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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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

My own Ruby Bridges

You do know who Ruby Bridges is right? I hope you do. But just in case you don’t, Ruby was a young girl who became famous for being smart- essentially. She also happened to be black in 1960s Louisiana. When Ruby was in kindergarten, she, along with all the other students in her all black school (which happened to be an extremely long way away from home) were given a test. Passing the test meant that you were smart enough to go to the all white school (which was a mere block or two from home). Ruby being smart, was of course accepted into the white school. But being smart enough to go to the all white school was just the first prerequisite. Ruby’s parents would also need to agree that she could integrate (go to the all white school). Even after they agreed, going to the all white school would not be easy. She was escorted everyday to and from by men in the National Guard and she spent the entirety of her first grade year as the only student in her classroom. (Integration may have come to the Louisiana school, but it had not reached all the way to its classrooms.) Even if the school had opted to include Ruby in classes with white people, little to no integration would transpire. A great majority of the white students had been pulled from the school by way of protesting integration or avoiding the protesting and protesters. Ruby Bridges is a national hero because she went to school in spite of the hate and animosity shown her when she integrated or infiltrated the all white school.

The little girl in the picture is not Ruby Bridges, though. That little girl is Cynthia Montague and she is my cousin. Like me (and almost every other family member on my mom’s side of this gnarled and twisted tree of mine), Cynthia grew up in Stafford. Unlike me, Cynthia, my Nana and anyone else living prior to or during this time didn’t get to go to school in Stafford.

They were bused to another school in another town/city. Another county. I moan and complain if I have to go to Kroger- which is slightly more across the street- instead of the Martins; which is across the street but a much shorter distance. And these kids; if they wanted an education had to go into the next city or town.

My Nana once said, “they [she and her friends] didn’t understand why they couldn’t go to the school that was closer to their homes or why they had to go to school way out in Fredericksburg [when they were young children]”. I feel this sentiment was probably echoed throughout the black community of Stafford County.

And then, along came Cynthia. A little girl who was doing great things- though she may not have known it at the time. I am not sure if Cynthia was selected because of her intelligence- like Ruby or if there was some other selection process was involved. What I do know is this- Cynthia and her sister were the first black kids to integrate into Stafford County Schools.

Why was I not taught this as a kid in Stafford? I am embarrassed to say that I never knew this growing up; I was never taught this in school; my parents never mentioned it.It wasn’t until I attended the Discussion Panel (See The Other Side Of the Door to find out what that’s all about) that I learned this awesome piece of family history. I didn’t even realize or understand the enormity of what I didn’t know. I am not sure what the stigma is of teaching people about the awesome things black people have done, but I  vow to overcome it. I am going to make sure my own children know the greatness that they come from. I am more encouraged now than ever to keep on digging through the records, hanging out in dusty basements and begging the living to share the stories of life before me. There is purpose in what I am doing.

As I have delved deeper and deeper into genealogy and family history, I have had the great privilege of discovering several hidden gems hanging out in my tree. Some of those gems only precious to me and others honored by many. Cynthia is one gem that should be honored and celebrated by many. I am proud to come from the kind of stock that produced her.

Have you discovered an unsung hero in your family tree or possibly in a tree you have been working on? I would love to hear all about your discoveries- how did you react when you made them? I was in awe and still am. I hope in the very near future, I will be able to sit down and talk with her and interview her for the family to come long past the time she lived this life.

So, leave me a comment and a like and as always, please share with your friends and family! Thank you so much for visiting! Come back soon, ya hear?

For more information on Ruby Bridges, please visit http://www.ducksters.com/history/civil_rights/ruby_bridges.php

The Other Side of the Door

I am not sure if you have heard or not, but there is this great, empowering and fantastic movie in theaters right now. This movie takes place during the 1960s and is about the first woman scientist with NASA and how she got there. This woman also happens to be black. Just in case you were unaware, the 1960s weren’t the most friendly of times for black women, as this was a time when white people (in general) were not the most social group of people when it came to interacting with black people. The movie goes on to depict the hardships the woman had to endure in order to get her education and achieve her goals. These hardships included having to learn outside of the classroom and on the other side of the door. As you might have guessed, the movie I am speaking of is Hidden Figures. It truly is an extremely motivating story for woman and girls everywhere. And the best part is, it really happened.

Last night, I had the great pleasure of going to my home town, where the local NAACP branch hosted “Hidden Figures a Panel Discussion”, where the panelists shared their stories of life in the community during the post-World War II era through the Civil Rights and beyond. To say I was excited, was a complete understatement. Did I mention my cousin and my Nana were panelists? Oh yeah. I am determined to get my stories one way or another, I swear. (If that confuses you, you’re gonna have to read back a few entries to understand, luv.) Anyway. I drove an hour and a half for this and can I just say that I was more than slightly disappointed at the lack of ‘young people’ turn out, followed closely by my irritation that the ‘black’ turn out was not as large as I thought it should have been.

An hour and a half.

When we (my children were actually willing tag alongs for this adventure) arrived, the discussion had already began. The room was packed. I carefully wove my way from one side of the room to the other, where an empty seat awaited me and my mom’s lap awaited the baby. There was also a door right next to where my family (all gazillion of them) had chosen to sit. As babies tend to do, mine began to get fussy. I had only heard the panel answer one question. My mom quickly gave the beloved baby up to me and I found myself promptly escorted to the other other side of the door. At first, they left the door ajar and I could vaguely make out the questions and what seemed to be mumbles of reply.

I was embarrassed and frustrated that my baby, who has gone to theaters and museums and been so well behaved, was being fussy and a distraction to everyone. I was frustrated because I had been so looking forward to this experience and the stories being shared and I was being shut out and unable to learn from these elders and pillars of my community. The more frustrated and discombobulated I became, the fussier he got. I was trying every trick in my mommy arsenal and nothing worked.

Just as I had resigned myself to the fact that I would be hearing all these great stories from the back vestibule area, they SHUT the door. What had barely been audible before was downright stifled now. I was fuming. They had not said anything about not bringing children. We were in a library meeting room for crying out loud! By this time, I not only needed to calm the baby down, but I had to calm myself down as well. I slipped out the door labeled “Employees Only”. Outside, the presence of another mother of a young baby greeted me. I looked up at the door from which I had just come and was struck by an incredible irony…

Here we all were there to learn about the empowering lessons the panelists had to share from an era when I would not have been able to drink from the same fountain as my best friend and the two of us had been quietly shepherded out. Mind you- we were not asked. And as if that were not ironic enough, we exited through a side door, designated for a specific group of people.

The enormity of what I felt is indescribable. I did not experience any real segregation and yet I could slightly begin to know what the branches before me had felt or experienced.

I finally managed to get the baby to go to sleep and stepped back inside. I didn’t dare go to the door and let myself back into the room. N0, I sat in the chair and strained to hear the musings and reminiscing going on on the other side of the door. It wasn’t until I coughed that the door was opened and I was asked if I would like to come back in, as if I had voluntarily left in the first place. I caught the tail end of the Q&A, but honestly, I couldn’t tell you what was said, so angry was I still. And who could I direct my anger toward? Nobody. That’s who.

Just like the characters in the aforementioned movie; just like the people on the panel; just like thousands of slaves who were here long before you and I were twinkles in someone’s eye- there was an anger that simmered just beneath the surface with no real release insight.

And so here is my take away… We have to do better. All of us. I am not saying that we all have to agree one hundred percent of the time or that we even have to like each other all the time. I am simply saying that if we are not conscious of the injustice that has come before us- even when we are in the business of educating others to those very biases- then we are doomed to repeat them. And honestly, do we really want to live in that world?

I don’t have any catchy questions to ask you guys today and I apologize for that. Thank you for reading- especially if you read all the way through to the end. Now go forth and do what you can, where you can (no matter what is, be it befriending the kid with no friends or standing up to a bully or getting involved in your local government) to not repeat the iniquities of our past- no matter what they may be.