Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Head-spinning DNA

As I watched the webinar "Watch Geoff Live - DNA", a Legacy Family Tree Webinar, it finally dawned on me how important it is to have a public family tree. I have defended my private Ancestry tree because not only did someone cherry-pick my ancestors but when I sent her a welcome family message she was very nasty in shooting me down. Anyway, I was prompted to listen to the webinar from a Facebook post on a genealogy group. In another Facebook genealogy group a member posted on how she made cousin connections through her public tree and several of the comments to her post spoke about the need to have a public tree so DNA cousins can connect. 

Geoff Rasmussen, a regular presenter and moderator for the Family Tree webinars, looked at his grandmother's DNA results for the first time in a live webinar while Diahan Southland guided him through the results -- what things meant and how to interpret / evaluate family connections. Ms. Southland is a DNA expert and webinar presenter. Through each step of the presentation, Geoff's enthusiasm and awe was contagious!

So the ancestors have spoken (these instances are not a coincidence) and I started a bare bone family tree with names, dates, and locations. I stress that I have started because I became distracted by a "bright shiny object" --  Kitty Cooper's Blog which was also mentioned in the comments on the one Facebook group post. Kitty's blog posts are clear and concise  --  just what a newbie like me needs to get a handle on DNA.

Through the years I've so many complicated graphics about how DNA is passed down that I only get more confused.  So I used the term "DNA genealogy" in Google images to find a visual that would help me. The two images below spoke to me about how DNA is passed down through the generations.

Now back to my bare bones tree . . .

From www.genealogyandfamilyhistory.com

From phillipsdnaproject.com

Friday, April 22, 2016

Starting With Me

Sandra Ann Williams , born 1953, in the crib my father hand-made.

Most books, articles, workshops, etc. on genealogy state that research starts with yourself but it never dawned on me to do my own biography until recently.

I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, the daughter of Willis B. and Evelyn O. Williams. Under their strong love, guidance and support, I was instilled with the importance of family, loyalty and community.

My earliest memories are of growing up at 218 Walnut Street in Buffalo and attending P.S. 47.  Months before my sixth grade graduation, my family moved to 523 Woodlawn Avenue in Buffalo's "Cold Spring" area. I remember my brothers and I thinking that we were rich because it was a beautifully tree-lined neighborhood with large well-kept homes. My brothers, Richard, Steven, Barry, and Raymond were transferred to the new neighborhood school, P.S. #53.  For the few months until my sixth grade graduation, I stayed in the old neighborhood living with my great-aunt, Elizabeth Mason aka Auntie Lizzie during the school week and going home for the weekends.

In September 1965 I attended the neighborhood school Woodlawn Jr. High (from 7th through 9th grades), and later East High School (1968-1971).  After a few false attempts at college -- Howard University {I attended Howard because it was my mother's dream to go there}, Villa Maria College, and Buffalo State College -- I finally earned an undergraduate degree from Medialle College in Human Services (1981). 

Not finding a job in my field, I worked a variety of jobs before taking a county clerical exam and being offered a job at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library where I worked at many of the city branches, including the mobile units, the RAM Van and Lookie Bookie. While at the library, I attended evening classes at the University of Buffalo School of Information Library Science and earned a Master of Library Science degree (1991).

My biggest joy has been my daughter, Elizabeth --  her birth, raising her, seeing the woman she has become and sharing travel experiences with her. (At her request I never mention her age or birth year and seldom full name on social media.)

I met my husband, Joseph Bush, in 1986 while we were working at the Central Library. We married and honeymooned in Niagara Falls NY on January 6, 1996.  I retired from the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library in August 2015 after 30 years of service. My last position was Branch Manager of the Frank E. Merriweather, Jr. Library.

Since 1995, I have performed as a solo artist and as a charter member of Tradition Keepers: Black Storytellers of Western New York.  In addition to storytelling, I am a djembe drummer with the group Daughters of Creative Sound (since 2004), an African American women's percussion ensemble. 

I am currently ENJOYING retirement!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

30 Years & Out

from The Challenger, August 5, 2015, Front Page
Well, I'm looking at my draft posts  --  I started this one in August 2015. In the spirit of starting my genealogy journey with me and telling my own story, I finally finished (I think) this post.

After 30 years with the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, it was time to end our relationship.  As with any relationship when it's time, it's time --  and it's never good to prolong the inevitable.  I had a great career that started as a Clerk with the system on August 19, 1985 and I was fortunate to have may good working relationships with colleagues. I also met some great library patrons along the way.

"Get me my flowers while I can yet smell them" is the refrain of many elders in the African American community -- meaning don't wait to celebrate me when I'm dead, do it now so I can see/feel your appreciation for me.

I didn't want a retirement party or any special recognition, but the community spoke and there was a reception given for me at the Frank E. Merriweather, Jr. Library on my last last of employment -- August 21, 2015.  Big thanks go out to former supervisor (retired) and friend, Sharon Jordan Holley, for organizing the reception.

Yvonne M. Harris told her signature story,
"A Perfect Heart"
and presented me with custom-made heart
"Big Momma Boo, storyteller

Proclamation from the NYS Senate presented by
Senator Timothy M. Kennedy, 63rd Senate District
I usually have to sneak pictures of my daughter,
Elizabeth O. Bonds, who doesn't like her picture taken
(in pink top)

With my husband, Joseph Bush

With Kim Johnson, former
Library Page and one of the
first employees I supervised

With Library Director Mary Jean Jakubowski, Sharon Holley

With Yvonne M. Harris, County Legislator Betty Jean Grant
and Sharon Holley

With co-workers Lisa Perry and Fred Stancil

At the podium is Mr. William A. Miles,  Retired Assistant Library Director who hired me as a Clerk 30 years ago.

I was also presented with Proclamations from New York State Assembly, Honorable Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, 141st District; City of Buffalo Common Council, Council President Darius G. Pridgen, and given a copy of the Congressional Record Proceedings and Debates of the 114th Congress, First Session which was read into the Congressional record by Honorable Brian Higgins on August 19, 2015.

But by far, the best part of the day was the fellowship and good wishes of family, friends, co-workers, and the library community! 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Putting My Research "house" In Order: Genealogy Do-Over

genealogy do-over

Photo by Thomas McEntee

When Thomas MacEntee posted that he was creating a Genealogy Do-Over group on Facebook,  I jumped at the challenge.   In putting together my family tree, I have been more of a collector of names, places, and dates which has resulted in very little organization in my paper and digital files. So this is my plan from Week 1 of the Genealogy Do-Over.

1.  Setting Previous Research Aside

Setting aside my previous research is the easiest part of the Week 1 challenge.  My research is so helter-skelter; I've gone from one software program to another hoping to make sense of it all.  I also have family trees on Ancestry.com and Family Search.  Unfortunately, I have varying numbers of people on each of my three trees and many with no documentation.

2.  Preparing to Research

I will learn how to better use Legacy 8, my current software program.  I will also learn how to use Evernote (that I downloaded over a year ago).  Most importantly, I will use them to benefit my research.

3.  Establishing Base Practices and Guideline

This aspect hit me the hardest because I find that I often "discover" information that I already have, so from this point on I will ONLY work with a research log.  I will:
  • establish a research plan 
  • document EVERYTHING, especially sources and including dead ends
  • take my time and be thorough
  • stick with my research plan and not be sidetracked
  • establish a filing system
Although I have hard copies of various paper research logs, I have not used them.  I "googled" for research logs and the one below seems like it will keep me on track.    Thank you Calvin Knight!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Reaching Out to Mary Barrett Washington, 1875-1942

During the summer of 2013, my brother Flick and I took a day trip to visit our Cousin Elizabeth Tyus (Cousin Lizzie)  in Ashtabula, Ohio.  While sitting around laughing, talking, and enjoying the meal she prepared for us, she revealed that her grandmother, Mary Washington, died and was buried in Chicago IL.  Cousin Lizzie was a child but she remembered that time when she saw her mother cry.  Her mother, Estelle Washington Tyus (Aunt Stella), had visited her sick mother in Chicago IL and came home when it seemed that her mother was stable.  A few days later she received the news that her mother had passed but she couldn't afford to go back to Chicago for the funeral.  Cousin Lizzie said that her mother held on to the phone, crying and wailing for a long time after the call had ended. 

Up until that point I had always thought that my great grandmother had died and been buried in Ashtabula perhaps living with her daughter, Estella.  Or maybe she had been buried in Mississippi, where she lived from 1900 until 1930  --  according to the 1900 through 1930 U.S. census records.  Yet another lesson to never assume with family research and the importance of talking with the elders!

So with the knowledge about my great grandmother's death, I virtually visited the Cook County Vital Records department where I found and purchased a copy of my great-grandmother's death certificate.

From November 11-16, 2014 I was in Chicago attending the National Association of Black Storytellers Festival and Conference (NABS).  I arrived a day early for the conference so I could locate my great-grandmother's grave site.

On November 11, 2014 I visited the Lincoln Cemetery, Cook County, Worth IL 

History of Lincoln Cemetery
In 1911, a group of black funeral directors approached the owner of Oak Hill Cemetery and proposed that a portion of the undeveloped land that he owned be opened as an African-American Cemetery. Mr. Olson agreed and Lincoln Cemetery was opened. Its first burial took place in April 1911.

Through nearly 100 years, Lincoln Cemetery has served thousands of well-known families.

Lincoln has grown through the years and today consists of three areas, each with a unique history and appearance. Old Lincoln is approximately 71 acres at the northwest corner at 12300 S. Kedzie Avenue in Chicago. Lincoln Cemetery South is approximately 23 acres at the southwest corner. Lincoln Cemetery East is approximately 18 acres on the northeast corner.
 from Lincoln Cemetery website  http://www.dignitymemorial.com/lincoln-cemetery

The office staff was extremely helpful, calling a caretaker to escort me and my daughter to the unmarked grave.  It was a beautifully serene area with few headstones.  It touched me that at the time my great grandmother died (December 1942), the family probably couldn't afford a funeral, let alone a headstone.  It was evident that probably many other families were in the same way financially.  

As we drove back to our hotel, my daughter was full of questions and I was happy to share what I knew about family connections and what the paper trail had revealed to me so far.  We called my mother later that day and she was amazed at my "find". Unfortunately, she doesn't recall ever meeting her grandmother or even hearing stories about her.  So I will continue to follow paper trails and try to get the remaining elders to open up about family history.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pieces of Me -- Saints Home C.O.G.I.C.

On October 1, 2014 the church I had known as Saints Home Church Of God in Christ was demolished.  Until news reports and the preservation efforts I did not know that it was the oldest synagogue in Buffalo NY, although I knew it had been a synagogue.

"Preservationists chain themselves inside oldest synagogue to prevent demolition
from The Buffalo News (Buffalo NY), October 12, 2014, page C3

Saints Home Church of God in Christ is where I was first touched by those soulful spirituals that still comfort me today.   Some of them include:
A Little Talk With Jesus
I Shall Not Be Moved
I Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray
His Eye Is On the Sparrow
Every Time I Feel the Spirit
Pass Me Not

In addition to my parents and grandparents, this is the place that shaped my moral character.  I fondly remember what I now think of as "church before church" when the Mothers and/or Deacons of the church led Testimony  --  a tradition where you would stand before the congregation and publicly thank God for his blessings.  I also fondly remember Sunday School, chicken dinners, Easter programs, Christmas programs, and the first family of the church  --  Rev. and Mrs. Carl Roberson and their children, my church friends.

My father, Willis B. Williams, panted a larger-than-life picture of Jesus and it was dedicated in a ceremony in the Spring or Summer of 1961.   I am guessing at the season because my little brother Raymond was born in November 1960 and he is the baby in my mother's arms. The painting was right behind the pulpit and commanded your attention as soon as you entered the sanctuary.  

Adults:  Willis B. Williams, Evelyn O. Williams, Lucy  Brown; Children: Raymond L Williams (Baby), Steven A, Williams, Richard L. Williams, Willis Barry Williams, Sandra A. Williams

I remember my father on the floor of the living room painting this picture over a period of time.  Daddy painted the picture to donate to Saints Home in honor of my grandmother, Mrs. Lucy Brown  and my mother because that was their home church.  It was the first time I ever saw Jesus as a man of color.

This painting by Willis B. Williams was inspired by the scripture:

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.   Revelation 3:20 King James Version 

Although I did not attend Saints Home after puberty, I still feel saddened by the demolition. A piece of my growing up past no longer physically exist  --  for decades I passed the building that once housed Saints Home C.O.G.I.C.   Sometimes I even went out of my way to see it because it spoke to me in a way  --  connected me, transported me, and grounded me. The building may be gone, but . . .

Friday, September 26, 2014

The bride wore pink - Evelyn Orthelia Brown

My parents, Willis Burkett WILLIAMS and Evelyn Orthelia BROWN were married on Friday, September 26, 1952.  The bride wore a dusty pink gown.  My Mom told that was the fashion at the time.  (Two months later her sister, Verlie BROWN, married Raymond T. WALTON in an ice blue wedding dress.)  The maid of honor was my Dad's sister, Joan WILLIAMS.  The best man was Auntie Joan's boyfriend Isiah.

I always loved my Mom's wedding dress and she gave it to me  (or I kidnapped it) when I was in high school.  I never dreamed about wearing it because (1) it was a size that I never was, and (2) and I never planned on getting married.  However, I did have dreams for the gown  --  I wanted to have a master suite with the gown as the focal point on a dressmaker form.

Neither my Mom nor I ever did anything to preserve her gown.  It's been on hangers from one house move to another.  At any rate I think it still looks good even through a bit wrinkled.  I showed my Mon this picture today  --  the anniversary date of her wedding anniversary  --  and she was surprised I still had the gown.

From the Buffalo Criterion newspaper:
Mr. and Mrs. Willis Williams are cutting their cake at their wedding reception at the home of Mr. Williams uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Davenport, Friday, Sept. 26 following their wedding at 5 p. m. at the bride's home.  She is the former Evelyn O. Brown of 386 William St.  The couple spent the weekend in Detroit.

Photograph. Isiah (?), Willis Burkett WILLIAMS, Evelyn BROWN,and  Joan WILLIAMS 26 September 1952. Buffalo, Erie, New York. Private collection of Evelyn Brown WILLIAMS, Buffalo, Erie, New York.

Photograph. Wedding dress of Evelyn Brown WILLIAMS. Private collection of Sandra Williams Bush, Buffalo, Erie, New York.

Article. The Buffalo Criterion