Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Did Your Ancestor Provide Services to a President?

Finding A Presidential Connection
George Washington Papers, LOC
Those on a President's political staff or even on the household staff were not the only one's who served the Presidents.  There were favored dressmakers, barbers, and other skilled persons who were documented in newspaper articles, presidential papers, journals and diaries. Have you checked for your ancestor?

One of the a3genealogy brainstorming games we play to bring down colonial and Revolutionary war era brick walls is entitled "6 Generations of George Washington." How was this ancestor associated with Washington? But a relationship can often be highlighted with our ancestor's and any era-specific President, especially if your ancestor resided in the same region, state, or community. Of course, sometimes, the relationship can be quite obscure, subjective, and unfounded and best kept as a game. 

Where to Start - Crossed Paths
Of course not all of our ancestor's were favored tailors, barbers, or vitners of a President, but many researchers overlook the possibility.  A good place to start is by creating a timeline: could paths have crossed?

William Florville - A Barber
Young Abe and William Florville crossed paaths in a wooded area. This chance meeting created a life long relationship. Even President Lincoln had to control his thick head of curls and needed to groom his beard and the barber Billy was just the person for the job.

William Florville (Fleurville), a free-Haitian, was Lincoln's barber for 24 years.  Florville's Barbershop was a "loitering" spot for Lincoln and other political members.

Springfield, IL Street Plaque
More information on Willaim Florville and President Lincoln can be found at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library (Illinois Preservation Society). Other ancestral discoveries may be made among the stacks at the various Presidential libraries. You may find correspondence and confirm ancestral relations associated with a President.

Political Movements and Campaigns
Be sure to create a timeline of your ancestor's residence during Presidential elections.  The local newspapers are usually a-buzz on activities of local political parties and Presidential supports.  War time elections produced a surge of local interests pieces in the newspapers, many naming citizens by name.

In Rutherford, NC, much was found on J.B. Carson, the editor of the Rutherford Star, a leader in the Civil War era Republican party.  As much was written on the Democratic leader, Randolph Shotwell in the Western Vindicator of  Rutherford.  But the news did not stop there.  The Rutherford Star and the Western Vindicator used their white-space as warfare.

Over the 1864-1868 period, articles were splattered regarding those involved in the  Lincoln party as well as Lincoln's opponents of the Democratic party, even naming  active and supportive members of the Ku Klux Klan who pledged their allegiance to the party.  Perhaps your ancestor was one of the infamous arrested in the KKK raid of 1869.

A Political Campaign
The Abraham Lincoln Council Union League of America (ALCULA) followers, like Wiley (Tobe) Morris, led committees in towns across America to gain supports even in the south.  In the Rutherford Star, a list of organizers led me to locating ancestor's and extended family members thought to have left the area. 

African Americans and Presidential Service
Like Florville other African Americans also played a role serving presidents allowing researchers to discover unknown information on their ancestors.  In a recent visit to Springfield Illinois I discovered the Elizabeth Keckley who contributed to the life of Mary Todd Lincoln (exhibit at The Lincoln Museum and Library). 

The National Archives Archives.gov featured the dress maker Ann Lowe, "who had designed gowns for the matrons of high society families" including that of Jacqueline Bouvier.
E. Keckley, LOC

Elizabeth Keckley - A DressMaker
Mary (Todd) Lincoln, a socialite and southern belle, surely needed dresses designed, tailored, and made for conversation.  Her dressmaker and confidant through the years was Elizabeth Keckley, African American.  More can be leard from the Documenting the American South Series.

Ann Lowe - A Dress Maker
Jacqueline Bouvier’s ivory 50 yards of ivory silk taffeta silk wedding gown was draped and designed by Ann Lowe, an African-American dress-maker born in Grayton, Alabama required and took more than two months to make.

Hope you find a Presidential Connection
Kathleen Brandt
a3Genealogy@gmail.com

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