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New England, slavery, and Bishop Davis Wasgatt Clark

Anti-McClellan broadside gives impression the Union was always the friend of the slaves.

Anti-McClellan broadside gives impression the Union was always the friend of the slaves.

Growing up my mother spoke passionately against racism. She abhorred prejudice of all kinds. It surprised me as a child, as I never observed anything close to racism in the quiet little southern California town in which I grew up. However, my mom’s passion likely grew from the time she spent in the south, serving in the Army in the early 1960s. It was an era of horrendous discrimination and segregation, and it clearly affected her.

In my naiveté, I was so proud of my mother’s New England heritage. Clearly my mother’s ancestors had no role in slavery. We were Yankees. My ancestors served on the Union side in the Civil War. However, as I studied more, I came to understand that New England has fought hard to rewrite history, trivializing their role during those critical years. Many of New England’s many ship captains earned their wealth transporting slaves to the U.S. New England’s farms supplied produce to those involved in the slave trade. During the colonial era, one in four New Englanders owned at least one slave. Okay, so my Yankee roots aren’t as great as I once thought.

However, my father’s southern roots pain me no end. My ancestry there is firmly planted in Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas. In addition to the Yankees, I have Confederate soldiers in my family tree. I am afraid to know what role my southern forefathers played in the issues surrounding slavery, and how their descendants treated their dark-skinned neighbors after the end of the Civil War.

Bishop Davis Wasgatt Clark, abolitionist and first president of the Freedman's Aid Society

Bishop Davis Wasgatt Clark, abolitionist and first president of the Freedman’s Aid Society

So it was with great joy that I recently learned that my second cousin five times removed, Bishop Davis Wasgatt Clark, a Methodist minister and renowned author, was a devoted abolitionist.  Born in 1812 on Mount Desert Island, Maine, Davis was the first president of the Freedman’s Aid Society, which provided education for freed slaves and their children. They were instrumental in raising the literacy rates of blacks immediately after the conclusion of the Civil War, a priority for slaves to be able to find profitable occupations. Clark College was named in his honor, and later merged with Atlanta University to become the Clark Atlanta University. More details can be found on the NAACP website at http://www.naacpconnect.org/blog/entry/hbcu-profile-clark-atlanta-university.

Davis Wasgatt Clark was not the only outspoken person in his family. His grandfather and namesake, Davis Wasgatt, had alienated himself from friends and neighbors in Eden (now known as Bar Harbor), Maine, when he became a staunch Anabaptist. Davis was also a Revolutionary War soldier, a solid patriot, and one who felt that actions spoke louder than words.

While New England was far from innocent in the evolution of slavery in the U.S., and my ancestors likely did have some sort of role that I will eventually discover, right now I’m pretty proud of my Maine ancestors. Of course, my Wasgatt family stands out prominently among them.


My grandmother’s parents, Ernest Simpson and Susan Stanwood

Ernest L. "Bob" Simpson

Ernest L. “Bob” Simpson

Susan (Stanwood) Clark and daughter Beatrice, about 1906

Susan (Stanwood) Clark and daughter Beatrice Clark, about 1906

In 1917, on a rainy night in Lakefield, Minnesota, my great grandfather, Ernest “Bob” Simpson, penned the poem below:

Continue reading


NGS – Day 1

Hot off the press and available today at NGS - the new Genealogy Standards, and Hairstyles 1840-1900.  I've been waiting for both!

Hot off the press and available today at NGS – the new Genealogy Standards, and Hairstyles 1840-1900. I’ve been waiting for both!

My husband and I arrived in Richmond yesterday.  While he was out perusing the old homestead of Thomas Jefferson today, I was like a kid in a candy store, indulging in one of the greatest genealogical conferences of all – NGS.  Wow!

This morning’s opening session began with a keynote address from Sandra Gioia Treadway of the Library of Virgina.  She described how libraries and archives must prepare to change with the times, and how the Library of Virginia plans to do just that.  If Treadway has her way, in a mere seven years’ time patrons will have a substantially different experience when visiting the library.  They will find themselves met by staff assisted by iPads and other technological devices, better able to help patrons find the materials they are searching for. It is an exciting era, that’s for sure.

The exhibit hall was quite packed with the usual vendors and service providers – FamilySearch, Ancestry, NEHGS, Find My Past, My Heritage and many more.  Lisa Louise Cooke,  Maurine Taylor (aka the Photo Detective) and Janet Hvorka with Family Chart Masters shared a booth and provided “out of the box” educational sessions.

Lectures I attended today included:

  • Problems and Pitfalls in a Reasonably Shallow Search, by Elissa Powell, CG, CGL
  • New Standards of Old: Guidelines for Effective Research and Family Histories, by Thomas Jones, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS
  • The Sociology of Cemeteries, by Helen Shaw, CG

Looking forward to another jam-packed day tomorrow, learning from the experts and the best in the field of genealogy!


NGS 2014 Family History Conference – decisions, decisions!

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Almost here!

It’s almost here!  The NGS 2014 Family History Conference, that is! Previously a California girl, I was spoiled with easy access to the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Jamboree.  I’ve missed their large conference the last couple of years, and am elated that the 2014 NGS event is within driving distance from my home in Delaware.  Now my only dilemma is trying to figure out which sessions to attend!  There are so many great tracks that I’m having difficulty deciding, and will definitely be purchasing some of the audio-recorded sessions.  However, for now, this is what I’ve tentatively planned:

Wednesday

  • 11 a.m.  Hell on the Home Front:  War-Time Damages & the Claims They Generated by Elizabeth Shown Mills
  • 2:30 p.m.  New Standards or Old:  Guidelines for Effective Research and Family Histories, by Thomas W. Jones
  • 4:00 p.m.  My Ancestor Came to Colonial America as a Transported Convict, by Nathan W. Murphy

Thursday

  • 8:00 a.m.  BCG Education Fund:  Research Strategies That Work, by Kay Haviland Freilich
  • 9:30 a.m.   Records of the Federal Courts, 1789-1911:  Drama in Your Ancestors’ Lives, by John Philip Colletta
  • 11:00 a.m.  Oh, the Things You Can Map:  Mapping Data, Memory and Historical Context, by Stefani Evans
  • 2:30 p.m.   Using Evidence Creatively:  Spotting Clues in Run-of-the-Mill Records, by Elizabeth Shown Mills
  • 4:00 p.m.  Can a Complex Research Problem be Solved Solely Online?  by Thomas W. Jones
  • 7:00 p.m.   Revolutionary Voices:  History, Genealogy, and Documentary Film Techniques, by Maureen Taylor, et. al.

Continue reading


A little more of me

book

The search for a name
The search for a date
Is a search for a person
Who breathed life into me

Those who’ve gone before
Those who are still here
We all relate
My family and me

This passion, this obsession
This thing called genealogy
Is more than just a family tree
It’s finding those who made me

They beckon me from the distant past
They beckon me from recent graves
They come to me in my dreams
My ancestors talk to me

I need to know where they lived
I need to know what they did
The color of their hair
It’s all a part of me.

This quest to know
This yearning to find
It fills a void
Deep inside me

Today I will search
Today I will find
A little more of the past
A little more of me


Are you stalking your mail carrier???

The love of the mailbox

The mailbox – another love of genealogists!

From childhood, the mailbox has always created a sense of expectancy for me.  However, genealogy has created an obsession with mail delivery.  What genealogist isn’t waiting for something at any given moment?   I will be very happy this afternoon if I receive any of the following items I’m currently waiting for:

1)  My grandmother’s social security application.

2)  The Milo Story, a book about Milo (of course!) in Piscataquis County, Maine, by Lloyd J. Treworgy.

3)  Documents from new-found cousin, including photos and a copy of a chart drawn in the late 1800s showing relationships to a common ancestor.

4)  Notification of approval of my Daughters of the American Revolution application.

5)  Notification of approval of my Mayflower Society application.

What are you hoping to find in YOUR mailbox today?


Poor Lavina: finding your ancestor’s FICO score in census records

census

1860 Federal Census for Benjamin Bursley in Monticello, Wright County, Minnesota

Benjamin Bursley.  Farmer.  Real estate valued at $600.  Personal estate value $100.  Cool.  One small problem.

When first reviewing the info contained on the 1860 Federal Census for Monticello, Wright County, Minnesota, it didn’t really mean anything to me.  I had no idea how Benjamin’s estate compared to 2014 income standards, nor how his family fared compared to those living around him.  Was he rich?  Was he poor?  Somewhere in between?  I wanted to know what life was like for his 12 year old daughter, Lavina, and placing her family in context with the era in which she lived was important to answer my questions.

Using a spreadsheet (Numbers, on my Mac) I transcribed the names, occupations, real estate and personal estate values for all individuals who had this info listed on the census: Continue reading


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