Thursday, January 1, 2015

Beginning of a Milestone Year - 2015 In the Spirit of Freedom

This new year is the beginning of a milestone year!

150 year ago, the nation changed!
150 years ago, 4 million people found freedom on the soil of their birth
150 years ago the trajectory of the United States was altered, forever!
150 years ago, the ending of slavery would bring about the "Reconstruction Amendments".
150 years ago, with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, slavery was abolished.
  The passage of the 13th Amendment opened the door for the later ratification of the 14th and 15th.
    The 14th Amendment to the Constitution gave citizenship to those once enslaved.
    The 15th Amendment to the Constitution gave many the right to vote for the first time.
  Though ratified after 1865 the way was paved for these critical amendments in 1865.

So yes---this is a milestone year! But strangely there are no celebrations of this incredible year! I know that for the past five years we have seen all kinds of celebrations reflecting the events pertaining to the Civil War. From 2011 when there were events noting 150th anniversary of the first shots fired at Ft. Sumter in 1861. And over the years there have been re-enactments of various battles fought from Gettysburg to Olustee. A simple google search on the 150th Civil War anniversary will reflect that.

A screen shot after a Google Search on the 150th Civil War Anniversary

It is great that the Civil War's ending is noted by people today, But the war was not simply battles--the war was about people. As a genealogist, my job is to tell a story about those people, many of them my own people, and to place the ancestors on the proper historical landscape. My ancestors were there during the Civil War and I am obligated to tell that story.

Some of them were soldier, true freedom fighters. My soldiers on the Bass side served honorably in the 111th US Colored Infantry. They were captured and managed to escape from the notorious N.B. Forrest.


Civil War Service Records of 4 soldiers from Giles County who were captured and who escaped. Capture was at Sulphur Trestlein the fall on 1864, under N.B. Forrest.

Other ancestors were self-emancipated---when the chance came---they left. They walked a very hard walk from Mississippi to Tennessee. Upon arrival they were then taken to President's Island contraband camp.

From Civil War Pension File
Claimant: Amanda Young, Soldier Berry Young

And yet others stayed back home because they were not able to travel and in fact had been taken away during the war so they would not escape.

So, as  I look back at 1865 and I know that the legal status of my ancestors changed during that amazing year, and that my ancestors emerged as survivors of a heinous system.

As survivors they laid the foundation for my family to continue to thrive today. Therefore, I have a commitment to not only tell their story, but to celebrate the precious legacy of freedom. I am committed to honoring their own struggle for freedom and I am obligated to tell the story of how they found freedom. And of course I am committed to sharing data of the beginning of their lives finally lived out as free people.

My hope is that others in the genealogy community will begin to honor this sesquicentennial year as well. I leave the following suggestions for bloggers to explore, in the spirit of Freedom.

Find your ancestor's story of freedom
Learn the community's story--how were slaves freed in the town,in the county.
Extract the many stories of freedom in the many Freedmen's Bureau records, Freedman's Bank records, Civil War Military records, old newspapers. Search for them, read them--and share them!


Professor Dru said...

Yes, 2015 is the year to celebrate the freedom of our ancestors.

Carolyn Schriber said...

See my list of celebrations scheduled in Charleston, SC, this spring:

I don't have information at hand, but I know the Gullah people of St. Helena Island have a full schedule as well.