History, Tradition, and Culture

Holiday Traditions | Mariah’s Christmas Gifts

Image of Mariah Pierson Nelson
Mariah Pierson Nelson

As with most young children, Christmas was the most wonderful and magical time of the year for me and my siblings. Whether the Christmas tree was the silver metallic one with the rotating color wheel , real, or artificial, we were mostly fixated on what would be under it come Christmas morning.  Of course “Santa” was generous if we were “good”  and I do not remember ever being disappointed.  Christmas decorations and wonder aside, the best part of Christmas was the tradition of food , it’s preparation, and time spent with my family! Although I had started helping with meal preparation around the 3rd or 4th grade, It wasn’t until I was in the 5th grade did I really start to turn my attention away from toys to   Christmas “traditions “.  Actually, I think I morphed into a Keebler Elf.  Perhaps it was the move from Texas to a house …

Free Persons of Color

The Neighborhood: The McKees in Goshen, Belmont, Ohio

Imae of Nearby town of St. Clairesville, the Belmont county seat
Nearby town of St. Clairesville, the Belmont county seat

“Who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, they’re in your neighborhood? They’re the people that you meet when your walking down the street. They’re the people that you meet each day!”   Many of us remember that catchy little theme song  composed and sung by the ever popular Mr. Rogers Aka Minister Fred McFeely Rogers of the PBS kids show “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”. He seemed to think that his neighbors where pretty important people ! I have come to realize as he did, that neighbors can indeed be pretty  important people in the grand scheme of things and with no exception in  family research and genetic genealogy . This post is the first in a series of posts on the various neighborhoods of my ancestors. I have noticed over the years that many of surnames listed by my DNA matches confounded me until I noticed some of them…

Records, Resources, and Repositories

Veterans Research, Identifying Local Resources

Image of Albert Nelson (right) and comrade. WWI, France
Albert Nelson (right) with comrade, WWI France

My mother is from New Roads, Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, and has subscribed to her hometown newspaper, The Pointe Coupee Banner for many years. Back in September she shared an article that was written by  local historian, Brian J. Costello. The article, part of a series, was written in recognition of the Centennial anniversary of World War I ¹.  In it, Costello recounts the “rally day” held on August 26, 1917 in New Roads at which time the parish bid farewell to its departing soldiers.  The rally, parade, and celebration was sponsored by the Pointe Coupee Chapter of the American Red Cross and  other local organizations. The other organizations were the Woodmen of the World Camp 271, the Woodman Circle, and the Knights of the Maccabees.   He  lists  information  about parish residents who volunteered or were drafted to serve, where they were from, where they served, and if they were a…

Free Persons of Color

To Be Free, Discovering FPOC in My Family Tree

Image of Vintage American Flag

  I never considered that there might be free persons of color (FPOC) in my family’s history. I assumed that they were all  enslaved. After all, my family is African American, from the deep south, Louisiana, and there was no oral or written history to make me believe otherwise. My father’s people were able to tell me some things about my paternal line – that  Isadore McKee was my grandfather and that Charley McKee my great grandfather. But no one could tell me who Charley’s father was! It seemed as though any recollection of him, his generation, and preceding generations had already been lost. So it all began back in 2011 with question – Who was Charley Mckee’s father? A death certificate ordered from the Louisiana State Archive would yield  the name of his father James Mckee and his mother Virgina. Birth place of father was listed as Louisiana and birth…

Genetic Geneology - The DNA Reveal

Who’s Your Daddy, Really?

Victorian/Edwardian Era Family(no relation)

So who, really, is that man that you call your father? Perhaps he may be a great person with whom you have a wonderful relationship. Maybe he has  created fond memories with you and the rest of your family, or not!  He may have a great family pedigree on paper, but who is he from a genetic genealogy perspective? I am going to share with you my experience with Y-DNA testing , hopefully providing you with some strategies and things to consider before Y-DNA testing the men in your life. As we approach the celebration of Father’s Day on Sunday, June 18 this year, some may be seeking more information about their father or other men in their family tree.  In an earlier post I explained what haplogroups  assignments are and how they are used. Y-DNA Review Knowing ones haplogroup  assignments can be helpful in revealing relationships which may not be…

A Tribute

Mother’s Day, Honoring Maternal Matriarchs

Image of Maternal Line Matriarchs
Maternal Line Matriarchs

As Mother’s Day approaches, I would like to honor the women who represent my maternal line.  Autosomal DNA testing has revealed that the haplogroup for these strong God fearing women is L3e2a.  These women represent women who were proud descendants of African women who lived life and nurtured  their families and those in their community sometimes under the most difficult circumstances.                 They endured the first middle passage from Africa and then a second middle passage to Louisiana. They survived generations of enslavement, lived through wars, reconstruction, and endured the grave injustices of the the Jim Crow south.  My 4th great grandmother Lytha Bryant and her daughter Francis were both enslaved. Josiah Gray and Hardy and Caroline Perry  where among the owners. I will say that throughout all of this, the family of  Lytha Bryant and her husband Nelson Taylor (b. Virginia) remained…

Genetic Geneology - The DNA Reveal

Opportunity Mourned, Life Celebrated – Our Elders

Image of Funeral Procession by Ellis Wilson
"Funeral Procession" by Ellis Wilson

Lately, it seems as if  barely a week goes by without an elder in the family or community passing on. Last month it was Uncle Johnny, last week it was Mr. Jackson, this week, Uncle Buddy.  Our elders, especially the 80  and 90 somethings have really been bidding us adieu, like the carbonation bubbles that sit at the bottom of my glass and then suddenly release themselves , float to the top, and dissipate ,so these elders seem to be flying away at a rapid clip!  With advances in medicine and  improvement in overall quality of living , maybe there’s just more elders making it to 80 and beyond, and then dying.  On the other hand, perhaps this feeling of “lots more people dying” is just a naturally occurring phenomena for all of us as we ourselves age, as we continue on our own slow march toward death. I feel a…

Records, Resources, and Repositories

Those “Squeaky Wheel” Ancestors | The Freedmen’s Bureau

Image of Freedman in line at Field Office

“There’s no sense in complaining!”, “Your complaining to the wrong people”, or “Your complaints will fall on deaf ears!”. These are phrases I have sometimes  thought, heard,  or uttered throughout my life. Well at least a few of my ancestors felt that even in the deep south, during reconstruction, that justice would prevail and they sought justice would by lodging their complaints with the “system”.  In my ancestor’s case, the “system” was the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands.  Popularly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, the agency was established in 1865 by Congress to help former black slaves and poor whites in the South in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War (1861-65). Some 4 million slaves gained their freedom as a result of the Union victory in the war, which left many communities in ruins and destroyed the South’s plantation-based economy. The Freedmen’s Bureau provided food, housing and…

History, Tradition, and Culture

Black History Revealed in a Local Cemetery

Image of Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, Suitland , MD
Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, Suitland , MD

Recently, while  listening to a genealogy program on Youtube  called BlackProGen Live about free people of color (FPOC), the host, Nika Smith asked  the panel about resources for researching these families. I immediately thought about a book that I had read by African American historian, Dr. Carter G. Woodson (b.1875- d.1950). I jumped over to Wikipedia (yes, over there) to get the name of the book and saw what I thought was an odd reference to Suitland, Maryland! Wait, what? Indeed, the father of Black History month and author of many books on black history, Dr. Carter G. Woodson , had been interred  at one of Suitland’s three cemeteries, The Lincoln Memorial Cemetery. Perhaps I am the last to know, but this was an amazing discovery for me! I honestly did not believe it so I  jumped over to Find A Grave and looked it up and sure enough some one had created…

Genetic Geneology - The DNA Reveal

DNA Testing for Genealogy. Autosomal Testing Demystified

AncestryDNA Ethnicity Estimate

My DNA testing journey began back in 2011 when  free tests were offered to the public via the Roots Into the Future Program – 23andme’s partnership with the National Urban League. They were looking for data, and many of us were looking for family history clues and more details regarding our ethnicity given our history in this country. We in the genealogy community were grabbing them up like…well, like they were free! With some of us,  “free” turned into “free-nzy”.  Needless to say , I am sure 23andme received more than enough  genetic data to fill their DNA coffers, I mean databases. I took the bait and ordered a few kits for family members. We received our kits, registered them, surrendered our spit, sent off the kits, and a number of weeks later we got an email saying our results were ready! We were then able to log in and see our…

Military Service

Our Veterans Revealed

Sgt. Walter Grimes, MP
TSgt. Walter Grimes, US Air Force

Like so many so many American families, we have a number of men and women in our family who served this country and we are still discovering who they are! Today, I wanted to honor a few that are known in our family. These are just a few.           James McKee, a free man and eastern Ohio native, served in the Civil War at Port Hudson, LA . Many of his descendants continued the tradition of military service. Those that did not enlist or volunteer supported our service men and women through monetary contributions.  I will blog about them later.   Test you knowledge by taking quiz below. African Americans in Civil War History   Learn More about African Americans in Military Service (click/tap title below)

History, Tradition, and Culture

DO, Believe the Hype

NMAAC Hall with Water Feature
NMAAC Hall with Water Feature

  Was it me or was the hype machine in full effect in anticipation of the grand opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)! For months they have been serving up full press promotion amplified by social media! Needless to say, according to the Washington post, the tickets are all sold out until 2017! Congrats on a job well done by Lonnie G. Bunch III and the publicity team! Contrary to what the Rapp group Public Enemy and front man Flava Flav may have crooned when they performed their flagship hit “Fight The Power” at the opening ceremonies, I would say,  DO believe the hype! I recently visited the museum on the Monday after the official grand opening weekend and I  admit that it did not disappoint! Thanks to the kindness of a good friend, I will call her Dar, I got the ticket hook up…

A Tribute

Remembering Walter Edward Grimes

Walter Grimes Funeral Program

F is for Father F is for father you gave me your name, you made me your child and loved me the same. F is for the fun we had during our family times. Wrestling, playing, listening to music from your K-Tel/Columbia House collection- Aretha to Miles Davis to Simon & Garfunkel. Listening to and watching comedy and variety shows together, from Laugh-In  and Flip Wilson, Sammy Davis, Della Reese, Sonny & Cher to  Carol Burnett and Hee Haw. F is for a firm but fair disciplinarian. The only time we feared you was when we failed to obey Mom. F is for fast. You were the man I could never catch in that continuous game of tag that we played for years. F is for fishing which you enjoyed so much. Whether at one of the many lakes around Grayson County near the Texas/Oklahoma border, the little creek in Halawa, Hawaii,…

Their Labor

Their Labor Revealed

Image of The first African-American Women Army Corps unit, the 688th Central Postal Battalion
The first African-American Women Army Corps unit, the 688th Central Postal Battalion

While on my journey of ancestral research and discovery, I have been intrigued by the many occupations in which my ancestors, relatives, and their neighbors  labored in order to earn a living or satisfy their enslavers.  There were those who rotated between several jobs and those changed careers though out the course of their lives. Here are just a few of the occupations in which they worked: Dietitian/Nutritionist, Military Police, Teacher, Principal, Preacher, Homemaker, Seamstress, Food Service Worker, Domestic, Servant, Rice Farmer, Sugar Farmer, Soldier, Mechanic, Technician, Dock Worker, Barber, Carpenter, Laundress, Laborer, and Slave. Here is a sampling of my predecessors and their peers listed along with mention of their primary occupations. More than likely they had legitimate side hustles in order to make ends meets. 1910 Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana , United States Federal Census Oscar St. Louis a rice farmer Auguste Nelson a sugar farmer   1930 New…

A Tribute

First Steps

  So this is my first blog post. I guess we all have to start some where! I feel like a new born colt, giraffe, or a toddler for that matter , who is trying to walk for the first time- all wobbly-legged and unsteady. The good news is that they usually gain steady footing pretty quickly in order to  obtain sustenance, keep up with the herd , or avoid predators! Well I’m not trying to keep up with the herd or fend off predators as much as I am just trying to get going! Sometimes just starting is the hardest thing !  So pardon the bad grammar and writers’ faux pas!  I am just trying to get this train out of the station! This blog is dedicated to my ancestors and family-known, unknown, yet to be born or discovered. Those that were enslaved and free. Those that sojourned and…