Friday, August 25, 2017

New Day

Inconsistent times, thoughts, events, people, places and things.  One thing known for sure is we are not in control of what's going on.  I think of those things now and wonder how our ancestors accepted those things.  Word of mouth may have been the source of what they learned on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.  Today, we are flooded with news on a minute by minute basis.  My second great grandfather knew most white land owners would not sell their land to him, a black man even if they needed the money.  He and a white "boss" that became a friend avoided conflict.  How?  The friend purchased the land for him and later turned it over to Henry Carroll/Cal in northeast Alabama.  They accomplished this by working together around the system.  Henry ended up with one thousand plus acres of land that is now known as the Cal Bottom.  I'm sure people that work together are still doing things to work around systems that are not working for all of us.

Branches of my family gained by working with those of other races.  How could at least two relatives own land when they were enslaved by their owner, Colonel Benjamin Sherrod in northwest Alabama?  The laws didn't allowed enslaved people the right to own land, yet they came out of the enslaved period owning land and passing it on to their family after death.  So surely, what we hear or see about this turbulent period today didn't fit everyone.  Bottom line is while there is a great deal of negatively coming forward, people regardless of race helped each other move forward.  Not everyone was a part of this move forward, yet there were enough people that quietly did their part to help each other.  No coverage was given in the news in the form of a sound bit.  It happened and we cannot let anyone else tap into the insecurities we have within.

There are obstacles that each of us face and at times brings out our doubts about each other based on race.  We must keep our eyes open for those that are genuine interested in each other based on common ground.  During my twenty plus years of genealogy research, I've connected with some real people that helped me based on our interest.  Those people that taught me how to move forward or encouraged me along the road are priceless.  Let's not let these negative forces impact our purpose.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Pause along the Journ

There are times during the various paths along our research that information is discovered.  Sometimes it is documented or verbal and it makes you pause so you can digest what you learn. After thinking about it for a period, you then decide what path to take.  If the information is positive, like you are related to someone famous or you find an ancestor that accomplished something that society admires, it is easy to know the path to take.

The challenge comes when the information doesn't sit well based on your beliefs.  Digging into what you learn will at times teach you what or why the ancestor did whatever they did.  For example, I had a woman in my family that own and ran a jute joint in a small town.  This was based on verbal history shared with me by her sisters.  This joint was a place where locals partied and musicians would stay while on tour and traveling in the area.   Many years ago, she sent me a picture of a musician that wrote and played a song he wrote that became pretty famous in the jazz arena.  Researching the times, I learned about how African Americans were not welcomed to stay at hotels whether they were  famous or ordinary people.  Word of mouth was how these traveling people learn where they could spend the night safely, have a drink of alcohol, purchase time with a woman and party if desired.  This jute joint own by my family member was during prohibition.  So was this ancestor a tainted woman or a woman that met demands of some clients?  In other circles she may have been considered an entrepreneur in ways.  Rather than criticize choosing to accept what was based on the limited information or lack of documentation, we keep moving along the path.

The experience of this journey consistently leads me in places of learning the real history of the ancestry and learning.   Continuing to follow the paths and moving my modern day beliefs out of the way so their stories can be told is challenging yet it is the real deal.

Happy Hunting.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Series Opening The Mind.

I'm a watcher of most  TV series, shows or movies that are about history, genealogy and travel.  Finding Your Roots  and Who Do You Think You Are, are just a couple of them.  Recently, I've been watching Underground and it is one of the most thought provoking shows that has been on TV or even in the movies ever.  This series is truly about U.S. History.  I had no idea that it would be so in depth and cover so much more than enslaved groups escaping through the underground seeking freedom.

The creators have done an outstanding job on covering so many angles and the impacts of this period of time before the Civil War.  All individuals were affected in one way or another. Age, color, free or enslaved did not go untouched.  This week's episode was so emotional yet surprising not in the way one would think.  The children were changed by the lifestyle of the time and places they found themselves.  A little girl "Boo" was thrown in the hands of an enslaved man that was running to freedom.  Her mother made that decision for her daughter and paid the ultimate price of death.  During the run in her protectors arms, she faced many frightening experiences including death of the man that was designated to take her to freedom.  She runs and hides on her own, finding herself saved by her owner's sister-in-law who becomes her new protector that paid a high price to protect the runaway child.

Another young enslaved boy, James had the freedom to play and become the master's son playmate.  Time changes things and the boys are separated by status yet in reality they are half brothers.  James is sent to the cotton fields and quickly learns it a new period in his life while the master's son begins his training for future duties as a master.  The boys are separated by life status that has been past down.  Both are hurt and handle things differently.

This is simply a sample of the depth of the Underground series for this week.  This period of time is painful in many ways, specifically because I'm a black individual that has a Family History rooted in the enslaved period of this country.  I remember minimum teaching of the slavery period while in elementary and high school.  Mostly, it left me feeling ashamed and angry of how weak and helpless enslaved blacks were projected to be during this time.  It was years later that I learned there was much more to the story.  I learned of abolitionist yet didn't always place the value and cost of what was being done based on their beliefs.  Each role of various individuals in this series brings it home full circle.  

So the biggest take away for me is finally the real story is being told in a way that none of us should miss.  The second most important thing is why it is so important for us as genealogist or family historians to look around areas and time periods to make sure we include as much as possible of our "real family stories" beyond the names, dates and places. Where possible we must include the verbal history that has been passed down and not necessary proven (a real challenge without fantasy).  The other take away for me is that we must include those teachings from our ancestors, parents and others that taught us how to act or what to do in certain situations.

I remember a couple like a black person should never wear red yet that was my Dad's favorite color and I still have a red cape he gave me as a gift.  Alway felt uncomfortable wearing red yet alway received compliments when I did.  Learned from another aunt that was lighter than her other darker siblings to put clorox in my bath water (guess it was to lighten). Guess what I'm still brown.

Oh my, the journey of a Family Historian is ongoing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Memories of "The Bridge", Dr. Dorothy Cal (aka Carroll) Hardy


The  dark sky is  split by  jagged streaks of lightening
Stars have long since fled in fright
As the first sounds of angry thunder
fractures the cold  black night:

A wind, born of fury grasps the trees and holds them fast
While my soul's boundless spirit rises to meet nature's 
Creator at last.
When the storm subsides - all is quiet

Once more stars cast their age old light

The night is calm-
The storm has passed-
My eyes are closed - my body lies
still at last

from "Pebbles in The Pond" poems by Dorothy C. Hardy (aka Dr. Dorothy "Carroll" Cal Hardy")

Dr. Dorothy Cal (Carroll) Hardy, my "Bridge" now walks among the ancestors.  On our last visit in October 2015, she told me she didn't know how to talk about death.  Fortunately, she left me many of her writings and finding the above poem revealed to me that she already spoke on the subject.

Dorothy is my bridge for during the last four years, she shared so very much that allowed us to bridge the Carroll/Cal family.  Most of all the connection of love between us was unconditional and went deeper than I could have ever imagine.

Our story together amazes me especially whenever I think about how we bonded.  I met her at the young age of twelve in Creighton, Pennsylvania at our Uncle Robert Carroll's home.  She was about twenty-two years older than me and she mostly interacted with other adult family members yet this young girl was totally impressed by her presence.  Yes, she was a beauty and a cousin not previously seen before yet there was something very special about Dorothy.  I overheard her speaking of being divorced, planning to marry again and living in Cincinnati.  It would be many years later before I would try to find her and realized that her surname had changed creating a challenge.  Of course, this was before the Internet was available to us common folk.  Four years ago via we reconnected through a student, Cheryl Morris, that was helping her with family research.  I never thought of how we were related as a young girl but as my family research journey moved towards our Carroll line, she was remembered.

We communicated and shared our information.  Dorothy had first hand information of her grandfather, Henry Carroll/Cal aka Pa Cal for she was his last known living grandchild.   He is my 2nd great grandfather and her father, Otis Cal and my great grandfather, John Cal are brothers.  Dorothy had much information documented on the Carroll/Cal family and knew the geographic area of Northwest Alabama.  She became my bridge by sharing information with me in writings, communication and showing me the area. Dorothy was healthy, energetic and a very intelligent eight-four year old woman that was still teaching a Creative Writing Class.  I loved every minute of being with her and she quickly became my sister, mentor, teacher and challenger.  The only difficulty was when she would say "you need to know how to get to the old place when I'm not here".  She meant how to get to the family cemetery, Cal Family Cemetery, Town Creek, Leighton and other areas that our family have ties.

Salutes to a very special ancestor that will never be forgotten.

Dorothy C. Hardy 1927-2015
Born to Odis and Lorean (Harris) Cal near Town Creek, AL
Graduate of Alabama State University, migrated to Cincinnati, Ohio
Married John Mootry Jr. in Nashville, TN  then William E. Hardy
Founder of Intergeneration Writers Guild
Held many job titles: Assistant Dean of Student Groups & University Programs,
Cincinnati, Administrator of student services, Director of Counseling Services at Central
State, Director of Specialized Student Services at Southeast Missouri State University
Recognitions; 1986 World of Poetry's Golden Poet Award, published in numerous journals
and magazines.

"Leaning back I think of what lies ahead: my bright rainbow--my tomorrow". Line taken from On A Greyhound Bus from Promises: Bright and Broken, Poems by Dorothy Hardy.

Journey of a Family Historian.


Friday, May 29, 2015

A Peek Into Coal Mining From Alabama to Pennsylvania

My recent journey took me into the history of coal mining from Alabama to Southern Pennsylvania where I was born. Natrona, Brackenridge and New Kensington has deep roots in the mining industry. Past research did not yield the details found this time.  New Kensington 1927 Directory listed where family members worked. Taking a look at Allegheny Steel Company and their history opened doors to situations that no doubt impacted some of my family.  This taught me the value of City and Town online Directories.

Robert Carroll is my great great paternal uncle that left his father's farm in north west Alabama and became a coal miner in Jefferson County.  Verbal history is that he had a disagreement with his father and left the farm.  Not sure how or why he pursued the mining industry for research revealed that often black men arrested were often leased out to these companies in Alabama.  No record has been found to indicate Robert had any problem with the law.  Robert was born in 1891 and was the fifth son of Henry Carroll/Cal and Celia Sherrod.  It is possible that he was seeking an adventure to find his own way and landed in the mining industry.  In 1920, he lived in Pratt City, Jefferson County, Alabama and was married to Rosa who was born in Tennessee.  Robert's brother, John had a brother in law Richard Copeland that was also living close to Robert in Pratt City and working in the mine.

By 1927, Robert and his wife as well as Richard were all living in New Kensington, Pennsylvania working at Allegheny Steel as laborers.  Robert's nephews, Richard and Howard were also living in New Kensington working at the same place as laborers.  A quick research of Allegheny Steel opened unexpected doors into the mining operations.  That is what research does.

Allegheny Steel was founded by Alfred Hicks, a Welsh immigrant before 1900.  His son, Lewis Hicks ran the coal operation and they had many mines around the country.  My focus was on the Allegheny-Kiskimineta Valley aka Alle-Kiski.  The United Mine Workers Association (UMWA) targeted the operations pursuing improved working wages and conditions.  Appears that originally English, Scots-Irish and German ancestry individuals left the farms for work in the mines.  The conditions were not acceptable and they began organizing a union to improve conditions.  The mine owners/operators resisted and one method used was to import people from outside of the region.  They were known as scabs and were of other nationalities.  The scabs were used as strikebreakers and the climate was not a good one.  Violence in strikes took place from 1916 to 1919.

Many African American were imported from Alabama with some knowing they were strikebreakers and other tricked into believing they had an opportunity for a better life.  This time period was very unstable in the mining industry and I wonder how my one great great uncle Robert made it working for Allegheny Steel to retirement.  Other family members left the company and returned to Alabama in the early 1930's.  I knew my Uncle Robert and now wish we could have a chat about his work and the work atmosphere.  

One woman I found interesting was Fannie Sellins (1872-1919) who was an activist for the union in the area. She was born in Louisiana, married and widowed in St. Louis.  Fannie was left with four children and worked in the garment industry.  She became an organizer for unionizing  the Garment industry then moved on to West Virginia where she was arrested then relocated to New Kensington actively involved in the UMWA.  Had no idea that a woman was so active in an industry that was male dominated.  She was killed while participating in a strike in August 1919. Some believe it was a conspiracy.

The journey of genealogy may take you where you have no idea you are going and you just keep following the path until a treasure is revealed.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lost In Sherrod Research

Haven't written a blog since August.  Unbelievable how fast time passes while life continues outside of this genealogy journey that I love so much.  Not to say I didn't fit a piece in here and there. Passion will always rule if you go with the flow.

The Sherrod branch of my family has dominated a piece here, an hour there and a minute of thought here and there.  Colonel Benjamin Sherrod was recorded in my third great grandfather, Silas Sherrod's US Claim to the United States requesting payment for blacksmith services provided to the Union Troops that came through Town Creek, Alabama during the Civil War needing repairs for their horses.  Having limited material he was creative in meeting their needs according to his account in the claim.  In addition to the services needed, they took supplies from an enslaved family for provisions as a hog, cattle and flour.  Obviously, the troops told Silas Sherrod that the US government would reimburse him.  He followed the process but it was his word only with the support of his previous owner, Walter Sherrod.  Silas' claim was denied since he could not afford to send witnesses to Washington, DC to testify for him.  So oh well he moved on and dealt with life.

The key information on this part of my journey was Silas naming in the claim that he was own by Benjamin Sherrod then Walter Sherrod before freedom.  It was exciting to finally find the owning family on this journey that might move the research back in time.  Hunting around finding that Col. Benjamin Sherrod own in some records 300 and in other 700 slaves scattered around five plantations. Oh my, this blew my mind but I proceeded to find some record of these human enslaved peoples' names and sure enough in his Will of 1846, he named about 300.  It was challenging reading the copy of the will acquired from the Lawrence County Archives in Moulton, Alabama.  The task was more involved than originally thought for first you record the names of slaves, then you determine who in Col. Benjamin Sherrod's family inherited them.  Last you try to determine which plantation they lived on and go from there.  Emotionally, the process was deeper than expected and the progress was slowed by trying to read writing from 167 years ago.  The deed is done along with tracking the descendants of Col. Benjamin Sherrod.  Sure enough his son, Samuel Watkins Sherrod inherited the plantation in Town Creek, Alabama in 1847 upon Benjamin's death.  However, Samuel died in 1848 and his son Walter inherited the plantation along with the enslaved people.  This is what my third great grandfather stated in in US Claim of 1871.  I have at least two more steps to take 1) Sharing the slaves that I've pulled from the records with other Sherrod researchers.  2) Securing a copy of Samuel's will for it my also list slave names.

Oh, what a journey and what a help others could be if they would consider the impact of slavery in their family that affected  other families.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

52 Ancestors 52 Weeks Week 28 Saunders/Sanders Part I

52 Ancestors 52 Weeks Week 28 – Saunders Part I

The 1850 Lawrence County, Alabama Slave Census, 8th District enumerated by J. B. Speaks, Assistant Marshal recorded James E. Saunders as owning forty-one slaves.  The question challenge for my research journey is whether a branch of my family was own by the Saunders family in Lawrence or Colbert Counties in northwest Alabama.  Interesting enough is that most of my family branches that lived in that area carried the surnames of slave owners in the area.

The challenge of the journey is to reconstruct the African-American family with the Saunders/Sanders surname that is connected to our known family. 

1.     First there is Alex Saunders, known by a cousin that lived in Cincinnati, Ohio for years.  Alex and my living cousin were both born in Lawrence/Colbert county Alabama, recognized that they were cousins and yet didn’t know how they were related. 

2.     The first step was to learn as much about Alex Saunders as possible.  Alex Saunders died according Ohio Death Records, 1938-2007, on 15 Aug 1972 in Daniel Drake Memorial Hospital in Cincinnati at the age of 80.  WWII draft registration card 1942 recorded his birthdate as 20 April 1893 in Courtland, Alabama, his work place as Cincinnati Milling Machine Co.  Person who will know your address is his sister, Alice Bullock, 250 St. Peters Street, Cincinnati.

a.     Result in reconstructing the Alex Saunders’s family:
                                                                 i.     Alex Saunders and Alice Bullock are siblings
                                                                ii.     Alex was born in Lawrence Co., AL in 1893.  Note: Making progress.
                                                              iii.     1935, 1936, US City Directory 1821-1989, Alex Saunders is living at 2738 Hoff St. Cincinnati.  Later in 1942 WWII Draft Record, his address was 3096 Gilbert Ave. same city.  Nick Saunders had the same address prior to 1938 when he is living with his wife, Ruth.  No relationship defined for Nick although he is working at the same company as Alex.
                                                              iv.     In the 1958 City Directory, Alex is living at 530 W. Liberty with a spouse, Mattie.
                                                                v.     24 May 1923 one Alex Saunders married Mattie Lee in Jefferson County, AL.
                                                              vi.     1942 Draft Register Card stated his race was Negro, Height 5’ 9””, weight 163, eyes Brown, hair Black, complexion Dark Brown, Wears glasses.
Note:  Records found revealed a fair amount of information about Alex.  Sometimes the name was Saunders while other times it was Sanders.  Other than marriage records in Jefferson County, most linked back to Lawrence County Alabama. 

3.     Second steps led me to his younger years and here are some of the results.
a.     1929 Atlanta City Directory, Alex and Mattie are listed living at 65 Richmond St. SE and he is listed as a labor.  Not definite yet could be my Alex.
b.     1910 US Census Courtland Lawrence County, on 15 April lived Alic Sanders, age 49 with his wife Jennie, age 49 and their children: Ilmer 20, George 14, Alice 12 and a nephew, Emett Johnson 16.  Jennie had 9 children living of 10 she gave birth.
c.      Next to these Sanders was Ellen Bynum 38 a widower.  Interesting for we have a Bynum family connection.
d.      1900 US Census Town Creek, Lawrence Co., Township 4, Range 8.  Bingo – definitely the area where my family lived during that period.  Father: Alexander Sanders, born 1853 AL Mother: Virginia
Children:  Willie, son, 18; Laura, daughter 16; Salinah, daughter, 11; Alexander, son, 10; Ilmer, son, 8; Allace (?Alice), daughter 8; George, son 8 and Harris Saunders 32 Boarder.  Living next door was Elles Bynum and Eliza.

Summary: Jennie/Virginia Sherrod married Alex Saunders (1) in Lawrence County, AL on 17 Dec 1879.  Virginia is a sister of my second great grandmother that married Henry Carroll/Cal in 1882.  Now I know the Alex Saunders connection to our family and have another path of the journey to explore.  I’ve accounted for eight of the nine children living in 1900 and now need to see how Nicolas Saunders fit in with Alex.

Oh, what an ongoing journey and loving every bit of it.