Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Pleasant Surprise

While working on a project I needed to have a handy image of my book, "Black Indian Genealogy Research".  Of course, I have one one my desk computer downstairs, but thought there might be one that I would find on one of my blogs.  So I googled the book title and was surprised to see a link to a video appear. So wondering what the video was, it was a pleasant experience to see that someone who had just come from a presentation that I had given, found it useful and informative.

That made my day!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fun at the NARA Genealogy Fair!

Thursday April 21, was a really full day for me. I attended the National Archives Genealogy Day!  After a ride on the MARC commuter train from Baltimore BWI station, and a quick 3 stops on the Washington DC Metro, I got off at the Archives/Navy Memorial stop on the Green Line.  This puts you directly across the street from the research entrance of the National Archives, on Pennsylvania Avenue.

As one crossed the street the tents were up and everything was right there! I think that people just passing by would see that something was going on and they were immediately drawn inside!

Thankfully, because it was a bit cool on Thursday, the tents had plastic draping to shield the fair from wind and the slight chill, outside. So even though they were outside, they were also inside.

Now, my purpose in being there was two-fold!  I had every intention of attending the fair. After all, I had questions to ask the folks at Footnote, and Ancestry, and I had some workshops that had caught my attention and I also had a little bit of research to do---I had to copy a Civil War Pension file of York McGilbra one of the black soldiers who served in the Indian Home Guards.

The exhibits were loads of fun.  The Archives had various tables, and there were buttons, pens, pencils and tons of give-aways at each table.

"Who are you Looking For?"

Buttons, and brochures and general info on the Archives were on hand for all visitors.

Besides staff from the National Archives there were representatives also from various organizations such as the Association of Professional Genealogists.

Members of the Association of Professional Genealogists

The workshop were quite interesting. I had decided to sit in on one of the sessions, about Free People of Color of New York.  The presenter was  Carla Peterson, a professor and author who shared information from her own family history. Her session was called, Black Gotham. A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth Century New York.

Carla Peterson, author of Black Gotham

While looking at one of her handouts--I recognized a name.  Maritcha Lyons was one of her ancestors! Wow---Maritcha Lyons!  If I was not mistaken, I have a wonderful story book about Maritcha Lyons. She was from a family of free people of color living in New York, and her family story was depicted in a beautiful children's book called Maritcha. A Remarkable Nineteenth Century American Girl.

Book cover: Maritcha. A Remarkable Nineteenth Century American Girl

I was anxious to chat with the author later, and when I saw her in the bookstore section of the exhibitions afterwards, I went to chat with her.  She confirmed that indeed that Maritcha was the same Maritcha on her family tree, and it was part of Marticha's diary from which much of her own information was based for her book Black Gotham. I was impressed and anxious to purchase a copy of the book, and to have her sign it for me.  And of course I had to have take a photo with her, as well.

Dr. Carla Peterson, author, and myself at the NARA Genealogy Fair

I also enjoyed the presenetation by a group of African American re-enactors, were sharing details on the lives of Civil War era black women.

Re-enactor as Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, first black female doctor shared her life story

  I was even able to capture some of their presentations on video.

Re-Enactment of Dr. Rebecca Crumpler

My day ended as I was able to obtain a Civil War pension file and found some additional information about a black soldier who served in the Indian Home Guards as well.

What an enjoyable day!! I look forward to next year's program!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Meet Me (again) in St. Louis

Missouri Museum of History

Last weekend on April 16, I had the opportunity to speak at the Missouri Museum of History in St.Louis, Missouri.  The members of the St. Louis African American Genealogy Society hosted the presentation, and I was very fortunate to have been their guest.

After a rather adventurous trip getting to St. Louis from Baltimore with flight delays and stormy weather, Saturday finally came and the day went extremely well. The people were more than wonderful, and the interest in my topic was very high.

Ms. Maldine Wallace was gracious enough to meet me at the hotel and later Mr. Charles Barker, President of the St. Louis African American History & Genealogy Society, hosted me for lunch with members of the group, and returned me to the hotel.

Maldine Wallace, Charles Brown Jr. and Angela Walton-Raji

The room filled quickly before the session.

I found the interest in the topic of finding Indian ancestry to be high, and the attention and questions from the audience was genuine.

Good questions were asked from the audience as well

Delivering my lecture at St. Louis

The group was a fairly large one, and I was impressed with their interest in the topic on researching "Blended Families, Blended Histories."

There was strong interest from those in attendance

Discussing the limitations

I did notice that many were particularly interested when I shared information on the 1910 Special Indian Census.

Sharing an image from the census 1910 Special Indian Census

I pointed out that the Special Census is found in multiple states, including Virginia.

Showing Virginia Blended Families from 1910

Some were surprised to see that Indian ancestry was also reflected in military records such as the World War I, Draft Cards.

WWI Draft Card of a Muscogee Creek Indian Draftee

After the session was over, I was able to join several of the members for a wonderful lunch at a delightful restaurant, "Sweetie Pies" in South St. Louis. While there, I was able to chat freely with members who had specific questions about their own research challenges.

Chatting with one of the St. Louis genealogy group members

I must mention that the lunch was more than delicious and the atmosphere at the Restaurant was warm and friendly, and it was a  perfect ending to a very good day. Let me say that again---the food was FANTASTIC!!!

Sweetie Pie's Restaurant, St. Louis, Missouri

The day was a wonderful one for me, and I must thank the wonderful people in St. Louis for the warm reception and their gracious hospitality.  I hope to meet many of them again in the future, and I do want to let other researchers know that there is a vibrant group of genealogists in St. Louis. 

I must admit that I truly enjoyed myself in St. Louis and look forward to going back there again.  In fact I hope that others will also "Meet Me" in St. Louis. They were truly great people, with great food, and I had a great time!!

Special thanks to Maldine Wallace for her arrangements, to Mr. Charles Brown Jr. for sharing his photographs, and Ms. Sarah Cato for assisting me after the presentation and taking me to the Restaurant to join the group for lunch.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hampton Roads AAHGS Civil War Seminar

Last weekend on April 9th I had the honor to present at the Civil War seminar hosted by the Hampton Roads
chapter of AAHGS. (African American Historical and Genealogical Society)

I had the honor to speak and to present at the conference, and Drusilla Pair, well known genealogist and researcher also shared with the audience how her own interest in Civil War history emerged.  I was able to capture a few minutes of her session from the beginning.  As the light was being adjusted I was still able to capture the beginning moments of her presentation.  I am happy to present it here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Visiting Freedom's Fortress - The First Contraband Camp

Historical Marker for the First Contraband Camp

This past weekend was full of so many experiences. I had traveled to Hampton Virginia to speak at the Civil War Seminar sponsored by the Hampton Roads African American Historical & Genealogical Society conference.  This was an amazing weekend on so many levels, and I traveled down on Thursday to have time to include visiting some historical sites while there.

Many sites were on my list and among them was a special trip to Ft. Monroe. This is the site of the very first
camp for escaped slaves during the Civil War. This was the first contraband Camp.  

I felt a need to visit this place, because I had ancestors who had made it to  a contraband camp. Mary  Paralee Young described how she and others---as they were following the line of Union soldiers, had made a harrowing trek on foot from Ripley Mississippi to Saulsbury Tennessee.  Once there, she and hundreds of others were put on a train and taken to President's Island Contraband camp, near Memphis Tennessee. She remained there until the end of the Civil War.

She described how on route one of the children had become lost but she had to stay on the move.

Statement made by Mary Paralee Young describing their journey to President's Island
Source: Civil War Pension File of Amanda Young

This story is significant in so many ways.

First of all, most of can remember when a woman broke the law of the land in Montgomery Alabama when she refused to sit in the back of the bus any longer.  Rosa Parks started a revolution and the Montgomery Bus Boycott started a revolution changing Montgomery and America as well.

Most of us need to know how three men---slaves of a Col. Mallory of Virginia---these three men, broke the law of the land. They sought asylum at Ft. Monroe a place in Virginia that was still under Union Army control. These three men sought asylum and were granted it by Gen. Benjamin Butler. And these three men---Frank Baker, James Townsend and Sheppard Mallory---began a quiet revolution ----a wave of thousands of slaves---who stood up, and walked to their freedom.  This was a wave began that could not be stopped.

A recent article in the NY Times describes what happened, how the slave owner sought the return of the slaves and how Gen. Butler gave sanctuary to these three men----Frank Baker, James Townsend and Sheppard Mallory--three men whose names we need to learn. They were essentially the "Rosa Parks" of their time.

Image reflecting the appeal of Frank Baker, James Townsend and Sheppard Mallory for sanctuary

The significance of this incident should not be overlooked---for this became the beginning of a wave of civil disobedience and it is the enslaved themselves who should be credited for unlocking the chains of bondage themselves. 

Like the current revolution of the masses that we have recently watched in the Middle East---we need to understand the wave of slaves---who were captured in the newspaper  illustrations of the day-----this wave of humanity---that refused to take it anymore.

Slaves pouring into Ft. Monroe

For me---I had the honor to stand where they stood and to enter the same fortress. I could not help but to stare at that gate---and appreciate the courage of the three men who dared to enter Ft. Monroe the first time.

View In front of the gate leading into Ft. Monroe

A recent article in the New York Times discussed the actual incident of the three slaves seeking sanctuary and it deserves to be shared here:

When Col. Mallory learned that three of his slaves had escaped, he sent a messenger under a flag of truce to Ft. Monroe to have the slaves returned.  The exchange is described as follows:

Cary got down to business. "I am informed" he said, "that three Negroes belonging to Colonel Mallory have escaped within your lines. I am Colonel Mallory's agent and have charge of his property. What do you mean to do with these Negroes?"

"I intend to hold them."

"Do you mean to set aside your constitutional obligation to return them?"

Even the dour Butler must have found it hard to suppress a smile. This was, of course a question he 
had expected.

And he had prepared what he thought was a fairly clever answer.

"I mean to take Virginia at her word," he said. " I am under no constitutional obligations to a foreign country which Virginia now claims to be."

"But you say we cannot secede," Cary retorted, "and so you cannot consistently detain the Negroes."

"But you say you have seceded," Butler said, "so you cannot consistently claim them. I shall hold these Negroes as contraband of war, since they are engaged in the construction of battery and are claimed as your property."

Source: NY Times Magazine April 1, 2011, by Adam Goodheart. Mr. Goodheart is the author of “1861: The Civil War  Awakening,” from which his article in this issue is adapted.

An Unsung Revolution
There was an incredible underground communications network among the slaves. News was often shared from one plantation to another through this amazing network.  The network became critical after Baker, Mallory and Townsend were given sanctuary and declared contrabands of war. As soon as this happened, the underground network became vital and it went into overdrive. 

A wave had taken over the enslaved communities and they arrived by the hundreds.  Newspapers throughout the country began to capture images of slaves walking to freedom---with one goal---get to the Union line!!

Some came in broken wagons
Source: Library of Congress Wood Engraving

Many traveled on foot
Source:  Library of Congress

 But they came by the hundreds.
Source: Library of Congress

With all of this rich history, visiting this incredible site was a must for me, because some of my ancestors were part of that revolution. 

That unsung revolution of the enslaved had spread throughout the land. The underground network had led to the establishment of contraband camps in multiple states. And my gr. gr. Aunt Mary Paralee Young, was among the many who dared to leave and walk to freedom! 

So to honor my ancestors, visiting the place where the dismantling of slavery began--- visiting this place was a must!

I honor them for their courage.