Friday, July 31, 2009

An Interesting Diversion

After and on-again, off-again week of work on my own research, an interesting challenge came along yesterday. I'd received my weekly email from adoption.com, (which I subscribe to because one of my brothers is adopted and I'm trying to make some headway into finding his birth family, if possible). Anyway, I was reading a post in that newsletter which was from a 66 year old adoptee making a plea for information about her birth family. She stated that her case was probably "hopeless" because of her age, but said she'd been searching for 40 years and would never give up. She knew the name of her birth parents, as well as her mother's occupation and the name and location of the hospital she was born in! Well, of course my genealogist-minded wheels started turning, so I emailed her right away and made some suggestions as to sites she could check to try to find her birth family. I also offered to do look-ups for her, if she was interested, and she wrote back and asked if I would. Here's what I sent her:
Hi Patti,I read your plea on the adoption newsletter, and I just wanted to send you a quick note with a suggestion, if you haven't tried this already. I am a family researcher/genealogist, and as I read your entry, I couldn't help but wonder if you've tried to use any genealogical resources to perhaps locate the family members, ie. siblings, neices, nephews etc. of your birth parents. There are many resources available right here on the web that might point you to them, especially since it is most likely that both of your parents should have been born prior to 1930, and there for should be easily found in their birth families in the 1930 and perhaps even the 1920 census.You should try ancestry.com or familysearch.org to see if you can find them. If you'd like, I will do the lookup for you, but I'll wait to hear from you first.Good luck in your continued search.Renate

Meanwhile, Pattie (the adoptee) must've decided to take a look on ancestry.com herself, because I got an email from her today saying that she'd run across a post on a message board that looked like it might be about her! Check this out: (I initialized all of the surnames for her privacy.)

Another development this morning: a poster on ancestry.com was looking for a Patricia Lee R. with my birthdate and born at John Sealey Hosp. Mother is EVA or ANNA R, who married a Clifford P and had 8 children. Eva/Anna got around, apparently and was also married to J. L. R (or Lee R), and also to James Douglas S.

Now I hate to be an imposition. These are a lot of names. I would expect to compensate you. I appreciate your help, but this is getting to be a LOT of names. Yet, this is a pretty hot lead. What are the chances of a Patricia Lee R and a Patricia Lee P born on same day, same hospital, with a mother married to a Clifford P?

I am so excited. I got so much response to my post. I wish I had done it years ago. Truth is, I did TRY to post years ago, repeatedly. Adoption.com didn't print it. Until now. Things happen when they are meant to, I guess.

Thank you. Pattie

Isn't this cool! I never thought I'd be using my genealogical skills (lol) to help someone in this way, but I got Pattie to link me into the post on ancestry, and I'm almost 100% sure that she's found a connection to her birth family, and it was so easy! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for her, but this was just so exciting, I just had to share it with all of you - my new-found genealogy friends!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Another Goldmine

Whew! Okay, this past week has been a bit of a whirlwind! I've had so much to blog about, but no time to do it, so of course now I've forgotten most of what I wanted to say. But one thing I want to share for sure is about how I've been gifted, once again, with blessings from my ancestors!
Last Tuesday, I took an impromptu trip down to the Franklin County Courthouse. After a few hours in the small, dusty records room there, I visited the County Library to take a look at a few local family histories that have been published and are held there. (Ulterior motive - to cool off and revive from being in the Courthouse!). Last on the list of this one-day whirlwind trip was a visit to my Aunt Sue, my 89-year old aunt who still lives in the family home that was built by my grandfather, Calvin, and in which my father and all of his siblings were born.

I'll have to share more about this house and its significance to me and to our history as time goes, but for now, just know that I see this place as the holder of much of my history. I spent much of my childhood here - most of my summers, and Sunday trips there at least once or twice per month for most of my youth. This was "Grandma's house" for me, and my Grandma, Annie/Anna Green Yarborough was my absolute most favorite person in the whole wide world! She loved me like no one else ever has, and I loved her right back! Sadly, my Grandma Yarborough went on to be with the angels when I was fifteen years old, but she has remained near and dear to my heart ever since, and I've always felt her spirit watching over me. :)

Anyway, whenever I visit my aunt, I have certain rituals I go through. After sitting down and engaging in a few moments of polite conversation, getting updated on her health and on the goings-on of the church (another subject I'll be sharing more about later), and sharing tidbits from whatever work I've just done on the research, I usually rise up and announce that I'm going to "make my rounds". My aunt is quite used to this now, and if I chat with her for an extra-long time before making this announcement (as I did on this trip), she will chuckle and say, " Well, I was wondering when you were going to get to that.", or something to that effect. But last Tuesday, was not a typical visit. When I'd arrived at the house just shortly after 7 p.m., I'd intended to just stop through for a minute to say hello and use the restroom, because I'd wanted to go up "on the hill" for a few minutes before it got dark. (The Hill is the local label for the Louisburg City Cemetery, formerly the Louisburg Colored Cemetery, where most of my ancestors are buried.) However, much to both of our surprise, my aunt and I sat and chatted for almost an hour, before I realized that it was about to get to dark for me to go to the cemetery. I had already decided that I was going to make the 2:45 drive back home that night, so I knew I needed to start getting ready to leave. Therefore, I made a monumental decision - I would not do my rounds!
Normally, I go through each room in the house, stopping in all the rooms downstairs to gaze at and reflect upon each of the decorative items that grace the mantles and the antique furnishings that line the hallway, or stand in the kitchen and bedrooms. I touch everything, and holler out questions and comments to my aunt, who usually remains seated in the front room while I do this, having long ago abandoned the idea of trying to follow me around the house. I go into the kitchen where my grandmother's old flour-mill (sifter) cabinet still stands, and always reflect on how I would get in trouble for turning the handle on it without permission when I was little. Then, I open the door to the now-covered back porch, which looms above the once rickety steps leading down to the basement door - or "under the house" as my grandma always called it. I close the door and turn the old key to lock it - yes, this is the original key on the original door - and then head upstairs for Part Two of my ritual.
(I hadn't planned to explain all of this in this post, I'm in it now, so let me tell you about upstairs right quick....lol.)

For the next part of my ritual, I climb the steps to the second floor, holding tight to the original dark-wood rail. At the top of the stairs, I always pause for a moment, as there is a large landing, cluttered with STUFF that dates back decades (and needs to be cleaned up). The old "candy cabinet", as my brother and I used to call it, stands abandoned in a corner and filled with books. There are two bedrooms upstairs, on opposite sides of the hallway. Each room holds antique trunks and furnishings, and one, which was my Uncle Calvin's room, still has all of his clothing and personal affects, just as he left them when he passed in 1997. I usually just spend a few minutes in each of these rooms, reflecting on the people who once occupied them, and sometimes picking around to see if I'll find any clues to further my research. Then, back down the steps I go, back to the living room and my patiently-waiting aunt. But my ritual is not finished yet.

The last thing I do is to check the contents of "my cabinet". This is a place where I keep all of the precious family heirlooms that I've found in the house over the past decade - since I became serious about this work. I do take some things with me (with my aunt's permission, of course), but there are just a few items which I can't bear to remove from the premises, the main one being the large, and very delicate Yarborough Family Bible. Sometimes, I pull the things out and go through them, and other times, I just check to make sure everything is still there.

Now, on this particular visit, everything was different. After the long chat with my aunt, I got up to start my ritual, but I made it no further than that large bookcase in the front hallway, just adjacent to the front room. I usually thumb through the old books, picking up a few and flipping through them to see if any pictures, or scraps of paper might fall out. I did this, but then paused when I got to the obituary of my great-uncle, William Lawrence Greene, who died in 1961. For some reason, his large funeral program has always been right there on the shelf with the books, but because I already have the copy that belonged to my father, I never paid much attention to it. I was aware that there were other funeral programs down on the bottom shelf where I could see a small stack peeking out, so, on this particular visit, I decided to ask my aunt about them. Here was my question: "Aunt Sue, exactly HOW MANY funeral programs do you think you have over here?" This got her out of her seat, as she protectively announced that she didn't know how many there were, but that some of them were her mother's - my grandmother's - and that "Ma told me no matter what I do I'd better not ever throw them away!"
Okay, so every genealogist out there has to know that my ears perked up and my heart started beating a little faster...lol. You mean to tell me that there are funeral programs down there from when my grandmother was alive???? And all this time I didn't know that? My grandmother lived from 1891 to 1977. I had no idea she collected funeral programs! Carefully, I asked my aunt if I could take them, explaining what gems these might hold for me. I promised that I would bring them back to her, if she'd just allow me to take them home with me until my next visit. It was dark outside now, and I really needed to get on the road, having never stayed in town this late before, and knowing I'd have to negotiate the long, dark country highways to get out of there. I was getting a little antsy.

My aunt agreed to let me take the obituary-filled programs home with me. The 3-inch stack was sitting atop a small box, so I took a quick look inside. The box was FILLED with more programs! I was in shock - I couldn't believe all of this had been here all these years and I didn't know it! As it turned out, there were also two more huge stacks of funeral programs under some other stuff on another shelf, and my aunt allowed me to bring all of them home! After making two trips out to the car with my "loot", I made the long drive home, and yes, I stayed up until almost 3 in the morning going the first few hundred of what I've estimated to be about 1000 funeral programs, a few of which date back to 1950. Believe it or not, I left two large stacks behind, feeling overwhelmed by the amount that I had already, so I'll be going back for those soon. So far this week, I've sorted the programs into two groups - those that that are of or mention our family surnames, and those that don't. I have about 40-50 that are people on my family tree, and already I've been able to add and/or correct the names of parents, siblings, and other family members, as well as get new clues about locations of extended family, etc. So, for me, this was another goldmine! My plan is to organize and index all of the programs and eventually post/publish the list as a resource for other researchers who might have ancestors in and around Franklin County, NC. In addition to the obituaries, there were also a few programs from other historical events, such as church anniversaries. (One of those, from Mt. Hebron Holy Church in Louisburg, stated that my own grandmother was one of the church' s founders - a fact that I never knew before!) With my aunt's permission, the whole lot of extras (including those I left behind) will eventually be donated to one of the libraries for safe-keeping and preservation.

So, all of this was to say that once again, I've been blessed by an ancestor, this time, my grandmother, Anna Beatrice Green Yarborough, who still holds the title of My Favorite Person in the Whole Wide World! Thanks, Grandma!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Okay, so I realize this is supposed to be wordless, but just a quick note...lol. This was taken in 2007 at the second meeting of myself and my "cousin" Charles, who is a descendant the family of my gggrandfather, Calvin Yarborough's, owner. Interestingly enough, it turns out that my grandmother, Anna, who was the wife of Calvin, Jr., was Charles' nanny when he was a young boy. He remembers her fondly and wanted to visit her grave, so here we are!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Awakening

W-O-W. That's really all I can say to express how ridiculously behind the times I've discovered I am in my awareness of, and participation in the electronic genealogy community! I've had no idea that all of you were out here, especially those doing African-American research! Blogs, podcasts, conferences, EVERYTHING is happening on the web, and I didn't know! For the past ten+ years I've been just trudging along on my own, doing great research, but basically keeping it all to myself. I've spent hour upon hour in graveyards, courthouses, Register of Deeds offices, libraries, and even cemeteries, but never was I aware of the existence of so many forums in which I could share my work, my struggles, and/or my triumphs. I've experienced the ups and downs - the highs and lows of this "hobby" (lol) that we all have, but it's always just been a solitary experience, except for those few times that I've tried to share my excitement or my woes with a befuddled friend or a totally uninterested relative. (More on that, later.) Never did I dream that so many people were sharing my same experiences, or that there could actually be a "support group" of sorts out there for people like me. :)

Since joining genealogywise.com last week, which was the beginning of my awakening, my own research has been pretty much on hold, as I've spent the majority of my time perusing others' sites, exploring newfound resources (thanks to all of you), and conversing online with other researchers. I'll admit my guard is still up a bit -- I've been well-trained to keep my work to myself, for fear of another researcher "stealing it", or using it to his or her benefit. I guess now, I am the proverbial brick wall that needs to be broken down, but somehow I sense that all of you are going to take care of that. LOL... Thanks in advance.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Re: Gold Mine

Thanks everyone! Your comments are very encouraging, and Angela, yours brought tears to my eyes! I truly appreciate everyone's kind words. As I read over my post, I realized that I didn't even mention two other very special findings in Arthur's filebox. One was a photocopy of his birth certificate. The other was a picture of my father in some kind of of meeting or gathering when he was in the military. My father retired when I was still a baby, and I know very little about his military life, but I do that he retired as a Major at a time when few black men had reached that status. Anyway, I'm going to post the picture that I found, just in case anyone visiting this site is able to explain to me what might be happening in it. It appears that all of the attention of the moment is on my dad, but I sense that all of the other men in the room are of important stature. My ears are open... :)Renate

Gold Mine

Today I had that "struck gold" feeling, even though I wasn't doing research! I guess I should explain, since my blog is so new, and anyone who's reading this doesn't yet know anything about me....

I grew up the youngest child of four, and the only girl. My two oldest brothers were 9 and 11 years older than me, respectively; they were "grown and gone" before most of my memories were made. However the youngest boy and I were less than 16 months apart, and we basically grew up like twins. Arthur was my BROTHER - my ACE BOOM-BOOM. He is the only one of my siblings with whom I experienced my whole childhood. My childhood was his childhood, and his was mine. We shared all of our secrets, our hopes, and our dreams for the future. But, unfortunately, the future was not his to live here on earth. Arthur died of liver cancer when he was 23. I was 22 years old at the time.

Anyway, today I was at my mother's unoccupied house passing the time away and I decided to go through an old file box that I'd brought into the house from the garage about 2 years ago. I knew that I'd glanced through it at that time, but it just seemed to be a bunch of file folders with hospital bills and newspaper clippings from when my brother used to write (while in college) for our local newspaper. But today, something was tugging at me to sit down and really go through the box - to open the manilla envelopes that were in there, so I did.

I opened the first envelope, and sure enough, there were a couple of medical bills, a certificate from my brother's social fraternity at Hampton Institute, and a paystub from a radio station that Arthur had worked for. I placed those things on the table and reached my hand back into the envelope, and then pulled out a handful of pictures. Pictures! Now, this was getting interesting!

The first few pics were scenes from Arthur's college days. There were some of his old girlfriends, and a few with his friends and frat brothers, a few of whom I knew. I almost decided not to keep looking, since I'd seen a lot of these types of his pictures before, but I kept going. In I reached again, and this time... GOLD! In my hand were long unseen photos of my grandmother, my parents, and even a few of my brother and me when we were little. As I slowly gazed upon the pictures, and reflected on my memories of each person, or each moment in time, I knew I'd struck gold. :) Three more manilla envelopes each held the same plethora of memorabilia, including a few more pictures in each one. The picture on this post is of Arthur as a baby. It was just one of the treasures I found today.
I don't know if my brother left these things like this, or if someone hastily just shoved this mixture of items into these envelopes and stuffed them into the file box when cleaning up his garage-room after his death, but I'm thankful for that "urge" that sent me digging for treasure today!

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Wow... After a short bit of a research "hiatus", I'm newly inspired by this whole new world of BLOGS that I've opened myself up to. Admittedly, it's been my own fault. As mentioned already, I kept myself out of the blogosphere, and never really opened my mind to its possibilities. Now, having been here for less than 24 hours, I've found this to be a true jewel. Not only is it interesting just to read the blogs of other researchers and to get that warm fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing that others are sharing my experiences, but I've LEARNED so much! Mostly, this has come from clicking on links that others have included in their blogs and on their pages. Before yesterday, I thought I knew of almost all of the resources that are out there for African-American researchers, but.... NOT! I've been exposed to a whole new world of websites that will inevitably assist me in my work!
Something happened this morning that I'm sure most researchers reading this can/will relate to, but for me, it hasn't happened in several months. I woke up at 3:15 a.m., bright-eyed and bushy tailed (lol), turned on the laptop, and got to work on my research. I'm now planning a quick, impromtu roadtrip to NC to visit the Franklin County Courthouse and a couple of cemeteries so I can tie up some loose ends and take a few more pictures. I'm extra excited about doing this right away since I have a nice loaner car (while mine is in the shop) that I can put the miles on, rather than adding to my own.
My hiatus is over. Full speed ahead!

Friday, July 10, 2009

First thoughts

Well, I never really thought I'd become a "blogger". Although I've been writing since my early teen years, for some reason I've never been really comfortable about the whole blogging thing, and have resisted it until now. In retrospect, I guess that's because of my deep sense of privacy, shyness, and that feeling that no one would really find value in what I have to say. In the past, my concept of blogging was that it was much like keeping a diary -- a running document of one's innermost thoughts and feelings, as well as an account of daily interactions and experiences. I hadn't really thought about the concept of a "topic-specific" blog, such as one related to a hobby, work, or a personal interest. So, what did it for me? What happened to make me cross over into the world of a blogger ("blogosphere, if you may)? For me, it was running across the blog of a fellow genealogist/family researcher, whose rantings about the experience (and frustration) of running into some of the brick walls that are specific to those of us with African-American roots gave me an instant connection and feeling of "oneness" with her. That researcher was Luckie Daniels, of Our Georgia Roots http://ourgeorgiaroots.com/

Doing this type of research can be a lonely and frustrating experience, but reading Luckie's posts gave me a sense of relief -- I'm not the only one going though this! So anyway, I began to think about it, and realized that if I, having run across her blog as a result of one of my searches, felt this way, then perhaps I might have something to say which would give someone else that same sense.
So... here we go! Welcome to my world of thoughts and experiences.