Tag Archives: genealogy
While at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, I’ve had the chance to visit the slave burial grounds at nearby Sweet Briar College. Over the years that I’ve been coming to the VCCA to write, I became aware of the grounds and was happy to learn that they were being preserved. Sweet Briar College was once a plantation and dozens of enslaved people are buried there. Thanks to the work of a team of preservationists headed by Dr. Lynn Rainville, these grounds are safe from disappearing and another descendant is closer to finding their ancestor.
Rainville, a research anthropologist and historian at Sweet Briar College, received a grant earlier this year from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop the African American Family Database. The project is a model for researching African-American families from antebellum to post-bellum times and when completed will help descendants find their enslaved ancestors.
Yesterday, on my way down to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts where I’m working on my family history project, I stopped in Baltimore to see some relatives – some living, some dead. The living one is my niece, Flannery, a student at Maryland Institute College of Art. She accompanied me to see my ancestors whose portraits are housed at the Maryland Historical Society, just blocks from her school. Funny the way things work.
Flanny was kind enough to take photos of me with the portraits of my second great uncle, Alexander Stuart, his wife, Matilda (who was sporting an amazing ermine robe), my third great uncle, Andrew Stuart, and my third great-grandfather, William R. Stuart pictured above. See any family resemblance?
Not only is this newspaper article about my talented great-aunt Tempe Stuart a point of pride for this woman who would go on to make her living teaching and performing music, but it’s also full of information that I didn’t know about my paternal family’s ancestral home, Ocean Springs, Mississippi. I want to thank my friend, Shannon, for bringing the article to my attention.*
The article states that Tempe Stuart’s dad, Alfred was among the wealthiest colored men in the town, supplying its residents with milk. (Not bad for a man born a slave at the end of the Civil War). At also says that this small Gulf Coast town had about 120 “colored” families and over two-thirds of them owned their homes. That number has to break some kind of record for black homeowners in the south during that time, just a little over 30 years after the end of slavery. Oceanspringsarchives.net contends that the number of black residents was even higher than the article suggests with 331 compared with 925 white residents, citing the federal census as the source. So, in 190o, roughly one-quarter of Ocean Springs residents were blacks and 2/3 of those blacks owned their homes. According to US Census data from 2000, Ocean Springs now has a population of about 17,000 people and about 1200 of its residents are black. About 72 percent of all residents own their homes.
I wonder what made Ocean Springs so conducive to property ownership for former slaves and their families?
(*I’ve gotten so used to Shannon forwarding me amazing newspaper articles about my family, that I neglected to thank her in my original post, so the asterisk refers to updated information.)
Today, my family and I are celebrating Columbus Day by taking advantage of the day off and going to a beautiful farm-lined part of our state to do some apple picking. But back in 1893, the world celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s landing in America on a grand scale with the World Columbian Exposition . Chicago beat out New York City, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. for the honor of hosting this world fair which took three years to organize, pushing back the celebration a year later than planned. Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park fame designed the grounds visited by over 25 million people including my second great-grandfather, Col. W. R. Stuart. His Stuart pecans exhibit was one of tens of thousands on display at the fair.
Happy Columbus Day!
With my children finally back in school, I can return my attention for at least part of the day to shaking my family tree. My cousin and I have made a lot of progress since we started searching together last year, but each new discovery invariably leads us to another clue, another agency to call, or piece of history to look into. Following all of these threads requires organization, so I’ve decided to give myself a weekly list of genealogy goals to keep me focused. I’ll do this on “Motivation Mondays,” and if you find this theme useful, I hope you’ll join me.
Goals for this week:
- Transcribe one letter from the Stuart Papers. Pictured above, the collection of letters, sermons and personal documents belonged to my third great-grandfather, William R. Stuart. (If I do one letter a week, I’ll have them finished by 2012!)
- look into some of the laws regarding slaves in Maryland. Stuart was president of the state’s senate and mentions pending legislation regarding slavery a few times in his letters in 1826 and again in the 1840s. I wonder if he helped craft laws regarding slavery and if they were pro or anti the institution.
- Follow up with the local library to find out when the Stirling Papers will arrive on microfilm, on loan from Princeton University. I’m dying to find out if these papers have any information on my third great-grandmother, Eliza Burton, who was owned by the Stirling family.
Last week, my friend, Shannon Brock sent me a couple of death notices that she thought pertained to my family. I’m not sure about one of them, but the following is definitely the death notice for my kin, Alfred B. Stuart. He was great, great-grandfather to my cousin Monique and my great-grandmother, Josephine Burton Ford’s brother. Here is the transcribed death notice as it appeared:
Times Picayune, Thursday, October 4, 1928:
STUART – On Wednesday afternoon at 4:45 o’clock. ALFRED B. STUART, beloved father of Mrs. Lillian Boyd, Mrs. Temple Smith of New York, one sister, Mrs. Viola Battle of New Orleans, LA. Remains to be shipped to Ocean Springs, miss., Thursday morning, October 6, 1928 at 11 a.m. via L. & N. R.R. Funeral services Thursday afternoon 3 p.m. at St. James Church, Ocean Springs, Miss. Los Angeles, Cal. papers please copy. Arrangement by the Geo. D. Geddes Undertaking Company.
The next week, the family published this follow up:
Times Picayune, Wednesday, October 10, 1928
WE TAKE this method to thank our many friends, both white and colored, for the beautiful floral offerings, kind words and loving care during the illness and death of our beloved brother and father, ALFRED BURTON STUART who died October 3, 1938.
The bereaved family,
MRS. VIOLA BATTLE, A SISTER, MESDAMES TEMPY SMITH, LILLIAN BOYD AND BERTHA S. RICE, DAUGHTERS
Thanks again, Shannon for connecting us with more important family documents to help us in our research.