Tag Archives: Stuart

Photo Friday: My ancestors and me at the Maryland Historical Society

My third great-grandfather, William R. Stuart and me at the Maryland Historical Society.  Photo by Flannery Silva. Fuzziness courtesy of my iphone.

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?



Filed under African-American history, Uncategorized, VCCA

Motivation Monday: My Weekly Genealogy Goals

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.

I’m thinking three goals for the first week is enough. Thanks to Mavis at Georgia Black Crackers and  Tonia at Tonia’s Roots for the goal-setting inspiration. What are you working on this week?


Filed under slavery, Uncategorized

Follow Friday: My Third Great Granddad’s College Blog

This week, I contacted administrators at Washington College, alma mater of my third great-grandfather, William R. Stuart to make arrangements for a visit.  I found out that Stuart went to Washington College while reading his obituary written by his friend and fellow Washington College alum, Ezekiel Chambers. Chambers and Stuart grew up together in Chestertown, MD where Washington College is located.  The college website boasts a picture of Chambers and describes him and his family as important pieces of the college’s legacy. My third great-grandfather and Chambers would have been among the college’s earliest graduates.  The two went on to serve in the Maryland State Senate together.

According to their website, Washington College, founded in the early 1780s was the first college chartered in the new nation.  Our first president, George Washington was founder and patron of the institution which says it’s committed to a broader understanding of our country’s history.   I’m so looking forward to traveling to the college this fall and seeing the places my grandfather may have roamed and studied which no doubt shaped his opinions and prepared him for a career in the Maryland State Senate. Until I can get to the college itself, I’ll be following their Poplar Grove Project blog.

Poplar Grove is an historic home in the area and students from Washington College found a treasure trove of letters and other papers in the attic there a couple of years ago.  Under the direction of history teacher Adam Goodheart, and in conjunction with the Maryland State Archives, the Poplar Grove Papers have since been archived.  And guess what?  In the index for the Poplar Grove collection on the State Archive’s website, there is mention of a William Stuart.  Professor Goodheart tipped me off to my ancestor’s possible connection with the papers when I contacted him to make arrangements to visit their college. I’m not sure if it’s my William Stuart, but I’ve already started going through the archived material available online to find out.  I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, you can listen to the story of Washington College’s students finding the Poplar Grove papers on NPR.

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Surname Saturday: Stuart Ancestry Confirmed

My great-grandmother, Josephine Burton Ford's death certificate lists Stuart as her father's name.

When my grandfather told me about his grandparents, ex-slave, Tempy Burton and her owner’s husband, Col. W.R. Stuart, I took his word for it.  But as I got older and went to journalism school, I craved some proof.  As many African-American researchers know, finding a paper trail for slave relatives or the children of their unions with their masters is virtually impossible.  I never expected to find any official document linking the Colonel to any of Tempy’s children.  Still, I’d have to return my journalism degree if I didn’t at least try.  So, I applied for my great-grandmother Josephine’s death certificate as soon as I found out when she died a few weeks ago.  I was dotting my “i” s and crossing my “t”s trying to be a good journalist and family researcher. Death certificates often name parents of the deceased.  It was a shot in the dark, but one that hit a bullseye.

Under name of father on Josephine’s death certificate is the surname Stuart – spelled correctly and everything.  (It’s often misspelled “Stewart.”)  Under maiden name of mother, is Tempy Burton.    The informant was my great-grandfather, James Ford, Josephine’s husband.

Finally, an official document with Stuart listed as Josephine’s father.  It’s ironic that Josephine’s death certificate would be the one of all the Colonel and Tempy’s children to list Stuart as her father since according to my grandmother, she didn’t want anything to do with that name.

The Stuart name is Scottish: originally an occupational name for an administrative official of an estate . According to Oxford’s dictionary of American Family Names,  in Old English times this title was used of an officer controlling the domestic affairs of a household, especially of the royal household. Many people will also recognize the name from the Royal House of Stuart. Presently the name is found mostly in Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, the US and Canada.

The earliest Stuart ancestor I’ve found so far is my fourth great-grandfather, Dr. Alexander Stuart who was an officer in the Revolutionary War.  His son, William S. Stuart was born in Kent County, Maryland, lived from 1780-1853 and made his career as a politician serving at one point as president of the Maryland State Senate.  His son, Col. W.R. Stuart would have the Stuart name end with him.  (His obituary claimed he left no children).  In actuality, he left no white children, but several black ones, possibly seven, including my great-grandmother, Josephine.  While  Josephine didn’t carry his name, her brother, Alfred Burton Stuart did.  The Stuart name ends with him, as his only surviving children were all daughters.


Filed under ancestry, family, family history, geneology, Uncategorized

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?


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