“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?