Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wow! "We Are Just Passing Through"

The Ancestors Told; The Elders Listened; We Passed It On!

Bernice Alexander Bennett

My mother was always sharing a childhood memory! So, one day we were driving to the grocery store and she saw some ladies standing on the street. She immediately began to talk about her Cousins Josephine, Minerva, Pinky, Myrtle and Augustine. Mom did not have any sisters and those cousins meant a lot to her!

She told me that they were always there for each other! Helping out when necessary, visiting and celebrating a birthday, church event, you name it!

Mardi Gras was always a special time for the family to get together and we could always count on a bunch of relatives showing up at Aunt Hester’s house on Thalia Street in New Orleans because the truck floats would stop in front of her house. My grandmother lived in a small apartment unit owned by her Aunt Hester and the mother of all of those cousins. She had a balcony and we would stand on the balcony hollering like crazy, “ hey mister, throw me something”! Well, those were the good old days. Lots’ of food – gumbo, red beans and rice, fried chicken (not the KFC) but the real deal - okay – a typical New Orleans style spread of food for all to eat. When mom was amazed at something special, she would simply say” Wow”! That’s the way it was on Mardi Gras! Fun, food, family and WOW!

Well, the cousins slowly passed away and mama would say – “we are just passing through”.

It wasn’t until my mother passed away in 2010 that I realized how much her cousins meant to her. Following her funeral, we went to the cemetery for that final goodbye. Cousins attended the funeral from all over New Orleans, and I could see from the side of my eye that they were slowly migrating to other gravesites. Of course, I wondered, what’s going on?

I then realized that the descendants of Josephine, Minerva, Pinky and Augustine were also paying homage to their parents, grandparents and great grandparents. I also learned something new – in 1955 – the cousins decided to purchase cemetery plots to be near each other in death.

Wow! “We Are Just Passing Through”

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Monday, October 29, 2012

The Hurricane Evacuation Kit of Memories!

Bernice Alexander Bennett

As I reflect on the impending Hurricane Sandy awaiting us on the East Coast, I am reminded of 2005, and Hurricane Katrina. My family members needed to evacuate from New Orleans and I could not sleep unless every single person was safe and out of harms way.

Well, during Hurricane Katrina’s evacuation, my 89 - year old mother had a container with all of her essential documents ready and near her bed in the event she had to leave her home. That little plastic container with the green lid brought her comfort because she had her medication list, insurance policies and a bunch of other papers that I really never considered reviewing until today. That’s right today! I was looking for a few tips and I think that she was sending me a message to just take a look in her container!

The Evacuation Kit!

Today, I decided to open that container to see what else she put in her evacuation kit and guess what I found – her 1929 New Orleans school transcript from Thomy Lafon School; her birth certificate; property deed of land owned by her mother with a map and description of the land; a newspaper clipping of her mother’s obituary; a letter from one of her grandsons, a letter from me written in 1980, a letter from my older sister written in 1989; a newspaper clipping from Anne Landers; birth certificates for my sister and brother; death certificate’s for her mother and my father; a signed program from individuals she taught to quilt with beautiful comments thanking her for the teaching them a new skill. I am still opening up the various documents and I think that the message is loud and clear! If you must evacuate, take whatever will connect you to what made you happy and don’t forget the essentials.

Some of her important memories!

These comments meant a lot to her!

Mom passed away in 2010 and I am still finding the little genealogy gems in notes left in books, and now the Evacuation Kit of Memories!

Well, I am working on my evacuation kit, and will take the essentials and then add a few special memories – maybe my high school transcript or a note from a special friend!

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"The Phone Call That Made My Day"

Bernice Alexander Bennett

Yesterday wasn’t any different than any other day until I answered the phone last night. The call was from a cousin who explained that she needed assistance for her 12 year old granddaughter who had a history class assignment to trace one line of her family lineage back 10 generations.

My cousin was prepared to help draw a family tree and was told by her granddaughter that she needed to do it herself, and only wanted the information.

The wise grandmother (my cousin) remembered that I was a genealogist! Hooray! I have an opportunity to share my research with a willing recipient. So, the first question – what is the name of Lil Mama’s mother. Now, Lil Mama is my cousin’s great grandmother and the sister of my great grandmother. Well, I was on a roll. I first told her the name of Lil Mama’s mother’s name – Rebecca Youngblood Clark. Next question, who is Rebecca’s mother? Her name is Minerva Smith Youngblood. I have marriage records for both Rebecca and her mother Minerva. I went to the St. Helena Parish courthouse and copied both records.

My cousin and I were already excited about our maternal DNA match of L4b, and now it was easy for her to explain to the granddaughter that we were all direct descendants of Minerva and Rebecca Youngblood.

Do you know when they were born? Yes, according to the 1870 census Rebecca Youngblood Clark was born in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana about 1866, and her mother Minerva Smith Youngblood was born about 1835 also in Louisiana. Do you know when they died? Minerva died around 1878 according to 1882 succession documents I found in the Livingston Parish Courthouse for Minerva’s husband - Thomas Youngblood.

Wow! My cousin listened attentively and then I said something that triggered recognition in the naming patterns. For example, Lil Mama’s first daughter is also named Minerva and my grandmother Rebecca was named after her grandmother Rebecca Youngblood. Lil Mama was named after her father’s sister Hester.

Next question, where is your evidence to support what you have just told me? Wow, she is asking and apologizing at the same time. She said, "sorry to be so pushy"! Don’t be sorry, I love it! With excitement - ok, I have the evidence. First of all, I have marriage records, newspaper articles, death certificates, and succession records, Homestead application, census records and obituaries. I even have the original 1955 hand written obituary that Lil Mama wrote when her sister Isabella(my great grandmother) died.

She wanted to know if I had a picture of Rebecca Youngblood Clark and unfortunate, I remember seeing the photo because Lil Mama would showed it to me every time I visited her home. She said that she looked so much like her mother. I have no idea what happened to that photo. I do have a photo of Peter Clark – Lil Mama’s father. I even wrote a story about Peter – the Black Louisiana Homesteader.

So, I sent a few documents and then she wrote back – thanks so very much! You don’t know how helpful you have been to my granddaughter and me.

Thanks for asking! “I will take a phone call like that any day”!

This is a photo of the completed assignment!


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