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FL & TN Collections

I’ve been researching my family history for quite some time (mostly online which I plan to change in the near future) and one of the most frustrating moments for me is when I come across a GREAT database or index for Oregon…..or Delaware…..or some other state/locality that I’m certain my ancestors never saw.  It was one of those moments recently that gave me this idea.

The vast majority of my research is centered around two states; Florida and Tennessee.  I’ve collected hundreds of pieces of information when I’ve come across one of these online gems that happens to cover my family’s slice of the world.  Going forward, every time I find one, I’m going to post the link here so that others might stumble across this information about our place in the world.  You’ll find these collections on the tab above or by clicking here.

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.

Uncle Richard

In an earlier post, I talked about my 2nd Great Grandfather and his “complicated” family.  In that post, I also spoke of his wife Ethel leaving home…

So, with one child in hand and one on the way, Ethel took off down the dusty road leading away from the family farm…. and Dada stood and watched from the porch as his wife and two of his children disappeared in the horizon.

One of those children was my great-uncle, Richard Bynum.  Richard was born in 1918 and was the youngest of five (for years, we thought it was four siblings, but learned of a fifth through my research this year!  THAT is a story for another time).   Richard’s childhood after he headed down that dusty road was a difficult one.  I didn’t know him until much later in his life, but I’ll always remember how he would adamantly talk about the reasons he chose to have no children.  Basically, he felt his own childhood was so bad, he’d never wish that hardship on someone else.

Richard enlisted in the army and served in World War II.   He served over seas from 1941-45 and retired at the rank of sergeant.  After his service, he settled back down in St. Petersburg, FL.  Despite the frustrations about his youth, I remember Uncle Richard being a bit of a comedian.  The more I think about it, I think I actually got a bit of my sense of humor from him.  For that, I’m eternally grateful.

He passed away in 1991 at the age of 72 and is buried with veteran honors at Florida National Cemetery.

Wordless Wednesdays

My uncle Sam and his bride Joyce on their wedding day (1960)

My uncle Sam and his bride Joyce on their wedding day (1960)

This is a story that must be told….at a later time……

My Other Grandmother

I’ve been fortunate to have had many wonderful elders in my life.  My grandmother (maternal) is still alive and fiesty as ever nearing her 90th birthday.  My paternal grandmother passed away long before I was born.  If fact, she passed when my father was a child.  As a result, I really know very little about her.  What I do know is shrouded in grayness and leads to many high and wide brick walls in my research.  Here’s the little I do know:

Bernice Lewis was born in Columbia County, FL in 1918 to Samuel Lewis and the former Edna Clark.  Photos I have of her show she was a beautiful woman.

G-mother Bernice (Lewis) Bynum circa 1946

G-mother Bernice (Lewis) Bynum circa 1946

She married my grandfather (M.J.) against the wishes of her mother, Mama Edna.  Nonetheless between 1939 and 1946, she had three sons and a daughter.  She also had one son, Samuel, from a previous relationship.

In 1947, she died of cancer at the early age of 29.  Mama Edna always blamed my grandfather for her passing, arguing that he simply did not support her taking care of herself.   Fair or unfair, this colored familial relations for many years to come.

MJ, Bernice and kids

MJ, Bernice and kids

I’m determined to find out as much as I can about Bernice.  Unfortunately, there aren’t many left that can provide more clues to her background and the circumstances of her life now.  I’ve succeeded so far in re-creating her pedigree from census records and other vital record sources.  This has given me a framework, but little “meat.”   As always, much more to come…

Joseph Ceasar Bynum

The eldest Bynum I’ve been able to find so far is Joseph Ceasar Bynum Sr. Joseph was born in 1830 somewhere in South Carolina. Probably born as a slave, Joseph’s first documented record is in 1870. Joseph is married to Phyllis (maiden name unknown) and has two male children; Ceasar and Smart. Joseph is a farm laborer who can neither read nor write. The family is in Columbia County, FL. Joseph lived to at least 65 and eventually owned farm land in Columbia County.

US Federal Census Bureau, 1870 Census – Lake City, Columbia County, Florida, USA,Rec. Date: 25 June 1870, Farm Lot 306. Cit. Date: 16 Feb 2006 page 1 (lines 39-40), 2 (lines 1-2)

US Federal Census Bureau, 1880 Census – Lake City, Columbia County, Florida, USA,Rec. Date: June 1880, Cit. Date: 21 Feb 2006  (lines 4-8)

US Federal Census Bureau, 1900 Census – Lake City, Columbia County, Florida, USA, Rec. Date: 1 June 1900, Cit. Date: 16 Feb 2006  (lines 4-8)

Matthew James Bynum II

Matthew James Bynum, or M.J. as just about everybody knew him, was my grandfather. I didn’t know him that well. By the time I was old enough to understand who he was, he was a much older man and dealing with the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. M.J. was not a perfect man; none of us are. I don’t plan on writing about any of that here. Instead, I’m going to focus on things about my grandfather that I heard, but never been able to prove true…. until today. Anyone who has done this family exploration for any length of time will appreciate the “happy dance” I did when I found not one, but several accounts of my grandfather’s days as a semi-professional baseball player in the negro leagues and a bit of a civil rights activist. Apparently, M.J. was quite the baseball player and played for multiple teams including the North Carolina Stars and the St. Petersburg Pelicans. Both of these teams were part of a negro minor league farm system back in the 30s and 40s. I haven’t been able find out much about them so far, but my grand-dad always told stories of playing against the lies of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson. All unsubstantiated , but I’m looking….

MJBynum-small

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