Friday, April 30, 2010

Slaves were Immigrants Too

Finding Your Slave Ancestor

Jim Ison, of Family Search, gave one of the most informative lectures at the NGS Conference assisting descendants of slaves in finding their ancestors. Ison used statistics to show Migration Patterns: An Alternative for Locating African Origins.
Using social history, economics and crop trends, Ison substantiated the migration patterns of transporting slaves prior to the Civil War and the patterns of ex-slave movement after the War. Charts were provided to distinguish percentage distributions throughout the states, therefore giving researchers a place to start their pre-1870 searches.

For example, slaves living in Alabama or Kentucky, entered the States through one of the familiar port entries of the Northern States, Virginia/Maryland, South Carolina/Georgia, Gulf Louisiana or American Colonies. This information is further specified by migration periods between 1626 and 1810. As we know, slave import was illegal as early as 1808 (even though it still continued), most of the slave trade after 1808 was internal (1810-1860,) between states and persons.

By using, Ison showed how to perform a specific no-name search to understand population migrations, especially after the Civil War. This method allows the researchers to see trends of migrations for that allusive emancipated slave within years after the Civil War. This is where Elizabeth Shown Mills theory of expanding your search to Friends, Associates, and Neighbors (FANS) of your ancestor comes into play. Don’t search for your slave ancestor in a box. Take FANS along, as they probably migrated across America in familiar groups.

The goal is for the researcher to get closer to an ancestor’s entry into the USA. Although Ellis Island is not a frequent entry point for African American ancestors, they still entered into the colonies or States via ships. There was still a point of entry, and most were documented even if they arrived prior to 1808. Prior to using the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database Voyages homework must be completed. The first key is to pinpoint a general locale of your ancestor’s port of entry. Once identified using the search methods above, then matching ship records and local records will help you discern your their ship record and country of origin.

For more information, Ison suggests we read Ira Berlin’s "Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America" and Phillip Curtin’s "The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census." Then, venture to books and articles on the slave trade in your ancestor’s specific region.

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How to Find Poor Ancestors!

They Didn’t Own Land

Recently in assisting descendants of James Case from Missouri it was clear the internet and database had been exhausted.  Poor James Case did not own land, but had a large family.  His widow remarried but he was never in the census records with his family. The researchers were a bit disappointed when I informed them that they had not hit a brick wall, but that they needed to begin digging in the “forgettable” documents that records the lives of poor people.  There’s a sleuth of them – not always with the title “Poor People” highlighted, even though Poorhouse Story is easily identifiable.  

The workshop “Tho They Were Poor, They May Have Been Rich in Records” presented by Paula Stuart Warren provided researchers with a list of possible records to search when trying to find that allusive “poor” ancestor. 

Warren encouraged the frustrated researchers to expand their search to the rich-filled minutes, court records and poor relief records that are available, but usually not indexed.  These records are available for the defective, dependent, delinquent and orphans. 

The best place to begin your search for these records is the Family History Library Catalog using the Place Search and filtering by the county/state you are searching; or using the keywords, poor or poorhouses.  

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A Celebration of Family History

Mormon Tabernacle Choir and David McCullough

Worth the price of registration for the National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference was Thursday's An Evening Celebration of Family History. Approximately 20,000 spectators were treated to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and author David McCullough

Recapping the evening would not do it justice, but let's just say, the McCloud Bagpipe group featuring Amazing Grace with that large Choir and Orchestra decked in red robes for the women and red tie suited men, was absolutely brilliant and beautiful. Of course it having ceiling high organ pipes in the background of the LDS Conference Center added to the drama-filled evening. The McCloud Bagpipe group was introduced through a hilarious film featuring the process of embracing one's Scottish heritage through the eyes of a seven year old who announced to his family that he wanted to learn to play the bagpipe. If you're curious as to how the youngster fared, let me tell you that young McCloud, now a father, plays a mean bagpipe as he lead his group in blowing Amazing Grace.

The two hour festivities were sprinkled with short genealogical films threading the theme of "Woven Generations." The evening was co-sponsored by FamilySearch and the Utah Genealogical Association in association with the NGS Conference. To set the tone, this short film used the metaphor of a ball of yard as a tie to our past; followed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra which wooed us with Wayfarin Stranger.

We were treated with short genealogical films.  Letters of Estonia featured a a woman researching her war hero Great-Grandfather; and through her search she found her long-lost Estonian relatives.  There was also a heart-breaking story of  a couple who was infected with leprosy and therefore had to adopt out each of their six children before the age of one years old.  In this film the descendant took us on an emotional search for Emma's tombstone, Searching for Emma, on the island Molokai in  Hawaii during the 1800's.

The keynote speaker, David McCullough, was not overshadowed by the captivating choir and orchestra and riveting short films. On the contrary, he was.... well....David McCullough! Full of historical tidbits intertwined with life's lessons. His books, John Adams and 1776, should be in all historian's personal libraries. Of course, you already know he is a walking encyclopedia and a prolific writer, but he is also an entertaining speaker, and easily linked his closing remarks to a short pride-filled film of Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory narrated by the descendant of Julia Howe. This film honored the roll and support provided by women during the civil war, and with the goose bump deliverance of Martin Luther King, Jr's last speech, it was perfect way to express the immortality of the written word.

With precision and not missing a beat the Choir and Orchestra's tear provoking rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic closed the evening's performance with a well-earned standing ovation.

In addition to those mentioned above, Welcome was delivered by Jay Verkler, CEO Family Search;  Invocation by Reverend France A Davis, Calvary Baptist Church; and a wonder presentation delived by Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, LDS.

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note: this post was updated 4/30/2010 based on MoSop's keen eye.
Thanks MoSop.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Using the Law for Research

Who is John Swagerty?

After a day of papers, processes and researching methodology seminars, I found myself once again in the FHL (Family History Library).  This time on floor 4, with the microfilm rolls.  As usual seminars and workshops get the brain juices going and I had a epiphany …why not look in Cocke County Tennessee, for more on Wiley Morris, born in 1817, and died somewhere before 1877 in Cocke County Tennessee.   I have yet to find his internment, but I was able to narrow his disappearance/demise on this trip to the FHL, using my new found count and state laws matched against available records. 

John Humphrey, who gave a wonderful presentation on Understanding the Process that Creates the Records, tells us to find out our county/state laws of acquiring land, women’s rights, eldest son rights, etc.  What happened if there was no will in that jurisdiction? Humphrey encouraged us to not only expand our research, but to understand the laws of the time. By doing so, I was able to narrow Wiley's death by 4 years. Before, I only knew he died before 1877 [1] .  

What I Already Knew?
1)      Wiley was not in the home in 1880 census
2)      Wife Louisa and son WJ both owned land in Cocke County in 1877
3)      I did not find a land deed of either Louisa or WJ’s purchase, but I did find their sales.
4)  Wife Louisa was assessed taxes in 1871 on land.

What I Didn’t Know?
1)      When did Wiley die?
2)      Did he have a will (none has been found to date)
3)      Did WJ (son) purchase his land  (no deed found as of date)

New Questions based on Wednesday’s Seminars
1)      Was Louisa’s land in1877 tax records the exact same as that which Wiley owned
2)      What were the laws if Wiley died intestate for Cocke County?
3)      What other records could help

Questions Answered Wednesday Evening
From 7:00pm to 9:00 pm, I scoured Cocke County records with a bit more knowledge of Cocke County (albeit, not enough).  And I was able to narrow Wiley’s death as well as uncover a curious new character, John Swagerty.

This visit narrowed the death date of Wiley by four years.  I was able to verify that the two acres wife Louisa lived on was next to John Swagerty.  In the 1871 Land Survey, I found that Wiley and a John Swagerty had 3 acres of land surveyed.  The 1877 Duplicate Tax Records proved Louisa’s land as being the same as Wiley’s based on land description and neighbor names [2]. I must have not found this information, clearly printed in the 1877 Duplicate Tax Record, as important when I researched in 2008.

I now need to broaden my search to John Swagerty. I don’t believe I have seen this name prior to the land survey.   

Well, tonight is set out for me.  After I attend the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Concert, a private concert for me and 20 thousand of my closest genealogical friends and Utahns, I will cross the street and go back to work at the FHL to exhaust every Cocke County microfilm (not that many) to get more clues. I now need to look for a bit more information on John Swagerty and I have 48 hours to learn the laws of Cocke County.

Accurate, Accessible Answers

 [1] Feb 1871, Wiley had his land surveyed in Cocke County and by 1877 in the tax records he was not present, but his wife Louisa and eldest son WJ owned the 3 acres of land.  Cocke County Land Surveys, MR#280282,pgs. 144

[2] Cocke County Duplicate Tax Duplicate, MR#956205.  At this time W.J. had 1 acre (value $50), District 6, and Louisa 2 acres value of $100.00. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In A Cloud of Genealogy

Day 1 NGS Conference 2010 - Cloud Computing and Genealogy

If you have been doing genealogy for awhile, you know that “In a Cloud of Genealogy” could have multiple meanings: 1) It could be the high we are on just for finding the elusive ancestor. 2) It could be the cloud your head is in while maneuvering the throng of people at the NGS Conference – estimated to be around 2500 participants. 3) It could be the clouds hanging over Salt Lake City right now, as snow flakes lightly fall in April. 4) or it could be Cloud Computing.

So as you may remember I told you I was able to test some beta trials yesterday,. Well, the beta I played with yesterday, is being released this week during the NGS Conference: 300 million new records this week alone! Yes, 300 million new records can be searched using the new Beta.

The Historical Records Collections can be searched by Record Type, Date Range, or Region. This collection includes transcriptions of birth, marriages, new European Collection and other regions – births, baptisms, and more. Thanks to the 300,000 index volunteers who have worked on this digitizing project, have assisted with these records being accessed not only from the FHL library microfilm collections, but also by using my PC/mobile device.

Not yet coming off my cloud, having previewed this wonderful beta yesterday, I attended the seminar on Genealogy in a Cloud, by Craig Miller. Miller stressed the importance and advantages of collaborating efforts through the internet by using off-site services like Google Docs. He gave excellent examples of cloud computing being used:,, Family Search Wiki, and of course the Family History Beta. That explains the magic of releasing 300 million new records.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Visiting the Family History Library

Open Minded in Salt Lake City

Genealogists are focused and hit the ground running when they smell the Salt Lake City air.  Everything needed is within about a four block square - food, hotels, tram, Temple and the Family History Library (FHL).  The library is home base for one (but who stays for just one) to several days. 

However, I venture to guess there is more to Salt Lake City (SLC) than the far away mountains, the downtown area, and the Gateway shopping/eating area.  Perhaps, a little adventure in the social bit of the city, may give me a hint as to why this place was not only established but has a stronghold on the reputation of being the genealogist’s Mecca!

My research of Salt Lake City began at the Red Iguana restaurant.  Where did the locals eat?  This popular authentic food, with spicy delicious salsas (I tried 3 types) was a treat. The only issue: I had to pay homage at FHL with a full stomach and a nap was more appealing. But, I was in Salt Lake City, even though I hadn’t carried one file to work on. 

This trip was purely for education.  I’m attending the National Genealogy Society conference for 5 days, and I just want to soak in knowledge – a one way street. Knowledge in, nothing but smiles out. Sure some genealogists actually decided to split their efforts between the conference and research, but I am dedicated to keeping the “intake” of knowledge as my goal. 

I walked into the FHL with nothing in hand but me and a “give it to me attitude.”  And, that is exactly what I received after two hours just on the first floor of the library.  I found a friendly volunteer, who somehow looked bored, with a couple billion or so genealogists clicking away on computers and pulling every book off the shelf.  And, I decided she was mine! We played on the FHL website to explore what I could do onsite that I couldn’t do from home.  And I was able to play with several new trials, and have access to BYU’s genealogy collection.  For the coup de gras, she showed me the pluck and plot map software which was a wonderful tool that gave me the timelines of counties in the USA that changed and altered the boundaries as I clicked through the years.

Ok…now I’m impressed.  More tomorrow on my SLC discovery, but for to bed for my 8AM session. 

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Were Your Ancestors Italian?

Torre le Nocelle, Avellino, Campania, Italy


If you are doing Italian research, especially in Torre le Nocelle, you don’t want to miss The Genealogy of Torre le Nocelle, Italy blog. I was captivated by the About This Blog, where the author explains:

"The intent of this blog is to freely share genealogical information with other Torre researchers. Initially I began with only my direct ancestors. I soon realized, however, that EVERYONE was related to one degree or another and decided it would be easier to document the genealogy of the town as a whole."
It is also claimed in the About This Blog: “I have traced almost every line in Torre back to the early to mid 1600's ... some a little further.” In addition there is a link that provides a list of Torresi Surnames. Specialized blogs like Torre le Nocelle is especially needed if you are applying for Italian Dual Citizenship in need of marriage records or birth certificates, and your ancestors resided in this region.

Although the author claims not to have as much knowledge once these ancestors arrived into the United States, I was able to gleam wonderful cultural and social history of Boston just from the first post I read, by guest writer, Jeff DeSantis, entitled Circolo Operaio Torrese. This post gives us a glimpse of a group of the Torresi immigrant workers who settled in Boston.

One of the more helpful post, Helpful Italian Genealogy Research Links provides about 15 useful links when researching your Italian ancestors.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Were They Slave Masters or Abolitionists?

Involvement of White People in Underground Railroad
Slaves Escaping on the Underground Railroad

Pro-slavery or abolitionists, our ancestors had a stand on the Underground Railroad.  Many records have been saved for social and genealogical research. I wrote a piece on the Underground Railroads and Anti-Slavery Records yesterday in hopes of providing one more resource for African American researchers. But, then I started receiving messages asking was this an entire African American network, or a Quaker network? Was this a secret slave route designed by slaves? How do I know if my ancestor was involved? The answer: Your ancestor may have been involved, even if they had slaves, and even if they weren’t Quakers. This was a united effort that involved slaves, ex-slaves, Quakers (Society of Friends), Unitarians and other religious groups, and anti-slavery persons of all walks, from the southern slave-states to Canada.

But My Ancestor’s Were Not Quakers!
Most of the White people actively involved in the Underground Railroad were Quakers. But the Quakers did not stand alone. The Underground Railroad had supporters not just in Quaker-saturated Pennsylvania, but even in Vermont, there were 89 antislavery societies with over 10,000 members. Twenty one states were involved in the Underground Railroad. You may wish to become familiar with the routes. The best way to do this is to review a states’ Underground Railroad Stations.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has begun a list of biographies of “enslaved and freed Blacks, Whites, native Americans and others” actively involved in this effort. Although some of the surnames are known, the involvement of many whites (to include active women) are not. One such person was progressive Jane Swisshelm, a Scot.

Searching My Family Surnames
We’ve all heard of the ex-slave Harriet Tubman’s heroic position as a Conductor of the Underground Railroad. Conductors guided runaways from one station to the next, and Tubman fulfilled this duty around 15 times (13-19) to lead 300 slaves to freedom.

But what about the other activists - the White abolitionists- who set up Stations, were Agents and Conductors; those who were also vital to the success of the network? We don’t often read of family genealogists who share their ancestor’s stories of involvement.

Levi Coffin, the Quaker noted for assisting over 3000 slaves and who earned the nickname “President of Railroad,” was one of many Quakers who worked the Underground Railroad. The Coffin Station in Newport (Fountain City) Indiana was even the story behind slave Eliza in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Levi and wife Catherine later continued to assist slaves in their Cincinnati home.

Along with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center's  list of names or activists, The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom by William Henry Siebert and  Albert Bushnell Hart, gives us over 3000 surnames; many are the white abolitionists who were Conductors, Agents or Station Masters.

Where Are the Records?
The Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850 and John Brown’s Harper Ferry raid was in 1859. Although the Fugitive Slave Act catapulted the abolitionist movement, John Brown’s capture put Station Masters at risk. The abolitionists, who clearly continued their work, avoided retribution by destroying most of the records detailing passengers, routes and meeting notes with Brown. However, perhaps your ancestor’s journals, names or information can be located within the National Union Catalog of Manuscript. This is the best collection, operated by the Library of Congress, that holds Fugitive journals and network information. Be sure to check for your ancestor.

How to Begin Researching
To research your ancestor’s involvement in the Underground Railroad, begin with a Map of the Routes. Did your ancestor live on the route? Remember, just because your ancestor had slaves, does not exclude their being abolitionists. And, just because they didn’t have slaves doesn’t mean they were supportive of the Underground Railroad. But check.

Were your ancestors residing near the Stations? Check for court cases, slave habits, etc. if your ancestors lived within 30 miles of a station, or along a Route.

Don’t forget to check some of the famous court cases involved.  Did your ancestor attend Oberlin College during the John Price rescue in 1858 at Oberlin-Wellington? Over 35 persons were named in that famous case, many students. In towns like Oberlin, your ancestor probably took one side or the other. Both were named in the more publicized lawsuits as either witnesses or suspects.

Again, court cases also name witnesses pro-slavery or those supporting the Fugitive Slave Act. Why not find out a bit more about your ancestor’s lifestyle and view on the times.

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P.S. The Underground Railroad did not have trains, rails, or tracks, but secret passage routes.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pre-1860 African American Records

Underground Railroads and Anti-Slavery Records

Not Only Runaways Used the Underground Railroads
There’s a misconception that only runaway slaves used the Underground Railroad to escape the south.  Although primarily the Underground Railroad assisted fugitive slaves, it was also used to protect free coloreds - those either never born into slavery, or emancipated slaves - when leaving the south.  The biggest question is why would free-coloreds who almost always carried proof of their status, need protection when moving out of the south?  The answer:  slave traders would often catch free-coloreds migrating north and illegally sell them back into slavery; ignoring their right as a free-citizen.  Therefore, the Underground Railroad was needed to protect free-coloreds too.

The Underground Railroad Records

As early as 1786 the Underground Railroad was in motion.  By 1830 it was operating in over 14 states.[1]  Records were kept by agents of the network and are now preserved in the National Union Catalog of Manuscript collections operated by the Library of Congress.  Also in the NUCMC collection are private records of individual’s Fugitive Journals. This collection should not be overlooked when searching for free-colored or fugitive slaves that settle in the north, Canada or Midwest prior to the civil war, as they are often detailed with names, origin and destinations, descriptions of family units or groups. 

Anti-Slavery Societies and Abolition Group Records
Anti-slavery societies and abolition groups also kept records as early as 1830.  These records can usually be located within the local genealogy library or within historical society libraries and contain useful genealogical information.  The most common project noted in historical books is that of the Manumission Society of Guilford County, North Carolina in 1830.  Not only did this society purchase slaves and compensate slave-masters, they tried relocated the slaves.  First they chartered a ship to the West Indies, but their ex-slave cargo was refused.  They then used wagon trains to ship the ex-slaves to small communities in Indiana and Illinois, other locales in the Midwest, and Canada.  But don’t limit your search to this society.  Chicago, Ohio, Maryland, New York, and Pennsylvania, among others had multiple active manumission societies, religious based societies, or abolitionist societies that kept records.  Some of these societies even enumerated their black citizens, like census records.  Like that of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society where they also recorded how citizens gained their freedom.

Pennsylvania Abolition Society Enumeration Records
The commonly known Pennsylvania Society of Friends enumeration is available from 1847 [2]. In addition, the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage and for Improving the Condition of the African Race (Pennsylvania Abolition Society) has preserved their enumeration records since 1838.

These are some of the few areas overlooked when looking for African American ancestry before the Civil War.

Additional Black Ancestral Research Information
The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, published by Ancestry Publishing Company
The Blacks in Canada: A History; by Robin W Winks., New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971

Kathleen Brandt

[1] The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, published by Ancestry Publishing Company, 1984 pg. 591; Black Ancestral Research
2] The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, published by Ancestry Publishing Company,1984, pg. 124; Census Records

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cradle Rolls

Was your ancestor's name on the Cradle Roll?
Dr. Bill of Dr Bill Tells Ancestor Stories had a Cradle Roll Certificate when he was just two months old. Whereas Cyndi, of Mountain Genealogists, displayed her aunt’s Cradle Roll from 1924 when baby Dorothy was only a few months old. Based on the comments, lots of people were enrolled as members of a Cradle Roll. As I was not enrolled in a Cradle Roll, I went to search for more historical information on these beautiful ornate certificates that my peers cherished.

Purpose of the Cradle Roll
According to a Elizabeth Williams Sudlow’s series of Religious Education written in The Miami News October 24, 1935, the first recognized Cradle Roll was established by the [Central] Baptist Church in Elizabeth, NJ in 1877. 

Sudlow goes on to explain the purpose of the cradle roll: “that group which takes care of the tiny child from birth till up to four years.” According to The Cradle Roll of the Church School, written in 1920 by Lucy Stock Chapin, the Cradle Roll enlisted these young children making way for church members to visit them at the home, especially remembering birthdays, and when they were sick. When the children became of age they attended the “infant class” of Sunday school. As the cradle roll spread to other denominations and communities, and the little ones became the “watch-care of the church” it was strongly believed that the baby was “the strongest link that binds that home to the church.” [1]   

Who Was on the Cradle Roll?
Children up to the age of four could be “enrolled” as a member of a Cradle Roll. Cradle Roll certificates were generally issued by the church, but it appears in recent years, other community organizations have adopted the basic theories of “membership of a Cradle Roll.”

The popularity of the Cradle Roll spread across the nation. According to Marian Wright Edleman in an April 2010 article Creating A Community Cradle Roll for the Huffington Post, the Cradle Roll was “especially strong in Black Churches.” The history of the AME Zion and AME churches enrollment of Cradle Roll members is covered in the pages of Documenting the American South.

From Controversy to Certificates

Cradle Roll enrollment originally required the mother’s consent, plus a .10cent annual fee or a $1.00 life time fee. The first wall roll was initiated by the Tabernacle M. E. Church in Camden NJ in about 1884. Around 1893 Cradle Roll hand made certificates became a reality.

With the help of religious periodicals the Cradle Roll became more widespread; it also become a bit more controversial. The Sunday School Times in 1897 wrote “We fear the encroachment of the Cradle Roll because it seems to say to the parents, “The Sunday school claims your child.”[2]

Amidst the brewing controversy, Mr. W. C. Hall of the Tabernacle Presbyterian Sunday school in Indianapolis, not only created and printed the first certificate in 1896, like that of Dr. Bill and baby Dorothy, he also explained “The Cradle Roll tends to make parents feel their responsibility the more. Every Sunday school has a right to have and ought to have a Cradle Roll.”

Turn of the Century Popularity
By 1914, at the International Sunday School Convention representing 46 states, it was reported that over a million babies were enrolled on over 44, 268 Cradle Rolls in North America. This convention was also used to set the 15 recommendations that outline The Cradle Roll Standard.[3]

Genealogy and Cradle Rolls
This is just one more reason to visit the community church of your ancestors. Can’t find a birth record, perhaps they were enrolled as a member of the church Cradle Roll. Maybe your ancestor’s name is adorning the church wall.

For More Information
[1] The Cradle Roll of the Church School, Lucy Stock Chapin; 1920;
[2] The Encyclopedia of Sunday schools and Religious Education; Pgs. 312 – 314;
[3] The Cradle Roll Department;

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Personal Genealogy Library

Filling the Treasure Chest

In the Professional Genealogy manual Chapter 4 is entitled The Essential Library.  One of the fascinating tables of the chapter is the model used to build a professional genealogy library using Priority Levels: “1 - Basic Shelf,  2 - Essential Materials, and 3 - Useful but Discretionary Items.”  An early class assignment encourages the participants to create the inventory of their personal genealogy library.

Treasures – Tools of the Trade
Many of the resources stashed within my reach are rarely used - falling in priority level 3.  But The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy falls in priority levels 1 and 2.  I found my first copy for $7.00 at the Half-Price Books (that actually is the name of the store).  My hardback book has long lost its paper cover/flap, but has been properly used, marked, and worn. Every genealogist should have one on the shelf. It is a basic tool - like a recipe book for a cook, a scales book for a pianist, a bank account for a shopper. You get the picture.  
In A Rut
The issue is this...we need to fill our Treasure Chest with valuables that get us to our end goal. Recently, I consulted with a family looking for their missing great grandfather. They were exhausted from over 10 years of searching for G-Grandpa not in all the right places. A reference book, like The Source, can double as a check-off list. When stuck...I reference its Table of Contents, and literally check off the records listed. I then reference Ancestry’s Red Book which gives me more specific information per state.  But, my first “to go to book” is the Source.  When I go to a Court House, I take copies of pages of The Source's chapter on Court Records which lists varieties of court records and their purposes. It even goes as far as providing an “at-a-glance” chart in front of each chapter that includes “Clues That You Should Consult These Records.” Believe me, in the throes of frustration, I often need the reminder.
Some of these old court ledgers are tucked away and not easily accessible. A good example is the courthouse in Rutherford County, NC. There's a huge research room with ledgers whimsically stacked, but the basement (the dungeon or vault), off from the frequently used research room holds a wealth of knowledge. That's where the criminal records, asylum records, and miscellaneous books are stored. The dungeon is not for the faint of heart, but uncovering my ancestors whereabouts were within that claustrophobic, rather musty dungeon. The point is, The Source chapter of court records reminded me to ask the clerk of these obscure records whereabouts.   
Constantly on a Treasure Hunt

My last great find at the Half-Priced Bookstore was the Ian Westwell, World War I, book, for $5.00. We need to have a plethora of books in our specialty. This may not be of interest to many of you, but I do a large portion of Military document retrievals, and I must stay abreast of the topics requested. Sure there's the internet, but it doesn't replace my resource books. When a client asked about the malaria toll on British troops during WWI documents, I was guided by Westwell to concentrate my research to the campaign in East Africa. I wonder how many websites I would have had to search before reaching that conclusion. 
The Challenge
I challenge all of us to fill our Treasure Chests with finds for our personal library.  Who doesn’t love a great Treasure Hunt? 
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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Grandma's Hands

Grandma Kathleen’s Quilt

Grandma Kathleen Louella (Green) Morris, the daughter of Roy Green and Maggie Neal, born 5 Nov. 1916 in Cullison, Kansas, died 22 Sept. 1985 in Wichita, Kansas.
In Searcy Hall of Stephens College my living quarters always featured the lime green polyester quilt that Grandma Kathleen had made. It was impossible for my college-mates to visit the room without commenting. I remember when Grandma made the unconventional quilt. She had cut up all of her polyester dresses and planted herself in front of The Lawrence Welk Show, her favorite. She was equipped with the hand needles needed to stitch the maroon block and assorted pink, blue, beige, and yellow pieces of her favorite dresses. I was Grandma’s namesake, and I was honored to have the quilt made of her prettiest dresses.
Like the women in The Lawrence Welk Show, Grandma Kathleen was beautiful and the epitome of “a lady.” She didn’t wear pants, that would be “men’s attire and not acceptable to God,” but she would lightly dap on pale pink lipstick with just a bit of powder on her fair peachy face to control shine. Her voice was always calm and sweet barely above a whisper, and she was generous with her smile of approval. As far as I know, the only sin she ever committed was to hold back two to three dollars of Grandpa’s grocery money, to send to me in college. My dorm-mates laughed every time I received a letter from Grandma Kathleen, because it always ended with “This is our secret!” and 2 or 3 crisp one dollar bills would be tucked between the pages of family and Kansas news.

When Grandma came to visit us in Kansas City, which wasn’t often, I was always nervous as a young girl. She and Grandpa would arrive sometime during the day, in time for her to walk to our school to meet us at the guard-crossing. I could never pick her out from all the other mothers or grandmothers, even though the others were white. Grandma was fair skinned with fine straight hair that she wore in a bun 365 days of the year. For first grade she had to attend a black school in Topeka, and her classmates called her “baby shit” due to her complexion. As an adult, we seven grandchildren called her “white Grandma” due to her complexion. She claimed Negro, her sisters who we didn’t really know, had color as did their mother, but her drivers license had “white” listed as her race. When we asked why, which we did often, she’d explained while standing in the colored line at the Hutchinson, Kansas license bureau sometime around 1942, a white clerk behind the desk motioned for her to get out of that line and to stand in line with the white citizens. No questions were asked, the clerk just chose white as Grandma’s race, which she never corrected, and it stayed like that on her driver’s license until her death in 1985.

When we visited her on the farm outside Buhler Kansas on RR3, she’d make us our favorite spaghetti. No one made spaghetti like Grandma. She’d render some bacon, add tomatoes and onions, and that was the sauce. No hamburger, no mushrooms…nope just delicious bacon and sautéed onions, smothered in fresh tomato sauce. She and Grandpa lived in Mennonite territory, where Grandpa had gone to school, as well as my mother and her siblings. Actually three generations had attended the all white school  (except for my family) of Union Valley, including my cousins who lived with Grandma after their mother’s death. Living in an all white community was not new to Grandma. She had also attended predominately white schools all her life, except for first grade in Topeka, and she lived on North Star St. in Hutchinson, a white neighborhood, where she was accustomed to playing with her white classmates. She graduated at the age of 17 from Hutchinson High school in 1934, an integrated school with very few African Americans, but she had been active in the choral group and would regal us with her fond memories of her friends and school. After graduating, she married Grandpa who was eleven years her senior, got pregnant, and moved to Mennonite country on the farm where Grandpa raised Black Angus cattle and other livestock while she tended to a family garden. So Grandma, well versed in animal parts, would make spicy hog-head cheese, that as a child, I thought the gelatinous mess looked icky, but I loved the taste. Other times while visiting, there was a tub of fresh sauerkraut waiting. She’d prepare ribs and sauerkraut, a good German meal, and one of my favorites. I make it even today, but I can’t find hog-head cheese as fresh and delicious as Grandma’s.

Grandma’s quilt, backed with spring pink fabric and tied using yellow tacks, brings fresh memories of her love and comfort. When, I’m sick I pull it out, wrap myself into its healing powers, lay on the sofa and watch reruns of The Lawrence Welk Show. And of course, to celebrate good health, I eat a pot of bacon spaghetti.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ancestor Approved Award

I am very honored to have received the Ancestor Approved Award from fellow GeneaBloggers Mavis Jones of Georgia Black Crackers and Southwest Arkie. My instructions are to list ten things I have learned about any of my ancestors that has surprised, humbled by, or enlightened me and to pass the award along to ten other bloggers who are doing their ancestors proud.

Pass It On

Surprised, Humbled by, or Enlightened

  • That I found emancipation papers for Wiley Morris (Sr.) for 1855
  • That ex-slaves could adopt any surname: 3 ancestors had surname changes during or after the Civil War: Mills became Cox; Strader became Mason, then back to Strader; Wair became Underwood: Civil War Surname Changes. Louisa Griffin’s children adopted Morris surname when father, Wiley Morris, was emancipated.
  • That the Griffin line of free-coloreds owned land as early as 1817
  • That ex-slave Wiley Morris provided private education for his children and grandchildren before 1860
  • That the DNA results of the Morris line did not reveal an African tribe, or any trace of Africa, but an RB1 mixture of Irish, Wales, England, which may explain why two GGUncles (Horace and William) were able to conveniently pass for white.
  • That many of the Morris ancestors by 1890’s and four grandparents (abt 1915) attended white schools (not-segregated) in Kansas: "Integrating Schools in 1890" 
  • Great Grandma Ida (Martin) Morris was superintendent of schools in Cleo Springs, OK in 1890’s 
  • Great Uncle George Strader served in Europe during WWI: 804 Pioneer Infantry
  • That Franklin Kesler Bird, (Rev.) was vital in the AME Zion Church and edited the Star of Zion in order to assist with the African American struggle in 1890’s
  • That Amnytus Earl (ex-slave, freed in 1841) has a plethora of descendants who want to know his life story. 
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Monday, April 5, 2010

Who Are The Garifuna People?

Garifuna-American Heritage Month

When researching family histories we rarely come across familiar forms (i.e. census) with unfamiliar data that sends us to our resource books. However, about five years ago, I came across a small community of men in New York recorded as Garifuna. Through research I learned that Garifuna (ga-ree-FOO-nah) references the language, but Garingu (ga-REEN-a-goo) defines the people. In the USA the Garinagu's are often classified as African Americans; however, most speak Spanish or their native tongue.

Who are the Garinagu?
The Garinagu, or Black Caribs, are descendents of escaped West African and Orinoco area slaves, who intermarried with the Carib Indians of St. Vincent in the West Indies beginning in 1635. History tells us that they were originally cargo for sale on two wrecked Spanish slave ships, but when they escaped to St. Vincent they assimilated and became unified with the Carib community.

The Language
The Garinagu are the only descendents of the Carib tribe remaining, but most do not speak their traditional Arawak language, referred to as Garifuna.

By 1802 the Garifuna people migrated to Belize and Honduras and other settlements on the Atlantic Coast due to wars and turmoil. There, the settlements often adopted the local languages of Spanish or English (Belize).

Migration to United States of America
Although Garifuna families now extend from Belize to the upper northwest of the USA, the migration of the people has only been significant in the past ten years or so. However, the Garifuna men have visited ports as seamen and become residents in the USA for the past three generations due to work demands.

How Many Survive?
Although an approximation of how many Garifuna still exist in the world is between 200,000 and 500,000, there are between 75,000 to 100,000 living in the USA today [1]. Although Central America still has the largest population of Garifuna people, New York City can boasts the largest USA population of the Garinagu. 
[1] Data arrived from a compilation of sources, but best explained in Garifuna Settlement and Migration Patterns Accurate numbers are not available.

Garifuna-American Heritage Month
March 11 - April 12, 2010 has been declared Garifuna-American Heritage Month in the Bronx to celebrate the 213th anniversary of the exile of the Garifuna poeple from St. Vincent on March 11, 1797 and their settlement in Central America on April 12, 1797.    

For More Information
National Geographic.Com


Garifuna Settlement in New York: A New Frontier, Gonzalez, Nancie L., University of Maryland;

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Boston Infidels

A Free Thinker – Romanus Emerson

The Boston Investigator motto “…Hear all sides – then decide.” If genealogists use this same motto while gathering and compiling data without judgment, we would have fulfilled our basic ideas of “telling history, not rewriting it.”
In reviewing the Nutfield Genealogy blog authored by Heather Rojo, the importance of coupling newspaper articles with historical references were brought to the forefront. Through her compilation of Romanus Emerson’s obituary, references to him in history books, and articles from the Boston Investigator, Rojo was able to take us on the religious path of Romanus Emerson from a Universalist minister to becoming an atheist; sharing with us his association and generosity to the Boston Infidel Society [1].

The background given on the Boston Infidel Society, a printed copy of his obituary, and his self-written Funeral Address printed in the Boston Investigator paired with the “letters to the editor by fellow infidels,” also help the reader keep an open mind while holding true to the spirit of Romanus Emerson and the spirit of the newspaper:
Truth, perseverance, union, justice- the means; happiness – the end. Hear all sides – then decide.
This six part series also gives the reader a peek at Boston’s social history at the time, at least of the “free-thinkers.” Less than 100 years after the Salem Massachusetts Witch Trials, Romanus Emerson was born in a Massachusetts society where in spite of his “peculiar” ways he was seemingly respected.

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[1] “He gave to the Infidel Society five hundred dollars…”As printed in obituary notice from South Boston Gazetter, 20 Oct 1852, Issue 25, Col A. copied by Heather Rojo in Nutfield blog: