a3Genealogy - Accurate, Accessible Answers - specializes in military, naturalization records, Native American and African American ancestry. The a3Gen blog is penned by Kathleen Brandt, an international genealogy consultant, speaker and writer. a3Gen clients span from Europe, Asia and Africa to the Americas.
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 -
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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, Professional Genealogist