Welcome to Magruder’s Landing, where all are welcome to come ashore.
I am an 11th generation descendant of Alexander Magruder / McGruder / McGruther, a Scotsman transported to Maryland in the 1650s as a prisoner of war and indentured servant. I have been researching Alexander’s life, times, and legacy for more than 20 years and maintain this site in order to share what I know and find others with like interests.
You can see the range of my curiosities by running your cursor over the links that appear under the header. Some of those pages have not yet been written, but they will be (really: I’ve retired, so there’s hope!). The site is also searchable–just click on the small magnifying glass at the top of any page. (If only historical searches were that easy!)
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Yet historical truths are rarely rooted in either shortcuts or comfort.
–Elizabeth Shown Mills
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In my professional life, I am a writer and retired university professor. This experience makes me value “hard” sources, documentation, and corroboration; but there are many kinds of truth, and I also respect oral history, family stories, and legends. (There are plenty of legends about Alexander himself, just for starters.) Often, we can learn from asking why and how different kinds of truth disagree, and how different pieces of information do or don’t add up. When we can’t corroborate, how can we weigh what we know and put together the pieces to construct a glimpse of the past? Official records are not always accurate–sometimes they are intentionally deceiving, sometimes just sloppy or incomplete. At the same time, few among us have not had the experience of discovering that some treasured story handed down from grandmothers and grandfathers is balderdash. And then what? Is there something that story was meant to cover up? These are the kinds of questions I asked in private for 20 years. Now I ask them here, making my discoveries (and my mistakes) in public.
So don’t be offended if what I write here contradicts what you have been told. Share your stories and we’ll see where the contradictions lead us—perhaps to an insight none of us could have reached on our own.
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In the old books, the blood lines of good and evil are the same.
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Alexander began his American sojourn in indentured servitude.
Once out of bondage, he became a wealthy man, owning as much as 2400 acres of farm and woodland, as well as the tobacco landing (shipping point) for which this blog is named. One of my first motivations for researching his life was the realization that all that land had previously belonged to the Patuxent and Piscataway people. Alexander was an original displacer of Native Americans in Maryland, and that is part of our Magruder heritage.
Not long after that realization, I read the inventory of Alexander’s estate and learned that he owned a slave–one man negro named Sambo–which also changed my ideas about what it means to be an American Magruder. Before that, though I knew that some of my ancestors owned slaves I had not realized just how deep and how far back our crime of slavery went. My direct Magruder ancestors owned slaves at least until 1842; most others owned slaves until Emancipation. Either way, Magruders were deeply involved from the very beginning of chattel slavery to its bitter end.
As a descendant of this heritage I acknowledge the utter evil of slavery, and the personal and cultural harm it did, in different ways, to all of us. It is imperative that we recognize not only the cruelty of slavery and the greed that underlaid it, but its role in our national history–the survival of our nation in its earliest years, the rapid expansion of the American economy, and the development of international capitalism. Slavery is not a quaint relic of the past, but a major underpinning of our history that continues to shape our society today.
We Magruder descendants are lucky: much is known about our ancestry and many of us know our personal genealogies right back to Alexander. This provides us with a strong sense of history and community. I also think of myself as related to the descendants of people my ancestors enslaved—possibly by blood, and certainly by our families’ shared and painful history. I hope this site will help bring us together to enlarge our knowledge of who we are.
For all with Magruder connections, I hope you’ll find something old, something new, and something unexpected at Magruder’s Landing.
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Comments and discussion always welcome. Flaming, abusive, or irrelevant comments won’t be published. If you send an email and want your communication to remain private, please make that clear. If you send an email and want me to post about it, please make that clear as well.
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Please note that this is not a genealogy site, nor am I a genealogist. I’m happy to make suggestions as to how you might research your line, but there is no space here for an ongoing genealogical forum.
Links in the sidebar will take you to Magruder pages on a number of genealogy sites. Though you can’t assume all family lines posted there are accurate–the person who posted them may not know any more than you do–you can use them as a place to begin. Check to see if sources are cited, and check the quality of the sources. If citation is sloppy or absent, or if the sources look like they could be just another form of hearsay, go straight to primary sources, such as census, marriage and death records, military records, manumission records, Freedman’s Bank, and newspaper archives.
I particularly recommend that you join the Magruder/McGruder Family Genealogy Group on Facebook, where you can find some friends and get some help and advice.
If you are an African American Magruder, or descended from a family with a different name who was or may have been enslaved by white Magruders, please write to me. I have more information than I have time to summarize and post, nearly all of it from Maryland (especially Prince George’s County) and Washington, DC. Keep in mind that all Magruders (and many, though not all, McGruders) in all parts of the country are descended from Magruders in Maryland, so we might be able to trace your family connections back from other states to a point where it intersects with information I have or can find. I look forward to helping in any way I can–and the more detail you provide the better the odds. Full names, dates, names of farms–whatever you have. I also hope to learn from you, from your research and your family stories and traditions.
If you are seeking help, rather than just commenting on something I’ve posted, please use the Contact tab (at the top of every page) to send me an email. It’s difficult for me to help you if you post your request as a comment.