Thank you Bell Atlantic!!!

It all started when the telephone rang… and I took Bell Atlantic’s advice and let my fingers do the walking.

I don’t know who was on the other end of the line, but I’d like to shake their hand, for sure!

There I was sitting between Nana and Granddaddy during what was supposed to be a ‘quick’ in and out visit. Yes. I really made the 60+ mile journey with every intention of saying hi, give a hug and head back home. Stop being judgemental. I wasn’t making good on the leaving front, though. Nana wanted to know about EVERYONE… so, I had to give her the details of each of the children. I was nearly finished dispensing with all the required information, when, as I said previously, the phone rang.

I’m not sure how things work in the homes of your grandparents, but in Nana’s house- you don’t dare leave whilst she’s on the phone. So there I was sitting on the couch, twiddling my thumbs.

I think I might have reached for a magazine (always handy) on the coffee table in front of me. That’s when I saw it.

You know I had to pick it up. The first thing I noticed was that Nana had written her name in it, but that’s not unusual, as she does it with all her books. Then I began flipping, nonchalantly, through the book.

I was just about ready to close the book and put it back on the table, when I noticed this:

 The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I knew those names. I have been researching them for two and a half years. I looked to my Nana for explanation, but she was still on the phone, grabbing away. My Granddaddy was no help, either, so engrossed in the football game was he.

I flipped through again and found a section of pictures. I won’t share them here, but just know, their stories are coming.

When Nana finally got off the phone, we had a FABULOUS discussion about our family history and the people in the book. And look and behold, Granddaddy even chimed in! He told me out of his own mouth that Rev. Tyler, who’ve I’ve long believed was an important Pastor in an area church (during the years of inception) was indeed the person I believed him to be. Nana also agreed with this. Though, it’s odd that two years ago, when I was going down this rabbit hole, Nana vehemently disagreed with my findings and Granddaddy was silent on the matter- only chiming in to tell me to look into his brother’s death, because they always believed something happened other than what they were told in regards to his WWII death.

I also learned that a particular set of relatives were steered clear of because they were crazy… I’m sure if you asked those relatives about Nana, they’d say she was uppity- so, you know take it with a grain of salt.

Oh and Nana let this book come home with me- a most shocking thing. Though she admonished me to return it in the same manner she gave it to me, no less than 10 times. I have a mind to copy all 100 pages. Is that wrong or illegal?

Well, it has been two days and I have finished the first read through of the book. I’m sure there will be at least three or four more reads, each time learning and grasping more of the stories to be told.

Until then, let me leave you with a few things I have already learned…

*The area where my family lives in Stafford, VA, is called Brooke (unofficial, but recognized by everyone who is a resident). But why is it called Brooke? Well apparently, there was a man by the name of Brooke, who owned obscenely amounts of land in Stafford and Fredericksburg. As was the custom of the day, Brooke was permitted to name his lands. Surprise, surprise, he named them after hisself.

The author, a cousin of mine, not only verified this information through traditional documentation in 1980, but also through the first hand account of her grandfather, who was a SLAVE on the premises when it all went down.

This book also talks about the one and only Pocahontas AND John Smith. Guess what? That encounter took place in Stafford, County and not near James Town as I  and others had grown up believing.

I am so in awe of this find and I can’t wait til I can flesh out the stories to share them with you all. Have you ever come across a unique find or discovery that opened a door into the daily lives of those before you? What did you find? What did you learn from it? I definitely want to hear all about it! Leave me a comment and tell me everything! Of course, I’d love it if you could hit the like/share/follow buttons too?

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The Revolution Won’t Be Televised

A big part of my life has been spent as an advocate. Whether advocating for more funding for schools, equality in schools, with local government on behalf of the minority, or any number of other ‘hot topics’- I have been there. Front and Center, tirelessly working to make where I live and what affects me better.

Kim is an activist

Here I am sitting with other community activists and advocates, during a press conference   (circa 2013). From left to right, I am the 6th person.

 

As I have worked on my tree, I have hoped that I would be fortunate to come across a revolutionary, like me. I dreamed of finding an ancestor that some how thwarted the efforts of the South during and after the Civil War. I longed to discover someone who participated in Freedom Marches, sit-ins and if I were extremely lucky- a Black Panther. Alas, the revolution will not be televised and the revolutionaries living within my many branches have not come forward with any of these harrowing stories- YET.

Even without any direct ancestors coming forward, I felt compelled to tell this story. Especially in light of recent events very near to the place I call home…

When D.T. came to the White House, I did not join the throngs of people who protested his presence- even though I wholeheartedly disagree with a great majority of things he says and does. When the Black Lives Matter marches came to my front door, I stayed home; regardless if how much of the outcries resounded within my soul. And when the debates started over statues became angry debates and cause for rallying cries- I stayed home and what’s more is that I kept my mouth shut and my opinions- of which there are many- to myself.

***Let me interject here to make it perfectly clear that this is not an invitation to debate anything and this post certainly is not designed to be a political pot stirrer- OF ANY KIND. You are entitled to your opinion and I, mine. The point isn’t what you or I support.***

Then came “the petition”. In my hometown, there sits a stone block on the corner of a well traversed street. People, some in my own immediate family, are trying to have this stone block removed. I still am not sure where I stand on the removal of this particular block. I have talked with people on both sides and living where I do now, I can see how each side’s argument, if you will, has the potential to be beneficial or detrimental. Being the social media savvy girl that I am, I posed the following inquiry to the social media world…

When we drive by that stone, I tell my kids what happened there. I want them to know real history and I think this block makes it real. I haven’t taken a stance on any of the monuments, publicly- and I won’t… But, I think this petition is misguided and not in the best interest of people of color… What do you think?

For the most part, interesting conversation ensued, even with people not agreeing with each other. We didn’t have to agree with each other to have great dialogue. It was a pretty terrific experience- especially given the temperament of people today and even more especially as current events unfold all around us.

But then, it wasn’t. I received the following response…

Literally standing with some of the least educated and morally disgusting people I’ve ever known in my life. Just think about that. Out of a thousand “friends” you stand with the legit worse.

This lovely statement was parlayed from an IMMEDIATE family member. I was shocked and unprepared. As an activist and advocate, I have been on the front lines of countless ‘battle grounds’ and this person, who has never involved or availed their self to anything not solely focused on themselves was attacking me so vehemently over a QUESTION? The nerve. The audacity.

But then it hit me. The revolution won’t be televised. There very well could be a slew of revolutionary branches in my tree, but over the years, those that maintain the gardens, have done their darndest to prune the tree of these unsightly and maybe even rogue branches. It is possible that these ancestors were attacked and felt it best to keep their part in the revolution hidden; not telling a soul of their involvement or perhaps the looks and conversations of disdain and disapproval were so weighty (especially from immediate family members) that the revolutionary was silenced before he or she even knew they had a voice.

Whatever the case, I am more encouraged in my hunt to find the disruptors. I picture them sitting on their respective branches in a Tom Sawyer kind of relaxed way, just waiting on me to come along and tell the world their stories.

The revolution won’t be televised… At least not until I uncover their identities!

Have you ever hoped to find something in your tree? Have you found things you wish you hadn’t? I’d love to hear about your experiences! Please leave me a comment and tell me your woes! If this resounded with you in any way, I would love for you to hit the like and share buttons!

  • Many thanks to Gil Scott- Heron for the creation of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, which gave me the title of this little diddy… You can hear it here, if you’d like.
  • Additionally, as this post was not meant to stir the pot on any side of any argument, I did not include a picture of the ‘stone’. You can see the stone block here, if you wish.

I’ve Got an Uncle

You might recall, a few weeks ago- scratch that. You might recall a few months ago, I hit a gold mine buried in my Glory-Glory’s closet that gave me all kinds of new leads and pictures to explore. I can’t believe it has been months since we last talked! It isn’t you. It’s me. I have been enjoying life and ignoring dead. Ahh, but I’ve gotten off topic.

During my exploration of the greatness I ‘discovered’ on my visit to Glory-Glory’s house, I found an obituary. This obituary was slightly more awesome than other obituaries I have had the pleasure of  browsing (or reading enthusiastically from front page to back page as I am known to actually do), because I learned I had an uncle. If you want to get technical about things, I actually have several uncles on both sides of my lineage… but I only have one uncle that was just newly discovered. And we all know how I love being able to add branches to my ever-expanding tree, right?

Everyone, meet Uncle Vernon.Uncle Vernon Uncle Vernon, meet everyone.

Vernon McIntyre never showed up on any of the census reports I have seen- and I have seen a crap ton of them. When I talked to my cousins, who grew up a generation before me- no one mentioned Uncle Vernon. Glory-Glory has expressed her non interest in my family history/genealogical quest and therefore she wouldn’t have known if I knew about my Uncle Vernon HER BROTHER- or not and Ancestry shook no green leaf in his direction…

So, Uncle Vernon was destined to be forgotten. Until, that is, I went treasure hunting by way of photo albums in Glory-Glory’s closet.

On the front of the program from his funeral, he is listed as Vernon McIntyre. I was tempted to only skim this, as the last name was not any of my last names (Johnson, Harbert, Walker, or Divens), but I held it in my hand and something in the recesses of my mind was trying to remember some detail from too many nights ago to be prominent. Since I couldn’t put my finger on why this name was grabbing hold of me, I opened the program up for a more in-depth look-see.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself staring at the names I was already overly familiar with, BECAUSE IT WAS MY FAMILY!!! As I read through the list of those left behind dearly departed, another name popped out of me- it was practically surrounded by neon lights and blinking a fantastic strobe light! That name was Rebecca. Nearly one year ago, I met Rebeca. In the census, she was listed as the child of Tamah V. Walker and George T Harbert, but her name was Rebeca McIntyre. At the time, I couldn’t crack the mystery of why she had a last name different from her parents. Since this census was dated 1920, I thought perhaps this child was not a family member after all, instead a house servant, who actually belonged to a neighboring family or something. (Knowing what I do now about the wealth Glory-Glory’s family seemingly enjoyed, this doesn’t actually seem all that far-fetched.) At the time, however, I was grasping at slim straws. I thought that perhaps she was named after her grandmother, Rebeca McIntosh and the census taker had just written her name down incorrectly. I debated removing her from my tree. In the end, I couldn’t remove her. We had come to far and I had grown accustomed to her presence and I needed to know who she was…

Truthfully, I had forgotten about her.

Until I found her again with Uncle Vernon. I finally knew who she was! Uncle Vernon and Aunt Rebecca were the children of Tamah V. Walker and Percy McIntyre (Percy being the first husband of Tamah.) Sadly, among all the wonderful information I found that day concerning Vernon and Rebeca McIntyre, I did not find the answer to my at least for that moment one last question: why did Vernon stay with their father while Rebeca stayed with their mother.

The mystery continues…

Because for right now, I don’t have any more answers. I am glad though, to have found my (new) uncle and Rebecca’s rightful place.

I would love to hear about any awesome finds you may have stumbled across in your hunt to find the dead. Leave me a comment and tell me all about your discoveries, where you found them and what they led you to. Thanks for stopping by and like always, I’d appreciate a like and share!

See you next time!

 

He Was The Son of a Preacher Man… Yes He Was…

And the only one who could ever reach me, was the son of a preacher man! Man, I am telling you, that is a catchy tune there! It is also a great way to lead into today’s adventures- exploring the wondrous life of Carlton Henry Tyler, established 25 August 1922.

If you didn’t already snatch this bit of info, he was the son of a Preacher man. But not just any preacher man, mind you. His father, the Rev. William Henry Tyler (1868- 1925) was one of the early Pastors of Stafford, Virginia’s FIRST black baptist church- Mount Olive Baptist Church (1818 to present). Through the information gathered, it seems as if his father was the third to Pastor this church- but that is my own personal hearsay. I wonder if the honor or weight and loftiness of such a title was significant even back then… hmmm… If his obituary is any clue, “It has been said that Carlton loved sitting on his dad’s lap as a child when he was in the pulpit.” I think that it was. I would like to think that his father, Rev. Tyler wanted young Carlton to follow in his footsteps and deliver the word of God to the people…

Carlton and his dad did not have much time together, as the Reverend would go on to glory when Carlton was just past the age of three. But all those Sundays of sitting in his lap, must have taken root, because he would live a servants life in the church. He would never see the pulpit as a Pastor, but he would serve in many other areas and capacities within- especially noted as a Deacon.

Before we continue on in my two times great uncle’s life, I think it only fair that I share with you some fascinating information- a pit stop or commercial break- if you will.

  1. as of last summer there was an elderly (very, very much so) Tyler still attending Mount Olive, whom I found out about after reaching out to the church to get information on the Rev. (A trip to the church is still being debated on- as I would truly only be going to look at the pictures on the wall- if there are any and not necessarily to hear the preached word, because the ONLY info the church could give me was the contact info of the aforementioned elderly lady.) When I reached out to said lady, I was told that we were not related because SHE DID NOT REMEMBER ANYONE EVER TALKING ABOUT THE PERSON I WAS TALKING ABOUT. #lesigh. I let it go, especially after members of my family said that it was possible that they had been slaves on the same plantation and taken the same sir name, blah, blah, blah… but then I realized that Carlton was born AFTER slavery had ended and he would have known who his father was and then whomever was working on the lady’s tree had SEVERAL (more than 20) people in her tree of my people… so, obviously, I haven’t gotten any info from the lady or her immediate people… I think I might have even been blocked from her tree. Oh well, such is life sometimes. Keep in mind that neither she nor I have met DNA before- EVER…
  2. Carlton is my grandfather’s uncle. This is no big deal really, except for the fact that he was born only a few years before my grandfather. This, I tell you stressed my mind for more nights than I care to admit right now… (my granddaddy was born in 1928), He does not share the same mother as my grandfather’s mother, however- this information was not revealed to me until after I had spent several of my summer nights agonizing over how this was possible or plausible and thinking up other more sense-making stories…

Alrighty. We are back from our commercial break! I hope you enjoyed all that information I wanted to tell you, but couldn’t really figure out how to fit in anywhere else in this little jaunt we are on together.

Now, where were we?… Oh yes. We had just discovered that his father had died when he was just a bit over three. He was born in Brooke, VA- of this, I am sure. But what happened to him after his father’s death? I am not really sure. More investigative work is required to tell those tales, but let us time hop to 1942. Carlton is now twenty years old and living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to his WWII draft card, he is single and he identifies his next of kin as a Hattie F. Parker. (Who the heck is that? I’m glad you ask… You should probably go find out and let me know, cause I haven’t the foggiest.) It isn’t his mother; not unless she remarried and changed her name and then moved to Philly to be a helicopter mom and remain unidentifiable in every record I have only haphazardly searched as of yet… Point is, I don’t know who she is and honestly I wasn’t all that interested until I decided that we were all going to visit Carlton today… I don’t think it is his wife, as it is not the wife that is listed later in life- but that really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, you know? Anyway, I shall eventually endeavor to find out who she is or perhaps she shall make it her mission to be known and she shall begin to talk to me- I love it when they do that, makes my life as a writer and a story teller so much easier. This particular draft was kind enough to bless me with some other (even more challenging information)- as if I don’t have enough of that going on in my life…  Carlton’s employment is listed as “Sydney Wortman”. Google was absolutely zero help here. But honestly, with all the ‘confusion’ being brought to light, I didn’t really expect that it would be useful to me, but it was worth a shot, right? Here’s another shot… If you know what it is, please clue me in. I might even reward you handsomely… yeah right, I only pay in smiles and long distance high fives and if you’re truly deserving I’ll record myself doing a happy dance for you and put it on the gram…

One last bit of information that this draft card was charitable enough to leave for me… Carlton, was 5’3. You may read this and think to yourself so what? But, in a world full of people with my granddaddy’s genes, 5’3 is laughable… My granddaddy and ALL of his siblings rest easily and comfortably in the 6 foot plus family. They have strong genes. For some reason, probably subconsciously. my relating them to the proximity of slavery and the ‘Mandingo slave illustration’ that was painted for me throughout my early educational experience, I attributed these features to my grandfather’s grandfather; Carlton’s dad- the Reverend. 5’3 has me wondering if I have been wrong all these years. Has it been Reverend Tyler’s face I see when I look upon the faces of my granddaddy and his brothers and sisters or their pictures and my 2x great grandmother’s height that has teased me all these years? (My brother got it, I did not.)

Carlton Henry Tyler  Deacon Carlton Henry Tyler (1922-2014)

Alas, it has come to the time where we must bid adieu to dear Carlton. However, let us not say goodbye before we say hello to his wife, Doris Louise Hamn. Ahh, yes, my lines have crossed yet again. One must begin to question at least to themselves, if not aloud if all this ‘inbreeding’ is the reason for so much crazy happening  on these twisted and gnarled branches within this tree… Can it even be a tree if nothing ever branches out? Carlton didn’t you know that your brothers had already married into this family??? And produced heirs? Just jokes, folks. Just jokes. But seriously. Were the Hamns and Jacksons and the various roots thereof the only families in Brooke, Virginia??? I am starting to feel like the Montagues and the Capulets here.

Well, at least presumably, you found love and for that you were blessed with at least one son. Master Royce Hamn, where have you run off to?

I hope you enjoyed today’s little stray into yesteryear! Who are you researching right now? I would love to hear an enchanting little story about him or her! Leave me a comment telling me all about them! And as customary, please hit both the like button and share buttons! See you next time!

From Work Horse to Show Horse…

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of spending Mother’s day with my Glory-Glory. To every one else in the family, excepting my sister and brother, she is Go-Go and to you, she is my grandmother (on my dad’s side). I had an awesome time. Sadly though, I was so caught up in having a grand ole time that I didn’t capture the moment. Or any of them. And there were several. She saw my son for the first time in ages, as every time I have visited over the years he has been with his dad or working or otherwise caught up in his busy teenager life and she was able to meet the baby (her great great grandson) for the first time.

Gloria JohnsonGloria Johnson, A.K.A. Glory-Glory, A.K.A. Go-Go, A.K.A. my grandmother. Pictured with the late Roland H. Johnson. Picture taken from family collection.

She gushed over how handsome Kyle had gotten and told him how she just knew he was a hit with all the ladies. She told him that she knew he had ‘a little smarts’ and she wanted him to do something with it… and she even went to the back door and watched him play basketball for a quick minute. She said she was too old to be bothered with a baby… BUT. She sat in her room and he went with her. I could hear him getting into EVERYTHING. Yet, whenever I attempted to collect him and let her rest, she told me to ‘scram’ and let them be. I heard him repeatedly pick up the phone and she allow him to talk to the dial tone to his heart’s content. She even dialed her answering machine so he could leave a message and she called one of her many friends and told her to talk to her great great grand baby because he was just to cute. She shared her food with him.

So, yeah. My children and I were making memories with a lady we absolutely adore.

I hardly ever write about her or her family line, though. Finding those stories are hard. She has no desire to help me in this endeavor whatsoever and her one remaining sibling I have never met and only recently met via Facebook… and honestly, I think she and her children may think I am a bit cuckoo with all the questions I ask. So, there is very little information to even go on to begin with.

This visit with Glory-Glory though, I did something I had never thought to do before. I asked if she had any picture books I could look through. Sure enough, she did. As she directed me to where they were all stored, she said over and over again, “I wouldn’t go through all those pictures if someone gave me a million dollars.” or “Kim, you sure you want to go through all those pictures?” I just smiled and told her I just wanted to look at them.

OH MY GOOD LORD. The wealth of treasure that she has for genealogy/family history girl like me. I took pictures of pictures and obituaries and funeral programs and newspaper clippings until my phone died and I didn’t even get half way through her stash. If I didn’t think it were in bad taste, I would lay claim to these treasures now in the event of her time to be with the Lord in heaven…

Anyway, there I was looking at pictures and I remembered that I had some pictures to show her. So, I tore myself away from the distant past to share with her the not that long ago past…

As I began to show her the pictures of Kaira with her horse on the farm and at her competitions, she let this little tidbit of information slip- “we used to have these great big work horses named, Brownie and Bob and we used to ride them across town.”

Kaira and ButtonsKaira on her horse, Buttons. The picture that gave way to conversations about riding workhorses in Muskogee, Oklahoma way back when…

Wait. What??? I knew that I could not press for information or else she would shut down and the conversation would be over before it had even began. So, instead, I said, “so, you used to ride horses, too?” Honestly, I didn’t know what a workhorse was, so this was actually a legitimate question. She said, “no, not like Kaira. These were great big horses that were used to pull the farm machines. We would just ride them to the other side of town. (Muskogee, Oklahoma circa 1930s and 1940s) Except for that Carol (her one remaining sister). I don’t know if she ever climbed up on those horses… She was kind of prissy. Carol is younger than Glory-Glory by six years.

brown work horseThese are obviously NOT the workhorses my great grandfather had. BUT, they could resemble the ones Glory Glory grew up with. As defined by Dictionary.com, a workhorse is a horse used for plowing, hauling, and other heavy labor, as distinguished from a riding horse, racehorse, etc. Wikipedia further explains that in North America draft horse breeds typically consist of these five breeds:  Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron, Shire, and Suffolk. Photo credit: http://www.theequinest.com/breeds/shire-horse/

Wow. In those few sentences, I had been given such a wonderful glance into what growing up had been like for Glory-Glory and her siblings. I had learned that they grew up on a farm and this farm was large enough to require the use of workhorses. Does that mean the farm was rather large? I am still digging. I also learned that they had two teams of workhorses- the other team was Floral and … (auto correct in my phone changed whatever I had typed, so now I don’t know the fourth horse’s name). And they did not have a car.

Having a conversation with someone can produce such great information- the kind you may not get if you were only to hand them a piece of paper and say, “answer these questions, please.” Conversing with older members of your family can also change how you research things. For example, it wasn’t until I started trying to understand what exactly a workhorse was that I realized my Glory-Glory entered life just as the Great Depression was coming to a close, but the effects- especially in Muskogee, OK where she grew up- were still widely and greatly felt. I would really love to understand how they were able to afford the luxury of owning and feeding four horses throughout the years of the depression. Researching the area of Muskogee, specifically trying to envision what farms would look like during that time, also gave me a more defined and true understanding of where Muskogee is/was in relation to other areas that my family comes from and makes it easier to understand how husbands and wives may have met and weren’t really traveling as far as I had originally thought they were.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone in your tree or a tree you are working on that changed your research in some way? I would love to hear about it- leave me a comment, telling me all the ins and outs of what you learned and how it changed your searching! As always, please be free with the likes and the shares and thanks for stopping by!

Until next time-

dvnmskm!

***update*** I recently started branching out there and participating in a few blog parties, where different bloggers, like me, submit a post or article or whatever you want to call it- to a specific location and then direct their readers to that location.

blogger potluck.jpgThis particular party was a “how to” potluck party! The requirement being your submission had to detail ‘how you did something’. Please take a look and see how others are getting things done at the Bloggers’ Potluck.

Lewis Dawson Massey- You Are Not The Father… Maybe.

When I first started researching my family, long before I had decided that I wanted to tell the stories of my ancestors; I learned or maybe I was taught that records NEVER lie. That is to say that any information I came across was simply hearsay unless there was a record of some sort to support the found information. I am not sure why I grabbed a hold of this teaching or why I have held so staunchly to it in the years since first embarking on this journey. This is especially confusing to me because I KNOW records do, in fact, lie. I know that Census workers of years past were prone to write what they thought or believed and not necessarily what was truth. And I have come across several records that have been transcribed incorrectly, but taken for fact. So, again, I have no clue why I would believe records never lie.

Anyway, I have been plodding along on this little adventure, never questioning the official record and taking it as pure dee fact. And I was content in this. That is until I read a fellow Bloggers post… He shared his story of tracing his ancestors and how DNA had helped him to determine that a white ancestor, who was named as the father of another ancestor on that person’s death certificate, was not actually his ancestor. I commented on his post about how I sometimes forgot how lucky I was as a black person, because I for the most part, have come from ‘free people’. But, something about his article stuck with me and my mind would not let it go. It turned over and over inside my head, to the point where I had to do some serious genealogy sleuthing… Thanks a lot Andre Kearns! (Read the full story, here.)

 

Lewis D Massey

 

This is Lewis Dawson Massey.It is family consensus that Mr. Massey is the father of Lewis Massey. This information can of course, be verified by viewing Lewis Massey’s death certificate. Lewis’ mother, Mary, is believed to have been a slave belonging to Mr. Massey. (The only information collected thus far to prove this is a census that lists a slave girl under Mr. Massey’s property, who falls in the appropriate age category.) The belief that Mr. Massey is the father of Lewis Massey extends beyond the descendants of Lewis Massey- believed by the descendants of Mr. Massey, even.

Andre’s Blog post planted a seed of doubt as to the paternity of Lewis Massey. I began to seek out the males in both my Massey line and Mr. Massey’s line, hoping that one of those men from each side of the Massey line had already taken the DNA test…

No such luck there though…

So, what is a girl to do? It’s not like I can take these two to the Maury show and prove once and for all if Mr. Massey is the father or not. I personally, have not taken a DNA test, so I am not sure of all the intricacies associated with such a test or even what benefit (other than cousin matches) me- a black woman.

I’d love any advice you have to share or any similar experiences you may have had in your family history road trip! Leave me a comment telling me all about your paternity woes and as always, please hit the like button and share, share, share!

The Dash

Generally, I find one interesting story to share with you that correlates with one or sometimes two or a few people from my tree. That’s what I do, right? I tell the stories of the dead. This adventure will veer from the path of tradition I have created, if only slightly…

Earlier this week, Monday, April 10- to be exact, John Thomas celebrated his 70th birthday. Or he would have, if death had not intervened on April 30, 1993. 

In any event, I would like to tell his story today. I guess therein lies the problem… John isn’t just someone on my tree, who I researched and am now telling you about; He was my dad. 

My dad and I in the early 1980s

So. Instead of trying to pick one story to entertain you as you take a brief break in your day, I am going to tell you about the dash.

Growing up, he was called Johnny. Spend an afternoon with his cousins and you will know that Johnny was a joker, who loved to have fun. 

Some of Johnny’s many cousins…

One memorable story, I am often told is when Johnny would pull all the kids around in a blanket throughout the house. I know this was great fun,because he continued this tradition with his children- even pulling us down the stairs! I remember screaming along with my sister and brother as my dad yanked us through the hallways of our house. It’s great fun and if you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend you do it right away!

At some point, this fellow met my mom (a pretty wonderful lady) and they decided to get married- lucky for me and my kids and Johnny became Mr. J. 

Johnny and Valerie circa 1980 something 

Mr. J was a neighborhood favorite. Kids coming to the door to see if Mr. J could come out and play was just as likely to occur as them coming to see if I or my sibblings could come out to play. During the summer months, he could often be seen throwing kids into the backyard pool. 

If you were lucky, you caught him eating watermelon or crabs- because he was always willing to share that deliciousness with you. 

Summer evenings were reserved for trips to Carl’s Ice Cream (you may recall me telling you that this is a mandatory bucket list item) with friends and days were packed car rides to Kings Dominion- whatever it was, it was always fun with Mr. J.

When the rains came and the weather was bad, Mr. J could be found playing an involved and seemingly unending game of Monopoly (probably where my healthy affection for board games stems from) or Tetris on Nintendo (where my sister’s video addiction probably began)

Sundays after church, Johnny would claim the most comfortable spot on Nana’s floor, where he would either be cheering on his beloved Redskins (nothing I could do about that- much as I tried), playing Gin Rummy with Grandaddy and my Uncle Bruce or sleeping- especially if he had just finished eating Nana’s good home cookin’!

As you can see, a lot happened in the dash. More than is written here and that I will ever remember. Which is why I do what I do- to celebrate everything that happened between the numbers on either end of the dash.

As much as I enjoy talking to the dead- I encourage you to spend some time with the living and create some memories that others will enjoy celebrating some day. 

I love it when you click the like button and share, share, share! Don’t forget to leave a comment and tell me what you’re doing with your dash! I can’t wait to hear all about the memories you’re making and the fun you’re having while you’re doing it!

The Common Wife…

How would you feel if you or your mother or sister or grandmother or any other female relative of closeness was referred to as a ‘common wife’? For myself, I am not entirely sure I am completely kosher about this… A wife is so much more than common. Right?

This brings me to Nathaniel. Or rather, Nathaniel’s common (law) wife. In 1920, Nathaniel is found in a Louisiana Census (as shown below) as a ‘roomer’. The Census also tells us that Nathaniel is married. Learning this drove me absolute bonkers, I swear.

Nathaniel Census.png

What kind of situation in 1920 leads a twenty-five year old husband to live in a Rooming House APART from his wife?At that age, how long could they have possibly been married? What problems could they possibly have had that were so severe a separation of any kind was called for?

But then again, I’ve watched WDYTYA and FYR same as you… I know that divorce, while frowned upon back then, did happen. I also know that there were also those rare occasions when brave women and the means to leave abusive or unjust situations would intersect and separations would occur. Could this be the case with MY Nathaniel? As you may well have guessed by now, I have a vivid imagination. So, you can only guess the wild things I was thinking as I continued searching out as much as I could on dear old departed Nathaniel…

Maybe he was a thug, who loved the street life… Could he have been an alcoholic, perhaps? What if he wasn’t the problem? What if this unknown wife was some kind of floozy, as my grandmother would say, and his heart couldn’t take her stepping out on him anymore? And then of course, there was the boring, no adventure explanation, like maybe he was away from home due to work… What if he came back to Louisiana to be near his dying parents (though, I almost immediately trashed this notion, as it seems extremely implausible, even more so than my adventurous guesses as to why he was married and in a rooming house.

In a followup search of Mr. Nathaniel, I came across his WWI draft which only confirmed a marriage, but did not (as you probably know) provide me with the lucky lady’s name.

Instead of finding some outlandish tale like those I described above and much like the writer in me wanted to find, I found Nathaniel’s Draft card for WWII.

Nathaniel Draft.png

Edna Johnson is his common [law] wife. I did not even know such a thing existed back then. I have so many questions… Why did these two people not get married? What happened to the woman with whom he was married to in 1920 and on his WWI draft? And who was she? Could Ms. Edna be the same person as the mysterious wife previously listed and if so, why would her title go from wife to common wife? I don’t get it.

I do not believe there is any official recognition of common wives. Again, I don’t get it.

Honestly, I don’t care if she is the same person or not.

I am stuck on this common law wife thing. But maybe that is my born in the 19 something’s women are empowered thinking. I feel like he is diminishing what a wife actually does and all the work that goes into being a wife… And he didn’t even live with her, so he wouldn’t even know any of this! Why would he not give her the honor of being his real, government recognized wife???

(I’m sorry. I will try to tone my indignation down.)

Even as I am typing out these words  my imagination- like a good friend- is right there, ready to run wild… What if they couldn’t get married! (For example, it was an interracial relationship)… Eh- but if that were the case, wouldn’t the same fear that kept them from wedded bliss keep him from putting common wife on an official Government document? Hmmm. More research is in order, clearly. Until then, I remain angry that he would not honor the lovely Edna before God and her church.

Have you ever gotten angry with an ancestor for a decision they appeared to make or not make? I would love for you to tell me about it in the comments! As always, likes, shares and follows are appreciated!

1920 US Federal Census. Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com Operations Inc 2010 Retrieved March 2017

US WWII Draft Registration Cards 1942. Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com Operations Inc 2010 Retrieved March 2017

F.A.G. Credited With Finding Missing Couple

Late last night, Perry and Ada Johnson, along with two of their children were found- as presumed- still dead in a Gretna, Louisiana cemetery. Early reports indicate the pair had been hiding out in FAG’s archives for at least two years, sources close to the case have said. It is unclear as of yet why the couple were not found in previous searches of Find a Grave or why they chose to reveal themselves at this time. A cursory search of the McDonoghville Cemetery’s and us airforcewife’s photos have turned up zero results as to the whereabouts of any remaining family.

Perry Johnson gravestone.jpg

Ada Johnson gravestone.jpg

Still unaccounted for are the couples children Earline (who may be yet among the living) of Gretna, Joseph, Perry Jr, Herman, Roland, and Aaron all presumably of Gretna and all probably long dead. It is possible that there may be another daughter, however this information can neither be confirmed or denied at this time.

It is believed that someone in the area knows how to find other members in the Johnson family, as evidenced by the fresh (at the time of this photo) flowers on Ada’s headstone. Could that someone still be placing flowers at the grave site?

Any persons with information on the Johnson family of Gretna, Louisiana is asked to comment immediately on this thread or email the author directly.

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As if having the surname of Johnson wasn’t hardship enough, I have the added challenge of having little to no information at all. My grandmother, who was divorced from my grandfather (Roland) for years prior to his death in 2005 has requested that I not bother her with ‘this nonsense’ any more. Just before this pronouncement, I vaguely recall her mentioning a LIVING sister and that she had no recollection of the people I was ‘pestering’ her about. My mother believes there is a living sister, but doesn’t know how old she is or where she is living- nor does she have a copy of the obituary (which is shocking because between her and my Nana, there is a copy of EVERYONE’S obituary) and both my grandfather’s children (my father and my aunt) have left this world, taking all the information with them. My mother also promised to see if she had this sister’s address, though it has been twenty four hours without any mention of an address or a name, so my hope meter is falling with each passing minute.

Simply finding Ada and Perry on FAG was a great discovery for me and I truly do not know why I didn’t see them all the other times I have searched for them on the FAG site, but I am glad to have finally found them. I am hopeful that tomorrow will allow for me to dedicate more than a few spare minutes into digging deeper into this developing case.

For now, I am going to rest up for the challenge that lays ahead of me…

Have you ever wanted to put out an APB on one or more of your ancestors? I would love to hear about it- did you eventually ‘get your man’? If so, what are some of the tricks of the trade that worked for you? If you haven’t found your missing person yet, what are some of the things you have tried thus far?

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts and opinions! And of course, if you are in the LA area- especially Gretna, Jefferson Parish and want to volunteer some on the ground man power- it is absolutely welcome and appreciated!

And as always, if it made you smile or even chuckle- please give a like and a share, thank you and see you next time! 

Photo Credit- us airforcewife, Find A Grave member

Never Ask A Genealogist…

I have made it a personal goal of mine to actually talk to living people in a face to face manner, everyday. You probably just read that and now your mind is all like, “wait. what?” I apologize and I will try to clear up the confusion post haste. If you are reading this, then you likely know that I talk to dead people (duh). Not the crystal ball, “John wants you to know that it is okay to get married again” kind of talking- though, if that is your thing, more power to you! But in the “who the heck are your parents and why can’t I find them???” kind of way. Yes. There is absolutely a difference. Anyway, sometimes, I tend to spend a lot of my time conversing with the dead and not nearly enough time cultivating living relationships with people other than those faceless names in my favorite Facebook hangouts. Surely, I am not the only one. And if I am, well this is a no judgement zone. So there.

Anyway, back to spending time with living, breathing people… I actually left my house- in a presentable fashion (which means I did all the things you are supposed to do on a daily basis, but I occasionally forget to do until 4 in the afternoon and I even put on CLEAN clothes that were not consistent with lounge pants or pajamas) and went out to meet Susan. (Her name isn’t really Susan, but she might be reading this and I want to save her as much embarrassment as possible… like she didn’t already stick her foot in her mouth and swallow it whole…) So, if your actual name happens to be Susan, I am not talking about you, so kindly delete the mega email you were about to compose…

Susan and I get together and we encourage each other to accomplish our goals. We are accountability partners, if you will and we strive to challenge each other to think completely out of the box. In all fairness, it is Susan, who encouraged me to develop my elevator pitch and who has pushed me to handle the business side of things and not just  the fun stuff.

So, imagine my surprise, when today, Susan asks me, “if you could talk to anyone past or present and have them answer your questions and tell you the lessons they have learned, who would it be and why?” I swear, I looked at her like she was speaking perfect Latin. In other words, this was the expression on my face- O. She knows I am a genealogist or family historian or whatever. She knows that whenever we get together, I am inevitably going to be late because I was having trouble tearing myself away from the latest mystery or hunt that I was pursuing among the dead people. SHE KNOWS THIS.

I know she was trying to challenge me to think and be a better person or whatever people who don’t talk to dead people all day think when they throw that question around; perhaps she even even expected me to say Martin Luther King, Jr. or President Obama or Former FLOTUS Michelle Obama- all interesting, for sure- but, come on, I TALK TO DEAD PEOPLE.

I asked her if she was serious. She looked at me with her innocent eyes and told me she was.

I whipped out my phone and shoved it in her face, as I simultaneously said, “I have two people.”

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I don’t know her name, but she is a Creek Indian and I have been studying her facial features, trying to determine if we share any likeness. I would ask her who she was and if she knew Rebeca (Rebeca McIntosh is one of my 2x great grandmothers, who is a documented Creek (Freedman) Indian, but other than a name and a spot on the Dawes Roll, I know next to nothing about). Then I held the phone next to my own shimmering face and asked Susan if she thought we resembled each other.

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And this is another of my 2x great grandmothers. I believe her name is Melissa Shaw and she is standing next to the one and only, FLOTUS Eleanor Roosevelt and shaking the hand of an equally important, Mary McLeod Bethune. I have no other information other than the names and the picture, so you can imagine all of the questions I want to ask her.

I went on to explain that both these women hail from my dad’s side of my tree and those branches have been not only difficult to find, but also not so forth coming in the life stories department. And then I took a breath, ready to delve into all the things I really wanted to know, but I saw the look on her face… Her eyes had begun to get all glossy-like and I think she might have even been nodding off. ( I deducted this from the bit of saliva running down the corner of her mouth and onto the palm of her hand, which I’m pretty sure was the only thing holding her head up.) “What’s wrong?” I asked her. And do you know what she had the nerve to say to me? She said, “you’re talking about all your genealogy stuff.”

I was answering the question. Wasn’t I? WASN’T I?????

And I think that is when she realized, there are certain things you NEVER ask a genealogist. In fact, I know this is when she discovered this tidbit of life changing information, because she said, “I guess, I should have thought about that before I asked you, considering what you spend all your time doing.”

Needless to say lunch was over fairly quickly after that. Apparently, I had violated some unspoken agreement between us, in which I do not talk about talking to dead people, as I motivate her or she motivates me. Honestly, I think she just made this up, because I can’t really see myself agreeing to not talk about my dead people, you know?

Anyway, that pleasant experience got me wondering a couple of things about you guys… If you could converse with anyone from your family tree, who would it be and why? And also, has your genealogy work ever come up at in an inopportune time and caused a disruption in the task at hand? I would love to hear your stories and tales of woe! Leave me a comment, so we can commensurate with each other and  if you wouldn’t mind, please like and share! Thanks! See you next time luv!