Yesterday, our genealogy genie, Shannon made another one of our unspoken wishes come true. She sent my cousin, Monique and I the above copy of Alfred Burton Stuart’s and Clara Harding’s marriage certificate. Alfred B. Stuart was my great, great-uncle and Monique’s great, great-grandfather. He was the oldest child of our shared ancestor, Tempy Burton.
The marriage certificate includes Alfred’s signature – the first time we’ve ever seen his handwriting. It also shows that the couple was married in St. Mary’s parish. From school rosters to census records, every other document we have regarding Alfred shows him in Ocean Springs, Mississippi or New Orleans. What was he doing in St. Mary’s in 1881 and what kept him there long enough to meet a girl, fall in love and get married?
We first heard of St. Mary’s the first time we met Shannon. Last year, she sent us a newspaper ad written by our ancestor, Tempy Burton. In the 1891 ad, Tempy was looking for her mother and the rest of her family whom she’d been separated from through slavery and had last seen in Attakapas. St. Mary’s parish is part of the region known as Attakapas.
Was Alfred already trying to help his mom find her people a decade before she placed that ad in the paper? Did he travel alone the 200 miles southwest to St. Mary’s from Ocean Springs or did his mom, Tempy or anyone else in the family come with him? I traveled alone when I made a similar kind of journey looking for my ancestors shortly after I got engaged to be married. Before I started a new life and became a part of someone else’s family, I wanted to know more about my own. It seemed a quest for me alone at the time, but 15 years later, I’m still at it with a small army of people helping me, some of whom, like Shannon, I’ve never even met!
Finally, just how did Alfred meet Clara? Was Franklin, the town Clara is from a stop on the way to Attakapas? Did Alfred get sidetracked from finding his ancestors by love?
The plot thickens.
I’m not sure what Monique or I did to deserve such great unsolicited gifts as Shannon has showered on us that help us put meat on the bones of our ancestors, but we’ll take them.