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That Plantation in Ballyhoo and Being a Part of History

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): That Plantation in Ballyhoo and Being a Part of History

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Friday, February 29, 2008

That Plantation in Ballyhoo and Being a Part of History

Ahh...I'm getting nostalgic again. About 10 years ago, after repeated stories from my grandmom about some plantation in Ballyhoo where my ancestors supposedly were treated like family and distant memories of African princesses and the dream that we were more than just slaves, I decided to try to go on some kind of fact-finding mission to find out for myself. I knew nothing about genealogy or how to go about finding my ancestors...in fact, I don't think I even knew what the word genealogy really meant back then. I think Ancestry.com was just gaining a foothold on the internet at that time, as well as Genealogy.com.

One of the first things I did was go online to both sites and post a simple message about a plantation in that town, with the plantation owner's name, along with a few other specifics. Really, that's all we had. That was about the extent of my grandmother's information. After a few weeks, I noticed an email with a response from one of those sites. I dutifully clicked on the link and started reading....I will never forget the goosebumps I had that night...don't things like this always happen late at night....and realizing a perfect stranger's words mirrored some of the things my grandmother had so vehemently told me all these years. I was hooked.

This lady I ended up corresponding with and who I still am in contact with, happened to be a direct descendant of that plantation owner. She filled me on the plantation owner's life. She shared some photos and military records and some copies of old county records. It seemed with every new document or photo, there was yet another clue that explained something from my family's task...down to the very details of how we did certain things today!

But what really got me to fall out of my chair, was when she sent photos and grave rubbings from an old abandoned cemetery that took her over two years to find....after talking to numerous oldtimers and hacking her way through the dense underbrush of a Mississippi forest, she literally stumbled upon it when she tripped over a gravestone. She had found the old plantation family cemetery and found the slaves, my ancestors, buried right next to the plantation owner and his family. More validation that my grandmother's claims were correct and a very unusual thing to find in the South...slaveowners and slaves, side-by-side, resting in peace.

I spent the next few years dutifully researching records online and learning how to shake my family tree. I found census records online as well as records through the Mormom Church and their Family History Centers, open to anyone who has an interest in researching their family...no Mormon membership required. I dutifully recorded and copied everything I could find. I was even able to find a slave narrative interview done during the WPA where this particular slave being interviewed was a brother of one of my distant grandfathers....he too validated almost everything we had already heard about the slaveowner and the slave patriarch of our family, Joe, who we found was born in Africa.

I also jumped in waist deep into my husband's family history. I followed schooner ships across the Atlantic, went to Ellis Island (their online database), scrolled through microfilmed records of two hundred year old records belonging to tiny churches when Germany wasn't even a country. I even read first-hand battlefield accounts of a soldier who fought alongside one of my husband's great grandfathers, as he fought his way and survived the Battle of Bull Run in the Civil War! Wow, history takes on a whole new meaning when you find pieces of your own being embedded within it!

Why am I telling you all this? In hopes that it will get you motivated to trace your own roots. Most of what we are is a direct result of where we came from. We gain more insight into ourselves by looking back at our past...we might as well be looking into a mirror. We also have the added benefit of having a sense of belonging and being able to pass down something valuable to our children. What can make us richer than a rich past?!

If you've never researched anything about your family past, now is a good time to start. Many records can be found on the internet. Yes, there are many paid and subscription sites out there, but you'd be surprised at how many libraries give their patrons free access, either at home through a special account or at the library itself. Many have genealogy research rooms now too.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start talking to your elders now. When they are gone, the good stories and the clues to your past may be completely gone from this earth. Don't delay! Here are some ideas.
  • Check with your local library. Ask what they have available, either in book form, online or through inter-library loan. Find out if they have a genealogy club and plan to attend.
  • See what you've already got. Did you inherit any old photo albums or family Bibles? You can find clues there. Ask relatives if you can scan some of their old photos and documents. You can't copy everything, but you can take notes and you can copy here and there. I even found some writing on someone's old desk that was passed on down through the generations...cast a wide net, and you will find something.
  • Record where you got every bit of information. I made the mistake, when I first got started, of not writing down exactly where I got that latest tidbit of information. Great grandma Josephine married Great grandpa Karl on 15 March 1911...and then later, have no idea where you read that, saw it or heard it? One thing you learn in genealogical research....data with nothing to back it up is just hearsay....always, always keep track of where you got it. It may also help you later on down the road when you try to make more connections.
  • Have a good record keeping system. Whether it's file folders or binders or just drawers, label everything and make it logical. I started out with a rubber tote myself...just threw everything in there. After 100+ documents, I had to finally get it organized into file folders.
  • Safeguard the valuables. I'm talking irreplaceable documents and photos. I keep old family albums in a fireproof safe. I've also scanned copies of photos and documents and made sure other family members have copies on CD, should my house burn down or be swept away in a flood! Take no chances on being disappointed.
  • Share your work. Not only will you bring joy to others in your extended family, it will keep a sense of order about all you have done so far. It does no good to hoard the information, or be disorganized about it. What if something happens to you? Then all your work and research may very likely be lost....who can make sense of all your stuff and what do they keep and what do they toss? I use a computer genealogy program, Legacy Family Tree, to keep all my information straight. It keeps everyone in line, tracks my sources, keeps photos and scanned documents in order and makes some great reports. I have also used the templates from Mended Memories to make some beautiful homemade books using just a word processing computer program such as Microsoft Word. It's amazing what you can do with the backgrounds, borders and graphics they have available. I've even substituted some of their drawings with some of my own and others I found on the internet to make each page more unique.
Do you have an interesting family story to share? Do you have old family albums and keepsakes? How do you preserve and protect them? Have you done any family history research?

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1 Comments:

Blogger Yazmin said...

I've been slowly working on this myself with my mom. There's so much history and my grandparents are so old that I'm afraid I'm going to lose my opportunity to write it all down.

My mom has always been my historian, but I want to have records for my kids to look at and connect to...I always felt connected because I could go back to the island with memories triggered by so many things. I want my kids to have something similar or at least some sort of record to reference.

February 29, 2008 at 6:09 PM  

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