Jeanette, my first cousin three times removed (in other words-my great-grandmother’s first cousin), was born in Norfolk, Virginia on April 5, 1915 to James Minnis Harrison, Esq., and his wife, the former Louise Wright, of Goldsboro, North Carolina. James was a prominent Norfolk attorney and Louise was a 1906 graduate of Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College).
Jeanette also attended Scotia Seminary as a high school student. After earning her undergraduate and a masters degree at Virginia State University, Jeanette went on to become a John Hays Fellow in the Humanities at Columbia University. Later on, she became an adjunct professor at Hampton University. Jeanette taught English and Humanities at Bethel and Phenix City High Schools in Hampton, Virginia for thirty-seven years.
She and husband, Robert Anderson, reared two children.
In addition to being a wife, mother, educator, and very involved member of the Hampton community, Jeanette was keeper of Harrison family oral history.
The oral tradition, as shared with me in 2011 by a fellow Harrison cousin who heard this information directly from Jeanette, is that our family is related to William Henry Harrison, the ninth president of the United States. Jeanette passed this oral history on by ways of stories of the Harrison family. “She tied our family back to William Harrison,” was what I was told. “Our Harrison ancestors lived on the Harrison estate and were given the Harrison name…”
DNA testing among a number of my Harrison cousins and myself has revealed that in addition to the Harrison name, the Harrison sanguis was also “given.” Before DNA testing however, Jeanette deeply believed that she could see a family resemblance by looking at William Henry Harrison’s portraits, my cousin offered.
What a history to share.
Sadly, Jeanette passed away in 2012. Doubly sad, I was never to meet her and hear first hand of the oral traditions that she held and shared.
In Jeanette’s honor, we search to “confirm,” as best we can, and reclaim our total Harrison history. In future posts, I will share what we have come to know and where we are going with our search.
In the interim, may these words resound in loving memory of Jeanette Harrison Anderson, Keeper of Legacy.