William Emmet PALMER, Sr

William “Bill” E Palmer Sr (31 July 1911 – 14 August 1970) was born in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. He was the youngest of four (4) children born to Willie PALMER and Mary JOHNSON PALMER. William’s mother died of typhoid fever in 1916 when he was only five years old. I have an adorable photo of him when he was around this age. Actually, he looks like he would have been about seven. He’s wearing a white shirt, a necktie and knickers. He looks so solemn and reflective in the pose, I’ve wondered if it was taken after Mary’s funeral. But he really looks older than five. It’s such a cute picture though. I’ll post it after I get it marked.

William E Palmer Sr
I would love to find information on his elementary education. But he, along with my mother, was a member of the first graduating class (1931) of Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana. He was a member of the football team. I think he also took the Woodshop Class that was offered to many of the male students during that era. After graduating, he worked in the Merchant Mill at US Steel Corporation in Gary.

He served on the Senior Usher Board (several years as President) at St Timothy Community Church. And he was noticeably moved by the hymn, “Peace in the Valley.”

He and his wife, Floretta Violet MABLE PALMER, were well-known and respected throughout the community of Gary. They gave birth to five (5) children: Violet, William, Jr., Charles, Patricia, and Donna Jeanne. (Yes, I’m the only one who was called by first and middle name.) (Link to post)

Daddy kept a very handy pocket knife on him at all times. He had so many uses for that knife. If I was doing homework or a crossword puzzle and my pencil lead got dull, he would flip that knife open and whittle until my lead was sharp again. When the watermelon truck came; and he wanted to “plug” a melon to check for sweetness, out came the knife. I smile as I think of the many apples he peeled for me with that same knife that he had used for who knows what. After he finished with whatever the task was, he just swiped each side of the blade once on his pants leg, flicked it closed and dropped it back in his pocket. Even today, when I peel an apple, I try to keep the peel in one long strip as he sometimes managed to do. Just that simple action would cause me the greatest delight.

Daddy started early preparing my brothers for manhood. Both Billy and Charles, had paper routes for as long as I could remember. Even doing his shift-work at the Mill, he made sure they were up bright and early to complete their routes before school. The papers came flat; and they folded them into thirds in such a way that they would stay folded when they pitched them onto the porches of their customers. They kept the folded papers in these heavy canvas bags that they slung cross-body over one shoulder. I remember Daddy helping them with all that. And Thursday was “collection day.” I didn’t think much about why Daddy accompanied them to collect payments from their customers. I did have the reasoning ability to think he was making sure customers paid. In retrospect, there may have been a “peer element” he was protecting them from as well. My Daddy . . .

I’ve given him the term, “plaid-collar worker” because he wore plaid shirts to work. Not the flannel kind — the cotton kind. I knew he changed into work clothes (maybe a long-sleeved jumpsuit) and showered before changing back into his street clothes to come home. He got dirty at work; but he came home clean. To this day, I have the highest regard for a man in some dirty work clothes. And I consider his wife and kids blessed. He wore a sweatband on his forehead that was no more than a yellow sponge with a thick rubber band woven through it. Today, I would be like, “Dude, you gotta be kiddin’. I don’t know WHERE he bought those things.

Of course, he cherished my sister and me. But he was overprotective with me — “the baby” — and, somehow both he and my mother managed to spoil me rotten. I guess this is as good a platform as any to share the poem I wrote about him at the age of 26 — six years after his passing at the age of 59. I’ve held on to this poem for almost 40 years and can still recite it verbatim. But, since I’m a little on the obsessive side, I can’t just throw the poem out there. I have to pretty it up, which I’ll try to do this weekend. (I’m actually headed for the library right now.) I only had my Daddy for 20 years. But you can see the lasting impression he made on me.

For the benefit of my descendants, updates to this page will be made throughout my research.

Floretta Violet MABLE PALMER

Floretta was born on August 20, 1915 in Mound City, Illinois. She was the oldest of eight (8) children born to William MABLE of Cobb County, Georgia and Essie WILLIAMS of Pulaski County, Illinois. She lived with her family at 210 Pearl Street in Mound City. Pedigree_MABLE_Floretta_V copy

I’ll have to to find information on her elementary education. But, at age 16, she was a member of the first official graduating class (1931) of Roosevelt High School (Link) in Gary, Indiana. (There was one graduate in 1930 who waited to march with the Class of ’31.) After graduating, Momma worked as a Secretary in the School City of Gary and as a Medical Transcriptionist at the University of Chicago and at Gary’s the Methodist Hospital.

In addition to her full-time employment, she volunteered as Secretary of St Timothy Community Church for several years. We had an extra room where she kept her typewriter and memeograph machine. On Thursday evenings she prepared the stencils; and on Saturday evenings, she ran off the copies. Each family member took part in the folding of the programs on Saturday night as we watched Lawrence Welk on TV. Then on Sunday mornings, she took down the names of new members and presented them to the Pastor and the church body. Momma also played piano and sang with the Senior Choir.

She and her husband, William E PALMER, Sr., were well-known and respected throughout the community of Gary. They gave birth to five (5) children: Violet, William, Jr., Charles, Patricia, and Donna Jeanne. (Yes, I’m the only one who was called by first and middle name.) (Link to post)

I hung out with Momma every day because I attended Carver Elementary where she was Head Secretary. After school ended, if I didn’t go to my friend’s Paulette’s house, I stayed in the office with Momma. I truly believe my studying that supply closet is the reason I’m so obsessed with pens and journals. There were shelves and shelves of supplies; and I like hanging around in there so I could bring out what she or one of the other secretaries asked me to.

Momma’s hobbies were crocheting and working word puzzles. She was an avid reader; and she loved a good crime novel. She encouraged me to read to my heart’s content by buying ANY book I asked for. During our adult years, my sister and I received her yearly updates to our Reader’s Digest subscriptions.

For the benefit of my descendants, updates to this page will be made throughout my research.

Slave Given Names: A Closer Look

For obvious reasons, great emphasis is placed on surnames in genealogy. Without a surname list your research will not take you very far. But at a recent lecture, the presenter’s advice to “look at the given names” stuck in my mind. It didn’t take long for me to learn that this practice will take you further than you may think. Yes, it applies to obvious misspellings. But where it really began to shine for me was when I realized that many given names of slaves — especially females — are actually nicknames.

Also, among the artifacts displayed in the Black History Month exhibit at the Clayton Library for Genealogical Research included a framed sheet of slave nicknames. As I scanned the paragraph-style presentation, I came upon the name, “Sukie” which is a variable of the spelling of my great-grandmother’s given name. After many unsuccessful attempts to find her in any Census record, I set her aside and continued my research.

Link Graphic Female Nicknames copy

Female Nickname List

The presentation of the nicknames was in paragraph form with each nickname in bold followed by the associated given names. This was an attractive presentation. But I needed the information in list form. So I expanded on the exhibit copy and a few lists I found online and came up with these lists for starters. I also separated the lists into male and female. I hope they will be of benefit to you.  The link to the female list is to the left.  The link to the male list is at the end of this post.

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Page 4 of “The Barge Papers” Courtesy of the Cobb County Arts Alliance

When I got home, I went through some material I had obtained earlier from a gentle lady at the Cobb County Arts Alliance, I came upon a handwritten page from “the Barge papers.” On that page were variations of the ancestor I had been calling, “Seuk”: “. . . Suckey, Sukie, Sook, Suck . . .” No one knew how to spell it. Then just as I surmised I should include these variations in my search, I thought to take another look at the slave nickname list from the exhibit, it hit me. Her name was Susan.

Then, I went through my Legacy Family Tree records and there she was — right under my nose as I had suspected. Susan JORDAN — enumerated in the 1880 Census with her parents and two siblings. A quick analysis indicated she was 10 years younger than Thack. Now, I can focus on how close in proximity their families lived. I’ve already determined that the entry of one of her relatives is directly above Thacker’s in the 1867 Return of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Book for Cobb County, GA. This tells me they could have gone to the court house together. And they, more than likely, were neighbors. So this weekend at the library, I’ll take a closer look at the Jordan family. (As she rubs her palms together . . .) Can’t wait!

Link Graphic Male Nicknames copy

Male Nickname List

Sepia Saturday 269: The Violet Polka

It’s Sepia Saturday; and this week’s vintage photograph call connects with the theme image and encompasses music, dance, polkas, violets ….

Palmer Singers (1979)_for_web copy This post will touch on each of those things.

Music was always in our house. Momma and Charles played piano. Pat took voice lessons. And we all (except Daddy) sang. Everybody read music and played an instrument except for me (and Daddy). To this day, I can only surmise that the reasons were financial. (Because Daddy’s health problems began just as I was entering jr high (middle) school.) But that didn’t hinder my natural singing ability.

Gospel, show tunes, Chicago_Bandstand_Posterand R&B were the main genres we enjoyed. I remember the time Billy and Pat went to Chicago Bandstand. Our family gathered around the television, watched  and squealed with delight when we got a brief glimpse of them among the teenagers on the dance floor.

Our family loved music; and it was one of the things that bridged our ages. I was the youngest; and while they did teenager things together, I enjoyed one-on-one time with Momma and Daddy. They all attended school together (walking a few city blocks). But I rode across town with Momma to attend grades 1 through 6 at the school where she was the secretary. My parents were pleasantly surprised when, at the age of 10, I debuted with “The Palmer Trio” — expanding our gospel group to be called, “The Palmer Family Singers.”

No one in our house danced the polka; but we tuned in every Saturday night to watch it being performed on The Lawrence Welk Show. The smiling conductor’s trademark gesture was, rather than the traditional baton tap on the music stand, the queuing up his band with his famous, “a-1-annn-a-2-annn-a . . .” Book_Music_with_lavender_roses_resized copy The Violet is my dear mother: Floretta Violet MABLE PALMER who had a beautiful choir voice and accompanied our gospel group on piano. Sheet music was a staple in our home. I clearly recall their planned trips to the music shop (for show tunes) or the Bible Book Store (for gospel renderings). I’m working on a scrapbooking page which includes a scan of Momma’s “Gospel Pearls” hymnal — turned to her favorite, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” And Daddy did have a favorite hymn: “Peace in the Valley.” Hearing reasonable renderings of either of these songs — or even reading the lyrics — evokes a heart tug and a cloudy eye.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my older sister who was named Violet Marie PALMER. None of us ever knew her because she died of pneumonia at the age of 11 months. The only photo I’ve ever seen of her tells that she was an extremely beautiful baby. Our parents kept her memory alive within our family structure. And I’ll rejoice to meet her “on the other shore.” Books_of_Faith_resized copy And don’t you just love Alan’s image for this week’s theme? I couldn’t help but notice that, in addition to having the word, “Violet” in the name, it also includes the word, “Flora” (close enough to, “Floretta” for me). My genealogist eyes notice things like that. I can’t wait to see what other Sepians have prepared for this week’s theme. Sep_Sat_2015_0307


Family Tree Magazine’s Genealogy Insider reports FindMyPast is FREE this weekend. The blitz runs from, 7:00 A.M. (ET) Friday, March 6 to 7:00 A.M. (ET) Monday, March 9. I’ll be researching at Clayton on Saturday. But I will surely see what this opportunity has to offer.

Seeking Thacker 2: 1867

I finally cracked the 1870 brick wall! With the help of author, lecturer, and librarian, Franklin Smith. He got me out of my 1870 brick wall rut when we found an entry for my Great-grandfather, Thacker MABLE, in the 1867 Return of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Book for Cobb County, GA. At his lecture on African American genealogy, I took a lot of notes; but came away with two things that I could put into practice immediately with respect to Thacker:

  1. Frank’s Rule of 70: Look at everything very closely in 1870 (lose the tunnel vision); and
  2. Pay attention to given names.

Afterwards, I became reacquainted with the facility; but I couldn’t wait to talk to him about Thack. Sure enough, the following weekend, he spent all of ten minutes with me; and I was looking at the document below. I am still amazed. I thought I had seen every possible misspelling of Thacker’s name. But, as I scanned the index — seeking Thacker — there he was in all his misspelled glory: “Shack MABLE.” I knew that was him. A careful handwriting comparison — not only of his entry, but of the one above his — indicated he signed with an “X.” Two areas of the document include handwritten notes of his race: simply, “(Col” (Colored). Then I finally deciphered the words above and below the “X” as, “his mark.”

Thack - 1867 RQVRO Book

Ancestry.com. Georgia, Returns of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Books, 1867-1869 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
Original Data: Georgia, Office of the Governor. Reconstruction registration oath books, 1867, Georgia State Archives, Morrow, Georgia.

State of Georgia                                                                                         No. 80 County of Cobb PERSONALLY APPEARED before me this 17th day of July, 1867 Thack Mable (Col who states that he resides in the 895 Election Precinct of Cobb COUNTY, GEORGIA, and who makes oath as follows:”I, Thack Mable do solemnly swear

in the presence of Almighty God, that I am a citizen of the STATE OF GEORGIA; that I have resided in said state for 12 months next preceding this day, and now reside in County of Cobb Coxes Prect in said State; that I am 21 years old; that I have not been disfranchised for participation in any rebellion or civil war against the United States, nor for felony committed against the laws of any state or the United States; that I have never been a member of any State Legislature, nor held any executive or judicial office in any State and afterwards engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof; that I have never taken oath as a member of Congress of the United States, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State Legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State to support the Constitution of the United States and afterwards engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States or given aid and comfort to the members thereof; that I will faithfully support the Constitution of the United States and will to the best of my ability encourage others to do so. So help me God. The said Thack Mable further swears that he has not been previously registered under the provisions of “An Act supplementary to ‘an act to provide for the more efficient government of the rebel States’ passed March 2, 1867–and to facilitate restoration,” under this or any other Election District; and further, that he was born in ___ and naturalized by ____ on the ____ day of ____________ in the ____________. /s/ Thack X Mable [The notation, “his mark” written above and below X ] (Col SWORN AND SUBSCRIBED before me [undecipherable] Spalding Register of the 35th Registration District

Green font denotes handwritten text

It’s unfortunate that the birth, residency, and naturalization spaces are vacant for Thacker and Mr. Jordan. I’m going back over the book to see if a pattern exists for all “colored” registrants. I’m the optimist; so it could be that way for everyone. We’ll see.

So, even though I still haven’t found Thacker in the 1870 Census, I’m thankful for Frank’s knowledge and experience.  He asked the key questions that led me to this document.

My next step will be to learn more about Mr. Jordan who signed his “X” mark on the entry above Thack’s. I suspect he’s Thack’s in-law because, reviewing my Legacy Family Tree database this weekend, I was reminded that Susan Jordan is probably Seuk.

I recently learned that Sook, Sookie, and Sukey are all nicknames for Susan. I knew her name was pronounced, “Sook” — and that she was sometimes called by the above variations. But, having limited knowledge of slave nicknames, I didn’t think it was spelled that way. I’ve also seen it spelled, “Seuk”; and accepted that spelling because I thought she may have been the Cherokee that I’ve heard about from my mother and aunts. And I imagined the spelling would have been along those lines. Honestly, I was probably going for the more ethnic spelling. Thackers_Mark copy

Follow the series:

Seeking Thacker 1: Born on This Day in 1844

DISCOVERY: Slave Name Roll Project

The 1870 brick wall is no less surmountable in cyberspace than it is in the analog archives of today’s courthouses. Court records from times past divulge varieties of slave/slaveholder relationships. Knowing the records exist is not the same as locating and examining them for myself. I do realize this problem is not exclusive to African Americans. But the fact still remains that it is more difficult due to the fact that my enslaved ancestors were considered chattel property; and, prior to 1870, they had no surnames. And even their given names are inconsistently recorded in the census records that followed.

Brick_Wall_Refocus copy
Some have managed to scramble over their brick walls — only to find . . . yet another. Then what do we do? We dust ourselves off and rescale to the other side to devise another way.

Insurmountable? Maybe. Impenetrable? Not if Cathy Meder-Dempsey and Schalene Jennings Dagutis have anything to do with it. This morning, I had the pleasure of reading their respective blogs: Opening Doors in Brick Walls and Tangled Roots and Trees. Both of these women have taken up the mantle of sharing the names of slaves found in their own genealogies. For them, they aren’t just names. They sense that descendants of these indirect extensions of their families could be searching for their histories as well.

Because of Cathy’s insightful blog, I’ll never look at a brick wall the same way again. She begins her three-part series with an introduction to her 5th Great-grandfather, James Sims (1754-1845). Then she meticulously describes her encounters of slave names among the inventory records of various Virginia counties.

In Parts 2 and 3, her account of Mr. Sims’ slave connection, and the steps he took in manumitting Isaac, make for a compelling read for either side of the unfortunate institution. Cathy not only posts images of the artifacts (Deed of Manumission, Manumission Letter, and Petition to Grant Residence). She precedes each with a brief introduction and follows with a full transcription. The descendants of Isaac Sims of Nicholas County, Virginia have an insightful look into his life.

And Schalene’s idea to launch the Slave Name Roll Project is an honorable undertaking of which I’ll be sure to make my colleagues aware. She started with posting anything relating to slaves that she found among the wills and property records of her ancestors. She describes her process here. She ends her introduction with a simple question:

If your ancestors owned slaves, will you join us in contributing to the Slave Name Roll Project?

Of course, these details are included in court house records, library collections, and family histories. But the fact that a slaveholder’s descendant reaches out to a slave’s descendant is a welcome advance in African American genealogy.