Give me a surname and I can tell you historically where your family was located within Oktibbeha County. Wouldn’t you love to have this same bird’s eye for the Mississippi county that you’re researching? With a couple of online tools PLUS this old record set, learn how to transform your research AND how you research for years to come.
Join me virtually for Anatomy of an Indexing Project: 1878 Educable Children in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, on Sunday, July 10th, 1 PM.
I asked a couple of friends, Vera and Evelyn, to review my book and give me their “two cents”. So now, I’m making changes–lots of changes. I’m glad to say that the book will be better because of their suggestions but now I’m shooting for mid-July 2022 pre-order availability. Keeping my fingers crossed.
Join me at the Fountaindale Library for Louisiana’s Legacy on Wednesday, June 8th, 7 PM. Her husband’s activities in the Abolitionist Movement were legendary but Louisiana Bell’s own tale of freedom was extraordinary. Attendees will be given an overview of the Illinois Servitude and Emancipation Records database and learn how to locate and obtain copies of actual records. This database contains a wealth of genealogical information and is a must have for anyone researching Free people of Color.
Early this morning, like 2 AM early, I was on YouTube. A well-known lecturer mentioned dissertations and publishing options. This indexing project wasn’t exactly a dissertation but as a result of what I had learned about the county’s students, it might as well have been. As I listened, I had an epiphany and remembered a conversation from long ago.
“My ebooks sell two-to-one against my hard copies,” my librarian friend said. “You should have an ebook option.” I must have rewatched that video umpteen times and each time, her advice made more and more sense. If I worked on it full-time, deconstructing and reconstructing it, it would only take a couple more weeks, I told myself. Finally, my April-May baby will be here in early June.
Join me at the Plainfield Library for Brick Wall Breakthroughs on Monday, April 25th, 7 PM. Family lore was passed down but not the family secret. Henry Bell, a Free Person of color, had ties to a well-known Buckeye abolitionist. In this case study, learn how a genealogy society’s brick wall challenge led to a major breakthrough. Attendees will be given an overview of Tick Marks, Reverse Name Searches, Migration Patterns, Cluster Research, Newspapers, and Timelines
After the Civil War, thousands of formerly enslaved men applied for noncombatant, confederate pensions. From Virginia to Texas, they served the Calvary, the Infantry, and the Light Artillery regiments of the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.).
Without these noncombatants, the C.S.A. would have ceased to exit long before April 9th, 1865. In Mississippi alone, black men and women filed more than seventeen hundred pension applications. As servants, they served in a variety of roles (e.g., blacksmiths, breastworks laborers, cattle drovers, cook, horseshoers, hospital attendants, hostlers, iron workers, message boys, musicians—buglers and drummer boys, nurses, railroad laborers, salt makers, shoemakers, teamsters, waiters, and washers.
In Oktibbeha County, in particular, 42 Freedmen lived long enough to apply for Confederate Pensions as Servants between 1900 and 1934. I suspect that the number of men who actually served the Oktibbeha County’s C.S.A. was two or three-fold.
One of those men, a man named Shep Danzy, was born between 1840 and 1846 to Edmond and Winnie Danzy. Shep Danzy of Oktibbeha County, MS, according to his APPLICATION FOR PENSION—FORM 3: SERVANT, was a hospital attendant and he served under Major John Green of Noxubee County, Mississippi, in Macon, Mississippi. After the war, Shep became a farmer, living just two doors away from an A. O. Green, a white merchant of dry goods. In 1872, Danzy married Clara Hampton of Oktibbeha County. Over the years, they became the parents of several children.
In 1898, his daughter, Rebekar, married my great grand uncle, George Boyd, Sr., and they became the parents of at least seven children, including four boys who lived to adulthood: James, Shepherd, George, Jr., and L. C.—aka “C”. In 1934, Shep was predeceased by his beloved wife, Clara. About the same time, he applied for a Confederate Pension Applications.
As I read question 20—“Give nature of your disability and destitution?” my heart ached for him. Answer: “Old Age. Have nothing. Being fed by F.E.R.A.” As I looked at this photograph again, I thought about the hard life that he had lived and I wished that he were with us today. I thought about my third and fourth cousins—his grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. Three and four generations later, did they know the importance his life had made in our family history.
And, what would they say when he asked, “Do You Know My Name?”
Genealogy is a communal effort. Monday night, I returned a phone call to Elyse, a genealogy friend (and cousin). During our conversation, I learned about her great-great grandmother, Greenella McNichols. She was born in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi and died in Okmulgee County, Oklahoma, and she was buried in Centralia, Illinois—cemetery unknown.
Wait…what? I found it odd that her body would have transported to Illinois—instead of Mississippi. I had seen too many historical social columns, in the Chicago Defender, state that the body of __________ (fill in the blank) “was being shipped home”. It was understood that s/he was NOT allowed to be buried where s/he currently resided—particularly in the Chicagoland area. Three hours later, I could no longer contain my curiosity and did some online sleuthing.
Hmph: not only did it exist it, it still exists. My cousin had also mentioned that Greenella had a son-in-law who was a lawyer. A quick search of the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, confirmed Greenella’s residence, in Oklahoma, with her daughter, Mary, and son-in-law, P.W. Watman, Lawyer.
Don’t you love uncommon names? They make family research so much easier. I had been working on a Chicago Defender newspaper indexing project and did a quick Boolean search, Watman AND Oklahoma, which located the following results:
OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA.
Brown, Willie L. The Chicago Defender (Big Weekend Edition) (195-1966); Chicago, Ill. [Chicago, Ill] 05 Dec 1917: 7.
By Willie L. Brown. Oklahoma City, Okla., Dec. 4—Mr. George Jones, one of Muskogee’s popular postmen, spent the Thanksgiving holiday in Oklahoma City. [H]e came to pay Miss Natalie Jenkins, one of Oklahoma City’s teachers, a visit…Prof. P. W. Watman of Langston was here last Saturday and Sunday…
PROF. BRAZELTON WILL BE RETAINED AT DOUGLASS SCHOOL
The Chicago Defender (Big Weekend Edition) (1905-1966); Chicago, Ill. [Chicago, Ill] 17 April 1915: 7.
…Oklahoma City, Okla., April 16.—Prof. John H. Hogan, professor of history in Langston university, also mayor of Langston, was here last Saturday, registered at the Keystone hotel. In speaking of the school, he said that they had an unusually large enrollment and that the forthcoming commencement would undoubtedly eclipse all others…Prof. P. W. Watman of Langston passed through last Saturday en route to Sapulpa…
Not only was he a lawyer but he was also a professor at Langston University, an HBCU (Historically Black College and University)—named for John Mercer Langston (1829-1897) Ohio Abolitionist, Howard Law School dean, Virginia congressman, and brother of Charles Henry Langston—grandfather of Langston Hughes (1902-1967), was a well-known poet, playwright, social activist, and Chicago Defender columnist!
Now, I was ready for my next search at Ancestry.com: a wildcard search.
Interestingly enough, neither Bing nor Google turned up anything when I searched for Pleasant Watman. Not sure what that was about, I went back to the proverbial drawing board: Ancestry and the Chicago Defender.
After looking at the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, I dashed off an email to Elyse.
“When did, Mary Watman, Greenella’s daughter die? By 1930, Pleasant Watman, widowed, is leaving with his sister and brother-in-law (Ethel and Ernest Shaw, in Sapulpa Creek, Oklahoma). Whis is he listed as a laborer?”
I told her about the two Defender articles and another four, by Pleas. W. Watman, indicating that he had become a Defender correspondent in 1936—in Tampa, Florida.
A Google search had turned up a collection at Yale that included a photograph. “If you decide to get his picture, I’d like to see it, ” I continued in the email. He had been listed as White on the 1940 Tampa Census. Lastly, I sent cousin Elyse a Find A Grave (FAG) memorial link.
By now, I was on a mission and abandoned my project for the night. The first thing that I noticed was that Greenella’s daughter, Mary, was NOT linked to him. Nor, were his other two wives: Rosetta B[eulah] Holmes and Sallie Mae Curtis. That was easy enough to fix. I just had to locate their FAG memorial numbers and add them to his via an edit request—once I had signed into my account.
First, I would take care of Mary except that I couldn’t find one—at Find a Grave or anywhere else. Fine, I’d create my own. I just had to find out when she died. There must be a website for Oklahoma Vital Records.
Once I had created Mary’s memorial, I clicked on the Family Links edit option to add Pleas’s FAG Memorial Number (37626007). It doesn’t hurt to add proof; so, I added his World War I Draft Registration, which showed that P. W. Watman, of Sand Springs, Tulsa, Okla., had a wife, named mary Watman, of Langston, Logan, Okla.
I also added the June 7th, 1930, marriage license between Rosetta B. Holmes and Watman, in Tampa, Florida. Don’t bother look at the 1930 U.S. Federal Census: he was enumerated, in Sapulpa City, [Okla.], on Apr 7th, 1930. Hey—no comments from the peanut gallery!
I could still hear Elyse’s voice: She died in Oklahoma and was buried in Centralia, Illinois. I had a my doubts and went looking for her death certificate at Cyberdrive Illinois.
Below, are my various searches.
After nine searches, I was finally convinced that Greenella McNichols did NOT die in Illinois but what bout Grenella McNichols—as listed on the Ok2Explore website?
By now, I was absolutely convinced that neither Grenella McNichols died nor Grenella McNichols died in Illinois.
Just how far was Oklahoma from Illinois, anyway? Okay, three states: Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois. Maybe, she was buried in Illinois—if that’s what it says on her death certificate. My last ditch of hope was Find A Grave.
Everything matched: her birth and date dates were exactly as Elyse had told me. Using Mary’s memorial number, mother and daughter were once again reunited–albeit through cyberspace. Since then, I have sent an edit request to David Woody, creator of Greenella’s FAG memorial. What you see below is the corrected version.
Thank you David Wood. Thank you Find A Grave. Thank you Wallpaper Cave. Thank you Cyberdrive Illinois. Thank you Ok2Explore. Thank you ResearchBuzz. Thank you Ancestry. Thank you ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Thank you Chicago Defender and, most of all, Thank you Cousin Elyse for sharing your brick wall and allowing me to create a teachable moment. Genealogy is a communal effort and it really DOES take a village!
“O by the way,” as my grandfather would say, line searches for P W. Watman returned several results, one of which confirmed his profession as a lawyer!