About Donna Palmer Haines

I am the author of Daughter of Slave Ancestry. I'm researching the PALMER/JOHNSON surnames in Kentucky and the WILLIAMS/MABLE/*MABLE/*AYCOCK surnames in Illinois and Georgia. (The asterisk before a surname denotes a slaveholder family.) I'm also learning to use PSE which I hope will help me create/compose attractive graphics for my blogs.

May Book Release: Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez


My wish, along with the wishes of other lovers of historical fiction, has come true. New York Times best-selling author, Dolen Perkins-Valdez has penned her second novel. Just in time for a summer read, Balm is scheduled for release this month. After I reluctantly and gingerly closed the back cover of her 2010 Wench, I ended my review (revived on this blog) with an observation and a hope:

I did not want this story to end. One critique I have is that the expanse of time between major events began to decrease toward the end — as if the author were trying to “hit all the bases” before heading home. But my “critique” is hardly a negative one. It’s an indication that I’m waiting for more from Perkins-Valdez.

Now, only a few days remain before the May 26 release of the New York Times best-selling author’s second historical novel, Balm. When I learned at the beginning of the year that Perkins-Valdez had completed her second novel, I wondered if she would continue the Ohio resort saga told in Wench.


The overviews I’ve read introduce new characters into the author’s creatively-woven tale of life after slavery. The setting of this novel is also in the Midwest. However, the author exchanges a summer at the Tawawa House Resort of Ohio for a post-Civil War Chicago saga of a suddenly-wealthy widow who discovers she can communicate with the dead, a gifted healer who becomes the widow’s servant, and a freed slave who is seeking his wife who was sold away during slavery.

On the dawn of Reconstruction, Sadie, Madge, and Hemp have “come to Chicago in search of a new life.” Being a Midwesterner who worked and socialized in Chicago, I’m looking forward to seeing if I can identify with the locales the author chooses as settings for their experiences. In addition to accurate weather descriptions, I’m also looking forward to picking up some background on various landmarks. No doubt my Hoosier roots will bring this story closer to the heart of my family research origins.

I encourage any genealogist with ties to slavery to read Wench. After doing so, you will, no doubt, want to add Balm to your TBR.

Book Cover for Balm by Dolen Perkins--Valdez

Balm by Dolen Perkins–Valdez

Publishers Weekly Overview of Balm

Copyright © 2015 Donna Palmer Haines

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez


My weekend visit to Barnes & Noble reminded me of the upcoming release of Balm, a historical novel about the meshing of three lives in the Midwest after the Civil War. While I was drafting my post about the release, it dawned on me that I should probably revive a 2011 review of her first novel, Wench. . .


The slave/husband-figure arrangements mentioned in the description of Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez instantly captured my interest. In all my reading about slavery and genealogy, Lizzie’s and Nathan’s arrangement is the first of its type I’ve encountered. While it’s certainly conceivable from a physical standpoint, it’s most definitely inconceivable from both a historical and an emotional one.

Opening Line

“Six slaves sat in a triangle, three women, three men, the men half nestled in the sticky heat of thighs, straining their heads away from the pain of the tightly woven ropes.”

Seated Hair Braiding

Outdoor hair braiding session

This author “can turn a phrase,” as the saying goes; and comes out full throttle in her debut novel. The activity being described above is that of the traditional positions assumed for hair braiding. The men were getting their hair braided by the women. Just imagine them seated on the ground rather than on stools as shown in the picture. Readers can look forward to more of this type of brilliant narrative in Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. She subtly and cleverly sparks the imagination by leaving things unsaid. Her implied word engages the reader to conform the idea to his understanding — an excellent example of “reading between the lines.” The author can express an idea in a manner which allows each reader to arrive at the same thought on his own terms. Dialect was natural and not forced, as I’ve seen in some attempts at fictionalizing the concept of slavery.


Cover of Wench by Dolen Pekins-Valdez

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

The story covers three summers during the middle of the 19th century at a resort then known as the Tawawa House — which later became Ohio Africa University — which was ultimately named Wilberforce University — near Xenia, Ohio. The story opens in media res during the summer of 1852 — the slaves’ second summer at the resort. The storyline consists of two sub-plots and vacillates between activities at the Ohio resort and the Drayle plantation in Tennessee. The first sub-plot centers around Lizzie and her summer friends from other plantations, Reenie, Sweet, and Mawu. Phillip, another slave from the Drayle plantation, accompanies his master on the annual vacations as well. He and Lizzie share a sibling-type bond. Henry and George round out the group of male slaves — with the dimensions of Phillip’s character being the most developed. The second sub-plot includes Lizzie’s interactions with Nathan Drayle, her master/husband-figure — whom she simply calls, “Drayle.” I was leery of the confidence Lizzie had in him; and felt her misplaced trust would come back to bite her. It was one thing to trust him with her own life and the lives of her children. But given the confidence she placed in him, I was concerned — and rightly so — about the other slaves who became part of her “resort family.” The one good thing that came from this arrangement was that they all invested in the “kinship”; and the bonds of their sisterhood remained with, and sustained, each of them. Simply stated, Drayle was a jerk — who was led around by a certain part of his anatomy. Love Lizzie? Never could, never did. Yes, he taught her how to read; but he would not consider or discuss the idea of freeing her or their two children — a son called Nate and a daughter nicknamed, “Rabbit.” I always detected insincerity in his dealings with her. His base motives always overshadowed anything said by or about him. The following observation regarding his absence during Lizzie’s delivery of one of their children (keep it real — his pickaninnies), however, sealed it for me: “He was far from being a worried father. His celebration would be less over a newborn child and more over a newly acquired piece of property.”

Lizzie committed what I consider “the unpardonable sin of slavery” when she confided to Drayle about a slave who was planning to escape. I knew she wasn’t snitching though; and could only shake my head in astonishment at her naieveté. She actually thought his “love” for her extended to her friends; and that he would make an effort to soften the effects of the consequences since he knew her friend’s “man.” Silly girl — tricks are for kids! A mere whim of Fran Drayle, (Nathan’s wife) could bring any plans or provisions he had made for Lizzie crashing against the harsh wall of reality. An example is Fran’s decision to move her visiting nephew, Billy, into the room Drayle had set up for Lizzie; and Drayle did nothing and went along with it. While it appears that both Fran and Lizzie are weak when it comes to “King Drayle, in all actuality, both women know how to manipulate him. He is being pulled in two directions; but, interestingly, he’s never in the position of having to squirm out of the fixes he creates for himself. He’s lackadaisical and doesn’t seem to care. I suffered with Lizzie in her embarrassment as she was moved from the room Drayle had designated for her back to the slave quarters. But Lizzie is smart enough to fend for herself. When vacation time comes, she doesn’t check her plantation train of thought at the gate of the resort. She never really lets her guard down — not even when escorted to a luxurious dinner in the main dining room. She knows what time it is. We all know. While, at times, she feels like “Mrs. Drayle,” deep inside, she knows her role and usually manages to get something out of the deal.

And there was one more thing she had managed to escape with: . . . the pamphlet. She needed to find a safe place for it, somewhere it could sit for a few years. She planned to give it to Nate once he was a man, so that he too could feel the heat of the words and channel his young anger into the righteous fury of this Wendell Phillips.”

I did not want this story to end. One critique I have is that the expanse of time between major events began to decrease toward the end — as if the author were trying to “hit all the bases” before heading home. But my “critique” is hardly a negative one. It’s an indication that I’m waiting for more from Perkins-Valdez. The Author’s Note explains the true existence, and background, of Tawawa Resort. The publisher offers a Reading Guide at on the Harper Collins website.

Copyright © 2015 Donna Palmer Haines

My Mother’s Day Tribute – 2015


Mother's Day 1969

Mother’s Day 1969

Wishing all in my blogoshere a Happy Mother’s Day!

This photo was taken on Mother’s Day 1969. I know the year so well because . . . there’s a reason I’m wearing that empire dress. Yes, that’s my firstborn hidden yet in plain view. Oooh and he loved my Momma! My “Baby Boy” did, too. I have memories of her (at age 70) down on the floor playing with him.

Momma was so sweet, gentle, and kind. She loved us so; and her dimunitive frame did not stop her from protecting those she loved. I loved to hear the story of how she and her sisters were ready to jump into the ring to gang up on the baby boy’s opponent during a Golden Gloves boxing match. Smh. Those MABLE girls were a force to be reckoned with.

I had the fortune of spending a lot of one-on-one time with her throughout the day because I attended the elementary school where she was head secretary. My first grade class was right next door to her office. But that was cool; because I loved learning “readin’ and writin’ and ‘rithmetic.” Then, I got to be Secretary’s Assistant at the end of the day.

Even in adulthood, she didn’t hesitate to correct me. I remember during her first visit to Houston, as soon as we returned from a shopping trip I pointed to the set of dishes we had selected and said to my husband, “Look what Momma bought me.” As quick as a flash, she said,; “No. Look what Momma bought us I was just used to being “the Baby.” I think it will always be a part of my persona. But I do my best to abide by these types of motherly influence.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. I couldn’t forget this woman if I tried — for she looks back at me from every mirror. I’ve been deprived of her physical presence for 25 years; but her spirit and memories remain. This year marks the 100th anniversary of her birth.

Here are some of my posts that either focus on her or talk about the many ways she influenced my life. I love you, Momma.

The featured image for this Mother's Day 2015 post is a composite that represents two influences Momma made on my life: creativity and the love of reading.  The background photo of the yarn represents the spirit of creativity that was birthed in both my Mother and me.  Around the house, if she was sitting, she was doing some type of needlework.  The inset photo represents the love of reading my mother shared with me.  In addition to a bookcase filled with reference books and literature, there were always plenty of current issues of various magazines at our house.  Both creativity and reading have proven to be constants throughout my life.

The featured image for this Mother’s Day 2015 post is a composite that represents two influences Momma made on my life: creativity and the love of reading. The background photo of the yarn represents the spirit of creativity that was birthed in both my Mother and me. Around the house, if she was sitting, she was doing some type of needlework. The inset photo represents the love of reading my mother shared with me. In addition to a bookcase filled with reference books and literature, there were always plenty of current issues of various magazines at our house. Both creativity and reading have proven to be constants throughout my life.

Sepia Saturday 278: Photos in Need of Care and Attention


The focus for this week’s project is on images that are past their best or in need of a little care and attention.

It’s so good to be back at Sepia Saturday. I’ve missed not only sharing — but also viewing — the images of times past that are the heart and soul of this blog. I’ve been learning more about blogging, brushing up on my documentation techniques, learning new software, viewing webinars, general housekeeping that comes with blogging. But I simply must make time to participate in this venture. Most of the entries (mine included) are genealogy-related. But I really enjoy viewing and sharing images that are “outside of the box” so to speak. They’re the images that afford genealogists a break from the mundane pedigrees, family group sheets, biologies, etc. It’s just a welcome end to a week that may have included intense research, reading, studying, etc.

I see I missed a good one last week. But, true to the Sepia Saturday scheme of things, being the opportunist that I am, I think I can segue what could’ve been an SS 277 entry into SS 278. Watch and learn. Yes, I had to strike that as well because I know y’all do it too. I think I’ll limit my images to two portraits and two snapshots.

This is a faded portrait of my Daddy, William Emmet PALMER, in his high school lettermen's (football) sweater. Circa 1930, Gary, Indiana.  Original in possession of author.

This is a faded portrait of my Daddy, William Emmet PALMER, in his high school lettermen’s (football) sweater. Circa 1930, Gary, Indiana. Original in possession of author.

I’ll go ahead and lead off with the aforementioned missed entry. It’s a faded portrait of my Daddy, William Emmet PALMER, in his high school lettermen’s (football) sweater. Because I graduated from his alma mater (Roosevelt High School &
Indiana) , I know the “R” on the front of the sweater was gold. So, even though the photograph is sepia, in my mind’s eye, it’s grey and gold. Long live the black and gold. Panther Pride!!

This is a composite of my mother's and my graduation photos.  We both graduated from Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana in 1931 and 1967 respectively.

This is a composite of my mother’s and my graduation photos. We both graduated from Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana in 1931 and 1967 respectively.

My second portrait is actually a two-fer because I’ve created a collage of my Mom’s and my graduation photos. Three corners of hers are missing. I think they got folded and ultimately became separated from the photo. The fading of my portrait began lonnnnng ago. In fact I recall being disappointed when I opened the envelope from the photographer. It was developed much lighter than I was expecting. I was looking for a full-color photo. Despite his development process, it has stood the test of time for the most part.

For the snapshots — wow there are so many in need of a little care and attention. Okay, I’ll go with this snapshot of my Mom, Floretta Violet MABLE, and all her siblings circa 1970 (based on my uncles’ afro hairstyles). The composition was the eight of them in the same positions they were in for a photo they took as children (circa 1935). I came up with that year because my mother (the oldest, born in 1915) was a teen or young adult in the photo and my youngest uncle (born circa 1933) was a toddler in knee pants. It’s so cute. I’ll have to get it from Jay. No doubt you’ll recognize that it’s a Polaroid. We all have more than a fair share of specimens from this genre of photography.

This is a snapshot of my Mom, Floretta Violet MABLE, and all her siblings circa 1970.    The composition was the eight of them in the same positions they were in for a photo they took as children (circa 1935)  The ninth person is a grandchild that raised with them as a sibling.  The original is in possession of my cousin, Jay Evans of Gary.

This is a snapshot of my Mom, Floretta Violet MABLE, and all her siblings circa 1960. The composition was the eight of them in the same positions they were in for a photo they took as children (circa 1935) The ninth person is a grandchild that raised with them as a sibling. The original is in possession of my cousin, Jay Evans of Gary.

Oh, and I also wanted to mention that there are some generous members of facebook groups who share their talents by offering to restore photos for other members. One randomly calls for photos in need of restoration then posts before and after images of his work. It’s really quite remarkable. I haven’t availed myself of his generosity yet; but I have a few potential projects for him.

Welp! That’s my offering for this week’s theme. Any genealogist worth his salt is bound to have similar misfortunes among his photo archives. I’ll be watching for yours. And don’t be surprised if some of your older posts get revived by my comments. I have no shame; and will take some time to go back and see what I’ve missed. Have a great week!

See other Sepians’ worse-for-wear photos.


In Remembrance of Violet Marie PALMER


Created in loving memory of my older sister, Violet Marie PALMER.  (1937 - 1938)

Created in loving memory of my older sister, Violet Marie PALMER. (1937 – 1938)

On Wednesday, I utilized the “Ask a Librarian” link on the Lake County Public Library website to inquire about locating my older sister’s obituary. Violet Marie PALMER was the first-born of my siblings. We always knew that she died at the age of 11 months from pneumonia — two years before the 1940 birth of my second oldest sibling, Billy.  So none of us had the privilege of knowing her. 

During those days doctors made house calls; and her doctor delayed his visit to Violet because he had tickets to a Golden Gloves event. I never asked if he came afterwards.  I remember his name and I share it when recounting the event to my family members; but I will not disclose it here. The important thing is that I have also remembered his name in prayer.

It’s unfortunate that the only evidence of Violet’s existence is encapsulated in the 3″ x 3″ patch of text displayed below and the only known portrait of her. But I am truly grateful to now have at least this obituary to add to: (1) a copy of the portrait, that I’m waiting to lay eyes on again when my relative scans it and sends it to me; (2) an increasingly foggy memory of her headstone, at Fern Oaks Cemetery, which includes a small photo of the portrait embedded under glass in the upper-right corner. No. (3) is just something somebody said that’s stuck in my head. I think this was an extended relative or family friend: “People said that baby was just too pretty to live.” She was a pretty baby; but I’ve always regarded this statement as someone’s honest attempt at sharing a sentiment. There are just some things I remember from childhood. I was truly astonished with how quickly my issue was resolved. After my futile searches of newspaper indexes for Violet’s obituary, the LCPL responded to my inquiry within a matter of a few hours with a scan of it. I immediately thanked Sharon for her awesome detective work and for responding to my inquiry so quickly. Even though the text is clearly legible now, I’ve transcribed it for all posterity.

Violet Marie PALMER obituary, Gary Post Tribune, Gary, Indiana, 21 September 1938, page 6, column 2.  Courtesy of Lake County Public Library.

Violet Marie PALMER obituary, Gary Post Tribune, Gary, Indiana, 21 September 1938, page 6, column 2. Courtesy of Lake County Public Library.

Violet Marie Palmer, age 11 months, died last night in her home at 1933 Adams as a result of pneumonia. She is survived by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Palmer. Funeral services will be held in St. Paul’s Baptist church at 11 o’clock tomorrow morning with Rev. W. F. Lovelace officiating. Burial will be in Fern Oaks cemetery. The body was taken to Cresswell’s funeral home.

My first reaction to reading the obituary was that I distinctly remember living at the address listed as my family’s residence: 1933 Adams — especially from the age of about 3 years. So, from 1936 (the year they were married) until about 1953 (my last memory of living in this building) 1933 Adams was my family’s home. This was an apartment building that housed three families. I remember there was a basement with an exterior entrance. I don’t recall who lived there. Our family lived on the main floor; and Mrs. Lila Allen (my Godmother, affectionately called “IE”) lived on the second floor. I plan to include “IE” in the family history aspect of my genealogy because she played an integral part in my early upbringing.

  • I even have photos of my parents standing in front of 1933 and one of my second sister (Patricia Anne PALMER) and me playing (I was riding my tricycle) on the sidewalk outside.
  • I remember IE standing on the sidewalk with me and coaxing me to run and meet my mother one day as she returned home from work.
  • I have a photo of my paternal grandfather (Will E. PALMER) sitting outside of 1933.  The copy in my possession needs to be cleaned up.
  • I remember one of my Dad’s co-workers threatening to cut my ears off if I was nursing a bottle the next time he came over. (I ran and hid behind one of my parents — don’t remember if it was Momma or Daddy.)

So, you see, I do know the building.

The next thing I focused on was the church where the funeral was held. It was directly across the street. This dark brick structure looms in the backdrop of my memories of 19th & Adams. My only memories of St. Paul are attending Vacation Bible School in the summers. Rev. L.K. Jackson was the pastor; but I also remember there was a blind preacher named Rev. Russell who presided over the VBS. During our late adult years, my brother, Rev. Charles PALMER, told me we once belonged to St. Paul. That explains why Violet’s funeral was held there.  That building has been demolished. 1933 was one of the last buildings on that block to meet that fate. St. Paul is now located on 23rd & Grant.

Find A Grave, image (Fern Oaks Cemetery : accessed 2 May 2015), entrance gate post, Griffith, Lake County, Indiana; the accompanying photograph by  Warrick L. Barnett  is materially informative, and does not reference a specific headstone.

Find A Grave, image (Fern Oaks Cemetery : accessed 2 May 2015), entrance gate post, Griffith, Lake County, Indiana; the accompanying photograph by Warrick L. Barnett is materially informative, and does not reference a specific headstone.

The mortician, Cresswell’s Funeral Home, closed its doors about 30 years ago. I did make a few phone calls in an effort to locate the records. Despite learning that funeral homes are only required by law to maintain records for seven (7) years, I’m still going to make a concentrated effort to find out what happened to Cresswell’s records. Now that I have a date of death, my death certificate inquiry will be mailed on Monday; and I’ll also draft a follow-up letter to Fern Oaks to back up the phone message I left for them on Thursday.

With the genealogical tasks underway, and after I got over the excitement of finally seeing the details of my parents’ accounts in print, I began to notice the articles surrounding the obituary. They were not all obituaries. There were two others. But directly above Violet’s was a short write-up about a matinee dance. To the direct left was an article about a club’s activities. To the right was an ad for a pimple ointment and another ad below it that turned out to be an earlier location of the butcher that Momma purchased meats from. What was this? I didn’t think a whole lot about it. But I did return to the LCPL site to ask the Librarian if I could get a scan of the entire page — first, so I could document the obituary for my blog post; and secondly, because I just love nostalgia.

At this juncture, I have to thank Kathy Wienrank and all the other members of the Indiana Genealogy! Just Ask! facebook group. Were it not for their experience and willingness to help, I would not have found Violet. What an awesome group. Thanks guys!

As in all genealogy research, from every new development three additional questions will emerge. The librarian’s reply included a brief description of the page where Violet’s obituary was located. It was on Page 6 of the Wednesday, September 21, 1938 edition of The Gary Post Tribune. My first observation was that it was not in the Obituary section. It was in column 2 of the page and the section entitled, “News of Gary’s Negro Citizens.” Was there an obituary section on this date? If yes, why were Negroes excluded from it? If no, when was the first run of an obituary column? And was it always a part of the Classified section as it is today? Just below the header and byline, there’s a phone number to call in items to be included. I’m thankful to whoever called Violet’s obituary in.

There’s all kinds of stuff on Page 6. To be continued . . .

Slave Name Roll Project:           Volume 1 (Wilkes County, GA)


Contribution to Slave Name Roll Project

Christine Johnson-Williams doesn’t blog but wanted to contribute to the Slave Name Roll Project. She sent several eMail messages containing information about her ancestors’ slave connections to the Project’s Director, Schalene Dagutis. Christine has submitted images of wills from her research, along with transcripts, to be included in the Project. I have offered to assist Schalene in adding Christine’s lists to the project. The transcripts are a big help.

My post today introduces the will of Sarah Cotton-HILL (Christine’s 5th Great Grandmother) who was married to Henry HILL in Wilkes County, Georgia.

GEORGIA – Wilkes County

Will Abstract/Typescript of Sarah HILL, deceased, late of Wilkes County, Georgia; widow of Henry HILL, deceased, of Wilkes County,Georgia . . .

“Page 92. HILL, Sarah
Slave ELIZA to be sold;

$200.00 of which to son John HILL, horse, etc;
and a young bay mare to his [John HILL] son, Jas. Henry HILL;
To [my] son Abram [HILL], slave, DINAH, still, household goods, crops, etc;
To children of [my] dec’d son, Theophilus HILL, balance of proceeds of sale of slave, ELIZA, at marriage or majority;
feather bed, etc; to his [my son, Theophilus HILL] dau. Elizabeth HILL;
one bay filly to his [my son, Theophilus HILL] son, Greenberry HILL;
to [my] dau. Nancy [HILL] JOHNSON, a safe and arm chair;
to her [Nancy HILL JOHNSON] dau., Sarah [JOHNSON], a trunk;
to [my] dau. Mary [HILL] JOSSEY/JOSEY], equal parts of clothes;
and to her [Mary [HILL] JOSSEY/JOSEY] son, Henry JOSSEY, a buffet;
a bed to Kiddy JOSSEY [dau. of Mary HILL JOSSEY/JOSEY];
to son, Henry HILL, 20 shillings;
to Sarah [HILL] WOODS; John HILL; Abram HILL; Kiddy POPE, Mary [HILL] JOSSEY; Nancy [HILL] JOHNSON, residue of wearing appearell, household furniture, etc.

sons, John and Abram, Excrs.

Signed, Nov. 13, 1812.

Probated Mar 3, 1814. Jacob G. MATTHEWS, Nathaniel BAILEY, Augustine EDWARDS. Test.”

Citation: Early Records of Wilkes County, Georgia. Volume 2, Page 136.

Featured Image Components Attribution
This graphic is composed of Ready for Boxing by DukeUnivLibraries which is licensed under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 and Hawkins County Courthouse Side – Rogersville, TN by Brent Moore which is licensed by Creative Commons License CC BY-NC 2.0

News Item: PBS, Hollywood and Ben Affleck

PLEASE NOTE: Since no human can “own” another, I use the term, “slave-holder.”

There is considerable buzz among various facebook genealogy groups about Actor Ben Affleck’s request to omit evidence of slaveholders in his ancestry from a past episode of the PBS series, Finding Your Roots . What I have to say on this subject is longer than I’ve learned a facebook post should be; so I’ve decided to blog about it.

“Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand.” (Henry Louis Gates, Jr.)

Affleck’s reluctance to share this aspect of his ancestry is understandable on a very elementary level. But from a genealogical standpoint, it is neither necessary nor acceptable. My observations after reading the article are:

    • Though it was probably expressed to him, he didn’t take to heart that our ancestors’ actions and/or beliefs have no direct bearing on our own. Therefore, I hope he’s not ashamed of what someone who came before him did. If anything, the fact that his mother marched for Civil Rights could be a testament to how far his lineage has come from the slaveholder mindset. Actually, that discovery would have provided an excellent segue into this fact.
      My thinking, from a personal standpoint, centers on Christianity. Here’s how. After reading about ancient African culture, I became aware that the further back I go in my genealogy the more likely I am to find an ancestor who did not know Christ. A worst-case scenario would likely involve an idolator (which includes ancestor worship). The preferred scenario would involve a person who simply had no knowledge of Him.

      My immediate reaction was to ask God’s forgiveness for any of my ancestors who had unknowingly offended Him and His commandment to, “. . . have no other gods before Me.” And, yes, I’m aware that once a person dies, his eternal destiny is irreversible. And while I have no Biblical reference that leads me to pray for someone who has already died, my heart led me to do so. I then asked God for His divine protection over past, present, and future generations from inheriting the punishment for this sin of the fathers. And it certainly didn’t prevent me from disclosing it to my Christian friends for the purpose of prayer.

      If anything, this is an aspect of my heritage that I want to know more about (not sweep under a rug). It would help me understand more in order to express my concerns to my family or those who share a similar background.

    • In that same vein, it’s unfortunate, but not surprising, that producers would consider “a 3rd great-grandfather who was an occult enthusiast” to be a “more interesting aspect” than a slaveholder. The former aspect appeals to the general public while the latter, to the genealogical community. However, I am not surprised because of the current selections of occult-based and/or vampire-themed “entertainment” that flood our airwaves, cyberspace, and book store.


“In the case of Mr. Affleck — we focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of his ancestry — including a Revolutionary War ancestor, a 3rd great-grandfather who was an occult enthusiast, and his mother who marched for Civil Rights during the Freedom Summer of 1964.”

While I do understand Affleck’s response to this unexpected discovery, I’m discouraged that (1) Mr. Gates’ contract did not give him license to make the call — prompting him to seek guidance on how to handle the situation; and (2) the show’s producers did not take genealogy seriously enough to understand that it makes no allowances for the censoring of data for the mere sake of appearances. Rather, they should have been encouraged to pursue avenues of questioning along the following lines regarding the first slaveholder. (Please note these questions are from a slave descendant’s perspective.)

      1. who was the first slaveholder and how did he acquire his slave(s)?
      2. what was the relationship between slave and slaveholder before and after the Civil War?
      3. what was the origin of the first slave?
      4. are there any references to deed books, bills of sale, inventory lists?

I’ve considered two possible reasons for Affleck’s desire to disassociate from his ancestor’s slaveholder past. The first is that maybe he was uncomfortable discussing it with a person of color. To this I would say, due to his professional association with genealogy and the requirement (though probably unspoken) that he detach himself from slave-related findings, Mr. Gates is the person with whom he should feel most comfortable discussing slaveholding ancestors. The second possibility is that he may be considering a future in politics. And to that I say, without pointing fingers, that many SUCCESSFUL candidates have had to wrestle more scraggly skeletons than slavery back into the closets of their ancestors.

In closing, “the peculiar institution” is a part of this country’s history. Unless he harbors the same beliefs, no individual should feel discomfort from having ancestral ties to either side of it. And the show’s producers should not jeopardize the future of Finding Your Roots by disregarding the expert advice of such an experienced genealogist as Henry Louis Gates.

Further Reading:

National Siblings Day 2015

My siblings and me after an engagement in Gary, Indiana. Left to right:  Pat (my sister), Billy (my brother), DonnaJeanne (me), Alfred Johnson (our accompaniast), Floretta (my Mother), Charles (my brother)

My siblings and me after an engagement in Gary.
Left to right: Pat (my sister), Billy (my brother), DonnaJeanne (me), Alfred Johnson (our accompaniast), Floretta (my Mother), Charles (my brother)

Yesterday I noticed, and commented on, several facebook posts of friends pictures with their families. Later on in the evening, I noticed my grand-nieces posting collages consisting of various snapshots that it hit me. It was National Siblings Day.

At first, I thought it was a social media thing. Wanting to “join in on the fun,” I quickly scrambled for photos of my siblings that I could post. Two of them have been “on the other shore” for many years. And it’s been almost two years since the remaining one joined them. I just don’t have a lot of photos of us together; but I have an awesome idea for next year.

With this being an “ancestry” blog, I don’t have plans to post about family in general — just ancestors. But stories about my siblings will undoubtedly be woven into some of my future posts. So, in observance of Siblings Day 2015, I will just share the photos I used on facebook yesterday.

My quickly-thrown-together facebook cover photo in observance of National Siblings Day 2015.  It's a portrait of my sister, Pat, and me circa 1975.

My quickly-thrown-together facebook cover photo in observance of National Siblings Day 2015. It’s a portrait of my sister, Pat, and me circa 1975.

I am one of many who are particular about what they share on social media. So I hope this catches on in the blogging community.

Genealogy Do-Over: Week 1, Cycle 2 (3-9 April 2015)

After my re-entry to the blogosphere in February, it wasn’t long before I came across the Genealogy Do Over. The initial read-thru told me it was something I probably needed to do — at some point. After all, I needed to set up my blog, write some posts, KC_Do-Over copyresume my research . . . Yet, whenever I opened the (RSS) Reader, there was a blogger talking about the Do-Over. Well guess who’s sporting the big red button this week? And I’m “all in” — for the most part — which means I’ll reserve the “modified” approach for only a few of the assignments.

Do-Over Creator Thomas MacEntee gives bloggers a wide berth to review and refine their research strategies. The main objective of the 13-week project is “to improve genealogy research skills.” My first encounter with the Do-Over was during about Week 3 of Cycle 1. I thought about just digging in and, either trying to catch up or resolving myself to being three weeks behind. The first option was self-defeating. The latter would have left me with no peer support because my focus would not have been on the current assignment. I finally resolved to focus on launching my blog and pacing myself through the Do-Over later. And I’m so glad I waited. So this is Week 1 of Cycle 2. And I’m rarin’ to go.

Thomas has developed the following starting points which set the tone for the remainder of the project. The format is simple. For each focus area, he states:

  • What he’s doing
  • Suggestions for the “all-in” participant
  • Suggestions for the “modified” participant


Focus of Week 1, Cycle 2

Setting Previous Research Aside: (All-In)     I’ve begun to use Evidentia; so this is a given. What I’ve gathered so far is no one should be added to a pedigree chart until Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) is established. I’ll leave my current Legacy Family Tree (LFT) database intact and create a fresh one that’s based solely on GPS. I’m sure all of my entries can, at least, be found on a census form. And I have vital records for many of them. So, I’m really expecting my new database to be a close replica of the original.

  • Binders, folders and papers:     My vital records are already secured in a binder and encased in archival-quality sheet protectors. The original naming conventions I set up for them are still relevant. I also have separate binders for pedigree charts and family group sheets — both of which I’m constantly rummaging through; so they could stand some work. But I’ll set them aside for now.
  • Reserving specific items:     I’ve finally gotten around to scanning my vital records. This means Evidentia will work better for me. Things are already falling into place; because then they will be added to my . . .
  • Digital holdings:     I didn’t realize the big part Evidentia would play in this stage of the project. Most of my census and other records are already digitized. Photos are already in folders according to my patriarchal and matriarchal lines. I’ll leave them where they are in case I need them for a blog post. But I will create a holding folder specifically earmarked for the Do Over. That will ensure that the other files are off-limits for the duration of the project.

Preparing to Research: (Modified)     Because I work during the day, sometimes my research is done at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. The main thing I want to do here is leave off in a way that makes it easy to resume. That means developing a solid Research Log and To Do List for each ancestor. I have an analog one that worked well. But digital will enable me to access my data whenever I need it. I know both are available as reports in Legacy Family Tree. I just have to determine if the features I want are available. I’m already using Evernote for Genealogy.

I’ve come up with a name for my “must have” items: E3 for Evernote, Evidence Explained, and Evidentia. I don’t have Evidence Explained yet. But I will have it soon.

Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines: (All-In) This, as my former pastor says, is where the rubber meets the road. Honestly, my outline of procedures and best practices may carry over and demand part of my focus for the next assignment. But I’m sure I can come up with at least five solid procedures that I can incorporate over the 13-week period of the project.

  1. Incorporate GPS principles into research procedure.
  2. Document each new item of evidence before it is added to my LFT database.
  3. Strive for proficiency at citing sources until it becomes second nature.
  4. Become more proficient at attribution before sharing photos and/or documents.
  5. To be determined (it has to be something that will not be improvised).

Okay — now it’s back to learning Evidentia. I may as well make my GDO posts into a series. Just look for the feature image on the *Front Page with the updated week number.

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.

CCAL_Barge_Papers_Page_4 copy

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.

Born on this Day in 1844 Thacker MABLE

Birthday_Tribute_Thacker_500 copy

Thacker's past is a fragmented jumble. This mosaic of the image I use to represent him alludes to the pieces I've gathered thus far.

Thacker’s past is a fragmented jumble. This mosaic of the image I use to represent him alludes to the pieces I’ve gathered thus far.

This is the first installment of my Finding Thacker series. Thacker Mable is my great-grandfather. I only heard his name mentioned a few times growing up. Actually, it was my grandfather’s name (William Edgar Thacker MABLE) that put me on track to even find “Thack.” I will fashion the fragments I gather about him into future installments of this new series.

Granpa “Thack”. We know you were once a slave on the Mable Plantation — and that your carpentry skills made a direct contribution to the building of the ancestral Mable House in Marietta. We know that your and Grandma “Seuk’s” remains were buried at the Mable House Cemetery. This diligent Daughter is working to gather all the fragments to know more about our MABLEs.

You’re my link to this, Thacker. How did the AYCOCKs acquire your lineage? Is Frances your mother? What family is Seuk from? I get the feeling she’s right under my nose.

Follow the series:

Seeking Thacker 2: 1867

The background of the Featured Image for this series is attributed to Gary Doster’s submission to the Georgia GenWeb Project.

Sepia Saturday: Valentine’s Day

Scrap_Page_Mom_Dad_Valentines2. copy

My Sepia Saturday post for this week is about the couple who demonstrated everything I needed to know about love and marriage. My boyfriends had to be assertive yet still need my input. The man I married reminded me so much of my father . . . at first — stern, loving, soft-spoken. Anyway, it was my mother’s example I followed to care for him during his lengthy illness.

Three_Hearts copy

He called her, Sugar — sometimes, Momma. She called him, Daddy. I heard other adults address my parents as, Bill and Floretta (pronounced, “Florita”) or Flo. But I can’t recall one time when they called one another by their names around us. I wonder if it was to demonstrate to us what we were to call them?

My Daddy was a steelworker — working “swing shifts” at US Steel. When he worked midnights, we had to be extra quiet because he slept during the day. He wore plaid shirts and, for some reason, a belt and suspenders. And, as the photo shows — that man could wear a hat! Dobbs felt in the winter, straw in the summer. I even have a high school photo of him with a lettermen’s sweater and a “Big Apple” cocked ever so slightly to one side. Yeah, my Daddy was a “Dapper Dan.”

Momma was a school secretary, then a medical transcriptionist. She still managed to put full meals on the table every evening and listen to our bedtime prayers. Then we were up and out the next morning; and she always looked like she’d just stepped out of a McCall’s magazine ad. From an early age, I’ve been constantly reminded about how much I favor her. Our facial resemblance is unbelievable. And she was neat, petite, and sweeter than sweet.

While we found our parents’ spontaneous lip or cheek pecks entertaining, we were also being taught how to appropriately display affection. And there was nothing weird about it. They just loved one another and weren’t ashamed to show it. They both served as usher and choir member, respectively, at St. Timothy Community Church. And they brought us up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. My parents were married for 34 years before my father’s untimely death at age 59. I was only 20 years old. Momma remained with us for 20 years after; and did not remarry.

We used to love leafing though those photo albums with the heavy black pages and their high school yearbook. That’s where these pictures are from. I don’t have the albums — just a few pictures from them. I, obviously, have much more to share about my parents. But I tried to keep the focus on “love” for this week’s post. When I get into their individual bios, you’ll get to know them better. Happy Valentine’s Day!

See how other Sepians have been inspired.

See how other Sepians have been inspired.

Chronicles: Resurrecting My Genealogy Research

I’ve finally gotten around to resuming my family history research. And I know my research toolbox will need to be refreshed. So this blog is my genealogy commonplace and my preferred means of sharing PALMER/MABLE ancestry.

During my interim, I joined a few genealogy groups on facebook.  But I prefer to share my discoveries, along with my process, on a platform that allows my creative expression to come through as well.  Daughter will be my primary means of searching and sharing — with social media as a secondary resource. And I’m encouraged to find that my data management system was so efficient that I can actually pick up right where I left off.

Highlighted excerpt from 1940 Census

1920 Pulaski County, IL Census: Floreta [sic] V. MABLE enumerated at age 4 with her parents, William and Essie MABLE.
(Source: archive.org. Reel 393 – 1920 Illinois Federal Population Schedules – . . . Pulaski Co. (EDs 92-103) . . .

I notice many bloggers post images of the census pages. I will, more than likely, do the same at some point. And while I do have the 11×17 printouts of library microfiche scans, I’m glad that I also took the extra step of extracting these enumerations onto 8.5 x 11 forms.

I admit there’s nothing like seeing the names and details of my ancestors in the handwriting of the enumerator on the official census form (Details about my Mother at age 4 are captured on line 60.) But, in the interest of research — and to minimize scrolling — I will be referencing carefully-extracted data on my utilitarian census extraction forms in my posts. It’s the same data — just extracted onto standard-sized paper for ease of reading. Plus reading my own handwriting keeps me grounded. We can always satisfy our waves of nostalgia by viewing the actual census forms — and using them to create conversation pieces, memorabilia, and works of art.

I hope having these extracts and other documents at my immediate disposal will prompt more questions. In my analog Census Binder, I keep the slaveholder census forms behind those of my ancestors. An asterisk in front of the surname indicates data related to a slaveholder family member.

My most elusive ancestors, as of this writing, continue to be my maternal great grandparents, Thacker and Seuk MABLE. “Thack” was pretty easy to track back to 1850. And legend has it that he came into the MABLE fold when his owner, Pheriby AYCOCK of Newton County, GA, married Robert MABLE of Cobb County, GA. I came about this information in a most serendipitous manner which I will share in future posts. For now, I plan to scout out the Deed of Gift from Joel AYCOCK to Phereby AYCOCK that contains Thack’s name and search through probate records to learn more about our connection with the AYCOCKs. I don’t think Seuk was an AYCOCK slave.

I have an unfounded suspicion of who “Thack’s” mother is — just a hunch based on an observation. But we all know how that could turn out. And I have yet to locate the last slave in my paternal line.

Like countless others, I haven’t been able to track my paternal ancestor, Montgomery PALMER, beyond the 1870 census. Early in my research, I came across specific details in the (maternal) MABLE line that all but consumed my research time and efforts. Since the (paternal) PALMER line will carry the surname through posterity, I will make a greater effort to restore this surname to the same authority level for future generations.

So this is the beginning of my Chronicles series at Daughter of Slave Ancestry. I’m happy to return to ancestor sleuthing. This time I’m able to share as I go and, hopefully, pick up some virtual friends and research tips in the process.

I won’t mar my debut with what caused me to lay my ancestors aside.  For now, I’m comfortable with the realization that it happens.  I may become sentimental enough to share a few details in a future post. I’m just glad to find Thack and Seuk right where I left them.

See also: Beginnings

My Introduction to Genealogy

Today’s beginning family history researcher has many web references at his disposal — some of which I will likely add to my collection of family research tools. But, when I began my family history research back in the 1990’s, it was completely analog. I learned to start with what I knew. In my case, it was the birthdates (including year) of both parents — as well as the names of the city or town of their birth.

Constructing my first pedigree chart was easy because it included my parents in position 1. The family group sheet proved to be another useful reference. I quickly learned the importance of keeping both of these reports updated as soon as new data was discovered. After I had wrestled every shred of information from the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) entries of all my known ancestors, I began working my way back through the generations with the help of pedigree charts and family group sheets.

Wilhelmina, Ella Mae, and Floretta MABLE (circa 1920; Mound City, IL)  Compliments of Jay Evans; Gary, IN

Wilhelmina, Ella Mae, and Floretta MABLE
(circa 1920; Mound City, IL)
Compliments of Jay Evans; Gary, IN

Before long, I added another tool to my ancestor detective arsenal: the US Census. I silently gazed into many a microfiche screen, scrolling to find a PALMER or MABLE surname. And when I found my mother (Floreta [sic] MABLE) at age 4 on the 1920 census (extract), that silence was grotesquely broken by the loudest gasp I’ve ever made. All eyes on the second floor of the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research turned to me. Of course I was embarrassed at making such a noise in the library. But that embarrassment quickly subsided as the looks of amusement on the patrons’ and staff’s faces assured me that I was not the first to pierce the quietness in such a manner. I can’t help but wonder if my grandparents dressed their little girls up for the census. Taking care to make a good presentation is consistent with the customs of the era (1920) — when children were “to be seen and not heard”. It could also be a “Sunday Best” portrait.

The way I found out about all these tools was from the genealogy books I purchased. Many of them remain in my collection today. I quickly learned that many of the references mentioned in the first books I used did not apply to African-American genealogy. Because our history includes obstacles that are not covered in mainstream genealogy books, I found two books in particular to be of tremendous help in getting me started — to the point of finding the first slaveholder of my maternal line. They are Black Roots by Tony Burroughs and Finding a Place Called Home by Dee Parmer Woodtor. AA genealogy continues to be an exciting discovery.

Early on, I selected a genealogy software program which I still use today. I’m happy with my selection of Legacy Family Tree as the software to manage my research. With each upgrade (or discovery of a new type of data to track) I have taken advantage of software comparisons; and I’ve come away with LFT every time.

The web has many useful tools that will compliment my documented research. I have identified a few sites with reliability potential. But I am grateful to have learned genealogy before it became a popular past-time in cyberspace. Care must be taken before adding online findings in with documented data you have painstakingly obtained from county records. My aim is to make online researchers aware of offline resources. I believe them to be more reliable.

Wilhelmina MABLE was born on February 1, 1917

Wilhelmina MABLE
Born: February 1, 1917
Mound City, Pulaski County, IL
Age at Death: 68 Years

Standing:  Wilhelmina MABLE Seated:  Floretta MABLE Gary, IN  (c) 1937

Standing: Wilhelmina MABLE  — Seated: Floretta MABLE  —  Gary, IN (c) 1937

Aintee was my mother’s first sister out of four. She moved from Gary, IN to Cleveland, OH where she was employed as Head Nurse at a local hospital. She and my Aunt Dorothy were the only two out of the five girls who didn’t have children. My mother visited her just about every year; and I accompanied her a couple of times. Even though I’m the spitting image of my mother, a few have said I look like Wilhelmina.

Whenever Aintee and her husband, William SMITH (who called her, “Wilhelm” — with a hard “H”), came to Gary, they brought their humongous albino Boxer, “Duke.” That was their “child”; and we all loved him — just had to jump out of the way when he started doing what boxers do — slobberin’. Momma, Daddy, Aintee, and Uncle William played bridge while us kids munched goodies, played board games, and tried to stay out of Duke’s way. Houses were small then; and he almost took up the whole room.  He would just lay there and let us step on or over him.  Every year, I’d ride with Daddy when he took Momma to the bus station for her trip to Cleveland. One year, we drove her all the way and stayed the night before dropping her off for her two-week visit.

My bond with Aintee grew stronger when my son’s father moved to Cleveland and my son spent a couple of summers there. She made sure to spend time with him and made it her business to get to know his father as well.

My Mother and Aintee were more solemn than their younger sisters. As I advanced through my teen years, our fun conversations continued; but the topics took on a more thoughtful nature; and her tone changed to a more serious one. In retrospect, I can see she was engaging me to think. The five sisters had a very strong bond. But, Wilhelmina’s closest sister was Dorothy. Those two were thick as thieves.  I truly believe Aintee died of a broken heart two months after Aunt Dorothy’s unexpected death.

This photo of  my mother (Floretta) and Wilhelmina appears to have been taken during their early career years. Aren’t they a lovely pair? Grandmomma had two more like them and three boys, too! We called my other aunts, “Aint Dorothy”, “Aint Ella Mae”, and “Aint Bobbie.”   But there was only one, “Aintee.”

She shares her birthday with Harlem Renaissance Poet Langston Hughes, Actor Sherman Hemsley, Princess Stephanie of Monaco, Actor Clark Gable, and Comedian Garrett Morris.

Sepia Saturday: Aerial View of US Steel – Gary Works

U.S. STEEL PLANT - NARA - 547097

U.S. STEEL PLANT – NARA – 547097″ by Sequeira, Paul, Photographer (NARA record: 8464471) – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The official launch day for this blog is tomorrow, February 1. But when I saw this week’s Sepia Saturday theme, I jumped the gun. I knew right away which photo I wanted to feature. This is not it; but it is an aerial view of US Steel – Gary Works. The photo I had in mind includes a span of the dock along the Lake Michigan shoreline; but, this photo actually captures more of “the mill” itself — with Lake Michigan in the background.

I was glad to read in the guidelines that photos don’t actually have to be sepia. I don’t know if this photo was shot with a filter. Being from the area, I can attest to the fact that no filter would have been needed to achieve the purplish hue — only the right time of day or weather conditions. As a matter of fact, just reading back over the previous sentence reminds me of the first line in our school hymn: “‘mid sand dunes and purple-hued skies, a temple of knowledge there lies, enhanced by nature and soft dove cries — Roosevelt dearly loved.” Imagine. A sepia-toned photo would have robbed you of that tidbit.

I was raised in this steel town; and have seen many photos of the mill that enabled my Daddy to feed, clothe, and provide for us. This one is now etched in my memory alongside the one along the shoreline.

And a big “thank you” to the Sepia Saturday brand, for providing me with a way to “add flavor” to my February 1 launch!