Traditional Christmas

Merry Christmas From my home and family to yours, I would love to wish you a very Merry Christmas! (Just a few days after the fact) I hope the holiday has been everything you needed it to be and that you were blessed by it.

Did you put up a Christmas tree or decorate your home? I’d love to see pictures- drop them in the comments so we can all enjoy them! We put up a Christmas tree and stockings, but we didn’t do the string of lights on our back porch like we have done in year’s past.

Christmas Tree

I enjoyed spending the day with my family and friends and I learned a little something about Christmas traditions, too!

Fruit in Stocking     When asked what Christmas was like for them when they were growing up, during the 1930s and 40s, both my grandparents responded in much the same way- even though they were asked at separate times and not even in the same room as each other.

According to my granddaddy, they were happy with each other ( he had eleven siblings) and they each got an apple, an orange and raisins. Nana said that they did the same thing she was doing (cooking). It is not hard to imagine Nana in the kitchen with her mother and her sister preparing the family meal. When I pressed Nana on the question of what Christmas was like when she was a child, she informed me that they received grapes, an orange and raisins. Both my grandparents said they sometimes had a radio, depending if there were batteries or not. Next time I visit, I am going to need to spend time hunting through the pictures for these radios, as I am sure it will make an interesting find. My grandfather elaborated on this by reminding me that they didn’t have the things we have today (grocery stores), so it was a special treat to get something like that. Oh, yes there was a Christmas tree, unfortunately, I forgot to ask what it was decorated with… Darn it. A visit in the near future is in high demand to sit in the formal living room and go through all of those photo albums, where I am sure a picture of the tree is hiding in the crevices… I hope.

candy cane stocking     It was the same wit my mom and aunt. Both shared that they got fruit and candy canes in their stockings and usually a doll baby or an accessory. I didn’t get a chance to ask my uncle, so unfortunately, I don’t know what kinds of presents the boys received. My mom did say that they would have board games and all of them- there were seven in total-  would play those games together. Ack. As I am writing this, I am realizing all kinds of questions I forgot to ask. I decidedly did not have my journalism hat on on this day… because of this, I cannot, sadly, tell you what kinds of board games they played or even what was the most desired toy of the era or anything like that.

I can tell you the family had a TV (my mom actually sounded offended that I would ask her if they had one) and a favorite show to watch was Red Skeleton. After the reaction I received when I asked about even having a television, I didn’t even bother asking if it was a black and white or color set.

When my siblings and I were younger, we did receive an orange and a candy cane in our stockings, along with little trinkets and bobbles, but the real ‘treasures’ were underneath the tree. We would receive things like Barbies and every imaginable accessory, Cabbage Patch dolls and their accoutrements and must haves. We never really ate the fruit, I distinctly remember my dad sitting at the card table pealing a pilfered orange and cracking some nuts while we oohed and ahhed over the wonderful things Santa had delivered unto us and eventually, the oranges and candy canes faded away. Have there been traditions within your family that have faded to black? Would you ever bring them back? For me, I will leave the oranges to my memories, as my kids don’t really eat them, but I have brought the candy canes back to life without even knowing I was resurrecting a forgotten tradition. Instead of being nestled in stockings, I hang them on my tree and have them on a tray by the front door- a welcoming offering to anyone who comes or goes… (though, I am not certain they will be back next year, as the toddler discovered them this year and probably ate all of them by himself!)

Anyway, I am going to let you get back to your Holiday fun now. I just wanted to pop in and say hello and invite you on a quick trip down memory lane. I’ve already asked you a ton of questions, so I won’t trouble you with more. I look forward to reading about your traditions in the comments.

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And like that record player we got one year from Fisher Price, I will repeat myself again and again… I appreciate likes and shares, so be generous with them, thanks!

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There’s A Mystery Afoot

magnifying glass     Had to break out the magnifying glass on this one, folks! I recently decided to revisit my relatives in my Jackson/Hamn tree on Ancestry, because you kow, that’s what I do. Plus, the dead really have been quite silent these last few weeks.

Anywho, there I was excited because there were a ton of NEW LEAVES!!! I love new leaves, they make it so easy for the dead to start coversations with me- or maybe, they make my ears more in tune to their chattering. Whatever the case may be, it is safe to say I was estatic and I happily began checking out the leaves, not even caring if anyone talked to me or not.

And wouldn’t you know it? Someone started talkig to me almost immediately! Roxanne Tyler flagged me down with her death cerificate. Roxy, as she was called while living, was born in 1859 to Gabriel and Martha Tyler and she is my third great aunt. The Tyler name may sound familiar to you because, they’ve been rather chatty this year ad her brother and nephew were featured earlier in He Was The Son of a Preacher Man…

This is all mundane information and I am sure you are wondering why I was calling the mystery squad, right? Well, here is the thing… She was 51 years old when she died in 1933.

Here’s a copy of her death certificate and a copy of the 1870 Census- I’ll wait while you do the math…

 

It didn’t add up for me either. At first, I was confused as how someone could just magically drop twenty-three years off with no one noticing- I mean if that’s the case, then I would like to be 25, please and thank you.

But that isn’t how life works, is it?

I started meticulously reviewing all of the information I had on Ms. Roxy, trying to identify the point in her life when she shaved all those years off. I figured this woud be done most easily in the census records, because they were notorious for errors or jotting down whatever they felt like… No such luck. Each subsequent census shows her age with only a slight variance in her age, ranging from a year to three year difference, but not the twenty plus, I was looking for. Not to mention that the final census she is found in, has her at seventy years old.

Her marriage record indicates she was twenty-three when she married Mr. James Morton on July 25, 1883. Here, her birth year is 1860. So, again, not enough of a difference to cause any alarm or concern.

This is about the time that Roxy stopped talking to me and I was really wishing the Mystery Squad would hurry up and answer the call I had put out.

While I was waiting, I began to ponder how a body would behave if it was twenty years older than what you were telling people it was… I mean mind over matter goes a long way, but is it really possible to convince a body to act and behave as a younger body- if you just convince your mind to believe it? Again, if that’s the case, then I believe with all my might that I am twenty-five… I wonder how long it will be before everything else falls into place? 😉

This was getting me absolutely no where and my brain was starting to hurt from all the work of thinking… I decided to take one more look at the death certificate. Naturally, Roxxy started whispering sweet nothings in my ear, again. I looked over and over the death certification looking for clues and I was continuously drawn to the informant; Ada Morton Mercer, aka, the daughter of Roxy Tyler Morton. How in he world does an adult child not know how old her parent is? This was difficult to fathom, because my own children, excepting the toddler, know how old I am and have known this information since they were in elementary school. Am I the lone parent that encourages her children to know things about her other than ‘I am called mom’? I hardly think I am.

Ada Mercer. Why did Roxy keep directing me to her? I could not figure it out. I guess Roxy was getting frustrated with me, because the next thing I know, she was seemingly screaming at me, “do the math dummy!” (Yeah, my dead people can be a bit harsh when you aren’t moving fast enough to their liking…)

I can imagine that Ada was very distraught over loosing her mother and may have even been a bit tired, exhausted or even depressed, which is why when the form asked for the age of the deceased, she listed her own age, 51, in response.

Yep. Roxy was getting me all worked up over her daughter. I haven’t had a chance to dig in and see what’s going on over there, but when I do, I will be sure to let you all know!

Have you come across a for or other document that contained wrong information? How did you go about finding the correct info? Once you found the right stuff, did you make any effort to get the wrong things changed? Why or why not? For me, I think I will just make a note on Roxanne in my tree and leave it at that. I don’t think it would be worth it to get the information changed anywhere else.

I can’t wait to hear about how the wrong info has affected you in your searching! And like always, please share, share, share! I’m not picky, so I won’t tur away your likes and comments, either!

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!

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.

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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

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.