Friday, January 29, 2010

Follow Friday - Two Lories

For my first Follow Friday post, I want to share the blogs of two readers who tend to leave comments for me, from time to time.  They are each named, "Lori", and they both inspire me with their supportive comments, and their well-written, thoughtful, and heartfelt posts.

So, here's to Lori of Genealogy and Me


Lori E. of Stories of My Ancestors

I hope everyone will stop by and check out these two wonderful blogs, and thanks, Lori and Lori for following Into the Light!


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - The Stuff I'm Made Of

I've been going through some ups and downs with my research of late, and regarding my maternal side, it's mostly been downs.  As is common for most researchers from time to time, I've found myself being rather, um.... quiet.  I think we all set out thinking (or at least, hoping) that we will discover the strengths of our ancestors, and perhaps uncover some of the positive contributions they made to society, but, that is not always going to be the case. 

When I first began my research 13 years ago, I did so in an attempt to discover who I am.  I didn't know anything at all about my ancestors, beyond my maternal and paternal grandmothers, both of whom I personally knew.  I didn't grow up hearing family stories.  As a matter of fact, I really didn't have any sense of there being a "history" of my family.  My maternal grandmother, Mary (Davis) Thomas, lived just 30 minutes away from us, in Norfolk, VA, but it was my paternal grandmother in Louisburg, NC, Anna (Green) Yarborough, with whom I was closest.  Both of these women were constants in my life, and my grandma Thomas even ended up living with us during  my last couple of years of high school.  Therefore, despite the fact that I knew little to nothing of my grandmothers' past, or of the ancestors who preceded them, they were both a part of the fabric of my life.

So today, on Sentimental Sunday I dedicate my post to my grandmothers, the women who raised my parents, and who each had a significant impact on my development into the person I am today.  And not only that, but when I look in the mirror, I see them both in my reflection - the body of one, and the face of the other.  As I've learned more about their lives, and the hardships they each faced, I beam with pride as I recognize what it had to take for each of them to have managed and sustained their households in the loss of their husbands and in the face of repeated financial blows and/or significant family stressors that would have brought many others down.  But, both of my grandmothers stood tall in the face of adversity and beat the odds of their time.  As single parents, they raised successful children and both managed to keep their homes, which are still in our family today.  Through hard work and faith in God, Mary Thomas and Anna Yarborough lived well, and left a legacy of self-sufficiency, perserverance, and good will towards others.  Many times I've been complimented on the way I've raised my children and managed to rise above the many hard times I've been faced with in my adult life, and I'm often asked the question, "How do you do it?"  Well, now I know, and I have the perfect answer:  "It's the 'stuff' I'm made of!"

Anna Green Yarborough

Anna Beatrice Green was born on January 18, 1891 to parents John Wesley and Susan Dunstan Green.  She was the daughter of Nathaniel Hawkins and Anna B. Green (who she was named for). Anna was born in Rolesville (Wake County), NC, but the family soon moved a few miles north to Louisburg, in Franklin County, but returned to Wake County when Anna was in her teens.  Little is known about Anna's early life, but in 1919, she married Calvin R Yarborough, Jr., a widower with three children.  Anna moved to into the Franklin County home that was built by her new husband and his brother, and became mother to Vida, Priscilla, and Frederick Yarborough.  Over the next five years, she gave birth to her own three children, Susie, Calvin III, and Arthur (my father).  Unfortunately, Calvin began to suffer with the symptoms of tuberculosis, the cause of his first wife's death.  He fell ill, and passed away in 1929, leaving Anna to raise six children alone.  Anna, who was, at the time, involved in the creation of a new church in Louisburg (Mt. Hebron United Holy Church) relied on her faith and worked hard keep the taxes paid on the house that her husband had built, and to keep her children fed, clothed, and educated.  She worked as a laundress, as well as for private families as a housekeeper and nanny.  She also took in sewing, all the while maintaining a leadership role in the church she'd helped to create. She had a sweet disposition and was known throughout the little town of Louisburg as, "Miss Anna".  Anna walked several miles each day to and from her jobs on the "white side" of town.  She never did learn to drive.
As Anna grew older, her three biological children helped to support her so that she no longer had to work.  (The older three died of various causes in their 30's and 40's.)  Her greatest joy was in spending time with her four grandchildren, all the children of her youngest son, Arthur.  She was an excellent cook, and was known for the wonderful cakes she baked.  She took pride in her house and her yard, and gave special care and attention to her "award-winning" rose bushes in her front yard.  She loved to sit out on her in her porch in her brown, wooden rocking chair and wave at all of the passers by, many of whom would stop for a chat.
In February, 1977, when I was 15 years old, my grandmother, Anna Yarborough, died of complications from colon cancer.  She is buried in the family plot on "the hill", which is the Louisburg City Cemetery (formerly, "for the Colored").

Mary Davis Thomas

Mary Davis was born December 26, 1897 in Littleton (Halifax County), NC to parents Walter and Minerva Brown Davis.  According to the 1900 Census, Mary had a brother, one year older, named Samuel, and in 1910, the Census states that her mother had actually born three children, but only one (Mary) was living.  It is likely that Mary never knew or remembered her two siblings, because she never mentioned them to my mother, or to either of her other two children.  Mary's maternal ancestors were her grandparents, Asa and Luvenia Ross Brown, and great-grandparents, Everett and Minerva Ross.  Her paternal grandparents were Lewis and Dollie Davis.  Mary's large extended family all lived in the Littleton and Roanoke Rapids areas of North Carolina.
Around the turn of the 20th Century, several members of the Davis family migrated to Norfolk, Virginia, seemingly to work as longshoremen.  Walter, Minerva and Mary were part of this migration.  By 1910, they, as well as several of their family members are living in the Lambert's Point section of Norfolk.  In 1915, a young Mary was wed to her first love, Allen Walker, at the St. Marks AZUA Church in Norfolk.  Allen worked as a brakeman on the Virginia Railroad.  He and Mary were quite in love and lived happily, sharing a home with her parents until his untimely death, which occured sometime early in their marriage. 
Mary, though heartbroken, had to go on with her life.  At some point, she began doing hair in the porch room of the home that she'd shared with Allen, and she petitioned the owner for it's purchase.  In 1924, the house in Lambert's Point was hers, and it is still in our family today.  Sometime later, Mary met Daniel Webster Hill, and they were married in 1929 in Philadelphia, PA, and in 1930, Daniel, had joined Mary and her parents in the home.  Mary began her family with Daniel; first giving birth to a son, Howell, and then, in 1934, to a daughter (my mother), Mary Anne.  In 1936, Mary's father, Walter, died, but she still had her mother, Minerva there to help her with the house and the chldren. Unfortunately, sometime around 1938, Daniel Hill abandoned his family for reasons unknown, and was never heard from again.
Once again, Mary was left on her own, but this time, with two children. Mary was able to carry on with her very successful hair-care business.  True love struck again, and she married Charlie Thomas, a railroad worker with whom she fell deeply in love.  Mary gave birth to her youngest daughter, Jane, in 1940.  Charlie was a loving and caring provider to his wife, daughter, and step-children.  It seemed that the family had finally found joy, but tragedy struck again, as Charlie was killed in a railroad accident, leaving Mary a widow, once again. 
Understandably, Mary lived the rest of her life without a spouse.  She continued to do hair, and also worked as a secretary and receptionist at the local YWCA.  Her mother, Minerva, who was her partner in raising the children, died in 1960, after they were all grown and gone.  Mary carried on, living alone in the home that she'd purchased in 1924.  At some point, she joined, and became a faithful and committed member of Jerusalem Baptist Church in Norfolk. In the mid-70's, when Mary's health began to fail, she moved in with her daughter Mary's family in Hampton, VA, and later into a nursing home in Chesapeake, close to where her son lived.  Mary Davis Walker Hill Thomas, who'd lived to see three generations of her descendants, died in June, 1986, at the age of 89.  She is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Norfolk, VA in a plot with several family members, including her parents, and her beloved last husband, Charlie.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mystery Monday - Can you date this photo? - Mystery Solved!

Today I'm reaching out to my readers for a bit of help. 

I have had this picture in my possession for quite some time, and I've always assumed it to be my maternal grandmother, Mary Thomas.  However, even though it looks exactly like her, I've always been a bit bothered by two things:  First, her clothing doesn't seem quite right to me for the time period of the age she looks to be in this photo.  And secondly, no one in my family knows who the man is, although if this is my grandmother, there's a chance that this could have been her first husband, who died not long after they married.

I don't want to give any details about my grandmother's age, etc., because I'm hoping that some of the "experts" out there will take a look at the photo and leave me comments with suggestions of the approximate date, or even the decade, that is was likely to have been taken.  That way, I can more definitively say that this is my grandmother, and if not, I'm sure it must've been her mother (and her father). 

Thanks, in advance, and please feel free to pass the link to this post on to any photo experts you may know!


Addendum:  January 18, 2010 - 7:10 p.m.
Wow!  What a great community this is!  Thomas, you are right on the money!  I came in this afternoon from a jaunt across the water (local lingo meaning across the Hampton Roads Bridge tunnel to Norfolk) where I went to check out the cemetery where I've learned that my grandmother, and several of my other maternal ancestors are buried.  I wasn't able to find her grave, as the cemetery was humongous, and the office was closed for the holiday.  However, while I was over there, I remember that I had in my possession my grandmother's old tin box with all of her important papers, and I thought I recalled seeing something in there about the cemetery. 
When I got home, I read your comment and posted it to the blog, and because of it (and how much I trust your knowledge and judgement) I'd decided that this had to be my grandmother, Mary Thomas, and not her mother.  The dates you gave for the clothing match perfectly with the age that my grandmother would have been at the time the picture was taken - somewhere between about 18 to 25 years old.  With that solved, I was also going with the assumption that the man would have been Allen Walker, my grandmother's first husband, but I didn't know for sure, until....
I decided to grab the old tin box to look for the information about the cemetery, and as these things go, I started perusing the other documents in the box.  One of the first things I found was the actual marriage certificate for my grandmother and Allen.  From this I got his full name, place of birth, parents' names, so occupation, and I added all of this to my tree on  While there, I decided to go on and do a search on him, and I found a couple of documents, but none more important than the one below - his WWII Draft Registration.  As you will see, this document describes the man in the picture to the tee, and so now I know for sure that the beautiful picture above is of my grandmother, Mary and her first husband, whom I'm told she loved dearly, Allen Walker. 

Mary and Allen's marriage was cut short, sometime after 1920, but before 1924, when he was killed in an accident while working on the railroad.

So, as often happens, mysteries are quickly solved when shared with others.  Although the ancestors lined things up for me today to be able to find some of the answers myself, Thomas' assertations about the period of the clothing served to solidify my conclusions about the subjects in the picture - my grandmother and her first love, Allen Walker.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - Happy Birthday to Me!

Yesterday I celebrated a birthday - an event that I don't take for granted at all.  I am thankful for the opportunity to add another year to the count, and I pray that God sees fit to give me many more.

I had a very quiet day, for the most part, save a few tense moments at my mom's assisted living center, when I had to go head to head with a staff member about a situation with her care, but other than that, it was really a "me" kind of day -filled with rest, relaxation, and research, as well as a soothing bubble bath! :)  I did nothing special, and even ate leftovers for dinner.  I ended my day with an unsuccessful outing to one of my favorite clothing stores, only to arrive and find it completely bare with a note on the door stating that they were closed for remodeling and would reopen in March.  (That's how my luck  So, as a consolaton prize, I decided to go and piddle around in Barnes and Noble for a while.  There, I relaxed with copies of, "The Washingtons of Wessington Plantation", "100 Years of Lynchings", and of a Hawaii travel guide (for my upcoming trip).  After perusing these materials to my satisfaction, I returned home and delved back into my favorite pasttime.  (I'm sure everyone reading this knows what that is.) 

All day long, I received calls from friends who wanted to wish me a happy day, and of course with each call came the inevitable question, "What are you doing to celebrate?"  Very few seemed to believe that I was as content as I sounded to just be doing what they considered to be... NOTHING.  But I was.  And, although I will admit that in previous years of celebrating alone, I've occasionally (not often) given myself a pity party, this was not one of those years.  Why?  Because this year I got a very special gift on my Birthday-Eve - one that surprised me and changed my entire perspective on everything.  My mother remembered my birthday!

Now, to some, this won't seem like a big deal, but I know that there are many of you who completely understand.  You see, my mother, a once vibrant, professional woman, has been a victim of a dulling of her intellect and memory, which, I believe, has been brought on more by lack of engagement and stimulation than anything else.  She has not been diagnosed with Alzheimers, but instead, has a movement disorder that in some ways mimics Parkinsons, but isn't quite that either.  My mother's intellect is still mostly intact, though dimished in some areas, but she knows everyone, remembers pretty much everything about her life, and can hold a good, lucid conversation most of the time.  However, there are other times - which are becoming more frequent now - when her brain seems to go to sleep, and she can't get her thoughts together or her words out right.  At those times, her comprehension seems effected, and someone who didn't know better would think she did indeed have the big "A".  Last year, on the anniversary of my birth, she was experiencing one of those phases, and for the first time in my life, my mother didn't know it was my birthday, and even when I explained it to her, she gave no emotional response.  So, Friday night, when I was talking to her on the phone, I told her that it was January 15th. When I asked her if she knew what the next day was, her response, "It's your birthday!" was the absolute most-bestest gift I could have gotten!  As our conversation went on, she asked me all of the appropriate questions: Was I doing anything special?  Were my daughters doing anything for me?  Had I heard from them?  I answered all of these questions and told her I'd see her the next day.  We talked about a few other things, and before we hung up, she remembered to tell me to have a happy birthday.

Perhaps now that I've opened the door, I'll begin to talk more about my mother's very unusual and frustrating health situation, which has been ongoing for over a decade, but for now, I just wanted to share this great gift that she gave me.  I did spend time with my mom yesterday, and thanked her for having me 48 years ago.  I even asked her to tell me a bit about my birth, which she did - but just a little.  She did repeat several times though that everyone kept looking at me in the baby bed and saying what a pretty baby I was, and each time she said it, she got a sweet smile on her face, as she remembered.

Today, on Sentimental Sunday, I'm sharing a picture of my mother that I just love for some reason.  I never saw this picture until about a year ago, when I was going through some of her old files.  The picture is a souvenier photo that was taken at Jack Dempsey's restaurant on Broadway in New York City.  My mother, who was a student at Hampton Institute at the time, was on trip to New York with her college beau, "Jimmy".  I have cropped him out because I don't know him, so I feel the need to respect his privacy.

Mary Anne and Jimmy, sometime between 1952-1955

Thanks for reading.  It's been an emotional few days.  Please continue in prayer for the people of Haiti.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Happy 101 Award from Lori and Sandra!

I'm so grateful to my genea-friends, Lori, over at Genealogy and Me and Sandra of, I Never Knew My Father, for choosing me for the "Happy 101" Award!  Both of these ladies are great bloggers, whose postings are always honest, entertaining, and heartfelt.  I hope all of my readers will check out their blogs!

The Happy 101 Award comes with a couple of "must-dos".  First, I'm to share ten things that make me happy.  Next, I must select ten other bloggers to receive the award.

10 Things That Make Renate Happy

1. The security I have in my relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ.
2. Waking up each morning.  (I don't take this for granted.)
3. Knowing that my daughters are safe, happy, and prospering.
4. Watching the sun rise over the horizon while sitting out by the ocean.
5. Beautiful sunsets.
6. Watching a good movie with hot buttered popcorn and an icy cold Coke.
7. Relaxing on the beach with a good book.
8. Gazing into the eyes of an infant while as he/she drifts s-l-o-w-l-y off to sleep in my arms.
9. Watching old videotapes of my daughters when they were younger.
10. Enjoying good times and good food on the occasional "Girls Night Out" with friends.

Now, to pass the torch, I'd like to give this award to:

Our Georgia Roots
Reclaiming Kin
Before My Time
But Now I'm Found
Find Your Folks
Conversations With My Ancestors

Happy blogging!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - Please join in!


I'm honored to announce that the theme, Sentimental Sunday, which I introduced back in November, is now being adopted by Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers as an "official" weekly blogging theme!  Although several folks have already been participating in Sentimental Sunday, I'm thrilled and excited that through Geneabloggers, over 800 bloggers, and even more readers will be encouraged to reflect on some of the their more memorable family moments and/or experiences as researchers. 

The idea of Sentimental Sunday was actually born out of the emotions I experienced after reading the posts of two of my genea-friends, and realizing how very powerful a vehicle these blogs can be.  Through our writings, we often connect with each other - total strangers, in most cases - in ways that can be difficult to express to our own family members and friends, who may not be engaged or involved in the work of genealogy research.  We hail from a variety of cultural, racial, economical, and professional backgrounds; some from well-established, completely-connected families, and others from tribes of folk who don't even know each other exists.  But our common factor is the work that we do to discover the history of our respective families, and to create a bridge that links that history to our present-day life, and leaves a gift of knowledge for generations to come.

In that light, I hope that as many members of the Genea-bloggers community as possible will join in and participate often in Sentimental Sunday.  Any memory or story you might tell that pulls on your own heart-strings and might inspire the emotions of others, should qualify.  Whether it's a memorable family moment, a tribute to an ancestor or family member, or even a recollection of something touching that occured here in the blogosphere, I hope you'll share it with us all on Sentimental Sunday!


Click here to read my very first Sentimental Sunday post, which inspired all of this. :)

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year - New Discoveries!

This first day of the new year has brought several nice surprises for this worn-out researcher.  The morning began with a bit of frustration in the wee hours, as I discovered that my subscription to the North Carolina Genealogy Society was not yet activated.  I'd placed my order back in November, but had to wait until January 1st in order to have access to the members area.  I'd looked forward to entertaining myself with this resource as soon as the clock struck 12, but that was not to be.  So, I went to sleep.

Back awake, and restless at about 4:30 a.m., I decided to get back on the computer and continue my ever-lasting search for any mention of my paternal ancestors in any document that I haven't already discovered.  I started to look in the usual places, then tried to think of some new and unique terms to put into a google search that might lead me to something new.  Nothing worked.  I'd seen it all. So...

.... then I did it.  I decided that I would put some time and energy into trying to further my knowledge about my maternal ancestors.  After all, I knew their names all the way to my gg-grandparents, but I'd never really tried to go any further back than that.  The reason?  Mainly because the people on that side would only be names to me, and not only that, since my mother and her siblings know even less than I do about their ancestors, there wouldn't really be anyone with whom I could check or verify any information I might find.  There are no family stories at all to lead me in any direction on anything.  As a matter of fact, it was me who informed them of their own great-grandparents names just a couple of years ago.  And neither my mother nor her siblings had any idea that their own mother, Mary Davis, had ever had a sibling, Samuel.  They all knew their mother to be an only child, so I guess her brother must've died as a youngster.  Anyway, wide awake on the first morning of 2010, and trying not to be too upset about my lack of access to the NCGS Journal archives, I decided to take another look at the BROWNS and DAVISES of Littleton, NC.

I started by trekking backward on my tree at, starting with my mother and going back to her great-grandparents, Acy and Louvenia BROWN.  I've come back a few times over the years and tried to search for Ace (name varies) and the family sometime other than where I'd previously found them (in the 1900 Census).  Though I found a few potential "suspects", none could be proven, so shoeboxed them and decided to focus on Louvenia, his wife.  I'd never even tried to find her family of origin, even though I had her maiden name, Ross, from an earlier document.  A quick search took me right to Luvenia's birth family, and with that, an exciting discovery!  Not only did I find the names of Louvenia's parents and siblings, but right away I learned something else.  My mother's grandmother, Minerva DAVIS, with whom my mother was very close and deeply connected, was actually named after her grandmother, Minerva ROSS!  That's right - my 4th great-grandparents were Everett and Minerva ROSS, and they were right there in Littleton, NC.  They'd had seven children, of whom my 3rd-great grandmother, Louvenia, was the oldest.  Louvenia's oldest child was my great-grandmother, Minerva, whose second child was my grandmother, Mary, whose second child was my mother!  Whew!

I was so excited, but I had no one to tell!  My mother no longer answers her phone when it rings; my oldest daugther is vacationing in Egypt, my youngest daughter had gone to Richmond and was staying with friends, so I didn't dare ring her phone at that hour... well you get the picture.  So, what did I do?  I tweeted my news!! :)

Well, the morning, and then the day just got better and better.  First, I took the time to fill out family group sheets (like a good little researcher) on the Ross and Brown households, taking care to stay true to my goal for the new year of documenting my sources for each little thing.  I found the Rosses in two more censuses, and also found them to be surrounded by other Ross families on both sides.  I shoeboxed all the extra Rosses, since I don't yet know their relationships.  Oh, and since neither Everett nor Minerva appear before 1870, I can reasonably assume that they were enslaved.  I will look for a cohabitation record for them on my next trip to the Archives. Oh, and by finding the widowed Louvenia in the 1910 Census (with son, Wesley now as HOH), I was able to determine that Ace/Acy died sometime between 1900 and 1910.

Once I did as much as I felt I could on these two families, I finally got up to fix coffee and attend to my persistent hunger pains.  When I got back to the computer, my day was made even better because I'd finally been granted access to the member area of the NCGS site!  As a member, I have access to the NCGS Journals from 1975 to 2007! Of course, I dug right into this wonderful resource, and already I've found several items of interest. nd now, I have something new to keep me busy during those "down" times, when I just can't think of another way to search for my ancestors.:)

Looks like 2010 is off to a fruitful and interesting start!