Friday, July 11, 2014

Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI)




July 8-10, 2014 I attended the second (my first) Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI) in St. Louis Missouri. .  It was held on the beautiful campus of Harris-Stowe State University, an historically Black public university.


The rallying challenge  --  So What?  --  was a real wake-up call.  This question forces you to really dissect that printed page of a document. You have a document from your ancestor -- so what? -- how are you going to process that information, pick apart that information, what exactly does it mean, where else will it lead you?

There have been so many times that I was so proud of myself for finding and/or acquiring a document about an ancestor.  But I never realized that it was just one step among many in genealogy research.  That document is not the end all be all.

The Institute offered four tracks.  Track 1: Fundamental Methods & Strategies for African American Research; Track 2: Technology and Social Media; Track 3: Pre & Post Emancipation Records Track 4: Genealogy As a Profession.  

I took Track 1 which was coordinated by Dr. Shelley Murphy, who along with presenters, Thomas MacEntee; Judy Russell, and Bernice Bennett, kept the class spellbound with their presentations.  

My brain is fried but I'm on a new genealogy mission  --  So What?


Sandra Williams Bush, top row, second from left
I am proud to be a member of the second annual Midwestern African American Genealogy Institute -- Class of 2014.  In the spirit of "Each one, teach one",  I refuse to hold on to what I have learned.  I will share information with my group, Buffalo Genealogical Society of the African Diaspora, and others interested in genealogy.   I look forward to MAAGI 2015! 


Friday, July 4, 2014

Griot Stroll

On Saturday, June 28, 2014 Tradition Keepers: Black Storytellers of Western New York presented a Griot Stroll with several members telling stories about Buffalo's Black History.  I told my mother's story, Evelyn O. Brown, relating to the historical area where we were telling.  Taking the liberty of a storyteller, this is the story I told:


Evelyn O. Brown

          On this stroll you will hear about the famous and the prominent features of the African American influence on this area. I am not famous and I am not prominent. My name is Evelyn Brown and I am one of the first generations of my family born in the north. I was born in Buffalo during the 1930s. Both my parents were born in Mississippi and several members of their families came to northern states during the Great Migration -- this was a period when African Americans moved from the South to the North for better opportunities for them and their children . The were following the great American dream just as European immigrants did went they made it to Ellis Island.

          This area had been home to African Americans since the early 1800s. I was a toddler when the Jessie Clipper Monument was established by the Common Council in 1935. It’s right over there on the corner William Street and Michigan Avenue. Private Clipper was the first Negro soldier from Buffalo to die in World War I. The monument stands in memory of the valiant service of Negroes in all wars . . . take a moment to visit it.
          The Buffalo I grew up in was a segregated city. I grew up in this area in the 1930s and 1940s and I remember when it was a thriving community. And more than that, it was a neighborhood. Children would walk to school together and then back home again at the end of the day. After we did our homework, had dinner, and did our chores, we got to play outside for a while. The boys would play games like stick-ball or marbles. The girls would play games like hopscotch or jump rope. We would play to sing-song rhymes like “Ring-Around the Rosie” and “Miss Mary Mack”.

          Right along this area and down William Street there were drug stores, restaurants, candy stores, cleaners, hotels, nightclubs, funeral parlors. We didn’t have to leave the community for anything. We certainly need to go downtown; of course most of the stores downtown didn’t want Negroes in them anyway unless we were the cleaning staff. That’s pretty much how I ended up working at the Michigan Avenue YMCA. I had a secretarial diploma from high school. My typing, shorthand and general clerical skills were very good -- I was at the top of my class; but Negroes weren’t hired to work the front offices of the white businesses and companies.

           Did you know that the Michigan Avenue YMCA was designed by a Black man? His name was John Brent. The Y had an important place in our community -- it was a gathering place, a communal place. It had a cafeteria, gym, swimming pool, barber shop, tailor shop, library; and classrooms, locker rooms, dormitory rooms, and billiard tables. I started going to the Y in high school. Several of my friends and I were members of a girls Hi-Y club. One of my fondest memories was a powerful little woman named Mary Chapelle, who taught us deportment classes -- that is, how to be a lady. There were also similar classes for boys and young men on how to be a responsible members of the community.

          The media did not report our news -- for that we relied on Ebony and Jet magazines. For local news and events we had the Buffalo Star and later the Merriweather family published The Criterion.

          So as I said in the beginning, I am not prominent in Buffalos’ Black history and I’m not famous. The Michigan corridor IS important to Buffalo’s Black history and it was important in my life.  I met my husband, Willis B. Williams, at the Michigan Avenue Y and we dated along the Michigan Avenue corridor.  We were married almost 60 years until he made his transition in 2011.

          My name is Sandra Williams Bush and this is the story of my mother, Evelyn O. Brown.

When I got home later I had two messages from a dna cousin on my mom's side; a branch that she doesn't really know about.  The Stamps family from Mississippi.  Ancestors calling my name . . .

Sandra Williams Bush
Tradition Keepers: Black Storytellers of WNY

Friday, March 7, 2014

Jones County, Georgia (1807-1907)

Through the library system of Inter-Library Loan (ILL) I was able to get the book, History of Jones County Georgia: For One Hundred Years, Specifically 1807 - 1907 by Carolyn White Williams.  I requested the book because my paternal great-grandparents, Turner WILLIAMS and Mary Jane BROWN, are from Jones County, Georgia and I wanted to get a feel for the area during the time they lived there.

There was information that I could further research, like:

" . . . the slaves in Jones County came in from the Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland and were about four generations removed from the savage African Negro." page 32  (Okay the "savage" is a bit much but being four generations removed is very interesting.)

" . . . Until emancipation the negroes had no surnames, though often they used their owners.  After freedom they did, on most occasions adopt the family name of those with who they had lived."  page 68  (Is this why my last name is Williams)

 "The Negroes before the Civil War worshiped in the same buildings with the whites in the country churches" (page 66) and the list of "colored churches"  with organization dates, ministers, trustees and other information (pages 71, 72).


There are laughable statements such as  "In the North the slaves were never profitable, the negro was not suited for the cold climate.   The agricultural south suited him better as to climate and as to work. The work was manual, uncomplicated and routine; plowing, planting, cultivating and picking, from February to December.  He liked the South and was thriving in it." (page 100)  This particular statement had me laughing because (1) I have lived in the North all my life and so have both of my parents; and (2) it reminded me of a class in my freshman year of college.  I don't know what the topic of discussion was, but I clearly remember the philosophy class discussion in which a student said that Blacks didn't play hockey because their skin disintegrates in the cold.  This was in the northern winter cold when I had to take two buses to get to the college.  (I was the only Black person in the class and one of a handful in the entire college.)

There are also many statements about the loving "Mammy" and familial ties between the negroes and their white families.


But way in the back of the book were family names with brief genealogies that really caught my attention. "The first Williams came to America from Wales about 1620 to Culpepper, Co, Va.  John Williams and Mary Childers moved to Warren Co., Ga. in the late 1700s.  They had a family of four boys and six girls.  When Jones County was formed from Baldwin Co., these four boys were living near Blountsville. Samuel, Henry, John and Thomas Jefferson Williams.  . . . " (page 701).

WAIT A MINUTE!!!

(1)  There is a 13-year old Turner Williams (possibly my great-grandfather) listed in the 1870 Clinton, Georgia census on the same page as Thomas Jefferson Williams  --  and on the previous page is John Williams.
(2)  My European DNA is mainly from the Great Britain area.
(3)  A DNA cousin of European descent contacted me who is directly related to John and Thomas Williams.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mary Lane Button -- I'm trying to do the math!


Looking at various documentation, my great grandmother, Mary LANE BUTTON , has a birth span from 1869 to 1875 (a six-year span).  The more I find, the more questions I have . . .

Below is a letter from 1935 that my paternal great-grandmother Mary BUTTON sent to the county clerk in Georgia requesting a copy of her marriage record to my great-grandfather Henry BUTTON.   In the letter she states that they were married December 24, 1883.  She needs proof of her age to get "old age assistance". Following that is the response from the clerk's office.



Mary LANE BUTTON inquiry for marriage license






Response to Mary LANE BUTTON from Deputy Clerk, Bibb County, Georgia





Marriage License of Henry Button (Burton) and Mary Lane
from



The 1910 U.S, census lists the number of years married as 26 years which would be 1883  --  another verification of their marriage year.  My great-grandmother's age is listed as 41 which would make her birth year 1869 and she would have been 14 years old when she was married.  She is living with her husband, Henry BUTTON and five daughters  --  Florence, Ida B, Annie M, Bessie, and Verna E.  There is also an 18-year old niece, Fanny GROSS.  Residence: Macon Ward 1, Bibb County, Georgia.

In the 1920 census  my great grandmother's age is listed as 44 --  three years older in ten years  --  making her birth year 1876.  At this time she is a widow living with her so-in-law and oldest daughter, William and Florence BURKETT and their infant son, Joesph.   Also in the household are Mary BUTTON's two young daughters, Bessie and Lizzie (Verna). Residence:  Macon Ward 1, Bibb, Georgia

On to the 1930 census, her age is listed as 59 making her birth year 1871.  She is living in Detroit Michigan with her son-in-law and daughter, Charles and Ida B. RUSSELL and their adopted daughter, Cauurn (?) Johnson.

Of course the last available census is from 1940.  Her age is listed as 72 making birth year 1868. She is living in Detroit with her son-in-law, Charles and two lodgers.  (Her daughter, Ida B. BUTTON RUSSELL, is deceased.)

Below is the New York State Death Certificate  for Mary BUTTON.  The year of her birth is given as 1875  --  which would have made my great grandmother 8 years old when she got married!  Informant was her daughter, my great-aunt Anna Mae DAVENPORT.  At this time she was living with her son-in-law and daughter, Richard and Anna Mae DAVENPORT in Buffalo New York.



In each of the census years, I know of every one who is listed as members of my great grandmother's family  --  initially husband & children.  Later as a widow, she lived with her adult children.

I have documentation through census records and city directories that my great grandmother, Mary LANE BUTTON lived with each of her daughters at various times and for some reason I find that very comforting.  I just wish I could find out her birth year!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I Really Stuck My Foot In It This Time!

So I went to Forest Lawn Cemetery yesterday as I do on a regular basis  --  it's one of my favorite places. When I got out of my car, I did a brief assessment of the best way to get to where I wanted because there were snow mounds and mud puddles all around.  As I stepped off the paved path to find who I was looking for I noticed a lot of new residents, what I didn't think about was the condition of the earth.  I walked around and suddenly my right leg went down into the earth and the more I tried to pull it out, the deeper it went. Got to the point where my leg was stuck in the ground up to my knee!  The worst part was that when I was finally able to pull it out, my boot stayed.  I live in the northeast, so I NEED my boot and as I mentioned there was both snow & mud puddles all around.  So without a second thought,  I'm on my hands & knees trying to get my boot.  Mission accomplished but my boot is ruined, of course.  Not to mention the fact that I'm wet and caked in mud.

In this "adventure" I've discovered that there is clearly something wrong with my thought process:  (1) While my leg was stuck in the ground, my first thought was that I wished someone was around to take my picture.  (2) As I walked muddy & wet to my car, I was trying to think how I get in without getting the interior of my new car dirty.  And then there's the initial assessment/thought process of deciding to walk around in the first place!   At any rate,  I LAUGHED all the way home and I'm still laughing every time I think about it.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

In the "Flick" of an eye, my brother made transition

My Facebook post from January 26, 2014:
                   It is with great sadness, confusion and a trust in God that I report the transition of my twin and my partner through life, Richard "Flick" Williams. There are no details at this time. My heart is beyond broken.

To our knowledge, he wasn't sick.  He told a cousin and a neighbor days before that he was fighting a cold.  He hadn't seen a doctor in about ten years  --  that "manly thing".  Of all the images I have of Flick through the years, the last one I chose is him going to sleep and not waking up  -- making his transition in the "Flick" of an eye.   So my answer to what happened is that his heart stopped.  Why?  Emotionally, it doesn't matter because my life is forever changed.


Sandra Ann & Richard Lamonte Williams, 1954

For the longest times it seemed that our names were one:  Sandra&Ritchie.  And while we weren't biological twins we were extremely close throughout our lives.

With that one mindset we had, we began telling our classmates that we were twins around our junior high/high school years. It was funny how it was so readily accepted, even though I was a grade ahead of Ritchie  --  probably because I was a model "A" student and he wasn't.  What he was, was musically gifted.

From his biography:
Richard Lamonte Williams
"Flick"
      The amazing seed of music was planted in his spirit when as a child he watched his great uncle, Richard Davenport play his guitar. When in his youth his father made him a set of bongos from coffee cans. and his mother encouraged him to explore his gifts. From that point on he was hooked on that thing called music. Flick was born and raised in Buffalo, New York at a time when the music seen was vibrant. The sounds of bands playing and musicians practicing could be heard in every corner of the city, and he knew that he had to be a part of that sound. In grade school he took violin, and clarinet lessons. In Jr. High he moved on to the saxophone, flute, and was a member of the Choir. Flick went on to Buffalo's East High School, which at that time was a musician's candy store. People like Grover Washington, Rick James, Kenny Hawkins, the Shaw brothers, Jerry Livingston, and most of the hottest musicians on the local scene passed through those doors. He was in the school band, the choir,participated in talent shows, and though he was under age, Flick was playing in clubs with some of the hottest bands in town. It was at this time that he began to write and arrange music in various styles.
      Throughout his career as a writer,arranger, and performer he has never confined himself to one style of music. The one thing that remains constant in his musical journey is writing, exploring, and painting musical pictures in various styles. From Jazz to Classical, R & B to Reggae, the music is what is important not the label. 
      And a message from Richard Lamonte Williams (Flick). I have been blessed to express the feelings of the soul through music, and what I've received through these blessings far exceed what I could ever give. Through the love of my family and friends, and those close to my heart. Through the strength of my ancestors, and through the grace of God, I leave you with this:

Plant a seed of Love,
In the soil of Hope.
Nurture it with the Nectar of Wisdom
Smile and watch it Grow
                  
                         Flick"




Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"History of the Slave South" online course

I am taking an online course "History of the Slave South" to supplement and increase my knowledge on the subject.  Also to connect to my ancestral families.

The first homework question is :   This week you have studied the wide-ranging history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  Given the massive scale of the trade, its impact was surely felt in many parts of the world.
Investigate your local area.  How was your nation or region shaped by the slave trade?

Major coastal regions from which captives were taken from Africa, all years

According to my DNA results, from both Ancestry.com and 23andMe, my original region/nations are those that were covered in the initial lectures and shown on the map above.

I know I am supposed to look at the question objectively, but I can't  --  I am a genealogist desperately trying to piece together my family that was torn apart due to the slave trade.  I am in the United States because of the slave trade.  I am a Northerner because of the slave trade.   I am second generation Northerner.  All my grandparents were born and raised in the South  --  they came North during the first Great Migration.  Many of their siblings also came North during that time.  For the most part the men worked in the factories and the women worked as domestics or day workers.

My Mississippi families followed the migration route into Chicago and Ohio.  My Georgia families strayed from the migration route of Georgians and ended up in Detroit.


                       from Google images

So my dilemma in answering the question is what region/nation do I embrace?   I embrace them all  -- every place my family walked, laid their heads, reproduced, and died.