We are our ancestors!

From Hillside International Truth Center, Atlanta, GA
Remember the delicate egg and its role in our ancestry. Photo credit: Ann Wead Kimbrough, 2017
      Every cell in your body re-presents an Ancestor. These cells are encoded with the soul-print of your ancestors. You are the embodiment of those who came before you. They came before you, and they are with you now. All eternity is in the present now. No separation. Your existence is re-presenting the past in the present moment. You are creating and shaping the future as a future ancestor. Be bold and unapologetic about it.       I am the future of my past. I am the very existence of all that was before me. I am here, right now, to carry forward the legacy, the collective soul intent of my ancestors. I rest in the now, knowing that I am right where I need to be. I am fully connected with All That Is. I belong. I am enough. I am now. Thank you, Order, in me, through me, as me, around me, through the Christ within. And so it is.      So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27 
 Daily Thoughts from the HillCopyright: Hillside International Truth Center, Inc.Bishop Dr. Jack L. Bomar – Executive BishopBishop Dr. Barbara L. King – Founder

Repost #11 Genealogy TipSheet: Don’t forget the Potter’s fields

It is a tough lick when one cannot locate a relative whom we know existed, yet is not “findable.” In genealogy research, we refer to such situations as brick walls.

One tool to help chip away at those walls are found in places that we may driven past a hundred times. In my home state of Nebraska, and especially in Omaha, I turned to the Potter’s Field to locate the individuals who are missing from all final records https://www.noiseomaha.com/news-now/2020/10/28/potters-field-historical-marker-dedication-honors-those-laid-to-rest.

The reference in the Bible to the Potter’s House https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/jeremiah-18/has many meanings. In relation to the Potter’s Field in Nebraska and in many locations around the globe, the person working pottery never abandoned a lump of clay just because of its imperfections. Instead, it worked it via a wheel or by hand to mold it into something good.

Looking for a relative who may have been forgotten? Check your local and state records as more individuals are being identified and in some cases, relocated to different burial sites.

Basics of research African American genealogy

There is an increasing amount of good content to assist genealogists in researching the most challenging segment in ancestral pursuits.

If you are like me and serious about uncovering the mysteries of my family’s great past with accuracy, check out a few new guides for African American research:

“And They Thought We Couldn’t Fight:”* Remembering the Nine Soldiers in a World War I Photograph

 By Ncurrie, Posted In Finding AidsMilitaryTribute/NewsWorld War I Era

Sgt Daniel Storms
HD Primas
Cpl TW Taylor
alfred manley
ralph hawkins
leon fraiter
Joe Williams
ed williams
herbert taylor

Today’s Blog is written by Barbara Lewis Burger, a retired National Archives Still Picture Senior Archivist

369th all
New York’s Colored Regiment Returns Home on Stockholm. Some of the colored men on 369th (15th N.Y.) who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action. Front row, left to right: Private Eagle Eye, Ed Williams; Lamp Light, Herbert Tayl; 12 Feb, 1919 (NAID 26431282detail of photo scan

The above photograph of nine World War I soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment is one of several iconic photographs in the National Archives and Records Administration that document African American soldiers during the war. This particular image has been widely reproduced in print and broadcast media, and on the internet. The photograph (Local ID 165-WW-127A-8/ NAID 26431282) is from the series, American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, 1917-1918 (NAID 533461) in the Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, Record Group 165.

The image was taken on board the USS Stockholm on February 12, 1919, as the soldiers of the 369th and other African American troops returning home following the Armistice, awaited disembarkation in New York City. The 369th’s service in the war began over one hundred years ago on April 2, 1917, when President Woodrow Wilson asked a joint session of Congress to issue a declaration of war against the German Empire. In two days, both houses had voted to support the declaration. In the spring and summer, the nine men in the photograph, eager to join the war, volunteered with the 15th Regiment Infantry (Colored) of the New York National Guard. Later that winter, within days of the United States declaring war on December 7th against Germany’s ally Austria-Hungary, the troops of the 15th Infantry set sail on the USS Pocahontas. The ship was bound for the port city of Brest, France and the soldiers were destined for their place in history.  Two months later, on March 1, 1918, the regiment was reorganized and designated the 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division.

The history of the regiment is well researched and documented, including its ill treatment and under-utilization by American forces in France. At the time, many Americans, including military leaders, believed African Americans lacked the intelligence and courage to fight. In the summer of 1918 the regiment was integrated into French forces to help replenish its forces and soon faced combat. The 369th proved the skeptics wrong and went on to achieve a remarkable combat record: they served more time in continuous combat than any other American unit — the regiment fought for 191 days on the front, the longest of any unit; never lost a man captured; never lost a foot of ground to the Germans; and was the first Allied unit to cross the Rhine River during the Allied offensive. In recognition of its bravery under fire, the French government awarded the regiment with the country’s military decoration, the Croix de Guerre. In addition, 171 men of the regiment were also presented with an individual Croix de Guerre for their valor. Several soldiers were also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The 369th was not the only black World War I regiment, nor the only one to fight valiantly, but it is perhaps the most famous. Each soldier in this photograph, who is identified in an accompanying caption, is wearing the Croix de Guerre pinned to his garment. Also visible on the left sleeves of several are two War Service Chevrons signifying a year of service in the theater of operations.

The names of the soldiers are known, but who are they? After years of being intrigued by this handsomely composed image and the demeanor of the nine brave men in it, I decided to find out as much information as I could about their lives—to discover the real people behind the faces in the photograph. I chose to confine my research to public (federal and state) records that are available through the internet. I selected to access documentation—primarily U.S. Army and New York National Guard records, and Veterans Affairs burial files—through the genealogical databases Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. Official Military Personnel Files and Department of Veterans Affairs benefit claim files are not available online and consequently were excluded from research. As may be expected, the amount of information I was able to discover varied from person to person.

My quest began with the soldier who first caught my eye. He is on the back row leaning forward, looking war-weary and tough as nails. He also appears older than the other men. As it turns out, as a sergeant, he is the highest-ranking and oldest man in the group.Sgt. Daniel Storms, Jr. (detail)

Daniel W. Storms, Jr. was about 33 years old when he enlisted on May 8, 1917, as a private in Company A of the 15th New York Regiment. He was subsequently promoted to sergeant on December 4, 1918. A few days after his return from the war, he was honorably discharged on February 24, 1919. Interestingly, his brother Joseph also served with the 369th and also returned safely to New York City on board another ship. After serving bravely, Dan Storms returned to his family and found work in New York City as a janitor and an elevator operator.

Daniel W. Storms, Jr. was born about 1885 in Stamford, Connecticut to Daniel W. Storms, Sr. and Esther (Essie) Walton (according to the sergeant’s New York City death certificate).  Prior to the war, Storms worked as a hostler and house cleaner. By 1915, he is listed in the New York State Census as living in New York City and married to Amy (spelling varies) Price, a widow with a young daughter named Hazel Price. They also lived in Stamford, Connecticut in the early 1900’s. Mrs. Storms appears to have died in 1951 and her daughter Hazel died in 1924.  Like so many in the early twentieth century, Mr. Storms contracted tuberculosis and after a year, according to his death record, succumbed to the disease on February 28, 1922. He was buried four days later in Woodland Cemetery in Stamford, Connecticut.  Daniel Storms is also one of four men in the photograph who was also honored with an individual Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action.

Far left and leaning against the railing behind Storms’s right shoulder is Henry Davis Primas, Sr.Henry Primas (detail)

He is also a recipient of an individual Croix de Guerre for bravery in action. Henry Primas enlisted on November 16, 1917, with the 15th New York and was later assigned as a private to the 369th’s Medical Detachment. That Primas graduated in 1914 with a degree in pharmacy from the University of Pittsburgh, undoubtedly was a factor in his assignment to the Medical Detachment. He was a private with Company I when he set sail on the Pocahontas.  Pvt. Primas was honorably discharged February 24, 1919. That May, Henry Primas discussed his war service at a church program in his hometown of Charleroi, Pennsylvania and was referred to as sergeant in an article in The Charleroi Mail. Online abstracts of his National Guard documents, unfortunately, do not indicate a promotion and his grade at demobilization was private. Perhaps surviving military records will provide clarification.

Primas’s mother was Annette Wilson Primas and his father, Meshach Primas, was a native of Virginia, who moved to southwestern Pennsylvania in 1875. After the war, Henry Primas returned home to his family. The following year he married Frances Jeffreys and later had a son. Mr. Primas worked as a druggist and was also retired from the U.S. Post Office Department. After suffering from heart disease for a several years, H. D. Primas died at the age of 66 of cardiac insufficiency on May 3, 1961. He was buried in Homewood Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A granite U.S. government-furnished marker imprinted with his service information was placed on his grave.  His wife, Frances Primas died five years later and their son Henry Davis Primas, Jr. died a year after his mother.  The heroism Henry Davis Primas showed in World War I has not been forgotten. His name is to be inscribed with the names of other veterans from western Pennsylvania on the Donora (Pennsylvania) Veterans Memorial.

At the other end (far right) of the back row is Corporal T. W. Taylor.Cpl. Tyler Taylor (detail)

With only first and middle name initials, identifying Cpl. Taylor required a little resourcefulness. After several futile attempts at first names — Thomas, Theodore, Tyrone, etc. — I consulted the New York Military Museum and Veterans Research Center’s online database of enlistment cards and searched all of the Taylors until I found the corporal. The physical description of the enlistee on the card also fits the person photographed.  In addition, a 1919 article (online) in The New York Age describing a dinner in honor of Corporal Tyler W. Taylor, a Croix de Guerre winner, and fellow soldiers further confirmed I had found the correct person—Cpl. Tyler William Taylor, the third recipient of an individual Croix de Guerre.

Born to Lee and Luvina Hairston Taylor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on July 5, 1895, T. W. Taylor at a young age moved to New York City with his mother and stepfather. According to the 1915 New York State Census, he was employed as a chauffeur with the Post Office.  He enlisted in the 15th New York as a cook, was promoted to private in September 1917, and made corporal in December 1918.  As had his fellow infantrymen, he served overseas from December 1917 to February 1919.  T. W. Taylor is listed on the Stockholm manifest as a member of Company B of the 369th Infantry and was honorably discharged on February 24, 1919. Just months after his return, Mr. Taylor married Idell Reeves on April 30, 1919. Their daughter Vivienne was born a year later.  Details of Taylor’s life after 1920 are less clear. He and his family are recorded in the 1925 New York State Census. The 1930 U.S. Population Census lists him as a cook on a steamship. He also appears on the 1930 U.S. Census of Merchant Seamen as a third messman on the SS Seminole (Clyde Steamship Company). T. W. Taylor and his wife divorced in 1934. I found a Tyler Taylor on the 1940 Census living in Fairfield, Connecticut and working as a butler. Even though the race of that person was recorded as white, there is a good possibility that he was T. W. Taylor. When Mr. Taylor reenlisted in with the 15th National Guard in 1947, he was described as having a light complexion with gray eyes. Tyler William Taylor lived a long life and died on February 24, 1983, in Bayonne, New Jersey at the age of 86.  Both his former wife and daughter predeceased him.

Seated next to Cpl. Taylor is Pvt. Alfred S. Manley.Pvt. Alfred Manley (detail)

His surname in the photograph caption, however, is Hanley. It soon became apparent after initial searches failed to reveal the identity of a member of the 369th with that name that the last name was probably misspelled.  The Stockholm passenger register does not list an Alfred S. “Hanley” and so I searched the manifest for an Alfred S. with a similarly spelled surname. The odds favor Pvt. Alfred S. Manley who was born in 1895 in Powhatan, Virginia.  As other African Americans had in the early 1900’s, his family migrated north. By 1910, they were living in New Jersey.  At some point, Alfred Manley must have relocated, because his enlistment records list an address in New York City. He signed on as a private with Company B of the 15th New York on July 13, 1917, at the age of 19. The passenger list for the Pocahontas lists his sister Ophelia as a contact person.  Pvt. Manley’s moniker during the war was “Kid Buck.” In the 1930 census he was recorded as a living in Newark, New Jersey and working as a chauffeur for a laundry company. Alfred S. Manley died on April 16, 1933, and is buried in Fairmount Cemetery in Newark, New Jersey.  The U.S. government authorized a headstone for his gravesite that was carved with his World War I service information.

Pvt. Ralph Hawkins, nicknamed “Kid Hawk,” is pictured at the far right in the front row, is fourth of the 369th soldiers who was also awarded an individual Croix de Guerre.Pvt. Ralph Hawkins (detail)

His medal included a bronze star (for heroism mentioned in dispatches at the regiment level).  Ralph Ernest Hawkins, who was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, was nineteen when he enlisted in the 15th New York National Guard and was assigned as a private in Company C. He also sailed to Europe on the Pocahontas and served two years abroad. He was promoted to corporal in 1918 and demoted to private two months later. Pvt. Hawkins was honorably discharged from the 369th on February 24, 1919.  His father Frederick Hawkins in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is listed on ship manifests as his next-of-kin. Ralph Hawkins reenlisted in the New York National Guard in April 1919 and October 1922. Unfortunately, I was unable to discover much about Mr. Hawkins’s personal life before and after World War I. He apparently married Anita Gross in 1920 and soon had four children. The 1940 Census indicates that he was working as a laborer with the Works Progress Administration, but seemingly living apart from his family.  In 1942 Ralph Hawkins registered for the World War II draft. There is also a possibility that he was a patient in 1944 at a veteran’s hospital in Castle Point, New York. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania death records confirm that his parents lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and that his father Frederick died in 1936.  The death certificate for Ralph Hawkins indicates that he died in Philadelphia on January 8, 1951, and was to be buried in Merion Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. Anita Hawkins died in 1975 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  Nonetheless, more conclusive facts could lead to a more complete personal history of Pvt. Ralph Hawkins.

Next to Ralph Hawkins is Pvt. Leon E. Fraiter who was born November 11, 1892, in Charleston, South Carolina to Benjamin Fraiter and Ella Scott Fraiter.Pvt. Leon Fraiter (detail)

By 1911, the family, according to Episcopal Diocese church records, was residing in New York City. No further information was located until his enlistment in the National Guard in August 1917. Curiously, his National Guard enlistment records indicate he was 18 years old, putting into question his birthdate. Leon Fraiter was assigned to Company K of the 15th New York. Eventually he was transferred to Company A of the 369th, where he remained until his honorable discharge in 1919. The manifests for the Pocahontas and the Stockholm list his parents, who evidently had returned to South Carolina, as contactsA few years after the war, Mr. Fraiter married Amy Wilkinson in 1924 in New York City.  Six years later he was recorded on the 1930 U.S. Population Census as having two sons and working as a salesman in a jewelry store.  His wife, sadly, died in 1937. Leon Fraiter was not found in online public records until almost four decades later following his death on December 9, 1974. Pvt. Fraiter was buried in Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York.  A photograph of Leon Fraiter in later years is attached to a family tree on Ancestry.com.

Third from the left on the back row is Pvt. Joe Williams, who was nicknamed “Kid Woney.”Pvt. Joe Williams (detail)

Identifying an individual with such commonly found given and surnames raised questions. First of all, is Joe the soldier’s given name, a diminutive, a nickname or a middle name? The passenger list for the Stockholm does include a “Joe Williams,” but his name is crossed out with a note that he was transferred to a hospital ship. I found only one other Pvt. Joseph Williams on the ship manifest and in National Guard muster roll abstracts for the 15th New York. That Joseph Williams served in the 369th with Company C and was slightly wounded in action on or about November 10, 1918. His National Guard records indicate that he was born in Savannah, Georgia, circa 1896. The Stockholm manifest lists his mother Mrs. Anna Williams of Savannah, Georgia (another common name and no street address was given) as the contact person. The Georgia-born Pvt. Joseph Williams appears to be the most likely person in the photograph. With multiple men with the same name, however, living in New York City, Savannah, and Philadelphia, I was unable to pinpoint the exact person. Additional evidence, such as military service records, may provide information about Pvt. Joseph Williams’s life before and after the war.

Finding Pvt. Ed Williams, who is pictured in the front at the far left, proved even more challenging.Pvt. Ed Williams (detail)

In trying to identify him I encountered the same problems I had with Joe Williams, but by many times. I counted five Pvt. Edward Williamses and two Edgar Williamses on the Stockholm manifest. Of those seven, only three were members of the 369th.  Two of the three were Headquarters staff.  One of the Edward Williams’ with the Headquarters staff fortuitously filed an application in 1919 for a Seaman’s Certificate of American Citizenship in which he indicated that he was 33 years old. He also submitted a photograph of himself.  His facial features, however, do not appear similar to the person in the group photograph. The second Headquarters serviceman, Pvt. Edward Williams, appears in the National Guard records as a 19-year old resident of New York City, who enlisted at Fort Slocum, New York. He was assigned to the Company K and later the Headquarters Staff of the 15th Infantry and sailed to France on the Pocahontas in December 1917. He named a friend as the contact person. Unfortunately, those two bits of information were not enough to enable me to distinguish him from other men with the same name.

The remaining Ed Williams is identified as a private in Company C.  Since the group photograph is composed of members of Companies B and C, I think there is a very good possibility that Edward Williams in Company C is the person pictured. He also shipped out in 1917 from Hoboken, New Jersey on the Pocahontas. According to the New York State National Guard abstracts, Pvt. Williams was severely wounded on September 30, 1918.  That date coincides with the period the 369th was engaged in fierce fighting in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and captured a key railroad unit near Séchault, France.

Edward Williams of Company C was born on February 5, 1898, in Charlotte, North Carolina to Love and Lucy Hall Williams. Upon his return from the war, Mr. Williams married Essie Blythe in Greenville County, South Carolina and found employment there. By 1940, he and his family were living in New York City. He died in Brooklyn, New York on April 21, 1993, at the age of 95. A photograph of an older Mr. Edward Williams is included in a family tree on Ancestry.com. Although the photograph shows a mature man, there is some similarity in facial features. As with Joe Williams, additional information may offer confirmation that he is the soldier in the photograph known as “Eagle Eye.”

The ninth soldier in the group is Pvt. Herbert Taylor, who is second from the left on the front row.Pvt. Herbert Taylor (detail)

As might be expected, many people with the same name or variations of it served in World War I. Only one such named person, though, who was assigned to the 369th regiment, sailed to the Western Front in December 1917 on the Pocahontas, and returned February 1919 on the Stockholm was found. Pvt. Herbert “Lamp Light” Taylor served with Company B and was slightly wounded on September 29, 1918, possibly during the battle for Séchault, France.  Both ship passenger lists record his mother, Mable Taylor, living in Newark, New Jersey, as next of kin.

Little additional information, however, was found about Pvt. Herbert Taylor. New York’s National Guard service records do offer snippets of information, including a birth date and place — December 15, 1896, in Newark, New Jersey. Census data for 1930 and a World War II draft registration card reference a Herbert Taylor with the same birth date and place living in New York City. With so many people with the same name, corroborating information is necessary to confirm that references pertain to the former soldier. Supporting documents, however, do indicate that Mr. Taylor reenlisted in 1941 in the 15th regiment for a two-year period and that he was living in New York City working as a laborer. Pvt. Herbert Taylor of the 369th Infantry died December 6, 1984, and was laid to rest in Long Island, New York at Calverton National Cemetery.

It is appropriate that 100 years after tens of thousands of African Americans enlisted to fight in the Great War that nine of those proud and brave soldiers are remembered in today’s blog.  And so, on Veterans Day 2017, let us join in remembering, honoring and thanking these men, and all of our veterans, for their service and sacrifices.


* From the title of a Victory Loan Poster by artist Clyde Forsythe, circa 1918

Selected Sources for further research:

Lists of Incoming Passengers, 1917-1938NAID: 6234465. Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985, Record Group 92. The National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

Lists of Outgoing Passengers, 1917-1938NAID: 6234477. RG 92. The National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Records of the Selective Service System, RG 163. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. M1509

Fourth Registration Draft Cards. Records of the Selective Service System, RG 147. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

Various Census Records. Records of the Bureau of the Census, RG 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

New York Guard Service Cards and Enlistment Records, 1906–1918, 1940–1948. Series B2000. Microfilm, 61 reels. New York State, Division of Military and Naval Affairs. New York State Archives, Albany, NY.

New York State National Guard, National Guard Enlistment Cards, 1923–1940. New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center, Saratoga Springs, NY.

Abstracts of National Guard Service in World War I, 1917–1919. New York State Adjutant General’s Office. Series 13721. New York State Archives, Albany, NY.

15th New York National Guard Enlistment Records. New York Heritage Digital Collections.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem Death File.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  National Cemetery Administration, Nationwide Gravesite Locator

U.S. Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File.

#32 My recommended great reads: African American history

My bookshelf is stocked with a great variety of good reads. They are loosely categorized by subject areas that include “Health and Healing,” “African American History, ” “International and Domestic Finance/Business,” “Black Authors,” “Book Publishing,” and “Media and Journalism” and “Other.” I also have personal journals that date back a few decades.

Over the years, I have amassed hundreds of books from my days as a college professor and dean and from purchases and gifts from countless friends and family who know that I love reading and growing.

As I perused my shelves, my frayed books are those in the “African American History” and “Black Authors” categories. I love history and ancestral truths that have inspired me over the years. I have shelves, baskets for books, closets and tables full of varying books and magazines that suit my interests. The sample shelves from my stacks of books are what I wish to share in this blog.

I offer that reading transforms lives. Reading truths about our ancestral journeys — with appropriate citations such as the extensive ones offered by Dr. Lerone Bennett — uplift the downtrodden. By providing clarity in one’s life about what our ancestors overcame and how they invented so many food dishes, everyday products, expressed themselves with eloquence and grace, fought for and defended human rights, and worked tirelessly to build institutions that we take for granted … keeps me inspired.

Another top row sample of the second half of my book shelves in my home office.

What’s on your shelves? Please share and tell us about your favorite African American books.

Keep reading.

Repost #5 Peek in our e-book: “Out of Sight’ for beginning Black Genealogists

PART I: Out of Our Gloomy Past

Slavery’s Impact Upon Black Genealogical Research

  Slavery’s far-reaching effect upon the lives of African Americans is the single-most reason why it is challenging to easily research involving our Black ancestors. Records of names, places of origin, accurate ages and other important data were not kept for slaves or if kept, are likely long ago destroyed or lost. In rare instances, some of the basic passenger information was retained by the Atlantic Ocean ship’s captain or slave holders. In the records born from slave holders, it is likely that the surnames are the same as the persons who took possession of our ancestors.

The estimates vary on when the first slaves were shipped across the Atlantic to the North and South American soil. Some reports suggest that the first slaves arrived on U.S. shores somewhere between 1525 and 1619. It is well documented that in 1619, slaves were unloaded from ships at Port Comfort, VA., near Jamestown. Between 1619 and 1866, approximately 13 million Africans were packed into ships headed for the “New World.” Of that, an estimated two million slaves perished by disease, suicides and other means, making their graves the Atlantic Ocean. That left an approximate 10.7 million Africans who survived the brutal slave ships’ conditions across the Atlantic Ocean. It is estimated 388,000 black ancestors arrived along North American shores through 1866, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database (edited by Profs. David Eltis and David Richardson). The remainder of the precious “cargo” was delivered to South American and Caribbean countries.

Sometimes in the pursuit of African American ancestors, the inquiries or checklists do not take into consideration that not U.S. residents arrived on these shores with passenger lists to identify them. One case in point is found in a test that I took to a complete a genealogy course. I missed the correct answer on one question because I responded based on my African American family history.   The question on the examination was: “Which immigration records are the best sources for determining if someone’s ancestor arrived in the United States from an international country. The instructor’s answer was “Passenger lists.”  The answer choices did not include one for my ancestors. This is an example of the importance of remaining flexible and open to the workarounds and delays in retrieving records related to your family’s ancestors.

 When searching for ancestors not all potential information is included in general inquiries. Many records unique to Black, Native Americans, Afro-Caribbean ancestors are not integrated into traditional family ancestry searches. For instance, “Slave Schedules” is not included in an ancestry site query for a relative. Therefore, it is important to review all categories of detailed listings such as the Sumter County, Alabama, U.S., Circuit Court Files, 1840-1950 and Americus times-recorder NEW.  It is advisable to rely on more than one on-line genealogy site to expand the ancestral search and build family trees.

Pre- and Post-Civil War Searches

The important benchmarks that are integral to effectively and efficiently researching African American ancestry are divided in two major categories:

  1. Slave families before the Civil War.
  2. Black and African American families beginning with the 1870 Census.

Prior to the Civil War, information and data about African American ancestors is sparse and vastly different than that of others. Slaves’ surnames were often the same as their owners and not of their African-given names.  In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau developed separate listings known as “Slave Schedules” in 1850 and 1860. While not providing the names of slaves, the Slave Schedules provide the owners’ names. In many cases, the identifiers for slaves included the ages, sex and varying notations such as “deaf …dumb.”

However, after the war and beginning with the 1870 Census, the official recordkeeping involving Blacks was similar to that of U.S. Whites and immigrants. While some former slaves maintained the slave owners’ surnames given to them, others changed their last names. That is why the family Bible is so important as it was a historical recorder of the important events in the lives of freed slaves. The family Bible also served as an official legal document in the courthouse where African Americans sought official birth records. Usually, the births of our family members occurred with the help of midwives. The midwives were also principally responsible for reporting births to the respective county court houses.

Making the most of “Brick walls”

Between 1920 and 1930, my Great-Grandmother Carrie changed the spelling of our surname to “Wead” and my grandfather followed her lead when applied for his social security card in 1936.  My father, Rodney Wead, never learned why the spelling change in our surname. The Census Bureau and other government sources frequently contain errors in ages, relationships to the heads of households, racial classification, employment, literacy, name spellings, real estate and other categories involving the documentation of African American families. This e-book will offer recommendations on how to confirm the demographic data and thereby move around the “brick wall” effects. “The wall” or “the brick wall” is a phrase often used in genealogy to describe what it feels like when after several hours or even years of sorting through delicate historical information, the researcher is not able to breakthrough with accurate information about their ancestor.

You do not have to get used to the wall’s reality. Approach your research by thinking new thoughts and seek opportunities in the historical challenges to keep walls in our ways.  Combine the “old school” with new ways. See value in the centuries ago inscribed family Bibles while trusting the technology to locate grave markers and passports of your ancestors. Invest your time and resources into learning more about your ancestors for personal, professional, mental and physical health benefits. It will be worth it.

Mental, Psychological, Spiritual Walls

“Why can’t I know my birthday?” asked Frederick Douglass, born a slave around 1817.  Think about that statement by the great statesman, Douglass. It was rare for slaves and any indentured black servants to know the details of their lives. Think about how difficult it may be for you to learn the same about your ancestors.

There are many more terms or single words that are triggers for deep-seeded and some surface matters that my cousin and I had not fully resolved. The same may be true for others who embark on the black genealogy path.  For some of the topics and situations we encountered during our research, Mark and I had to take a break after discovering something that was a breakthrough while also being a burden to our souls. We exhaled whenever those temporary “moments” of anxiety and questions flooded our thoughts and words such as the time we dealt with the meaning of word “property” to slave holders and traders. For instance, the reality that slaves were considered “property” by their owners meant that being bought and sold in exchange for land, cash, or another material matter, remains disheartening. It meant that slave families were ripped apart and the scars and outward behaviors would likely be passed through the generations.

Each time, we hit those bumps in the road, Mark and I successfully emerged from our unplanned research breaks with fresh outlooks and words of encouragement about our brave and smart ancestors. After all, if our ancestors had not endured the pain, suffering and the glorious moments, none of us would be on this earth. We are sharing our tribulations to help others who are deeply connected to their pasts to advance their present and future journeys.

 During your early discoveries of family ancestry, it is likely that you will find words, phrases, photographs and other documents that may trigger emotions and reactions that you may have long ago forgiven. For Mark and me, our triggers included the following words, phrases and digits:

During your early discoveries of family ancestry, it is likely that you will find words, phrases, photographs and other documents that may trigger emotions and reactions that you may have long ago forgiven. For Mark and me, our triggers included the following words, phrases and digits:

1525                                                                Land deeds                                         Slave owners

1619                                                                Lynching                                             Slave schedules

1919                                                                Middle Passage                                   Slavery                       

Branding                                                         Missing names of slaves                     Status of black women           

‘Death over foreign servitude’                        Mutilation                                           Whippings      

Fugitive                                                           Property                                 

“Gator Babies”                                                Probated wills                                    

Imprisonment                                                  “Slave for life”                                   

Illustration of slaves in chains, from the August 1838 edition of the American Antislavery Alamanac.

Illustration of slaves in chains. From Southern, N., American Antislavery Almanac (August 1838). Boston: Isaac Knapp, Publisher. https://archive.org/details/americanantislav1838chil/page/20/mode/2up

Slaves under the overseer's whip, illustration from the American Antislavery Almananc, 1838.

Illustration of slaves under the overseer’s whip. From Southern, N., American Antislavery Almanac (August 1838). Boston: Isaac Knapp, Publisher. https://archive.org/details/americanantislav1838chil/page/20/mode/2up

With many more expressions and reminders of our ‘gloomy past,’ Mark and I continued our path as overcomers. We focus on the ‘the white gleam of our bright star is cast,’ as penned by James Weldon Johnson in the poem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” It was written during a time when Jim Crow replaced slavery. His brother, John Rosamond Johnson, composed the song that is sung today and affectionately known as the “National Negro Anthem.”  The words to this anthem are a go-to song of comfort, faith and hope for the future. ­

Lift Every Voice and Sing

James Weldon Johnson – 1871-1938

Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.

From Saint Peter Relates an Incident by James Weldon Johnson. Copyright © 1917, 1921, 1935 James Weldon Johnson, renewed 1963 by Grace Nail Johnson.

Let’s get started.

#31 We are looking for you!

The African American families in the post-slavery, Reconstruction years

See informationwanted.org
“Eliza Jane Elam searching for Eliza Jane Owens,” Lost Friends Ad, Southwestern Christian Advocate (New Orleans, LA), January 25, 1883, Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery, accessed August 23, 2021, http://informationwanted.org/items/show/1904.

The “Lost Friends Ad’ in a New Orleans newspaper in 1883 by a lady described with two names — Eliza Jane Elam and Eliza Owens — showed the dedication of former slaves who sought their loved ones some 20 years after the end of slavery.

It was also a dangerous, Reconstruction Period, as former enslavers were conversely placing ads in newspapers for their so-called “runaway slaves.” The end of slavery meant that the free labor and horrific labor period ended for persons who considered slaves their property.

Despite the danger of having former enslavers finding them or loved ones, nearly 1,000 ads were placed primarily in African American-owned newspapers across the United States in search of “lost” persons who were separated from them during and after slavery. Thanks to a free website sponsored by Villanova University, African American and Afro Caribbean families are still locating their “lost” ancestors because of the detail found in the ads that include the enslaver names, plantation locations and who slaves were sold to.

Also, a “must see” is the stage production that depicts the enactments of hundreds of “Lost Friends” ads that were generously posted in mostly African American newspapers for little to no costs to those seeking loved ones. There is also a social media presence on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Former slaves also often listed their contact information and asked church ministers to make announcements on Sunday mornings.

The desperate hunt for mothers, fathers, children and other relatives, also yielded positive results as explained in the second half of the newspaper article found below.

My favorite reunion story on the site is from the Cincinnati Enquirer:

Best love story of all the “lost” and “found” slave families on the website.


Mr. Editor — I wish to inquire
for my relatives — my mother, sis-
ters and brothers. My mother’s
name was Annie Straan; she be-
longed to Billie Straan. We were
first brought from Butt’s county,
Georgia, and from there to Ala-
bama; from there to Mississippi,
and from there to East Texas, Jas-
per County. Our owner, Billie
Straan, got in debt in Alabama,
and run away with us to Texas, be-
cause his property was to be levied
on. The sheriff came to Texas for
us, and took my mother and five
children back, but Martha and
Maria remained out here with our
old owner, Billie Straan. The
sheriff was Billie Straan’s brother,
Sam Straan. My brothers are
named Columbus and Richard;
sisters are Hannah, Betsy, Matilda,
Amanda and Martha Maria. Sis-
ter Hannah is the oldest and
Amanda next. Hannah was left
in Alabama. When last heard
from they were all still in Alabama.
Sister Martha Maria is dead. I
heard indirectly from them a few
years ago, but nothing definite
enough to give satisfaction. Sam
Straan, my owner’s brother, that
carried my mother and five chil-
dren back to Alabama, I heard,
got shipwrecked while on his way
back to Texas after Martha Maria
and myself. I am alone here in
Texas, with no relative except two
of my deceased sister’s children.
Aunt Mary is dead; also old Billie
Straan. My name was formerly
Amanda Straan, but is now Amanda
Whitfield. I wish to know if any
are yet living in Alabama, Louis-
iana or Georgia, for I am very
anxious to hear from some of my
people. This is the second letter I
have written, but have never had
an answer. Aunt Mary Straan’s
two daughters, Caroline and Har-
riett, are still living and anxious
to hear from any of our people. Aunt
Mary Straan is a fellow servant of
my mother, Annie Straan. Ad-
dress in care of the M. E. Church,
Amanda Whitfield, Columbus,

Your assignment: Go to the free website and search for loved ones based on their recommendations. Also, teachers are provided with lots of material on how to teach and research family histories among post-Civil War slaves.

Be sure to read more about this special genealogy resource in the upcoming, October 2021 e-book produced by Good Genes Genealogy Services.

I Learn from My Experiences

As genealogists on all levels — beginners who are researching family histories to the veterans/professionals — we have to learn from our ancestors’ experiences. In your reading of this wonderful meditation from the Hillside International Truth Center , replace the words “past experiences” and “past” and “experiences” with the word s “ancestral history … healing.”

       Our past experiences provide opportunities for us to learn and grow. Yet, we often push them away to the farthest part of our minds. We focus so much energy on trying to forget the past, that we draw those experiences back into our life. In Truth, we know that what we focus on, we draw to us.
       I stop denying my past experiences. I learn from these experiences. And with God’s guidance, I allow them to assist me in creating more harmonious experiences. My experiences do not have control over me. I have control over them.
I appreciate the lessons from my past. I do not allow them to hold me hostage. I use them to reconnect with Source energy. I learn the lesson. And I move on to other experiences that are aligned with my new spiritual awareness. Thank you, Will, in me, through me, as me, around me, through the Christ within. And so it is. For thou art my strength and my refuge;
therefore for thy name’s sake comfort me and guide me.

Psalm 31:3
 Daily Thoughts from the HillCopyright: Hillside International Truth Center, Inc.Bishop Dr. Jack L. Bomar – Executive BishopBishop Dr. Barbara L. King – Founder

What If Our History Was Written In Our Grammar?

News release, 19 August 2021


Humans have been always on the move, creating a complex history of languages and cultural traditions dispersed over the globe. An international team under UZH’s lead has now traced families of related languages over more than 10,000 years by combining data from genetics, linguistics and musicology using novel digital methods. Their findings: grammar reflects best the common prehistory of a population and therefore mirrors genetics more than any other cultural feature.Culture is an important factor for tracing the population history. Utae Ehara playing the mukkuri. Culture is an important factor for tracing the population history. Utae Ehara playing the mukkuri. (© Utae Ehara)

Since the beginning of their existence, some populations have split up while others have come together, leaving a deep mark on local languages and cultural traditions. Reconstructing this complex history remains a gigantic challenge. Depending on the places of origin, with more than 7000 languages are currently spoken in the world.

This huge range is also found in genetic variation. According to Charles Darwin, genes and culture evolve in a similar way, transmitted from generation to generation with slight variations in each step. “When their evolution no longer corresponds, it is the sign of contact in the history of a population, be it friendly, such as trade, or unfriendly, such as conquests”, says Balthasar Bickel, professor at the Department of Comparative Language Science of the University of Zurich.

Northeast Asia as crossroads between Asia and Native America

An international team under UZH’s lead has now identified which data reveal the best correlation between genetic and cultural diversity by combining data from genetics, linguistics and musicology using novel digital methods. The team selected Northeast Asia as a particularly interesting region for this study. “Northeast Asia is the central crossroad in the prehistory of Asia and Native America. Indeed, while their populations are genetically contiguous, the region is culturally and linguistically highly diverse,” says Hiromi Matsumae, former postdoctoral researcher at UZH and now professor at Japan’s Tokai University. Her team at UZH analyzed data spanning 11 language families incuding such as Tungusic, Chukuto-Kamchatkan, Eskimo-Aleut, Yukagir, Ainu, Korean and Japanese. They furthermore obtained new genetic data from speakers of Nivkh, an isolated language spoken on Sakhalin Island in Siberia.

Analogies and differences in genes, language and culture

The researchers compared the genomes of these populations with digital data on their language (grammar rules, sounds, word lists) and their music (structure, style). “Our results suggest that grammar reflects population history more closely than any other cultural data. We found significant correlations between genetics and grammar,” explains co-lead author Peter Ranacher of UZH.

Word lists for example differ from each other in their own ways. And since word lists are the core data for reconstructing language families, such reconstructions remain elusive in the region. The researchers concluded that the correspondence between grammar and genetics reflects a complex maze of vertical descent and contact in prehistory.

Grammar as a mirror of cultural and genetic evolution

“It’s through a unique collaboration between genetics and geography with modern digital linguistics and musicology that we have been able to take one small step closer to understanding human cultural history,” adds last author Bickel. Further analysis will be needed to understand the complex web of cultural and genetic evolution. But discovering the importance of the grammatical factor is a first step in the right direction.


Matsumae, H., Ranacher, P., Savage, P. E., Blasi, D., Currie, T. E., Sato, T., Koganebuchi, K., Nishida, N., Sato, T., Tanabe, H., Tajima, A., Brown, S., Stoneking, M., Shimizu, K. K., Oota, H., Bickel, B. (2021). Exploring correlations in genetic and cultural variation across language families in Northeast Asia. Science Advances. 18 August 2021. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abd9223

International Cooperation

This joint work was made possible by the University Research Priority Programs (URPPs) “Language & Space” and “Evolution in Action”, Switzerland’s National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) “Evolving Language”, and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Evolinguistics project.



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