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.