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 www.adanhenig.com, and Dante Eubanks at http://ouralabamaandgeorgiaancestors.blogspot.com for
providing insight and motivation for this post.

Maternal Georgia, Virginia, and Tennessee Ancestors

Grandfather:

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

Grandmother:

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

1867 Return of Registered Voters-Banks County, Georgia

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s day I was inspired to concentrate on my own Georgia ancestors. I revisited one of the documents that I found early on in my research that shows Gabriel Neal, (my third great-grandfather), on the 1867 Return of Registered Voters for Banks County, Georgia.

“WE CERTIFY to the correctness of the above Return,”

Board of Registration

P. P. Casey

J. G, Stringer

C. W. Beal

J. B. S. Davis

Benjamin Dunagan

Courtney Beal

Source: Microfilm, Georgia State Archives         

Contributed by Jim Davis

Transcribed 2005 by Jacqueline King

Professor Henry Lewis Gates, Jr. presented a similar document to U.S. Congressman John Lewis on an episode of Finding Your Roots that brought him to tears. I also feel that same tug at my heart and sense of pride that my great-grandfather only two years out of slavery recognized the importance of his vote. I’ve stared at this document numerous times searching for a deeper understanding of what it must have meant to Gabriel and my other family members to finally be able to participate in this process.

But in 1867, what exactly was the process for newly freed African Americans?

Congress passed the first Reconstruction Act on March 2nd, 1867 which divided the Confederacy into five military districts each governed by a Union general. The first two Reconstruction Acts were followed by a series of supplementary acts that authorized the military commanders to register the voters and supervise the elections. As a result of these measures all of the states had returned to the Union by 1870.

While some sources describe that as many as 700,000 Blacks were registered by 1868, it made me wonder how many of them would cast a vote in the next election. And if they did make it to the polls, would they be educated enough to make their own choice, or were they being coerced by political agendas? Blacks would only have a short time to celebrate the Fifteenth Amendment ratified in 1870, and would soon meet with opposition from Southern states in the form of Jim Crow laws, intimidation and violence.

My ancestors in Banks County, Georgia were proud farmers, and even 13 years later on the 1880 census only one of Gabriel’s daughters could read and write. I believe that Gabriel took a strong leap of faith to make a better life for his children and grandchildren in signing his voter registration. In that step he would attempt to ensure his family’s freedom for generations to come.

When I voted for the first African American president in the last 2 elections I kept Gabriel and his sacrifices in my thoughts. I worked as a volunteer to register new voters, donated financially and continue to work as an advocate in Washington, D.C.

The words of Dr. King resonate also continue to resonate with me in my genealogical research. The foundation of my study requires me to “sift and weigh evidence” and to maintain a level of integrity in my work. It is therefore equally as important for me to give back, educate, and enlighten others on the joy of finding their own ancestors.

“To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.” Martin Luther King, Jr.,-The Purpose of Education

Reference

Bragg, William H. “Reconstruction in Georgia.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 10 January 2014. Web. 20 January 2014.

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.

Welcome to RootStories!!

Laura Ann Ware Neal

In anticipation of the AAGSAR #BLOGFEST 2014 I wanted to reintroduce my family history blog and welcome any new readers who love family history or genealogy. I dedicated this to all of my African American ancestors and family who have guided me through my life journey. I was inspired to become a genealogist after seeing the picture on the left of my second great-grandmother Laura. It’s the oldest picture I have of any family member on either side of my family. My grandfather had this picture hanging on his bedroom wall for as long as I could remember. She has the same eyes as my grandfather, and I would stare into them trying to figure out what she was thinking when this picture was taken. There is no identifying information on the photo, and I could certainly try to date when it was taken by her clothing. As I got older, I felt compelled to find out more about her, her family, and everything in between.

Laura Ann Ware was born around September 1853 in Madison County, Georgia. The state of Georgia did not maintain vital records until after 1919, so I had to confirm an approximate date of birth from census, marriage, and death records.

In the 1870 census Laura would have been at least 17 years old. The only federal census I could find that showed her living in Madison County lists her in the household of Jeremiah and Martha Deadwyler. All of the children have the last name of Deadwyler, although I have no documents that support that Laura ever used that name. The date of the census is August 4th, 1870, so Laura would have still been single.

On December 4th, 1870, Laura was married to Asbury Neal in Madison County, Georgia. On this record Laura’s maiden name is shown as Ware.

In 1880, the census shows the Neal household still living in Madison County. Asbury and Laura Neal are living with their children Martha (8), Arthur (6), William (4) and Gabriel (2).

The 1900 census lists the Neal household in Banks County, Georgia. I believe the boundary lines for the county changed and that the family still lived in the same place as in 1880. Asbury and Laura are now the parents of 11 children: Willie (23), Mary (18), Francis (16), Savanah (13), Samuel (11), Roy (8), Lonnie (5), Charlie (2), and Gabriel (21). I am still curious why Gabriel was listed at the bottom of the list when the rest of the children are in age order. It suggests he is a step son or son-in-law. When I follow Gabriel to his death in Ohio in 1946 his father is listed as Asbury, but his mother is “unknown”. This also suggests that Laura was not his biological mother. Martha Deadwyler is also living in the household listed as mother-in-law.

1910 is the last census Laura is listed in. She and Asbury are in the household along with Roy (18), Lonnie (15), Charles (13), and Martha Ware the mother-in-law. I thought it was interesting that Martha is now using the Ware surname. She is widowed, so perhaps she is using her maiden name as it is shown on Laura’s death certificate.

Laura passed on October 5th, 1922 from uremia poisoning. She was buried in Hurricane Grove cemetery, and her father Russ White is named as the undertaker. Her spirit lives on in all of her descendants, and I am proud to have a photo reminder of the strength and bravery that she must have had.

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.

Tin Can Sailors

The name “Tin can sailor” is a term used to refer to sailors serving on Navy destroyers. I had never heard of the term until recently, while researching my 2nd cousin Melvin Holbert, I discovered that he was on the USS Shields (DD-596) as a stewardsman from 1954-56.

DD596-1951

Between 18 July 1954 and 30 November 1963, Shields was deployed to WESTPAC seven times. When not assigned to the western Pacific, she engaged in normal destroyer activities out of her home port, San Diego. One of the highlights of this decade of Shields’ career was her participation in the commemoration of the triumphant return of Theodore Roosevelt’s “Great White Fleet” to San Francisco. Another important occasion was the award of the Battle Efficiency “E” for overall combat readiness in August 1960 (http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/s12/shields.htm).

Aside from being in a cramped and uncomfortable place in every day there were other health risks associated with serving on destroyers.

    Asbestos Risk on the USS Shields (DD-596)

Because asbestos is essentially fireproof, it became the primary means of fireproofing seafaring vessels beginning in the 1930s. Naval vessels use many pieces of equipment that generate high amounts of thermal energy, such as turbines and pumps. The Navy saw that asbestos could be used in a variety of ways throughout its fleet, particularly as thermal insulation, and continued to use it up to the 1970s.

Sailors on Shields that were primarily employed in repair or maintenance duties generally had the most severe asbestos exposure. The risk was also greater for sailors working in engineering sections and boiler rooms. No member of the crew was completely safe from exposure, as the mineral was also used wrap the vessel’s steam pipes and to pack pumps and valves.

Asbestos material causes mesothelioma by destroying a thin membrane called the mesothelium when it is breathed in. Because exposure to asbestos is the only known cause this cancer, there are usually legal options for Navy veterans suffering from mesothelioma.

Read more: http://www.mesothelioma.com/asbestos-exposure/jobsites/ships/destroyers/uss-shields-dd-596.htm#ixzz2ooV0Gbjh

Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-596.
http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/destroy/dd596txt.htm) Retrieved 26 January 2011.

NavSource Naval History. USS Shields (DD-596).
http://www.navsource.org/archives/05/596.htm) Retrieved 26 January 2011.

The Book of Me

One of the first tasks of a genealogist is to write their life story. I never realized the importance until I compared it with the amount of information I wish I had about my ancestors. I have decided to include a project called “The Book of Me” on my blog to discover more about myself, and perhaps help me become a better interviewer and family historian in the process. The project will span over the course of about a year with a series of weekly prompts that I will provide answers to in the “About Me” section. I hope that I can inspire others to follow me on what I believe will be a fascinating journey.

Special Honor on Memorial Day- Mozell Aldridge

9th Infantry Regiment Coat of Arms
9th Infantry Regiment Coat of Arms

Remembering my cousin, Mozell Aldridge, from my paternal line who served in WWII and again in the Korean War where he sustained serious injuries:
Mozell Aldridge, Rank=CPL Unit=9th
Inf Reg Division=2nd Inf Div Type of Unit= Inf Regt
Place of Casualty=North Korea Date of Casualty= 06 02 1951
Type of Casualty=Evacuated SWA/Seriously wounded in action by missile.
Taking up the offensive in a two-prong attack in February 1951, the Division repulsed a powerful Chinese counter offensive in the epic battles of Chip-yong-ni and Wonju. The United Nations front was saved and the general offensive continued. Again in April and May 1951, the 2nd Infantry Division was instrumental in smashing the Communists’ spring offensive. For its part in these actions the 2nd Infantry Division was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. What followed were alternating periods of combat and rest, with the Division participating in the battles Bloody Ridge, Heartbreak Ridge, the outposts, and Old Baldy.

Brick Wall

Posted September 3, 2009
The past few months have been very frustrating for me. I seem to have hit every brick wall there is as far as my family is concerned. I thought about trying to research one of the other lines of the family, but I have limited information on the Allens or Baxters. Maybe I will try to contact the Pattersons and see if they have any info to share. I have not heard back from any of the mailers I sent to possible Neal relatives in Ohio. My fingers are still crossed!