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!
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.
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:
Thank the person who nominated you and link to that blog
Share Seven things about yourself
Nominate 15 bloggers you admire (or as many as you can think of!)
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:
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.
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!
I have always been a strong proponent for knowing your family health history. Genealogists should be aware of the advantage of using genetics to not only make a familial connection, but also uncover possible links to hereditary diseases and ailments. Consequently, my focus for September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month because of my own health history. As a carrier of the trait, which is usually asymptomatic, I was one of the few that had milder symptoms of the disease. As a child I remember suffering painful episodes that were attributed to “growing pains”. Only now do I realize that these were not in my head, and I have had bouts of anemia through my adult life. Although there are very few who know about the disease, there are approximately 100,000 people suffering with the condition in the United States alone.
What is Sickle Cell Disease?
Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetically inherited blood disorder. There are several different forms of SCD, and the most common and usually the most severe form is sickle cell anemia.
Normal red blood cells are round like doughnuts, and they move through small blood tubes in the body to deliver oxygen. (fig.1)
Sickle red blood cells become hard, sticky and shaped like sickles used to cut wheat. (fig.2)
When these hard and pointed red cells go through the small blood tube, they clog the flow and break apart. This can cause pain, damage and a low blood count, or anemia. (fig.3) (Proudford, 2014, para. 2)
My father was aware that he carried the sickle cell trait, and he was adamant that I be tested for it as an infant. I knew since I was younger what that meant, but by the time I was old enough to have children of my own I forgot about the potential to pass the disease to my own children. “The sickle cell gene is passed from generation to generation in a pattern of inheritance called autosomal recessive inheritance. This means that both the mother and the father must pass on the defective form of the gene for a child to be affected” (Causes, 2014). That being said, my father had to inherit the trait from one of his parents, and so on. I happen to know that it was my paternal grandmother, so it was passed to her from one of her parents, but I don’t know which one. In a case where I was uncertain of parentage the condition would be able to help me narrow down my list. Unfortunately, many of the death certificates that I research do not list sickle cell as a contributing factor as a cause of death, and in the example of my paternal family, many of them died from heart disease. I wonder if I would be able to determine if death was a result of end organ disease and undiagnosed SCD or a predisposition to heart disease?
There are many clues in my genealogical research that force me to pay attention to my own health, specifically when I see the diseases and conditions my ancestors suffered from. The study of genetic genealogy allows me to take my research one step beyond what I see in records. However, the standard DNA tests that are available today for genealogy do not test the markers that show genetic diseases. I believe it is just as important for genealogists to leave a legacy of medical information for their descendants because knowing this history can save their life. Therefore, in my own family pedigree charts I always include the cause of death along with other vital information, which also makes it easier for me to create a chart to show patterns of ailments and diseases. There are also web-based tools for those who feel comfortable storing this information online. The Surgeon General’s Family History Initiative was created to encourage all American families to learn more about their family health history. “My Family Health Portrait Tool” can be found online at https://familyhistory.hhs.gov/fhh-web/home.action.
Today, not only do we understand that such uncommon diseases as sickle cell are hereditary, but that even common ailments such as diabetes, many cancers, and heart disease may also have a genetic link. Making a pedigree chart, taking the simple blood tests, and registering for the marrow donor lists can make a difference in your own family health history, as well as those who are affected with similar conditions. It could mean alleviating unnecessary pain and suffering, or possibly life and death.
Next month I will continue in the series of genetic genealogy for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “Currently the National Institutes of Health (NIH), through its Human Genome Project, is mapping the 100,000 genes in the human cell. We now know, for instance, that a woman with a certain damaged gene, BRCA1, has a 90% chance of getting breast cancer during her lifetime. If a search through your family tree shows a high incidence of breast cancer, then this gene may be lurking in your pedigree” (NGS, para. 7, 2013).
Read more specifics about sickle cell disease at http://www.examiner.com/article/national-sickle-cell-disease-awareness-month
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.
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.
1870 Federal Census (click to view larger)
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.
Laura Ann Ware and Asbury Neal marriage license
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.
1880 Federal Census
1880 Federal Census p.2
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).
1900 Federal Census
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 Federal Census
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 Neal 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.