Who’s Sitting at Your Table?

Well, we’ve wrapped up yet another Thanksgiving… 

 and   some of us may be already moving with warp speed into Christmas festivities. Admittedly, I will be joining the Christmas-ers in just a few short hours, but first, an important question- who has been lucky enough to have been given a seat at your table? 

Understand I don’t mean your literal table, though… I’m wanting to know about your table of life. How does someone get a prized spot, if you will, (who isn’t blood related) in your family?

Would you ever consider having non blood or genetically tied people in your tree? Why or why not?

I used to think my answer to that question was simply, “no” because those people do not have a place in the piece of history-documenting I’m doing, otherwise known as my family tree- no matter how special they were or are.

Upon closer thought though, my answer seems to be changing… 

It started with the passing of Anthony… Throughout the entire process of his illness and death, we were received and treated as his family, even though I was just the ex wife and my youngest daughter was just my child… I was even more surprised to find that my youngest, as well as four other children, who shared an immensely close bond with him, were included and listed as his own in the obituary. (The sentence read something like, ‘he leaves behind several children by blood and love’…) Yet, there was no distinction between those four and his two natural born children.

This little tid bit may have enraged some, but I was warmed by the thought that my youngest child would be included with her older siblings, though I must say, I did take approximately two seconds to ponder the havoc this would wreak for future historians or genealogists. In the end, I determined that I didn’t much care, as there will be other records to tell the story and eventually, I will be able to include it as a side note in my own tree.

The changing of my thoughts were further solidified during yesterday’s dinner. As I looked around at the people who had gathered in my home, to celebrate a day of being thankful and among friends and family, I realized I wasn’t with just friends. These folks had become my family. (In the last two years, I’ve gained an unofficially adopted daughter, three brothers (in love), a nephew (in love), a spouse and more… Except, I’m not married and I might not ever be (that institution works for some and not others, which is where I will leave that conversation). 

Does having a piece of paper mean that these people get to be included in my tree, while not having a piece of paper means they should be excluded? I don’t think so. 

This morning, when I was considering who in my tree I would write about or what topic I might explore in this week’s time traveling adventure, I kept coming back to my present day family. I want history to know they existed; that they were more than close friends, boarders or other random people you may find on a census or in some worker’s notes.

 I wonder if this prompting to write about the present was pushed by someone from the past, who didn’t get to formally recognize their unique family? Hmmm. Maybe the dead have been talking to me more today than I realized…

What about you all? Where do you stand? Leave a comment letting me know and if this post made you have any kind of reaction, hit the ‘like’ button… And since we’re entering the season of giving, you should go ahead and give me a share as well! 

Until next time, my friends!

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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!

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.

***

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

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.

THANKSGIVING DAY…

It has been a very long time since the dead have talked to me… Or maybe it has been a really long time since I have taken the time to listen to them when they start speaking. Either way, a long time it has been. Two days ago, Thanksgiving to be exact, the chatter started up loud and clear.

Oddly enough though, I couldn’t really pay attention to the dead and their stories because the living story begged to be told.

SO. Here it is. The living story that the dead are begging me to tell so I can get back to them and THEIR stories…

I searched all over for a picture of a Thanksgiving food fight that I could insert here in order to convey the level of disaster Thanksgiving was for me, but I couldn’t find one (at least not one that clearly defined who I needed to give credit to and thus, I chose none for fear of being searched out by the copyright police).

To be fair, there was no literal food fight and the ‘fight’ was probably only felt by me, but still…

I guess the best place to start is dinner… I got drafted to the adult table. After living 37 years, I made it. Except, that totally isn’t where I wanted to be. I would have much rather have squeezed into a place at the kiddie table with my sister, kids and nephew, but that just wasn’t in the cards for me this year.

Dinner was completely awkward and uncomfortable- FOR ME. My brain (you’ll remember, I have been recovering from a brain injury) decided to play random tricks of reality on me and I found myself making comments on people that were relevant 15 years ago, as opposed to the 1 year ago my brain told me it  had been. I tried to join the conversations going on around me, but no one was having any of that. My brief forays into the conversations were met with barely concealed eye rolls or one word replies, that left little room for me to continue. I tried to interject accomplishments about my kids and myself- all to no avail.

Dinner sucked and I found myself wishing I had stayed home.

After everyone had finished eating and most everyone had left the table, the conversation somehow turned to the ancestors… I perked up. I was ecstatic. This was a conversation I could participate in. After retrieving ‘the books’, I sat down with my phone in hand ready to take notes and share.

But, as I sat listening to the information being passed on, I began to have questions and things weren’t adding up right… So, in a small lull in the conversation, I asked the only question I would be allowed, “how do you know that these people are in our family?” (Some names had been retrieved from the courthouse that have the same sir name as that side of the family and now they were being presented as our ancestors because of their general proximity to where documented ancestors came from. I had theories on these people being in our family, but no proof or documentation, so I genuinely wanted to know how to document these people.) The answer I got was not satisfying. It was vague. It was, “because I knew people who knew first hand.” (This may have been true for people further down on the list of names, but I was speaking of the first few names on the list- of whom no one would personally know, as they were born or lived in the late 1700s and early 1800s. I tried rephrasing my question and another relative was quick to answer, “I get what you are saying and I get what [person] is saying, too. A lot of our history is going to be word of mouth and not written down.” Hmmm. I don’t believe that. And as I am the one who has spent countless hours in courthouses and cemeteries gathering information, I know that there is always something to document a person’s life, existence and connections- sometimes, those things are just very well hidden.

After that, I was shunned from the conversation and accused of disturbing the order of documents (that I had never seen). Documents were pulled out and shown- but not to me. Alas, no one was interested in the things I had gathered or wanted to share…

And that’s how my Thanksgiving went. It was not the time of my life.I probably won’t go back for any more holidays and that’s okay.

There is good coming from my Thanksgiving disaster and that is the dead people started shouting at me again or I started hearing them again or whatever. Last night and into the wee hours of the morning, I was chasing down cousins long dead and they were showing themselves to me. Those names that were thrown about during the aforementioned Thanksgiving dinner are rattling around in my brain, begging to have their fair share of talk time. I can’t wait to dig in and hear the stories they are obviously begging to tell and who knows? Maybe I will eventually find them sitting on a branch in my tree…

And that’s why I talk to dead people…

Yesterday, I was contacted via my Ancestry account by someone who believed we were related because of her DNA results. I have to admit, I was ecstatic. This was the first time someone had reached out to me. I forgot everything I had planned on doing or was supposed to be working on and got right down to business. I wanted to give this lady all the information I could- in the hopes that I would also be gaining a new branch on my tree.I even skipped breakfast!!! Okay, I might have been a bit overly eager and a little to willing to please, but it was a BSO and I had to chase it. I had to.

Anyway, after I had gathered the requested information and composed it in a nice and tidy Ancestry message, along with some well placed questions of my own, I sat back and began to look for this lady and her tree to try and get a head start on the awesomeness I was sure she would be providing me. I quickly became irritated because she did NOT have a tree! After searching Ancestry repeatedly and coming up with nothing- not even that pesky message displayed when people have private trees. (I subsequently learned that members with private trees now have the option to keep their tree entirely hidden- boo,hiss,boo- but that did nothing to quell my agitation.)

I expected that this lady would respond to my return message almost immediately, just like I did with her. Yeah, that didn’t really happen either. So, now I was really annoyed. Of course I had to get consolation from one of the genie groups I belong to on Facebook; which of course kept me engaged and further distracted from whatever it was I was supposed to be doing…

Finally, my ‘diligent’ waiting was rewarded with a response of sorts… Whoever said “good things come to those who wait” has obviously never been a genealogist. When I was finally able to decipher this seemingly encrypted message, I had a not so excellent taste in my mouth. Admittedly, I have not taken the DNA test, so I am completely naive to how it works. All I knew was this lady’s DNA results told her she was related to this person in my tree. Here is where I began to feel not so confident in what she was telling me. First, the connection in question is LONG dead. Like she was born in the mid 1800s, so to my ignorant to DNA self, I want to know how you are coming up with this supposed link.

More waiting for another response.

This one was a bit easier to decode. She began to tell me information about the people in her tree, whom she believed to be the same people in my tree. Her Lucinda was born in the early 1800’s (around the same time my Lucinda’s mother was born)… She was also a slave in Tennessee, on the plantation of someone having the same sir name as Lucinda… It was clear to me that they were not the same people, as my Lucinda and her family came from Maryland and to date, have not been found to have been a slave. The only thing this lady had going for her, was the name Lucinda and her father and brother’s name and of course the sir name…

But, she as still trying to convince me that we are some how, some way connected because DNA said so. She finally admitted that she had found me through a cousin’s tree and that was why she had contacted me and that those names and apparently generation is where the DNA said there should be a match.

I couldn’t tell her that my cousin was adopted and that quite possibly there was a match with him because of that, because that of course is not my place to discuss…

You may be wondering why I titled this entry the way I did, as I have done nothing but talk about a conversation with a living, breathing person. Well, you see, my tree is public. Anyone can view it. Anyone can see all of my dead and gone. Even as I am in the midst of separating my father’s side from my mother’s side into two separate trees, it is still public. And ALL OF THE INFORMATION I gave to her, she could have gotten herself. There was no need to contact me and throw me this bone that I spent the better part of the day chasing. (Okay, I could have done other things whilst awaiting her replies, but seriously, can you walk away that easily from your tree opened in front of you, with the possibility of new information coming to you? Yeah, I think not. So, don’t judge me.) I wasted my whole day chasing this BSO… and it turned out to be fool’s gold.

At least when the dead people talk to me, they lead me to an interesting something or another- even if I have to go around the mulberry bush three times, through the woods and to the bottom of the sea to find it.

In the future, I hope people will contact me again. After all, that is why my tree is public. Let’s just agree to not force the square beg into this triangle piece- okay?

Thanks for reading this entry! I would love to hear about the first time you were contacted by someone claiming to be connected to you. How was that experience for you? Or have you ever willingly allowed yourself to be distracted with your genealogy work and it turned out to be a bust? Tell me about it in the comments. And as always, don’t forget to like and share!