Sunday, January 22, 2023

Renate on the Web (and In Person!) - 2023 First-Half

 As in the past couple of years, I have several speaking engagements coming up, as we go into Black History Month and the Spring season. I've been pulling back a bit, though, so this year's list is not as busy as before. As you'll see, we are starting to get back to in person events, so my usual "Renate on Web" title for this post had to be edited! :)

Where's Renate?                                                                                                                Here's what I have going on for the first half of 2023. Where possible, I'll include a link where you can get more information and register for the events, if interested. All times given are in Eastern Time. I will also indicate with ($) at the end of each event that is not free. Here goes!

January 2023

28th - AAHGS-Greater Richmond Chapter, Monthly Meeting (Hybrid): Topic - "Researching Enslaved Ancestors" Click for more info and to register.   https://aahgsrichmondva.com/eventscalendar/

February 2023

4th - Stark Library, Canton, OH (Virtual): Topic - "From Yarborough to Neal: Reconstructing My Enslaved Family Using DNA" https://stark.libnet.info/event/7483558

10th-11th - North Carolina AAHGS Annual Black History Month Banquet and Conference: Opening Conference Speaker  https://tinyurl.com/ncaahgs2023 ($)

18th - Norfolk (VA) Public Library - Jordan-Newby Anchor Branch at Broad Creek, Norfolk, VA: Topic - "Researching Ancestors of Color" https://norfolkpubliclibrary-adultprograms.eventbrite.com

25th - Union County (NC) Library (Virtual): Topic - "Using Funeral Programs to Inform Genealogy Research"   (No registration. Click link at time of event (2/25/23 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern) This is a hybrid event.    https://www.unioncountync.gov/Home/Components/Calendar/Event/1356/1040

March 2023

25th - North Carolina Genealogical Society, Virtual Conference: Topic - Records of the Freedmen's Bureau - There's Something for Everyone" https://www.ncgenealogy.org/event/ncgs-2023-virtual-conference-coming-soon/ ($)

April 2023

7th - (2:00 p.m.) Legacy Family Tree Webinars - "Tick Marks and Number Counts: Understanding and Using the Slave Schedules" - The live presentation is free and the replay is free for one week, but registration is required. Available to subscribing members after the first week. Register here: https://familytreewebinars.com/webinar/tic-marks-and-number-counts-understanding-and-using-the-slave-schedules/                                                              Update: This lecture was recognized as the highest rated on Legacy Family Tree Webinars for the month of April! What an honor! I hope you'll check it out! :)

11th - (1:00 - 2:00) Wake Forest University: "Conducting Research on Enslaved Humans Owned by Wake Forest College" - Z. Reynolds Library, Wake Forest University. This is an in-person event sponsored by the Department of Sociology, RECAAL, and the Provost's Office. (Open to the public.)

13th - Virginia Beach (VA) Genealogy Society: Understanding and Using the Slave Schedules - This is a hybrid meeting. Email meetings@vbgsva.net to request the Zoom link. 

26th-29th - Ohio Genealogical Society 2023 Conference, Kalahari Resort and Conference Center, Sandusky, OH; "What Brought Them Here 1803-2023" - I'll be giving four lectures. Click link for conference and registration information: https://www.ogs.org/2023-conference/ ($)

May 2023

2nd - Genealogy Quick Start, with host Shamele Jordan - "DNA Discovers Granddad's Dalliances" Tune in LIVE! https://www.youtube.com/@GenealogyQuickStart/featured

31st  - National Genealogical Society 2023 Family History Conference, Richmond, VA; "Virginia, the Deep Roots of a Nation" Pre-Conference Day

June 2023

June 1- 3 - National Genealogical Society 2023 Family History Conference, Richmond, VA; "Virginia, the Deep Roots of a Nation" - I'll be giving two lectures: F242- Enslaved Ancestral Research in Virginia and North Carolina and S352- "From This Day Forward" - Documenting Marital Unions of Enslaved and Emancipated Persons." Click link for conference and registration information: https://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/ ($)

4th - Let's Talk North Carolina Genealogy! Season 3, Episode 11: "Researching the Wake Forest 16" - I will be sharing information about the descendant research I'm doing for Wake Forest University, regarding the 1860 sale of 16 enslaved individuals to create an endowment for the school. Register here: https://tinyurl.com/LTNCGS3E11

14th - Lemonade Insurance Employee Group - "Records of the Freedmen's Bureau: There's Something for Everyone!" (Private event)

17th - (1:00 p.m.) Historical Society of Washington County, VA, "Reclaiming Our History" Annual Conference (Virtual) "Researching Ancestors of Color" Register here.

It's good to see folks and to be seen!                                                                                        One of the best things about returning to in person is thinking about seeing gen-friends, old and new! I am looking forward to seeing and meeting as many of you, as possible, at these upcoming events!

Picture 1 - With genfriends, Shelley and Tim in Fluvanna, Virginia (unsure of year)
Picture 2 - With genfriends Amy and Peggy at OGS 2022
Picture 3 - With genfriends Shelly, Judy, Thom, and Gary at NGS 2017


P.S. This post will be updated as additional events are added. If you are interested in having me as a speaker for your organization, please email me at yarsan@aol.com to request my current list of topics. I'd love to hear from you!

Permalink to this post: https://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2023/01/renate-on-web-and-in-person-2023.html

Monday, May 9, 2022

Memory Monday - Granger Court East

This morning, I got a nice little Facebook memory on my friends and family account. This photo, which I estimate to have been taken when I was about 14 or 15, shows me (back corner right) with just a few of my neighborhood buddies (and a couple of young'uns), standing in front of the McBride home, on Micott Drive in Hampton, Virginia. Our neighborhood, "Granger Court East," was built in the early 60's as an extension of the historic Aberdeen Gardens neighborhood. Granger Court was marketed to attract black military families - retired or active duty - to its middle class arrangement of a variety of 3 and 4 bedroom single family homes.

Part of the "GCG" sometime in the early 70s. 
(Rest in peace, Shirelle and Karen.)

To say that Granger Court was filled with kids would be an understatement! Every household had children; and we spanned all the age groups. We were an all-black neighborhood, with working parents (always dad - and probably about 75% mom, too) and plenty of room to run, play, and explore. We didn't have any type of recreation services - not even a playground. We made our own fun playing kickball/baseball/football/dodgeball in the cul-de-sacs, hanging out and playing in the woods and at the "Big Hills,"* climbing/scooting/balancing over fallen trees and sewer pipes in the woods - to get to an adjacent neighborhood, riding bikes, playing hide-and-seek, swinging on clotheslines - and just doing whatever else we could do (or get into) that would keep us outside with our friends -- but only until the streetlights came on! (Of course, that rule loosened when we became teenagers. We hung on the neighborhood corners well into the night, then!)

New Journal and Guide (1916-2003); Nov 2, 1963

Somewhere along the way, a group of us started referring to ourselves as the GCG, or "Granger Court Gang," for short. I know that I was the one who came up with this, and it only caught on with a small group of my friends, but I remember thinking it would be cool to refer to ourselves in this way, especially when we ventured as a group into other neighborhoods, such as "L.A." (Lower Aberdeen) or "P.C." (Pine Chapel). And, every time I see this "tough" looking photo of some of us, I feel as though it personifies that moniker quite perfectly - quite probably being one of the only times a group of kids from Granger Court ever looked the part of a "gang."

Somewhere, I have a photo that shows our whole house; but, for now, here are my siblings and me standing in front of the house, sometime in the 60s.
Did you grow up in a neighborhood like Granger Court? Please share your memories in the comment section, below! :)

Thanks for reading!                                                                                                                              Renate

* The "Big Hills" were two HUGE mountains of dirt that we could climb, ride our bikes down, or slide down on pieces of cardboard. They were located behind the Darby's and the McBride's homes, off of Micott Drive, right next to one of our entryways to the The Woods and The Creek. :) We didn't know it, then, but I now realize that those "mountains" were the mounds of dirt that had created when the land was cleared to make our beloved neighborhood. Later, the Big Hills were removed, and more houses were built on the land on which they used to stand.

Permalink to this post: https://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2022/05/memory-monday-granger-court-east.html

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Lies! Lies! Lies!

This is a quick one, but I just let out the loudest laugh and I want SOMEONE to know why!

I just returned to the recently publicized New York City Historical Vital Records Project, to look for the marriage record of one of my said-to-be-passing, relatives, Ruby Green. I knew that she'd married a man by the surname of SEABROOK, and that he was a doctor, but I hadn't known anything else about him or their marriage.

I easily retrieved the digital record by searching for it by the certificate number, which I already had from an index. I searched first for the marriage in Manhattan, but another couple came up. I changed the search to Kings County, which is Brooklyn, and there there were!

There were a few pieces of information provided on this document that were unknown to me. Some are "a-ha's" and others are just interesting. To maintain the quality of the document, I've cropped the first page (of four) to just show the relevant parts.

Partial clipping of Marriage Record of Ruby Green and Dr. William Seabrook

The A-Ha's

Ruby Green was one of the three people in my Green family who had moved to New York, and were said to be there "passing as white." (The three were Ruby, her sister, Bettie, and their uncle, William A. Green.) I'd been told by relatives who knew her that she was a seamstress on Broadway, who worked for all the "rich and famous movie stars." When I saw on this document that her occupation was "Dressmaking" and that she lived on Broadway, I felt that there may have likely been some truth in the oral history that had been shared with me. (However - and it's a long story - it's said that after William's wife found out that he was black, she outted them all and both Betsie (who was supposedly Doris Duke's hairdresser), and Ruby lost their jobs.

Helpful tidbits to update my tree and help in my research:

1. Ruby's husband's name was William Henry Seabrook. He was a doctor, but I don't think anyone realized he was a veterinarian. The additional information about him and his origins is great.

2. Ruby's middle name was Gordon (if this is real). I hadn't known her to have any middle name, and hadn't seen it on previous records. I thought maybe it was indicative of a previous marriage, but the document states that this is her first. I don't know of any family connection to the name Gordon. Perhaps it has something to do with her (white) father's family. I'll have to check into his family tree. 

3. October 14, 1944 - Learning that Ruby didn't marry until 4 years after the death of her uncle, William Adam Green, was helpful to certain aspects of my research. Ruby was the informant on William's death certificate, and I'd wondered why her surname was still Green(e), at that time, because I'd thought by the age Ruby was at that time, she'd have already married. As it is, Ruby was 40 years old when she married William Seabrook.

4. Race - Both Ruby and her husband are noted with "C" for race, indicating that they were colored, or black. According to my now deceased relatives who knew the couple, Dr. Seabrook was dark - or at least brown skinned. He was unmistakably black. New York didn't have any anti-miscegenation laws in place, so if Ruby were passing as white, it wouldn't have been illegal for her to marry a black man; but, being that William Seabrook was from Brooklyn, and likely had family there and was also likely a member of the black elite in the community, it would have been more favorable for Ruby to embrace and enjoy the perks of her blackness in that situation. (It's also likely that the rumors weren't even true. Ruby looked white; she didn't have to try to pass. More likely, she had to work hard to convince people that she was black!)

So, you're probably thinking... "So what was it that had you laughing out loud?"

Well, it was this part of the application. 

This part of the document revealed to me that Ruby had, obviously, learned some of the tricky tricks of the passing trade from her Uncle William, before he died. William had a habit of making up names and places, always using a bit of the truth and mixing it with a little flavor to distract anyone from finding out who he really was. That's exactly what Ruby has done here. 

Ruby names her father as "John Geene." (That should be Greene.) Well, first of all, the family name was spelled "GREEN," however, Ruby seems to have added the e to the end, as her  very accomplished cousin, William Lawrence Greene, had done. That's fine and good. However, John Green, was my great-grandfather, Ruby's uncle - her mother's (and her Uncle William's) oldest sibling. He was not Ruby's father. She is just using his name. From what I've been told, all of Annie Green's (Ruby's mother) children were fathered by Samuel Cannady VANN, a wealthy mill owner, from Franklinton, Franklin County, North Carolina.

Samuel Cannady Vann

Next, Ruby takes the liberty of giving her mother, Annie, the surname HAWKINS. This was the last name of Annie's father, Nathaniel, however, he and Annie's mother, Anna, who were my second-great-grandparents, never married. They couldn't have, in North Carolian, even if they'd wanted to. Anna was a mulatto woman and Nathaniel was a white man, from a prominent family in the area. All six of the children they had together carried the surname, GREEN.

So, just to set the record straight for those who are reading this: Ruby's parents were Annie Green and (according to family lore) Samuel C. Vann.

Annie Green (far left) with family members. The two young ladies closest to her are
her daughters. One is Ruby, but I don't know which one.

Okay, that wasn't as quick as I thought it would be; but, thanks for reading and allowing me to share this lil chuckle with you. 


Permalink to this post: https://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2022/04/lies-lies-lies.html

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

New York City Historical Vital Records ONLINE! I'm so excited!

Yep, you read that right! The New York City Department of Records and Information Services has finally done the right thing! Not only have they digitized their birth, marriage, and death records from all five boroughs, but they have put them online with FREE access to all! Woo-hoo!

Although I'm not a big-time NYC researcher, I do have reason to be very excited about this, as I had several ancestral relatives from my GREEN line, who left North Carolina to live in New York - and, while they were there, they were (at least part of the time) passing as WHITE. Though I've had some limited information about them, being able to see these vital records in their entirety will fill in some blanks for me and help to move my research on this particular family line forward. 

With that goal in mind, I dug right in and, voila! - I've already struck little nuggets of gold.

One of the most mysterious characters in my NYC-passing Green line is William Adam Green, son of my 2x-great-grandparents, Nathaniel Hawkins and Anna Green and younger brother of my great-grandfather, John Wesley Green - all of Louisburg, NC. I've written a bit about William, here. Though his mother, Anna, is the real mystery person, it's largely been the inconsistencies in the records I've found about William that have impeded my progress in successfully uncovering more details about the life of his mother - my direct ancestor. (You can read a bit about Anna in this 2009 post. Just keep in mind it was written 13 years ago!)

Though I'll need more time to work with this morning's loot, I'll share just a couple of the documents I've already encountered, and tell a little about why they are so helpful to my research.

1904 Marriage Record of William Adam Green and Sally Lou Johnson

First of all, though I've had this this marriage recorded on my tree, for a long time, no one in my family - even relatives who actually knew William Green - knew anything about it. And, although these relatives all lived in the tiny town of Louisburg, none of them had ever heard of a "Sally Lou Johnson" or her family. This documents reveals the names of Sally Lou's parents - Harry Johnson and Judy Eton (Eaton). I have already found Sally's (whose name is actually Sarah) immediate family, and will be able to find out more about her, them, and what happened to this first marriage (stated on document) of my ancestor, William Green. 

This 1904 document also shows that William gave his race as Black, and that he was marrying a black woman, who was from his hometown of Louisburg. That's important because I've hypothesized that he didn't purposefully go to New York to pass as white, but that it's something that happened as his time there went on. (More on that, later.) Additionally, I've always wondered if any children were produced by this first marriage. Perhaps having the additional information about Sally's name and family will lead me to a definitive answer about that.


The biggest deal on this document is the very clearly written name William gave for his mother - Anna PERKINS. It's only been through William's records that I've ever seen this last name for my very elusive second-great-grandmother, who used the surname GREEN, but was rumored to have originally been a Perkins. There are other iterations of P-names on the other documents, but I trust this one more because I know this information would have been given by William, himself. However, I can't/won't allow myself to take it as definitive proof of her original surname because of the fact that, on this very same document, William gives the wrong surname for his father. On the document, the name is written as Nathaniel Green, but his father's name was Nathaniel HAWKINS. Is it possible that William didn't know that; or did the clerk make this error by either making an assumption or at the direction of William? I'll likely never know that answer to that. I am glad, though, that William knew who his father was, enough to get his first name correct. Since Nathaniel died when William was between 4 and 6 years old, it's not likely that he had many (if any) personal memories of him.

The last two "big deal" items from this document are that I can add this address, 48 6th Avenue, to William's timeline and, finally, that I'm able to see William's actual, very confidently written signature, for the very first time. (Of course, I'll be looking into the witnesses and the "Elder" Wm M. Johnston, too.)


Well, that was a bit longer than I'd planned this post to be. I need to get back to the research and to the things I was supposed to have been doing before this bright, shiny...errr-uh, I mean this wonderful resource was shared this morning. Therefore, I will just share one of the other documents I downloaded from the search site - William Green's death certificate. 

As you can see, William's niece, Ruby Green(e), served as informant for his death certificate. She was also living in New York and passing as white, according to what my older cousins have told me. She gives "Pecker" as the maiden name of William's mother and, curiously enough, she also gives Nathaniel's surname as Green. Since she would have never known Nathaniel, who died in 1879, I wonder even more now if that really is what William thought his father's surname was - and if he'd passed that on to his niece. Significantly, William's race is given on his death certificate as "White" providing supporting evidence that he was living as such at the time of his death. He'd had a second wife, an Irish immigrant, who'd lived with William at the same address shown on his death certificate; but she died in 1929. My thinking is that, perhaps because of that relationship, he had (or chose) to live out his later years on the other side of the color line.

Of course, there is more valuable information on this document, but I'd already had most of it, including William's home address, which I visited (from the outside) several years ago on one of my trips to visit my daughter in New York. Somewhere, I have pictures, but I don't know where they are, so here's a peek at the home from Google Maps. 

There's so much more to come...

Thanks for reading!

PS... Wanna explore the records at the New York Historical Vital Records Project for yourself? Just click this link and have yourself some fun!

PSS... If you'd like to learn more about the launch of the New York City Historical Vital Records Project, please visit this excellent blog post by "The Legal Genealogist," Judy Russell, by clicking here

Permalink to this post: https://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2022/03/new-york-city-historical-vital-records.html

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Renate on the Web: Black History Month 2022

Updated 2/21/22

Black History Month is every month, for me! However, we've just entered the nationally appointed month of recognition and celebration - the "formal" Black History Month, if you will, which actually began with Carter G. Woodson's "Black History Week," back in 1926, but was designated in the United States as "Black History Month" in 1976 - and has continued to be designated as such by every American President, since then. 

Black History Month is also a very busy time for genealogists (and historians) who speak on topics related to African American research. Many of us are bombarded with requests to appear during the month of February, which we happily accept, but certainly would love for this level of interest in our specialization(s) would be present throughout the year. :)

I have been posting some of my upcoming events on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets but, that can get exhausting and also confusing if I don't do a good job of keeping up with what I've already posted and where! But, while doing some reviewing and editing on my blog this morning, I ran across a post I'd done almost a year ago called, "Renate on the Web" and I realize I must have been feeling much the same way, when I decided to go on and post my upcoming appearances for that particular period. "Ah-ha" (I said to myself): "THIS is what I need to do now!" So, here we go! 

Renate on the Web: February 2022                                                                                      (Please click on links for times and additional info. ALL events are virtual!)

Please join me for some (or all) of these exciting events!

1. Friday, 2/4/22 - Clayton Library (Houston, Texas) - "In Their Own Words: Voices from the Slave Narratives" https://houstonlibrary.libcal.com/event/8494212 (Scroll to bottom of page.)

2. Saturday, 2/5/22 - North Carolina Chapters of AAHGS - Black History Month Conference - "Freedom Bound: Escaping Bondage for Life in the North" and "We Were Supposed To Be Neals: Reconstructing an Enslaved Family Using DNA" https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nc-aahgs-black-history-genealogy-virtual-conference-2022-tickets-222988814547

3. Sunday, 2/6/22 - Let's Talk North Carolina Genealogy - Monthly Research Chat (Theme: "Love is in the Air." Join me and my cohost, Taneya Y. Koonce, as we gather with other North Carolina researchers to share findings, conundrums, celebrations, and stories from our family history journeys. All are welcome! Registration required. https://bit.ly/2022-ltncg-research-chats

4. Saturday, 2/12/22 - Hampton Roads Chapter of AAHGS - "Putting Your Fingers to Work: Transcribing and Indexing Historical Documents" (This is a joint presentation with Selma Stewart. The focus will be on African American projects.) Email aahgshr@gmail.com to request meeting link.

5. Thursday, 2/17/22 - Bay Shore Brightwaters Library (Brightwaters, NY) - "Genealogy 101: Researching Ancestors of Color" https://www.bsbwlibrary.org/black-history-month/  Scroll down to "Zoom Programs." To register and receive Zoom information, email rs@bsbwlibrary.org.

6. Saturday, 2/19/22 - International African American Museum (Charleston, SC) - "African American Genealogy Research in the North Carolina Gullah-Geechee Corridor" Registration required. Click here for link.

7. Wednesday, 2/23/22 - AARP and Richmond Chapter of ASALH - "Wind Down Wednesdays: The Dismal Swamp and African American Freedom Seekers" with filmmaker, Brian Bullock. (I've just been added to this program as a panelist, with Mr. Bullock after he presents one of his short films, so you may not see my name on the advertisement. The discussion will center around taking road trips to ancestral locations!) Registration is required. https://aarp.cventevents.com/event/ea2d90c2-7c1e-4a06-9ef3-1d8794323643/summary

8. Friday, February 25 (NEW!) - Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project - "Finding Calvin: Following My Enslaved Ancestor Through Multiple Owners: A Case Study" Set a reminder to join the Zoom meeting on February 25 at 1:00 EST. Here's the link!  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85372515448

National Geographic Podcast - I'm also pleased to be a contributing member of an exciting podcast, "Into the Depths," featuring National Geographic Explorer Tara Roberts, who sets off on the journey of a lifetime to meet the divers, marine archaeologists, descendants of those brought over on slave ships, as well as historians investigating the lost stories of the slave trade. This is a six-episode podcast, airing on Thursday evenings, which actually began on January 27, and runs through March 3. I was hired as Ms. Roberts' genealogist and will be included in the March 3 episode, as well as in the March issue of National Geographic Magazine (cover story!), which will be released on February 8th.

Click here for more information and to access all available episodes of the podcast and here for the National Geographic Magazine web site.  Though I don't yet know what parts or how much of my research actually "made the cut" for publication, I am ever grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Tara Roberts and to have been included as one of the "featured voices" in this amazing project!

Currently, these are the presentations I have for February 2022, but requests are still coming in, so stay tuned for updates! (I'm saying a prayer that I haven't forgotten anything!) I will also add a few of my commitments for March and April, below.


March 3-5/2022 - RootsTech Connect! "Who Ya Gonna Call? Myth Busters" and "What To Do When There's Nothing To Do" (These are both short versions of larger presentations, due to the RootsTech format.) To register, for the world's biggest genealogy conference, visit   https://www.familysearch.org/rootstech/next/

 Thursday, 3/10/22 - The Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library - "Researching Formerly Enslaved Ancestors: It Takes a Village!" - Registration link not yet available, but check this link for updates: https://acpl.lib.in.us/genealogy

Saturday, 3/19/22 - Tidewater Genealogical Society (Virginia) - "Researching Free People of Color in Virginia and North Carolina: 1800-1865" Registration information will be forthcoming. Email VATGS@verizon.net with questions.

Thursday, 3/24/22 - College of Coastal Georgia - "Using Funeral Programs to Inform Genealogy Research" https://upto.com/e/F12WO


Friday, April 1, 2022 (NEW!) - Legacy Family Tree Webinars - "We Were Supposed to be Neals: Reconstructing An Enslaved Family Using DNA" Come along on this journey as I share how, using a combination of DNA and traditional research, I was able to find the family of my once enslaved great-grandfather, Calvin! This live presentation is free and will be available for one week for non-members of Legacy. After that, a subscription (well worth it) will be required to view it. Register here! https://familytreewebinars.com/webinar/we-were-supposed-to-be-neals-reconstructing-an-enslaved-family-using-dna/

And since I'm on a roll, a few blasts from the past!

January 2022 - North Carolina Genealogical Society and PBS - Virtual Sneak Preview of Season 8 of Finding Your Roots with follow-up discussion panel - Panel discussion available on YouTube at this link: tinyurl.com/NCGSPBS

December 2020 - Another View (Radio Show) - Finding Your Roots, WHRO Style! This is part 1 of a two-part event with Barbara Hamm Lee (host) and Lisa Godley (producer) of this popular PBS local radio weekly radio program. Click here to listen:                                                https://mediaplayer.whro.org/program/anotherview/e/anotherview-thursday-december-10th-2020

The second part of this wonderful event was a LIVE Genealogy Reveal, presented on Zoom, during which I present Ms. Hamm Lee and Ms. Godley with the results of my research on their extensive family histories. Grab some popcorn and join the fun and excitement as I reveal their roots, "WHRO Style!" (Click to watch!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=ABGudqXJhbc)

I hope to see you (virtually) soon! :)

Thanks for reading!


Permalink to this post: https://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2022/02/renate-on-web-black-history-month-2022.html

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

"We Were Supposed to be Neals"


 Wow. What a weekend!

The first thing: Meeting my Neals

As many of my readers know, I've been researching my YARBOROUGH line for almost 25 years. The targeted ancestor for this line has been my great-grandfather, Calvin Yarborough, who was born in or around 1840 and died between 1910-1913. Calvin lived in Louisburg, North Carolina. He and my great-grandmother, Precilla, were both enslaved. Together, they had 11 (known) children. To read more about Calvin, click here.

For over 4 years, I have been giving a presentation called, "Finding Calvin: Following My Enslaved Ancestor Through Multiple Owners." In this talk, which is actually a case study, I demonstrate how I determined that Calvin was, indeed, enslaved and I share the process and methodology used to uncover his ties to four different enslavers. And, though I hadn't been able to find records leading me to Calvin's family of origin, which I was sure he'd been separated from, I had one tiny tidbit of family lore, shared with me by my father's sister, the only close Yarborough relative still living at the time I began this work. What my Aunt Sue told me was this: "We were supposed to be Neals, not Yarboroughs."

Susie Yarborough Hawkins

Since discovering my great-grandfather's four enslavers, I've continued the work of researching each of them, as well as their family members, looking for any information relevant to Calvin - anything that might lead me to the names of his parents and/or any siblings. Unfortunately, I came across no revealing records in which family relationships were noted. So, in the Spring of 2020, bored at home in isolation because of a global pandemic, I made the decision to plunge more deeply into working with some of my DNA matches to see if I might be able to figure out how we are connected. I'd been spending hours and hours in webinars and reading blog posts about strategies for working with DNA matches, so it was time to up my game and put some (more) of what I’d been learning into practice.

My first goal was to try to determine the family line of a set of matches that were matching each other but were not connecting to any known relatives of mine. The main reason for this was that these matches were on Ancestry DNA, where the fewest of my relatives had tested, being that I had obtained most of their samples before 2012, when Ancestry began implementing autosomal testing. Even for the couple of years after that, I still mostly used 23&Me and FTDNA for my testing needs, not knowing that Ancestry would become the “popular choice” and gain such a large database of testees so quickly. Because of this, though all of my lines are represented on at least two of the other main sites (to include MyHeritage and Gedmatch, which allow uploads from the other companies), I am not able to immediately identify all of my matches on Ancestry by using the Shared Matches feature on their site. And, since many of these matches have been unresponsive to messaging and/or unwilling to upload to other sites, I’ve been left with few other options but to do the work of researching their lines and building out trees for them, myself. And, so I began, in the Spring of 2020 – and in so doing, I began to see a common thread in the first few trees I successfully built out; each of these matches had a NEAL line!

Sanders, Renate Yarborough. “We Were Supposed to be NEALS: Reconstructing an Enslaved Family Using DNA,” Slide No. 31: Accessed 11/1/2021)

As you can see, I was able to work the trees of these five matches to three Neal ancestors, Wiley Perry, Lee Ernest, and Louis Napoleon Neal. Thanks to the one person who had a tree, I learned that the parents of all of these men were James NEAL and Angeline Jackson. With this revelation, and excited by what it may have meant, I fervently began reaching out to these matches – and also to many of the others for whom I’d not yet been able to fully build out a tree. Some responded, some didn’t. But, regardless, I was able to move forward because of the tree work I’d done and the research bounty that resulted from it. My initial thought, that perhaps James Neal was Calvin’s father, was quickly squashed when I learned that James was born in 1846 – six years after Calvin. Because of the range in the amount of DNA I was sharing with the 15-20 matches in this group (at that time), it became clear to me that James was more likely a sibling of Calvin’s. Realizing that, my next goal became to find out who James’ parents were – presuming that either one or both of them would be Calvin’s parents, too.

And so the work continued. I did find James’ parents – Lewis and Mary Neal – my presumed great-great-grandparents. I do suspect, though, that perhaps Mary was not Calvin’s mother, because records are confirming my long-held suspicion that Calvin was separated from his parents and most immediate family. I will write more about that in a future post. Nevertheless, until I find differently, I will count both Lewis and Mary as Calvin’s parents. I’ve also found several other children of Lewis and Mary Neal – the siblings (half or whole) that were all together with their parents with their enslaver, John Neal, Jr., son of Calvin’s first owner, Chloe Crudup Perry Neal, as evidenced by an 1862 inventory, found in John Neal, Jr.’s estate papers. As a result of this research, I’ve been able to connect with some of the descendants of Lewis and Mary Neal, and have been in conversation with one, in particular, my cousin Willard Neal, of Bear Creek, North Carolina. And, thanks to Cousin Willard, descendants of Lewis and Mary’s once separated offspring – Calvin and James – were together this past Friday, for the first time, meeting at the home of Willard’s sister, Jackie, in Pittsboro, NC. That’s right, folks, I met some of my Neal family, for the very first time! This loving reunion was made even more special because I was accompanied by my daughter, Natalia, and granddaughter, Teigan. In all, we represented 4 generations of the descendants of Lewis and Mary Neal! (And I am the furthest generation back of all of us!)

NEAL descendants - Reunited and it feels so good!
(Cousin Willard is standing front, right - with the plaid shirt.)

This is just a light summary of the work I did to recover Calvin's family. I tell the entire story, share my research process, and discuss my hypotheses and theories in my new presentation, “We Were Supposed to be NEALS; Reconstructing an Enslaved Family Using DNA,” which debuted this past weekend at the North Carolina Genealogical Society’s Fall Conference, in Raleigh. That brings me to…

… The second thing: My first in-person presentation, since February 2020, due to the Covid 19 Global Pandemic!

Here I am, about to speak, at the NCGS Fall Conference 2021.
Photo Credit: Connie Knox

Yes, the NCGS Fall Conference was a hybrid affair, with a cap of 50 people attending in person, joined by approximately 150 online. I was one of the in-person speakers and I have to give KUDOS to the NCGS team for a perfect setup – and for going over and beyond the requirements for social distancing. Every effort seems to have been made to make both the participants and the speakers comfortable with the situation. From the spaced out seating, adherence to the mask policies, and even the individually wrapped snacks on the refreshment table – everything was just right. I think this was about building trust in the organization to do the right thing and, in my opinion, they totally did. So, thank you to NCGS, an organization that I’m a proud member of, for helping me to take the first step towards and into “getting back out there” in-person, to speak.

View of the room from the podium. No one was anywhere near me.

Like I said at the outset, “What a weekend!” There is so much more to tell. Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!

Permalink to this post: https://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2021/11/we-were-supposed-to-be-neals.html

Thursday, February 11, 2021

MY Black History #2 - My Daddy, Arthur P. Yarborough

The majority of this post is going to be an update to a previous post, which was written on October 4, 2016, which was 19 years to the day that I'd lost my father. Please click on the links to read more about my dad, from previous posts I've written. Thanks!

Arthur P. Yarborough
June 21, 1924 - October 4, 1997

Introducing... Arthur P.
My father, Arthur Person Yarborough, was born June 24, 1924 to parents Anna Beatrice Green and Calvin Yarborough, Jr., in Louisburg, North Carolina. He was the couple's third (and last) child, together, and was named for his father's employer, Arthur Person. Arthur lost his father at the age of 4, to tuberculosis. He spent his early years in the Franklin County School System, but was sent to live with his uncle, during his teen years, and graduated from the Nash County Training School, in 1942.

Nash County Training School, Class of 1942
That's my dad at the top with the open-mouthed smile. :)

"Arthur P.," as he was usually referred to, married a hometown girl, Novella Alston, in 1947. They married in Florence, SC, which I believe must have been where my father was stationed at the time. Most of the details of this marriage are unknown to me, but I'm told that Novella deserted the marriage sometime after my dad adopted my brother, Henry, when they were in Okinawa, Japan. (Or, maybe it was right after they got back to the States.) They were formally divorced in 1958. Sometime in the mid-50's, when my father was in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, he met a beautiful young divorcee and single mother at the Officers' Club at Fort Story. They quickly fell in love and were soon married, after which Arthur's new bride left her teaching job and home in Virginia to join him in Bremerhaven, Germany. That young lady was my mother, Mary Anne Yarborough, who you can read about, here. Their (eventually tumultuous) marriage lasted 20 years and produced two children, to make a total of four little Yarboroughs. 

My dad with his two boys, Edgar and Henry, shortly after marrying my mom.

And then there were six...

23 Years Without My Dad
My father has been gone since October 4, 1997 - exactly 23 years, 4 months, and 6 days. I love and miss him, immensely. Before his death in 1997, I’d dibbled and dabbled a bit in genealogy, however, it was when faced with the task of writing my dad’s obituary that I realized how little I knew about him and his life “pre-Renate”, and I certainly didn’t know anything of his family history. And, so it was with his death, and the need to write his obituary, that I consider my real beginning as a genealogy researcher. I started my quest to learn as much as possible about my father , and subsequently my YARBOROUGH ancestry, which was soon followed by all of my other family lines.

That's me with my dad on his 65th birthday.

I Didn't Know...
There was so much I didn’t know about my father before I became a researcher. I didn’t know that about his distinguished military career – about all of the honors and recognitions he’d received, as he worked his way to the rank of Army Major, before he retired in 1964; nor was I aware of the racism he faced while on that journey. I didn’t know anything about the Montford Point Marines, or of the two-plus years my father spent as one of the first to integrate the US Marine Corps, at the beginning of his military service. I'm proud to have received the Congressional Gold Medal, on my father's behalf (posthumously), under the authority of President Barack Obama, in 2015.

Dad, the military man. Date unknown, but early in his career.

I don't know what's going on here, but what I do know is that everyone's attention is on my Daddy!

 I didn't know that, before he joined the military, my father spent a year as a student at NC A&T; nor did I know that he continued to complete college coursework while in the Army, excelling in all of his classes, and stopping just short of earning his degree. He also earned a certificate as an Army Surgical Technician!          

I think the pic on the left is Marines and I know the one on the right is Army. 
The bottom shows the medal again, with his Marine and Army dogtags.
I didn't know what a fantastic writer my father was, until I happened upon love letters he'd written to my mother before they were married, and editorials he'd written to an Ohio newspaper, when he was stationed outside of Cleveland (where I was born).                                               
I didn't know that my father had 2 half-sisters and a half-brother, all of whom were deceased before I was born, and that I had a first cousin, born the same year as my dad, who lived in the Bronx and just passed a few years ago. I didn’t know that my father played basketball in high school, and was the quarterback of his football team at Nash County Training School. I didn’t know that the reason my father had to move to Nash County to live with his uncle (the principal of Nash County Training School) was because he was acting up in school, and his mother (widowed since my dad was 4) needed some help with him!
That's my daddy - #10! Where are his kneepads?
These are just a few things I didn't know about my father, but my quest to learn more about him, led to my now 23+ year journey as a genealogist. So, on this day, I choose to remember my father, not with tears, but with a smile. Thank you, Daddy, for inspiring me to do this work. I only wish you were here so I could CELEBRATE all of your magnificent achievements with you, and so that I could ask you the questions I didn't know to ask, and hear some of the stories you probably didn't want to tell when you were here.
This is the house my dad where my dad grew up, in Louisburg, NC, known (affectionately) to me as "Grandma's House." The house, which is still in the family, was built by my grandfather, Calvin Yarborough, Jr. and his brother, Samuel Yarborough, in 1911

These are the only pictures I've ever seen of my father as a boy. To the left, you can partially see one of his first cousins, George R. Greene, whose family my dad lived with, during his teenaged years. To the right, there he is will all three of his cousins - George, John, and Rolland Greene. Because of my father living with them, their relationship with him was like a brother, not a cousin. They are all in heaven, now.
My father absolutely loved being a "Grandpa."
Here, he's with my oldest daughter, Natasha, who was born on his 58th birthday!
He had at total of 8 grandchildren, and he loved them all; and he now has 5 great-grandchildren, and one on the way!

My dad LOVED family (just as I do). Though he never returned to Louisburg to live, he (we) always went back to visit his beloved family. Sadly, I don't seem to have any photos of my dad with his mother, but here is a photo of him with his siblings on one of his (many) visits home.

The Yarborough siblings - they were so close. 
Arthur, Susie, and Calvin III

This photo shows my dad on a visit to Louisburg, with some of his favorite family members. In front are my two daughters. L-R, his sister, Susie, my dad, me, his cousin, John Greene, John's wife, Nellie, my dad's first cousin, Geral Yarboro Sargent, and his brother, Calvin III.

My dad with his cousin Geral and an
unknown relative
Dad with my Aunt Ruby,
my Uncle George's wife
At the first of only two (ever) Yarborough Family Reunions 1993 in Baltimore.
Seated: Cousin Geral and Cousin Madie
Standing: My dad (Arthur), Cousin Ralph, and Uncle Calvin (my dad's brother)

I gave this shirt to my dad for Father's Day, one year, and he LOVED it. The pictures are of my two daughters. I think it said, "We love you, Grandpa!"

I love and miss you, Daddy!

Thanks for reading!

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