Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Special Cousin - (A post inspired by Ann Coulter's ignorance)

At the time of this posting, our country is nine days away from a presidential election, in which America's citizens will exercise our right choose our country's leader for the next four years.  As the campaign season comes closer to an end, more and more high-profile people are stepping into the media spotlight to express their views, and in more than one instance, they are exposing their "true colors" to the world.  One such example occurred this past week, when the conservative social and political commentator, Ann Coulter, referred to the President of the United States as a "retard" in a post from her Twitter account.

Deservedly so, Ms. Coulter's remark has instigated a monumental backlash from multiple demographics, the most notable response being an open letter from Special Olympian, John Franklin Stephens, who so eloquently and maturely gave Ms. Coulter a verbal "spanking" for her comment.  I applaud Mr. Stephens, whom I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Thursday night on a CNN segment of "Piers Morgan Tonight".

However, the unfortunate statement by Ms. Coulter (for which she blatantly gives no apology), also was the impetus for another piece of writing, which has affected me deeply and personally and has caused me to reflect on a yet untouched aspect of my genealogical research and family history.  As a result of our first ever reunion of the descendants of Nathaniel Hawkins and Anna Green, which occurred this past July, I've met several new cousins, either in person or electronically (via Facebook).  One of these cousins, Jamila Taylor, who lives in Seattle, Washington, composed a tribute to her twin brother, William, in response to Ms. Coulter's remarks.   Her well-written, articulate essay moved me greatly, and immediately after reading it, I contacted my cousin to ask permission to reprint it, on my blog.  Here, in it's entirety, is her letter:

My Special Twin

by Jamila E. Taylor on Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 10:27am

After reading the eloquent open letter to Ann Coulter by John Franklin Stephens (http://specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/an-open-letter-to-ann-coulter/) about her remark using the "retard" word in reference to President Obama, I thought I'd share my thoughts on my twin brother, William. As some of you may know, my brother has learning disabilities. That open letter and my brother both embody the heart of the matter -- true character.

If you see us together, we still enjoy the brother-sister banter and yet, he is a very significant reason of why I am so driven. My parents aptly chose to enroll him in schools that could best address his academic development. Out of the 12 years of public education, we only attended 3 years of school together. While I was in advanced classes, my twin was in special education. In our early years, the doctors and specialists didn't believe he would graduate high school; He did that. They said he would never step foot on a college campus as a student; He did that. They said he would never get his driver's license or drive a car; He did that -- and I dare say he has a spotless driving record. They never imagined he'd appear in the local newspaper. And yet, He did that.

Willliam's photo from Eugene's Register-Guard in 2004 when he worked at the Oregon Ice Cream factory.

William is a paradox of expertise. If the family needed someone to set up the new electronics, we call on William. On many occasions, you could hear my mom or dad affectionately yelling, "William! Come set up the VCR so that I can record my show." His video gaming expertise has always been top-notch. I hated losing to him ALL of the time. He could finish a newly-released game in the first week. What's interesting is how he immersed himself into the gamer world in such a diligent way. He'd subscribe to the gamer magazines, read them thoroughly and then explore the video game in a whole new way with the new tricks he learned. After all, he is from a research-focused, academic family. Why would he be any different?

As an adult, William struggles to find employment although he's probably one of the most reliable and consistent people around. He's always on time, rarely misses work, and willing to learn. William puts forth a meticulous effort in his tasks.

William is a keen observer of the world around him. He learned early on to carefully, quickly, discern someone's character. He is my protector in so many ways. At 6'4" he is the absolute tallest in our family and he towers over all of us. He stands out and sees what we don't. He chooses his words with much effort. When he speaks, I listen. Sometimes I pretend not too. Come on, I'm still his sister. It's easy for me to feel comfort and protection just being in his presence. I look forward to the day when he gets to be the loving uncle to my future children.

William is known by many, friended by few, loved by us.

I've never met my cousin William.  Beyond entering his name on my numerous family trees, I've known nothing of his existence.  But, thanks to his sister, I now know who he is, and it would be my pleasure to meet him (and Jamila), someday.  Reading this tribute to him has brought to my attention the fact that I've never even considered looking back into my family history to determine if any of my ancestors may have had intellectual disabilities.  I have profiled them according to where they lived, types of employment, diseases and causes of death, literacy levels, whether they owned land or not, racial characteristics, evidence mental illness, and more; but it never even occurred to me to see if our family has any history of intellectual disability, or what used to be referred to as, "mental retardation". Furthermore, in the many years that I've been a part of the online genealogy community, I haven't encountered a discussion on this matter.  (I'm not saying it hasn't happened, but I just haven't run across or been a part of it!)

That said, I am going to make this a focus area for my next segment of research.  In thinking about the family members that I do know of, I can only come up with one person in my direct bloodline who's had a documented intellectual disability, but there have been several in our extended family tree.  I know that it will probably be challenging to uncover this kind of information, especially since prior to about the 1950s, quite often people with intellectual differences may have been hidden, or institutionalized, but I'm going to start digging.  If anyone has ideas about good resources to check, please share them in the comments section.  (I will be looking for resources in North Carolina.)

Thanks for reading, and thank you, again, Cousin Jamila for your insightful tribute to your brother, and my cousin, William.


Permalink to this posting:  http://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2012/10/my-special-cousin-post-inspired-by.html


Monday, October 15, 2012

Amanuensis Monday - Dunston - Arendell Bastardy Bond

Hi Folks,
I know I have posted in a long time, but LIFE has taken me in other directions, so I haven't been very focused on the family history or the blog.  Hopefully, I'll get back to posting more regularly at some point, but for now, I've decided to at least try to pop in and do some of the memes, using content that I have readily available, or (perhaps) reposting some of my earleir messages.

Today, for Amanuensis Monday, I'm sharing a document that I took a picture of a few years ago during one of my trips to the North Carolina State Library and Archives.  This document is a bastardy bond, taken out for Hillory Dunston, who is the purported father of a "bastard" child born to Florence Arendell.  My interest in this was because I do have Dunston ancestors rom Franklin County, and I'm sure Hllory must've been related to them, but I have not yet established the connection.

Dunston-Arendell Bastardy Bond
(Click to enlarge)

State of North Carolina

Franklin County

To any lawful officer
Whereas upon the examination of Florence Arendell this day taken on oath before me, it appears that she has been delivered of a child which child is a bastard and may become chargeable to the said county and the said Florence Arendell has confessed that Hillory Dunston of the county aforesaid did beget the said child and has charged him with the same. These are therefore to command you to apprehend the said Hillory Dunston and bring him before me or some Justice of the Peace for the said county to answer the said charge.
Given under my hand and seal this 13th day of 1870.

H B Well JP (seal)

I was unable to locate Florence Arendell in either the 1870 or 1880 Census, so unfortunately, I couldn't ascertain the name or gender of the child who is the subject of this document.  I always wonder though, if the descendents of the children for whom these bonds exist, have ever seen them, or if they know their ancestry.  Certainly, having a copy of one of these "bastardy bonds" could help to confirm family lore, in many cases, although, in some situations (such as my own, but more on that in a future post), it may actually end up causing more confusion!

Happy reading, all.


PS... One other thing:  I don't know if this Florence Arendell was Black or White.  The Dunstans had been Free Blacks prior to 1870, and, although most of them partnered with other people of color, many of them could pass for white, and could have easily chosen to cross racial lines.  Hillory Dunston was a well-known character in Franklin County, for many reasons.  He was active on both sides of the proverbial "tracks", judging from the number of times and instances that I've run across him in my research, but still, my sense is that this Florence Arendell was most likely not White.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wordless (Wedding?) Wednesday

Jessie Green (maybe?)

Yes, this is supposed to be "wordless", but this time, I'm asking for your words!  I took a snapshot of this photo at a recent family reunion, but I'm hesitant to agree that it is the person who the owner of the picture had it labeled as.  If anyone can date this dress for me (even approximately), it would be very helpful in helping me to make my case.  Also, do you think it looks like a wedding dress?  I do.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday - Ancestor LOVE

On my inaugural visit to Roanoke Chapel Baptist Church Cemetery, I stumbled across this little "message" from my great-great grandfather, Asa Brown, and other ancestral family members whom I'd found buried there.  Needless to say, my heart was warmed in this touching moment.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Perseverance PAYS!

Subtitle: Success in the Cemetery!

I'm posting today to share my excitement about a victory (of sorts) that I've had.  I thought that this was going to be more of a follow-up post, however, upon searching my blog, I've discovered that I never did write about the search for my maternal grandmother's grave marker.

My mother's mother, Mary Thomas, died in 1986.  She was buried in Calvary Cemetery, an historical burial ground in Norfolk, Virginia.  Because I spent the first 14 years of my genealogical journey completely focused on researching my paternal ancestors, it wasn't until just a few years ago, when I turned my attention to my mother's folks, that I decided to head over to Norfolk to visit my grandmother's grave.  Once I did, I was disappointed to discover that the spot where she rested was covered only by green grass, and wasn't marked in any way.
I was 24 years old when my grandmother died, and of course, I attended her funeral.  However, not being a cemetery or genealogy buff at the time, I can't say that I paid any attention to how the grave was marked.  But, what I did know (or at least what I thought) was that my mother and her two siblings would certainly have put some kind of a marker on their mother's grave.  I inquired at the cemetery office, but long story, short, they had no records related to the markers or headstones.  Their records only pertained to the actual burials.

At the advice of the person in the cemetery office, I contacted Hale Funeral Home, to see if they had any records pertaining to my grandmother's burial.  (I called right from the grounds of the cemetery, hoping to just drive right over!)  Unfortunately (and quite sadly), the person I spoke with told me a story of transferred management after family deaths, and records which had actually been THROWN AWAY.  If I recall correctly, all of the pre-1997 records of this funeral home, which has been serving African-Americans in the Tidewater area for 100 years, were destroyed during changes in management.  Needless to say, I was disappointed, and appalled.  Not only were the records of my own ancestors gone - I actually have several who were serviced by this funeral home - but so were those of hundreds of others. 

After this troubling revelation, it seemed that there would be no way for me to prove that there'd once been a marker at my grandmother's gravesite.  My mother told me that my uncle had handled the burial transactions, and when I asked him about it, he said he no longer had any of the paperwork, but reiterated that he "thought" there was "some kind of stone, or something" at the grave.  With nothing else to go on, I just kind of put this to the side, but vowed to one day get to the bottom of it. (No pun intended.) :)

Anyway, life and genealogy went on, and then one day, quite by accident, I ran across this picture, while going through some things at my mother's house:

My nephew, Robert, and my daughter, Natasha, beside the freshly-covered grave of their great-grandmother,
Mary Thomas.
 So, there ya go!  You'd better believe I was doing the genealogy happy-dance, for here was all the proof I needed (and more)!  As soon as I saw this picture, I knew for sure that this was my grandmother's burial location, because it was the exact spot on which I'd stood with the cemetery caretaker, but all that was there was grass.  But here were my nephew, age 6, and my daughter, age 4 obviously not too long after my grandmother had been buried.

With this picture in hand, I took the 35-minute drive over to Norfolk last Monday, ready for battle.  I called ahead to let them know I was coming, and "Bret", the current manager of the cemetery, after hearing my plight, said he'd pull his records and be ready for me.  Once there, he and another employee in the office were very kind and accommodating towards me, so no fight was necessary. :)  Bret verified the location of my family plot (yes, it's a family plot, but I'll write about that in another post), and printed out a new map for me using their fancy-smancy new program.  Then, off we went, armed with my proof-providing picture to do a "test-dig". 

I couldn't believe how excited I was about this, but I was almost beside myself.  When we got to the plot, I used the picture to help Bret locate the exact spot in which to drive his shovel, and after just a couple of hits in that spot, we heard it - the unmistakeable clang of metal against stone.

Bret marks the spot for the dig.
And so we began...

As Bret chisled and dug, I continued to "coach" him, directionally.  After just a few minutes, I had all of the confirmation I needed.
Do you see what I see?

At this point, tears began to well up in my eyes, as I realized that we had, indeed, found my grandmother.  Of course she was there all along, but there was just something about the grave being unmarked that was very unsettling to me.  Now, I knew for sure that we were in the right spot, and presumably my grandma, along with her husband, her parents, and her uncle were all right there where they'd been laid to rest. 

Bret continued his work, commenting to me, "You were exactly right about it.", as he dug, more gently now, around the step.  In reverence to my ancestors, I remained silent, as he uncovered the unmistakeable match to my photograph.
And there it is, the THOMAS surname, clear as day.

Just a few minutes after the step was completely revealed, as Bret was explaining to me that it would be raised and reset before the end of the week, a truck drove by with the very men who would be doing it. He summons them to stop, and they came over and heard the whole story.  Everyone involved (including Bret) seemed surprised and baffled that the marker had been allowed to sink like that, since the cemetery is well, and consistently cared for, but what happened, happened.  I'm just glad that they were so amicable about it, and willing to do the work (at no cost to my family, of course) to right the situation.  I didn't go back yet, but I'm guessing the work has been done.  I plan to go over this weekend to see.

There was so much more to this post, but, unfortunately, I hit a wrong button last night was I was creating it, and lost all but the very first part.  Time only permits me to redo this much for now, but thank you for reading.  Needless to say, my heart is glad. :)
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday - Asy BROWN - #A-ZChallenge

I am participating in the 2017 A-Z Challenge, and this is Day 2, April 2, 2017. 

My "B" post is dedicated to my 2x great grandfather (maternal), Asa/Asy BROWN.It was originally posted on April 3, 2012.

"In memory of ASY BROWN
BORN 1833
DIED 1909
He died as he lived, trusting in God."

Although most of the attention in the genea-world to day is on what folks are finding in the 1940 Census, I'm reflecting on the excitement I felt just a couple of weeks ago when I discovered a picture of the headstone of my maternal great-great grandfather, Asy BROWN.  Asy (Asa/Acy, as I'd been spelling it), is just one of the many ancestors I've discovered on my research journey.  I'd never heard of him before, and neither had my mother, or either of her siblings until I found my way to him through extensive research a couple of years ago.

Most of Asy's life remains a mystery to me, but what I do know is this:

1870 - Asa is a 26 year-old, illiterate farm-hand living (alone) in Hamilton Township, in Martin County, NC.

Between 1870-1880 - Asa marries Luvenia Ross (daughter of Everett Ross and Minervia Dobbins).

1880 - Acy, a farm laborer (servant), now lives in River Township, Warren County, NC, in the home of Charles and Creecy Squires. He is marked as both "single" and "widowed", but I believe both to be inaccurate. My research shows he and Louvenia to have married prior to this, but to be living (working) apart in 1880.  (I also have an indication that Louvenia may have been married before this, so maybe they were both widowed and then got married. This is an area for further research.)

At this same time, "Lou", as she seems to be called, is enumerated in Halifax Co. (Enfield Township), working as a farmhand and living in the home of Essex Whitaker.  At the time of the census, she has a 1-month old (unnamed) daughter.   Like Acy, she is noted to be single. 

1900 - Acy and Lou V (Louvenia) are living in Roanoke Township, Warren County, NC. They have been married for 28 years, according to this census, which would put the marriage around 1872. Louvenia has had 12 children, of which 9 are still living.  Seven of the children, ranging in age from 6 to 18, still live in the home.  (Those were Lottie, Weslie, Cora, Addie, Gus, Brutus, and Sadie.) He is a farmer - renting his home (sharecropper?).  Although the census date is June 22nd, Acy reports only being employed for four months that year.

1909 - Asy (according to his headstone) "died as he lived - trusting God". His grave is almost in the very center of the Roanoke Chapel Missionary Baptist Church cemetery, in the Elams section of Warren County. I wonder if that location is indicative of a prominent position in the church, especially with it being a small obelisk?

*Although the date of birth on Asy's headstone give 1833 as the year, I am not changing it in my database, unless I find proof of that.  Everything else I have on him indicates his birth year to be 1843-44.  Since mistakes are often made by the living, I'm going to stick to what I had before finding this picture.

*Special thanks to Find-a-Grave volunteer, George Seitz, who took this picture of my ancestor's grave, and uploaded it to the site.  As a Find-a-Grave volunteer myself, I encourage everyone reading this to get involved in this effort.  Seeing this headstone for an ancestor who had before been only a name to me, made him very real.  I cried tears of joy when I just happened to discover this on a Google search last month.  Not only did seeing the headstone help to make my gg-grandfather's life seem more tangible, but reading the loving inscription gave me a peek into who he was.  It made me feel that he was respected and loved, but best of all, it gave me a warm feeling to know that, despite what appears to have (possibly) been a life of poverty and struggle, he was connected to, and trusted God.


Monday, April 2, 2012

1940 Census Release Day - Epic Failure or Great Opportunity?

Today has been a lonnnnnnnng day for many of us in the genea-world.  This day, for which we've waited so long, has turned out to be one of waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting for most of us.  What were we waiting for, you may ask?  Well, all though the waiting experience may have differed a bit, the anticipated "prize" for all would have been a page from the 1940 Census, that would allow us to actually begin the search for our families!
Luckily, I've read the 59 posts in my reader prior to typing this, so I'm aware that many folks have already shown screen shots of what we've been looking at all day; therefore, I won't do that.  But, whether it's been a spinning wheel, a black screen that says "loading" (or "preparing image""), or whether after excitedly thinking we've had a breakthrough, just to read, "Sorry, that image is no longer available"; all but a few luckly souls have spent this day WAITING.

But, as this tiresome day progressed, I noticed a few things about myself:  I noticed that I wasn't getting mad.  Actually, I spent most of the day with a smile on my face!  I even thought (initially) that the whole thing was kind of funny!  For the first few hours, I was in constant communication with other researchers, who were going through the same thing as I was.  At noon, I joined the Afrigenas Lunch Bunch Chat.  At 3:00, I was in another chatroom with Steve Morse, Nicka Smith, and other "big-wigs" from the genealogy world.  And, in between all of this, I was getting things done!  You see, I had a plan.  (I pretty much always have a plan.)  I'd expected to have to do some waiting.  I'd figured that not everything would go perfectly smooth with such a highly anticipated release as this, with it taking place at a time when most people would/could be awake and waiting. With today being my first official day of Spring Break, I knew that I didn't want to completely waste the day, and then end up mad about it, so I made a plan!

Is this giving you an anxiety attack? :)

My plan was simply to get other things done if I ended up having to wait.  Those things included dusting, vacuuming, cleaning my kitchen, doing laundry, pulling weeds, paying bills (for my self and for my mother), and making telephone calls.  I got all of those things done, except the laundry!  Not only did I accomplish these things, which resulted in me starting my break with a fresh, clean house; but I also took a one-hour nap in the middle of the day, and went out to get Chick-Fil-a for dinner!

Now, here I am back at the computer, or the "puter", as I like to call it.  As much as I'd hoped that the folks at archives.com had completed the work of "adding additional servers" so that ease of access would be improved, unfortunately, I'm
      on one computer

                                                        on the other.

But, am I upset? Nope!  You know why?  Because if my images had loaded, I certainly wouldn't have taken the time to write this post! 

Now, I'm not one to give up, so I'm sure I'll be trying all night.  But at some point, I'll call it a night, and head to bed.  After all, there's always tomorrow!


See ya tomorrow!


Sunday, April 1, 2012

1940 Census - Less Than a Day Away!

Well, folks - the day is almost here!  In less than 21 hours from the time of this posting, the 1940 Census will begin to appear online!  Yes, that's right - at 9:00 a.m., tomorrow morning, the first images will start to be uploaded onto FamilySearch.org, the organization which is leading the collaborative effort to bring the 1940 Census to all of us, free of charge.  However, at that time (as I now stand corrected), the entire database will be available on the National Archives web site, and veiwers can even watch the opening event via webcast at http://1940census.archives.gov/

 Tomorrow morning, Family Search will begin by uploading five states: Delaware, Virginia, Kansas, Oregon, and Colorado.  Of these five, only one (Virginia) is a state of interest for me, but since I expect to find many answers about the whereabouts of some of my maternal ancestors in this state, I feel very fortunate that it's going to be one of the first available, since I've signed up as an indexer. :)

To explain the process to those readers who may not have already been notified, I will share the partial text of an email I received yesterday from the folks at The 1940 U.S. Census Project, who are leading the effort to recruit indexers.  If you are interested in helping to make the census searchable, please adhere to the information below, so that you can sign up as an indexer.  No experience is necessary, and you can do this from the comfort of your own home!

Get Ready, Get Set . . .

Thank you for your interest in the 1940 US Federal Census. This will be the last email you receive on behalf of the 1940 US Census Community Project before the images start to become available online.

What You Can Expect on April 2

The 1940 US Census Community Project is creating an index to the 1940 US Federal Census that will be made available for free. This is a joint effort between Archives, FindMyPast, FamilySearch, hundreds of societies, and tens of thousands of individual volunteers. The resulting index will be made available on the websites of the primary sponsors.

On the morning of Monday, April 2, NARA will release the digital images of the 1940 census to multiple parties, including the 1940 US Census Community Project. We will immediately start uploading these 3.6 million images to servers, where they will become available online over time. The ability for people to start accessing some of these images through the community project will take hours, not minutes.

As the first five states are loaded to servers, corresponding projects will be set up to index those images as state projects. We anticipate the first five states will be available for volunteer indexing by 10pm EDT.

The first five states to be loaded and ready for indexing on April 2 are the following:






The process of uploading images and setting up indexing projects by state will continue until all of the states and territories for this project are published, which may take up to two weeks to complete. Every day more images will be made available for browsing and indexing, so you will want to check back often to see which states are available.

The indexing process will be taking place through FamilySearch indexing. If you are already a FamilySearch indexing volunteer, these 1940 census projects will appear as new projects in the indexing software. No new software download or registration process is necessary to participate. If you are not currently a volunteer but want to participate in this historic opportunity, get started by downloading the indexing software and registering today.

You can keep up with the latest updates by visiting the1940census.com often over the next few weeks.

Thank You!

The 1940 US Census Community Project Team

My goal for tomorrow will be to try to locate as many of my maternal ancestors, as possible, since many of them had migrated by then from North Carolina to Virginia.  I will be most pointedly searching for my maternal grandfather, Daniel Webster Hill, who abandoned his family sometime in 1938, and was never heard from again.  How about you?  What's going to be your research focus for "Release Day"! :)

*(This post was revised after I received a comment from reader, Joel Weintraub, of Dana Point, CA.  Thanks, Joel!)

I am a Blogger Ambassador for the 1940 U.S. Census Project, and you can be, too!  Just sign up at https://the1940census.com/sign-up/!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

1940 Census - Nine more days!

In just nine days, the 1940 Census will be here! I imagine that while we wait, many in the genea-world will be stockpiling the necessary food and beverages to sustain us while we dig in and begin to search for our family members. Many of us will be diligently seeking to knock down brick walls; others will just need to confirm information that has been suspected all along, or passed on by family lore. Whatever the goal each genealogist has, we're sure to have cleared our calendars for April 2nd, so the fun can begin!

As the BIG DAY grows nearer, I've begun to contemplate my approach to the 1940 documents. After all, the images that will be released on April 2nd are just that - images of the actual census documents. However, there will be no index available right away, so the only way to find our folks will be to flip page by page through the virtual documents for whole cities or counties, or if we know an address or neighborhood, to use one of the available resources to try to locate the enumeration districts, so that we can at least narrow our searches down by neighborhoods.

The tool I've decided to use (at least for now) is Steve Morse's ED Finder, which allows users to input an address, along with a cross street, to determine the probable enumeration district(s).  If you don't know the address, or if the people you are searching for in 1940 lived in a small town, Dr. Morse has several other tools on his site which may help you to narrow down your search for the correct enumeration district.  Click here to view the full site.  (Also credited are Drs. Joel D Weintraub and David R Kehs.) 

As I began to use Dr. Morse's tool to find enumeration districts for some of the people on my family tree, I realized that I wanted to have an organized system of recording the information, so that once the census is released, I could systematically move through the list of people I needed to find.  Therefore, I created a new form, which I'm calling my, "1940 Census Enumeration District Locator".  Anyone who would like to use this document is more than welcome. Here  is a direct link to the document, which you can download, or you can email me at yarsan@aol.com, and I will gladly send it to you as an attachment.

Before I close, I must put a plug in for the effort to recruit more indexers for the 1940 Census.  This is truly a "more the merrier" situation, or a case of "Many hands make light work". :)  As a 1940 Blog Ambassador, I'd like to encourage anyone who is reading this to join the effort as an indexer. 132 million people were living in the United States in 1940, so it will take a LOT of people to make this project successful. Signing up to help is easy as pie!  Just go to https://the1940census.com/ and give your name and email address, and you're in!  You can even choose which state you'd most like to work on! So, come on and join in the fun.  Just nine more days, and we're in! :)


Saturday, March 10, 2012

1940 Census Blogger Ambassador

     In just 23 days, the 1940 Census will be released to the public!  Those of us in the genealogy community have counted down the years, then months, and now days for this event.  I can imagine we'll all get plenty of rest on the on the night of April 1st, so that we can be at the ready at 9:00 a.m. the next morning, when the long awaited documents are released. (Or, on the other hand, some might stay up all night in anticipation!)
     When FamilySearch first announced it's partnership with the National Archives to release the 1940 Census, and open it up to indexers, I signed up right away. I was already a registered indexer for FamilySearch at the time, but this was going to be a special project, which I just had to be a part of.  But now, I've made an even greater commitment to the work that will be involved in bringing easier access to the to the public because a few weeks ago, I signed up to be a 1940 Census "Blogger Ambassador". 
      Being a Blogger Ambassador means that I will write about my experiences using the 1940 Census, and I will share how the it effects my research.  That 's all that's required, and I would have been doing that, anyway, so I figured, "Why not be an ambassador?" :)
     There is so much excitement being generated about this census.  Personally, I'm impressed by the amount of information that the enumerators were required to gather.  Also, I think it's great that we'll get to see who actually provided the information (for the first time), which could help us to infer the probable validity of much of it.  We'll also get information about where families lived 5 years prior to the census date, educational levels obtained, and more!  You can click here to see detailed questions and enumerator instructions for the 1940 Census.

I look forward to sharing the journey of exploring this census with all of my readers.  If you haven't already, please consider signing up to help with the indexing. It as easy as visiting the official 1940 Census site and signing up by giving just your email address and your name.  You even get to pick the state(s) that you are most interesteing working on! The more hands "on deck", the sooner we'll have a fully searchable digital index to go with these precious documents!

A census-taker interviews a woman for the 1940 Census
(picture courtesy of census.gov)


Friday, March 9, 2012

Genea-Family Friday - Meeting Shelley

Okay, maybe "Genea-Family Friday" isn't (or hasn't been) an actual meme, but for today, I'm making it one. :)

Although a small percentage of folks in our online genealogy community do get to meet and know each other personally, mostly by attending conferences and workshops, the majority are like me, who engage in building "friendships" online, through blogs, chats, and social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and/or GooglePlus.  So, for me, those rare occasions that allow me to actually meet one of my genea-friends are very special.  Yesterday was one such occasion, when I got to meet genealogist Shelley Murphy  while on a brief visit to my former hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Shelley is very active in the African-American, as well as the larger genealogy community.  She puts out the Charlottesville Genealogy Examiner, is an active participant in the Afrigeneas community, and is belongs to more than one chapter of the African-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAGHS), holding the office of President in the Central Virginia Chapter.  Shelley is also active on Twitter, and Facebook, participates in Geneabloggers Radio shows, and is just generally supportive of other researchers, in every way. 

I have enjoyed getting to know Shelley online, and have long considered her a part of my "genea-family". Now, I can add her to the (short) list of folks from this wonderful community whom I've actually met, in person.  Though our visit was brief, I could tell that Shelley was just as kind, sweet, and supportive in "real life" as  she comes across online. :)  I'm glad we met!

Link to this post

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mystery Monday - Young Man In Uniform

Here's another unidentified photograph from my collections.  This picture was found between the pages of a cookbook (just pages, no book) that my Aunt Sue tells me belonged to her Grandma Susie (Dunstan) GREEN.

At first glance, I wondered if the young man could have been my Uncle Fred YARBOROUGH, my father's 1/2 brother, who passed away in 1947 at the age of 34.  (He was hit by a car.)  However, my aunt insists that the picture is not of Fred, so I have to believe her (for now...lol).  There is probably no connection between the picture and the original owner of the cookbook, since there was only a remnant of the publication left, and because Susie Dunstan never even lived in the house where it was.  Apparently, the cookbook came into her daughter's possession (my grandmother, Anna (Green) Yarborough), after her death sometime in the early part of the 20th century.  I discovered the picture after being given what was left of the cookbook, and bringing it home (it a plastic bag) a couple of years ago.  When I called my aunt to ask her about the picture, she didn't even know it was in there, so I'm sure that it ended up there quite by accident.

I'd really love to know who this is.  Perhaps there's a clue in the uniform that the young man is wearing.  My one guess is that it might be a Civilian Conservation Corps uniform, but I'm not sure about the thing on the cap.  (I haven't been able to find a clear picture online.)  I do know that some other members of my family did serve in the CCC, though, so this could be a possibility.  My only other thought is that perhaps this could be a school uniform of some type.

This young man would have most likely been from Louisburg/Franklin County, NC.  My guess is that he is between 15-20 years old in this picture, and that it was probably taken in the 1930's or 1940's.  What do you think?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sentimental Sunday - Farewell, Whitney Houston

I'm going to make this short, but I can't let this day go by without sharing a bit about how I'm feeling with my readers. 

Yesterday, the world lost another musical icon, but with Whitney Houston's death, I felt almost as though I'd lost a part of myself.  Now, I know that it's just a feeling, and it will probably pass, but for almost three decades now, since Whitney first came on the scene, I've felt an almost spiritual-like connection to her.  I've never known why, but that's just the way it was.  Her music touched me deeply, and though I know I don't even come close to sounding just like her, I've sung along with her as if I did. :)  But, it wasn't just her music.  It was something about Whitney, the person.  We were close in age, and (at that time) about the same height and size.  And, I really wasn't much of a dancer, an oft-heard criticism of Whitney.  She loved the Lord, and so did I. 

My two daughters grew up knowing of my connection to Whitney. I had a tape of her greatest hits that I played in the car on every road trip, and soon, they began to sing along.  We have great memories of trying to see who could hold the long notes with Whitney, especially on, "The Greatest Love", "Saving All My Love", and, of course, "The Star-Spangled Banner".  My girls learned early-on that to bad mouth Whitney Houston for any reason was totally and completely unacceptable, and could land them on punishment (for real!).  As they got older, they made sure their friends knew this, too.  If anyone had negative opinions about Whitney, they'd better keep them to themselves until they got from around me, or they'd no longer be wecome in my home!  Even when Whitney made choices that most of the world questioned (including me), criticism was to be silenced, and prayers sent up. 

There are so many "Whitney songs" that I love; I can't even begin to name them, and I definitely can't share them all.  However, in tribute to "my girl", I'd like to share these three:

Whitney performed, "I love the Lord" in the movie, The Preacher's Wife, along with several other beautiful songs.

No one has EVER sang the Star-Bangled Banner better than this!  To this day, no matter how many times I hear this, I get chills as I sing along with her.

Last, but not least, the one song that brings the tears everytime - The Greatest Love.

Thank you, Whitney. Thank you for your voice, and for your spirit.  Farewell.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Amanuensis Monday - Letters from Louisburg, Part 3

I have been posting a series of letters written by one, William A. Eaton, of Franklin County, North Carolina, to officials at the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands over the course of a few months in 1865.  I ran across these letters during a visit to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., while searching for any mention of my great-grandfather, Calvin Yarborough, a former slave who'd been notated in the 1870 Census as a "former schoolteacher".  Since the Freedmen's Bureau was instrumental in helping to establish schools for "colored" children after Emancipation, I wanted to see if my ancestor's name might be mentioned in any of the correspondence to/from Franklin County.  Although my great-grandfather wasn't mentioned by name in these letters, I still felt a connection to him through these letters, because the "poor, colored" folks the writer so often refers to include many of my ancestors, including (most certainly), my great-grandfather, Calvin. Not only that, but in another letter, which I took a picture of with my camera, but don't have a full copy of to transcribe, Mr. Eaton uses as an example the slaves of one widow, Mrs. A.J. Yarborough.  This Mrs. Yarborough was the widow of my great-grandfather's last owner, James H. Yarborough, and was thence Calvin's owner at the time of Emancipation.
This is the final letter of the three I copied, although there were several more on the microfilm.  (Click to read Part 1 and Part 2.)  Whenever I return to the NARA, I will try to get copies of those missing, which include responses from some of the officials Mr. Eaton was writing to.

Louisburg Sept 25th 1865

Col E Whittlesey

Dr Sir
     I wrote you in answer to your favour of Aug 12th about three weeks past, and as your letter was 18 days coming from Raleigh to Louisburg, I thought it posible my letter did not reach you at all, therefore I write you to know if you received my letters.
     If it is posible to take any steps towards buildng up a home for the colored people, or freedmen, the sooner we begin about it the better for I see that as the year nears to a close, the poor creatures are runing more and more into a state of confusion, without homes. And (without) any person to guide or advise them it is now difficult to keep them at home long enough to gather in the growing crop, part of which is now ready to be gathered.  Some of them are really in a deplorable situation, it being out of power of any person to govern them.  It will be utterly imposible for the White people to feed them in their present condition.  Have you made

pg 2

up your mind what shall be done with the children that have no parents.
     Please let me hear from you at your earliest convenience. Should you think it desirable to have a personal interview with me, I will come to see you, but I would greatly perfer seeing you at my house, and if you can come out, I will meet you any day you will appoint at Franklinton and bring you out.

                                                                                                       Very Respectfully
                                                                                                                     Your Obt St
                                                                                                                     W A Eaton

About Mr. Eaton:
William A Eaton was born in 1812 or 1813 in NC.  He appears to have spent most of his life in Granville County, which is ajacent to Franklin, but once shared some of the same land. His main property appears to have been in the township of Fishing Creek (Granville). It is unclear at this time where his property was located in Louisburg.
In 1840, Mr. Eaton owned 38 slaves. In 1850, he owned 80, and in 1860, the value of his personal estate (not including real estate) was $86,900, so it's safe to assume that his attainment of human property had increased, even more.
William Eaton married the former Jean Burwell, of Mecklenburg, Virginia in 1840.  He died of paralysis in 1870 (in Louisburg) at the age of 58.

Source Information:
Virginia Marriages, 1740-1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 1999.  Original data: Dodd, Jordan R., et al.. Early American Marriages: Virginia to 1850. Bountiful, UT, USA: Precision Indexing Publishers

Year: 1850; Census Place: Fishing Creek, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: M432_631; Page: 88B; Image: 177.

Year: 1860; Census Place: Fishing Creek, Granville, North Carolina; Roll: M653_898; Page: 380; Image: 384; Family History Library Film: 803898.

United States. Nonpopulation Census Schedules for North Carolina, 1850-1880: Mortality and Manufacturing. M1805, rolls 1-5. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.

A note from the transcriber:
During the weeks I've been transcribing these letters for the blog, all of the intial feelings/reactions I had to reading them that first day at the Archives have resurfaced.  I've chosen to say little about those feelings because I don't want to skew the perspective of my readers, however, I am so very interested in hearing your thoughts!  I've received some comments on the previous posts, as well as via Twitter and email, however, I'd love to have a "conversation" of sorts with you, my dear readers, via the comments section right here on the blog.  So, please ma'am, please sir, if you are so inclined, do share a few thoughts with me about these letters?  I'm curious to hear from White and Black on this, to know how you're interpreting Mr. Eaton's words and intentions.  Of course, if you'd rather keep your thoughts private, that's your perogative, but for those who'll leave comments, I will respond to them all. :)  Let the conversation begin!


Monday, January 9, 2012

Amanuensis Monday - Letters from Louisburg - Part 2

Last Monday, I shared the first of a series of letters between William A Eaton, of Franklin County, North Carolina, and officers of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands (usually known as the "Freedmens' Bureau").  In his letters, Mr. Eaton is pleading for the support of the bureau in establishing a home, school, and working farm for former slaves after Emancipation.

I read and copied three of the letters in this series during a visit to the National Archives over a year ago.  At that time, I had no idea I'd be sharing them, so I must apologize for not having the exact source information, other than to say that the letters were on a reel of microfilm which held records of the Freedmens' Bureau which related to Franklin County, NC.  My purpose in reading through these records was to seek any mention of my own ancestors, most specifically my formerly-enslaved great-grandfather, Calvin Yarborough, Sr., who, in the 1870 Census was noted to be a "former teacher".

If you missed the first letter I posted, which was from Mr. Eaton to the first commissioner of the Freedmens' Bureau, General Oliver O Howard, you can read it by clicking here.  This second letter, penned by Mr. Eaton on September 2, 1865, is to Colonel Eliphalet Whittlesey, Assistant Commissioner for the North Carolina Freedmen's Bureau, 1865–1866.

Franklin County Sept 2d 1865

Col E Whittlesey

Dr Sir

Your letter 12th *itto reached me this day. I have read its contents carefully, and I am truly thankful that I can indulge a slight hope from your letter, that something may yet be done for the poor destitute colored people of this country, for I do assure you they will soon stand much in need of your assistance. I say of yours Colonel, because they have no one to look to but you, and unless you can enlist the General government, or some of the Philanthropic Societies at the North in their behalf, God only knows, what is to become of them.

The time is drawing near where the greater portion of the negroes will have give up their present homes, and I fear many thousands will be homeless and friendless. As things exist, it will follow as a natural consequence. Very many of our largest land holders are renting their grounds to White laborers, owing to their inability to pay high wages for Colored labour; And this will throw a great many women and children out of imployment. And then there are a great many persons, who would employ the negroes but they are fearfull that the negro, might leave them in working season, and they would loose their crops. And this will throw a good many out of homes: And the fearfull consequence

Pg. 2

must follow.. that a great many negroes will spend the most of their time runing about the country looking for day work: which will nothing like give them a support. And that good old adage will surely be about them, Idleness produces want & want, vice & vice misery.

I had a good deal of conversation with Col Clapp* on the subject of the home for the destitute. I think I can furnish an excellent tract of land for the home, and think with good management it could be made to support a great many indigent negroes. You ask if such a place can be had with suitable buildings. There are already a great many buildings on the place, but not enough to carry out the home according to the scale I would like to start one, say with a school attached, for improving the young, and giving the old proper religious instruction, both of which I consider very important. I should like to have a personal interview with you on the subject. The place I propose to sell for the home, is two plantations that lay together. The two tracks of land contain 2200 acres, if properly laid off into lots, say of from 30 to 60 acres each, with with a good family house on each. And then select some of the best families we can find settle them on these lots. I say best families because I would like to have a good example set at the beginning, it would induce others to do better.

There are now on the two places good family residences sufficient to accommodate the teachers to the school, and the manager of the farming opperations, I gave Col Clapp a full description, and particularly of the School house which is onto

Pg. 3

accommodate 500 pupils. I propose to make it a manual school. By settleing 50 or 60 families, which would consume about 1500 acres; and the remainder of the land to be worked by the pupils in the school; The two places can be purchased for Twentyfive thousand dollars ($25,000) I have made a calculation what it would cost to erect all the buildings necessary to make the accommodations sufficient for 500 pupils, at my figures: all the necessary buildings will cost Fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) So you will see that land & buildings will cost ($75,000). I propose to put up every thing in neat and comely style: for unless the place was made to look like home; The colored people would not like it. I refer you to Col Clapp, for a full description for the plan. I would like to see you here; that you might see the situation. I think you would like it.

I am quite sure Col, that I could, after the frist year, make it a self supporting Establishment, and if you will have a proper agent, a goodly quantity of supplies may be collected from the farmers, from the growing crop for the indigent, if delivered to them, they will soon be waisted. And by the coming Spring, they will not have one pound of any thing to subsist on. And I fear, unless some eye is kept on the more ignorant persons among the colored people, many of them will be left without any portion, and then, what is to become of the women and children, unless they have some place to go to, and some person to look to for advice. Use your best endeavor to get a home erected for them. God grant us his assistance, in this. I believe a I hope I will meet with his approbation.

p. 4

I before said that provisions could be collected from the farmers. I mean that portion of the crop that belongs to the Orphans. And then we have a good many women who have large families, and no husband, and may as a class may be counted Orpans, for, I assure you these women and children will want as much looking after, as any Colored people in our land. take these two classes together, and they will give a large number of the destitute. I think if you will have a proper agent for the colored people, and establish a home for them, and have their provisions collected to gether, and have some system in the use of them a large sum will be saved to the general government.

For unless you have some place for them to collect they will all be puring into your at Raleigh by the 1st of January, and in a very short time the fuel a lone would cost as much as the home would. And at this home, they can have wood without allowance, and comfortable houses to live in, many of them made to support themselves. By strict vigilance over them, many of them who would always live in idleness if left a lone, would be induced to work where every body was at work around them. But some of them would have to be made to work or they will die in idleness

pg. 5

Let me speak a little more plainly on the subject of an agent for the colored people, and I hope you will pardon my freedom of speech on that subject.

The time will soon be here when the crop is to be gathered in, and then come the division of the crop; A great many of the white people are perfectly willing that the Negroes should have an equitable part. But on the other hand I fear there are a great many who will try to make the negroes part as little as possible. Will it not be important to have an agent for them, who is well acquainted with the customs of the country; and likewise to be able to judge under the present circumstances what part of the crop ought to be paid to the negro for his services. This agent ought to be carefully selected, and ought to be required to give his entire time and personal attention to this business, for I assure you he will find, a full amount of business for any one man to attend to. If one man can do it, after the crops are divided between the whites & Blacks, some attention will have to be bestowed on the 2d division, say among Blacks themselves. For the stronger will be sure to try to get a full share and leave the orphan out and those orphans Col, must have some one to care for them. And you will find a great many in every county. We have in our family some 6 or 8 who will be destitute in deed if you do not have them looked to be some one, and have some place to send them to, some place of safety for them

p. 6

I only cast these hints that you may think of what ought to be done in the premises.

If you can possibly come to Franklin I would be pleased to come out, for I am sure if we could see each other, we could make some arrangements for the home. If you conclude to come, give me a weeks notice. Your letter was 18 days on the road. Let me hear from you at least.

I am very Respectfully

Your most abl St

W A Eaton

*Lieutenant Col Clapp – Superintendent of the Central District of the Freedmen’s Bureau

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - A Little Booklet of Advice

      Front cover and title page of booklet I found last summer at the home of my 91 year-old aunt in NC.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Amanuensis Monday - Letters From Louisburg (Part 1)

During a visit to the National Archives last year, while searching records from the North Carolina division of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned lands for any reference to my great-grandfather, Calvin Yarborough, I ran across a series of letters (on microfilm) between William A Eaton, a respected citizen of Franklin County, NC, and certain officials from the bureau.  Mr. Eaton was concerned about what was going to become of Franklin County's formerly enslaved population, once they were fully and completely on their own, following Emancipation.  Without adding my (perhaps) biased opinions/reactions to this line of correspondence (given my families roots in this county), I will present the three letters I chose to copy, beginning today, and then on each of the next two Mondays.

In this first letter, Mr. Eaton is writing to General Oliver Otis Howard, the first Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau. He had previously written a letter to the General, expressing his concerns, and the General had written him back.  What follows is Mr. Eaton's response.


Franklin County N.C. Aug 1865

Genl O O Howard

My Dear Sir

Your very kind letter 22 xxxx, was recd a few days past. And I hope you will pardon me for trespassing again with an other letter. The only excuse I can make General, is thae hope of getting something done for the poor colored widow & Orphans, many of wom must be left to starve unless you can be enlisted in their behalf. General you are the only hope they have on earth. It is generally believed they are committed to your care, and let me entreat you to try and get something done for them. Unfortunately a great many of the colored women have large families of children without a husband and a great many will be totally unable to feed and cloth themselves & children when they are given up by their former owners, which the former owners will be compelled to do, at the end of the present year. Nearly all the men will set up for themselves and leave the women & children to shift for themselves and many of them were formerly owned by widows......

pg. 2
and Orphans, who have no home. The negros are xxx hired, and the 1st day of Jany (January) coming will find them homeless & friendless, unless the government will ___ forward to their relief. You say in your letter General that Franklin County will have to take care of its own paupers. General if every white (probably citizen) in this county, was taxed to his full capacity ___ could not take proper care, of the pauper negros that will be turned on the county the frist (sp) Jany next But General I do not propose to make this altogether a county institution, the reason why I ask to have it under th especial care of the general goverment (sp) is that when ever the agent for freedmen for the state, finds a fit subject for his special patronage he may have a place to send him to where they can have proper care taken of them, and if we can get one such institution started in the South it will beget many others of like character. In the present crippled state of this country I fear it would be a hopeless job to raise money to establish an institution of any kind much less for such a one as I propose. Many persons think it best to keep the colored rase (sp) in

pg. 3
as much ignorance as posible. I beg leave to differ with them. I wold to God that every man woman & child in these United States were well educated, and piously instructed, and properly point the way to the Lamb of God, and how can that be done, unless Gods more enlightened children, will help to lift these poor people from the darkness that now surrounds them; I have written to Col Whittlesey* and invited him to visit me that I may lay my plan before him: I think it the cheapest plan that can be adopted to do any good. The land that I propose to get for the purpose belongs to 5 persons but all lying in one compact body, and if laid off and adjusted with skill, would accommodate a great many negroes, andif provisions are laid in at the begining of winter may be done to advantage If Col Whittlesey allows the negroes to remanin in and about Town the wood for them would cost quite as much as the home for them, here they can furnish their own wood, and by proper encouragement a great many may be enduced to support themselves. With one years start the place

*Col Whittlesey was the Commissioner for the State of North Carolina Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands

pg. 4
can be made to support itself. General would it be asking too much of you, to request you to speak to the highest powers that be, in behalf of this home for Negroes, in the name of God I beg that something be done for them. I hope General you will pardon my earnest entreeties for them, being here among them and knowing thir true situation I can not help being interested in their behalf seeing too as I do every day how unconcious they are of ther true Situation, for unless something is done many must perish the coming winter from cold. “let us not turn them away homelss necked hungry and cold” but do what we can for them. God prosper my petition for them is the earnest prayer of
                                                                                                                       Your Humble Servant

                                                                                                                      W A Eaton

P.S. There is one thing that we must not loose sight of, heretofore the Negro was taxed as property, now that is lost to state county and the general government, and I am sure they will not be able in their present situation to pay even a pole(poll) Tax -

                                                                                                                         ps cte   W.A.E..