Was Ellen White Black ?

   1Ti 1:4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

In 1999 the book, The Genealogy of Ellen Gould Harmon White, was published. Charles Edward Dudley, Sr., for many years a regional conference president, is the author.

The book claims that Ellen White had African-American ancestry. If that were true, it would not really matter; for Advent believers, whether black or white, are fine folk.

Indeed, when a person is truly converted, regardless of national or racial origin, he or she becomes a changed person. But, apart from Christ, all of us are sunken in sin and in desperate need of help. Race is not the problem in this world; it is sin and mankind's need of a Saviour.

But, briefly, it would be well to turn our attention to Dudley's claim. Was Ellen White of black descent? If so, we have right to expect that Dudley's book will contain the evidence. Yet the evidence is lacking.

Dudley bases his argument on the fact that some blacks who lived in New Jersey, over a century ago, were surnamed Gould. But he provides no evidence that there is any direct connection between those Goulds and the Eunice Gould who was Ellen's mother.

Dudley claims that his theory must be right, since no research has ever been made as to the ancestry of Ellen's mother. That is an intriguing argument. If there is no evidence that Ellen's ancestry is not black, then it must be black.

However, on this point Dudley is wrong. A careful, indepth research study of the genealogy of Ellen's mother has been done. The research was done over twenty years before Dudley wrote his book; so the results were surely available to him.

In the 1970s, the Ellen G. White Estate went to a qualified, experienced, licensed genealogical researcher and asked her to conduct such a research study. I have noticed that, on a number of occasions, Mormons are glad to cause trouble for us. So, because she was a Mormon, it would be expected that she would not be likely to provide favorable data, unless that was all that was available.

This researcher had, at her disposal, the vast genealogical resources of the Mormon Church. Because it is one of their strange doctrines, Mormons are anxious to baptize for their dead relatives; so they can be saved and taken to heaven. The primary center in America where this genealogical research is conducted is in Washington, D.C. This is because the Library of Congress has the largest database. Over the years, the Mormons have used it extensively and compiled an immense collection of genealogical records.

The assignment was to trace Ellen White's ancestry back through all lines, as far as the records extend. The research made use of a complete collection of both whites and blacks, and extend all the way back to Europe, Africa, and elsewhere.

The researcher not only traced Ellen White's ancestry, but she provided photocopies of original documents to support her work. A chart that shows the result of this research has been on sale at all E.G. White Estate offices for over twenty years.

Charles Dudley claims that he made use of E.G. White Estate records. If so, he surely had opportunity to learn about that genealogical research.

At any rate, that Mormon researcher clearly established that Ellen White had no black ancestors. It would have been fine if it had been true, but there was no connection.

Dudley says that, because of her flattened nose, Ellen White had to be black. But you will recall that Ellen was not born with a flattened nose, and her parents and siblings did not have flattened noses.

When Ellen was still a child, her parents moved from their home north of Gorham, Maine, into Portland to a home they purchased at 44 Clark Street, where Robert Harmon engaged in hatmaking. Ellen was a cheerful, buoyant, active child. At the age of 9, while returning home one afternoon from the public school on Brackett Street, an angry girl behind her threw a stone. Just as Ellen turned around to look, it struck her squarely on her nose, shattering the bone that held it extended. For two years, she was unable to breathe through her nose.

So the only evidence that Ellen may have had African-American ancestors was the existence of a family with that name, living 250 miles away (as the crow flies) in New Jersey. There is no evidence that any of Ellen's forebears ever lived in New Jersey.

Other problems with Dudley's book indicate a broad lack of careful research on his part. Regarding Ellen's grandchildren, Dudley says that Grace married John Gawks. But his name was Jacques. I personally met them both, and he was French (Gawks is not a French name). Dudley says that Arthur married Fried Swingle. But her actual name was Frieda.

Arthur's brother was named Francis -but Dudley assumed that Francis was a girl and said she married someone named Richard Rub! Such errors are astounding for a book which is supposed to be an accurate record of genealogical relationships! If Dudley did not get Ellen's descendants right, how can we expect that he got her ancestors right?

In addition, some of the works cited in the text are not listed in the references at the back of the book. "Records of the Ellen G. White Estate" is often cited as the source for data. But, checking with those records reveals that frequently no such data exists.

In the book, Dudley thanks the E.G. White Estate for their help; yet there is no evidence that anyone with genealogical or historical training-white or black-ever read or approved the final manuscript.

Dudley says that Ellen's mother "was a mulatto." If that is so, then the evidence for Ellen's black ancestry would be only two generations earlier. Yet the evidence does not exist. The SDA Encyclopedia says, "Her parents, Robert Harmon and Eunice Gould Harmon, were of sturdy New England stock with British ancestry" (1976 ed., Vol. 10, p. 1584; 1996 ed., Vol. 11, p. 873).