Category Archives: race

Treasure Chest Thursday: Thanks to Ancestry.com, Another Cousin, Found!

My third cousin, Sylvia!

My cousin Monique is now the queen of all Internet searches.  It was her voracious searching that turned up my second great-grandfather’s Civil War era sword on ebay, a portrait of one of our ancestors at the Maryland Historical Society on their online database, and me on ancestry.com.  Now, she’s done it again.  Monique found another one of our cousins, again on ancestry.com.  (I think that internet genealogy site is going to have to start paying her soon – she’s a walking commercial for their services!)

Meet cousin Sylvia Smith Isabel.    She lives a short bus or train ride away in New York and is as passionate about uncovering our family’s history as Monique and I.

Keeping track of all these cousins can be confusing so here is how we’re all related:

The ancestors that all three of us have in common are Tempy Burton and Col. W.R. Stuart, aka The Colonel.  Tempy was a slave in  Elizabeth McCauley’s family.  When Elizabeth married the Colonel, Tempy was  given to the couple as a wedding gift.  Elizabeth couldn’t have any children but Tempy could and did have seven, probably all with The Colonel.  But two of her children were definitely The Colonel’s, documented through their death certificates.  They were Alfred Burton Stuart, Tempy and The Colonel’s oldest child and Josephine Burton Ford, their youngest child.  Alfred was Monique’s great, great-grandfather and Sylvia’s great-grandfather. Josephine Burton Ford was my great-grandmother.  Using the cousin calculator that makes Sylvia and Monique first cousins, once removed, Monique and I third cousins, once removed and Sylvia and I plain ole third cousins.

Two days after Thanksgiving, Monique and her family came over to our house and we had a few good hours of laughs over all the things we’ve found this past year and we were feeling pretty thankful, like we’d reached the peak of our genealogy mountain and could just take in the view.  Then, two days later, with the discovery of Sylvia, we had even more to be thankful for, and more history to uncover (her dad grew up on Alfred’s farm and told her stories of  Alf  working as an unofficial town vet – news to us!).  It feels like we’re at the beginning of another journey.

Check out the other cousin we found earlier this year, Renee Smith.

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Filed under ancestry, race, slavery, 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

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

Negro? Please.

My grandfather, Martin Luther Ford, referred to as "mulatto" in some census documents.

In the 2010 Census, people will be able to classify themselves as Negro.  The U.S. Census Bureau has added “Negro” to its forms again because some people prefer to be called by the term an official said.

I’d love to meet the people who refer to themselves as Negro.  Seriously.  I’m always interested in people’s personal philosophies when it comes to identity.  Why someone would want to call themselves something that conjures up the Jim Crow south is particularly intriguing.

My grandmother referred to herself and other black people as colored well into the 1980s, but she’s 93. That’s what blacks were called in the early 1900s in Oklahoma where she grew up.  Her father, my great grandfather, Bud Anderson had a penchant for calling everybody the n word, but only if he liked you. He also liked to carry around a shotgun, so I’m sure people just swallowed his generous use of the n word whether they found it offensive or not.  My great grandmother, Josephine Burton Ford and my grandfather, Martin Ford were classified as mulattoes in a 1910 census.  I wonder if that’s how my great grandmother saw herself, as a mulatto.  I know that’s not how my grandfather saw himself.  When I asked him if he was white, he made it clear he considered himself a black man.  But I’m grateful that the census made this distinction however distasteful the word mulatto may be.  “Mulatto” helped me find them in census reports and their ancestors in archives.

I like to call myself black even though some might consider African American the politically correct term. I’ve tried to use African American for myself, but it never feels right.  The term didn’t come into popularity until I was in my late teens and I was used to and liked the term black by then.  Besides, Africa is a big continent encompassing a plethora of cultures.  Would an American whose parents were born in Egypt call herself African American, or one with parents born in India consider himself Asian American?  I’d like to know.   How do you identify yourself?

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Filed under family history, Ford, geneology, mulatto, race, U.S. Census, Uncategorized

Finding Dionne

Monique, Dionne and daughters, Desiree, Jade, Amber and Devany.  Can you match the children with the correct mother?

Monique, Dionne and daughters, Desiree, Jade, Amber and Devany. Can you match the children with the correct mother?

by guest blogger, Monique Smith Anderson

Early in the summer during the middle of the night, I came across a post that caught my eye on a popular ancestry website, but for some reason it took me three more nights to respond. Once I did, I was thrilled just hours later to find a response from someone who knew details of My Family Tree as their own. As it turns out, that was the day that my new ancestry website contact had returned home from her grandmother’s funeral.

I was overjoyed with our internet communications, with my new found cousin describing in detail, stories of her Dad and Grandfather being raised on the very property I’ve pictured so many times in my head as an old sepia-toned movie. I can still hear the joy in my Father’s voice when he called me after getting his own e-mail from our new cousin which answered questions they’ve both had for many years. We have many more answers to find, but the load is now lighter and merry.

Ironically, my new cousin and I live just forty miles apart, 1500 miles away from the Mississippi town I now call home, but have never been to. Our first face to face meeting brought the peace and comfort that makes families Family. We wept openly possibly for the loss of our lone searches for our ancestors, followed by an afternoon of schoolgirl giggles finding more and more in common. I was tickled pink to share the 150 year old sword and scabbard that belonged to our Great Great Great Grandfather, Colonel W.R. Stuart. I had acquired the item on Ebay of all places, just two months earlier, also from a contact of that famous ancestry website.

My Cousin Dionne, my Dad, & I take searching for our roots very seriously. We all have binders two inches thick and forward each other every bit of information no matter how big or small. We have an unwritten rule of opening what could be “big hits” together, as we did a month ago with a 124-page package from the University of Southern Mississippi Archives. We are thankful for advancements in archival collections and access to public records, but have hit the proverbial wall with finding any information on Josephine Burton. Suddenly it hit us to go full circle and concentrate on word of mouth from elders as it used to be. We are taking big steps to make that happen right now.

We realize that searching can also be half of the thrill as well. When we’re disappointed from hitting another wall, we joke about who is going to play Tempe, The Colonel, and both of us when our journey is made into a movie. Just last week we forwarded each other a video clip on the life of Alex Haley with that haunting tune that none of us can ever forget for inspiration!

It took me writing this right now to realize that all of this research we are compiling is to literally put into the hands of our daughters as we would have wanted passed onto us. They are too young to understand or appreciate now, but I look forward to the day that I can pass on the full story of our roots from royalty in Scotland, slavery in the south, and all the way to Carnegie Hall.

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

Slaves and Masters in the Family

Last night at dinner, my nine year-old daughter asked, “Why did we have slavery?”

She has a knack for asking pointed questions, usually while we’re eating and my husband isn’t around to help me out with the answers.
Dozens of moral and philosophical answers ticked through my mind as I chewed my pizza, but I settled on a simple explanation.
“Because of greed,” I replied.
Too simple for Desiree. She wanted more. I tried to give it to her, explaining that people made good money capturing and selling slaves and how the cotton and tobacco fields that covered the south were cheaper to tend to with slaves than paid workers. She’d seen cotton fields on a family trip to Arkansas two summers ago. The sun was so fierce Desiree and her sister could barely stand the two minutes it took to pose for a picture on my grandfather’s tractor at the edge of his soybean field. I wondered if she remembered that, if she was imagining what it would be like to work in those fields all day until I realized her eyes were glazing over. The gauge on her information meter had reached full. But I wasn’t ready to relinquish her from the discussion yet. After all, as she likes to say of her little sister, she started it. So, I hung out a carrot.

“You know, Desiree, your great great great grandmother, Temple Burton was a slave.”

Desiree’s eyes lit up just like mine did the first time I heard about Temple and her master, my great great grandfather, Col. W.R. Stuart.

“Tell me about Temple,” Desiree said, pushing aside her pizza crust, sitting up in her chair on her knees like I’ve told her not to do a million times. Last night I let it slide.
I told her about how Temple was a slave in Ocean Springs, Mississippi where her Grandpa Joe, my father, grew up. I told her how Temple lived to be 105 and that after the Union Army won the Civil War and ended slavery, she decided to stay with her masters as their cook.
That surprised Desiree.

“Temple was nice,” Desi said. “If that were me, I would have slapped that slave master.”

I tried to explain to Desi that Temple probably didn’t have any other options. By the time the Civil War ended, Temple was 45 and had several kids. She probably didn’t know how to read or write. Where else would she go? How would she support herself and kids? Even though they enslaved her, the Stuarts were the devils she knew. Temple may have had more personal reasons as well. What I didn’t tell Desiree was that Col. Stuart was the father of Temple’s children, my great grandmother, Josephine Burton included.

“Mom, if we were back in those days and I met you, I would buy you so I could free you.” Desiree said.

“If I met you, I’d free you and make you a queen,” her sister added.

I told them that was very kind and left it at that. I didn’t have the heart or enough caffeine in me to tell them that even though they have butterscotch skin and copper and blonde curls, as biracial people back then they would have been considered black. They would have been slaves too. I’ll save that for the next discussion. Hopefully it will come over breakfast and not dinner when I will have ample supplies (like caffeinated tea and my husband) to fuel my side of the conversation.

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