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March Madness ~ Two New Cousins and A Slave Owner Identified!

March Madness wasn’t just going on in basketball last month. March was a very exciting month for my genealogical research.  Ancestor mojo was in full force!

First, I was contacted by a new cousin who is related through my maternal line.  Esther saw my tree on Ancestry and contacted me through another researcher that we have in common who is also a cousin to Esther and probably to me as well.  

My maternal great, great grandparents were Albert Middlebrooks and Malinda [?] of Woodbury, Meriwether County, GA.  They had a daughter Laura Middlebrooks.  Albert and Malinda also had a son, Alexander “Alex” Middlebrooks who was my great grandfather.  Laura and Alex were siblings. Laura Middlebrooks married Salis Stinson and they had a daughter Leola Stinson.  Leola was Esther’s grandmother.  So, Esther and I have the same great, great grandmother. Yes, I said great, great grandmother, not grandparents.  Therein is the mystery.

Esther’s brother did very extensive research on the family.  According to his research, Malinda’s maiden name was Gill.  I had assumed that Malinda’s maiden name was Guise because that is the name listed on the death certificate for my great grandfather, Alex Middlebrooks.  According to family lore, Malinda was part white (probably by a slave owner) and had a child or children fathered by her Gill slave owner.  We don’t know which child or children, but one could have been Laura.  There are notes in the research that Malinda would go up to “the house” and say things like “here, take it, it ain’t mine no way” referring to her child who was fathered by the slave owner.  Fascinating stuff!!

Esther is full of family stories, and our conversations never fail to release another piece of the puzzle.  I am anxious to visit her and go through those “six big binders” of information that her brother complied during his 30 years of research. 

During our first conversation, I told Esther about my 2011 resolution to find a slave owner for my Middlebrooks line.  So far, that has been a major brick wall.  Recently, I found my great grandfather, Alex Middlebrooks, in the 1880 census for Woodbury, Meriwether County working as a laborer on the farm of R.T. Powell.  His name was enumerated as “Elic Middiebrok”.   I didn’t tell Esther any of this, thinking it could wait for another time. 

I guess the ancestors thought differently because…….

Later that night Esther called me back and said I have something I want to read to you.  She had found it in her brother’s research. Then she read this one sentence… Alex Middlebrooks was a slave on the Powell plantation.  I was speechless. Of course, there is much research to come before I can confirm this statement, but for now all I can say is WOW!!

And then…..

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a lady, Debra, who is a cousin on my paternal side.    

Debra stumbled upon my blog when she googled to find information on Greene County, GA in preparation for an upcoming family reunion.  Debra is responsible for writing up the family history.  Reading my blog, she noticed that we had the same surnames in our tree, Brewer and Lawrence, and that my ancestors, like hers, were also from Greensboro, Greene County, GA.  After a few emails and a phone conversation we easily made the connection.

My grandmother was Fannie Mae Lawrence and her mother was Lessie Brewer.  Lessie’s mother was Fannie Mae Brewer.   Fannie Mae Brewer also had a son Whit Brewer who had a daughter Hester Brewer.   Hester was Debra’s grandmother.  So, Debra and I have the same great, great grandmother – Fannie Mae Brewer.   We were both thrilled to make this connection and quickly arranged to meet.  Debra is just starting her journey into genealogy and her enthusiasm is refreshing. 

Debra was raised by her grandmother, Hester Brewer, and has breathed new life into my Greene County research, and the Brewer line in particular.  A few years ago while researching through some Greene County records at the GA Archives I found court papers concerning a custody battle for a child – Hester Brewer.   Along with Hester, the other parties involved were Fannie Brewer and Whit Brewer. My focus was on something else at the time, so I made copies of the papers and filed them away for another day when I could examine them more closely.  Of course, I never got back to them and they remained in that file until a few weeks ago when I met with Debra.  She was thrilled to receive this piece of history about her grandmother.  Debra had heard bits and pieces of the story, but the court papers pulled it all together.   What a great story to begin her family history!

As Debra and I have discovered, it seems the ancestors have been working their mojo in our family for years through the generations.  Follow along….Debra’s grandmother, Hester Brewer, was raised in the household with my grandmother, Fannie Mae Lawrence, whose mother, Lessie Brewer, was Hester’s aunt.  Debra has an Aunt Ruth –Hester’s daughter.  I have an Aunt Ruth – Fannie Mae’s daughter. Debra’s Aunt Ruth was told that she is named after my Aunt Ruth.  It gets better.  Follow along….I have a cousin Zelphyr.  Debra has a cousin Betty (who would be my cousin as well).  Betty has a daughter, Zelphyr.  Debra’s cousin Betty named her daughter after someone she worked with whose name was Zelphyr.  Betty and this Zelphyr became really good friends, so she named her daughter after that friend.  As it turns out, that friend, Zelphyr, is also MY cousin Zelphyr!  They were coworkers who became good friends, and never knew they were also cousins.  As it turns out….We are all COUSINS!!

This is a photo of my MIDDLEBROOKS family taken one Christmas in the mid to late 1960′s. Whenever I look at this picture it makes me smile and warms my heart. It makes me long for a FAMILY REUNION. When I was a little girl, we would go down to my mother’s hometown of Woodbury, GA in Meriwether County for Homecoming Sunday. Other than the vague memories of these events, I don’t recall attending a family reunion. One of my greatest desires is to have a TALIAFERRO family reunion. I’m talking about an “official” family reunion- meet and greet, cookout at the park, tee shirts, family worship-a weekend of family fun and fellowship. My brother and cousins tell me there has never been a TALIAFERRO Family Reunion. The idea has been bounced around, but no one has actually taken the initiative and put one together. Maybe that someone will be me.

This photo was in a scrapbook passed on to me by my cousin earlier this year. He is another unknown relative from my maternal Middlebrooks line of Meriwether County, GA. Or, maybe he isn’t- Unknown.
Several relatives, including myself, believe that he may be Gordon R. Middlebrooks born about September 1897 in Woodbury, Meriwether, GA to Sudie Parks and Alexander Middlebrooks. Gordon died in Atlanta, Fulton, GA 31 July 1948. I have only found evidence of Gordon in two documents; his 12 September 1918, WW I Draft Registration Card, and his 1948 GA death certificate. Seems strange; he indicated on his draft registration card that his residence was Woodbury, GA; he was a farmer and was working for Alex Middlebrooks; and he listed Sudie Middlebrooks as his nearest relative. I have not found a Gordon Middlebrooks listed on any census with his parents Alex and Sudie. However, I do find a “Brooks” L. Middlebrooks, also born about September 1897 with parents Alex and Sudie in the 1900, 1910, and 1920 census. Recently, after learning of Gordon from my cousin, it occurred to me that Brooks and Gordon might very well be the same person!! Other than census records, I cannot find any documents for a Brooks Middlebrooks. Seems strange since he is so prominent in the census records. I believe that “Brooks” was probably a nickname for “Gordon”. I’m still working on this one, including getting a copy of Gordon’s 1948 death certificate to confirm his parents were Alex and Sudie.

I’ll always love my mama
She’s my favorite girl
I’ll always love my mama
She brought me in this world

My mother, LILLIAN MIDDLEBROOKS, was born December 7, 1916, in Woodbury, Meriwether County, GA. She passed on Sunday, September 27, 2009, at age 92. It was my birthday.
A mother’s loves so special
It’s something that you can’t describe
It’s the kind of love that stays with you
Until the day you die
She taught me little things
Like saying hello, and thank you, please
While scrubbing those floors on her bended knees

My mama was an incredible woman. As a child I did not want for anything. Yes, you would probably consider me “spoiled” as they say. As a child I took all of those things for granted; as an adult I realize they were the product of my mama’s love, devotion, and hard work-sometimes two jobs. Many years ago, I was involved in a car accident that left me paralyzed. In the years that followed, my mama was my primary caregiver. Her strength, determination, and encouragement gave me the strength, determination, and courage I needed to continue my education, graduate from college, and pursue a career. I am the person I am today because of my mama.
In 1991, my mama suffered a stroke, and our roles reversed; I was now responsible for ensuring that both of us had the care we needed to continue to live our lives in our home with minimal disruption. In dealing with the various local and state agencies I realized that now I was considered the primary caregiver for my mama. I refused to put my mama in a nursing facility, as many suggested over the years. It was not even a consideration, just as she had not considered putting me in a facility after my accident. My mama was a proud lady, and continued to do most things for herself. Despite the stroke, she was still an independent and strong woman determined not to let being confined to a wheelchair confine her spirit. I believe I possess those same qualities.
In early September 2009 my mama was hospitalized. Her health had been rapidly declining over the past few months and her dementia was also getting worse. When it was time for her to leave the hospital the doctors recommended a nursing facility and hospice care. My mama was leaving me and I could see it. She stopped eating, was barely taking any liquids, and almost never opened her eyes. Over the last two weeks, I do not think she knew I was there, or maybe she did. I pray she did. Early on Sunday, September 27, 2009, I got the call that we should plan to come as soon as possible-things were not looking good- my mama was beginning her transition. It was my birthday.
My brother Bernard by my side we sat there with my mama-waiting, crying, praying. Bernard has been and continues to be my rock and my comforter. God knew that I would need someone, and placed him in my life so that he would be here when I needed him most. Sitting there at her bedside, I had a nagging feeling that my mama needed to hear something before she could leave this world behind and claim the peace she deserved-she needed to know that her baby girl was going to be okay….and so we told her that I was fine; Bernard told her that he would take good care of me and not to worry. I told her that I was fine and that I loved her…she closed her eyes and was gone. Gone from this world, but not from my heart. My mama was an incredible woman….
(Talking ’bout mama)
Oh, she’s one of a kind
(Talking ’bout mama)
You got yours, and I got mine
(Talking ’bout mama)
Hey mama, Hey mama,
My heart belongs to you
Oh, yeah
I’ll always love my mama, yeah
She’s my favorite girl
You only get one
You only get one, yeah
I’ll always love my mama
She brought me in this world
Talking ’bout mama..

I’ll Always Love My Mama
 

 
(I’ll Always Love My Mama, Lyrics: Kenneth Gamble / Leon Huff / Gene McFadden / John Whitehead / Victor Carstarphen. Song:The Intruders – 1973.)

The older gentleman on the left in this photo is my maternal great uncle William Middlebrooks, born circa September 1894 in Woodbury, Meriwether County, GA. Uncle Bill was a real character; suave and debonair- a gambler, a fighter, a drinker. Uncle Bill didn’t take NO mess. As the story goes, Uncle Bill had to flee his home in Woodbury under the “cloak of darkness”. Family tradition says he was in an “altercation” with a white man over a pair of shoes, and was smuggled out of town with the sheriff “hot on his trail”. He was first taken to Griffin, GA, but eventually made his way to Chicago where he changed his name to Bill Sutton. He later returned to Georgia where he died in August 1977.