Freebie Friday: Historical mapping



I was moved by a newspaper columnist’s description of the great flood in the 1940s that invaded my hometown, Omaha, Nebraska and neighboring city, Council Bluffs, Iowa. What led me to this article was an active conversation I was having with my parents about a time when the entire community pulled together to help one another.

My Dad and his buddies were drafted to help build structures to help fend off the water disaster that paralyzed the area for several weeks.

As I listened to their separate remembrances, I was scanning the flooded areas via today’s Internet. There were empty spaces where houses and businesses once stood, while stronger structures remaining upon the soggy grounds.

What was my fantastic tool to locate the historical Iowa and Nebraska? It’s the Freebie Friday “My Genealogy Hound.” It’s a great website with more than 2,100 historic county maps from throughout the United States. I’ve found it helpful when I was researching my ancestors in Georgia. I wanted to see where my paternal family lived in Helena, Arkansas in 1919, and our (Good Genes Genealogy team) maternal relatives’ homes and businesses in Springfield, Missouri between 1900 and 1945.

Some maps don’t allow the researcher to drill down and find every old road that I was seeking. Yet, most of the county maps give me a great sense of the areas.


There’s at least one county map for every county in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.

Only partial lists exist for the remaining U.S. states. Within all states, more county maps are regularly added.

Enjoy your genealogy geography hunting!

Aunt Ancestor Still Leading me on Genealogy Journey

Paternal Aunt Beverly Ann Wead Blackburn Jones

On this annual day of Epiphany, it is also the birth of my most cheriished ancestor. Today, Jan. 6, 2022, would have been my Paternal Aunt Beverly Ann Wead Blackburn Jones’ 85th birthday. She transitioned in 1973 at the age of 36. I was 15 years old. It was the first family death that left an indelible mark upon my life.

My father’s baby sister, my mother’s best friend, my dear ancestor Aunt Beverly, has taught me so much over the nearly 49 years since her transition. Many of our ancestors have that ability to guide us through our genealogy journeys. My advice: Let them.

Aunt Bev’s Grave Marker in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Omaha, Nebraska

Aunt Beverly is more than the grave marker of her birth and death dates. She was a standout scholar, athlete and civic citizen that began in her high school years. She continued with similar activities in college and added accomplishments that included journalist, sorority member and U.S. Senate recognized achiever. She was twice married, had three children during her first marriage, owned businesses and hosted many recreational and entertainment activities for children and teenagers in our hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.

The summary of Aunt Beverly’s life from our family tree on ancestry.com’s website

When I wrote about my dear Aunt Beverly a year ago, I did not have the family details that I have since retrieved. Thanks to Aunt Beverly, I offer the following genealogy tips that lead to more discoveries in our ancestry searches:

  • Update ancestor’s information. Review the ancestor’s information for updates that are often added through online sources. I found new information relevant to Aunt Beverly’s ancestry data. A closer look at the 1940 U.S. Census data for Aunt Beverly’s/my Dad’s family showed that their Dad/my grandfather completed one year of high school.
  • Review linked ancestor’s information. While reviewing your ancestor, follow her or his lineage for the same purpose of online updates. I found new and rich updates about my ancestors who are Aunt Beverly’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-grandmother’s information.
  • Resist the tendency to keep your original research. Often, we don’t want to release our early research about our ancestors after we find new documents that provide validity. For instance, my great-great grandmother’s birth year and location were incorrect on my family tree. Documents were recently released that gave accurate results based on Fannie Robinson Wade’s recently found birth certificate from 1841.

4. Verify new information. Using my paternal great-great grandmother’s data, I verified her birth year by reviewing the 1880 U.S. Census for her age at that time. I also found two other trees that included Fannie Robinson Wade as part of their research. The reconciled birth year information appears to be accurate.

5. Select a routine day or date to review and update ancestral information. I use my ancestors’ birthdays, marriage anniversaries, holidays and death anniversaries to pause and review existing information for updates. With Aunt Beverly, I review her life’s story on her birthday and in June of each year.

The how-tos that I presented can be expanded by each researcher reading this WordPress blog and social media post. Share your ideas to help others and the Good Genes Genealogy team to gain new research techniques.

This column is reprinted from WeadWriteAwayandGenealogy

Author: Learning family histories

Our genealogy traces our family from western and central Africa and western Europe. Our ancestors entered the United States at the Virginia and Georgia Ports. First cousins Mark Owen and Ann Lineve Wead (it is protocol to use the maiden names of females in genealogy searches) are responsible for writing this blog. Although Ann has been involved in genealogy research while searching for certain ancestors since the age of 10, the cousins began deeper research of their families during the COVID-19 Pandemic Year of 2020. Devoting as much as 6 hours some evenings to the methodical training and research of genealogy, the cousins completed the year 2020 by earning genealogy certificates. Join us. @goodgenesgenealogy on wordpress and fb, twitter Sign up for our blog and enjoy the journey. View all posts by Learning family histories

#46 Free (Black) Friday: Interview Your Relatives

By planes, trains and automobiles, an estimated 54 million U.S. travelers made it families and friends this 2021 Thanksgiving season. Those numbers are nearly equal to pre-Covid 2019 levels, according to AAA, air, train and government travel trackers.

If so, don’t spend all of your time around the table of good food, or shopping until you drop. Instead, start now to preserve your precious history by recording short and even long stories of your loved ones.

Generations of family: Priceless
Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

As a nearly lifelong writer (Ann) who began journaling at age 10, I learned the importance of being a good listener who captured cool stories from the annual family gatherings. Those early lessons served me well as I became an award-winning financial journalist who found that my interview skills came in handy when I became more interested in African American family genealogy.

Admittedly, it is not easy getting our family members to open up about their past. However, I have found that to get meaningful conversations started, flattery gets you everywhere. Here are my quick tips on how to glean information from your loved ones:

  1. Tell them upfront that you are interested in preserving your family’s history. If they are like my Great Cousin Madeline Wilkes, your loved ones may respond with “no one really wants to know that stuff about me.” That’s a stall. Take immediate action such as what I describe in the next step.
  2. Do what they like to do. Sit, cook, read, watch TV, walk, play cards and board games, fish, shop and generally hang out with them. In the case of Great Cousin Madeline, I took pictures of her and showed her how vibrant she looked at 90 years old. With that in motion, I moved to my next step and my recommendation for you.
  3. Have your recorder, camera and notebook handy to capture stories about their earlier holidays and hobbies. I asked her questions about her father, my great-grandmother’s brother. She loved to talk about her Dad. I got some great stories. I was able to wrap up our short conversation by reiterating and expanding my reasons for asking her a few questions. I was pleased that I advanced to the final step.
  4. Tell them why their stories are important to the families’ legacies because it ensures the younger generations learn from the older ones’ successes and any mistakes.

For more ideas on how to speak with your relatives to capture their stories, check out this great freebie checklist from Genealogy Bargains.

Happy chatting!

#41 City Directories address ancestral gaps

There is no better resource than city directories to locate and confirm your ancestral loved ones.

A year after my father was born, the 1936 city directory of Omaha, Nebraska provided great insight into the following:

  1. The names of my grandparents, Sampson and Daisy Wead.
  2. The occupation of my grandparents. My grandfather was a laborer at a meat packing plant. My grandmother was a housewife.
  3. The address of my grandparents.

and

4. Valued information about the other “Weads” who were my grandfather’s family members.

City directories were large paperbound books that were printed annually by most cities and towns across the United States. Unlike the U.S. Census that was published every 10 years, the city directories offered a wealth of updated information that are helpful in following physical movements of our ancestors.


Try it. Find city directories for your loved ones from libraries and other internet searches. Determine if the city directories provide you with additional information about employment, street addresses and telephone numbers that may fill in the blanks on your genealogy trees.

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.

#28 Linking fruit trees to family trees

Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska and Chicago, Illinois, I am used to frequent ribbing about the Midwestern “foreign land.” It was while I was attending Clark College (now CAU, a HBCU) in Atlanta, Georgia, that I first became the subject of great humor about my Midwestern upbringing. It helped that my maiden surname is “Wead” (pronounced “Weed”) and for many of my Southern classmates, very little was known about the Black folk who lived in the Great Plains.

African Americans were integral to the forging of new territories in the great West. My family and hundreds of thousand of African American still live in every region west of the United States’ Mississippi River.


Branching out with new e-book series

African American foragers used their nature instinctive skills to survive their tough homestead ventures during post-Civil War’s harsh Reconstruction period. Mark Owen and I, are Midwestern natives. As the authors of a new book series that highlights our our self-publishing book site, Lulu.com. https://www.lulu.com/en/us/shop/ann-wead-kimbrough-and-mark-owen/august-first-is-the-first-black-holiday-for-black-people/ebook/product-zv5pgd.html?page=1&pageSize=4.

One of the book chapters is about Nicodemus, Kansas, the first Black and only existing town west of the Mississippi that was settled by African American homesteaders who trekked from Kentucky during Reconstruction to establish a new life. It was tough and they were gritty. If it weren’t for the Native Americans sharing their food and other nearby townspeople doing the same, and the new homesteaders utilizing their foraging abilities to pull honey from trees and find berries in bushes, the first settlers would have starved. I also wrote about Nicodemus and other forgotten Black towns in the West in my other blog. See Blog #25.


I love this NYT piece because it provides excellent sources who speak on the often neglected topics of everything from slaves’ inherent knowledge of wilderness to today’s harrassing and ignorant facts regarding those of us who will stop along the side of a road if we see a special bush that may be a healthy product when properly picked and cooked. There were a couple of stories over the last year that showcased the little-known relationships African Americans have with nature. There are African American outdoors enthusiasts who are hoping to break down barriers that exist about hikng, for instance.

While hiking in Indiana and in New York’s Central Park, violent and harassing incidents captured global headlines based on ignorance from the inflictors.


I especially appreciated the NYT references to the enslaved ancestors locating honey from trees and harvesting all sorts of berries and other healthy products from trees, limbs, bushes and from the earth.

Camp Lessons for Life

I was an early African American forager. I grew up as the only one in my household who went to every available that featured the great outdoors camp that my parents could afford. I recall taking our daily showers in stalls that allowed for the minor snakes and other creatures to share in the rustic settings. The campfire stores, especially the ones with scary outcomes in the stars-lit skies, were my favorites. I remember the silly and yet lasting chants such as those for catching ones’ elbows on the large dining hall’s long wooden tables. Here’s the chant:

"Ann ... Ann ... strong and able ... get your elbows off the table. This is not a horse's stall, but a first-class dining hall! 'Round the tables you must go, you must go, you must go. 'Round the tables you must go, you were naughty."

It was all in good fun and I learned valuable lessonson how to live with kids from diverse backgroounds. We celebrated our differences by sharing in all sorts of activities. It was the early “rope courses” and other skils and trust-building experiences I had as an adult member of teams ranging from the Atlanta Olympic Organizing Committee to Harvard University’s Graduate Education certificate program

Black Girl in the Black Hills

I also recall riding the horses along the ridges of the South Dakota Black Hills, however, this wonderful path is no longer open to the public. It was probably not safe when I was riding on it in the late 1960s, yet it was worth it. It was beautiful to see all views of the Black Hills along the former horse trails.


Homework: Utilize the NYT article and my blog as motivation to research your family’s ancestries about the early foragers. Happy trails!

The Bob Gibson I know

My Memorial Day memories: Former slaves honoring the dead

“They forgot about the colored soldiers,” Grandma Robinson always said without specifying the “who” in her recollections.

I was among the few chosen ones.

I don’t recall ‘sleeping in’ on Memorial Day as a child growing up in Omaha, Nebraska. I do not know how it happened that I was awakened early each Memorial Day Monday to accompany my maternal great-grandmother, Edna Robinson, and at least two other family members to the cemeteries. We arrived early to greet the morning dew upon the grassy knolls. Our task was to place fresh plants near the grave markers of our loved ones.

I vividly recall Grandma Robinson’s words to me and others as she used her tender hands to dig out spaces to place each new plant in the ground. Even though my mother or cousin would bring along tools to help Grandma Robinson with her mini excavations, (the worms would always greet us and seek to find new, cool hiding spaces)she would turn them down.

Grandma Robinson believed in honoring our ancestors by using her hands or a nearby stick, if available, to tend to the soil. While busy in her planting, Grandma Robinson often recalled how former slaves started the tradition of Memorial Day as a way to pay tribute to the black soldiers returning home from the war.

“They forgot about the colored soldiers,” Grandma Robinson always said without specifying the “who” in her recollections.

But I figured out who she was speaking of as I read more and more about Memorial Day, yet did not see the historical references that I first heard from my grandmother.

Grandma Robinson told me a lot more about the importance of remembering those who many forget upon their deaths. Through her example, Grandma Robinson taught me how to kneel upon the earth and dig into its richness. While in a kneeling position, we ALWAYS prayed in a quiet manner. She said prayers should be spoken in soft tones as we walk and work throughout the day. That was my first hint at how Grandma Robinson withstood the likely poor treatment while caring for other folks’ houses and children.

Each year as we returned to the graves of our loved ones, I would look for the plants we plotted in the previous years. Some were completely wiped out by the winter’s snow or other seasonal heat. Some plants were either trampled on or somehow pushed into the dirt where only a tiny flower bud peeped from the ground. Once Grandma Robinson saw a glimmer of life in one of our previously planted vines, she would carefully dig around it and gird it up to continue its growth.

We also did not leave a gravesite area without helping to pull back the grass overgrowth on graves with numbers engraved in cement to mark burial locations. That taught me to look out for my neighbors and honor them with the blessings that we had. Often, if we had a plant or two left over, Grandma Robinson would lead us to a burial site where someone she knew was placed beneath the earth. We always left the cemeteries with empty containers that once carried in the plants.

Learning is loving and respecting and doing. I got it all in my annual visit to the Omaha cemeteries to honor our dead and the legacy of the holiday.

Although I will not be in our maternal family’s home cemetery site in Springfield, Missouri to place a plant in the ground in honor of Grandma Robinson, I know that my family members will do so and thereby honor my grandmother and our ancestors.

Photo: Dr. Rex-wordpress.com

For more information about Memorial Day’s founding and its alternative observances by Confederate-loyal folk, see http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1900454,00.html
And
https://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/untold-story-memorial-day-former-slaves-honoring-and-mourning-dead
And more. Check out remembrances from your eldest family members.

Ann L. Wead Kimbrough is an accomplished educator, award-winning financial journalist, author, special events leader, mentor and prolific contributor to select global and domestic non-profit causes. Her blog topics include travel, history, humor, education, career, family, journalism and ‘thought you should know’ subjects. https://www.linkedin.com/in/annlineve/

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