Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Celebrating Our Family Roots With Antoinette Harrell

On February 15th, 2011 I was honored to be asked to speak about my family history research on Antoinette Harrell's radio talk show "Nuturing Our Roots."

At this time she mentioned that there were not many male Black amateur geneaologists available to speak and I was pleased to share my story during Black History Month.

I was at work and the phone system would not let me call outside of the area. So I got on a few minutes late on my cell phone and we talked for an hour. I wish it was more! I had a great time talking to her and answering people's questions. My friends and family listened in on this broadcast.

At the 62:00 mark I get on during the 2 hour broadcast. I really appreciate Antoinette for taking the time to interview me for her show. I enjoyed the conversation and would love to do it again. Her blogspots and Talk Shows are very informative so please sign up and listen to her podcasts.

Please click the link below to listen to the broadcast.


Friday, December 6, 2013

First African Baptist Church of Savannah, GA

My ancestor Rev. Andrew Bryan was the founder of the first official African-American church in the United States! He was my 7x Great Grandfather on my father's side of the family. Please enjoy these 2 videos about the formation of his church.

St. James The Greater Catholic Church

This video is about St. James the Greater Catholic Church in Ritter, SC. The Jackson side of my family is buried there going back 5 generations. They lived one block down the street from there. We still own that land to this day. This church was built African-Americans and rebuilt after the Civil War. I have to confirm if my ancestors were in this picture or not.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mount Zion Baptist Church in Cope, SC.

The church my Livingston ancestors built (and re-built after a fire). Three generations of Livingstons are buried in the graveyard adjoining the church going back to 1855.

May they rest in paradise

When you think you are right, you were all wrong

It took me 6 hours to fix 3 generations (1750-1820) of one branch of family last night. I am disappointed in myself for making the wrong assumptions and never bothering to double-check my work after all these years. Luckily someone asked me about my Jackson branch which made me look at the tree again. Unfortunately I have some work ahead of me to get further down the line. Here are some famous DON'TS:

1. STOP CLAIMING EVERYBODY AS FAMILY - We are all guilty of that while doing research. Picking every person with the same last name ask kinfolk. Even if your family is on one side of the state and the rest are 100 miles from there. Its isnt always the case they are related. Especially if you have a common last name. 

2. DON'T LATCH ON TO SOMEONE ELSE'S WORK - Life would be so simple if someone did all the work for me. Then what fun would that be? If your names do not match in someone else's tree (especially in ancestry.com), DO NOT ADD YOUR OWN without consulting the original owner. You need proof, try and find some. People hate that and I am one of them.

3. STOP RUSHING - Impatience never solves anything. You cannot condense hundreds of years in minutes no matter how fast technology is. If you run into a brick wall, go do another branch. 

4. STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND REVIEW YOUR WORK - Have someone look over your work. Two eyes are better than one. Perhaps you missed something in the wee hours of the night you spent going through file after file. Revisit your old data periodically in case something new has appeared recently.

5. STOP USING THE SAME METHODS AND CHANGE YOUR STYLE - Your methodology for finding lost ancestors might work for one branch or generation but it might not work for all of them. Ask for suggestions on different tricks of the trade, research sources and techniques to uncover important information without the help of a census, bible or family reunion booklet. 

This pretty much explains what I do

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Lessons Learned - September 29, 2013

223 years in the making!!! I finally found my 4x Great grandfather John Young!!! I could just kick myself because it was staring me in the face all this time and I overlooked him. A transcription error on the census record in ancestry.com made it look like he was born in 1840 instead of 1790.

Lesson #1: It always pays to look at the ACTUAL record (and use that magnifying feature) and not rely on the search results. 
Lesson #2: Look at the neighbors. I checked the census records from 1860-1880 (my ancestors were free in 1860) and also recorded who were their neighbors. I cross referenced against the SC Archives and actually found a will with my 5x great grandmother's name Flora in it. This will provided boundaries, named the neighbors and provided marriage info. 
It was literally walking down the street 200 years ago.

Lesson #3: Track the professions. Not everyone was a farmer. My 4x Great Grandfather was a skilled Carpenter. I havent been able to figure out how my family was free prior to 1860. Did he purchase his families' freedom or did his children marry free persons of color? I did locate who the white Young was (with the help of <a>Victori</a>) that were the slaveowners but I still havent found any wills or manumissions.

Lesson #4: Geography. Its best to know when the county was formed and the outlying districts. I guess I am going to have to pay a personal visit to Barnwell, SC and get actual documents from the town hall.

The Ghosts of Cope - October 4, 2012

The Ghosts of Cope

My mother grew up in the rural South. The small town of Cope within the City of Orangeburg. Back in the 1940s it was all farmland and poor. Mostly everyone that lived there worked on a farm and racism still ran rampant. People still picked cotton in the 40s but you weren't called a slave, but you were called all sorts of other things not too pleasant. These were the years called "Hard Times." My mom was about 6 years old around this time the 4th eldest out 6 children.

As I said before Cope is a one-horse town, if you were to drive through it today you would miss it if you blinked. But back then, for a little kid it was huge. The kids back then didn’t have Iphones, Air Jordans or skinny jeans. They wore hand-me-downs and mostly walked around barefoot. My mom used to say she had to walk miles to the store. She showed me the route from our ancestral home to the one General Store in Town. It took her hours as a little kid on those dirt roads in the "Boondocks." Whenever her mama Izora used to need something from the store she used to send all her kids to go get it. At the time only 5 lived together (what happened to the oldest child is a WHOLE nuther story) so off they went hand in hand ages 10 down to 3. Even that mangy old mutt of a dog went with them. They were told to walk the main dirt road in Cope and never veer off the beaten path. But a shortcut did exist through the fields of one of the farm owners, the Jennings family. Now everybody knew about this shortcut but none used it. "There's a big old tree in the middle of that field and dey say dat tree was used for hangin niggas," my Uncle Melvin used to say. "And dem Niggas is angry spirits now."

Well it was getting dark soon and the kids wanted to get home early so the eldest, my Uncle Melvin and Aunt Jimmie Lou decided all of them were gonna take the shortcut with my mom Hester watching the two younger siblings Dolly and George. So here they go through the tall grass and started heading towards the tree. It’s about dusk in the hot summer fields of South Carolina. All of a sudden the crickets stopped chirping. It was like the world was at a standstill for a moment. Even the dog wasn’t barking. He stopped dead in his tracks. Up ahead by the tree was a glowing ball of light. There was no car nearby and nobody was holding a lantern. It was too big a light to be a lightning bug either. Then not one, but several balls of light started coming down from the tree branches at the same time. So if you know Black folks we don’t stick around to see what’s what. Those kids high tailed it and made a beeline back to the street! Those little legs and bare feet never ran so fast in their lives! And the dog led the way with its tail in-between its legs. When they finally got home to mama they told her what happened. She laughed at first but then whipped Melvin and Jimmie Lou across their bottoms for NOT LISTENING. She would always say, “If I told you once, I done told you a thousand times…stay outta that field but y’all are hard-headed, AND a hard head makes for a soft behind!”

Decades later, my mom and I would drive by that same stretch of land. It’s a paved road now and has light poles. The town of Cope isn’t the same as it was back then but that field and tree are still there. After all this time it is still untouched and undisturbed. I guess the locals knew the legends and kept away. I still wonder if those souls are waiting for someone to help them out of that tree. Part of me wishes to find out the truth about that land and identify those ghosts. I’m not going to find out though, because I remember what Grandma said. And I don’t want her spirit to come and smack me either!

Family Reunion Booklet - June 3, 2013

Family Reunion Booklet
Length – try and keep the book manageable and most importantly readable. Normally the booklet should be between 25 -100 pages.
Front Cover – Group photo taken at the last reunion.  At every reunion we take a photo of all who are present to use in the next reunion booklet. If you are having a 5, 10, 25 year anniversary family reunion, I recommend using a new group photo for the front and an old group photo from the early reunions for the back cover. If this is your first family reunion, create a collage of new and old photos of family members. Other suggestions include a drawing of the family tree, a single photo of an ancestor or your ancestral home.
Table of Contents
A Poem – One of my family members is a poet and volunteered to create a poem for the event.
·         Introduction
·         Letter from the local or state government
·         Listing of Reunion Committee members
·         Agenda for the reunion
·         Family Crest
·         Family Prayer
·         Lyrics to family song – several family members created a song years ago and we have someone sing it each reunion
·         Lyrics to “Lift Every Voice And Sing” – Everyone sings the spiritual
·         List of all who completed college and graduate school
·         List of all who served in the military (from civil war and up or just by branch of military and years served)
·         List of all who were born since the last reunion
·         List of all who died since the last reunion
·         Special tributes, achievements or milestones of any family member living or deceased
History of the Family
·         Diagram of the Main tree
o   History of the areas your family is from and/or a migration pattern map
o   US History timeline
o   History of slavery, emancipation, reconstruction, Jim Crow, civil rights and modern times
·         History of the main branch
o   Write a story – Don’t just give a list of who’s who, birth dates and death dates. Create an accurate portrayal of how your family came together. Keep it short but interesting.
o   Do not go into full detail, protect your research in case someone tries to take credit for your work.
o   Respect living members privacy and do not post birthdays of grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren in case of identity thieves.
·         History of the sub branches
o   Same as above
·         Photos of people, places and records spread throughout the booklet.
o   We posted the oldest census record found, old military record and old marriage certificate.
o   We posted old photos of ancestral homes and churches
o   Photos of graves
o   Photos of ancestors
o   Recent photos of family
·         Ads or requests for donations
Back Cover – See recommendations for the front cover

Born Day Names - August 4, 2011

“Born Day” names
The Akan people of Ghana and the Ivory Coast frequently name their children after the day of the week they were born and the order in which they were born.
This tradition is shared throughout West Africa due to Akan Influence, from Benin/Dahomey (Fon) and Togo (Ewe), to the Ga, to other West Africans and throughout the African diaspora. For example, in Jamaica the following “day names” have been recorded:

Day:                Male  Names             Female Names            Meaning

Sunday:           Quashy                       Quashiba                     Universe        
                         Kwesi, Siisi, Akwasi;    Akosi, Akosiwa, Así, Esi, Kwasiba

Monday:          Quaco                          Juba                             Peace
                         Kodjó, Kojo, Jojo;        Adjua, Ajwoba, Adjoa

Tuesday:         Cubena                        Cuba                            Ocean
                        Komlá, Kobi, Ebo;         Ablá, Ablã, Abena, Abrema

Wednesday:    Cudjo                          Bennie                         Spider
                        Koku, Kweku, Kaku;     Akú, Ekua

Thursday:        Quaw                           Abba                           Earth
                        Yao, Yaba, Ekow;        Araba, Ayawa, Baaba, Yaaba, Aba

Friday:             Cuffy                           Pheba                          Fertility
                        Koffi, Fiifi, Yoofi;          Afí, Afua, Efia, Efua

Saturday:        Quamin                         Bennaba                      God
                        Ato, Kwame, Komi;       Ame, Ama, Amba, Ameyo

Getting Started - July 14, 2011

1. Oral History - I would first talk to all eldest living relatives, they have access to information you may not find documented. That way you can identify what is rumor and what is fact. Create either a written or voice record to cross reference later.

2. Previous work - Some of your work might have already been done for you. Start collecting old family photo albums, family bibles and family reunion booklets. In these files, it will contain the following info: names of relatives, dates of birth and locations where they lived. Family trees might have already been passed down through the generations previous to yours.

3. Gathering data - You need to find any of these items in State or Federal documents: names, maiden names, birth certificates, death certificates, land deeds, bank records, SSI#, marriage dates, census records, wills, slaves bills of sale, military records, newspaper articles (a lot of announcements about runaways were printed), slave narratives, church records, manumissions (documents freeing slaves) and other court records. You never know what kind of facts will be uncovered. Your ancestors might be involved in some sort of historical event. Pay attention to dates and locations and cross reference with moments in history. You will never find it all but eventually you will find a few items. Trace the migration patterns of your relatives by city & state throughout the decades. Include data on brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles of your ancestors. Your tree will expand and the whole picture will be revealed.

4. On the web - Use ancestry.com, footnote.com, rootsweb.com and other websites to find data. In case you don't want to pay the subscription price for ancestry.com (US and/or international) please use familysearch.org which is a free site. State archives are another great resource for information listed in item 3. And definitely communicate in forums and message boards the Who, What, Where, When and Why of your familly research. Ask for help because You never know who might have some information that could be directly related to what you are looking for. With luck you will find relatives of your ancestors that you never knew you had.

5. Brick walls - None of this work will be found overnight, it takes time and dedication. If you run into a block on one branch or name, move on to another name or branch. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Do not assume that all surnames were that of a previous slaveowner. A lot of times our ancestors' race might be labeled as Black, Negro or Mulatto in census records. Make sure you search for all these variations. Emancipation occured in 1865 for most of the country. Census records for all freed persons began in 1870 however you might uncover that your ancestors might have been freed persons of color prior to that date so make sure you check decades before then. Use wills of slave owners, bills of sale or inventories to obtain names prior to Emancipation.

6. Save data - Document and save everything externally to a hard drive and make a backup file on a flashdrive in case your computer gets stolen or gets a virus so you wont lose all your hard work. Use either familytreemaker software, GENCOMM, Word or the Excel spreadsheet and take lots of notes. Your document will become the new family bible.