Retrieved 2023, January 1, from

We all seem to start the New Year with the best intentions. Resolutions to become a better person, or accomplish a goal. In genealogy research, you need to start with a plan or you end up wasting time and money. By the end of the year, you can reflect on those successes or failures to determine if you should shift your focus, or maybe start from scratch.

When I came back to my blog at the end of 2022, I realized I hadn’t been here since 2019. My intentions in my last post were to come back regularly to share my family history with likeminded genealogists. A lot has happened since that I will share more about in future posts, but I can say that the Covid pandemic has made my life completely different in the past three years. So much so that I didn’t even realize that three years had passed! But my intentions were completely honest.

My plan was to write, and write as often as possible to get myself back in the habit. But like the quote says, tell Him about your plans! So I will say I am striving to do the best I can, and I won’t beat myself up if I fail. I would like to post at least twice a week, not including social media. I’m hoping that you will hold me accountable if I try to disappear again. The only way to make it through tough times is to push through it. Here’s to success in 2023!

New Year, New Look!

I’ve been neglecting you, and my ancestors have been letting me know it. I decided that I need to refocus my energy on this blog. Not just sharing research, but sharing stories that bring my ancestors back to life. So I’ll tell you what inspired me to make this change:

Anyone that rides with me knows that I never take off right away at the light. A few weeks ago I was coming up to a red light and it suddenly turned green. Something kept telling me “don’t speed up, go slow”, and I never pressed on the gas. It was almost like I could feel something pulling me back. By the time I got to the intersection someone came barreling through the red light, just missing us. Had I taken off at regular speed I’m positive that my passenger and I would have been seriously injured, or killed. I had no idea why I had such a strong urge to slow down, but I later learned it was the anniversary of my grandfather Raymond Neal’s passing. Now I understand it was his presence I felt, and I have to holla back I hear you Pop! (and was it coincidence that his favorite singer, Nancy Wilson, passed later on that day?)

So I challenge everyone who reads this to acknowledge those whispers, and the hairs that raise on the back of your neck. That’s your ancestors pleading with you to remember them, and call their name.

neal, raymond
Raymond Neal circa 1952, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (My uncle Delmar hiding in the background).


Susie Holbert-Mosaic Templars of America (Part 1)

I can’t say enough about the kindness of strangers. I use the website quite often to search for ancestors. If I’m lucky there may be a picture, a biography or at the least a link to other relatives in that cemetery.
In this instance, I was looking for my Aldridge family that I found in the Rusk Cemetery in Boley, Okfuskee County, Oklahoma. I requested photos from a local volunteer and I waited. In the meantime, I did more digging and found I had another ancestor there: my 3rd great-grandmother, Susie (Crenshaw) Holbert. So I emailed my wonderful volunteer, Angela Dionne, to ask if she could look for Susie’s final resting place as well. I had no idea of the wealth of information I would soon find out about my ancestor, and the history lesson to come.
Angela explained that Okfuskee County had a lot of black cemeteries that have not been documented.  Apparently, there was someone who took the time to add lists but not pictures, so they were in the process of trying to photograph as much of the cemetery as possible. Problem was a lot of the graves only have a rock, or a headstone that is no longer readable. I kept my fingers crossed, but I wouldn’t hear back from Angela for a while.
Then one day out of the blue, I get this in my email:
As you could guess I was ecstatic enough to have a picture of her headstone and a likely date of death. But if you look closer, you can see there is a symbol and inscriptions above Susie’s name. I emailed Angela again to thank her for the picture and to ask her if she knew anything about the symbols. She said she would go back to the cemetery and take another picture of the headstone to see if she could get more detail. So I have to wait again, but I am so grateful to Angela for making another trip in the Oklahoma summer heat!
While I waited, I tried to make the picture as big as possible. In the center it looked like some sort of Masonic symbol, but I couldn’t make it out clearly. I searched for anything that looked similar on Google images, then one day I found something that looked familiar:
There were similar markings, and there is more detail at the bottom of the stone. I learned that it is not a Masonic symbol, but the marker of the Mosaic Templars of America, an organization founded by two former slaves in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1882. But how did my grandmother end up with this marker in Oklahoma? Stay tuned to Part 2 to learn more about my incredible discovery!

FGS 2015-Connect. Explore. Refresh.



I have been to many local genealogy conventions, but I have never been to one expected to bring in crowds of thousands from all across the globe. That’s why I am super excited to be one of many social media ambassadors at this year’s FGS conference, sharing my experience as a national conference “newbie”. In this regard, my perspective may be slightly different from the others, so my first post in this series will reflect what this year’s theme means to someone like me.

Genealogists understand each other: they don’t think I’m strange because I collect death certificates and obituaries, or judge me because I hangout in courthouses and cemeteries in my spare time. Joining my local genealogical society gave me the chance to Connect with other researchers. I have the opportunity to bounce ideas off of others and share my success stories. I can only imagine what I can do with like minds from all over the world! It is such a pleasure to converse with others who share your interests, and I am looking forward to making many new friends, as well as finally meeting some in person.

One benefit of forming these alliances within the genealogical community means I don’t always have to sit in dusty courthouses looking for records, or scroll microfiche for hours in the library. There are wonderful volunteers who digitize and transcribe records, and today there are many new databases being released every week. At the conference, I can Explore all of the new technology and learn how to best incorporate it into my own research. I have learned how to use my time more efficiently, and it helps me stay organized. Plus, I can spare my embarrassment when I scream out loud from finding that long, lost ancestor!

I have to admit that even in the midst of all my excitement, the most important part of attending the conference is to help me stay motivated. I have been researching and documenting my family history for more than 20 years, and there are times when I really feel the burnout. My eyes have gone tired from trying to decipher old handwriting, my brain is tired from trying to make sense of records that just don’t seem to match up with anything. I am going to use this event as a way to Refresh my way of thinking, gain a new outlook on my research, and come back home to share what I have learned with others. So considering all the knowledge I will gain, and connections I can make, this is truly an opportunity I can’t afford to miss!

“One Lovely Blog Award”

As I am working on this month’s post for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I received wonderful and unexpected news from a friend and fellow genealogy blogger. Denise Muhammad, author of  They Came From Virginia, nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award.  I visit Denise’s blog often, her style of writing is engaging and her stories always inspire me to go back and check a few more sources for my own research. Best of all, she shares some fantastic pictures with her posts!



Here are the rules for this award:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to that blog
  2. Share Seven things about yourself
  3. Nominate 15 bloggers you admire (or as many as you can think of!)
  4. Contact your bloggers to let them know that you’ve tagged them for the One Lovely Blog Award

Seven Things About Me:

1. I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but I have lived in California, Texas and Illinois

2. I have been researching my family roots for more than 20 years

3. Besides being a genealogist, I work as a freelance writer and journalist

4. When I have free time, I enjoying reading and crossword puzzles

5. I volunteer as a breast cancer advocate, and have lobbied in Washington D.C.

6. I studied classical ballet and modern dance for 15 years

7. I play the piano, but I had to play the oboe in band (imagine that!)

It was difficult to choose, there are so many great blogs out there. Here are 15 Bloggers that I Admire:

1. Claiming Kin by Liv Taylor-Harris

2. Saving Stories by Robin Foster

3. My Ancestor’s Name by Angela Walton-Raji

4. My Blessing That Is SCD by Humbly Blessed

5. Scuffalong:Genealogy by Lisa Henderson

6. Taneya’s Genealogy Blog by Taneya Koonce

7. Ancestors In The Present by Tammy Ozier

8. My Journey: Breaking Down The Walls by Nique Starpg

9. Genealogy With Valerie by Valerie Hughes

10. Adam Henig by Adam Henig

11. Genealogy Adventures by Brian Sheffey

12. Pieces of Me: Bayou Teche Genealogy by Stephani Miller

13. Between the Gate Posts by Linda Rudd

14. My Roots My Blog by Tasia

15. Arkansas Roots: The Stories of my Family by Jamila Sloan Barahona

For those on my list, if you have already been nominated I’m pretty certain that you don’t have to nominate a group. This list could be much longer, as I had a hard time narrowing it down to 15. There are so many bloggers that I follow that inspire me, and I hope that they will continue sharing their stories with us in the future.

Contact Bloggers
I will be contacting the 15 bloggers on my list, unless they see this post and contact me first.  Thanks again to Denise for the nomination. I feel very proud to be included in your list of lovely blogs!

Tuskegee Airmen- Bertrand Holbert

The 99th Pursuit Squadron, later dubbed the Tuskegee Airmen, was activated in March of 1941. In honor of this important anniversary I was drawn back to my own research and I found a possible connection to the prestigious airmen in my paternal Holbert line. Of course, with every new discovery there are always more mysteries that come along to challenge your findings.

Much of my research of the Holbert family reveals a long line of educators, and that tradition continued in the line of my 2nd great grand uncle, Benjamin D. Holbert. On the census records from 1870 and 1880 he is listed as the son of Franklin and Susan Holbert, living in Cherokee, Texas. In 1890 I found a city directory from Waco, Texas that lists a Benjamin D. Holbert as a colored teacher. The only record I found for anyone matching his birth date in 1900 was in the U.S. Jail in Muscogee, Oklahoma, Indian Territory. It states he was born in Texas and both of his parents were born in Alabama, which matches my uncle, but it lists his occupation as “physician”. This census also states Benjamin has been married for 13 years. Although I don’t find any more records for him after 1900, there is a marriage record for a B.D. Halbert and Annie Marie Estell in nearby Mclennan, Texas dated December 29, 1886 (14 years from that 1900 census). Coincidence?

1900 US Federal Census-Township 1, 2, and 3, Creek Nation, Indian Territory
1900 US Federal Census-Township 1, 2, and 3, Creek Nation, Indian Territory

Ann Marie Estell was born in Waco, Texas around 1868. I do not find her on a 1900 census, but I do have a city directory from as early as 1902 that puts her in Waco, Texas. In 1910 she is living in Hill County, Texas with four children: Annie, Benjamin Jr, Jessie and Ruth. All of the children’s death certificates confirm their father’s name as B.D. Holbert.

1910 US Federal Census-Hillsbro Ward 3, Hill, Texas
1910 US Federal Census-Hillsbro Ward 3, Hill, Texas

The only son, Benjamin Jr., is living with his wife, Sarah, on the 1928 city directory in Dallas, Texas. He is using the initials B.D. Holbert from this point forward. However, on the 1930 census he is now living in Seminole, Oklahoma. He is widowed and is boarding in the household of William and Emma Simmons. His current age, age at first marriage, and his occupation of public school teacher match my ancestor’s information. On the 1940 census he is still in Seminole, Oklahoma but is now married again and a principal in the public schools. Was that an error to list him as widower on the last census? If so, why was he living apart from his family?

Sarah Cummings Holbert is still living in Dallas, Texas with her two children, Bertrand and Kenneth, on the 1930 census. She also states that she is widowed. According to her death certificate she had remarried and was now Sarah Sears. I have not yet been able to find her or her children on the 1940 census, but I do know that she was also a public school teacher.

It is Benjamin and Sarah’s son Bertrand Holbert who was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen Class 45A Single Engine Pursuit Pilots. I don’t have the proof I would need to make this a positive match even though there are relatives who have listed them in their family tree. I have so many ancestors named Benjamin, B.D., and Annie to keep them all straight. I need to order the death certificates of all the names that I don’t have already, and hopefully they will clear up some of the confusion.

Tuskegee Airmen Class 45A Single Engine Pursuit Pilots

Class 45A, fighter pilot (single-engine) group graduation class photo, with P-40 plane in background (courtesy of Sam Broadnax).

That would be my cousin Bertrand Holbert, 2nd row, last one on the right.

Photo retrieved from

Black History Month-Guest Blogging and Musings

This month I was chosen as guest blogger by Adam Henig, a writer, blogger and author of the new book Alex Haley’s Roots: An Author’s Odyssey. I was excited for the opportunity to pay tribute not just to my ancestors, but also the many African Americans who persevered through what seemed like insurmountable odds and still contributed so much to American society with minimal recognition.

In paying this tribute I began to notice some stark contrasts. Discovering ancestral histories was celebrated in the original work by Alex Haley; today there is an apathy and disconnection from mother continents for African Americans. For example, the preference to be called “Black” instead of African American. We are the only culture that separates ourselves from Africans living in America today. We can’t speak the language, we don’t know native culture and customs, and when we look at native Africans we don’t have a spiritual connection that once bonded us and helped us survive the shackles of slavery. Roots presented our history to the world and inspires African Americans to know their mother tongue again. This re-connection should be celebrated every month to ignite that desire in every future generation of family historians and genealogists.

So I was inspired by another one of my fellow bloggers, Dante Eubanks, who recently posted on his blog Our Alabama and Georgia Ancestors a list of the family lines that he is actively researching. I thought this would be the perfect way to call out my own ancestors to ensure that their accomplishments and rich family histories will be shared not just during Black History Month, but every month for many years to come. I will be featuring all of these ancestors in greater detail in future posts. Thanks again to Adam Henig at, and Dante Eubanks at for
providing insight and motivation for this post.

Maternal Georgia, Virginia, and Tennessee Ancestors


Raymond Nelson Neal b. 1916 Maysville, Ga   d. 1994 Milwaukee, WI

Great Grandparents:

Leroy Neal b. 1890 Maysville, GA   d. 1936 Milwaukee, WI
Pearl Allen b. 1898 Anderson, GA   d. 1924 Milwaukee, WI

2nd Great Grandparents:

Asbury Elson Neal b. 1848 Banks, GA   d. 1924 Gainesville, GA
Laura Ann Ware b. 1853 Madison, GA   d. 1922 Banks, GA
George Allen b. 1856 Athens, GA   d. 1900 Athens, GA
Ella Mackey b. 1867 Georgia   d. 1927 Milwaukee, WI

3rd Great Grandparents:

Gabriel Neal b. 1822 Virginia   d. unk
Anna Little b. 1825 Georgia   d. unk
Russ White b. 1820 unk   d. unk
Martha Ware b. 1825 Tennessee   d. unk
Jacob Mackey b. unk   d. unk
Lousenda Snell b. 1822 Georgia   d. unk

Paternal Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Louisiana Ancestors


Rachel Caroline Holbert b. 1931 Palestine, TX   d. 1997 Milwaukee, WI

Great Grandparents:

Allen Holbert b. 1894 Palestine, TX   d. 1958 Palestine, TX
Rachel Caroline Robinson b. 1896 Palestine, TX   d. 1974 Palestine, TX

2nd Great Grandparents:

Allen C Holbert b. 1869 Rusk, TX   d. unk
Georgia Sanders b. 1870 Anderson, TX   d. unk
Wesley Robinson b. 1872 Louisiana   d. 1928 Palestine, TX
Mary Ann Williams b. 1865 Bryan, Texas   d. 1900 Bryan, TX

3rd Great Grandparents:

Franklin Holbert b. 1825 Limestone, Alabama   d. unk
Susan Crenshaw b. 1839 Limestone, Alabama   d. 1928 Paden, OK
Armstead Sanders b. 1817 North Carolina   d. unk
Emily Hicks b. 1830 Georgia   d. unk
Wesley Robinson, Sr. b. 1852 Louisiana   d. unk
Jana Sims b. 1855 Louisiana   d. unk

Cousin Connections-Neal Family, Georgia to Ohio

I found another cousin today! I can’t say enough about my distant family and the help they have provided to link our family trees. I have a profile coming up about my cousin Robert Lee Neal, and I was able to find out so much information from his nephew on Ancestry. Today I decided to review our correspondence for any possible clues I missed. There were quite a few, actually, that rekindled my curiosity for this line that relocated to Ohio from Georgia. There were two females and I did not know if they had married, and what their new surnames would be. Looking more carefully I realized he had provided one of the surnames that I thought was a first name. After making this correction I was lucky enough to find that the husband had a very unusual first name (love it when that happens), and had a son named after him. A quick check on Facebook and BAM!!! Two new third cousin connections!! I plan on doing a post later on how I make connections to living descendants using Facebook and other resources.

New Kids On The Blog

It’s that time when everyone is focused on making resolutions to make themselves better for the new year. I decided long ago not to make resolutions, but rather set attainable goals to accomplish throughout the year.

While reflecting on my research last year I noticed that I was making some progress, but I had no clear focus. I was relying on my ancestors to guide me and help me discover what they wanted me to see, when they wanted me to find it. However, I lost the “drive” to follow those clues and I was struggling for inspiration. I gave up writing and attending webinars. I even stopped attending my local genealogy group’s meetings. I knew that if I wanted to continue to break down brick walls I was going to need to find something or someone to give me that extra push.

Almost like clockwork, my ancestors seemed to be screaming at me to keep going. I happened to click on a random email that told of an African American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research Group (AAGSAR) that would be having a blogging event in January. When I found their Facebook group I was so excited that I dove in and started reading all of their archives. Luckie Daniels had assembled people like me that understood the power of researching together and sharing with each other.

Now, I have a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm to carry into 2014. One of the most important goals that I set was to continue my collaboration with living descendants I found in my research. I cannot put into words how satisfying it was to find and correspond with cousins that I hope to meet in person one day. They help me understand the individuals that were my ancestors, and even without any existing photographs I can see them clearly. I need to fill out these profiles completely and remember that they are more than just data from records. I am more than confident that my new family at the AAGSAR will help keep me on that path and I hope that more people will catch that fever!

Follow our journey at New Kids On The Blog.