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It’s 2012 ~ Happy New Year!!

Wishing you good health, love, peace and happiness in the new year.  

From my family to yours.

 Happy New Year!

Category: Holidays  2 Comments

My cousin Peggy and I connected online in May 2007 through Ancestry.com.  According to Ancestry’s relationship calculator, Peggy is my 2nd cousin 1x removed.  My maternal great grandmother, Sudie Parks, and Peggy’s grandfather, Johnson Parks, were brother and sister.  Peggy and I had an instant connection, and we love exchanging and sharing family information and history.

Peggy shared some family photos with me, including this one her.  

The instant I looked at the photo I had this strange and tingling sensation go through my body.  She’s a cutie-pie – no doubt about it!  But there was something else…something familiar. How could that be? I had never met Peggy.  Although we both have relatives still living in Pike and Meriwether counties here in Georgia our paths had never crossed. But, I just could not shake that feeling – I kept thinking…”this picture looks so familiar”…so familiar.  It wasn’t that I had seen the photo before. No, it was just…just…I could not put my finger on it, and I could not shake the feeling. There was just something about that picture. It was driving me crazy.

I pulled out one of my photo albums and started looking through the photos.  Then, it dawned on me.  I finally realized why Peggy’s photo looked familiar. But, I thought to myself I had to be wrong…it must be just my imagination. I had not seen the photo I was looking for in years.  My mind and eyes were playing tricks on me; I just thought they were similar.  My search took on a new intensity.  I knew exactly the picture I was looking for, but where was it???  I had to find that picture.

Finally, there it was and that strange tingling feeling returned, but this time it was accompanied by a smile.   I scanned the picture and immediately called Peggy and told her I was sending an email with a photo attached. I wanted her to call me as soon as it came through and she had looked at the picture.

A few minutes later, Peggy called me screaming OMG!!!  We both laughed and went OMG!!  This is the photo I sent Peggy.

Can you see why we were screaming??   IT’S ME!!

Yesterday, I wrote about finding documents for some of my ancestors’ slave holders in the Confederate Citizens File on Footnote. You can read that post here. Last night as I continued to browse through the collection, I found several records that mentioned slaves by name.  The owners had been paid for labor rendered by their slave to the  Confederate government.  This particular document was in a 12 page  file for Joseph A Gates of Virginia and mentions “Hire of Slave Nelson, as Laborer” several times.1  As I said in my post, these records are a rich genealogy resource.  Take some time and browse the collection. You might be surprised by what you find.

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  1.  ”Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-65,”  digital images, Footnote.com ( : accessed 20 January 2011), record for Gates, Joseph A, Petersburg,Virginia, 18 February 1864, page 8 of 12, citing National Archives Record Group 109, (also known as the “Citizen File” NARA M346).

In honor and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr (15 January 1929 – 4 April 1968)

Category: Daily Themes, Reflections  

Today is Friday, December 31st the last day of 2010.  Soon we will begin a new year – 2011.  In the New Year, I am looking forward to breaking through some of my many brick walls and wish you much luck and success in breaking down yours.  What has presented the most challenges in my past research, and what will mostly likely do so in the future, is identifying the former slave owner of my ancestors or finding documentation to support my theory of a likely slave owner.   One of my research goals for 2011 is to identify and document at least one former slave owner of one of my ancestors from either my Taliaferro line (paternal) or my Middlebrooks line (maternal).   

With that research goal in mind, I decided that my last post for 2010 would not be the typical list of genealogy “resolutions” for the New Year.  Instead, I decided to repost my favorite post from 2010 – A Friend of Friends: Lessons From The Underground Railroad.  I believe we saw more sharing and mutual respect among researchers in 2010.   My wish is that the spirit and intent conveyed in the A Friend of Friends post carries over and continues to grow in 2011. 

Happy New Year to all!! 

I am not ashamed of my grandparents for having been slaves. I am only ashamed of myself for having at one time been ashamed. ~Ralph Ellison~

 

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(Originally posted on 15 January 2010) 

 A Friend of Friends: Lessons From The Underground Railroad 

One night during the holidays I watched one of my favorite movies, Roots: The Gift. The movie stars LeVar Burton and Louis Gossett, Jr., in their roles as Kunta Kinte and Fiddler from the television series Roots. In this movie, Kunta and Fiddler accompany their owner to another plantation at Christmas time for a party, and become involved in a plan to help some runaway slaves escape via the Underground Railroad to freedom. A simple, yet powerful story. There are many messages and lessons to be learned from Roots: The Gift.
 
In one of my favorite scenes, Fiddler and Kunta are helping the group of runaway slaves get to the river where they are to meet a boat that will take them further on their journey to freedom. Along the way they make a stop to pick up other “passengers” on the Underground Railroad. When they come to a farmhouse, Kunta approaches and knocks. The man asks…”who goes”? Kunta responds “Friend of Friends”…in acknowledgment, the man replies “Friend of Friends”. A group of “passengers” exit the house. Kunta, Fiddler, and the group continue their journey. 

This year, I was particularly moved by the Underground Railroad scene, and even more so by the phrase uttered by Kunta- Friend of Friends. The phrase, and variations of it, was used along the Underground Railroad as a password or signal to those assisting runaway slaves on their journey North…to freedom. The traditional response to the “who goes there” password is said to have been “A Friend of a Friend”. 

A Friend of Friends. Say it… A Friend of Friends, again…A Friend of Friends. It evokes such a comforting, welcoming feeling. A feeling of trust, of sharing, of caring, of kindness, and of friendship, however brief. At the same time, it is transient…adjusting and changing with the circumstances. I’m A Friend of Friends….you don’t know me, but I require assistance…I need your help, and guidance…some information to aid me on my journey…then I’ll be moving on…to the next stop along the way. 

The phrase, and the underlying concept, seems particularly appropriate and relevant for those of us in the genealogy community; aren’t we all on some level really just A Friend of Friends? Strangers helping strangers. Friends of friends with a common bond that ties us all together….the desire to know our ancestors, and to tell their stories. A common goal, with different methods, different paths that cross and intersect along the journey. As we travel this road to uncovering our ancestors and their stories we should all embrace the concept…we should be A Friend of Friends. Don’t be afraid or reluctant to share, to care, to guide, or to assist your fellow researcher along their journey. 

As an African American researcher my task is two-fold; I research my family, but inevitably I must also research the family of my ancestor’s slave holders if I want to know more about my roots. Often we must seek information (assistance) from those that we do not know to aid us on our journey. It is an unavoidable truth – the descendants of our ancestor’s slave holding families may hold the key to our enslaved ancestor’s past. Slavery is an ugly truth of our shared history. I am not angry with you because your ancestor held my ancestor as a slave; don’t be angry with me because I seek those records that may shed more light on the lives of my people, and help me to tell their story more completely. Some who were members of slave holding families assisted passengers along the Underground Railroad. I challenge you to be A Friend of Friends

We, as researchers of our African American ancestry, must also remember to share, to care, to guide, and to assist our fellow researchers; reach out, take time….no, make time. Can you request and expect the assistance of others, yet not expect the same of yourself? I urge you to stop being selfish with your research. Don’t miss out on a connection or a long lost cousin because of fear or uncertainty. Post It, Blog It, Share It, and Publish It. Many who were passengers along the Underground Railroad returned to assist others on their journey to freedom. I challenge you to be A Friend of Friends

True genealogists know all of this, and understand the necessity of it. Indeed, the concept is nothing new in the genealogy community. Random, and not so random, acts of kindness occur every day. So, consider this a wake-up call, my challenge to you. When a fellow researcher comes calling…for info…for guidance…for knowledge…for support – be there – to share, to care, to guide, and to assist. 

KNOCK, KNOCK!?! 

WHO GOES THERE? 

A FRIEND OF FRIENDS 

 

  

In August 1969, my high school Russian class was given an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity to take an all expenses paid trip to Russia.  I often reflect back on that trip and how blessed we were, as young African Americans, to have such a unique experience.   We were accompanied by a photographer from Ebony magazine, and the trip was featured in the magazine’s November 1969 issue in an article titled To Russia – With Understanding.  We were also followed by cameras from the television news show 60 Minutes and featured in a segment on the show – Booker T. Washington High School Goes to Russia.  We were interviewed by a local television station here in Atlanta, and there was an article in the newspaper.  Yes, it was our “15 minutes of fame”.

At our 40th high school class reunion this past August, we were reunited with classmates from our trip.  This reunion was made even more special by a visit from our Russian teacher, Ms. Billie (Davis) Gaines.  Many of us had not seen Ms. Gaines since high school.  There were hugs and laughter, and yes, a few tears.  It was truly a joyous occasion.  There was much to share and reminisce about.  It was an evening we will probably never forget.  It was a night for -   Memories of Russia – Then & Now.

Top photo: Ebony Magazine, To Russia – With Understanding, November 1969. ()

Bottom photo: From the personal collection of the owner of this blog.

 , the , and, have joined forces to digitize every surviving estate inventory for Colonial and Charleston South Carolina from 1732 to 1872, as well as selected Bills of Sale for the same period, in a FREE collection.  When the project is complete, the names of more than 30,000 enslaved ancestors from Charleston and surrounding counties will be restored to history in a free online collection, preserved for generations to come. There are thousands of American Slaves, noted by name, listed in these estate inventories!

I just finished indexing my first 10 pages, and I plan to do more. In fact, I have committed to help with the indexing until the project is complete.  Once you’ve completed 10 pages, you can claim your Ancestors Badge to display on your blog or website. I claimed my badge today, and proudly display it here.  The more people that get involved with this project the faster this project will be complete.  Why not join the effort today.

Volunteers are needed in this indexing project.
 
Your contribution to indexing the records in the new free Footnote collection  will make an enormous impact.  Go to the to learn more and be a part of bringing the names of those American slaves into the light of family history and genealogy research! Sign up today!  We need your help and support. Please get involved!

I am not ashamed of my grandparents for having been slaves. I am only ashamed of myself for having at one time been ashamed.  ~Ralph Ellison~

On 15 September 2009, I posted on my blog for Tombstone Tuesday On 17 November 2009, I wrote, again for Tombstone Tuesday, . On 2 February 2010, in observance of Black History Month, I posted on Tombstone Tuesday . These three posts were about my search for Rock Springs Cemetery the burial place of my great grandfather John Wesley Taliaferro, his brother Bob Toliver (aka Robert Taliaferro), and another relative Alex Poole. 

Those posts reflect the disappointments of the journey, but also my faith that one day I would find Rock Springs Cemetery.  Along the way, I talked to many experts and those knowledgeable in cemeteries in the metro Atlanta area; none of them knew anything about Rock Springs-had never heard of it. I contacted the Georgia Archives and several local Historical Societies, but no luck. I was advised to give up.  They felt the cemetery was gone, most likely lost to progress. But, I could not let go.  Something kept nagging at me- a strong feeling that it was out there somewhere, and one day I would find it. Well, that day is finally here, and I am filled with a sense of peace and satisfaction that I have finally found Rock Springs Cemetery.

On Wednesday, 25 August 2010, I received a tweet which said – “I know where Rock Spring cemetery is located. My relatives are buried there.” I could not believe what my eyes were seeing. I had waited for, prayed for, hoped for this moment. Quickly, I sent a direct message back with my email address.  “PLEASE contact me!”  I waited.

On Thursday afternoon, 26 August 2010, I received an email inquiring if I was really interested in finding Rock Springs Cemetery.  Really interested??  Are you kidding me? That was an understatement if I ever heard one. The sender also gave me their surname which I knew from my research belonged to some of the people buried in Rock Springs.  My excitement was growing; this just might be the real deal. OMG!!!  Anxiously, I emailed back with a few more details about my interest in Rock Springs and my relatives who are buried there.  I waited.

Later in the day I received another email asking whether I was from Atlanta, and telling me that “if we are on the same page” Rock Springs Cemetery was in Forest Park, GA. YES!!! Same page, same paragraph, same sentence, same place…Rock Springs Cemetery. Chills up my spine…goose bumps!!  This was great news, but WHERE in Forest Park, GA??

I frantically emailed back. “Yes, from Atlanta…, live here now…, born and raised. My brother and I have traveled up and down Jonesboro Road, including the Forest Park area, up and down the side streets too, many, many times. Very excited…really appreciate you contacting me. Can you PLEASE give me the location of Rock Springs Cemetery?” I waited…and waited..and waited.

Friday, 27 August 2010. I don’t remember sleeping, but I must have ‘cause I remember waking up. I decided not to check my email first thing, just in case there was no response.  I did a few other things then casually opened my email….la de da.  A quick glance..nothing.  My heart sank. Exhale.  Another glance, and there it was with the subject line – Directions to Cemetery.  My brother was dressed and ready in his “cemetery exploring” clothes with camera in hand before I could finish reading the directions, and sending out a quick thank you email.

The directions were incredibly easy to follow.  In no time we were there…off the interstate, three lights, a right,  pass the cement wall and there it was…the dirt road leading into Rock Springs Cemetery…on Conley Road in Forest Park, GA. There are no signs or markers pointing “this way” to Rock Springs, but there it is.

On the day of our visit, Rock Springs was overgrown with weeds and littered with limbs and debris. However, my contact (who I won’t name for privacy reasons) informs me that this is not the normal condition of the cemetery.  The cemetery was cleaned to perfection in early Spring, and what we witnessed on our visit was  new vegetation that has grown in since that time.  A lawn service is scheduled to come for another clean-up very soon.  Once the clean-up is done, I’ll be sure to post updated pictures.  It’s great to know that this historic African American cemetery is loved and has not be forgotten.

I now know some of the history of Rock Springs Cemetery; two acres were purchased for the cemetery by my contact’s ancestor, it was deeded in 1893, and it is also known as Macedonia Cemetery. I have seen that name in my research, but never made the connection to Rock Springs.  I know that a relative buried their infant son in Macedonia, and I thought it interesting that he was not buried at Rock Springs, but he actually was I just didn’t know. Talk about pieces of the puzzle coming together. It’s funny how you know more than you think you know, but you don’t know that until you find out what you don’t know.  Does that make sense?!?

As many times as my brother and I traveled Jonesboro Road, and even Conley Road, for some reason we never turned down that end. Each time we would ride around searching I kept saying “I think we’re missing something..I think we’re missing something.” It’s amazing. I guess things don’t happen until it’s time. (Or, maybe I am guilty of not conducting a reasonably exhaustive search.) Whatever the reason, I guess the ancestors thought it was time for us to find Rock Springs Cemetery. 

I am sure there are over 100 graves in the cemetery, but we did not find a headstone or marker for my great grandfather John Wesley Taliaferro, his brother Bob Toliver (aka Robert Taliaferro), or Alex Poole.  There were no Taliaferros, Tolivers or Pooles among the many readable headstones.  It would be a lie to say that I was not a little sad at not finding physical evidence that my ancestors are buried here.  We always want that final piece of proof; the one thing that undeniably confirms “this is the right place”. 

Surprisingly, that does not tarnish what I consider a great victory in my research. This is an incredible blessing from my ancestors. Not finding evidence of them does not diminish the thrill of the hunt. One more brick wall has come down. There are headstones for some of the other people I know from my research are buried at Rock Springs, and that I listed in my post Rock Springs Cemetery- Lest I Forget. I will have to use them as proof, along with other circumstantial evidence, that this is the same Rock Springs Cemetery where my ancestors were laid to rest.  I know in my heart that it is.

 

“Juneteenth”
(Painting by G. Rose)

Image Source:  Juneteenth of St. Petersburg, INC. Assessed 15 June 2010.

Category: Wordless Wednesday  

This is one of my favorite photos.  That’s me looking all “prim and proper” as my mom would say. It was taken on Easter Sunday at a park in downtown Atlanta. I think I was about 7 or 8 years old. I loved to dress up for Easter, and get my hair done in lots of babydoll curls. It was always a happy day for me. I hope you have happy Easter memories too.

Happy Easter!