Friday, March 6, 2009

Oral Legends - Got to check them

It started with me just editing my revised book so I can upload it to the internet. I was checking for dates for my family tree. I googled "Florence Octavia Alexander," a great aunt. On the census she is listed only as Octavia. I was trying to make sure she was one and the same as Florence. One of the hits I got was for a Nkechi Florence Octavia Alexander Townsend. She was listed in a book about prominent black psychologists. I read her biography. She did turn out to be a cousin. What got my attention, however, was her story about her great grandfather.

This is her story. "My grandfather, John was born in Liberia and captured and brought to this country when he was twelve years old. He was a slave on the Lambright plantation in Virginia. He was sold to the Huffman plantation in Alabama. He married another slave named Catherine (originally from India) on the Huffman plantation. During the Civil War he ran away and worked for the union forces. After the war he returned home and took his wife and children to Mississippi. Because a union officer named “Alexander” had impressed him he changed the family’s name to that of Alexander. He and Cahterine had twelve children, nine sons and three daughters."

I got so excited. This was more information than I had ever known about my great great grandparents John and Catherine. I called up my aunt Hortense to see if she knew of this lady. She didn't. I googled Townsend and located her nearby. I plan to call tomorrow.

Then I looked at the story again. I should have known there were holes in her story. She misspoke about her great grandfather calling him just her grandfather. Next, I remembered that Liberia was a country in Africa founded by freed American slaves. So John being captured from Liberia sounds off. Catherine came from India? Really? I am searching for more information on Lambright plantation and the Huffman plantation. The funny thing is that there is a Lambright farm in Copiah County, MS and there is a John Huffman lving close to Columbus Alexander, my great grandfather, on the 1880 Mississippi census. I checked the 1860 census and old John Huffman had a male slave that is the right age for John Alexander. There was a female slave living there too and an infant. However, there should be two infants. I need to check that out more.

One thing that may be accurate from her biography is John's service during the Civil War. That's the next thing I am going to check. There is a gap between 1860 and 1865 in the births of John's and Catherine's children. After 1865, they started churning out children every year. So there's a good chance he wasn't around during that gap.

It just goes to show you. You have to corroborate. It is so tempting to believe the stories but that's all they are until you have proof.

1 comment:

readyforchange said...

Florance Octivia Alexander was my great-great aunt from Copiah County, MS. Columbus Alexander was my great-great grandfather. My grandmother has spoken of a cousin name Hortense(who is a delta)....If you are related please contact me. I am doing a genealogy on the family. I would love to compare information. Please contact me on Facebook or through email at