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