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The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
Coastal Georgia Genealogical Society
News Update October 2002


Y2.2K NEWS10 283 Moss Oak Lane ST SIMONS ISLAND GA 31522 OCTOBER 2002

   We had such a fine meeting on September 15th that several members suggested we have at least one more this year. Those who skipped the September meeting  (and we know who you are) missed some fun, and the best deserts we have ever had at a meeting - thanks to Amy, our world-class baking and computing guru.   

   November 10th will mark our last scheduled meeting for 2002, and we'll meet at 2PM in College Place United Methodist Church on Altama Avenue, Brunswick. The short business meeting purposing to set up our Year 2003 schedule did not materialize (blame low attendance on this rainy meeting day). We will do a rerun on this, and Bill Smith will preside in November. Plans for a Christmas gathering this year have been set aside.

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SEPTEMBER 15th MEETING at College Place United Methodist Church on Altama Avenue, Brunswick was a "Show and Tell". Almost everybody brought an example of their  more successful genealogy, and a feeling of good genealogy in action put a happy smile on our faces ( ;>) . We will do more of this show and tell, and those of us aching for sympathy or acclamation may yet find it in a future meeting. We all can learn something! First-time visitors Glenda and Robert Jones appeared to enjoy the spirited discussions, and hoped to be at our next meeting. We gave them a September NewsLetter and we'll send them October's letter.

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MILLEDGEVILLE'S MEMORY HILL  CEMETERY in the city's historic district dates back to around 1809, when it was the site of a Methodist church believed to have been host to an early conference by Bishop Francis Asbury, founder of the Methodist Church in America. Close neighbors to the cemetery, Paul and Lorene Flanders Campbell, are said to enjoy frequent walks in the cemetery because it contains so much of the area's history.

   In honor of the city's 200th anniversary next year, the Campbells are restoring the sexton's cottage at Memory Hill to its original appearance. They believe the cottage is the place where "you can really get a sense of the town's history". Because it is not in keeping with the original building, they obtained permission to remove a wing of the cottage that was added in the early 1900s, the sides of which were made from floor boards of the 1809 Methodist church. Campbell believes there are additional graves of former slaves from the Civil War period buried under the addition. He knows they are unlocking mysteries of the old area..

   Burials in Memory Hill include author Flannery O'Connor, plus many of Georgia's state legislators and US congressmen, Christian ministers, town socialites, as well as many who were once patients at Milledgeville's Mental Hospital, one of the world's largest early mental institutions. Graves of Buffalo soldiers [America's first professional black soldiers - fought Indians out West] and slaves who died before emancipation can be found among the oaks and pine trees of Memory Hill [wish we had known about Memory Hill when we were in that area early on].

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CLAY COUNTY, MISSOURI, named for the Clays of Virginia, was part of an area known as "Little Dixie," a rich, agricultural region bordering the Missouri River's natural course. It was settled mostly by pioneers from Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, much alike in their politics, origins and philosophies. With an agricultural economy based on tobacco, hemp and livestock these farming pioneers turned Clay County into one of the very top slaveholding counties of the state [sort of dubious honor, all things considered].

   Slavery of Indians had been common practice in the areas these pioneers had come from, where prominent colonial families had built fortunes as traders, often raiding Indian villages and taking back captives - largely women and children for labor on their own plantations, or for sale to others.

   By the time of the Revolution, Indian slavery had been technically outlawed. Even so, many women of Native American origin remained in bondage, and many of their children followed the status of their mothers.

   Southern court records reveal lawsuits in which slaves sued masters for their freedom, claiming des-cent from Indian mothers or grandmothers. Some were successful, especially those with a white sponsor to push their case, but for countless others ancestral details on children stolen from tribes that could not be identified would never be verifiable.

-- based on Hurt, Agriculture and Slavery in Missouri's Little Dixie.

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THE ENSLAVED AUSTINS OF MISSOURI'S "Little Dixie": a 24 page account written for the June 2002 National Genealogical Society Quarterly by Douglas S. Shipley, begins with this note:

"Frank Peebley and Fanny Austin offer a glimpse into the lives of formerly enslaved people, illustrating the complex and intertwined relationships of master, slave, child and worker roles. Both Frank and Fanny demonstrate the urgency of preserving family tradition as a window into the past, as well as the reasons why genealogists and historians should diligently strive to document the details of family lore."

[Ed: I will lift up excerpts only from the first few pages of this writing, with the hope of creating interest in the whole absorb-ing story for anyone who should want to "read on".]

   "Many historians - family and professional - assume genealogical research on enslaved families to be impossible. The slave's lack of education and the master's lack of concern, they argue, produced few records of the types that free families created. Such views, however, discount the possibility that slaves could preserve and pass on an account of their own heritage. And it short changes the extent to which these oral accounts can be verified, amplified, and corrected by documentary evidence.

   A shortage of written records is not exclusively the problem of the formerly enslaved. Prior to the twentieth century, much of the day-to-day life of the average person went unrecorded - especially among the poor and uneducated. Although researchers may expect fewer records for documenting the lives of individual slaves, they are likely to be surprized by the amount they uncover. Following the convention of beginning with the present and proceeding backward to the unknown, researchers find guideposts to the past in many modern sources, from obituaries and burial records to Social Security registrations to the interviews of elderly ex-slaves conducted by the Works Projects Administration in the 1930s. Building upon this base, one finds that censuses, military pensions, and Freedmen's Bureau records chronicle the births, familial relationships, and migrations of many freedmen. Prior to the Civil War, business and farm ledgers, court records, diaries, deeds, estate files, and tax rolls created by the master class can be rich sources.

   Within this framework, research is constrained by the nature of the "peculiar institution" [of slavery] Be-cause slaves were generally prohibited from learning to read or write,[- a crazy world!] details of an individual's life were rarely self-recorded. Frederick Doug-lass's revealing autobiography points out that a slave's birth might be remembered only in conjunction with another event (e.g., in the Spring, before the War, or when the flood happened). Post war experimentation with surnames also presents major road-blocks. Some former slaves took on the family name of their last owner; some used the name of an earlier owner; many took the name used by their mother or their father (black or white), while others chose a name because they liked it.

   Traditionally, African genealogy predated the writ-ten word. In some societies, villages appointed griots [- never saw this word before - looked it up - it means "Any of a class of musician-entertainers of Western Africa whose performances include tribal histories and genealogies."] to preserve the history of individual families; their recitations were a mix of traditional storytelling, saga and song - but few exact dates. Their recollect-ions were augmented and checked by respected family elders, who were informed sources of much familial information. This custom was not trans-planted to America, however - likely because of the loss of tribal recognitions and the disruption of social and familial units by [owner] inheritances and sales. Even so, community elders have always played a fundamental role in passing on the knowledge of forebears to succeeding generations.

   To surmount these obstacles, family historians view their ancestors as more than just names and dates [CGGS members do that too]. They were living, breathing and thinking individuals who interacted within their society. The challenge is to ascertain what lives, institutions, or governmental entities touched one's ancestors and to determine the most likely repositories of whatever information each contact created. As information is found, it needs to be compared with accounts of other branches of the family and the family's neighbors, the laws that affected the communities in which they lived, and the events in which they likely took part. These checks and balances are especially imperative when tracing a family's passage through slavery, where one must rely more heavily upon oral information.

   Embracing oral histories of formerly enslaved families requires a measure of caution. Not all oral information deserves to be taken at face value or assumed to be accurate. Personal recollections, interpretations, or intentional omissions cause oral accounts to change over the course of years.  

   Reasonably accurate understandings of past events require one to review the totality of the details and to place family anecdotes into context to evaluate their plausibility."  [ - there's 21 more pages in this account, but you get the picture.........].

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 LIGHTHOUSE FOR SALE: or, as our Brunswick News puts it, front page, "Up for grabs" in a recently released list of 20 lighthouses the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of the Interior are looking to give away as part of their National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Program. The Tybee Island Historical Society has just claimed (with some objection from the Town of Tybee Island) the lighthouse on that island.

   Coastal Georgia Historical Society has been maintaining the St Simons Island Lighthouse and light-keeper's dwelling since 1975 and have just spent $160,000 on restoration of the outside of the keeper's quarters, in their agreed upon task of preserving the facility and keeping it open to the public. They obviously expect to be the future owners, and they have extensive plans for its projected profitable use in the future. They also have possession of the old post office building next door, which they are utilizing for their own meetings as well as a for-hire public meeting hall.

   Future plans for the old post office building are to demolish it, rather than incur the expense to modify and repair the building and leaking roof. They would build a new $3.5 million Cultural Heritage Center in its place, to include a [storm-proof?] vault for the historical archives presently crowding the present archival room.

[ - would anyone like to join me in wishing the Historical Society the greatest of good fortune in their projected plans? Next, I would hope to see them (or almost anybody) tackle the Casino, for something more in keeping with the village architecture. Does anybody consider it untouchable?].

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JACKSONVILLE GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY: sent us the enclosed yellow flyer on the announcement of Fall Genealogy Classes. Regrettably, it came too late to be included with our September NewsLetter, and only the last two October classes will remain when our members get to read it.

Next time JGS has a flyer or other information for us to pass along to our members, it would be good if they would e-mail it to us. Okay? JGS, Please note

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BETH GAY'S - HUNTING FOR BEARS extolls the excellence of The Handy Book for Genealogists, now in its 10th edition. She writes, "No matter your level of expertise, there's one book that every single genealogist should have within reach at all times - it is the book you should own."

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BUDDY SULLIVAN, LOCAL HISTORIAN is someone many of us have heard at least a time or two. He is doing "Journey in Time - a historical course [that] takes its students through a timeline of the Golden Isle's growth". Coastal Georgia Historical Society is the sponsor, and the course will be taught at their Coastal Heritage Center - St Simons Island's old post office building. [they report that the roof leaks "like a seive" - but only when it rains, and they have a supply of buckets for that contingency]

   The course will begin 6 to 8 p.m. on October 9th with consecutive classes to follow through October and November. The cost is $45, and you can call 638-4666 for more information.

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SOMETHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO HAVE HEARD: Roy Vandergrift's slides and narration on October 3rd at the Augusta Genealogical Society's program on "The Cherokee Path: From Charleston  SC to Fort Prince George/Keowee and on to Fort Loudon, Tennessee". This was a 300 year tour with the audience along the course of the Santee and Saluda Rivers. The Cherokee Trail is still visible as it runs across Saluda County.


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