Wordy Wednesday: Mystery Relatives’ Obituary?

Back in June, I was introduced to a turn-of-the century Methodist Episcopal newspaper,  the Southwestern Christian Advocate when a good Samaritan alerted me to one of its ads placed by my great, great-grandmother, Tempy Burton.  Tempy was looking for her family who she’d been separated from by slavery.  You can read her ad and how I found it here.

Turns out my relatives show up in the Southwestern quite often. My great-grandmother, Josephine Burton Ford frequently wrote into their column, “Uncle Cephas” and her wedding announcement was featured in the paper as well.  This obituary also appeared in the Southwestern’s February 9, 1888 edition with several familiar names and locations:

Sister Martha Burton departed this life Dec. 22, 1887, aged forty-six, at Ocean Springs, Miss.  She was a native of North Carolina, lived several years in New Orleans, and finally moved here in 1885, whence she left for heaven in triumph.  She shouted the harvest home.  -J. Ford, P.C.

Tempy Burton’s original slave owners were from North Carolina.  Like Martha, Tempy also lived in New Orleans for a time. My great-grandfather, who married Tempy’s daughter, Josephine was James Ford, a local minister in the Ocean Springs area.  Could J. Ford, P.C. be my great-grandfather?  Could Martha Burton be a relation to Tempy?

Unfortunately, Mississippi did not keep death records in 1887.  According to their Vital Records department, Mississippi was not required to keep them until November 1, 1912.

Any suggestions on what I should do to find out if the woman in the obituary is one of my relatives?



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11 responses to “Wordy Wednesday: Mystery Relatives’ Obituary?

  1. Such an interesting puzzle you’re piecing together here dear Dionne! The knot of your past continues to loosen and unravel while hopefully creating a lovely woven tapestry of peace and connectedness in your present…
    Thank you for sharing this incredible journey!

  2. Pat Armstrong Watkins

    “James Ford, a local minister in the Ocean Springs area. Could J. Ford, P.C. be my great-grandfather”

    Are you able to identfy a church for the Rev.James Ford, if you id the church maybe there are records still around from the time he was the minister or perhalps records of the funeral.

  3. Molly McKaughan

    I think you need to visit Mississippi and see if Ocean Spring has any records… of course it was severely affected by Hurricane Katrina, but that doesn’t mean all the records were destroyed.

    Why don’t you try placing an ad in the Times Picayune and the local Ocean Springs newspaper?

    I have a really good friend in Poplarville, Miss (inland) who used to be the metro editor of the Times Picayune. If you want me to ask him, email me.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Molly. I did get a chance to visit OS, Mississippi and check a lot of their records. The idea of placing an ad in the Picayune is a good one. I may take you up on your offer to connect with your friend. Thanks!

  4. allison

    Hi Dionne i saw your page on she writes can you PUHLEEZE email me. My grandfather is a FORD and i am a simpson I have been trying to do research and i think this is a divine connection, please please email me or let me know on this blog of an email. I may have info or you may have infor for me. I left my info on the she writes website. artbyallison@1fj.com(one for Jesus)

  5. allison

    hi dionne, i left you a message dont know if it went through, i wanted to know if you can email me at artbyallison@1fj.com it is possible we could be related, this may be an answer to prayer, we are Fords on my dad side and i am simpson. I have been doing research and found your web on she writes, so please please contact me or let me know where I should email you with the information i have thanks and God bless.

  6. Liz

    Hi, try the city directories on Ancestry for N.O. and/or Ocean Springs area.
    I’m also wondering what “P.C.” means. Was Rev. Ford ever w/the Presbyterian Church (a possible “P.C.”)? If not, what is PC? Pass Christian (MS)? Post Card? Please Copy? hmmm…

  7. Liz

    Apparently I am afflicted w/ l’esprit de l’escalier when it comes to helpful hints (always thinking of more later)… 😉 If a city dir. also has a reverse street directory you can see who’s living at or near the same place. The census, of course, and also obits of extended family and probates, maybe even if buried in the same location as other family members.

    Easiest to start with: city dirs. on Ancestry, any obit source you might have access to (wish Ancestry had more La. papers, but I think they may have multistate Christian paper obits? Ck vitals & newspaper listings there – not sure about SWCA?), cemetery listings & even Google might work.

    Hope this helps.

  8. Liz

    Ancestry has obits & marriages from the “Southern Christian Advocate,” a Southern Methodist paper in SC, GA & FL, but not the Southwestern. Oh well.

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