Wednesday, February 18, 2015

1,000 Words

I read a quote yesterday that boggled my mind. According to the now defunct 1000memories website, every two minutes we take as many photos today as all of humanity took during the entire 19th century. 

Photography became popular and accessible to many during the Civil War. Letters to soldiers usually included a request for a portrait which the soldiers usually complied. These photos were treasures, the next best things to having the real person back at home with their loved ones.  

And those photos are even more precious today because they are hard to find. I have been blessed to have some photographs from the late 19th and early 20th century but I want more.  

Yes, I love a good story. I have been fascinated by the written word from the moment my father walked me, a precocious seven year old, to the local library branch to get my first library card. Yet, I must concur that a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Stories of long-gone ancestors are wonderful but a photo is glorious. Looking into the eyes of a past ancestors and relatives, marking their stance and demeanor, observing the details of fashions from another era, takes one's perception of those individuals to a level not obtained by mere vital statistics. For me, old photos are time machines that captures the past where words may fail. 

So I hunt for old photographs, beg relatives who profess to hoard them, take as many photos as I can for future generations. And I share. Because not only do we take more photos now than ever, we have the technology to scan and post our treasures for all to see.

Columbus and Narcissa Alexanders, my paternal great grandparents

Fred and Posie Warren, my maternal grandparents
Solomon Koonce, born 1826, and family. He is my 3 x great-grandfather on my mother's side

Narcissa Wallace Alexander, my paternal great grandmother

Narcissa's mother, Cinderella Wallace

My maternal great grandmother Lizzie Brassfield Koonce and her sister Cora Brassfield.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Grains of Truth

In 2013 I confirmed an oral legend I had recently learned about my paternal great great grandfather. Up until 2009 my family had never heard about our ancestor John Alexander being in the civil war. I was skeptical even after I found a John Alexander on the roster of U.S. Colored Troops out of Mississippi. After all, John Alexander was a common name. I found dozens of them serving in the war. For that reason, I did not send for the pension papers. It was a lot of money to spend to find out it was the wrong man. I decided to go in person. I justified the expenditure as a trip for business and for fun.

It turned out that the pension papers were for my relatives and it gave me more details about John's life. However, it did not give me the name of his slave holder. That was left blank. I had to deduce who it might be from other evidence. I concluded that the slave holder had been a Huffman. This was also the man my aunt always thought was the slave holder.

Since 2013 I haven't done much more research on John Alexander but I think the ancestors have been nudging me this week. Yesterday I decided to look into John Huffman born in 1801 in Alexandria, Virginia and died in 1882 in Lincoln County, Mississippi.  In 1870, Huffman lived in the same neighborhood as John Alexander. This is one of the clues I have been told to look for when trying to find the slave holder. I looked at Huffman's family tree. Huffman was married to Mary Glass. Her parents were Frederick Mason Glass and Elizabeth Strother. When I saw this I got very excited. You see, according to another oral legend, John Alexander lived on a plantation in Virginia called Strouder. Some of my cousins have told me that "Strawder" was his nickname. Am I on the right trail?

I was still skeptical. Glass and Strother married and lived in Georgia. Georgia was never part of any oral history for Alexander. However,  I was able to find a family tree on for the Glass family. It gave me Mary's ancestry. Her grandfather was William Strouther, born in 1755 and died in 1833 in Virginia. He was living in Fauquier County when he died. Fauquier is adjacent to Rappahannock County, where John Alexander claimed he was born!

I definitely think I'm on the right trail now. It also makes me curious as to whether all the oral legends I have heard have a grain of truth. My to-do list has just gotten longer.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Definition of Frustration

frustration [fruh-strey-shuh n] noun

1. when you get a new DNA match on ancestry and the match has no tree.

2. when your new DNA match has a tree and it is private.

3. when your DNA match has only two persons in their family tree

4. when your match has over 500 names in their tree and you still don't recognize any surnames.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tell the Story

Over ten years ago I published (self-published) my findings into a book for my family. I felt so proud of what I had done. Holding that book gave me such joy. It was a lot of hard work. Besides years of research,  I wrote, printed, bound, designed the cover--all on my own. But as anyone interested in genealogy knows, this work is never finished. It is always getting updated. So I have been laboring for the past year at putting out a new, updated yet incomplete book.

My goal is to finish by April this year. That is an arbitrary and necessary date. Otherwise, I would never stop writing and researching. Whatever I find after this book is published will have to go into another, updated yet incomplete book.

I have researched different print on demand companies but I haven't decided which one I will use. I may even try to self-publish again. I do like the control. Besides, my purpose for publishing my book is to relay and preserve history for my relatives. Money is not a goal or an issue. 

I firmly believe that every family historian should write the stories down. Oral traditions were great back in the day but we have advanced past then. It isn't important to be a great prize-winning author. It is more vital that what we have learned gets passed down to our descendants.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Brick Walls

I have been researching for nearly 20 years now. I have made great discoveries but I'm still stuck behind the proverbial brick wall. My brick wall is visual.

I know all my great grandparents' names. I even know most of my great-grandparents' names. And there it stops. Except for five names, I know little or nothing of my great great great grandparents. And therein lies my problem.

I was so excited when I got my DNA results back from I received all these wonderful matches. I even have two circles with shared ancestors. The problem was that those shared ancestors were already known to me. Yes, it did confirm that Charles Featherston was my great grandfather and that was nice. However, I was hoping for something more enlightening. And that won't come until I can figure out more about my great great great grandparents.

Unfortunately, the DNA results has also confirmed another assumption I had made. I am alone in my family when it comes to this pursuit. My closest relatives to have their DNA tested, except for my uncle, are distant 4th cousins. That means we share --you got it-- an unknown great great great grandparent.

So I will continue to scour the records as I try to chip away at that wall and I will continue to pray that more of my cousins, closer cousins, catch this genealogy bug. It could happen.

Once More With Feeling Again

I've been very bad at keeping up any blog lately. I am still researching every week. I still have the passion and the disappointments. It just seems that writing about it has become less of a priority.

At the beginning of every year I vow to write more and then the writing peters off. Sometimes it peters off because I'm doing rather than contemplating. I think this is a good thing. Sometimes I just don't write because I have nothing new to report.

So this year I will begin again. I will try again. The purpose for the blog has always been two-fold: to chronicle my research for myself and to help others who are interested in genealogy. Maybe if I keep those reasons uppermost in my mind, I won't slough off.

Here goes.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Genealogical bread crumbs

I'm trying to see if DNA can chip away my brick walls. I was a little disappointed that I wasn't able to come up with anything new after the inspirational conference I had attended. So today I decided to concentrate on my Cotten family mysteries.

To recap, my great grandfather is Napoleon Cotten. His mother is Winnie Deer. It took me years to find them on the 1870 census mainly because I was looking for Cottens. Then on one of my searches I used only the first names and the state, Mississippi. Heritage Quest rewarded me with success. I found the whole family in 1870 in Amite County. The reason I couldn't find them before was because I wasn't looking for Andersons, the surname they were using in 1870.

I then tried to find them on various Amite county farms owned by Andersons. Moses Gordon Anderson became a person of interest in my mystery. He lived near Winnie in 1870. In 1860, he owned 40 slaves including a 100 year old woman named Sophia. On the slave schedule, following the tip I learned at the conference, I noticed a family group that corresponded to the ages of Winnie's family. There were discrepancies. There was a one year old male. On Winnie's tombstone and on the 1900 census, she is recorded with only three sons and a daughter. If this is Winnie, she is recorded on this slave schedule with four sons. Also the ages of the sons were a little off except for Napoleon's.

I then looked at the 1850 slave schedule. M. G. Anderson owns 23 slaves.  They are separated into two groups. On the smaller group, there is a 15 year old female, the right age for Winnie,  and possibly her oldest son Hiram at one year old.

I went back to 1840 and found Anderson with a new wife and seven slaves. I checked out his bride. Her name was Cynthia Carolyn Causey, daughter of Capt. William Causey and Susanna Jackson. The Captain had died in 1828 and left a will. He had sired many children. He also possessed many slaves. He willed only one, "negro girl named Mary" to his daughter Cynthia. Now I know Mary is a very common name and it means very little but it still gave me a glimmer of hope that this was Winnie's mother, Mary. And when I checked the 1840 census, Anderson owned only two female slaves-a child under 10 and a woman between 24 and 35 years old. Could this be Mary and Winnie?

I continued searching family trees for the Causeys on I came across a familiar name. The woman who owned one of the Causey family trees was also a match to me through DNA!!!

I still have much to do to determine who was the shared ancestor. Her family tree had a surname that was also on my family tree-- Cain. We may be connected that way. Cynthia  Causey's brother had married Lucretia Cain, a daughter of Isaiah Cain and sister to Mary Cain Cotten. These same surnames keep coming up. That is why I am holding out hope that this bread crumb trail will finally lead me to the ancestors of Winnie and Napoleon and knock down that brick wall.