Sunday, November 15, 2009

My first award! Thank you, Mavis

Well, this is a very nice surprise. Most of the time I feel like I'm having a conversation with myself when I blog. Mavis, who blogs Conversation with My Ancestors and Georgia Black Crackers, has presented me with my very first Kreative Blogger award. I am honored.

According to the rules in accepting this award, I must now tell seven things about myself before passing it on to seven bloggers. Although I love writing about my family, I rarely write about myself but here goes.

1. I am the oldest of four girls. Actually, I am the oldest child of my mother who is the oldest child of her mother who was the oldest child in her family. My grandmother started that link and I continued by having my daughter Arianne first.

2. I was born, raised and live in Gary, Indiana. In fact, I live within walking distance to Michael Jackson's home since his home is in the shadows of my alma mater, Roosevelt High School.

3. Although I was the oldest in the family ( and the oldest grandchild in my mother's family), I was the last of my sisters to get married.

4.One of my fondest memories is of my father walking me to the library to get my first library card. I had to be five years old. My father and his father were also bookworms.

5. I am an anglophile and addicted to British TV. I watch Eastenders on the computer every week among other shows.

6. I wrote my first play at 9. I'm still waiting to be discovered.

7. Even though some may say that at my age I'm over the hill, I believe I'm still standing at the top. One of my heart's desire is to fall in love again.

I pass this award on to
A. Spence

Low Country Africana
George Geder

Amanda's A Tale of Two Ancestors
Claudia's genealogy blog
and Bill West West in New England

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Six degrees of separation

Another day of trolling the internet for data and I'm coming up with more and more coincidences. Coincidences -- "the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection." These following things do have a connection but are they pertinent?

Oscar Dears, Winnie Anderson and family are living a couple of lines down from Lucretia Dears on the 1870 Amite County, MS census. Lucretia Dears was married to William Carraway before marrying William Dears. William Carraway's brother was Bruce A. Carraway who was married to Lucretia (may be Letitia) Cotten. Lucretia was sister to Joseph R. Cotten. When the Carraways died young, Thomas L. Cotten was appointed guardian to their children for a short time. One of those children, Bruce M. Carraway, married Huldah Cain. The only surname I'm missing is Anderson. Could that be why my ancestors changed their name from Anderson?

It feels like I'm playing six degrees of separation here. Time and research will tell if it is only a game of coincidences or if it is a realconnection.

Friday, November 13, 2009

On the trail again

It has been two weeks since the International Black Genealogy Summit ended. I came back with renewed fervor. Then I went back to my job. But I am endeavoring not to let all that good information and zeal go to waste.

Working on a tip written in my previous blog, I looked up H.S. Anderson on the 1850 slave census for Franklin County in Mississippi. The "H" stands for Henry. I was pleasantly pleased to find that Henry was living next to Joseph R. Cotten in 1850. This is the same Cotten that I once thought was Winney's slave owner. There is a female slave and male slave listed under both Joseph's and Henry's name that correspond with the ages of Winney and her oldest son Hiram.

I googled Henry's name and found some minutes for Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Franklin County, Mississippi. Henry, Joseph and a few Cain's were members of the church in 1852. Now I'm getting excited.

Could this be the smoking gun for my ancestors? Of course, I don't know the answer to that yet. I have looked up several Andersons that I thought may be the slave owners. However, the coincidence of Joseph and Henry being neighbors is making me think this may be the right trail to follow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

From the Internation Black Genealogy Summit

These are photos of our small genealogy group at the summit. It also shows how many people were at the conference luncheon held on Saturday, October 31st. The keynote speaker was Hanna Stith, the driving force behind the creation of the African American Museum in Fort Wayne.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Black Genealogy Summit

Wow! I didn't know it had been so long since I blogged. School started the last week of August, enrollment is way up, and I am far behind in grading papers. Those are the reasons not the excuses for me not writing.

But I'm back. Not just to blogging but from the first International Black Genealogy Summit that was held this past week in Fort Wayne, IN. It was a wonderful conference. I learned a lot and met some wonderful people. I am inspired and energized to get back to work.

However, I also learned one disturbing fact. I have been searching for my Cotten ancestors for years now. Cotten is my maiden name. Napoleon Cotten is my great grandfather. Several years ago, I learned that Napoleon's surname on the 1870 MS census was Anderson not Cotten. That threw me for a loop and I've been trying to recoup ever since. Well, I learned at the conference that not only was it common for surnames to change constantly, the reasons for the different surnames are numerous. This makes it even harder to track down my ancestors' beginnings.

I searched the Allen County library, the second largest genealogy collection in the U.S., for hours. I came up with nothing, zilch, nada. Then on the last hour of the last day, I talked to a lady who sat across from me in the library. I was helping her locate the MS files so I asked what were her surnames and who was she searching. Her counties were close to my counties. When I looked at her family group sheet, she had the name "Anderson" as one of her ancestors. After talking with her, she said she had come across lots of Cotten's that were owned by H.S. or H.R. Anderson in Franklin County. That name sounded familiar. I checked it right away but time was waning so I couldn't verify the information. I will.

I also found, after her urging, that my family was using the last name Cotten in 1890. I found this on the school records of Pike County by Serena Haymon. It was a small fact but hey, it was better than nothing.

The search goes on. I'm not giving up. Genealogical pursuits are what I love to do.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Slavery - Can We Talk?

I just read a blog by Luckie Daniels, Our Georgia Roots that got me to writing. It is a subject that I have thought a lot of about as I research. Luckie asks the question Could we be desensitized to slavery?

My maiden name is Cotten. When I was younger, some would call me "cotton picker." I hated it. Other than that, the subject of slavery didn't bother me. It was a fact of life, my ancestry. Besides, it was very far away. It didn't touch me.

Now, though, I am fascinated by the subject and the history of the Civil War. I know it is because of my addiction to genealogy. I now know that some of my great grandparents were slaves. My grandparents who I knew very well were just one generation away from slavery. I want to know all I can about them and my ancestors. It is frustrating that I can't find more out because of the institution. Slavery is a taboo subject for many slave and slave owner descendants. It prevents the sharing of information because of some subliminal guilt and resentment held on both sides.

So my answer to Luckie's question is no, most people aren't desensitized to slavery. I wish they were. Yes, slavery was evil but it is on a long list of the inhumane, evil things people have done and still do throughout history. If we could become desensitized to the subject of slavery, there would be no old wounds that need healing. If we could respect each other as part of the one family of man, then we could have objective discussions on so many levels. But I'm not holding my breath for that to happen soon.

I am desensitized. Just give me the information I am searching for. I don't hold you accountable for what your great-great-great-granddaddy did to my great-great-great grandma. I don't blame you. I want just the facts, thank you very much.

Friday, August 7, 2009

My genealogy habit

It is ironic to me that I am addicted to genealogy. The irony lies in my perception of myself as an outsider to my own family.

I first became interested in genealogy because my husband’s family and my father’s family came from the same section of Mississippi. My husband Craig had a cousin that everyone said looked just like me. Craig’s mother’s maiden name was Dillon. I knew I was related to Dillons. So I embarked on this ancestral trail to make sure I wasn’t related to my husband by blood. So far we are not.

I also was competing with my aunt Adrene Warren for archival information. Adrene did a considerable amount of legwork in finding out who the Koonces were. This was my maternal grandmother’s family. But my aunt stopped at that one line. She refused to research any other surname. She wasn't interested. So I jumped into the search in defiance to my aunt.

Wanting to know how in the world I fit in this crazy quilt of a family was probably another incentive to me as I continued to search for more ancestors. That and being nosy probably are what keeps me going after I hit my head on the brick walls of genealogy. Yet I still wonder why is it so important for me to know.

There are so many people that don’t care about their past. They are more interested in the here and now. Isn’t that the way it should be? But I believe there also needs to be someone that keeps checking the rear view mirror of our lives so that we don’t go off the straight and narrow path; so that we treasure what is beautiful and unique about our particular family; so that we don’t forget the precious and the notorious individuals that share our genes. There’s usually at least one person in the family who is the clearinghouse of that information. Maybe that's it. Maybe that's the reason I am hooked on genealogy. I'm on a mission. My mission to be the clearinghouse publisher.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Oral Legends

Oral legends are the beginning points of most genealogical pursuits. We take them with a grain of salt knowing that they must be corroborated before the legend can become history. We hope that there is enough truth in the legend as we search for evidence.

I am following several family lines each with an oral legend. However, when it comes to my Alexander line, I have a wealth of oral legends and they all contradict each other.

The facts: John Alexander and his wife Catherine lived in Lincoln County, Mississippi with several of their children in 1870. According to the census, John was from Virginia and Catherine was from Maryland.

Oral legend as told to me by my aunt Hortense: John took the name Alexander as his surname because it was Catherine's and because he had some beef against his last slave owner whose surname was Huffman. There are Huffmans living close by on the 1870 census so it kind of made sense. Still, it is conjecture not fact.

Oral legend as told by Florence Octavia Townsend in her bio: "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." Catherine is identified as black not East Indian on the censuses. I have not been able to find a Lambright or Huffman plantation yet in the named states. I have not determined if the John Alexander that I located in the Civil War records is my ancestor or not. I am dubious that someone moved to Mississippi by choice. Still, these are not facts, just legend.

Now I have been told another story by another Alexander. She said as far as she knows John was always an Alexander who lived on a plantation in Virginia called Strouder (sic). She does not know how he got to Mississippi and she never heard of John being in the Civil War.

The one constant is Virginia in this story. The rest are loose strings hanging out on my ancestry tapestry. But this is what is fun about genealogy--being a detective in my own detective story.

Baclk in Indiana

I am back from short trip to Mississippi wiser but not much more informed. I learned that I need to go to the courts because the records that I need are not in the archives. I learned that it is going to take a lot of patience unearthing the data. I'm an information archaeologist. Discovery doesn't happen over night.

It is frustrating and disappointing but I am more determined than ever to find my ancestors. Whenever I google my great grandfather's name, the search only turns up my references. That doesn't help me but just think, it does turn up.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cemetery Abomination

It is heartbreaking to mourn and bury a loved one. I know. I buried my husband 10 years ago. That is why I am so appalled and outraged by the actions of several individuals that defiled graves so that they could resell the plots over and over again. It is estimated that the crooks made as much as $300,000 in the last few years. According to the newspapers, three gravediggers and a cemetery manager unearthed hundreds of corpses, dumping some of them in a weeded area and double-stacking others in existing graves.
Burr Oak Cemetery of Alsip is the final resting place for many Chicago African-Americans, some famous. Emmett Till was buried there. His casket has been found neglected and rusted in a back storage room at the cemetery. This is wrong on so many levels.
In a week I will be heading to Jackson, Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee. I hope to visit some of my ancestors' graves. The joy I will feel if I can find my great grandparents headstones will be so monumental. They died decades ago. That's why I am so angry that some people took that joy, that peace, the permanence away from so many families for money. If there are such things as spirits haunting those that disturb their final resting place, I hope they get to haunting those felons.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A blast from the past. The Jackson 5 in 1966. I think Michael is on the bongos in the top shot.

Michael Jackson - a part of HIStory

It was a shock to hear of Michael Jackson's death. He was born in my hometown so he is a part of my story. More importantly, though, he is a part of world culture's history.

I remember seeing posters about the Jackson Five on light posts all over Gary all the time. They constantly were performing. The family grew up in the shadow of Roosevelt High School, my alma mater. The boys were always performing on the talent shows and always won. My husband's claim to fame is that his jazz combo beat the Jackson Five in a talent contest there. It was unheard of for someone to beat them. In my high school yearbook there is a picture of the Jackson Five performing at the Masque and Gavel Talent show. This was before they became a national phenomenon. Jackie, Michael's oldest brother, even sang in the Madrigal Choir, the elite singing group of my school, with my sister.

When they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show it was a major event for every Black person from Gary. It may be difficult for this generation to understand how important that was to Black people. Whenever any Black entertainer appeared on the Ed Sullivan show it was a red letter day. I remember the day I heard that the Jackson Five would be on TV and would sing "I Want You Back." Of course, I watched. I got to see them in person before they disbanded and observed the madness of fans' obsession at close range.

The citizens of Gary were so proud of the Jacksons. We got bad press all the time but we could point to the Jacksons and Avery Brooks and Deniece Williams and William Marshall and Ernest Thomas of "What's Hapening" and say Gary can't be all bad. It produced all these people.

Before Michael Jackson, music was divided by race. He changed that. That was monumental. Today's generation doesn't realized that. He transformed the music video into a necessity for marketing music.

I am so very sad. I have always been a fan and ignored the bad publicity that followed him. He is gone too soon like his song. And like his song, we never can say good bye. He was not just a super star. He was a super nova, shining so brightly and extinguishing too quickly. Rest in peace. The king is dead. Long live the king.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Family History Research and Writing Workshop

I am giving my first genealogy workshop this Saturday, June 27th. This is not a stretch for me since I teach already and I love talking about genealogy. The workshop will concentrate on the two most important steps in genealogy--the beginning and writing it down.

It is being held at Indiana University Northwest, Hawthorne Hall Room 332, 3400 Broadway, Gary, IN. There are two sessions. The first one begins at 10 am. It will focus on just getting started with the research with an emphasis on African American genealogy since that is my area The second session starts at 12:30 and will give tips and strategies about writing the information and publishing it so that it can be shared with others.

It is free and open to the public. I'm not sure how many will come. I suck at marketing and promoting myself. But like I tell my students, if only one comes, the show goes on.

I first planned this workshop to raise a little cash for my road trip to Mississippi and Tennessee. I'm leaving in July to do more research on my family. I decided to make it free just because I want to share what I know just for the love of it.

Happy Day

I can't believe it's been nearly a month since I posted. The last post is appropriate for this day too. I do miss my father.

Father's Day has become a forced celebration because both my children and I are fatherless. But it is a celebration of memories and good times, so I cling to that.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

This is a day set aside to remember our fallen heroes of the various wars. My family's tradition is like most in the country. We barbeque, relishing the fact that the weather is now warm enough to enjoy eating outside. When I was young, Memorial Day also meant parades. Gary had the best parade on that day. For a couple of years, I was in the parade, part of the Roosevelt High School marching band. I played a french horn--the "pah pah" part of the "oomp pah pah," the musical beat of every marching band. I hated it. I never got the hang of trying to keep my lips on the mouthpiece as I marched and followed the leader. And "pah pah" was so boring. I dropped out. But I digress.

We have now added a new part to our Memorial Day tradition. This is the day we visit the cemetery. It is usually very crowded on Memorial Day. Sadly, there are too many loved ones that reside at the cemetery. My father and my husband are there. Minutes are spent wondering around the graveyard trying to locate various others deceased relatives. Not a happy tradition but a respectful one.

My father, Stanley Cotten, was a veteran of World War II. He was part of the cavalry. When I would tell my fellow high school students that, they would ridicule me. They didn't know that the army still had a cavalry during that time. There once was a photo of my father, his friend Jay and one of the horses. I don't know if it still exist but I will search for it. My father spent a lot of his time in Rome which he never appreciated. Maybe it was because of what he had to do there. He didn't speak much about it except to say "if you've seen one place, you've seen them all." He did not share my love for travel. I do know that he saw the Colosseum. It may be during the war that he developed his hatred for flying too. I'm not sure. Unfortunately he is not here for me to ask him.

Currently, one of my nephews is serving in the Marines. He has made a career out of it. He has been deployed to Iraq once again. He has also been based in Japan and South Korea. I'm sure my father would have been proud of him. Erik Wilson was his first grandchild, a boy after having nothing but daughters. He was the light of my father's life.

So on this holiday I will remember the loved ones that are gone. I will also honor and pray for my nephew and others who are serving this country in the different branches of the armed forces. They are living heroes.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Road Trip

It's the Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial start of summer. The thing most on my mind is getting out there and physically digging for my roots. Not literally, of course, but I am getting off my comfy chair and going into the archives and libraries of Mississippi and Tennessee.

Genealogy isn't a cheap hobby although the internet has made it more accessible. I had my own personal recession 5 years ago so I am looking for the most frugal strategies to make my trip possible. For example, this July I am taking a bus to Nashville and Jackson and McComb, Ms. I am buying my tickets 21 days earlier. My trip will cost me around $143 round trip! By traveling overnight I will save one night in a hotel. Of course, some may think I'm crazy going by bus. I look at as an adventure and a small price (really small price) that I pay for my hobby.

Unfortunately there are no bus stops near the cities I need to visit in Tennessee except for Newbern. It stops there at three am. That's not a good time to be stopping in a strange southern city. I do draw the line somewhere. The Koonce reunion is supposed to be in Tennessee this September and I will try to get ro some libraries and/or courts around during that time. I'm hoping to get enough new information at the archives in Nashville to update my book in time for the reunion.

All in all, I'm excited about my road trip. It will be interesting. No doubt.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

This is on the occasion of Inez Koonce Jacox's 100th birthday. I am standing on the far left next to my mother.


I'm back from my short journey to Tennessee. It was an eye opening experience but not in the way I had hoped. Several things hit me and I'm still processing them.

First, the area where my maternal ancestors lived is still very rural and sparsely populated. For example, my grand aunt Inez lived a few feet from the church where she was eulogized (and a few blocks from Alex Haley's birthplace). However, we traveled 45 minutes and through two counties to get to the cemetery where she was buried. My sister, who was driving, was concerned about running out of gas. She was advised to get gas when she went through downtown Maury City. Unfortunately, we didn't recognized downtown when we went through it. It was one short block of family businesses.

My aunt lived in this area all 102 years of her life. That had to shape her vision of the world. I see that same vision in my mother even though she has lived in an urban area most of her life. The viewpoint is narrow, comfortable and void of inquisitiveness.
That speaks to the other thing that struck me. All the knowledge my aunt had of my side of the family has now gone to the grave. I had accepted that my aunt did not want to talk about her family because that's what my mother and my aunt Adrene told me. Then at the funeral, a woman, a niece of Inez's husband, talked about how she asked questions about the family and how Inez gladly recited family stories to her. It makes me so mad and sad at the same time. I asked my mother if she ever asked my aunt anything to which she said never. My mother is now one of the oldest living Koonce so I will have to unearth whatever I can through circumstantial evidence not oral stories.

I can't imagine not wanting to know everything about my family history. My mother is interested and satisfied with her minute knowledge. She doesn't understand my thirst and my endless questions. I don't understand her nonchalance and acceptance. The worst part and the best part is that I seem to be "that one" in the family that pursues the answers. It's a lonely job but, I believe, somebody's gotta do it.

This summer, I will go back to Tennessee and delve into court documents and look up books in the local libraries and talk to people who may know about my family history. Too bad I wasn't able to do it before my aunt passed away.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Inez Koonce Jacox - 1906-2009

My oldest living relative was Inez Koonce Jacox. She lived to see two World Wars. She lived through the Great Depression, Jim Crow laws, Civil Rights demonstration. She lived to see a Black man elected president of the United States. She lived an exemplary Christian life, praising God and wanting to be in the center of His will until she passed away yesterday morning. She was 102 years old.
Inez was my grandmother's sister. She lived all of her life in Tennessee but I got to meet and see her several times. She was frank and honest and reminded me a lot of my grandmother. My mother has grown to favor her as she has gotten older. The one thing I remember most about her was that she didn't like photos of dead people. She claimed "haints" were attached to them. I've never understood how a God-fearing woman could also be superstitious but it seems to run in my mother's family. That superstition kept her focused on the present so I never got any information from her. What a loss. What an accomplishment. She lived long and well.

Friday, April 17, 2009

To Tweet or Not to Tweet -That Isn't The Question

I confess. I have been tweeting when I should have been blogging. It is easier to write a quick line or two than a paragraph. I have more excuses for my lack of posts. March was a very stressful month for me. I moved from my home of 18 years to a temporary (I hope) stay at my childhood home. Economics bit me in the butt and I had little choice but to move. It was hell. Distilling 18 years of collections, furniture, paper and memories is hard enough. My home was 2100 square feet. My space now is considerably smaller. But a woman's got to do, what a woman's got to do. I will survive.

That being basically over, I am now planning my summer break. I am going to take off for five weeks and visit Fort Wayne's Allen County Library, the archives at Nashville, TN and Jackson, MS, possibly the National Archive and a few courthouses and libraries in between. At least, that's the plan now. If I can do that, I will be a very happy genealogist.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Genealogy Rule Number One - Never Assume

I keep getting reminded of this rule all the time in one way or another. I assumed that my g-g-g-grandfather couldn't be a slave captured from Liberia. While I haven't corroborated this--it is stated on the census that his birthplace is Virginia--I did find out that there were native Africans on the land before it was usurped for the imported freed slaves. There was naturally a lot of tension between the natives and the "Americo-Liberians." The Americo-Liberians were always considered foreigners not citizens by the natives. Liberia was even used as a temporary shelter by Americans for re-captured slaves for a while. So it is possible that maybe John's father did come from the land renamed Liberia. I know that his son, my great grandfather was very dark.

Then about Catherine being an east Indian--it is possible. I followed the lead of fellow blogger Miriam and googled east Indians as slaves. To my surprise, I found that east Indians were part of that melting pot that made up Jamestown in the 1600's. According to Francis C. Assisi (I don't know if that's his real name or his pen name) in an article for the India Currents, east Indians were brought to US shores as indentured servants and slaves first by the Dutch and then the French, the English and lastly the American captains. So it is possible that Catherine was part east Indian.

So I am reminded once again, don't jump to conclusions or make general assumptions. Research, corroborate, and verify.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Genie Meeting

Our little genealogy club meets the first Saturday of each month. It was convenient that talking about local genie clubs was part of genea-bloggers weekly prompt this week.

It was a decent turn-out. Our club is very informal. We bring each other up to date on where we are in our search. In turn we help those who are stumped, if we can, and try to inspire others not to give up. I was able to report on my latest doings--the book signing, the webnar about african-american genealogy, and my trip to Newberry Library. I was so proud of myself especially since I had kind of slacked off there for a while. I can feel the old bug now, though. I mean, two posts in two days!

What is also helping me is that I got to talk to Florence Octavia Alexander Townsend. I followed up on the clues I found yesterday and was able to track her down. She was friendly and enthusiastic. We are planning to meet very soon. She shared something very interesting in our short conversation. She said her grandmother's ancestry is part Indian--east Indian. According to her, some Indians had immigrated to Kenya and intermarried. I never heard that before. So maybe it is possible that Catherine has East Indian blood after all. Of course, I will verify first, though.

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.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Mississippi to Africa" Book Signing

Saturday was an inspirational day as far as my genealogical journey is concerned. I went to Chicago for a book signing. The author is Melvin Collier. The book is Mississippi to Africa."

I met Melvin on Facebook. He mistakenly thought I was a cousin but he was correct in identifying my obsession for genealogy. I have decided I want to be him when I grow up. First, he was able to trace some of his ancestors back to Africa. That is monumental and downright impossible for many Black Americans. Secondly, he has been able to distribute and sell his book all over the country. Although my book is finished, I have only sold a few copies to relatives. He sold out of copies at the Chicago book signing so I haven't been able to read it yet. I want to find out more about how he was able to trace his ancestors so far back even though my Mississippi relatives come from a different part of the state.

At the signing was Dr. Rick Kittles of African Ancestry DNA. Dr. Kittles wrote the forward to Melvin's book and was instrumental is narrowing down where Melvin's ancestors came from in Africa. Although I am skeptical whether the genetic database of the company is large enough for accurate testing, Dr. Skittles insists that the database is large enough. The price is hefty too. He quoted me $275 but I have noted that the fee can go over $300.
What was most impressive for me at the book signing though was the number of people attending and the great enthusiasm for information. It made me feel like I was a "cousin" after all.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Loose Threads in the Ancestry Tapestry

Months ago I wrote "I looked at the 1900 census again. This is the one where Napoleon reappears after being missing (to me) since 1870. A few lines down is his mother and brother Richard. I just noticed that Winnie said all her four children are still living. That means somewhere Hiram and Elizabeth is hanging around just waiting to be discovered.

Napoleon is living next door to his in-laws also. These in-laws are also my ancestors, related to me through Mary Saunders, Napoleon's wife, my great-grandmother. Charles and Rose are a few doors away. It got me to thinking that maybe Elizabeth is nearby. There happens to be an Elizabeth who is the right age living next to the Sanders. I know. I know. That means nothing. But it is a splinter of possibility."

That Elizabeth was married to Sylvester Ames. Not long after posting the above, I found out that Elizabeth's maiden name was Cotten. I was so excited but somehow forgot to post it here. Elizabeth had died by the next census and I have not found out any more on the family.

Hiram has been much harder to find since I don't know which surname he used. One candidate is Hiram Cain in Franklin County, MS. I found a Hiram Anderson in Franklin County, on the 1880 census. He is a servant at the time and single. The hitch is that Hiram Cain claimed he married in 1878 on the 1900 census. It means more sleuthing for me to do.

Getting back in the genealogy saddle

Well those New Year's resolutions didn't last long.
I'll try to rectify that now.
Blogging and genealogy is a full-time hobby. The rewards are rarely monetary. If I could marry the hobby to my job, I would be a happy woman. Until then I will do this in spurts and starts; do the happy dance when I unearth new information; take dozens of aspirins for all my brick-wall headaches; and never ever give up this labor of love.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Beware Spam Bloggers

In my efforts to keep my New Year's resolutions, I went on google and blogged genealogy. At the top of the list I saw my blog or so I thought. There was some person masquerading as a "genealogy expert" who had stolen my whole blog from yesterday. When I clicked on other blogs by this person, I saw he had stolen material from other genealogy bloggers. If it wasn't so despicable it would be laughable.

He/she calls him/herself Dragan Mizeric, an obvious made up name. This person is commiting a crime because he is plagiarizing material. I don't know what can be done to stop this person. I did send a message to but so did another blogger over a month ago and the "expert" is still there.

I also noticed other spam bloggers are doing the same thing with other information. They use a legitimate posting from someone else but have a heading like "earn more money" or some other enticing wording on the page.

I think these people are finding the blogs through the tags. Let's see if they use this one.