Category Archives: Multiracial families

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

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 findagrave.com 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?

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

This Week’s Genealogy Find: Another Cousin

My cousin, Renee Smith in New York City last fall.

The foundation of my research on my paternal ancestors comes from documents donated by my distant cousin, Renee Smith.  Renee gave her information on our family, including the amazing photo of my great, great-grandmother, Temple Burton with her former owners, the Stuarts to Ray Bellande, a historian in Ocean Springs, Mississippi where our family is from.  He in turn gave the documents to the McCain Library and Archives at the University of Southern Mississippi.  Ever since I came across Ray’s website several years ago, I’ve been trying to find my long-lost cousin, Renee.  On Good Friday she showed up – in my email box of all places.  It was a Good Friday indeed.

Here’s how Renee and I are related:  Renee is the great-granddaughter of Mme Tempy Stuart-Smith, a piano teacher in Ocean Springs. Her son, the late John Baptist Smith was Renee’s grandfather.  John Smith passed away at the age of 93 in 2004.  Tempy Stuart-Smith’s father was Alfred Burton  Stuart.  Alfred was the child of Tempy Burton and Col. W.R. Stuart like my great-grandmother, Josephine Burton Ford.  Renee’s great, great-grandfather, Alfred and my great-grandmother, Josephine were brother and sister.   That makes Renee and I third cousins, once removed. (Don’t think for a minute I figured that out on my own.  I used a handy-dandy cousin calculator!)

In our emails, I learned that Renee lives in Australia with her husband, a Scotsman (like our ancestor, Col. W.R. Stuart) and she has an 11 year-old niece named Monique Smith (the namesake of our cousin and genealogy buddy).

I so look forward to meeting Renee and echo her sentiments at the end of her email –  “God Bless Our Family always.”

Is it just me, or are all of my cousins exceedingly beautiful?

My cousin, Monique Smith Anderson and family on Thanksgiving, 2009.

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Filed under ancestry, family history, geneology, Multiracial families

Treasure Chest Thursday: My 60 year-old Grandparents earn their GEDs

My maternal grandparents, Alonzo and Louise Walton featured in a New Jersey newspaper after graduating High School in their 60s.

When my maternal grandparents were in their 60s, they decided to go back to school to get their GEDs. Alonzo Walton and Louise Coleman Walton both grew up on farms around the turn of the century.  The Waltons owned theirs, and the Colemans were sharecroppers.  Like a lot of farming/sharecropping children, their hands were needed to work the land more than to do math equations in school. Alonzo in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and Louise in Clinton, Oklahoma both quit school around sixth or seventh grade to help their families survive.

But their thirst for learning didn’t end there.  So, when my grandfather retired from the Air Force after about 40 years of service and all of their grandchildren but me were attending college, they enrolled in PembertonTownship’s Adult Evening High School Program in New Jersey. It took them two tries to pass the final exam.  But pass they did and in 1980 they received their GEDs.

The above photo is from a story in Pemberton’s “Time Advertiser” newspaper featuring the Waltons, the only grandparents enrolled at Burlington County College. After the article came out, the newspaper sent my grandparents the black and white photo they used and my grandparents framed it and hung it on the wall.  I’d stare at that photo and read the article tacked under it every time I went to their house.  It was a constant reminder that the education I was receiving as a right, my grandparents treasured as a privilege. The value of education is probably the biggest lesson I learned from my grandparents without them ever having to say a word.

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, African-American history, family history, Ford, mulatto, Multiracial families

Surname Saturday – The Burton Family

My great-grandmother, Josephine Burton's marriage license

After finding my great, great-grandmother Temple Burton’s tombstone this week, it seems right to focus on the surname Burton for Surname Saturday.

According to a myriad of ancestry and genealogy sites on the internet, Burton is of  English origin and means “settlement by a fort.”  Alternate spellings are Burtone, Bortune, or Bortone.

I also found a few Burton family crests and coat-of-arms, including this one at BurtonsCoast2Coast.

Tempe, aka Tempy or Temple Burton is the oldest ancestor of African descent that I’m able to trace on my father’s side.   According to an obituary included on Ray Bellande’s Ocean Springs website and archived at the Southern University of Mississippi,  Tempe was born in 1821 and her tombstone lists March 1, 1925 as her date of death.  That means she lived a whopping 104 years!  Census reports show that many of those years were spent with Col. W.R. Stuart and his wife Elizabeth McCauley Stuart in Ocean Springs, first as their slave and after emancipation as their cook.

My family believes that the Colonel and Tempe had several children together including, Alfred Burton Stuart and my great-grandmother, Josephine Burton Ford.

Alfred Burton Stuart was born in April, 1860 and died on Oct. 4, 1928 in New Orleans. With wife,  Clara he had nine children, including the musically talented,  Tempy Stuart Smith.  My grandmother, Lillie Mae Ford remembered Tempy Smith and  her family as “famous New York City musicians.”  After living in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Tempy and her family did relocate to New York City in the late 1920s.  My cousin, Monique Smith Anderson, also partner on this research journey with me, is a direct descendant of Tempy Smith.

Josephine Burton Ford was born around 1875 according to census records.  She raised her children in Ocean Springs, Mississippi after marrying the Reverend James Ford on April 17, 1894.  Census forms show she lived in Ocean Springs until 1920, but after that, I can’t find a trace of her.  Josephine and James had at least six children,  two of which stayed in Ocean Springs.  My grandfather, Martin Luther Ford was born to the couple on October 19, 1905.  He married Lillie Mae Daniels Ford and they  raised their five children there.  Eventually, Grandpa Martin moved the family to New Orleans where he  died in January, 1985.

My father,  Joseph Burton Ford is the last of Tempe’s descendants to carry her surname.

The only famous Burtons I can think of are Richard Burton and Tim Burton. (My husband reminded me of Roots’ LeVar Burton). But I’m sure there must be some historical figures that I’ve overlooked. If you know any, shout them out to me.

What historical figures share your name?

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Filed under African-American history, family history, geneology, Multiracial families, slavery, Uncategorized

Wordless Wednesday: My Great, Great-Grandmother’s Grave is Found!

Tempe Burton's tombstone at Evergreen Cemetery, Ocean Springs, Mississippi (Photo by Ann Nash)

Appropriate that it is Wordless Wednesday in the genealogy blogosphere because I am speechless over the pictured tombstone. I didn’t know a tombstone for Tempe Burton, my great, great-grandmother even existed until my cousin, Monique Smith Anderson forwarded this picture last night.  It was found and photographed by Ann Nash, a volunteer for Find A Grave, an organization that collects photos of final resting places all over the world by request and for free! Nash said that Tempe is in “a very shaded area and the sun came through just on her headstone.”  Bless you, Ann for forwarding us this picture and connecting us with another piece of our history!

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

Finding the Colonel’s Sword

The handle of my great great-grandfather's 19th century Knights of Pythias sword

My cousin is a great searcher.  She’ll exhaust every page of a google search, unlike me.  If I don’t find what I’m looking for after the second page, I assume the item in question is just not meant to be found.  Bad researching, I know.

But my cousin’s persistence is how she found the above sword which belonged to our ancestor, Col. W.R. Stuart.

Way back in 1999, my cousin’s dad posted a note to a Stuart surname message board on ancestry.com.  A decade later, a woman replied that she didn’t have any info about the colonel, but she had an engraved and personalized sword with his name on it bought from an estate sale in Minneapolis.  By that point, my cousin, Monique had picked up where her dad left off. After a lot of back and forth over the course of five months,  Monique bought the sword.  In a remarkable test of self-will which I think ties in with her persistence, she kept the sword a secret from her dad so she could give him” the most incredible Father’s Day gift ever.  It definitely topped the previous year’s golf shirt and magazine subscription!” Monique says.

She found my post on the same message board as she awaited the sword’s arrival.

I need to get back to checking those surnames message boards.

And speaking of surnames, it’s Surname Saturday at the Geneabloggers site.  In keeping with their ingenious daily theme, here is a list of my family surnames (some still need to be confirmed).  Hopefully, my cousin is reading this and will check  these on the surnames message boards, since I’ll probably forget.

Paternal: Ford, Burton, Stuart, Rasin, Frazier, Dames, Perry, Flaherty or Fluharty, Chipley, Alford, Goddard and Morgan

Maternal: Jones, Walton, Coleman, Watson, Lively

How has persistence paid off for your search?

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Who Do I Think I Am?

Col. W. R. Stuart's name on his 19th century sword - photo by Monique Smith Anderson

An unlikely Daughter of the Confederacy.

The above sword belonged to my second great-grandfather, Col. W.R. Stuart.  My fourth cousin found it not long before she found me on ancestry.com.  At first, because of Stuart’s Colonel title, I thought it was a Civil War issued sword to help my great great-grandfather hold back advancing Union soldiers.  Turns out that the sword was issued by the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal order not the Confederate Army. I’m not sure if the sword  had anything to do with the Civil War, but I’m sure the colonel did.   A census record shows him owning 59 slaves around 1850 and some receipts recently found by a genealogy buddy, Ghita Johnson, show he gave many thousands of dollars to the confederate cause.  That’s many thousands of dollars more than I’ve ever given to any cause.

Great great-granddaddy was a Confederate for sure.

I have mixed feelings about the sword which is probably why it took me so long to post any pictures of it on this blog.  What can I say?  I’m never going to be happy that the Col. owned slaves, that one of them was my second great-grandmother, Temple Burton, that it’s a lot easier to find out information about him, a slave owner than about her, the slave he owned.  But I am glad that he left a lot of history behind him. His history has the potential to shed some light on Temple’s. All of it, from the Colonel’s deep religious ties to the Methodist Church to Temple’s decision to live with her former masters decades after she was emancipated helps me expand my view of them and ultimately of myself.  Like Malcolm Gladwell said on the final episode of PBS’s Faces of America, “the  more ways you can define yourself, the better off you are.”

I’ll  never identify as a daughter of the confederacy because of what the concept conjures up for me, but, a Daughter of the Confederacy, however uncomfortable it makes me, is literally one of the things that I am.

My fourth cousin, Monique will supply a guest post to tell you how she found this 19th century sword once she’s had a chance to catch the first episode of Who Do You Think You Are.

Meanwhile, has your ancestry research changed or  expanded how you see yourself?

The handle of my great great-grandfather's 19th century sword. Photo by Monique Smith Anderson

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Filed under family history, geneology, Multiracial families, race, slavery, Uncategorized

Handy Hint

Before I could even print out my handy new postcards (see previous post), I found a Handy relation on ancestry.com 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.

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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?

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