Tag Archives: Carnival of African-American Genealogy

Treasure Chest Thursday: Another enslaved ancestor found!

“I desire to find my people.” That’s how my great, great-grandmother Tempy Burton begins her June 4, 1891 ad in the Southwestern Christian Advocate.  Known simply as the Southwestern, this paper was started in 1877 and covered the African Methodist Episcopal community.  Like Tempy, I come from the AME tradition. I was baptized in the AME church where my father is now an ordained minister. Also like Tempy, I desire to find my people.  That desire led me to my cousin Monique who I met via email a year ago on June 3, just shy of the anniversary of Tempy’s ad.  Great minds think alike because  initially, Monique thought we should put an ad in an Ocean Springs, Mississippi paper where our people are from with the headline “Looking for the Burtons.”  But we figured a blog was cheaper with a farther reach, so Finding Josephine was born. Thanks to the Southwestern and a good Samaritan named Shannon,  we all found our people.

The Southwestern ad appeared in a column called “Lost Friends” which helped former slaves find their lost family, separated by slavery.  Tempy’s  humble, heartfelt petition names her mother, Eliza Burton, her sisters, Nancy, Polly and Liberia Burton, a brother, Albert Burton, and two aunts, Peggie Manrow and Bettie Matthews.

I’ve clung to the hope that I would be able to take my research back another generation and find Tempy’s parents, but I knew the chances were slim.  Like Tempy,  her parents  would inevitably be slaves whose names and places of birth were a mystery to me. If I did find either of them, I figured it would come way down the research road when my kids were older and I could steal a few days to take a genealogy jaunt to North Carolina where Tempy’s owners come from.  Even then, they would only turn up after many sweaty afternoons in the bowels of a municipal office, bent over ancient, dusty deed books or wills. (I can hear all you genealogy junkies out there getting excited just at the thought!) But instead, with one email from a woman I’ve never met who loves historic newspapers, impassioned pleas, and combing the AfriGeneas African-American genealogy website, I’ve reclaimed an entire generation of my enslaved ancestors:  A third great-grandmother, two third great aunts, three great, great-aunts, and a great, great-uncle.  Now, I even know the names of the people who owned this earlier generation of my Burton family.  The ad said, “My mother, sister Nancy, Bro. Albert, aunt Bettie, and aunt Peggy lived on the same plantation and belonged to Dr. Sterling’s people.  Liberia and Polly belonged to Dr. Robert Hilyard.  Liberia was salivated when a child.  I left them in Attakapas, La.” (So there is still a dusty records office somewhere in Louisiana in my future where I will be looking for Drs. Sterling and Hilyard and deciphering the meaning of “salivated.”)

I barely dared to believe I’d  find Tempy’s parents.  But I  never imagined I’d read Tempy’s personal thoughts in print. A slave until she was in  her 40s,  Tempy never learned how to read or write. (A 1900 census states she could do neither). But someone (probably her son, Alfred or daughter Josephine who lived near their mom in Ocean Springs, Mississippi) carefully wrote her petition and sent it to the Southwestern. And Shannon, 120 years later, struck by Tempy’s quest, took a chance, checked out the AfriGeneas message boards to see if anyone today was looking for her the way she looked for her people back then.

And here we are.

The treasure for me is not only that I now know the names of  my great, great-grandmother Tempy’s mother, siblings, and aunts but that the kindness of strangers that keeps raining down on me on this journey has helped me make a new friend.  She needs her own post, so I’ll tell you about Shannon and how she found Tempy’s ad through the New England Historic Genealogical Society next time. Until then, here’s Tempy’s ad and the follow-up:

Southwestern Christian Advocate  – June 4, 1891:

Mr. Editor:

I desire to find my people.  Mother’s name was Eliza Burton, sisters, Nancy, Pally, and Liberia Burton.  I had a brother Albert Burton who died, and two aunts, Peggie Manrow and Bettie Matthews.  My mother, sister Nancy, Bro. Albert, aunt Bettie, and aunt Peggy lived on the same plantation and belonged to Dr. Sterling’s people.  Liberia and Polly belonged to Dr. Robert Hilyard.  Liberia was salivated when a child.  I left them in Attakapas, La.  Any information concerning them will be thankfully received.  Address Mrs. Tempy Burton, Ocean Springs, Miss., care W.R. Stewart, Esq.

Southwestern Christian Advocate – August 13, 1891:

Dr. A.E.P. Albert:

Dear Brother:  The Southwestern has been the means of the recovery of my sister, Mrs. Polly Woodfork and eight children.  I owe my joy to God and the SOUTHWESTERN, and wish the editor success in getting 1,000 cash subscribers in the next thirty days.  I will do all in my power to get all the subscribers I can.  God bless Dr. Albert and crown him with success.    Mrs. Tempy Burton

*My new friend’s name is Shannon, not Sharon as I initially wrote.  All the euphoria over the find clouded my brain.  Sorry Shannon!


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Treasure Chest Thursday: Meet Renira Morris

Renira Morris (far left), the little sister I never had with my daughters and me at a pre-school graduation ceremony.

After my post on Monday about the book, “Freedom’s Child” and all the similarities I had with the author, Carrie Allen McCray, I received this comment:

I knew her as “Aunt Carrie” as she is the Grand-Aunt of my best friend Gila. She also happens to be the author of one of my favourite poems. I will be happy to put you in touch with the family.
Lots of Love, Renira”

Renira happens to be a good friend of mine who I came to know shortly after I moved to this town.  As an undergraduate student, she babysat my children and quickly  became like an older sister to my girls and like a younger sister to me.  (I’m not ready to concede that she’s young enough to be my daughter!)  So strong is her presence in my family that when my daughter had to write a report for Women’s History Month, she choose Renira as her subject.

In between games of Twister! with the girls and discussions about current affairs with us adults, Renira often spoke of her best friend, Gila.  The two grew up in my current hometown, but  I never met Gila because she choose a job on the other side of the country after graduating from an east coast law school.  Now that Renira is a graduate student at Columbia University, we don’t see her as often, but we stay in touch via twitter, texts, and my blog.

A remarkable young woman, I’m not at all surprised that Renira would know Carrie Allen McCray and her family who also seem like remarkable people.  I always knew Renira was a treasure, I just didn’t know about this particular treasure- a connection with the McCray family-  that was also in her trove.

I wonder if this connection with the McCrays would have ever come up in our face-to-face conversations.  Is there something you stumbled across because of your blogging or in the virtual world that never presented itself in “real time”?


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Wordless Wednesday: A picture of past, present and future

On my way home from jury duty in Newark, New Jersey yesterday, I noticed a cemetery crunched between a row of new houses on one side and an impending construction project on the other.  It struck me, past, present and future all shoved together on one urban city block.  So, today after fulfilling my jury duty, I stopped and took these pictures with my cellphone (so please excuse the poor quality):

A Jewish cemetery on South Orange Avenue in Newark, NJ with new housing on one side of it...

and a construction project on the other.

Stone plaque at the South Orange Avenue entrance of a Jewish cemetery in Newark, NJ


Filed under ancestry, family history, Uncategorized

Treasure Chest Thursday: Grandpa Ford’s Dress

My grandfather, Martin Luther Ford and his brother, Adrian Ford around 1910.

A copy of the above picture of my grandfather, Martin Ford and his brother Adrian hangs on the wall in our house.  It’s one of my most prized possessions. It was probably taken around 1910 since  my grandfather, seated, was born in 1905 and doesn’t look like he is much more than 5 years-old in the photo.  I don’t know what I love more about this picture – Grandpa’s belted dress or his long flowing hair!


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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.


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

Tips from the Carnival of African-American Genealogy

Part of the will where Hill Jones bequeathed my great great-grandmother, Temple Burton to his wife, Judith Jones.

I spent this morning reading blog posts submitted to the Carnival of African-American Genealogy.  This blog carnival, designed to bring bloggers together around a specific topic, focused on how to use slave records in genealogical research.  I had to pull myself away from all the informative, insightful and impassioned stories in order to keep a noon appointment. It was heartening to witness such community.  From slave owner descendants who posted slaves’ names in their ancestors’ wills and deeds to slave descendants detailing their finds and encouraging the research family to help one another, bloggers really answered host, Lucky Daniel’s passionate plea which was the genesis of the Carnival and its first theme. Along with being inspired, I was also enlightened. Here are a few tips I picked up from participating in and checking out the Carnival of African-American Genealogy on how to prioritize my search for more information on my slave ancestor, Temple Burton:

  1. Check out the Family Bible – Kathleen at a3genealogy and Mavis at GeorgiaBlackCrackers were just two of many carnival bloggers attesting to how fruitful these personal documents can be.  Researching family bibles in the Hill Jones family is now at the top of my list in my search to find out more about my great, great-grandmother, Temple Burton.  Hill Jones is her earliest owner that I’ve been able to find.  Before reading today’s carnival, I was intent on starting with
  2. Wills and Deeds, which are still important and extremely valuable and are my next stop in finding more about Temple.  A will is where I found her owner, Hill Jones in the first place.
  3. World Names Profiler – Debra at All My Ancestors had a link to this neat site that lets you punch in a surname and see where in the world it’s most prominent.  I hope it doesn’t come down to tracking down slave owners with my great-great grandmother’s last name since that seems like a shot in the dark, but at least I’ll know where in the world to start looking.

Thanks Lucky for hosting the 1st theme of the Carnival of African-American Genealogy and thanks to all who posted and helped me prioritize my search! If you haven’t already, check out the carnival and let me know what you took away from it.

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