The Tom-and-Sally Miniseries (Cont.)
Rallying around the Founding Father
The nine-month factor. A Monticello historian, Cinder Stanton, who has examined Jefferson documents for two decades, can categorically place Randolph at Monticello only three times between 1790 and 1815. How about the report that Isham was reared at Monticello? "A couple of Randolph's sons turn up occasionally," Stanton says, "but I have never seen a reference to Isham." On the other hand, she adds, records put Thomas Jefferson at Monticello nine months before each Hemings birth.
Stanton sees other "persuasive" factors pointing to Jefferson: similar oral histories by separate lines of Hemings kin, Eston Hemings's "striking resemblance" to the president, and the fact that the only slave family he ever freed comprised Hemings's children.
In coming months, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, which runs Monticello, will redefine its position. Foundation President Daniel Jordan, who had deemed the Tom-and-Sally story unlikely, has fellow historians, including Stanton, re-evaluating evidence, such as Nature's report and the claims of Barger and others. Those claims are mostly new. Before the DNA study, no one seemed to suspect any Jefferson but Thomas.
Monticello's report, Jordan predicts, will be thorough, but it won't settle every question. "It will never add up to 100 percent, but if it adds up to 85 percent, you can say the weight of evidence is this or that."