Lately, I’ve felt too overwhelmed to focus on digging up any more of my roots. Instead, I’ve been digging through my present, trying to unpack the last boxes in our house from our move last year, get my youngest daughter to part with clothes crammed into her closet that are too small, and be a good example by parting with things in my closet I haven’t worn since the 90s. This week, I started wading through my overstuffed inbox (I didn’t realize gmail would let you store 3,500 messages). In the process, I discovered a few genealogy gems sent as email notifications from sites like Our Black Ancestry, and Coming to the Table that brought me back from the brink of giving up.
There was a link to an article about Oliver Cromwell, not the English one, but a free black man who fought in the American Revolution and received a belated honor for it over a hundred years later. He was from the same rural county in New Jersey where I grew up. There was another posting about grave dowsing, a possible method of detecting the sex and age of the occupant of an unmarked grave. That’s good to know for the next time I visit Ocean Springs, Mississippi where my great, great-grandmother is buried. There was an unmarked grave next to hers that I suspect may be my great-grandmother, Josephine. Then, on Bernice Bennett’s genealogy radio show, her guest, an expert on Louisiana records gave a great tip for trying to locate enslaved people in that state – check church records. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge has even compiled a volume of these records called “Individuals Without Surnames.” I’m going to try this to help locate my enslaved third great, grandmother Eliza Burton.
Truthfully, it is Eliza as much as my chores that’s had me overwhelmed. I know it was pure luck to even find out her name, but I want more. I’m afraid that her name is all I might ever get. But with these church records, I have renewed hope.
Is there a brick wall you’ve run into recently that has stopped you in your tracks? What will it take for you to try to climb it?