Yesterday’s New York Times article “A Glimpse Into the Life of a Slave Sold to Georgetown” reminded me just how much genealogy is a group effort. It took a network of people, from descendants of the enslaved and slave owners to historians and archivists to get that remarkable picture of Frank Campbell to his descendants all of these years later the same way it took a network of people to get the picture to the right of my ancestors to me.
The genealogist cited in the NYT article, Judy Riffel also helped me search for some information on my ancestors. I found her through members of the Sterling family who I am connected to through slavery. We are all descended from people enslaved by the Stirling family in Louisiana. The Sterling descendants keep their family’s history alive in a variety of ways. Michael Willis and Patrice Bayonne-Johnson chronicle their family’s histories on their blogs. (Patrice also happens to be descended from one of the Georgetown slaves.) Other Sterlings pass useful information between the family, organize reunions and keep each other connected. One of the family “connectors” is Osbern Sterling.
In 2009, Osbern, his wife and year-old son moved to Louisiana to be with Osbern’s father before he passed. That August, Osbern and his wife visited the famous haunted Myrtles Plantation in St. Grandville. While on the inside tour, Osbern noticed a “Mrs. Stirling” room. A guide told him that Mrs. Stirling was the mother of the lady of the house but he didn’t have any other information on her. For more information, he was referred to the St. Francisville historical society and the Stirling family graveyard which he visited. Lewis Stirling and his brothers are buried there.
“I started going online and little by little I found more,” Osbern said of his genealogy journey. “I was blessed to find Finding Josephine and later further blessed to find “A Black Family in Slavery and Freedom.” I also did a test through 23andme which also helped me.I started a Facebook page for the Sterling family. I believe today we are well over 400 members. Through my research I found my second great grandfather Primus Stirling and his parents Frocene and Lewis Stirling.”
Osbern also discovered that he got his middle name from his great grandfather Duncan. And that Facebook page actually has well over 600 members now.
“Growing up, my family didn’t speak of the past,” Osbern said. “I didn’t know my parents’ history and now I do. I am my immediate family’s historian.”
I have so much love for family historian’s and the people who support them.
Who is your family’s historian and do you have a piece of history that someone else may need?