Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tony Burroughs: More than just another genealogist...

Mavis Jones of Georgia Black Crackers has posted our photo with my friend Carla and Tony Burroughs.  I really had a good time at the event with them.  I had never met Mavis in person although we have been tweeting for about 10 months.

We are so fortunate to have such a great mentor and professional genealogist like Tony Burroughs. It was wonderful to hear that he has been visiting students and discussing genealogy on this visit to SC.  We really enjoyed his presentation and the way he makes history come to life.  I am excited to tell you that once again I learned new things.  Tony has an awesome way of teaching beginners and throwing in new information for those of us who are seasoned researchers if we listening carefully.

I have heard a lot of  opinions shared with me over the years that  African Americans lived together and were not married  on the censuses. I do not believe that is completely accurate because I have documented marriages for many ancestors and have only found one 3rd great grandmother on the 1870 Census who had children and no husband. 

I guess there is a belief out there that African Americans did not embrace marriage after slavery.  We know that many marriages were not recognized that were performed during slavery because they were not considered people.  Many were separated before slavery, and after Emancipation, they frantically sought to locate each other and have marriages recognized legally.

We are dependent on each African American to document their ancestors, preserve the oral history, and share it.  I appreciate the efforts of those whose research is well documented and  provides profound insights which help me to understand African American history.

Our collective research can fill many gaps in American history.  The marriage issue has long been a concern for me.  While there are always exceptions to every norm,  I have had a hard time accepting the opinion that the majority of my ancestors who were born and reared and married in slavery and who were very devout AME and Baptist ministers and members would not do all in their power to sanction marriage.

I gloried in a fact that Tony shared yesterday.  It has almost freed me from the responsibility I have felt  to redeem my ancestors from the tarnish of false assumptions at least with this issue.  He has been able to access documentation that proves at least in SC that the majority of ALL marriages performed prior to slavery were slave marriages.

Now I must do the work of locating these records and researching them.

 I also learned that midwives were required by law to submit birth certificates. Now I know of members of my own family who were midwives.  Many do not search for a birth certificate if they know an ancestor had the help of a midwife.  I can  now go back and possibly locate a few birth certificates they I may have missed.  I know this is a fact because my own mother's birth certificate was registered several years after her birth.

Look for more posts about what I learned and how I am applying it.  I will definitely be sharing a finding from the South Carolina Room at the Greenville County Library as well as great resources that may be useful to you.  I am very impressed with the South Carolina Room.  It is a one-stop shop where you can also order microfilm from the Family History Library.

Friday, February 18, 2011

President's Day: Some of the last words of Washington and Lincoln...

President's Day will be celebrated Feb 21. I thought I would search for some of the final words from each in search of insights. First, I chose the last will and testament of our Founding Father, George Washington, which reveals the provisions set forth for the slaves in his estate and for a reminder to us all to search wills and probate records as we seek to document our ancestors:

Washington at Mt. Rushmore by  jimbowen0306
George Washington

"Tis well." - Washington's Last Words, December 14, 1799

"Upon the decease of my wife, it is my will and desire that all the slaves which I hold in my own right shall receive their freedom. To emancipate them during her life would, though earnestly wished by me, be attended with such insuperable difficulties on account of their intermixture by marriages with the Dower (inherited) Negroes as to excite the most painful sensations, if not disagreeable consequences from the latter, while both descriptions are in the occupancy of the same proprietor; it not being in my power, under the tenure by which the Dower Negroes are held, to manumit them. And whereas among those who will receive freedom according to this devise, there may be some who from old age or bodily infirmities, and others who on account of their infancy, that will be unable to support themselves; it is my will and desire that all who come under the first and second description shall be comfortably clothed and fed by my heirs while they live; and that such of the latter description as have no parents living, or if living are unable or unwilling to provide for them, shall be bound by the court until they shall arrive at the age of twenty five years; and in cases where no record can be produced whereby their ages can be ascertained, the judgment of the court upon its own view of the subject, shall be adequate and final. The Negroes thus bound are (by their masters or mistresses) to be taught to read and write and to be brought up to some useful occupation agreeably to the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia providing for the support of orphan and other poor children. And I do hereby expressly forbid the sale or transportation out of the said Commonwealth of any slave I may die possessed of, under any pretense whatsoever. And I do moreover most pointedly and most solemnly enjoin it upon my executors hereafter named, or the survivors of them, to see that this clause respecting slaves and every part thereof be religiously fulfilled at the epoch at which it is directed to take place without evasion, neglect or delay, after the crops which may then be on the ground are harvested, particularly as it respects the aged and infirm; Seeing that a regular and permanent fund be established for their support so long as there are subjects requiring it, not trusting to the uncertain provision to be made by individuals. And to my mulatto man, William (calling himself William Lee), I give immediate freedom; or if he should prefer it (on account of the accidents which have rendered him incapable of walking or of any active employment) to remain in the situation he now is, it shall be optional to him to do so: In either case, however, I allow him an annuity of thirty dollars during his natural life, which shall be independent of the victuals and clothes he has been accustomed to receive, if he chooses the last alternative; but in full, with his freedom, if he prefers the first; and this I give him as a testimony of my sense of his attachment to me, and for his faithful services during the Revolutionary War." - Last Will and Testament, December 14, 1799  From Quotes by George Washington, Revolutionary War and Beyond.

Abraham Lincoln

I came across this dream that President Lincoln had three days before his assassination. I find it quite fascinating that he had this premonition. It calls to mind other leaders who knew that their life's mission was ending.

Lincoln Memorial jimbowen0306
"Three days prior to his assassination, Abraham Lincoln related a dream he had to his wife and a few friends. According to Ward Hill Lamon, one of the friends who was present for the conversation, the President said: About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. I saw light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. 'Who is dead in the White House?' I demanded of one of the soldiers, 'The President,' was his answer; 'he was killed by an assassin.' Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since." From Assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

When did slavery end for your family? Are you sure?

Not all slavery ended on 1863 or in 1865 after the Civil War. Antoinette Harrell, renown genealogist and talk show host, has uncovered thousands of records on the state and federal level that document Peonage which limited freedom to a great extent after Emancipation and into the 20th Century.

Join us on the Nurturing Our Roots BlogTalkRadio Show Sunday, February 20, at 5pm Pacific, 6pm Mountain, 7pm Central, 8pm Eastern when Ms. Harrell will uncover the untold story about:
  • What is Peonage?
  • Records documenting Peonage and their genealogical value
  • What was life like for those living under the unlawful institution of Peonage?
  • Cases of Peonage in the 20th Century
This will be the episode that you certainly will not want to miss! 
Robin Foster
Saving Stories

Click Here to Join   Call in: (347) 237-5191

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

That a Nation Might Live: Civil War Sesquicentennial Podcast

I am really excited to announce "That a Nation Might Live," a Civil War Sesquicentennial audio podcast series launched by Longwood Univeristy located in Farmville, Virginia.  This podcast series, developed by Dr. Chuck Ross and Dr. David Coles of Longwood University, will run each week through 2015 highlighting people, events, and issues 150 years ago.

This will be a great way for you to put this time period and you ancestor's life into proper perspective.  Civil War enthusiasts and member of the general public are welcome to engage in discussions.  Each session is between two to four minutes.

You can catch up quickly with episodes that have been posted.  The first episode was, "Background Causes of the Civil War."  Each of the online weekly podcasts is available on iTunes.
Episode 1:  Background Causes of the Civil War

There is a section for comments beneath each episode.  You can also connect on
Twitter: (@CivilWarWeeks) and Facebook:  That a Nation Might Live.

We have ample evidence that shows that African Americans knew that as they battled for freedom they were at the same time preserving the Union.

Both causes were inseparable, and we should be certain to consider people, events, and choices in light of the two.

To learn more about "That a Nation Might Live," visit:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fanny Jackson-Coppin's aunt purchased her for 125 dolllars

 Fanny Jackson Coppin by JerryOrr at Wikipedia

I have always wanted to discover more stories about specific African American women during the Civil War.  I found the autobiography REMINISCENCES of School Life, and Hints on Teaching by Fanny Jackson Coppin (1837-1913) who was born a slave in Washington DC were she first recounts being sent to live with her grandmother at three years old to keep her company. 

Her grandmother was also her caretaker and her grandfather purchased her aunt Sarah and some of his other children, but for some reason, he would not purchase Fanny's mother, Lucy.  This left Fanny in the care of her aging grandmother while her mother went out to work.

Fanny suffered two severe burns during these occasions.  Once she had been tied to a chair too close to the stove, and when her stockings were removed, the skin from the side of the leg near the stove came off with it.  She did not know what the word meant, but every night she would hear her grandmother ask God to bless her "offspring."

Her Aunt Sarah was able to find a job making six dollars a month.  She saved on hundred and twenty-five dollars and purchased Fanny's freedom.  She went to live with an aunt in New Bedford, Massachusetts where she was allowed to attend school as long as she did not have washing, ironing, or cleaning to do.

At 14, Fanny was able to go to live with another aunt who was related by marriage until she followed her desire to take care of herself. She found a more permanent place and attended both public school and took private lessons.  She discovered she had the desire to teach, and with the help of Aunt Sarah, she was able to enter Oberlin College in 1860 which was the only college in the United States that African Americans could attend.  Oberlin had the same course of study as Havard at the time.

Fanny had occasion to teach classes herself during her junior year.   During her senior year she had the opportunity to teach  some of the freedmen who came from the South and settled in Oberlin. See REMINISCENCES of School Life, and Hints on Teaching, page 18.

Fanny graduated from Oberlin in August of 1865.  She speaks of riots in New York andvery bitter feelings being projected against African Americans in 1863 because people believed they were responsible for the war.  She began teaching at Oberlin in 1865.  See REMINISCENCES of School Life, and Hints on Teaching,  page 19.

I would encourage you to read her book, REMINISCENCES of School Life, and Hints on Teaching.  I only have touched on a few events in her life during slavery and before 1865.  Her pioneering efforts in education were immense, and she shares her interesting techniques for teaching reading, math and more.  Her story takes away any accuse a person could offer for not realizing success.
Coppin, Fanny Jackson. 1913. Reminiscences of School Life, and Hints on Teaching. Documenting the American South. University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Date added 1999.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Slave narratives provide clues and are oral history too

Do not overlook the value of slave narratives when searching for clues about your ancestor.  Even though you may not find your ancestor's interview among, you may find a slave master's name or a narrative of an ex-slave with the same surname or a record of someone who lived on the same or nearby plantation.

I search slave narratives for common surnames, geographical areas, and words that lead to more information about events.  Some of the words I search that help me understand history and slave life are Yankee, church, Lincoln, Christmas, war, Davis, etc.

Many of the slave narratives that I have found can be accessed here: African American Resources:  Slave Narratives

The following is a narrative from an ex-slave, Lila Rutherford of Newberry, South Carolina, who was born in the same area where my ancestors lived during slavery.  I recognize the surnames Suber and Rutherford and Cannon.   Surprisingly, in this particular narrative, Lila speaks about things not being so bad even though she cites things such as whippings, having to work from sun-up to sun-down, not having a school or church nearby.  Perhaps slavery did not seem so bad anymore because she is speaking in hindsight over 70 years later. 

One thing quite interesting is the account of her marriage.  See the account below.


"I was born about 1849 in the Dutch Fork of Newberry County, S.C. I was slave of Ivey Suber and his good wife. My daddy was Bill Suber and my mammy was Mary Suber. I was hired by Marse Suber as a nurse in the big house, and I waited on my mistress when she was sick, and was at her bed when she died. I had two sisters and a brother and when we was sold they went to Mr. Suber's sister and I stayed with him.

"My master was good to his slaves. He give them plenty to eat, good place to sleep and plenty of clothes. The young men would hunt lots, rabbits, possums, and birds. My white folks had a big garden and we had eats from it. They was good cooks, too, and lived good. We card and spin and weave our own clothes on mistress's spinning wheels.
"Marse Suber had one overseer who was good to us. We went to work at sun-up and worked 'till sun-down, none of us worked at night. We sometimes got a whipping when we wouldn't work or do wrong, but it wasn't bad.

"We never learned to read and write. We had no church and no school on the plantation, but we could go to the white folk's church and sit in the gallery. Some of us was made to go, and had to walk 10 miles. Of course, we never thought much about walking that far. I joined the church because I was converted; I think everybody ought to join the church.[58]

"The patrollers rode 'round and ketched slaves who ran away without passes. They never bothered us. When our work was over at night, we stayed home, talked and went to sleep. On Saturday afternoons white folks sometimes give us patches of ground to work, and we could wash up then, too. We raised corn on the patches and some vegetables. On Sunday we just rested and went to neighbor's house or to church. On Christmas we had big eats.
"Corn-shuckings and cotton-pickings always had suppers when work was done. Master made whiskey up at his sister's place, and at these suppers he had whiskey to give us.
"When we was sick we had a doctor—didn't believe much in root teas.

"I married when I was 15 years old at a white man's place, Mr. Sam Cannon's. A negro man named Jake Cannon married us. Supper was give us by Mr. Sam Cannon after it was over.

"When freedom came, my mother moved away, but I stayed on.
"I think Abraham Lincoln was a good man, and Jeff Davis was a good man. I don't know anything about Booker Washington."
SOURCE: Lila Rutherford (86), Newberry, S.C., RFD
Interviewer: G. Leland Summer, 1707 Lindsey St., Newberry, S.C.


Prepared by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of South Carolina, page 57, Project Gutenberg eBook of Slave Narratives:  Lila Rutherford (86). Accessed Feb 10, 2011.

See also: 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Looking for tips to help you find your African American ancestor?

When you reach the period prior to 1870, uncovering information about your ancestor can become quite challenging.   Tukufu from History Detectives talks about the challenges of conducting African American genealogical research and gives tips on how to find the information you need.

Watch the full episode. See more History Detectives.

Sometimes history can be found right in your own backyard, and you can set the record straight.  Watch as one man literally rewrites Civil War history in Columbia, South Carolina. 

Watch the full episode. See more History Detectives.

Friday, February 4, 2011

President Obama issues proclamation on 2011 African American History Month

President Barack Obama issued a proclamation on February 1, 2011.  No, I did not see a press release or any other announcement yet besides this one.  I found it while scouring the internet. He begins with a quote from "the great abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass" who said, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress," and then acknowledges our struggle along with referring to Black History Month as African American History Month.   He also acknowledges this year's official theme:

Obama's dawn, By Kathryn Cramer, Jan 16, 2009

"This year's theme, "African Americans and the Civil War," invites us to reflect on 150 years since the start of the Civil War and on the patriots of a young country who fought for the promises of justice and equality laid out by our forbearers. In the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln not only extended freedom to those still enslaved within rebellious areas, he also opened the door for African Americans to join the Union effort." 
President Obama also acknowledged the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans in the military, in the struggle for civil rights, and in achievements that have helped to make this nation great.  He specifically calls on " public officials, educators, librarians, and all the people of the United States to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities."  Read the President's proclamation here:  Obama’s Proclamation on African American History Month, 2011.

I am wondering if it would be most appropriate to stick to the official theme of the 2011 African American History Month.  The proclamation was distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Since they have linked the article, Black History Month Honors Legacy of Struggle and Triumph, to the President's proclamation, perhaps they should update it because it makes no mention of this year's theme. The feature photo, is the photo of the bus that Rosa Parks rode when she would not give up her seat.

A third grader told me yesterday what she learned the Civil War was about, "They were fighting over land."  Of course I took the opportunity to explain a little more to her.  This is only one example and the subject is very young still, but I feel it is everyone's responsibility to provide resources based on "African Americans in the Civil War." 

If you search the internet for "Black History Month 2011,"  you will only see one result on the first page from the ASALH:  National Black History Month Themes (See also 2011 Black History Theme).  The second page of results only has one result from the Library of Congress:  African American History Month.  This adds up to 2 results out of twenty.  I hope that changes soon for the sake of the countless people how are looking for supplemental resources.

According to the ASALH timeline of past themes (National Black History Month Themes), this is only the second time the focus has been the American Civil War.  The last time we focused on this topic was in 1997.  Many resources have become available since then.  That is why it is difficult to understand why some do not have "African Americans in the Civil War" as the main focus:

 Please share any online resources you find that are sticking to this year's theme.

Our Journey 1: Freeing future generations from the effects of slavery

Your first question may be, "So what makes you an authority?"  I have made significant strides along the path to becoming totally free from the grips of the effects of slavery in my life.  My efforts have made even more of an impact upon the two most precious people in my life pictured below.