Warren also asserts that her parents had to elope because of hostility from her father’s family to her mother’s Cherokee and Delaware ancestry. This anti-Indian sentiment from her father’s family was so severe that it lasted, according to Warren, throughout the marriage and “it was an issue still raised at my mother’s funeral.”
As far as I can tell, none of Warren’s family members has stepped forward publicly to support her claims of Native American ancestry or even to back up the family lore.
At no point since the controversy broke in late April 2012 has Warren indicated that a family member conducted genealogical research or that she previously was aware of genealogical evidence contradicting her alleged family lore. Time and again Warren says she never asked her parents for documentation.
Yet the way in which Warren framed that defense — what kid asks her parents for documentation as her website Truth Team section says — always struck me as oddly focused on a non-issue, what Warren believed as a child. What is important is what Warren believed and represented as an adult.
Were we to believe that this women driven by data in her professional life never thought to inquire as an adult as to the genealogy which so much was a part of her self-identification? Would Warren never herself, or through a family member or others, at least attempt to verify the alleged Native American ancestry?
It turns out a close relative of Warren, her nephew, actually did research the family genealogy a decade before Warren’s Senate run.
Mark Hayne Herring, currently approximately 50 years old, is the son of Warren’s brother John Hayne Herring, and the grandson of Warren’s parents, Don Herring and Pauline Reed Herring.
Starting not later than 2002, Mark Herring was active on Genealogy.com, a public genealogical posting board. Based on his posts, it appears he already had started researching by the time he started posting.
In one post, Mark Herring referenced his “Aunt Bee,” apparently the same person Warren has referenced as talking about Warren’s “pappaw” having high cheekbones.
Mark Herring, though, dug much deeper on each side of his family, including the Roper line on his mother’s side, and the Herring and Reed lines on his father’s side. He followed the Reed line, that of his grandmother and Warren’s mother, back to the 1800s, and looked for any evidence of the genealogy of those living in Indian Territory.
Yet nowhere in his recitation of the Reed family line in many posts at Genealogy.com does Mark Herring purport to document any Native American ancestry.
To the contrary, Mark Herring referred to the possibility of Indian ancestry only as a rumor. On May 5, 2002, on a Reed Family Genealogical Forum, Mark Herring posted the following question to another person:
“Were any of your Reeds Native American? It has been rumored that some of ours were.”
The lack of any proof in Mark Herring’s postings that his grandmother (Warren’s mother) was Native American was consistent with the abundant evidence documented by Cherokee genealogist Twila Barnes, including numerous census entries listing Warren’s mother (Pauline Reed Herring) as White and her death certificate which also listed her as White. Her sister, Aunt Bee, also was listed as White by Warren herself on the death certificate.
At the time of his grandmother’s (Warren’s mother’s) death in 1995, Mark Herring would have been approximately 33 years old. It is hard to believe that had the family been so torn apart by his grandmother’s (Warren’s mother’s) Native American ancestry, including problems related to the funeral, that Mark Herring would have referred to that ancestry as a rumor.
Certainly, with the supposedly divisive Native American family dispute so much a part of who the family was and how his grandparents lived and died, one would have expected Mark Herring to share the results of his genealogical research with the family in 2002 if not earlier.
Did Mark Herring share the results of his research with others in the family? Mark Herring did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
What did Warren know about a relative having researched the genealogy, and when did she know it? Warren’s Press Secretary Alethea Harney has not responsed to an e-mail asking those very questions.
Elizabeth Warren has erected a seemingly impenetrable wall of family lore. No matter what the genealogical fact, Warren simply states that being Native American is who her family was and who she is now.
Warren also uses this lore to deflect charges by Native Americans that she committed ethnic fraud by filling out law faculty directory forms as Native American, reporting herself as Native American to the federal government through Harvard and Penn law schools, and listing herself as a Woman of Color in Academia.
At least by 2002, one of her relatives who was in a position to know, her brother’s son, didn’t refer to Native American ancestry as family lore, or a part of who his family was. It was just rumor.
When Warren repackaged those rumors as a personal racial narrative for professional purposes, and later as family lore after the controversy broke in her Senate campaign, Warren should have known better. And maybe she actually did.