What Ethnicity Was Ozro Bales? –
My great-great-grandfather Ozro Bales was born to parents who trace their documented lines back to England or Ireland. His parents appear to be Caucasian as expected according to all of the lines I’ve been able to follow, and yet Ozro appears to have something other than Caucasian showing in his features and skin tone. That leaves us wondering what ethnicity was Ozro Bales?
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You met Ozro in prior posts Ozro Bales Driving a Buggy Fast and Bales and Others at Carlos, Indiana. You can see his aunts, uncles, cousins, sibling, parents, and very old grandmother in John & Nancy McMullen Bales Reunion 1896. His parents, sister, nieces, wife, and some of his children were featured in J H Bales – Butter, Eggs, and Poultry Wagon.
As stated in prior posts, Ozro Francis Bales was born in 1872 in Randolph County, Indiana. He spent his entire life in Randolph County. His grandfather, John Bales, came to nearby Dalton, Wayne County, Indiana as a young man. He later ended up with a farm near Bloomingport, Randolph County, Indiana. Ozro’s father, John Henry Bales, also lived his life in Randolph County, Indiana.
All Documented Lines Suggest the British Isles
The Bales line traces its emigration to a ship called the Griffin that sailed from England in 1675. That ship may have picked up passengers in Ireland on the way to America because many of these Quaker lines had fled to Ireland when the Church of England began heavily persecuting Quakers. Fortunately, the Quakers kept great genealogical records, and the Bales line is well documented. All documentation that I have come across supports a lineage that is predominantly English or Irish.
Detailed information about this Bales line can be found in We Pass the Words Along by Miriam Halbert Bales. The book is out of print, but you can sometimes find used copies.
Ozro’s mother was a Batchelor (sometimes appearing as Bachelor or various spellings). Her father, William Batchelor, died at a relatively young age, and her mother, Sarah (Chamness) Batchelor, later married William Britt. Interestingly enough, at one point, Sarah (Chamness) and William Britt can be found living on a property that is just diagonal across the field from my house.
The Batchelor’s were also a family that had been in Randolph County for a while, and they seem to also trace their lineage back to England. The Chamness line is another well-documented Quaker line. If the internet is to be trusted the Chamness in America go back to a little Anthony Chamness who was either snatched up by kidnappers while he was innocently playing along the banks of the Thames River, or he was indentured by his own parents and sent on a ship to America as a very young boy. Some papers of indentureship have surfaced that seem to support the latter.
Perhaps there is some truth to the playing along the banks of the river story as well, since it seems to have been handed down through oral family history in that line. He may have been playing along the banks of the Thames when someone approached the young boy or his parents about indenturing him. Who knows? Regardless, the papers of indentureship list him as 15, but his birthdate would make him around 12, so somebody likely lied to indenture him.
Someone has a fairly detailed account of this Chamness line on WikiTree. As always, you can’t trust everything on the internet, so you need to do your own research in original source documents to verify the truth, but it’s a fun read anyway. Several of the step-children married each other (there were second and third marriages due to the deaths of spouses). My great-great-great-great-grandmother Sarah Chamness comes from the line of Rachel Williams, who at 23 married her 15-year-old step-brother, Joshua Chamness.
All of these lines were predominately from the British Isles, and most of the pictures I have include subjects who appear to be from the British Isles. However, every once in a while, in the middle of all these pale-skinned relatives, someone with the looks of Ozro Bales enters the mix. So what ethnicity are the features of Ozro Bales?
Ambiguous Features Lead to Hundreds of Guesses
I posted the picture from above in a very large Facebook group (about 20,000 members worldwide) hoping to get input from a variety of people who held no preconceived notions of the answer. Without telling anything about the photo or how I came by it, I asked for people to give their thoughts on his heritage. I was in the van on my way to Tennessee for Spring Break when I posted it, and I expected to get a few people weighing in with their most educated guesses.
Within 24 hours, I had something like 700 comments which meant my phone was blowing up with notifications most of the vacation. People suggested his lineage was from Egypt, Spain, Mexico, Russia, Australia, Native America, Venezuela, India, Africa, Austria, Portugal, France, Italy, and many, many more. Basically, the comments included every continent and every country, except Antarctica. And quite honestly, any one of them might be correct.
I posted the following graphic representation of the lineage I was able to trace through pictures, and several people suggested he must be adopted, or the parentage must be in question. I realize that questionable parentage could always be a possibility, but I do not believe that to be the case here. I believe his parents were absolutely his biological parents.
Could He Be Adopted or of Mistaken Parentage?
For one, my grandpa knew his grandfather, and he never expressed any doubt about his parentage. He did cast doubt on the parentage of some other relatives. He told me about his grandfather on his mother’s side who married a woman and then found out on his wedding night that she was pregnant, and the baby might be his or his brother’s, so he climbed out the window, and never went back to her. He then married my great-great-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth (Noggle) Clark. He also told me about the secret child his own father had at some point.
If my grandpa had held any doubts about Ozro’s parentage, I’m sure he would have expressed those at some point. We talked about Ozro frequently. My grandpa did not seem to consider Ozro’s very dark skin and features that were different than most in his line to be a big deal. His own father’s skin was extremely dark, even though most of his siblings were pale.
It’s also worth noting that Ozro has many physical similarities to his father’s line, even though his skin tone and features are very different from his own father’s. He has the same eyes as his father’s brother. One of his nieces looks very much like him making me fairly certain he was not adopted because his sister was surely his biological sister for the niece to look more like Ozro.
You can see those similarities to others in his father’s Bales line here:
What Is the Origin of These Physical Characteristics?
This only leaves us to conclude that somewhere in the Bales line there are darker skinned genes that show up periodically. These likely entered through one of the maternal lines, since the paternal line seems to go back to England, and most of the Baleses appear very Caucasian. Maternal lines are more difficult to trace due to the surname changes.
Some asked why it even matters. It was an accusatory question which was unwarranted. It matters because genealogists want to know their heritage. Genealogists are curious. It’s interesting. In the middle of a line that is showing nothing but English, English, Irish, English, and so on, it’s exciting to find something that might be more exotic. It matters because whatever ethnic features may be showing through here, this my lineage. And really, aren’t you all just a little bit curious about how those parents gave birth to a son who looks like this? Genetics can be a funny science sometimes.
Among the responses to the Facebook post, I did receive some interesting suggestions that may shine some light on the heritage we see in the physical features of Ozro Bales. Some mentioned a word that was completely foreign to me, but upon further investigation, I believe they were the closest to the truth.
You’ll have to wait until next week to find out my best theory on the heritage of Ozro Francis Bales! I’ll also be sharing the link to a fun app that lets you enter a picture, and it will supposedly tell you your genetic makeup based on facial features.
In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on the ethnicity of Ozro Francis Bales. What heritage do you see in his features? What nationality does he most closely resemble?
Further research on this matter is now available in my post Could My Ancestor Have Been One of the Mysterious Melungeons?
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