Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday

Sheats Cemetery - Walton County, Georgia

At first glance, one would naturally assume these two old tombstones found lying beside each other would be husband and wife. The assumption would be wrong. The first indication is that Cornelius is almost 30 years older than Mood.

Cornelius is my great-grandfather and more than likely my great-grandmother Fannie's second husband. This is the only picture, to date, I have for my great-grandfather.

Mood, I've always loved her name, is my grandmother's first cousin. Her father, Lonnie, was one of great-granddad's younger brothers.

I've always been grateful that my grandmother passed down her uncle Lonnie to us because without him, I would have never found my great-great-grandparents.

I wounder if more of my ancestors are buried in Sheats cemetery. I'm hoping that I will be able to visit this cemetery during my research trip, hopefully August. I tried to get there about 15 years, ago, when our family reunion was head in the the Atlanta area but ran out of time.

I would like to take this time to thank a wonderful volunteer in Georgia, Bob Kelly. If you don't live in the state of Georgia, yet need some foot soldiers to do lookups or visit cemeteries, the Georgia Cemetery and Volunteer List, http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~gacemete/, is a wonderful resource. This has been my only time using it, to date, but I am so grateful for the work of this volunteer. On the site, it said he only does lookups, so you can imagine my joy and surprise when I received an e-mail from him saying that he had actually gone to the cemetery, and I was so happy that I was crying when I saw the pictures he had taken and sent me.

Receiving the pictures from Mr. Kelly brought sadness, too. It may be difficult to tell from the pictures but both tombstones are off their bases and just laying down. Mr. Kelly informed me that the entire cemetery is in a state of disrepair. That report confirms a report received from a local undertaker about the cemetery when I tried to get there during the mid 1990s.

Haven't quite figured out how I would do it, but I would love to be able to restore this old cemetery.

To my great-grandfather Cornelius, cousin Mood, and all my waiting to be discovered ancestors:

One Day!

Until the Next Time!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Unknown Sister

This year my great aunt, Mattie, became very important to me because I believe she holds the key to finding my great-grandmother Fannie prior to 1889, the year my great grandparents married. Yet she is even more a mystery than my great-grandmother.

Why is it that none of the other Pierce descendants seem to know about Mattie or her descendants except our branch?

I think I know part of the answer. My mother has always suspected that after her cousins moved north to Ohio that they were probably "passing" and acknowledging their "darker" kin that were still in Georgia / the South might have given them away, so there was very little contact. Even though that may be the case, our branch of the tree knew about them and had contact with them through the years with some coming to visit their aunt (my grandmother) and cousins in NC, my grandmother going to visit her nieces, and my mother and one of my aunts going for visits. My mom, although somewhat vaguely at this point, also remembers her aunt Ossie, grandmom's baby sister, visiting them, too.

What I know about Aunt Mattie?

  1. She was my grandmother's oldest sister. She was a half-sibling. Although my grandmother never passed along whether she was her dad's child or her mom's, what I've been able to piece together would lead me to believe she was great-grandmother Fannie's daughter.
  2. Based on the 1900 and 1910 census she never resided in the household of my great-grandparents.
  3. According to her children, my mother's first cousins, Mattie's surname before marriage was Henyard. Now I know this doesn't match Fannie's other surname of Henry but there is a certain similarity between the two names. Perhaps through the years there was a slight changing of the name.
  4. Mattie was born abt 1885 somewhere in Georgia and appears to have died sometime between 1918 and 1920 in Walton County, Georgia.
  5. She married Thomas "Tom" Martin sometime between 1900 and 1910. I've only been able to actually identify Mattie on the 1910 census after she and Tom have married. The 1920 census indicates Tom was a widow. Approximate date of Mattie's death was derived from the approximate date of birth of their last child (1920 census).
  6. The Martin family that she married into knows nothing about aunt Mattie either other than her name was Mattie.

Other tidbits of information

  1. On the 1910 census, there is a Sarah Robertson, age 70, living with Mattie and Tom's family. The 1910 census list her as Tom's daughter, which is impossible since Tom is 28 at the time.
  2. On the 1900 census there is a Sarah Robertson, age 56 and her niece, Mollie Hearnord is listed with her. I've been wondering if this Mollie could possible be Aunt Mattie and if it is who is Sarah Robertson. My mother doesn't remember ever hearing of a Sarah Robertson. The Martin family has no clue who she is. Is she another player in the mystery? If she is, how do I determine who she is and the connection?

Unfortunately, all of my great aunt Mattie's children are gone except one, her daughter Evelyn, who would be around 96. I talked to mom about trying to get in touch with Evelyn and mom said that cousin Evelyn wasn't doing too well and unfortunately with her being one of the younger of Aunt Mattie's children, she probably doesn't remember much of her mother before she died. Sometime between 1920 and 1930, aunt Mattie's older children rounded up all of their younger siblings and headed north to Ohio. The older ones looking after and completing the rearing of the younger ones.

I don't have a picture of Aunt Mattie, but do have pictures of some of her children. The picture at the beginning of this post shows 5 of her 8 children: Ovella , Evelyn , Harrison , Ruby Nell , and Irene.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mrs. Fannie Pierce (part 2)

How does one begin to explain all the mysteries that are clues to a great grandmother but to date, have not helped her descendants locate her. Perhaps you just jump in and rattle them off as they come to mind.

The Two Surnames

First Surname

The two different surnames is the most recent discovery about my great-grandmother and may be the most revealing in finding out more about her. The branch of the tree that descended from my grandmother, Mary Magdalene Pierce, was told through my grandmother that my great-grandmother's surname was Henry. So, prior to the 1900 census, I've looked for a Fannie Henry that matched the description of great-grandmom but to no avail. No one in our branch ever questioned this and always thought that was what the other branches of the family were told.

Second Surname

I met my second cousin Deborah about 10 years ago, shortly after I had moved back home to North Carolina from Colorado. Seeing as I'm a firm believer in the ancestral guidance in doing this research, perhaps the ancestors brought us together for a reason. Deborah is a grandchild of my great-aunt, Ossie Pierce, grandmom's baby sister. Deborah had also been researching the Pierce family's history and we had both gotten to the same point but couldn't get any further. Every so often we would ask each other about our research but I think even though we kept looking, we had both given up on finding out anything else. You would think somewhere during this time the surname oddity would have come up but it didn't until this year.

This year, through Deborah, I've come to know one of my younger cousins Nicholas (great-great grandchild of great-aunt Ossie Pierce), who contacted me to find out more about the family. I didn't pick up on it when he said Fannie's surname was White, didn't pick up on it again when he questioned me inputting Henry into my tree on Ancestry (had been on Ancestry for awhile but hadn't put my info in until Nicholas contacted me). It's only been within the past month that I fully took notice about this difference in surnames. It came about when I started searching death certificates of other ancestors not in my direct line. Great-aunt Evelina Pierce's, grandmom's older sister, death certificate listed Fannie's surname as White (information submitted by her husband Jim Jackson). Interesting!

After making this discovery I double checked my own grandmother's death certificate, surname listed was Henry. What's strange about this is that after great-grandmom remarried, aunt Ossie, who was 9 when my great granddad died, moved in with my grandparents and grandmom and granddad finished rearing her, so logically, you would think the sisters would have handed down the same surname but they didn't.

What I've been able to confirm

This past week, through the, marriage index for Walton County, GA, http://www.sos.georgia.gov/archives/what_do_we_have/online_indexes/pdi/RG247/247-02-011.htm, I've been able to determine that at the time my great grandparents got married, my great-grandmother's surname was White. The index indicates that a Cornelius Pierce (colored) and Frances (Fannie is a variation of Frances) White (colored) married on 10 Aug. 1889. The 1889 date confirms years of marriage that was given in the 1910 census.

The Henry surname

From information I've been able to gather, I believe that my great-grandmother more than likely had a marriage prior to her marriage to my great-grandfather.

Evidence that points toward a possible prior marriage
  • Both the 1900 and 1910 census indicate great grandmom had other living children that never appeared to have resided with my great-grandparents (they weren't listed with them on either census).
  • My grandmother knew of an older half-sibling, Mattie, whose surname was Henry or Henyard (more on that in my next post).
  • The marriage between my great-grandparents occurred when they were in their mid-twenties. In today's world that wouldn't phase me but in the late 1800's when most marriages occurred by the time you were 20, it does seem a bit odd. (By the way I also think this was great-granddad's second marriage, too, but more on that later.)
When I hopefully go on my research trip later this year, I hope to be able to obtain a copy of my great-grandparents marriage license. If it's anything like my grandparents, there probably won't be a any additional information outside of what's on the index but I can hope that there is some small tidbit of information to point me in the right direction.
Until next time.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Introduction to Ms. Fannie (Part 1)

The bulk of the stories handed down on my maternal grandmother's side of the family always seem to center around my great-grandmother Fannie.

First, there is her possible lineage that I mentioned in my last post.

But my favorite story that has been handed down is that after my great-grandfather died, great-grandmom said she wasn't going to remarry because of how great-granddad had treated her. Well, next thing you know some man comes along and great-grandmom tried to get all her daughters out of the way by marrying them off. Based on the 1910 census, my granddad lived two houses away and I've always imagined my great-grandmother saying to my grandmother "Mary, there's that nice Hosch boy over there that's about your age."

I don't know if there is any truth to the story but I can say that great-granddad died on 14 May 1910 and my grandparents were married on 9 Oct 1910.

Great-grandmom is also my most mysterious ancestor. The more info I find out about her, the more questions that are raised, which is why I've decided to introduce her somewhat slowly.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Personal Walk Back Through Time

Even though this whole blogging about my ancestors is new, I've been on this journey for awhile, having started in the late 1980s / early 1990s. When I first began this journey, I had 3 goals in mind:

  1. To find out if the stories I had always heard about my maternal grandmother's lineage were true. One of the stories handed down was that one of my great-great grandmothers was white and the other was half White / half Indian. Now the half White / half Indian could possibly have happened but in my mind there was just no way the other could have happened in Georgia during the slavery era.
  2. To find out anything I could about the paternal side of my family. Unlike my mother's side of the family, there were no stories handed down. It was like my dad, my aunt's and my uncles went immediately from being babies to adults.
  3. To try to reconnect with the various branches of the family that have been lost along the way.

But truth be told, this has been more about a personal journey more than anything. As an African-American (personally I'm of the generation that prefers the term Black but will use AA in this instance), it's often said "You can't know where you are going until you know where you have been." And so, as I travel further and further back in time, I continue to grow, to try to understand, to ask why, and to thank my ancestors for their strength, perseverance, and their hope for a brighter tomorrow, if not for themselves, then for their descendants. I realized long ago if my ancestors had not managed to hang on, there would be no me. They are my history.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The First POST

It's 11:35 PM and I should be getting ready for bed but I was determined to get the beginnings of this blog going tonight.

One of the biggest hurdles in starting this blog was coming up with a good title for it. Being the non-creative person that I am, nothing came to mind. Over the weekend, I was talking to my mother about how I wanted to document the trials and tribulations of finding my ancestors via a blog but I couldn't think of a title for it. So, my mother suggested Georgia Black Crackers. It took awhile for me to warm up to it but now I think it's perfect. The Georgia Black Crackers were part of the old Negro Baseball League. Not being a baseball fan (my loves are football and basketball), I knew nothing about them. But my mother is a huge baseball fan and the maternal side of my family is from GA so you see, it all fits.

There will be a separate blog for my NC family. I know, what am I thinking trying to do two blogs, but for now thought it would be easier to separate them that way.

So family and friends, it's finally off the ground. I hope you don't get too bored reading it and can learn a bit about our family along the way.