Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Indianapolis, and My Time at the Eiteljorg

A View of the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis

Saturday May 21st, I was the guest of the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis Indiana. I was one of the speakers for the Genealogy Day program. The Eiteljorg has an interesting exhibition underway called Red-Black, Related Through History.

Logo for Eiteljorg Exhibition

It was a pleasure to visit this beautiful museum again, as I had the please of speaking there several years ago.  It has expanded, and the events were expanded to include a full day's schedule for the Genealogy Day program.

In addition to speaking, I had the pleasure to spend some time with some of the fascinating members of the Indiana African American Genealogy Society.  Friday evening after arriving in Indianapolis, I had the chance to have dinner with two of the members, Tonya Hull and Caretha Hull. One thing about spending time with other researchers, is that one gets to "talk genealogy" with people who understand.  Both of these ladies were wonderful dinner partners, indeed.

Tonya Hull & Caretha Hull hosted me for dinner on Friday evening. 
(Photo taken by Tonya Hull)

I have to admit that I had two surprises on Friday. When Tonya pulled up beside us, I knew that I recognized her, but was not certain where.  We exchanged our "good-to-see-you-again hugs" and proceeded into the restaurant and had a wonderful dinner.

Our conversation covered everything from current projects to our perspective on the genealogical community in general. I made a reference to a workshop that I attended last summer at Samford, and Tonya reminded me, that yes, she too saw it, for she was in the same session.  I looked at her, at first perplexed, and then embarrassed----gracious---of COURSE I had recognized her!!! She sat next to me for an entire week at Samford!!!!   We had a great laugh about that, and she said, "um  hmm.......I thought you didn't recognize me," Well of course she was right----as soon as I remembered, I also remembered her gadgets that she had in tow and we talked about that as well, (while we chuckled at my temporary amnesia.)

I blogged all week while at Samford and had to look and see if I had captured my seat companion on any of the images.  I did get a partial image of Tonya during one of the lectures:

On the left, Tonya is seen during one of the Samford lectures.

Our conversation we had was wonderful---we shared projects, discussed our thoughts about educating and training genealogists in the future---and we also had a wonderful dinner. (I confess to my excursion into a heavenly chocolate endeavor for dessert, but that's another discussion. )

Then there was Caretha! A friendly delightful person, Caretha had contacted me before I traveled to Indianapolis as she had some research questions that she had.  I was happy to meet her and discuss research challenges with her---and what a delight---this was rare for me---she was an Oklahoma researcher!  And she too researches the Freedmen of Oklahoma!  When she mentioned the communities of Okmulgee, Muskogee and Wybark, I realized that I had truly met a Creek Freedman descendant. We could then discuss findings from Dawes Records, the Dunn Roll, and other resources. This was a rare treat for me, as I rarely meet researchers when I travel, who discuss in depth the various Freedmen records and can engage in them with first hand knowledge. 

Caretha Hale and myself posing for a photo. Ms. Hale is a Creek Freedman Descendant
(Photo taken by Tonya Hull)

Saturday itself proved to be a busy day. The museum had planned a full genealogy day program, and there were exhibitors and dealers in addition to the program of speakers.

I was also surprised to know that a few blocks away fellow genealogist Tony Burroughs was also speaking at another genealogy event as well. Many of the members of the Indiana African American genealogy group had attended his session in the morning and then came over to the Eiteljorg for the afternoon speakers.  

Now, I learned several years ago that the Indiana African American Genealogy Group   is a group of serious researchers, and I enjoyed listening to some of the members speak about their upcoming programs including a research trip to Ft. Wayne, to the Allen County Public Library and the wonderful genealogical holdings there.  This group also hosts an annual conference in October, and they work continuously to mentor beginners in their genealogical journey. I was able to watch some of the mentoring in action on Saturday evening, when Tonya, a true leader, spoke to some of the beginners in her own group about organizing records.

After my presentation, the Eiteljorg also hosted a book signing for me at the museum book shop.  They had a good number of my book "Black Indian Genealogy Research. An Expanded Edition" for sale. Several people purchased a copy and I was able to autograph their copies.

At the book signing, I was happy to meet Dr. Ruby Cain, one of the conference planners for the National Black Genealogy Summit.  It was a pleasure to meet her as well as others whom I met before and after my presentation.

All in all, my experience in Indianapolis was a wonderful one, and I have to extend a special thank you to everyone who made my trip so pleasant: Tonya Hull, Caretha Hale, Tamara Winfrey Harris, Alisa Nordholt-Dean and others made my visit to Indianapolis a wonderful one. 

I left Indianapolis energized and inspired to get back to my own projects and to once again, get busy again.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

In Honor of Patrick, I Was There - The Dedication of the Drennen Home, Van Buren Arkansas.

Image from University of Arkansas Ft. Smith at Dedication of Historic Drennen Home. I attended in honor of my ancestor Patrick who was a slave at this estate. Source: Van Buren Press Argus

This past week was more than amazing.  I had been invited to attend the dedication of an historic home, in Van Buren Arkansas, where some of my ancestors had once lived, toiled and died, enslaved.  

My oldest known ancestor in this line, was named Patrick. I learned of  his history from a Civil War pension file---that from Lydia Walters Talkington.  She and Patrick had been allowed by their masters to court and they had hoped someday to marry each other. However, the times as they were, in addition to fate, would not allow that to happen. But in that file, she discussed how Patrick Drennen was allowed to come and visit her in Dripping Springs, (near what is now Figure Five, Arkansas.) 

From Civil War Pension File of Lydia Talkington, widow of John Talkington(Tuckington) 
a soldier of the 83rd US Colored Infantry

Patrick and Lydia had two children, a son Samuel, and a daughter Harriet. The girl ,Harriet would die while a young girl, but their son Samuel would live to adult hood and he would eventually marry my gr. grandmother Sallie, a former slave from the Choctaw Nation. Patrick, it was revealed was a slave of the Drennen family. This family was headed by John Drennen, founder of the town of Van Buren, Arkansas. Patrick lived with a family of slaves at the Drennen home. (A sister is said to have escaped to freedom while traveling with the Drennens in a northern city.)

Col John Drennen
Portrait of John Drennen, Van Buren Arkansas

This deposition of Susan Austin, a close neighbor of Lydia, mentioned that Patrick was  indeed
a slave of the Drennens of Van Buren, Arkansas.

John Drennen died in 1855 and is buried in Van Buren's historic Fairview cemetery.

Col John Drennen

Several years ago, I learned through my friend and fellow researcher Tonia Holleman of Van Buren Arkansas that Lydia was buried at the same cemetery in a family plot down the hill.  Ms. Holleman also discovered from the cemetery sexton's record that Patrick, my ancestor was also buried in the same cemetery.  Interestingly, Patrick was buried in the family plot of the Drennen family.  

She took me to the cemetery and we walked around the plot.  There was no sign of Patrick or where he rests.  He was buried in the seemingly bare space behind that of John Drennen. It was later noted that some small bricks outlined his grave.  These bricks however, are easily missed as grass has now grown over his burial site, however, the space is clearly there, with no headstone.

Last winter while in Arkansas for a conference, I visited the Drennen plot, and could only see one of the bricks faintly showing through the grass and the snow that was melting.  I collected a few dried magnolia tree blooms, and placed them on the stones that outlined his grave.  I wanted to take note of his burial place.

Burial site of Patrick Drennen outlined by dried magnolia tree blooms

About three years before, (in 2008) I had also decide to purchase a small marker to place over my gr. gr. grandmother Lydia's grave.  There was a small family plot down the hill.

Family Plot in Fairview Cemetery

It was Ms. Tonia Holleman who suggested that I also consider placing a memorial marker for Patrick as well.  Since, thanks to her,  I knew that Patrick was buried in that cemetery, and since my family owned the small plot, down the hill,  I could just as well  purchase  a small stone to be placed in his memory.  After all he had lived a full life---though short and for over 150 years he had rested in Fairview cemetery with no marker honoring his brief life.  

So I purchased a small marker for him, as well, and had it placed it place next to the one for Lydia, because they had loved each other, and had planted the seeds for our family line.  And so, it was placed there.

Memorial marker for Patrick Drennen in Fairview Cemetery

However----last week, while at the Drennen Home dedication, something unexpected and very significant happened. After the ceremonies were over, Prof. Wing arranged for a short meeting between myself and the members of the Drennen family descendants.  It was pointed out that Patrick my ancestor was actually buried in the family plot--which they did not know.  It was pointed out that he also did not have a marker.  The question was posed to the family---would they object to Patrick---my ancestor having a stone place in their family plot? I was surprised and my heart was warmed.  

Everyone said that there was no objection of any kind to his having a marker bearing his name in the family plot.  

To say that my heart was warmed, is a mild statement.  All I could say was simply, "thank you, thank you."

So at long last---my ancestor Patrick will have his name place over the site where his body rests.  He will be remembered and his name will be known now by all visitors to the site. They too, will see his name and will be able to say his name aloud.

For me---that moment was the most precious moment of the day.  My journey was more than worthwhile---my ancestor's name will now be known. 

In honor of Patrick I was there. What a special day it was.

Rest in peace, gr. gr. grandfather Patrick.