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It’s been a while…..

Life has, once again, taken me off-line and out of touch with my wonderful hobby. I do, however, peel a few minutes away every now and then. In one of those precious moments, I came across a great potential resource for researchers of African American ancestry that I’d like to share.

Tom MacEntee over at GeneaBloggers runs quite a few inspirational theme ideas for other family history bloggers. One of his recent ones is called, “Friend of Friends Friday”. The premise is this:

“if you have encountered records of enslaved ancestors, whether they are your own ancestors or not, make it a point to transcribe those records and get them posted on the Internet via your blog.”

WHAT A GREAT IDEA!  There is simply no repository of this kind of information and no replacement of it as a resource to peek behind the shroud of slavery before 1870.  Of course its not indexed, comprehensive or, in some cases, written to be very useful for researchers.  But it is a start.  I’ve attached the Google reader RSS URL here.  Enjoy and check out some of the other great ideas Tom and his friends have come up with over time.  There’s also a special section on African American blogs as well.

 

Brick Wall #4525

I’ve been actively researching my family’s history now since 1999. In the early days, every day yielded a new path, new treasure or new finding that got me up out of my seat. In the years since that time, “brick walls” spring up routinely and breakthroughs become fewer and farther between.  That’s why when something new comes along, the happy dance is twice as sweet. A few posts ago, I referenced the familyhistory.org site and the databases therein. Well, this morning it delivered again. Although I signed up for a site membership a while ago, I usually search without logging in. HUGE mistake! I logged in this morning and to my surprise, not only was the tennessee, Death Records, 1914-1955 indexed, but copies of the actual death certificates were scanned and available for download! I was able to find an actual document for dozens of my ancestors in Rutherford County
including Hillary Brown. Loads of information are contained on these pages! As for brick wall #4525…. Hillary’s certificate CONFIRMED his parents as William & Fannie Brown.  What’s the big deal you might ask?!? Well, my first real record of Hillary and Bettie is the 1870 census record.  Because they were born as slaves, they weren’t named in any government record prior to that. Family lore always suggested that Hillary was raised by his older brother Booker (well documented on this site). Maybe; but the death certificate listing of his parents tells me that Hillary and his family knew exactly who their ancestors were, even 60+ years later.

Booker S. Brown revisited

One of the moments in my research that elicited pride (there have been many) was the time that I “found” my 2nd Great Grand uncle, Booker Sampson Brown, and his connection to the Civil War.  I was recently re-watching the African American Lives 2 series and watched a similar discovery for Don Cheadle and his family.  You can see it for yourself here.   Here’s Chris Rock having the same joy:

I think a lot of the pride comes from knowing that your ancestors weren’t just victims…. weren’t just dragged along by this holocaust, but actually had the opportunity to put on a uniform, bare arms and fight for the freedom recently granted through war.  It’s not nearly enough to erase the scars, but it gives me something to talk to my kids about when the questions inevitably come.   Something personal.  something beyond Roots, Dr. King and the differences between now and then.

When I visited the African American Civil War Memorial for the first time a few years ago, it struck me that this was a story not often told.  No one ever told me until I went to find it myself.  Over the holidays, I was able to visit again, this time with my Grandmother in tow.  She is Booker’s Great-Grand niece.  She’d never heard the story I’ve been able to piece together either (beyond hearing her Grandfather Hillary speak fondly of his older brother).  Amazing how this stuff teaches the young and the old.

Tennessee Breakthrough

After climbing back in the saddle over the weekend, I began to explore some of my old website haunts to see what I’d missed in my absence. A fellow family site (who has sadly pulled her site down in recent days; hope to see it come back, but I get how life might get in the way) posted a link that helped me source more than a dozen death and burial dates and locations on Sunday morning. The Familysearch.org beta site has really moved forward in the last few months. Several of their libraries including, Tennessee Death Records, 1874 – 1955 have proven invaluable.

If you haven’t been there in some time, pay them a visit. They provided several wonderful hours of discovery for me.

Who is Earl Bynum?

One thing I’ve become acclimated to since I began this hobby is finding new and interesting things about my family; most of which I would have never known except through this research.  Usually these unexpected surprises happen 3 or 4 generations ago in the haze and grayness of the early 20th or late 19th centuries.

Recently, however, I’ve uncovered a “mystery” much closer:

"Uncle" Earl Bynum

Earl Bynum was the brother of M. J. Bynum, my Grandfather.  He passed away when I was a young child.  Lived in Lake City (which likely means that Dada was his father) and moved to St. Petersburg, FL with the rest of my father’s family.  Here’s the mystery….I knew just about everyone mentioned in his obituary….but I have NEVER heard of him.  Not a word or whisper of his name from my father, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.  Just about everyone on that side of my lineage is now departed, so I can’t depend on answers from the family.  My mother never heard of this man during their marriage; despite being very close to M.J. and his brothers and sisters.

To add to this mystery a little, no trace of Earl so far in any household records I have sourced or found on ancestry.com (although I admit, time has prevented me from making this an exhaustive search).  Still digging….

UPDATE: My post got me thinking a bit and I checked the site for the cemetery where my family’s plot is located and sure enough….Earl Bynum rests there.

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