Category Archives: Mississippi

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.



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

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.


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

Treasure Chest Thursday: Great-Grandmother, Josephine: FOUND!

Josephine Burton Ford's funeral record.

One of the biggest mysteries in the search for my family’s history was that of my great-grandmother, Josephine Burton Ford for whom this blog is named.  Born and raised in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, she was married there, raised a family there, but disappeared after the 1920 census, the last record I had of her existence.  Since I’ve been searching for her, my thoughts about what may have become of her have run the gamut from her being the victim of a  brutal murder to her running off to start over somewhere she wouldn’t be found.

Thanks to volunteer, Ann Nash, art historian, Joel Brink, and Ocean Springs historian, Ray Bellande, the mystery has been solved.

According to the funeral record that my genealogy buddies forwarded to me, Josephine died on May 15, 1922.  The cause of death was tuberculosis.  She was 46. Her funeral was handled by Bradford O’Keefe Funeral Home in Ocean Springs and she was interred at Evergreen Cemetery.  That’s the same place where her brother, Alfred Burton Stuart and her mother, Temple Burton were laid to rest.  Josephine’s father, Col. W. R. Stuart is in a different part of the cemetery in a family plot with his wife, Elizabeth McCauley Stuart. My great-grandmother is at peace with her family.

I’m still in a euphoric shock to finally have this big piece of my missing history illuminated. Perhaps this post would have been better left to Wordless Wednesday since I don’t quite have the words to express how grateful I am to know what happened to Josephine.  Thanks again to Ann, Joel and Ray for getting this vital document to me and to the wider genealogy blogging community for sharing in this journey.  You all are the best bunch of friends I’ve never met.

Now, I’m going to go look for Josephine’s burial spot at Evergreen.  It appears there are a lot of unknowns in unmarked graves around the area where Josephine’s mother and brother were buried, the first place I’ll look.

What ancestry mystery are you trying to solve?


Filed under African-American history, ancestry, geneology, Mississippi, Multiracial families, U.S. Census

The Slaves of Hill Jones

List of slaves bequeathed in the 1846 will of Hill Jones

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, a will that listed my great great-grandmother, Temple Burton as part of Hill Jones’s property also listed many other slaves as well.  His will was notarized on September 8, 1846 in Madison County, Mississippi. Jones didn’t have hundreds of slaves, but he did have at least two dozen and I’ll list them and their owners below in hopes of helping one of my fellow researchers trace their family tree:

To his wife, Judith Jones:  Tiller, Vincent, William, Tempy, Marian, Phil, Reuben and Susan.

To son, Willis B. Jones:  Edmund, Philip, Martha (sp.), Austen or Auster and Rose, his wife, Alford, Rene or Remy (sp.?), Richard & Chaney (sp.?) his wife and their three youngest children Cornelius, Catherine & Eliza, also George and “my two blind boys Isaac and Britten.”

To daughter, Mary M. Whitehead:  Mose, David and Solomon.

To daughter, Martha McCauley:  John, Louisa, Grace or Green? and Jack

To daughter, Elizabeth Howcott: Essex and Huldy

To daughter Rebecca, Charles, Handy and Collier (sp.?)

Thanks, Liz for helping me decipher this challenging text!


Filed under family history, geneology, Mississippi, slavery

Handy Hint

Before I could even print out my handy new postcards (see previous post), I found a Handy relation on with a bunch of familiar names in his tree.

I sent him a nice email, told  him about the copy of the letter I have from A. H. Handy to my second great-grandfather, and invited him to reply with hopes that we can help each other out.  Who knows…he could have the originals of the Stuart Papers up in his attic! And if he doesn’t know about the Stuart Papers, I hope alerting him to their existence will help illuminate his family history.

Speaking of the Stuart Papers, those 600 sheets of letters, poems, sermons, etc. that belonged to my third great-grandfather William R. Stuart, Sr. and were preserved by a Ms. Lillian Handy, I need to make a correction.  I was wrong about the intention of A. H. Handy’s letter to my great great-grandfather.  (A. H. stands for Alexander Hamilton by the way). It was definitely a condolence letter  but not a marriage proposal.  Had I read the letter more closely, I would have realized that at the end, he mentions that Susan sends condolences as well and that the new widow would be very welcome to visit and give Susan some company.  Handy was in the midst of trying to move up the career ladder when this letter was written.  Indeed he sounded a little guilty that his long hours vying for a judgeship were keeping him away from the misses.  Susan was Handy’s wife.  Her maiden name was Stuart.

Now, I just need to find out how Susan Stuart Handy was connected to my great great-grandfather. (I’m betting she was his sister). Then, I’ll cross my fingers and hope that my newfound Handy cousins won’t mind searching their family relics for any mention of a Temple Burton, slave woman, date of birth around 1820, parents unknown.


Filed under Mississippi, Multiracial families, slavery

Calling All Handys

The Stuart Papers. Photo by Monique Smith Anderson

“I would not invade the sacredness of her fresh grief by making any suggestion as to her future course…”

That’s what A. Handy wrote  in his condolence letter doubling as a marriage proposal to my second great-grandfather, Col. W. R. Stuart. Stuart’s brother  had died, and Handy sent his sympathies while also letting it be known that he wanted to marry Stuart’s widowed sister-in-law.   Handy was a judge and one of his descendants preserved that letter  along with hundreds of others that are part of the Stuart Papers.

I’m so grateful to Mrs. Lillian Handy who donated these papers to Mississippi State University.  Because of them, I’m learning so much about the Stuart side of the family.  But as is so often the case when researching black ancestors, the trail is running cold on Temple Burton, the Colonel’s slave and my great great-grandmother.  So maybe the Handys can give me another gift.

If  you’re out there Handy kin, check your attics, jar your memories, and flip through your old family bible. See if there is anything about the slave, Temple Burton and send me an email.

My shout out to the Handy kin doesn’t end here.  My cousin, Monique suggested we make up a bunch of postcards from the picture above, and send them to potential Handy kin in Maryland and Mississippi, the genealogy version of the cold call.  She got her inspiration from Edward Ball’s book, Slaves in the Family. Ball’s family had been slave owners and in his book, he found descendants of the slaves his family owned.  Now, maybe the people who owned (and were distantly related to) Temple will find us.

In Ball fashion,  Liz Hall Morgan lists names of slaves owned by her family in her blog, an incredible gift that made my jaw drop to the floor (and no doubt made some researchers very happy).  Her blog post was inspired by the I Never Knew My Father blog entry  encouraging all genealogy fellows to help each other by sharing their finds the way characters in Alex Haley’s Roots helped each other to freedom.

Reading those blogs showed how important it is for each of us (whether we’re searching our family tree or trying to raise a family) to help one another, to be a “friend of friends” as the characters in Roots said.   They inspired me to offer some genealogy help to someone I’ve never met.

So dear friend of friends, what  no-strings-attached present did you give or receive?


Filed under geneology, Mississippi, Multiracial families, slavery, Uncategorized

Obituaries – Honest-to-Goodness Truth?

I’ve been spending the last few snowy days trying to keep the kids occupied (see the video above) and reading obituaries.

There were plenty of final tributes in the Stuart Papers, the 600 page collection of personal letters, essays and obituaries that belonged to my third great grandfather, William R. Stuart, Sr., copied for me by the library at Mississippi State University. Some of the obituaries are remarkable because of the deep passion with which they were written. Others are great finds because of information they reveal – names, ages, and birth dates of relatives I didn’t even know existed. They also tell of military service (seems we had a relative who fought in the Revolutionary War!) and give hints to personal character and affinities.

There is also what they don’t tell.

One obituary for Col. W.R. Stuart, Jr., my second great-grandfather is entitled, “Death of a Distinguished Southerner.” It’s a stirring tribute to a God-fearing man who served his community and country by volunteering in the Civil War. But the closing sentence stuck like a knife:

“He left no children.” More accurate would have been “he left no white children.”

Even in death, we have some control over our story.  It makes me wonder how honest I’ll be with my own history and if the telling of it shouldn’t be left to some objective third party like the son who wrote this very honest and unusual obituary a few years back.

What honest-to-goodness truth will we learn (besides that you’re dead) when we read your obituary?

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Filed under family history, geneology, Mississippi, Uncategorized