04 March 2011: The Maiden Name of Pleasant LAWRENCE, Wife of James “Jim” LAWRENCE

My paternal grandmother was Fannie Mae LAWRENCE. Her father was George Lawrence, and his parents were James and Pleasant Lawrence. They are all from Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia. I did not know the maiden name for Pleasant. Given that I am researching the LAWRENCE line “in the blind” so to speak with no prior knowledge of anyone and no living relative to assist, I am piecing things together as I go.

In the 1880 census for Greensboro, Greene Co., Rebecca TURNER, born about 1805 in Virginia, is listed as the mother for head of household James LAURENCE. This same census lists wife Pleasant as being born in Virginia also. So, being persuaded by another researcher that the census taker did not take the time to write mother-in-law for relationship to head of household, I recorded Rebecca as the mother of Pleasant, and therefore, Pleasant’s maiden name as TURNER. A recent discovery has proven this to be incorrect. Honestly, I was never really comfortable with making Rebecca the mother of Pleasant; it just did not feel right to me. But, the logic of the other researcher won the argument.

Something, or rather someone, spoke to my spirit and told me to look closer at the children of James and Pleasant for clues. I had discovered early in my research that Nellie LAWRENCE, daughter of James and Pleasant, had married a Robert WHITEHEAD. I decided to go to Georgia’s Virtual Vault and look for a death certificate for Nellie Whitehead.  Bingo!


Nellie died 22 June 1925, in Atlanta, Fulton, Georgia. 1  The informant on her death certificate was her husband Robert WHITEHEAD. Nellie’s parents were listed as James LAWRENCE and Pleasant LITTLE, both born in Greene Co. So, Pleasant’s maiden name was LITTLE. I have looked at a lot of census records for Greene County, but I don’t recall that particular surname. Now I need to look more closely.

Now that I can document a maiden name for Pleasant, I need to revisit Rebecca TURNER.

I believe, as the census indicates, that Rebecca TURNER is the mother of James LAWRENCE. If I can find a death certificate for James maybe it will confirm my theory.  Stay tuned.

Nellie Whitehead, death certificate #1546, Death Certificates, Vital Records, Public Health, RG 26-5-95, Georgia Archives; digital image, Georgia’s Virtual Vault, Georgia Death Certificates, 1919-1927 (http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/index.php).


22 January 2011: Sepia Saturday ~ Cousins!

My cousin Peggy and I connected online in May 2007 through Ancestry.com.  According to Ancestry’s relationship calculator, Peggy is my 2nd cousin 1x removed.  My maternal great grandmother, Sudie Parks, and Peggy’s grandfather, Johnson Parks, were brother and sister.  Peggy and I had an instant connection, and we love exchanging and sharing family information and history.

Peggy shared some family photos with me, including this one her.


The instant I looked at the photo I had this strange and tingling sensation go through my body.  She’s a cutie-pie – no doubt about it!  But there was something else…something familiar. How could that be? I had never met Peggy.  Although we both have relatives still living in Pike and Meriwether counties here in Georgia our paths had never crossed. But, I just could not shake that feeling – I kept thinking…”this picture looks so familiar”…so familiar.  It wasn’t that I had seen the photo before. No, it was just…just…I could not put my finger on it, and I could not shake the feeling. There was just something about that picture. It was driving me crazy.

I pulled out one of my photo albums and started looking through the photos.  Then, it dawned on me.  I finally realized why Peggy’s photo looked familiar. But, I thought to myself I had to be wrong…it must be just my imagination. I had not seen the photo I was looking for in years.  My mind and eyes were playing tricks on me; I just thought they were similar.  My search took on a new intensity.  I knew exactly the picture I was looking for, but where was it???  I had to find that picture.

Finally, there it was and that strange tingling feeling returned, but this time it was accompanied by a smile.   I scanned the picture and immediately called Peggy and told her I was sending an email with a photo attached. I wanted her to call me as soon as it came through and she had looked at the picture.

A few minutes later, Peggy called me screaming OMG!!!  We both laughed and went OMG!!  This is the photo I sent Peggy.


Can you see why we were screaming??   IT’S ME!!


21 January 2011: Friend of Friends Friday ~ Slave “Nelson” Named In Confederate Citizens File

Yesterday, I wrote about finding documents for some of my ancestors’ slave holders in the Confederate Citizens File on Footnote. You can read that post here. Last night as I continued to browse through the collection, I found several records that mentioned slaves by name.  The owners had been paid for labor rendered by their slave to the  Confederate government.  This particular document was in a 12 page  file for Joseph A Gates of Virginia and mentions “Hire of Slave Nelson, as Laborer” several times.1  As I said in my post, these records are a rich genealogy resource.  Take some time and browse the collection. You might be surprised by what you find.


  1.  ”Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-65,”  digital images, Footnote.com (http://www.footnote.com : accessed 20 January 2011), record for Gates, Joseph A, Petersburg, Virginia, 18 February 1864, page 8 of 12, citing National Archives Record Group 109, (also known as the “Citizen File” NARA M346).

20 January 2011: Documenting Slave Owners Using The Confederate Citizens File At Footnote.com

Yesterday, Robin of Saving Stories posted an article on the We Contribute blog titled Confederate Citizens File. These records are mostly alphabetized vouchers that show goods furnished or services rendered by private citizens and businesses to the Confederate government. These records are digitized on Footnote.com. After reading Robin’s article, I surfed right over to Footnote to check out this collection. Robin had found info that documented the slave owner of one of her ancestors, and I hoped to do the same.

I searched in the Confederate Citizens File using the name Taliaferro and then added Georgia to narrow the results. After clicking through a few documents I found several for an “E. M. Taliaferro”.  I recognized the name immediately. E. M. is Edward Mobley Taliaferro. The Taliferros, Edward and his father Richard lived in Georgia and were the slave holders of my paternal great, great grandfather Miles Taliaferro and his son John Wesley Taliaferro, my great grandfather.  I have an 1856 Inventory and Appraisement that documents Richard Taliaferro as the slave owner of Miles and John. You can see that inventory in this previous post Wordless Wednesday- “Miles & son John”.

The document I found shows that on 9 July 1864, E. M. Taliaferro was paid 280 dollars for 8,615 pounds of oats sold at 31/2 cents per pound. 1


Wait! As soon as I saw this image I realized I had actually found this document before and it was in my gallery on Footnote.  Lesson: Keep a research log and document what you find (and don’t find).

I continued to search; I replaced Taliaferro with “Gates” but kept Georgia as a search term.  Jack Gates was my maternal great grandfather; he was my grandmother’s father. I strongly suspect his slave owner was Benjamin Gates of Meriwether County, GA.  I found records for a Benjamin Gates in Meriwether and Troup Counties.  Then I substituted “Middlebrooks” for Gates. Alexander “Alex” Middlebrooks (my great grandfather) was born in Harris County, GA.  A possible slave owner is John Middlebrooks and I found a record for a John Middlebrooks of Harris County, GA. Harris County borders Alabama. I believe my Middlebrooks ancestors have an Alabama connection.  I saw several records for Middlebrooks in areas of Alabama around and near Harris County.

There is no shortage of records to pursue for more clues to possible slave owners.  The Confederate Citizens File is a rich genealogical resource. But, it will require patience and persistence to reap the rewards.

Several of the records I found mentioned other individuals and referenced additional records that can be checked for further documentation.  For example, there was a document for Gates, Benj K of  Meriwether Co GA that referred you to the case of Alfred S Greer, and a record for Middlebrooks, John A that referred you to the case of Henry T Huff.  These records could hold information that can help me identify and confirm my ancestor’s slave owners.

Of course, there is much more research to come before I can document, with any certainty, the slave owners of my Gates and Middlebrooks ancestors, and I continue to look for additional doumentation on the Taliaferro slave owners. The records I found do provide more avenues to pursue before I can add another piece to the puzzle.  My thanks go to Robin and her article for leading me to these records, and for motivating me to continue the search to document my ancestors.

  1. “Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-65,”  digital images, Footnote.com (http://www.footnote.com : accessed 19 January 2011), record for E. M. Taliaferro, Atlanta, Georgia, page 3 of 3, a payment of 280 dollars on  9 July 1864, citing National Archives Record Group 109, (also known as the “Citizen File” NARA M346).

31 December 2010: A Friend of Friends Friday ~ My Genealogy Wish For 2011.

Today is Friday, December 31st the last day of 2010.  Soon we will begin a new year – 2011.  In the New Year, I am looking forward to breaking through some of my many brick walls and wish you much luck and success in breaking down yours.  What has presented the most challenges in my past research, and what will mostly likely do so in the future, is identifying the former slave owner of my ancestors or finding documentation to support my theory of a likely slave owner.   One of my research goals for 2011 is to identify and document at least one former slave owner of one of my ancestors from either my Taliaferro line (paternal) or my Middlebrooks line (maternal).

With that research goal in mind, I decided that my last post for 2010 would not be the typical list of genealogy “resolutions” for the New Year.  Instead, I decided to repost my favorite post from 2010 – A Friend of Friends: Lessons From The Underground Railroad.  I believe we saw more sharing and mutual respect among researchers in 2010.   My wish is that the spirit and intent conveyed in the A Friend of Friends post carries over and continues to grow in 2011.

Happy New Year to all!!

I am not ashamed of my grandparents for having been slaves. I am only ashamed of myself for having at one time been ashamed. ~Ralph Ellison~


(Originally posted on 15 January 2010)

 A Friend of Friends: Lessons From The Underground Railroad

One night during the holidays I watched one of my favorite movies, Roots: The Gift. The movie stars LeVar Burton and Louis Gossett, Jr., in their roles as Kunta Kinte and Fiddler from the television series Roots. In this movie, Kunta and Fiddler accompany their owner to another plantation at Christmas time for a party, and become involved in a plan to help some runaway slaves escape via the Underground Railroad to freedom. A simple, yet powerful story. There are many messages and lessons to be learned from Roots: The Gift.

In one of my favorite scenes, Fiddler and Kunta are helping the group of runaway slaves get to the river where they are to meet a boat that will take them further on their journey to freedom. Along the way they make a stop to pick up other “passengers” on the Underground Railroad. When they come to a farmhouse, Kunta approaches and knocks. The man asks…”who goes”? Kunta responds “Friend of Friends”…in acknowledgment, the man replies “Friend of Friends”. A group of “passengers” exit the house. Kunta, Fiddler, and the group continue their journey.

This year, I was particularly moved by the Underground Railroad scene, and even more so by the phrase uttered by Kunta- Friend of Friends. The phrase, and variations of it, was used along the Underground Railroad as a password or signal to those assisting runaway slaves on their journey North…to freedom. The traditional response to the “who goes there” password is said to have been “A Friend of a Friend”.

A Friend of Friends. Say it… A Friend of Friends, again…A Friend of Friends. It evokes such a comforting, welcoming feeling. A feeling of trust, of sharing, of caring, of kindness, and of friendship, however brief. At the same time, it is transient…adjusting and changing with the circumstances. I’m A Friend of Friends….you don’t know me, but I require assistance…I need your help, and guidance…some information to aid me on my journey…then I’ll be moving on…to the next stop along the way.

The phrase, and the underlying concept, seems particularly appropriate and relevant for those of us in the genealogy community; aren’t we all on some level really just A Friend of Friends? Strangers helping strangers. Friends of friends with a common bond that ties us all together….the desire to know our ancestors, and to tell their stories. A common goal, with different methods, different paths that cross and intersect along the journey. As we travel this road to uncovering our ancestors and their stories we should all embrace the concept…we should be A Friend of Friends. Don’t be afraid or reluctant to share, to care, to guide, or to assist your fellow researcher along their journey.

As an African American researcher my task is two-fold; I research my family, but inevitably I must also research the family of my ancestor’s slave holders if I want to know more about my roots. Often we must seek information (assistance) from those that we do not know to aid us on our journey. It is an unavoidable truth – the descendants of our ancestor’s slave holding families may hold the key to our enslaved ancestor’s past. Slavery is an ugly truth of our shared history. I am not angry with you because your ancestor held my ancestor as a slave; don’t be angry with me because I seek those records that may shed more light on the lives of my people, and help me to tell their story more completely. Some who were members of slave holding families assisted passengers along the Underground Railroad. I challenge you to be A Friend of Friends.

We, as researchers of our African American ancestry, must also remember to share, to care, to guide, and to assist our fellow researchers; reach out, take time….no, make time. Can you request and expect the assistance of others, yet not expect the same of yourself? I urge you to stop being selfish with your research. Don’t miss out on a connection or a long lost cousin because of fear or uncertainty. Post It, Blog It, Share It, and Publish It. Many who were passengers along the Underground Railroad returned to assist others on their journey to freedom. I challenge you to be A Friend of Friends.

True genealogists know all of this, and understand the necessity of it. Indeed, the concept is nothing new in the genealogy community. Random, and not so random, acts of kindness occur every day. So, consider this a wake-up call, my challenge to you. When a fellow researcher comes calling…for info…for guidance…for knowledge…for support – be there – to share, to care, to guide, and to assist.





19 December 2010: Sentimental Sunday – Memories of Russia ~ Then & Now

In August 1969, my high school Russian class was given an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity to take an all expenses paid trip to Russia.  I often reflect back on that trip and how blessed we were, as young African Americans, to have such a unique experience.   We were accompanied by a photographer from Ebony magazine, and the trip was featured in the magazine’s November 1969 issue in an article titled To Russia – With Understanding.  We were also followed by cameras from the television news show 60 Minutes and featured in a segment on the show – Booker T. Washington High School Goes to Russia.  We were interviewed by a local television station here in Atlanta, and there was an article in the newspaper.  Yes, it was our “15 minutes of fame”.

At our 40th high school class reunion this past August, we were reunited with classmates from our trip.  This reunion was made even more special by a visit from our Russian teacher, Ms. Billie (Davis) Gaines.  Many of us had not seen Ms. Gaines since high school.  There were hugs and laughter, and yes, a few tears.  It was truly a joyous occasion.  There was much to share and reminisce about.  It was an evening we will probably never forget.  It was a night for –   Memories of Russia – Then & Now.

Top photo: Ebony Magazine, To Russia – With Understanding, November 1969. (http://www.google.com)

Bottom photo: From the personal collection of the owner of this blog.