Mose Robinson and the Family Legacy

The fact that Mose Robinson had been an herb doctor was the legacy that decided the career path for many members of the family.   Coach W. F. Anderson had verified that Mose was known as an herb doctor. (See Mose Robinson, the Herb Doctor with a Whip https://wordpress.com/post/angelissmith.com/365)

PREPARATION FOR THE LEGACY

From the time that I was potty trained and able to attend pre-K programs, I was placed on the path to become a doctor.  By the time that I reached high school, it was common knowledge.   My classes were college prep classes intended to prepare me for my destiny.  I had first cousins who were already in medical school or who had already become doctors.  In every branch of my family there were doctors, nurses, and others who were affiliated with the medical field.  The die was cast.  The legacy of Mose Robinson had to be carried forth.

This is a picture of my pre-K school.  More than fifty years later, this building is still owned by the Bethel Baptist Association.  During these times,  religious associations took responsibility for the education of African American children in their communities.

 

WHO WAS MOSE ROBINSON?

I needed to know more about this man who had determined my future before I was born.  He was legendary in his healing methods.  How did he become an herb doctor?  U.S. Census records indicate that he was born at the end of the Civil War, around 1865, so how did he acquire this skill?  Was he taught this or was it handed down as an African or Native American legacy? Therefore, I started to ask questions of the older members of the family.

Of course, Granddaddy had already given me as much as he was willing to give.  No matter how much I asked, that well was dry, so I turned to the next oldest and closest person to me, Aunt Lillie.  Aunt Lillie was granddaddy’s sister-in-law.  She was more like my grandmother because her sister, Bertha, my grandmother,  had died young.  I was only two weeks old when Grandmother died, so Aunt Lillie took her place as the grandmother that I didn’t know.  Aunt Lillie shamefully spoiled me.  However, she was of little help when it came to Mose Robinson.  I decided to continue to rely upon her for other things, such as,  making her fantastic tea cakes and showing me how to grow fruits like strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries.

The next person that I turned to was Cousin Leona “Loenie” Pruitt.  At that time, I didn’t know how Cousin Loenie was related to us, but I always knew her as a cousin.  She was always willing to talk to me.  She thought it was a show of respect that I would take the time to visit with the old people as she would say.  When she saw me walking towards her house, she would light up.  I was encouraged by that.

She lived on the same street,”up the road”, from us.  The street that we all lived on was called Preacher Street.  It was named this because of all the preachers who lived there.  It was considered the longest street in Thomasville and the hub of the African American community.   The elementary and high schools (A. L. Martin) were on Preacher Street.  Football, baseball, and softball were played on the field behind the elementary school.  Before it was Preacher Street, it was Byrd Road.  I once asked Granddaddy why it was called that because as a child, I was fascinated with birds.  He told me that we were somehow related to the Byrd family.  This is one of those memories that I stored in my box for future adventures.

In addition to Preacher Street, one of the oldest  communities was Choctaw Corner.  Choctaw Corner was a former town in Clarke County, Alabama, United States. It gained its name from the nearby Choctaw Corner, which helped mark the border between the native Choctaw and Creek peoples prior to the Indian removal. The community was one of the earliest settlements in the county (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, June 24, 2018).  Many people who moved to Preacher Street were from Choctaw Corner.

It was Cousin Loenie who told me how rich our family had been and how much land the family had possessed around Highway 5 and a place called Danzy Settlement.   She still had her share, but had sold some to some local land investors.  She also recounted the  story of how my grandfather lost most of his share of the property.  I was not oblivious to this story.  This was one of those things that tore families apart.  It was a part of the “trouble in the family” that we were not allowed to talk about.

From Cousin Loenie, I learned that Mose Robinson was a well digger, and that he taught his sons and others how to dig wells, including my granddaddy who was known as the master well digger.   So, Mose was not just an herb doctor.  He had other skills.  I wondered, “How did he acquire these skills?”  In addition to being an herb doctor, he was a teacher of his trade.  Suddenly, my possibilities broadened.

I decided to see what I could find in the local library.   Sadly, the local library was a relic of the old Jim Crow days.  This was during the mid to late seventies, but not too much had changed in Thomasville, Alabama.  It had only been a few years since the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) had stopped marching downtown on their regular half-day business days.  The stores and banks would close promptly at noon, and the parade would start afterwards.  Even when the KKK stopped marching, stores continued to close at noon for many years.  However, being the daughter of the legendary Theodore Robinson made me brave, so I visited the library where few other African-Americans dared to go.

old town hallThis is a current picture of the renovated old City Hall where the library was housed.  In addition to the library, the police department, mayor’s office, and water department were all housed in this small building.

I didn’t find anything about Mose in the local library, but another cousin had started to keep company with a young lady who lived a few doors down from us.  Whenever he visited her, he would also visit us which was quite frequent.   Granddaddy’s sister, Aunt Ender Jackson, was his grandmother, so he knew a lot about Grandpa Mose.  The stories that he shared with me were epic.  Following is one story as told by Melvin Jackson.

MORE LEGACY

“Mose Robinson had a lot of sons.  They were responsible for the farm even when Mose was on his herb gathering trips.  Mose was also a master carpenter and architect.  He designed and built the family church, County Line Baptist Church in Sunny South, Alabama.”“The pastor and members decided to have a fish fry as a fundraiser.  Mose Robinson became enraged because they held the fish fry inside of the church instead of outside.  He considered this as blasphemy,  so he and his boys went inside with their horses and trampled down the tables, chasing everyone out.  The pastor called the local sheriff.  The sheriff found and arrested the boys who were involved, but didn’t bother arresting Mose.”

“When the time came for the field to be harvested, Mose Robinson got on his horse and went to the jail, which was located in Grove Hill.  He told the sheriff, who had a reputation of killing black people without a thought, that he wanted his sons.   He explained that they needed to get the crop in,  but he would return them after they completed the job.  The sheriff complied and released them.”

I’m sure that Grandpa Mose had his whip with him when he went to get his sons, but why would the county sheriff release these young black men to their father on his word? Was it fear or respect?  My quest for family continues as I dig to find out more about Mose Robinson and the “white” woman that he married, Luvenia Poole.

 RESEARCH IMPLICATIONS

From the stories that I’ve shared, there are several research implications.   I’ve posed some in question format, but I will restate them and list others.

1. How did Mose Robinson become an herb doctor? (See theories below)

2. U.S. Census records indicate that he was born at the end of the Civil War, around 1865, so how did he acquire this skill after 1865?  Locate and research the possible attendance in Reconstruction schools.

3. Was he taught this or was it handed down as an African or Native American legacy?  Oral history has it that –

a. Mose was handed this from his African heritage according to his number within the family, meaning that as the last son, it was his legacy.

b. Some oral history has it that he is a descendant of the Black Dutch.  Research the history of Black Dutch and locations.

c. Others believe that he was from the Black Indians from South Carolina or North Caroline.  Research birth place of parents and grandparents.

4. Search for land grants and tax records

5. Search Alabama Convict Records for names of his sons who might have been arrested.

6. Search all U.S. and state Census records for specified time frame and areas to include but not exclude:  Sunny South (Bethel), Choctaw Corner, Thomasville, other areas of Wilcox and Clarke Counties)

 

 

 

Mose Robinson, the Herb Doctor with a Whip

Everything that I knew about Mose Robinson came from Granddaddy, and Granddaddy didn’t have anything good to say about his daddy. Granddaddy described him as a very dark-skinned man who was an herb doctor. He often said that Mose Robinson would leave his mother to go get herbs, taking off on his horse, and it would take him years to return. Granddaddy talked about how his mother, Luvenia Poole, gave up everything to be with this black man. As a young child, I didn’t know what to think of what Granddaddy was saying. Granddaddy was apparently angry with his father, but why? Also, I couldn’t understand why it would take years to gather herbs. These were question that I would answer as a genetic genealogist.

Based on Granddaddy’s description, my image of Mose Robinson was that of a very stern man who rode a horse and healed people with herbs. Then, the question came that changed my perspective of Mose and my family. This is the question that led me to be the genetic genealogist that I am today. The question was, “Do you know who your great grandmother was?” This question was posed to me and my first cousin, Lonnie, in our high school geometry class by our teacher, Coach W. Fair Anderson. She and I looked at each other in bewilderment. Lonnie was extremely shy around most people except for me, so I took the liberty of answering for both of us. “Yes”, I proudly said. “Her name was Luvenia Poole.” Granddaddy had told me this when I was a small child, and he expanded on this family history when I was ten. Then, Coach Anderson quipped, “Do you know that she was a white woman?” Again, I held up my head in a defiant manner as our other classmates looked shockingly on for a reply. “I believe that she was mixed, white and Native American.” “No, he shouted, she was a white woman! She wasn’t mixed with nothing but white”, he said. “Go home and ask your granddaddy.” I was confused, while the class was ecstatic that so much time had been taken on this subject. I was also shocked that he knew my granddaddy.

The next day, Coach Anderson once again delayed class to find out what I had discovered and to add more to the saga. I told him that Granddaddy’s reply was that she had no “black” in her, but he thought she was mixed with something. After denying that she was mixed, Coach Anderson moved on to Mose Robinson.
“She was married to your great granddaddy Mose Robinson. White folk didn’t like it when he came here with her, but they were afraid of him.” I inquired as to why they were afraid. He said, “Mose had a whip, and he knew how to use it. If anybody said anything to him about his wife, he would whip him to death! So, they stayed away from Mose unless they needed his healing”.

I’m not sure what Coach Anderson’s intentions were by asking us that question. I’ve often wondered if this “white” woman was related to him. Why was he so knowledgeable about her, and why was he so passionate when he described my great grandparents? How did he know Granddaddy?

Whatever his intentions, he lit a fire in me to know more about these people. What happened in geometry spilled over into other classes. Biology, Latin, history, and my Old Testament Bible class became genetic genealogy preparation classes and launched my quest for family.

Let It Be So!

To be able to piece together the fragments and reconstruct family history, it’s important to be able to write a narrative for various time periods.  To write a narrative, the family historian and researchers must collaborate by sharing oral histories; facts, such as, historical data and biographies; and genetic DNA data.

Most of my narratives come from childhood conversations with my mother and my paternal grandfather, Sandy Robinson, or Zan, as he is  affectionately known.  However,  I have memories of past conversations that I overheard by tentatively listening to grown folk business.  Sometimes I find a quiet place where I can recall conversations with Granddaddy and other elders.   These memories become the basis of my research.  The following story is an example of a reoccurring memory that continues to guide my research.  It’s what we genealogists call a brick wall.

An older man at church recently told me that he discovered that I was related to some of his neighbors in the Clay Hill Community (1).  He was amused about their description of me as a child.  They told him how I use to love to sit and listen to older people talk, and they would shoo me outside to play with the other children. However, I would sneak back inside and hide underneath a table so that I could continue to listen to their conversation. That is so true! I was three years old to maybe five during this time.  Yes, young, but these were my under the table days.  As I grew older, I would find a quiet corner with a book and pretend to be reading.  The elders were so interesting! I didn’t want to play.  I wanted to hear what they were talking about, and I’ve used so much of what I heard from these conversation as a genealogist.

When I was about five, I overheard them talking about family members who had moved to Gary, Indiana. There was excitement in their voices. These family members were going to join some other kinfolk who had already moved and were making a good living working in the coal mines (2).  They were excited because these relatives had experienced hardship since their move from Alabama to the northern cites.   Later, I recalled them talking about their Jackson cousins who had children who were making it in the music business.  Sitting on the floor at Granddaddy’s feet, listening to the radio, I learned that the group’s name was the Jackson Five. Granddaddy told me that one of them was about my age.  Of course, I was more than a little surprised but thrilled to know that I was related to this group of talented young people.   It turned out that the little boy was Michael.

I decided to ask my dad if this was true whenever he visited us for the weekend.  I knew that these exciting people couldn’t be related to us. I just knew that Granddaddy had it wrong.  We couldn’t be related to famous people, but I really wished for it to be so.  Granddaddy was always telling me stories about famous people who were suppose to be our cousins, like a blind boy by the name of Ray Charles Robinson.  At the time, I didn’t know anything about Ray Charles until Granddaddy told me that there was trouble in the family. That’s what he would say when someone died or something bad happened.  One time the trouble was the boy went blind.  Another time the trouble was that one of the children drowned.

When I asked some of the elders about some of Granddaddy’s accounts, they would dismiss his stories as though they were fictional. Therefore, I wouldn’t pay much attention to him even though I always tucked his talks with me away in my private memory box.  I didn’t understand that Granddaddy knew what he was talking about until I saw the movie! Still skeptical, I kept this in my memory box.

Getting back to the Jackson family.    When Daddy came, I asked him about the Jackson Five. To my surprise, he said, “Yes, they are.” What?! How? He told me, but until this day, I can’t remember.  I thought it might be because of Aunt Mary who had married a Jackson, but through my research, I’ve  learned that that’s not the connection.   However, it’s possible that there is a double relationship through her husband.  I think the reason that I can’t remember is because of what he said next.  He said, “They are even more kin to Eric and Lisa.  Eric and Lisa were my childhood friends just as the rest of my cousins were who were closer to my age. I was shocked! What? How can that be possible?  Eric and Lisa are the children of my daddy’s sister, Rito (3).   Curious, I tucked that piece of information away in my memory box.

The genetic genealogist’s dream is to have oral history proven to be factual.   If this Jackson brick wall can tumble based upon oral history lining up with genetics, let it be so!

To bring down this brick wall, I’m using a combination of oral history and genetic genealogy.  Questions that need to be answered –

1) Are we related to any of the surnames connected to the Jackson Five, including the name,  Jackson? This requires researching their paternal and maternal lines.

2) Could Aunt Rito’s children be a closer match based upon a paternal line rather than their maternal line?  This requires researching their paternal line.

3) Who are the relatives who moved during each time period?  This requires researching census data, interviewing the elders who discussed this with the gentleman from church, and writing a period narrative based upon this information

4) How can DNA test results be used to aid in answering these questions?  This requires DNA test results of family members.

I will reveal initial results on the next blog of My Quest for Family.

Notes:

  1. Clay Hill is a community on the Clarke and Marengo County lines.   Although it has a Marengo County  zipcode, it is within the  Thomasville, Alabama area code.  It’s listed as Pineville on U.S. Census records.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clay_Hill,_Alabama,  https://alabama.hometownlocator.com/al/marengo/clayhill.cfm
  2. Many people moved during the Great Migration to cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh.  The Boll weevil epidemic also caused large numbers of African Americans to migrate from Alabama.  Read more here: Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh
  3. Various spellings include Reto and Rhetta.   Names spellings are significant as they often point to a familial name practice.

The Quest for Family: Politics and Blood by Angelis Robinson – Smith

Me III’ve met many people on my quest for family.  The stories of their lives have left me with varied emotions, and I’ve come to realize that they were as different and as complex as the results of my ethnicity reports.  They are people   worship places.  I rejoice with them when they rejoice over the birth of a baby or celebrate a wedding, and I grieve with them when they grieve over the loss of a loved one or the loss and destruction of property.  They are the life blood of the fabric of my being and that of my descendants, so I passionately search for them to restore honor and respect to the memory of their lives.

Those same memories flooded my mind on December 12, 2017, as I stood in my voting place to cast my choice for United States senator.   The race had received unprecedented media attention, and millions of people had watched as the last hundred years had seemed to roll back to a time of Old South Jim Crow bigotry and racism during the heated senatorial race.    After the polls closed, people across the world watched with anticipation for the final results; and the entire world was stunned when Alabamians, led by an unprecedented turn-out of African American females, had unified in electing the first democratic senator from the state since 1992.

As I had cast my vote, I had wondered how many of my ancestors, standing as emancipated citizens to cast their votes, had yearned for and anticipated change.  Later, on the eve of Martin Luther King Day, I began to contemplate the roles my ancestors might have played in civil rights, voting rights, freedom rides, and the march across Edmund Pettus Bridge.  The thought was exhilarating, and I began to search my family history for clues.  As a historian, I am familiar with post-Civil War history and the Reconstruction Act passed on March 23, 1867, requiring all male citizens 21 years and older to register to vote before September 1, 1867.    Black men across the nation had rushed to register to vote just as I had remembered my parents had done in 1966.  I imagined that my ancestors were among the excited, formerly disenfranchised citizens, eager to register and take the loyalty oath in exchange for the vote.

Sugar Shack 1966

VOTERS IN PEACHTREE, ALABAMA 1966

The caption reads, “Negroes flock to this polling place in rural, Blackbelt, Alabama 5/3, as they vote in large numbers for the first time in history. Typical of rural polling places is the “Sugar Shack” a small store in Wilcox County where Negroes outnumber whites almost 3 to 1.” National Archives, Records of the United States Information Agency Retrieved 1/27/2018

Electoral history in my family tree

Reviewing my family tree, I found a note to self to research a name on my Norwood branch. The name was Ella Norwood.  Oral history suggested that she may have married a local politician.  To my amazement, I found Ella on my research tree married to Jerry Haralson in 1870.  I had overlooked the fact that “Jerry” was the same Jeremiah Haralson who had been among the first ten African Americans to serve in the United States Senate.  His rise to political office had been as volatile as that of the recent Senate race between Doug Jones and Roy Moore.

Jeremiah Library of CongressJeremiah was born a slave in Muscogee County, Georgia on April 1, 1846.  In 1859, he was purchased by an attorney, John Haralson, from Selma, Alabama.  After Jeremiah was freed in 1865, he taught himself to read and write.  Before he married Ella Norwood on June 18, 1870, he had already entered the political arena as a controversial figure.  Instead of joining the Republican party as most black men had done, he joined the Democratic Party that was hated by freed blacks because they viewed the party as being comprised of former slave owners, Confederate soldiers, and the institution that had wanted them  to remain in bondage.  Some have suggested that Jeremiah was a double agent, acting to recruit people away from the Democratic Party into the Republican Party.  Although Haralson made his first unsuccessful bid for Congress at age 22 in 1868 as a Democrat, by 1869, he had formally switched parties.

In 1870, the Republican Party selected Haralson to preside over the district convention.  Benjamin S. Turner, also from Selma, Alabama, was nominated and became the first African American from Alabama to serve in Congress.  By 1872, Jeremiah Haralson had been elected as a Republican member of the Alabama State Senate after serving in the Alabama House of Representatives from 1870 until 1872.  He navigated a civil rights bill through the state senate that was ignored by the Alabama State House of Representatives. Nevertheless, Haralson was on solid ground for the United States senate race and was described by a local newspaper as “…perhaps feared more than any other colored man in the legislature in Alabama.” 1

In 1874, campaigning on a civil rights platform, Haralson won the Republican nomination in the district formerly represented by Representative Turner, which stretched across western Alabama including Selma and a large portion of central Alabama’s Black Belt.  Haralson became a member of the Forty-Fourth Congress and the third African American Republican congressman from Alabama.  However, Haralson lost the 1876 campaign upon the expectation of violence, federal troops at the polling places, gerrymandering, and a split Republican ticket between Haralson and another former black Representative, James Rapier from Montgomery, Alabama.

First Black Senators and Reps with caption

In 1878, Haralson returned to favor and won the nomination of the Republican Party.  However, according to the Chicago Daily Tribune, the racial prejudices in the district were so extreme, white Democrats preferred “to see the Devil himself in Congress rather than Haralson.”2.   Consequently, Haralson lost the election to Democrat Charles M. Shelley.  Shelley was a former Confederate general and the sheriff of Selma, Alabama.  When Haralson complained that his ballots had been thrown out, Shelley supporters jailed Haralson’s witnesses, falsified charges, and attempted to imprison Haralson and his lawyer.  Haralson fled for his life to Washington, D.C. after he was attacked on the road between Selma and Montgomery.  Eventually, Haralson returned to Alabama around 1912, but later moved westward to Colorado where he died in 1916 as a result of being attacked by wild animals.  No death certificate was ever filed.

Although the struggle has been difficult, black men and women continue to register to vote.   Many of these brave people are my ancestors. They have established themselves as strong leaders leaving a legacy for generations to come.

Footnotes:

  • Schweninger and Fitts, “Haralson, Jeremiah,” ANB. Quoted in Christopher, Black Americans in Congress: 134, and Middleton, ed., Black Congressmen During Reconstruction:116.
  • “Alabama,” 14 October 1878, Chicago Tribune: 2.

References:

http://time.com/5062625/doug-jones-alabama-senate-results-upset/(January 27, 2018)

History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, “HARALSON, Jeremiah,” http://history.house.gov/People/Detail/14507 (January 25, 2018)

http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-3270 (January 25, 2018)

History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, “Black Americans in Congress,” http://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/BAIC/Black-Americans-in-Congress/ (January 27, 2018)

Alabama, Select Marriages, 1816-1957, Jerry Haralson and Elen Norwood, https://search.ancestry.com/

Alabama, Voter Registration, 1867, https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/63917452/person/34347159726/facts

1870 United States Census, Dallas County, Orville, p.31.

Image of Jeremiah Haralson courtesy Library of Congress (January 25, 2018)

Following the Governors with Ben Ogle Part 1

Family trees on Ancestry.com are the best when it comes to researching family history.  However, it’s like batting flies in the wind if you haven’t taken a DNA test. DNA results are the footprints in the genealogical sand of self discovery. For African Americans, that’s very important because most of us have no documented history past our grandparents or great grand parents, if we are lucky.  Again, that’s true for most of us. There are some African Americans who can rattle off family history back five or six generations. Now, that’s what I’m trying to do for my family.

In my last blog, I presented my DNA results from two companies, AncestryDNA and 23andMe.  It may have appeared that I was unsatisfied with my results; however, nothing could be further from the truth. I am the cheer leader of DNA  testing. As a matter of fact, without DNA testing, I would still be trying to figure out who I am. Therefore, I am proud and over joyed with my African ancestry as well as the other parts of me.

DNA testing has led me to discover many of my ancestors, so follow me on my journey to find out the identity of Ben Ogle. Is it possible that he’s my great, great, great grandfather? At this point, I can’t say that he is grandfather’s ancestor or that of my grandmother. He may be connected to both. Let’s find out.

I first met Ben Ogle while searching for my Horn and Poole family connections, but they had his last name as Odom. I knew that I was related to the Odom,  so I made a mental note of his name ( I have since learned to write everything down,). however, at this point, I had no knowledge of him or that he may be an ancestor.  There was a story about him attached to the tree of one of our Ely cousins. I was intrigued by the story, but at the time I didn’t see how it was applicable to me. Then, in the dark musty research room within the Clarke County Courthouse, I finally found the records of enslavement of my Horn and Robinson family.  It was a dark, cloudy day, but the room suddenly brightened. I had been looking for these records for almost a year, and here they were in the will of John Russell Robertson (Robinson) of South Carolina.  I must detour here to explain how finding these records led me to Ben Ogle.

John Russell Robertson had left certain slaves to his children. One of his daughters, Sarah Robinson, married Josiah Horn.  Among slaves willed to Sarah were Edy, Gabe, Lottie, Nancy, and Spencer.  There were others, but these are the ones that are significant to this post. Nancy was only six months old when she was taken from her mother, Edy, and sent to the Horn Plantation.  Spencer was about six years old as was Lottie. Spencer went to the Horn Plantation while Lottie was sent with Gabe to the plantation of another of Russell Robinson’s daughter, Martha Adeline Moseley. It’s possible that Mose Robinson’s mother, Catheryn Moseley, was also on that plantation, and it’s possible that Mose Robinson was conceived there between 1863 – 1865.

Edy later married Daniel Robinson who later changed his name to Daniel Banks. Edy and Daniel are the progenitors of the Robinson, Banks, and Allen families of Clarke County.  Nancy later married Henry Love1 and became the progenitor of Love, Harris, McCall, Carmichael, and McCants as well as the Horn families of Clarke and Wilcox Counties.  It appears that Henry Love1 left Clarke and Wilcox Counties with the Robinsons sometime around 1880, for Texas.

Now, back to the discovery of Ben. When Nancy was sent to the Horn plantation, she was only six months old. A six month old baby has not yet been weaned, so there had to be someone there to take care of the baby and to continue to nurse her. As I followed the path of Nancy, I found Betsy Horn (more about her later). As I followed Betsy, I found Ben Ogle, not Odom, living with his daughter and her husband, Granville Foreman. Granville later changed his surname (last) name to Lynum.

By now, I had received my DNA results from AncestryDNA. Recall that I was overwhelmed with all of the trees with names that I had never heard. Well, I had been invited by a cousin, Regina, to a Facebook group, DNA Tested African Americans. It was here that I learned to use valuable tools and information like DNA trees. Two years ago, I had about twenty fourth cousin matches on Ancestry, and hundreds of cousins beyond the fourth cousin match.  I found Regina in the later. I found my connection to Ben Ogle in the former group. One set each of my thirty-two great, great, great grand parents were there in the trees of my twenty plus cousins. By the way, at this time, my fourth cousin matches were all white. It was another year, testing with 23andMe, and meeting Stephanie Renee before I would totally understand the importance of the trees of my fourth cousins. I now have over forty fourth cousins with only five of them being of African American descent.

While searching the Addison surname from my tree, in an attempt to match Stephanie’s tree, I kept running into the same trees and families, so I decided to Google the names. To my amazement, the names Ogle, Tasker, and Addison were all connected to governors of the State of Maryland. In addition,  they were the same names found in the family trees of my cousins on Ancestry.

Next, I started to research these families to find out if their stories would lead me to my Ben Ogle and Alabama. Yes! I found several stories that seem to document part of the oral history for Ben Ogle. As a matter of fact, the factual story matches my DNA! In addition, I found relatives that match me on several chromosomes that further document the heredity. DNA is awesome and it provides a documented, genealogical footprint that leads to an identity that is not just one – hundred or even five – hundred years ago. It leads all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

Follow me to found out what I find! It’s simply amazing!

Looking for me in the spit: DNA Testing

It’s been a little more than two years since I took my first DNA test with AncestryDNA™, and I still remember the headaches that I got, trying to sort through the matches and what they meant to me. Now, two years later, I’m still a little confused, and I’ve taken another test with 23andMe, Inc. This past year both my mother and my sister have also tested with 23andMe. I can say that things have gotten a lot better. I can now identify some of my mothers relatives, and I have become friends with relatives that I call the two Stephanie’s and another one that I call Gina. They are like bloodhound on this trip. If a relative is to be found they will find him/her. What I like about the three of them is that they are like me. We are not pretentious, and we don’t have to put ourselves out there to be noticed. We just quietly do what we do and the ancestors show up! We have all learned a lot from the DNA spit that we sent to the labs. I want to expose some specific lessons about my ancestors that I’ve learned these past two years.

What I Know

I still don’t have proof of my biological grandfathers, but I know my grandmothers.  Therefore, I learned that it’s best to start with what you know. My paternal grandmother was Bertha Foreman. She was from Indian Ridge, Alabama. From oral history, I was told that she was part Native American.  I remember that my dad had a photograph of her when she was about fifteen years old. She was dressed in Native American apparel with a native head band around her head.  Her hair had been braided in two plaits, one on each side.  From the photograph, it appeared that she was attending some type of celebration.  The odd thing was that the photograph was hidden underneath some things. When I asked my father about why it was hidden, he wouldn’t answer. I got the impression, after asking my grandfather about the portrait, that it was better not to let people know that you were Native American.

My grandfather gave me a bag of Indian coins once to take to school for show and tell. After school, the kids and one of the teachers, snatched the bag from me and took almost all of the coins.  I was of the first group of African American children to attend the all white elementary school. I had mixed emotions of anger, hurt, and disbelief over this episode.  To this day, I can’t believe what happened and that this would happen to me, a sixth grader, at a public school.  I was so afraid to tell grand daddy, but when I did, he just laughed and said he knew that would happen. He was not angry at all, and said he had more coins put away, and he showed me some other native artifacts.  I knew at that point that we were descendants of Native Americans. However, when I received my first DNA results from AncestryDNA™, there was not a hint of Native American DNA reported. I was more than a little disturbed. I was irate!  Why would they withhold my true results. The feelings from sixth grade came flooding back. I felt as if something had been stolen from me again.  They only reported that I was sub Saharan African and Scandinavian.   This told me nothing, so I decided to test with another company.

My test results with 23andMe were a little better, but not as much as I thought.  Below are my ethnicity results from 23andMe.

My 23andme snip2

So, what happened to the “Indian” in me? As of December 2013, 23andMe started to report only .7% NA and 1.2% total East Asian and Native. Several months ago the percentages were higher.  I could give you a genetics lesson on recombination, but I would rather like to provide a word to express my true feelings; thus, allowing you to read between the lines. That word is poppycock!  Suddenly, 23andMe was reporting my ethnicity as Non- specific sub Saharan African, European, and Asian.  At least 30% of me couldn’t be accounted for, which left me feeling a little bewildered. What happened?

I still longed for more. Why couldn’t at least one company tell me to which tribes I belonged? Why were there suddenly major blank pages in my story?  In the meantime, Ancestry was working on their revisions. They had promised to show a breakdown of African American ethnicity, and they were true to their promise as shown below. As a matter of fact, it appeared to me, and is of my own opinion, that the two companies had a meeting of the minds on the Native American issue.  Their results were similar, but still questionable.

Ancestrydna NA Asian Europe Results African Ancestrydna Results

Although I am not totally satisfied with these results, I am definitively closer to discovering family than I was. As a matter of fact, some of my cousins and I have already connected some dots and confirmed our kinship. You will hear more about that in the days to come.  First, I want to fill some gaps for my cousins who may be reading this blog here or in our Facebook group.  I hope to encourage some of you to take a DNA test to see how you match with me or other DNA test family members. If you want to know more, just contact me. I’m here to help.

The next blog will discuss the possible connections of Ben Ogle to at least three Maryland governors.  See you on the next quest for family!

Incognito Needles

Equipped with certain tools that I deemed necessary for success in my quest to find granddaddy, I set off with enthusiasm. Then, I ran into my first haystack. This haystack was full of needles disguised as names.  You heard me, names. As I mentioned, I thought I had the proper equipment to begin a successful dig; however, when I got to the site, I found that I was ill equipped.

Let me explain. My equipment included the names of my paternal grandparents, Sandy and Bertha Foreman Robinson; and my paternal great grandparents, Mose and Luvenia Poole Robinson.  However, none, absolutely none, of these names were spelled the way I had imagined. I didn’t know who I was looking for, and if you don’t know who, you don’t know how!

You see, it was November 2003, five years after the death of my father and only days before his birthday. I had promised myself that I would know his family, so I sat at my computer and typed each name. Nothing happened.  Numerous and various names appeared but none familiar to me. Then, slowly the name Bertha appeared, but nothing significant or related to my Bertha. Defeated, I gave up with the promise to return when I could devote more time to the endeavor.

Thus, in August of 2011, I retired. My first priority after getting my baby girl off to the University of Alabama was to start my search again. This time my search was better. There in black and white were the names of my grandmother, Bertha and her family, but there It was again, that haystack of needle, incognito names. I never knew my grandmother’s mother’s name, and I’m not sure that I  know it now, but one thing’s for sure, I didn’t recognize this name at all.  The penmanship was, to say the least, different.  I don’t even want to discuss the other names in this blog – too much!  This was my first painful needle experience, but years of teaching English and reading thousands of essays had prepared me. I was determined to decipher the code before me; at least I needed to know the name of my grandmother’s mother.  To do this I needed something to compare. I searched each page of the 1900 Census for Indian Ridge (Anderson), Clarke County, Alabama to determine letter styles and patterns until  I was certain that the name before me was Emma! My great grandmother’s name was Emma Foreman.

Emma Foreman, head of Household

Emma Foreman, Head of Household

Feeling brave I entered Mose Robinson into the search box. There were no 1870 records nor 1880 records for Mose Robinson, but there he was in 1900, with a number of spellings for Mose and Robinson – Moses, Robertson (stick, stick).  I would not have been able to find that record had it not been for some family explorer who had braved the journey before me looking for Mary Robinson, the sister of my granddaddy. Therefore, the needles were not too painful until I started to look closely at the record. Who was Sovanus? That couldn’t possibly be my granddaddy! Then, I looked further, and at the end of the record I saw the name, Cathern Mosley, Mother. Whoa!!! Where did Mosley come from? I had never heard that name connected with my family before, and I  grew up with a town full of Mosley’s.  Who was Silva Pool? Where was the Olivia Pool that I had heard about all of my life?  Needles were flying everywhere. As a matter of fact, they were more like minute missiles, and I had to duck if I were going to make it through this trip. Oh well, time to call in reinforcements.

1900 Census Mose Robinson

Mose Robinson, Head; Catherine Moseley; Silvia Pool, Lodger

Looking for the Needles

I knew that to understand Granddaddy, I had start looking for those needles, and I knew there were going to be a lot of  haystacks to look through.  However, the option of not searching was not an option. I had to start the process. It was like a strong pull by some force that I couldn’t control.  I was both excited and fearful. I didn’t know what to expect, but I had to know. What if I discovered that I was not a Robinson? What if found out that I was really adopted? All kinds of crazy thoughts filled my mind. It didn’t matter; I had to know. When I was ten, I started to make my own clothes. I didn’t use a sewing machine. I used sewing needles to make them.  I quickly discovered that needles hurt. I would have tiny needle pricks on my fingers, and they would bleed on some occasions. What does this have to do with Granddaddy? Well, the process of finding Granddaddy has been just as painful, but I finally started the search. Why painful? I discovered that when you start to search your family history, you may discover things that are uncomfortable, information  in contrast to what you were taught, or new information unknown to anyone.  However, what has caused the most pain has been the refusal of family to accept the truth.  They would rather live a lie and  in darkness than to be free by knowing the truth.  Then, there are those who don’t want to know because it’s not coming from them.  It’s important that we know who we are and where we came from. We make the same mistakes over and over; our child fall in the same pattern, and they make the same mistakes that we tried to shield them from. Why, because none of us know who we are. Well, I’m on this journey, and I have decided that I am going to keep looking even if it causes some to be uncomfortable or angry.  I’ve accepted the fact that I may lose some family and friends along the way, but I’ve already found so many more – family that I never knew I had. I invite all of my family along for the ride. You may become a little shaken along the way, but I promise this is going to be a trip that you will never  forget!

Neddle In A Haystack

Finding out about granddaddy  is like finding a needle in a haystack. Hmmm. Why is it so difficult? He always had a mysterious air about him. Although a quiet man, he also could become quite agitated, especially about death, calling it trouble in the family. My parents told me stories of how he sold the family property because he thought that he was dying. Thousands, well maybe hundreds, of acres gone. He called all of the family together to see him off. Sisters, brothers, aunts,uncles, and cousins hastily arrived by train, bus, horse, and foot to see Granddaddy off to a better place. Hours passed, and Granddaddy lingered on. Into the midnight hours of the next day, it was obvious that Granddaddy was here to stay a little while longer. So, what really happened? Why did Granddaddy sell his land, leaving his children with nothing? The search continues.

Who Was Granddaddy?

My granddaddy was Sandy C. Robinson, Sr. He was born Sovannus C. Robinson, but he didn’t like his name, so he changed it.

Me at 5I was six years old when I discovered that my grandfather was special. That was when I found out that he had the power to heal.  When I was six, I found out that bed-wetting was not acceptable. Every night I would say the prayer that my mother taught me. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the lord, my soul to take”. Then I would pray extra hard, “Lord please don’t let me pee in the bed tonight”.

I prayed that prayer every night, and every night, I wet the bed. I just didn’t know how God could save my soul when I was suffering from peeing in the bed. But, I prayed and believed that He was going to help me, so I lay down to sleep and dreamed that I was using the bathroom and not wetting the bed. Then, my sweet dreams would turn to cold and wet , and I would awake to find myself lying in a puddle of pee.

While I was somewhat ashamed and didn’t like the feel of lying in a wet bed, I resolved to continue to pray until Sweet Jesus answered my prayers, but my mother decided that she had to do something to remedy the problem. Her remedy was the horror that made me pray harder but pee more. You see, she felt that if she told me that she would hang my wet sheets out for the world to see, I would miraculously stop. Well, she was wrong. This threw me in such a tizzy until my demure grandfather sought me out to determine the cause of my sudden nervousness and agitation. Stunned that Granddaddy asked, I blurted out my troubles. That night he came to my bedside with a foul smelling concoction that he demanded that I drink. The taste was worse than the smell, but I drank. He then said, “You won’t pee in the bed again.”

Really? Did my granddaddy really have the power to make me stop wetting the bed? This is what I asked as I drifted off to sleep, without saying my prayers, without praying extra hard to stop wetting the bed and as I thought, “I hope I don’t die before I wake.”  I awoke the next morning to dry sheets. I jumped out of the bed and ran to Granddaddy’s house. “Granddaddy, I didn’t wet the bed”. He looked at me with that sly smile on his face. “Granddaddy, what did you give me?” He had mentioned the name the night before but now I was interested. “Swamp Root”, he said.  He even told me where it came from. He had made it himself.

I didn’t really care where it came from. I was just happy that I had been cured. Who was granddaddy? How did he cure me? To me, my granddaddy held some secrets that no one else knew about. He was magical. He was probably even a prince from a faraway land. Yes, Uncle Zan, as he was known, was somebody special, and I was determined to find out who he was!