Middlebrooks, Taliaferro

03 April 2011: March Madness ~ Two New Cousins and A Slave Owner Identified!

March Madness wasn’t just going on in basketball last month. March was a very exciting month for my genealogical research.  Ancestor mojo was in full force!

First, I was contacted by a new cousin who is related through my maternal line.  Esther saw my tree on Ancestry and contacted me through another researcher that we have in common who is also a cousin to Esther and probably to me as well.

My maternal great, great grandparents were Albert Middlebrooks and Malinda [?] of Woodbury, Meriwether County, GA.  They had a daughter Laura Middlebrooks.  Albert and Malinda also had a son, Alexander “Alex” Middlebrooks who was my great grandfather.  Laura and Alex were siblings. Laura Middlebrooks married Salis Stinson and they had a daughter Leola Stinson.  Leola was Esther’s grandmother.  So, Esther and I have the same great, great grandmother. Yes, I said great, great grandmother, not grandparents.  Therein is the mystery.

Esther’s brother did very extensive research on the family.  According to his research, Malinda’s maiden name was Gill.  I had assumed that Malinda’s maiden name was Guise because that is the name listed on the death certificate for my great grandfather, Alex Middlebrooks.  According to family lore, Malinda was part white (probably by a slave owner) and had a child or children fathered by her Gill slave owner.  We don’t know which child or children, but one could have been Laura.  There are notes in the research that Malinda would go up to “the house” and say things like “here, take it, it ain’t mine no way” referring to her child who was fathered by the slave owner.  Fascinating stuff!!

Esther is full of family stories, and our conversations never fail to release another piece of the puzzle.  I am anxious to visit her and go through those “six big binders” of information that her brother complied during his 30 years of research.

During our first conversation, I told Esther about my 2011 resolution to find a slave owner for my Middlebrooks line.  So far, that has been a major brick wall.  Recently, I found my great grandfather, Alex Middlebrooks, in the 1880 census for Woodbury, Meriwether County working as a laborer on the farm of R.T. Powell.  His name was enumerated as “Elic Middiebrok”.   I didn’t tell Esther any of this, thinking it could wait for another time.

I guess the ancestors thought differently because…….

Later that night Esther called me back and said I have something I want to read to you.  She had found it in her brother’s research. Then she read this one sentence… Alex Middlebrooks was a slave on the Powell plantation.  I was speechless. Of course, there is much research to come before I can confirm this statement, but for now all I can say is WOW!!

And then…..

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a lady, Debra, who is a cousin on my paternal side.

Debra stumbled upon my blog when she googled to find information on Greene County, GA in preparation for an upcoming family reunion.  Debra is responsible for writing up the family history.  Reading my blog, she noticed that we had the same surnames in our tree, Brewer and Lawrence, and that my ancestors, like hers, were also from Greensboro, Greene County, GA.  After a few emails and a phone conversation we easily made the connection.

My grandmother was Fannie Mae Lawrence and her mother was Lessie Brewer.  Lessie’s mother was Fannie Mae Brewer.   Fannie Mae Brewer also had a son Whit Brewer who had a daughter Hester Brewer.   Hester was Debra’s grandmother.  So, Debra and I have the same great, great grandmother – Fannie Mae Brewer.   We were both thrilled to make this connection and quickly arranged to meet.  Debra is just starting her journey into genealogy and her enthusiasm is refreshing.

Debra was raised by her grandmother, Hester Brewer, and has breathed new life into my Greene County research, and the Brewer line in particular.  A few years ago while researching through some Greene County records at the GA Archives I found court papers concerning a custody battle for a child – Hester Brewer.   Along with Hester, the other parties involved were Fannie Brewer and Whit Brewer. My focus was on something else at the time, so I made copies of the papers and filed them away for another day when I could examine them more closely.  Of course, I never got back to them and they remained in that file until a few weeks ago when I met with Debra.  She was thrilled to receive this piece of history about her grandmother.  Debra had heard bits and pieces of the story, but the court papers pulled it all together.   What a great story to begin her family history!

As Debra and I have discovered, it seems the ancestors have been working their mojo in our family for years through the generations.  Follow along….Debra’s grandmother, Hester Brewer, was raised in the household with my grandmother, Fannie Mae Lawrence, whose mother, Lessie Brewer, was Hester’s aunt.  Debra has an Aunt Ruth –Hester’s daughter.  I have an Aunt Ruth – Fannie Mae’s daughter. Debra’s Aunt Ruth was told that she is named after my Aunt Ruth.  It gets better.  Follow along….I have a cousin Zelphyr.  Debra has a cousin Betty (who would be my cousin as well).  Betty has a daughter, Zelphyr.  Debra’s cousin Betty named her daughter after someone she worked with whose name was Zelphyr.  Betty and this Zelphyr became really good friends, so she named her daughter after that friend.  As it turns out, that friend, Zelphyr, is also MY cousin Zelphyr!  They were coworkers who became good friends, and never knew they were also cousins.  As it turns out….We are all COUSINS!!

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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.

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12 February 2010: Follow Friday: Welcome To Our New Home!

By sjtaliaferro

Welcome to the new home of I Never Knew My Father. I hope you like the new look. Things were quiet for a few weeks during our “facelift”, but now we’re back with more reflections, research challenges, and ancestor stories. A couple of posts you may have missed during the transition are a birthday shout-out to my brother Bernard on February 8th and the February 10th Wordless Wednesday tribute to Harriet Tubman. If you’re a new follower to I Never Knew My Father, you also may have missed my post A Friend of Friends: Lessons From The Underground Railroad. This post is very dear to my heart, and is a message that cannot be repeated too often. I welcome your comments.

Again, thanks for following I Never Knew My Father. I appreciate your support.

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6 December 2009: Sentimental Sunday & Monday Madness – Some Days I Just Wanna Cry!

Blue Monday Annie LeeResearching my family history is a very emotional experience for me, as I’m sure it is for many researchers. Each newly discovered piece of information fills in another piece of the puzzle, but also presents you with more questions and creates even more empty spaces in that puzzle that is your family tree. Our family stories need to be told, and we were chosen by our ancestors to do just that…tell their stories. It is imperative that we record and preserve our family history. No one said it would be easy, but it is necessary. There are highs and lows, jackpot days and empty days, and many brick walls to tackle. It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions, and I love it all. Sometimes, however, I can’t help but wonder about the things I’ll never find, and….
Some Days I Just Wanna Cry!

For all the brick walls I’ll never break through
For all the documents I’ll never find
For all the burned courthouses where ashes held the answers I seek
For all the times no one took the time to write it down
For all those known only by their sex, age and race
For all those that died before anyone knew they were ever alive
For all those who survived with no clues left to trace
For all the photos with no name, date, or place
For all the lost memories, and those too ugly to share
For all the unidentifiable and unmarked graves
For all the cemeteries too unimportant to save
For all those ancestors I’ll never know
For all those I find, but can’t prove they are mine….
Some Days I Just Wanna Cry!

[Image Source: Blue Monday. Artist: Annie Lee]

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08 November 2009: Blogger’s Block

By sjtaliaferro

I am struggling trying to write something to post here on my blog. After only a few months since the debut of my blog, I have Blogger’s Block. I am in a writer’s rut; I am experiencing brain freeze. It is not for a lack of research problems that’s for sure. My research is surrounded by brick walls with no signs of a breakthrough. Every corner I turn is a dead end. As a blogger, I am lost in a sea of bloggers who always seem to have something to say and write about. I am inspired by their words, but can find no inspiration of my own. I am a writer with no words; an editor with nothing to edit. I am a perfectionist with nothing to perfect. I am a blogger with nothing to blog. I have Blogger’s Block.

Yesterday I read, The Value of Networking with your Peers, the discussion started by Angela Walton-Raji in African Ancestored Genealogy on Genealogy Wise. Angela urged us to network, to find mentors among ourselves, and challenged us to become experts in our own area of research. I am inspired and motivated by her words. Over at Our Georgia Roots, my friend Luckie Daniels’ latest post, So Thankful…, was both moving and inspirational. I am thankful to call Luckie a friend; I am always encouraged by her words and research knowledge. Felicia at My Nola Heritage is hot on the trail of something big, and I am anxiously awaiting her news. Felicia has been relentless in her search for the slave owner of her Georgia ancestors. I am inspired by her tenacity. Michael Hait has taken on the challenge of putting up at least one post a day during the month of November. Michael’s African American Genealogical Examiner articles are always well-written and informative; his tips inspire me to become a better researcher and to view sources with a more informed and analytical eye. Renate of Into The Light (formerly Just Thinking), another new kid on the blog scene, is moving to another level in her research and blogging, and thus, was inspired to give her blog a new name. All of them and many others inspire and motivate me with their words and their dedication to genealogy. I read, I learn, I absorb, and I am INSPIRED.

I know this is not a permanent state – This Too Shall Pass. My research continues- the brick walls will fall, the ideas will form, and the words will return. In the meantime, I am still here and loving every minute of the journey. I will not be defeated by Blogger’s Block.

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4 Oct 2009: I’LL ALWAYS LOVE MY MAMA

LILLIAN MIDDLEBROOKSI’ll always love my mama
She’s my favorite girl
I’ll always love my mama
She brought me in this world

My mother, LILLIAN MIDDLEBROOKS, was born December 7, 1916, in Woodbury, Meriwether County, GA. She passed on Sunday, September 27, 2009, at age 92. It was my birthday.
A mother’s loves so special
It’s something that you can’t describe
It’s the kind of love that stays with you
Until the day you die
She taught me little things
Like saying hello, and thank you, please
While scrubbing those floors on her bended knees

My mama was an incredible woman. As a child I did not want for anything. Yes, you would probably consider me “spoiled” as they say. As a child I took all of those things for granted; as an adult I realize they were the product of my mama’s love, devotion, and hard work-sometimes two jobs. Many years ago, I was involved in a car accident that left me paralyzed. In the years that followed, my mama was my primary caregiver. Her strength, determination, and encouragement gave me the strength, determination, and courage I needed to continue my education, graduate from college, and pursue a career. I am the person I am today because of my mama.
In 1991, my mama suffered a stroke, and our roles reversed; I was now responsible for ensuring that both of us had the care we needed to continue to live our lives in our home with minimal disruption. In dealing with the various local and state agencies I realized that now I was considered the primary caregiver for my mama. I refused to put my mama in a nursing facility, as many suggested over the years. It was not even a consideration, just as she had not considered putting me in a facility after my accident. My mama was a proud lady, and continued to do most things for herself. Despite the stroke, she was still an independent and strong woman determined not to let being confined to a wheelchair confine her spirit. I believe I possess those same qualities.
In early September 2009 my mama was hospitalized. Her health had been rapidly declining over the past few months and her dementia was also getting worse. When it was time for her to leave the hospital the doctors recommended a nursing facility and hospice care. My mama was leaving me and I could see it. She stopped eating, was barely taking any liquids, and almost never opened her eyes. Over the last two weeks, I do not think she knew I was there, or maybe she did. I pray she did. Early on Sunday, September 27, 2009, I got the call that we should plan to come as soon as possible-things were not looking good- my mama was beginning her transition. It was my birthday.
My brother Bernard by my side we sat there with my mama-waiting, crying, praying. Bernard has been and continues to be my rock and my comforter. God knew that I would need someone, and placed him in my life so that he would be here when I needed him most. Sitting there at her bedside, I had a nagging feeling that my mama needed to hear something before she could leave this world behind and claim the peace she deserved-she needed to know that her baby girl was going to be okay….and so we told her that I was fine; Bernard told her that he would take good care of me and not to worry. I told her that I was fine and that I loved her…she closed her eyes and was gone. Gone from this world, but not from my heart. My mama was an incredible woman….
(Talking ’bout mama)
Oh, she’s one of a kind
(Talking ’bout mama)
You got yours, and I got mine
(Talking ’bout mama)
Hey mama, Hey mama,
My heart belongs to you
Oh, yeah
I’ll always love my mama, yeah
She’s my favorite girl
You only get one
You only get one, yeah
I’ll always love my mama
She brought me in this world
Talking ’bout mama..

I’ll Always Love My Mama

(I’ll Always Love My Mama, Lyrics: Kenneth Gamble / Leon Huff / Gene McFadden / John Whitehead / Victor Carstarphen. Song:The Intruders – 1973.)

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12 September 2009: Where’s YOUR Family “STUFF”?

By sjtaliaferro

Once again I am inspired by my genea-friend Luckie Daniels and her recent post on Our Georgia Roots – What Is YOUR Family Story? Learn-Document-SHARE! Luckie challenged all of us to become better preservers of OUR family history. I believe that preservation has to start with us. WE must become better keepers of OUR family “STUFF”.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked family members for information (stories, pictures, documents..anything) only to be told…girl, I don’t have any “stuff”, or honey I just don’t remember any of that old “stuff”, or (my favorite) child, I don’t know what happened to all that old “stuff”. I’m sure you’ve heard similar responses to your requests for family information. Well, that “stuff” was/is your family history. We can’t get angry with anyone but OURSELVES if WE don’t start taking better care of OUR “stuff”.

I remember calling my Auntie Ruth one day and asking what she was doing. She said “just throwing away some old stuff.” This is my aunt on my paternal side, my father’s sister, so of course I was very curious about this “stuff”. “What kind of stuff” I asked. She replied “oh just some old pictures and things.” “NO” I screamed. After some back and forth, I convinced her to dig the pieces of “stuff” out of the trash and save it all for me. A few days later, I received an envelope in the mail. Inside that envelope was some very precious family “stuff” torn into pieces. I was able to piece together and save a picture of my grandmother, and a photo of my father and his brother taken about 1925 when they were little boys. There were also a few pictures of my Auntie Ruth in her younger days. A special piece of “stuff” was my aunt’s high school diploma-torn in half. My aunt had told me the story of how when she was in high school she gave herself a middle name because everyone had one except her. So now I have the high school diploma for Ruth “Louise” Taliaferro. I am so happy that I made that call at that time and saved some of my family “STUFF”.

For the majority of African Americans our ancestors’ stories were never told, recorded or preserved. It is an awful and frustrating reality. However, it will be even more awful if we do not stop the cycle of indifference and disinterest in our own family history. Let’s all do a better job of telling our ancestors’ stories-of keeping and preserving our family history. Let’s all do a better job of preserving, recording, documenting, and sharing our “STUFF” for our ancestors, ourselves, and more importantly, for our future.

So, my question to you… Where’s YOUR Family “STUFF”?

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