Taliaferro

31 August 2010: Tombstone Tuesday ~ Rock Springs Cemetery….Found!!

On 15 September 2009, I posted on my blog for Tombstone Tuesday Rock Springs Cemetery…Not! On 17 November 2009, I wrote, again for Tombstone Tuesday, Another Rock Springs Cemetery…The Search Continues. On 2 February 2010, in observance of Black History Month, I posted on Tombstone Tuesday Rock Springs Cemetery- Lest I Forget. These three posts were about my search for Rock Springs Cemetery the burial place of my great grandfather John Wesley Taliaferro, his brother Bob Toliver (aka Robert Taliaferro), and another relative Alex Poole.

Those posts reflect the disappointments of the journey, but also my faith that one day I would find Rock Springs Cemetery.  Along the way, I talked to many experts and those knowledgeable in cemeteries in the metro Atlanta area; none of them knew anything about Rock Springs-had never heard of it. I contacted the Georgia Archives and several local Historical Societies, but no luck. I was advised to give up.  They felt the cemetery was gone, most likely lost to progress. But, I could not let go.  Something kept nagging at me- a strong feeling that it was out there somewhere, and one day I would find it. Well, that day is finally here, and I am filled with a sense of peace and satisfaction that I have finally found Rock Springs Cemetery.

On Wednesday, 25 August 2010, I received a tweet which said – “I know where Rock Spring cemetery is located. My relatives are buried there.” I could not believe what my eyes were seeing. I had waited for, prayed for, hoped for this moment. Quickly, I sent a direct message back with my email address.  “PLEASE contact me!”  I waited.

On Thursday afternoon, 26 August 2010, I received an email inquiring if I was really interested in finding Rock Springs Cemetery.  Really interested??  Are you kidding me? That was an understatement if I ever heard one. The sender also gave me their surname which I knew from my research belonged to some of the people buried in Rock Springs.  My excitement was growing; this just might be the real deal. OMG!!!  Anxiously, I emailed back with a few more details about my interest in Rock Springs and my relatives who are buried there.  I waited.

Later in the day I received another email asking whether I was from Atlanta, and telling me that “if we are on the same page” Rock Springs Cemetery was in Forest Park, GA. YES!!! Same page, same paragraph, same sentence, same place…Rock Springs Cemetery. Chills up my spine…goose bumps!!  This was great news, but WHERE in Forest Park, GA??

I frantically emailed back. “Yes, from Atlanta…, live here now…, born and raised. My brother and I have traveled up and down Jonesboro Road, including the Forest Park area, up and down the side streets too, many, many times. Very excited…really appreciate you contacting me. Can you PLEASE give me the location of Rock Springs Cemetery?” I waited…and waited..and waited.

Friday, 27 August 2010. I don’t remember sleeping, but I must have ‘cause I remember waking up. I decided not to check my email first thing, just in case there was no response.  I did a few other things then casually opened my email….la de da.  A quick glance..nothing.  My heart sank. Exhale.  Another glance, and there it was with the subject line – Directions to Cemetery.  My brother was dressed and ready in his “cemetery exploring” clothes with camera in hand before I could finish reading the directions, and sending out a quick thank you email.

The directions were incredibly easy to follow.  In no time we were there…off the interstate, three lights, a right,  pass the cement wall and there it was…the dirt road leading into Rock Springs Cemetery…on Conley Road in Forest Park, GA. There are no signs or markers pointing “this way” to Rock Springs, but there it is.

On the day of our visit, Rock Springs was overgrown with weeds and littered with limbs and debris. However, my contact (who I won’t name for privacy reasons) informs me that this is not the normal condition of the cemetery.  The cemetery was cleaned to perfection in early Spring, and what we witnessed on our visit was  new vegetation that has grown in since that time.  A lawn service is scheduled to come for another clean-up very soon.  Once the clean-up is done, I’ll be sure to post updated pictures.  It’s great to know that this historic African American cemetery is loved and has not be forgotten.

I now know some of the history of Rock Springs Cemetery; two acres were purchased for the cemetery by my contact’s ancestor, it was deeded in 1893, and it is also known as Macedonia Cemetery. I have seen that name in my research, but never made the connection to Rock Springs.  I know that a relative buried their infant son in Macedonia, and I thought it interesting that he was not buried at Rock Springs, but he actually was I just didn’t know. Talk about pieces of the puzzle coming together. It’s funny how you know more than you think you know, but you don’t know that until you find out what you don’t know.  Does that make sense?!?

As many times as my brother and I traveled Jonesboro Road, and even Conley Road, for some reason we never turned down that end. Each time we would ride around searching I kept saying “I think we’re missing something..I think we’re missing something.” It’s amazing. I guess things don’t happen until it’s time. (Or, maybe I am guilty of not conducting a reasonably exhaustive search.) Whatever the reason, I guess the ancestors thought it was time for us to find Rock Springs Cemetery.

I am sure there are over 100 graves in the cemetery, but we did not find a headstone or marker for my great grandfather John Wesley Taliaferro, his brother Bob Toliver (aka Robert Taliaferro), or Alex Poole.  There were no Taliaferros, Tolivers or Pooles among the many readable headstones.  It would be a lie to say that I was not a little sad at not finding physical evidence that my ancestors are buried here.  We always want that final piece of proof; the one thing that undeniably confirms “this is the right place”.

Surprisingly, that does not tarnish what I consider a great victory in my research. This is an incredible blessing from my ancestors. Not finding evidence of them does not diminish the thrill of the hunt. One more brick wall has come down. There are headstones for some of the other people I know from my research are buried at Rock Springs, and that I listed in my post Rock Springs Cemetery- Lest I Forget. I will have to use them as proof, along with other circumstantial evidence, that this is the same Rock Springs Cemetery where my ancestors were laid to rest.  I know in my heart that it is.

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Taliaferro

4 September 2009: A Family Keepsake, Census Records and Message Boards Help Connect The Past To The Present.

By sjtaliaferro

I wrote this a few years ago in response to a request from Ancestry for African American research stories. I thought I would share it here.

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I never knew my father. Those words had haunted me for all of my childhood, and most of my adult life. As an African-American, the possibility of tracing my paternal ancestry was never an avenue I thought to pursue with any success. A cursory search on Ancestry.com under the surname “Tolbert” did not yield any results that fit the few facts that I had learned over the years. I assumed I would not be able to find anything. On day, while looking through some old photos and papers, I discovered two telegrams dated the day I was born. Both contained the surname “Taliaferro.” This triggered something. I had a vague memory of my mother telling me about my birth and the hospital spelling my father’s last name incorrectly. I remembered that from an early age, I knew that my father’s correct surname was “Taliaferro” not Tolbert as stated on my birth certificate, and that he pronounced it “Toliver.” This, I assumed accounted for the hospital’s mistake. I also knew from conversations with my mother, the names of my father’s mother and his siblings. Armed with these facts and a renewed determination I rejoined Ancestry.com and began another search.

This time around, I was able to locate my father with his parents (my grandparents!) and brother and sister in the 1930 census. All the names fit with my information. What a thrill! Searching back, I was able to locate my grandfather and his parents (my great grandparents!) in the 1920, 1910, 1900 and 1880 census records. I also found my great grandparents in the 1870 census. A few households away was another Taliaferro(Toliver) family. Could these be my great, great grandparents? I felt fairly confident that all the relatives I had found so far were my ancestors, but there was no way to connect this last family from the 1870 census to my ancestors.

I turned to the Taliaferro message board on Ancestry.com in hopes of finding someone researching my Taliaferros. I went through each message one by one and then……BINGO. Someone was looking for any relatives of my father’s parents. I could not believe my tired eyes. It turns out that this message was posted by my father’s brother’s daughter in June of 1999. (The name fit with one my mother had given me). She was no longer a member of Ancestry. Good luck in finding her, right? Well, I did; right here in the same city where I live. She sent me an article written on our grandfather which confirmed all the names I had found in the census records. This article also confirmed that the male Taliaferro living in the household near my great-grandfather in the 1870 census was, in fact, my great, great-grandfather! I could not have asked for more, but I did get more. After contacting that cousin from the message board, I have a new family from my paternal side; 4 first cousins, an aunt (my father’s sister) and a brother!!!! My quest goes on, but if I find nothing more, it was well worth the hunt (the ancestor hunt that is)!

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Since then I have found more information on my Taliaferro ancestors. However, nothing can compare to discovering living relatives, especially my brother. In 2005 I had my name legally changed from Tolbert to Taliaferro. It was a long time coming, but felt so right, so comfortable, so me!!

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Taliaferro

31 August 2009: Madness Monday

By sjtaliaferro

My first Madness Monday post is a puzzle that has followed me for years.

My gg grandfather was Miles Taliaferro. Miles is a major brick wall and a story I’ll save for another time.

Miles had five sons: John Wesley Taliaferro (my great grandfather), Alexander “Alex” Taliaferro, Robert Taliaferro, David Taliaferro, and Thomas Taliaferro. (Miles also had daughters, but they are not the focus here). At some point, after the 1880 census, Robert and David changed their names; they became Bob Toliver and Dave Toliver. This caused a major brick wall until I got death certificates for Bob Toliver and Dave Toliver that confirmed their father was Miles. (Thomas may have done so as well, but I have no documentation for that if he did). In the 1880 census, Miles and family are right where I expected to find them – Fulton County, GA with the surname spelling I expected – T-A-L-I-A-F-E-R-R-O. The same goes for the 1870 census except there the name is spelled T-O-L-L-I-V-E-R. After 1880, I cannot find any trace of Robert Taliaferro/Bob Toliver or David Taliaferro/Dave Toliver until they show up in the 1910 census; again right where I expected to find them – Fulton County, GA- but now they are Bob TOLIVER and Dave TOLIVER. They are now married with children. A thirty year gap. Darn that 1890 census!!!! (I do have a possibility for Robert in the 1900 census, but can’t confirm it’s him. This candidate is single and living alone in 1900. In the 1910 census Robert/Bob has children in the household who were born before 1900. I am not sure if these are his children with his wife, or her children from a prior marriage, but something feels “off” about this family.)

Taliaferro is a surname for which the pronunciation and the spelling do not match. Taliaferro is often pronounced tah-li-ver. I know it was pronounced that way by my ancestors, and most likely by their slave owner as well. When Taliaferro is pronounced
tah-li-ver, the spelling can easily change to Toliver or Tolliver. This is probably what happened with Robert/Bob and David/Dave. I wonder what prompted this change to the phonetic spelling? Whether it was a matter of choice or convenience, or some other reason, I’ll probably never know. Interestingly, my great grandfather John Wesley, his son John Robert, and his son John Lawrence (my father) continued the Taliaferro spelling and tah-li-ver pronunciation. My brother and cousin disagree. They say no way can T-a-l-i-a-f-e-r-r-o be pronounced tah-li-ver. So, they both pronounce it tel-i-fer’ro. I switch back and forth depending on my mood. 🙂

I have searched and searched the 1900 census, page by page and line by line, but I cannot find Robert Taliaferro/Bob Toliver or David Taliaferro/Dave Toliver anywhere. (I’m not sure about Thomas; he may have been otherwise engaged- on “vacation”- I’m still working on him; I have found John Wesley Taliaferro and Alex Tolliver). Robert/Bob died 9 April 1920 and David/Dave died 3 February 1951, in Fulton County, GA. What happened between the 1880 census and the 1910 census? Did they move away; temporarily relocate? Were they missed by the census takers-both of them? I have nothing to lead me to other relatives in another county or state where they may have gone possibly in search of work, or for some other reason. Where were they in 1900?

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