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

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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.