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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.

Is the past truly prologue?

For any true family historian, this week’s stories regarding Michelle Obama’s lineage must catch the eye.     While you will likely never see political discourse on this site, Mr. Obama’s (and by their union, Mrs. Obama’s) ascension to the presidency was a water-shed moment for the United States.  As seemingly has become the custom, genealogists from all over began the search to detail (and source) the ancestry of these two contemporary American figures.

The interesting item for me in the story of one of Mrs. Obama  Caucasian ancestors.   Her 3rd Great Grandmother, Melvinia Shields, was a teenage girl recently relocated from the only family and home she’d ever know in South Carolina and moved to Georgia.

It is difficult to say who might have impregnated Melvinia, who gave birth to Dolphus around 1859, when she was perhaps as young as 15. At the time, Henry Shields was in his late 40s and had four sons ages 19 to 24, but other men may have spent time on the farm.

“No one should be surprised anymore to hear about the number of rapes and the amount of sexual exploitation that took place under slavery; it was an everyday experience, “ said Jason A. Gillmer, a law professor at Texas Wesleyan University, who has researched liaisons between slave owners and slaves. “But we do find that some of these relationships can be very complex.”

One hundred and fifty years later, Melvinia’s sacrifices produced unique fruit; a strong African American First Lady of the United States.  What would Melvinia think of that outcome?  If she could know what might come of her descendants, would she feel that the ends, in any way, justify the means?  Would my female ancestors think in a similar way given my life and the lives of my children (I’m not the president, but my life is reasonably comfortable)?  Chris Rock tried to sum it up during one of his concerts a few years back.

“If you’re black, you gotta look at America a little bit different. You gotta look at America like the uncle who paid for you to go to college … but molested you.”

Slaveholder vs. Slaveowner

I haven’t posted in a bit and this is probably an interesting subject to jump back in on, but it’s my site so…..

When I started peeking into my family’s past a few years ago, I knew that (if I was lucky) much of my research would lead to a “brick wall” around 1865.  With African-American genealogy this is the case more often than not.    I’ve found the names of several whites who possibly held legal title to my relatives before the end of the civil war  (Now, just typing that last sentence bothers me greatly).  I prefer to call these people “Slaveholders” vs. “Slaveowners”.  It’s probably a semantic argument at best legally, but I view my ancestors born into slavery as people held captive and not owned; as I don’t believe one human being can “own” another human being.  The notion seems to run counter to the very definition of human being.   One of the best websites I’ve ever found to help researchers on this subject is here.

So far, using a very less than definitive process, I’ve attempted to identify the last slaveholders for all of my ancestral lines.  Less than definitive is an understatement.  Given the lack  of names or identifiers other than gender and age, I pieced through the 1860 Slave Schedules and found people (slaves) close to the attributes I know of my relatives.  If there were any duplicate matches (more than one person fitting the profile), I don’t connect them in my database.  The results of what I’ve been able to compiled are listed below.Compiled potential slaveholder data

My next step is to explore what I can to find out about these slaveholders online.  After that, trips to Murfreesboro, TN and Lake City, FL to see if I can find legal documents to validate (or invalidate) what I’ve uncovered so far.  I know I have a few visitors out there from time to time, so if anyone has other ideas, please let me know.

Eye of the Beholder

Its always fascinating for me to read or learn about an historical account of the times in which my ancestors lived.  As you might imagine, the Slave Narratives are a treasure for me; as is the story book account of my own family history.

However, its rare to get a glimpse into the mind of southerners on the other side of the line.  I’m speaking, of course, of the slaveholders.  Today, I was reading one of the other Gen-Blogs I frequent and came across an excerpt of The Diaries of James Henry Hammond, A Southern Slaveholder. I’m sure Mr. Hammond would be surprised at the world we live in today.  But I found it eye opening to read his thoughts and worries as the world he knew began to crumble around him.

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