Last updated: April 10, 2015
Author Ruth Ann Hager sheds new light on many aspects of the Dred Scott family in her recent book, Dred & Harriet Scott: Their Family Story. Hager, a certified genealogist and genealogical lecturer, works at the St. Louis County Library as a genealogical specialist and is clearly motivated by her subject material.
The author explains early on that there is very little solid information that we know about the Scotts. Very little of what we know of them can be described, as she says, "to the point of proof beyond a shadow of a doubt." Yet the author digs deep into their history and comes up with many interesting finds along the way. In this reader's opinion, all of the conclusions drawn by Hager are based on sound and coherent research. Through her exhaustive review of public records and interviews with several Scott descendants, Hager connects a lot of dots that help put some of the parts of the Scott family history into focus.
One of the most interesting stories she uncovers concerns the Scott's youngest daughter Lizzie, later known as Lizzie Marshall. Hager cannot prove that Lizzie is the Scott's daughter- but her research and the details she presents certainly lead the reader to deduce this. Through interviews with family members and from public records, Hager uncovers many interesting facts and stories about Lizzie that have never been discussed in print before. In the 1930s, when she was in her eighties, Lizzie helped many of the Scott family descendants through hard times, walking several miles a day to assist with family chores and child care. Hager states that she kept her true identity secret to most of the world, including her family, who knew her simply as Aunt Lizzie. Her secrecy arose from being a part of the Scott family and the crushing notoriety of that case. According to reports, Lizzie and her sister Eliza lived in seclusion during part of their childhood years. As an elderly woman she was still concerned about her past and lived in a small house with heavy curtains that were always drawn.
Lizzie Marshall died at around the age of 99 in Homer G. Phillips Hospital in December 1945. At the time of her death, Hager states, no one probably suspected that this woman could be the daughter of Dred and Harriet Scott. She was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, the same resting place as Harriet Scott.
Hager's book is filled with reproductions of public records, maps and other genealogical treasures from the Scott family. Any reader interested in the history of slavery or the Scotts should find this a fascinating and enlightening book. It opens up entire new ways of thinking about the Scotts and their descendants.