Helping you discover your treasured African American & Afro Caribbean ancestry. Check out daily posts @goodgenesgenealogy on wordpress, fb, twitter and via email@example.com. Also check out @weadwriteandgenealogy on wordpress
The worthy search for ancestors, friends and other loved ones remains important. As newbie or veteran genealogists, the precious lives of ancestors are not always scripted with a pleasant ending. Yet, we are comforted by the achievements of so many pioneers who paved the way for us.
Such is the case of the little-known civil rights pioneer whose work as a Louisville, Kentucky prosecutor earned her a special place in history. Jones was the first attorney for the rising star boxing great Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) by writing his first contract in 1960, she participated in several civil rights marches, including the famed March on Washington in August 1963. She was appointed Louisville City Attorney in 1964 — the first woman of any race and ethnic background to hold that position.
My triumphant Sorority Sister and one of the longtime unsolved mysteries about her death that was caused when she was tossed off the Louisville Sherman Minton Bridge into the Ohio River on August 5, 1965. She was 35 years old.
There are so many more factoids you should learn about this lady. Take three minutes and read all about her! Look up some of your loved ones who may be fraternity, sorority, church, temple, school, work and other socially related ancestors. You can start your research by building your family trees and searching U.S. Census records for neighbors. It is worth it.
The African American families in the post-slavery, Reconstruction years
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.
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:
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, Texas.”
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.