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National Black Genealogy Summit, October 20-22, 2011, Fort Wayne, IN

 The National Black Genealogy Summit will take place October 20 – 22, 2011 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Fort Wayne is home to one of the nation’s most comprehensive collections of genealogy records, and an excellent source of documents pertaining to Black genealogy in particular. The three-day conference will feature a number of nationally-known genealogy and research experts, and a wide variety of workshops for everyone from beginners to experienced family researchers. The event is sponsored by the Indiana Genealogical Society; the Friends of the Allen County Public Library; and Ancestry.com. For more information, please visit .

Documenting Slave Owners Using The Confederate Citizens File At Footnote.com

Yesterday, Robin of posted an article on the blog titled . These records are mostly alphabetized vouchers that show goods furnished or services rendered by private citizens and businesses to the Confederate government. These records are digitized on . After reading Robin’s article, I surfed right over to Footnote to check out this collection. Robin had found info that documented the slave owner of one of her ancestors, and I hoped to do the same.

 I searched in the Confederate Citizens File using the name Taliaferro and then added Georgia to narrow the results. After clicking through a few documents I found several for an “E. M. Taliaferro”.  I recognized the name immediately. E. M. is Edward Mobley Taliaferro. The Taliferros, Edward and his father Richard lived in Georgia and were the slave holders of my paternal great, great grandfather Miles Taliaferro and his son John Wesley Taliaferro, my great grandfather.  I have an 1856 Inventory and Appraisement that documents Richard Taliaferro as the slave owner of Miles and John. You can see that inventory in this previous post .

The document I found shows that on 9 July 1864, E. M. Taliaferro was paid 280 dollars for 8,615 pounds of oats sold at 31/2 cents per pound. 1

Wait! As soon as I saw this image I realized I had actually found this document before and it was in my gallery on Footnote.  Lesson: Keep a research log and document what you find (and don’t find).

 I continued to search; I replaced Taliaferro with “Gates” but kept Georgia as a search term.  Jack Gates was my maternal great grandfather; he was my grandmother’s father. I strongly suspect his slave owner was Benjamin Gates of Meriwether County, GA.  I found records for a Benjamin Gates in Meriwether and Troup Counties.  Then I substituted “Middlebrooks” for Gates. Alexander “Alex” Middlebrooks (my great grandfather) was born in Harris County, GA.  A possible slave owner is John Middlebrooks and I found a record for a John Middlebrooks of Harris County, GA. Harris County borders Alabama. I believe my Middlebrooks ancestors have an Alabama connection.  I saw several records for Middlebrooks in areas of Alabama around and near Harris County.

 There is no shortage of records to pursue for more clues to possible slave owners.  The Confederate Citizens File is a rich genealogical resource. But, it will require patience and persistence to reap the rewards.

 Several of the records I found mentioned other individuals and referenced additional records that can be checked for further documentation.  For example, there was a document for Gates, Benj K of  Meriwether Co GA that referred you to the case of Alfred S Greer, and a record for Middlebrooks, John A that referred you to the case of Henry T Huff.  These records could hold information that can help me identify and confirm my ancestor’s slave owners.

 Of course, there is much more research to come before I can document, with any certainty, the slave owners of my Gates and Middlebrooks ancestors, and I continue to look for additional doumentation on the Taliaferro slave owners. The records I found do provide more avenues to pursue before I can add another piece to the puzzle.  My thanks go to Robin and her article for leading me to these records, and for motivating me to continue the search to document my ancestors.

                                                    

  1. “Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-65,”  digital images, Footnote.com ( : accessed 19 January 2011), record for E. M. Taliaferro, Atlanta, Georgia, page 3 of 3, a payment of 280 dollars on  9 July 1864, citing National Archives Record Group 109, (also known as the “Citizen File” NARA M346).

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 

 

  

2nd Edition, Carnival of African American Genealogy ~ Grandma’s Hand: Grandmothers and Their Influence On The Family

It’s Grandmothers Day at the Carnival of African American Genealogy.  The theme for this 2nd Edition of the CoAAG is Grandma’s Hand: Grandmothers and Their Influence On The Family. We invited you to tell your stories and share memories of your grandmother.  The stories we received pulled at our emotions and warmed our hearts.  They reflect the heart and soul that is in every grandmother.  Grandmothers are the cornerstone and foundations of our families; not just African American families, but all families.  Your stories and memories reflect the truth of that statement.

An array of grandmothers has shown up for this very special event, and the spotlight is shining on them.  A gallery of beautiful images starts this event followed by stories full of love and special memories.  We hope you enjoy this special CoAAG.  It’s all about our Grandmothers.  We are here to honor them.

The and are needed.

Vicky Daviss-Mitchell presents posted at . Vicky makes us laugh, cry, and smile with memories of her grandmother, Essie Dean Taylor.

Felicia Mathis presents Carnival of African American Genealogy: posted at Felicia shares memories of a summer in Chicago with her grandmother Lily.  Felicia’s Grandma Lily always said… “What’s done in the dark, will eventually come to light.”

Luckie Daniels presents posted at .  Luckie shares heartwarming memories of her great grandmother Annie.  Luckie’s Grandma Annie always said… “A cow will need his tail to fan flies for more than one summer.”  Meaning: Don’t worry if someone does you wrong, they will need you again!

Angela Walton-Raji presents posted at .  Angela honors her grandmothers with memories of quilts, sassafras tea, and “play pretties”.

Renate Sanders presents posted at .  Renate takes us on a sentimental journey with tributes to her grandmothers.

Mavis Jones presents posted at .  Mavis takes us on a last visit with her “Little Grandmother” Mary Magdalene Pierce Hosch.

Leslie Ann presents posted at .  Leslie Ann shares memories of her Grandma Piggott, on what would have been her 99th birthday.

Gini Webb presents posted at . Gini shares a beautiful tribute to her Oma who recently passed away in Germany at age ninety-six.  Gini holds dear loving memories and keepsakes from her dear sweet Oma.

Luckie Daniels presents posted at .  Luckie shares the poem written by her brother for their great grandmother’s 100th birthday.

Felicia Mathis presents posted at .  Felicia honors the memory of her NaNa- Odessa Amos.

Drusilla Par aka “Professor Dru” presents posted at .  Professor Dru writes about her memories of homemade biscuits made by her maternal grandmother.

Mavis Jones presents posted at .  Mavis shares special memories of her Grandmother Jones.

Kathleen Brandt presents posted at .  Kathleen shares memories of her grandmother and the beautiful quilt made with pieces from her grandmother’s dresses.

Joann presents posted at .  Joann shares loving and beautiful memories of time spent with her grandmother Ruth – shopping and “French Fryers”- “Great Day!”

Sandra Taliaferro presents Carnival of African American Genealogy, 2nd Edition: Grandma’s Hand ~ Julia Ann (GATES) MIDDLEBROOKS MINTER posted at I Never Knew My Father.  Come with me to Woodbury, GA as I share memories of my maternal grandmother.

Amy Cain presents posted at .  Amy shares memories of her Grandmother Para Lee “a tough-talking, no-nonsense disciplinarian”.

Luckie Daniels presents posted at .  Luckie pulls at our heartstrings with memories of her grandmother “Anbownes”.

Dionne Ford presents posted at . Dionne shares loving memories of her great grandmother Marie- “a perfect picture of composure and grace”.

George Geder presents posted at .  George shares memories of his grandmother, Willa Lenard Hancock.

Darlene presents posted at .  Darlene shares great family memories of living with her Grandma Clara.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

CoAAG 3rd Edition ~ They Served With Honor ~ In Memoriam, African-Americans In The Military 1914-1953

Host: Amy Cain of

Military research can yield important genealogical information. Yet, many overlook this valuable resource.  Have you researched military records for your African American ancestors? In your research, what did you find out about their service?  If you have not done any research in military records, this CoAAG presents the perfect opportunity to get started.

For the 3rd Edition of the CoAAG, tell us about your African American ancestor(s) who served in the military and write a post to honor them.  If you don’t have an African American ancestor with military service, but know of one who served honorably make this an occasion to honor that person.

Submissions deadline: 12 May 2010

HOW TO SUBMIT

There are two options:

  • By Submission Form. Use the quick and easy provided by provided by Blog Carnival.
  • By Email. Send an email to the CoAAG at CoAAG2010@gmail.com.  Include your blog name, the post title and permalink URL of your carnival submission.  Make sure to put ‘They Served With Honor’ in your email subject line!

Well, that’s it for this 2nd Edition of the CoAAG. I would say we did our grandmothers proud.  Don’t you agree?  Thank you for supporting the Carnival of African-American Genealogy!  You make it possible…You keep it alive!  See you next time – Wednesday, May 19th – when the 3rd Edition of CoAAG comes to town!

All the best,

** A special “Thank You” to Luckie Daniels for the image gallery, and for her guidance through this process. Your support and assistance were invaluable.

Carnival of African American Genealogy, 2nd Edition: Grandma’s Hand ~ Julia Ann (GATES) MIDDLEBROOKS MINTER

My maternal grandmother was Julia Ann GATES.  She was born in Woodbury, Meriwether, GA, to Jack GATES and Georgia Ann THOMPSON, on 30 April 1894. She died on 4 January 1970, in Warm Springs, Meriwether, GA (a few days after the death of my father). It was strange to lose two people of such close blood kinship to me yet I never knew one, and had only a distant relationship with the other.

Initially, I thought I’d have very little to write about for this 2nd edition of the CoAAG – Grandma’s Hand; Grandmothers and Their Influence On The Family. I’m the host, and I chose the theme, yet I had no memories to pull from; no words of wisdom or gems to live by from my grandmother. I did not know my grandmother; not in the very personal way that you think of a grandmother/ granddaughter relationship.  Honestly, I am deeply saddened by that fact. I thought, “What in the world can I write about? What can I say?” I thought long, and I thought hard. Then I waited, and waited for the memories to come.  As a good friend had advised….I waited for my grandmother to speak to me, to show me how to tell her story. Then I realized I did have memories, very vivid memories of several trips down to Woodbury, GA to visit my grandmother.  In my memories of those visits are the memories of my grandmother.  So, travel with me to Woodbury, GA and meet my grandmother Julia Ann GATES…the way I remember her.

When I was young, my mom and I would take the bus from Atlanta to Woodbury to visit my grandmother.  Not often. In fact, I only remember doing that two times.  After we got off the bus in town, we had to walk the rest of the way.  I remember on the walk to my grandmother’s house we would pass a big white house that sat way back from the road on the left.  That is where my grandmother worked as a cook.  We would stop there first, and go to the back door to the kitchen where my grandmother was cooking.  We never stayed long, just a brief stop, and I always wondered why we had to hurry.  I was recently told by a cousin that the “big white house” as I called it was the hotel.  The briefness of the visit makes sense now, but it didn’t then.  It was not a long walk to my grandmother’s house, but not a short one either. After we crossed the railroad tracks, the road turned to dirt; red dirt, Georgia red clay my mom would say.  The next landmark I remember is the old white church on the right. My mother and her brothers went to school in that church. Turn right at the church; that’s what my young mind would say as we walked along; for some reason I was always afraid we would get lost. We walked; sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but always with a sense of purpose…heading to my grandmother’s house.  As I think about it now, there was no feeling of happiness or excitement as you would expect on a visit to your grandmother’s.

My grandmother’s house was not far down the road across from an endless field of what I called “white stuff” that was actually cotton. My mom said everybody in our family had picked cotton in that field.  It was many years later before I could digest the meaning and significance of that bit of family history.  My grandmother’s house was just three rooms. It seemed pretty small when compared to the endless fields of cotton and corn that stretched for miles on either side. I think they called it a shotgun house, because, I was told, you could stand at the front door and shoot straight through the house and out the back door. I guess that was true because from the front door you could look straight down a short hallway to the back door, and outside if the door was open.  Silly me, I kept asking “where was the shotgun?”

Once inside, I felt warm and comfortable, a little scared, but safe.  Was that the comfort of a grandmother?  The feeling I long for today, but can’t quite grasp.  There was a bedroom to the right with a beautiful pink bedspread that had lots of flowers; it was shiny, and felt like silk. (I think my grandmother gave me that bedspread, and I still have it somewhere; got to find it).  I remember pictures, and other stuff…I wonder what happened to all of it.  

To the left was another bigger room with two beds; one along the wall to the right as you entered the door, and another bigger one across from that by the window. That’s where we all slept; in that room with the big fireplace, and lamps that used kerosene. Seems there was also a lot of stuff in that room too; pictures, papers maybe, little things collected during a life of living life.  What happened to all my grandmother’s stuff after she died? I wish I had some of it to help me remember her. 

The room had an iron railed headboard, and seems I just sank right down in the middle of the bed because it was “a feather mattress” my grandma said.  You could feel the memories in that room; decades of my family history.  My mom said that once there was a tornado and after it was over the roof was gone, and her brother’s head was trapped between two of those rails in that headboard. (That would be my uncle – Alexander “AJ” MIDDLEBROOKS.)  That was sooooo funny to me, and we laughed and laughed…me, my mom, and my grandma.  But, after that I was scared to sleep in that bed. Just in case there was another tornado, you understand, right?  But, I finally did fall asleep; sunk down in the middle of the feather mattress with my mom and grandma close by, the warmth of the fire from the fireplace, and the kerosene lamp that bathed the room in a soft golden glow.

The kitchen had iron stove, a table, and another bed along the back near the door.  There was always food, and the stove was warm from cooking. I woke up to the smell of country ham and fresh biscuits with homemade preserves for breakfast. It must have been my grandma who did all that…taking care of me and my mama on our visit just like grandmothers do. My grandmother sometimes brought food home from the hotel but, if not she always made me fried chicken, biscuits and apple pie.  I never actually saw her cooking it, but it was always there still warm and fresh.

In the back down a long path was an outhouse.  Oh boy, do I remember that. Now, thinking back I know this was the main reason I was so apprehensive on these visits. There was no way I could hold “it” till we got back to Atlanta, but also nooooooo way I was going out there.  So my grandmother made “other arrangements” for me.  I will always remember that she told my mom, “Lillian, that girl don’t have to go out there if she don’t want to.”  AND I DID NOT!! Every time I think about that I laugh and laugh; it’s pretty funny now, but it sure wasn’t funny then.

Yes, I remember all those things about my grandmother; they are the things that made her who she was and is to me.

I remember that my grandmother came home late, and left out early the next morning going back to work. I remember her being tired and talking about her legs aching, and not being able to do that work much longer. I remember her being sick and in the hospital; diabetes and something about her legs…bad veins and blood clots. I remember my mama going to her funeral without me. I remember feeling sad, but not shedding a tear.

I remember all these “things” about my grandmother, but I don’t remember feeling her in my heart…not until today.

Grandma’s hands
Clapped in church on Sunday morning
Grandma’s hands
Played a tambourine so well
Grandma’s hands
Used to issue out a warning
She’d say, “Billy don’t you run so fast
Might fall on a piece of glass
“Might be snakes there in that grass”
Grandma’s hands

Most of us have heard these lyrics from the song “ Grandma’s Hands” which was written by Bill Withers about his own grandmother. Many of us identify with the sentiments conveyed in the song. We have all been touched by the love of Grandma’s Hand.

Historically, grandmothers have played an important role in the family and community. Grandmothers are without a doubt the backbone of the family-the matriarchs. This is especially true for African American families. Our grandmothers took care of us, and some even raised us; they showed unconditional love, and ensured we stayed on the straight and narrow. They spoiled you rotten, but never let you forget who was in charge. When grandmama called, you came running; no I’ll be there in a minute, cause most grand mama’s didn’t take no mess. They were our protectors, our teachers, and our caregivers; a source of wisdom and encouragement. Grandmama always said…. or like my Grandma use to say….you remember it all-these words echo throughout our being, and always seem to be there when we need guidance. If she said it, it must be important, and you remember it to this day. They worked, cooked, and cleaned; they took care of their family, and anybody else who was in need. That’s just the way it was.

Grandmothers are the keepers of the family history and traditions passed down generation to generation. How many of us started our research with an interview with Grandma? She had the stories, the names, and the dates. Many of our grandmothers are gone, but left us with a sense of self and family pride that is the foundation of our very being and who we are today. If you are fortunate to still have your grandmother in your life, treasure every moment for they are the jewels of the family.

The stories and memories of our Grandmothers are as diverse as the two photos above. Each one of these beautiful ladies was a Grandmother; they are my Grandmothers. Their lives and stories were very different and yet the same in so many ways. On the left is my maternal Grandmother, Julia Ann (Gates) Middlebrooks Minter, and on the right, my paternal Grandmother, Fannie Mae (Lawrence) Taliaferro. One I knew, the other I did not. They both have a story to tell. I plan to share one or the other, or maybe both. Like a good granddaughter, I’m waiting for them to tell me what to do.

The 2nd edition of the Carnival of African American Genealogy is all about Grandmothers. Tell us about your grandmother, and the impact she had (or continues to have) on your family. Do you have a special memory of Grandma? Share it! Do you have a photo that you cherish? Show it! The spotlight is on grandmothers. Tell us her story, your way. Make your Grandma proud!

I am extremely honored and excited to be the host of this very special 2nd edition of the CoAAG.

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CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

CoAAG 2nd Edition ~ Grandma’s Hand: Grandmothers and Their Influence On The Family

Host: Oh, that’s me folks.  Sandra Taliaferro of I Never Knew My Father

For the 2nd Edition of CoAAG: Grandma’s Hand, write a post about your memories of your grandmother and be sure to include a picture of Grandma if you have one!

Submissions deadline: Monday, 12 April 2010

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HOW TO SUBMIT

There are two options:

  • By Submission Form. Use the quick and easy provided by .
  • By Email. Send an email to me, Sandra Taliaferro, your 2nd Edition Host. Please remember to include your blog name, the post title, and permalink URL of your carnival submission. Make sure to put ‘Grandma’s Hand’ in your email subject line!

 If you’re a first-timer to carnivals, or just need a quick “how to” checkout these two helpful resources:

 

My friend Luckie Daniels of Our Georgia Roots, has written another thought provoking Monday Madness post, this time to the African American Genealogy Community  After commenting on Luckie’s post, I realized I had actually written my next post.  Yes, I could have let that suffice, but I felt I needed to show my support for and belief in Luckie’s position here on my blog.  So often, we sit back in the amen corner bowing our heads up and down in agreement, but never speak-up and take a stance. I wanted to echo Luckie’s sentiments. My comment to her did that, and posting it here reiterates it. There needs to be some serious changes in the African American genealogy community; those changes need to occur sooner, rather than later before we are standing in the shadows as the online genea-community moves forward.

Thank you Luckie for a very timely and long overdue post.  How sad it was to hear people who have been researching their family history for years stand up in a meeting and ask for help, but they are not on the internet, don’t like, won’t do it. There are so any resources out there, and many connections to make, but you won’t find them in your living room or in the archives.  Genealogy is changing, and the African American community of researchers must change with it. And, it’s not only in genealogy. As another comment so appropriately pointed out, we are missing a wealth of information and resources by not being a part of the online community. It is up to us to take advantage of what is there.

After Luckie’s post, , many white researchers are now stepping up and sharing documents that might assist researchers in discovering more about their enslaved ancestors. The first is scheduled for March 19th. Look at all you’ve missed just in the last few weeks! How can you possibly take advantage of the opportunity to have access to documents that could help you make that long-awaited connection, or break down that brick wall, when you are not here-online and interacting with the genea-community?  How can you ask others to help you, when you won’t even help yourself? Luckie has issued a challenge, this time to the African American genealogy community. It is a call to action that I hope our fellow African American researchers will answer-SOON. Let’s not be left behind.

 (Darn, you’re not online, so you probably won’t get to read this, or any of the other posts that geneabloggers are writing every day.  What a SHAME!!)

Once again I am inspired by my genea-friend Luckie Daniels and her recent post on – What Is YOUR Family Story? Learn-Document-SHARE! Luckie challenged all of us to become better preservers of OUR family history. I believe that preservation has to start with us. WE must become better keepers of OUR family “STUFF”.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked family members for information (stories, pictures, documents..anything) only to be told…girl, I don’t have any “stuff”, or honey I just don’t remember any of that old “stuff”, or (my favorite) child, I don’t know what happened to all that old “stuff”. I’m sure you’ve heard similar responses to your requests for family information. Well, that “stuff” was/is your family history. We can’t get angry with anyone but OURSELVES if WE don’t start taking better care of OUR “stuff”.

I remember calling my Auntie Ruth one day and asking what she was doing. She said “just throwing away some old stuff.” This is my aunt on my paternal side, my father’s sister, so of course I was very curious about this “stuff”. “What kind of stuff” I asked. She replied “oh just some old pictures and things.” “NO” I screamed. After some back and forth, I convinced her to dig the pieces of “stuff” out of the trash and save it all for me. A few days later, I received an envelope in the mail. Inside that envelope was some very precious family “stuff” torn into pieces. I was able to piece together and save a picture of my grandmother, and a photo of my father and his brother taken about 1925 when they were little boys. There were also a few pictures of my Auntie Ruth in her younger days. A special piece of “stuff” was my aunt’s high school diploma-torn in half. My aunt had told me the story of how when she was in high school she gave herself a middle name because everyone had one except her. So now I have the high school diploma for Ruth “Louise” Taliaferro. I am so happy that I made that call at that time and saved some of my family “STUFF”.

For the majority of African Americans our ancestors’ stories were never told, recorded or preserved. It is an awful and frustrating reality. However, it will be even more awful if we do not stop the cycle of indifference and disinterest in our own family history. Let’s all do a better job of telling our ancestors’ stories-of keeping and preserving our family history. Let’s all do a better job of preserving, recording, documenting, and sharing our “STUFF” for our ancestors, ourselves, and more importantly, for our future.

So, my question to you….Where’s YOUR Family “STUFF”?