Category Archives: African-American history

Wordy/Wordless Wednesday: Fun Family times in the Mississippi Gulf, Pre-Oil Spill

My cousin posing for the camera on a beach near Ocean Springs, Mississippi, 1976.

The poor area that fostered four generations of my paternal family has been taking a pounding the past two weeks.  First an oil spill, then tornado and this past weekend more storms!  So, here are two pictures from a more tranquil time in the Gulf Coast.  This beach is somewhere near Ocean Springs where my father, his father, and his grandmother were all born and where my great, great-grandmother lived most of her life.  Those are my cousins –  Nicky and Dalvin Ford running from the camera and Haile Ford posing.  Knowing me, I was trying to get one more dip in the water or find one more broken seashell before it was time to call it a day.

My cousins running, probably from the camera on a beach near Ocean Springs, Mississippi in 1976.

Do you have any memories (photos or words) of your times on the Gulf Coast?  Please share them and send good thoughts for the people there and the environs. Click to hear an Ocean Springs resident telling National Public Radio how the oil spill is affecting him.

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Filed under African-American history, ancestry, family history, geneology, Mississippi, Uncategorized

Monday Madness: Finding Tempy’s People

My great, great-grandmother, Tempy Burton's 1925 death certificate.

Call me greedy, but finding out what happened to my great, grandmother Josephine was not enough for me.  It just left me wanting more.  Now, I’m determined to discover where and from whom Josephine’s mother, Tempy Burton came from.

Genealogy buddy, Ghita Johnson forwarded Tempy’s death certificate pictured above which I hoped would shed some light on her family. (Thanks, Ghita!) I was crestfallen to see that there were no names written in the spaces next to “father” and “mother,” just some indecipherable letters that I can’t decode. It was also heart-breaking to see that this woman who lived to be 104 and endured a good part of her life as a slave succumbed to”carcinoma of the left breast.”  To find anything about her people, I’d just have to keep chasing down more information about Tempy’s last known owner, Hill Jones.

A longtime resident of Canton, Mississippi, Jones was originally from North Carolina. Scrolling through the volunteer run US Gen Web Project’s North Carolina database turned up no information on him. Last night, I turned to Dr. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall’s Afro Louisiana History and Genelaogy site which has a database of Louisiana based slaves, since some census records list Louisiana as Tempy’s place of birth.  But neither of the  2 Tempys that came up in the search were my great, great-grandmother.  I tried several of the databases in the extensive resource guide listed in about.com (thanks for retweeeting the list LowCountryAfricana) but still nothing. In defeat, I logged on to my ancestry.com site, figuring I could at least feel like I was getting my money’s worth by trolling around the for pay site for a while.  Wouldn’t you know, it actually elicited a clue.

As I looked for documents on Hill Jones, the green leaf blinked on his wife, Judith Jones, indicating that there was a hint for her.  When I clicked on Judith Boddie Jones’s name, my screen filled with several other members researching her line.  Included in each of their trees were Judith’s siblings. Three names stood out:  Elizabeth, William Willis and Temperance.

Elizabeth McCauley was my great, great-grandmother Tempy’s final owner.  Family lore  has it that Tempy was given to Elizabeth when she married my great, great-grandfather, Col. W.R. Stuart.

William Hill Howcott was one of Elizabeth’s cousins and Willis was his slave, immortalized in a Confederate monument erected in his honor.  Willis followed his master into battle against Union forces and died in the process.

Temperance seems to me to be a variation of the name Tempy.

I don’t know if this was the case of a slave being  named after someone in the master’s family, but it gave me a clue.  The same way Tempy came to be in the colonel’s family through his wife, Elizabeth McCauley, is perhaps how she got to be in Hill Jones’s family -through his wife, Judith Boddie.

Who knows if I’ll every find Tempy’s parents, but at least I found all these great new resources and have another place to look: in Nash County, North Carolina with the Boddie family.

Where are you looking for new clues to blast through your brick walls?

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Filed under African-American history, ancestry, family history, geneology, Howcutt/Howcott, Josephine Burton Ford, Mississippi, Uncategorized

Monday Madness: The lost and found Ancestor

Is my great-grandmother, Josephine Burton Ford buried in one of the unknown and unmarked plots pictured here in Evergreen Cemetery, Ocean Springs, Mississippi? (Photo courtesy of Ann Nash)

As happy as I am that I finally have some concrete information about what happened to my great-grandmother, Josephine Burton Ford, the documents that laid the mystery to rest have also raised more questions.

I did a happy dance when I received her funeral record which listed May 15, 1922 as her date of death, the following day as her date of burial, and Evergreen Cemetery in Ocean Springs, Mississippi as her final resting place.  But when I ordered her death certificate based on this new information, it listed May 25, 1922 as her date of death.  The doctor who signed the death certificate even stated that he’d last seen Josephine alive on May 24th.  That’s more than a week after the May 16th funeral date indicated on the funeral record.

And speaking of  doctors, did the same Dr. A.B. Powell who is the certifying physician for the funeral record also sign the death certificate?  His name is very clear on the Bradford O’Keefe Funeral record, but less so on the Mississippi State death certificate.  Another discrepancy between the two documents is Josephine’s age.  She’s 46 on the funeral record and 44 on the death certificate.   What can account for all of these inconsistencies?

At least I know where she is buried…sort of. When I saw on the funeral record that she was interred at Evergreen Cemetery, I thought for sure it would just be a matter of a phone call to determine what plot she was buried in.  Three phone calls later to the city, the funeral home and the county record department,  none of them had a record of a plot in that cemetery with her name on it.  They do have several unknown persons buried in plots near Josephine’s mother, Temple Burton and brother, Alfred Burton Stuart.  I assume one of those unknown plots could be her.  But how can I ever know for certain which one if any is her?  Just when I thought Josephine was found, she’s kind of lost again.

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Filed under African-American history, ancestry, family history, funeral records, geneology, Josephine Burton Ford, Mississippi, Uncategorized

Wordy/Wordless Wednesday: My Great, Great-Grandmother’s Appraisal

This probate court record appraised my great, great-grandmother, Tempy Burton and child at $1,600.

I’m not quite up to the task of expressing my thoughts upon seeing this document.  Nothing, not even seeing my great, great-grandmother bequeathed in a will drives home the true state of her situation as does this 1860 probate court appraisal of the “goods & chattels and personal estate of Judith B. Jones.”  Mrs. Jones was one of several family members that owned my great, great-grandmother, Tempy Burton.   The appraisers placed Tempy’s value and that of an infant child at $1,600.  She would have been about 40 years old when this document was written.

This document was so dispiriting that I considered not sharing it at all until I realized that the specifics included in it, like the names and ages of slaves, might prove useful to some other researcher.  So here they are (they’ll be familiar from the wills earlier posted in which my grandmother was bequeathed):

Tiller a woman, about forty-eight years of age, black….$450

William, a man, twenty-two years of age………………….$1,000

Reuben, man, aged 33 years of age…………………………..$1,400

Tom, a boy, 17 years of age, tall, well grown………………$1,600

Tempy, a woman & child, year old……………………………$1,600

Vincent, a man, 24 years of age……………………………….$1,700

Susan, woman, 23 years of age………………………………..$1,400

Offa, a boy, 11 yrs of age………………………………………….$1,100

Tanny, girl, 10 yrs of age……………………………………………$900
Thanks to historians Ray Bellande and Joel Brink for getting this document to me and to any other researcher whom may consider it useful.

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Filed under African-American history, ancestry, family history, geneology, Mississippi, race, slavery

Carnival of African American Genealogy: Grandmother’s Hands

My great-grandmother, "Lucy" Marie Anderson, 1899 - 1988.

My great-grandmother, Marie Watson Anderson, was always busy. Born Lucy Marie Anderson in Texas in 1899, she spent most of her life in Oklahoma. At some point, she had her name legally changed to Marie because she liked it better than Lucy. She worked as a housekeeper, raised seven children, outlived two husbands, and lived to meet two of her great, great-grandchildren before she died in 1988 at age 89. I don’t remember what her voice sounded like. Can’t remember any words of wisdom she passed down, but I remember her nimble fingers always moving.

They were slender like her and I can picture them perfectly arched, reaching out to pluck the spatula from its appointed space when I visited her in Clinton, Oklahoma when I was about seven. She’d use the spatula to expertly flip her beyond brag-able buttermilk pancakes or scoop the Canadian bacon out of the frying pan. So delicious were her buttermilk pancakes that back home in New Jersey after the trip, I begged to drink some buttermilk from my grandmother’s refrigerator, sure it would taste as sweet and perfect as her mother’s breakfast treats. Let’s just say, it’s a long way from the milk itself to the pancakes. One experiment with it was enough to make me think there was just something special about Great-Granny Marie’s food. For many years after eating her breakfast that year, I would order Canadian bacon whenever I came across it, convinced that it was a delicacy, but every time, it disappointed. It never compared to the Canadian bacon that came out of Great-Granny Marie’s kitchen. Speaking of, I spent most of that first visit on the floor of her spotless kitchen. She had an old-fashioned formica table with metal legs that I loved to sit under where I could take in, undisturbed and without detection, my family’s interactions with each other. Plus, it was the best smelling place in the house.

Great-Granny Marie was a perfect picture of composure and grace as she performed various tasks around her home. Her hair kept at a respectable length just beyond her ears, rested on the nape of her neck. She never rushed, but moved in a dignified manner in the dresses and skirts she wore hidden under a flowered or floral colored full apron. She knew I was under the table, but never addressed me except to sneak me an extra piece of her bacon or even as I recall a piece of cornbread. Somehow, she made me feel adored, even though I can’t think of any words that passed between us.

Sadly, I have not inherited Great-Granny Marie’s penchant for tidiness or cooking. I do my best to keep from being buried alive under accumulated laundry and papers and have about five stock meals that I can make for my family in under a half hour. I don’t aspire to her good housekeeping standards (I’d rather have a live in housekeeper), but the love she somehow engendered with all those meals served in perfect comfort are indeed a legacy I hope to pass on.

This is a picture of my great-aunt Pearl's kitchen which looks exactly like her mother's and my great-grandmother Marie's.

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Filed under African-American history, ancestry, family history, Multiracial families, Uncategorized

Sentimental Sunday: Family Griot, Uncle Henry Ford

My uncle, Henry Ford and me in the late 1970s. He was undoubtedly telling me a good story.

When I was finally ready to start digging into my paternal family’s history about 15 years ago, I went to our family griot, my uncle, Henry Ford.  Born and raised in New Orleans when his family moved there from Ocean Springs, Mississippi in the early 40s, Uncle Henry filled in some details on my great, great-grandfather, Col. W.R. Stuart and my great, great-grandmother, Tempy Burton.  He showed me around his Nola stomping grounds from the best spot for a po’ boy sandwich to his most beloved attraction, the Audubon Zoo.  Then we drove through the deep Mississippi pines until we reached the other side of the gulf in Ocean Springs. There, he introduced me to family friends from my grandparents’ time living there and even showed me the spot where my great-grandfather, the Reverend James Ford had preached.

Henry’s enthusiasm for our history helped fan the flames of my budding ancestry ardor.  Now, I hope to bring that genealogy love full circle and give him some modicum of the joy he showed me for our shared history.

This weekend, my dear Uncle Henry’s foot was amputated and I’m sure his spirits could use a boost.

Back in December, his house in the 9th ward of New Orleans burned down and he suffered injuries in the fire further complicated by his diabetes.  The house had survived Katrina and a number of previous storms during the 60 plus years my uncle, dad and the rest of their family lived there.  When my grandmother, Lillie Mae Ford died last August, she left the house to Henry.  It was his last connection to her.

I’d guess Uncle Henry’s never been far from New Orleans for very long nor from his mother.  Now in the space of a few short months, he’s lost both mother and home. There’s no replacing either, but at least we still have our family stories.  I hope whatever new pieces of our family history we find will bring him some joy and comfort.

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Filed under African-American history, ancestry, family history, geneology, New Orleans, Uncategorized

Follow Friday: A3Genealogy’s hints for Finding Josephine

Funeral book memento provided by Payne & Sons, Bakersfield, California Funeral Directors upon the death of my grandfather, Nathaniel Jones.

There are so many informative and compelling genealogy blogs that have helped and inspired me on my own journey that it seems impossible to give them all their due.  But I can give it a try, one Friday at a time.  I’ll start with Kathleen Brandt’s A3genealogy.

A professional genealogist, Brandt’s blog is chock-full of helpful information and interesting things I’ve never come across before.

A few weeks back, her excellent post on Funeral Home Documentation caught my eye.  She noted that a funeral home record might have more personal information on the deceased written in its margins that might not be included in the death certificate.  This gave me another avenue to take for finding Josephine:  a funeral home.

I’d been stumped about where to look for my great-grandmother, Josephine Burton Ford, for whom my blog is named.  I’d never asked her son, my grandfather, when she died, so I had to guess.  Based on the fact that she was last listed in the census in 1920 and that my father, born in the mid 30s never met her, I estimated around 1930 as her date of death.  I filled out a death record application, sent it to the Mississippi Vital records department in Jackson County, Mississippi where I assumed my grandmother had died and crossed my fingers.  Without an exact date of death, the vital records  department can only look so far.  In Mississippi’s case – that’s five years in either direction.  Their search fell just shy of Josephine’s date of death, 1922.

Because of Kathleen’s post, I was just beginning to track down funeral homes in Ocean Springs that may have catered to blacks in hopes of finding Josephine. But greater forces were at work.  Before I could finish searching, Ocean Springs historian, Ray Bellande found the funeral record at the Biloxi Library in a Bradford O’Keefe funeral home book, unraveling the mystery of what ever happened to my great-grandmother, Josephine!

Stop by A3genealogy if you haven’t already and maybe you’ll get some helpful hints for redirecting your search.

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Filed under African-American history, ancestry, family, family history, funeral records, geneology, Mississippi, Uncategorized