Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Mapping a Migration: Coopers, Shepherds and Other Relations

In just over a week, I'm headed down to Georgia with my mom for her maternal family's biennial reunion. This year is extra special, because the Cooper-Cummings are gathering in Augusta, GA, and will have the opportunity to see our ancestral land - including land the family used to farm, land the family still owns, and even an old family cemetery. I am very excited!

I love going to these reunions anyway because not only are they a chance for me to meet distant relatives and learn more about family history, they're also a chance for all of my mom's siblings - the Shepherds - to get together and talk about their father's history. All of which means I need to be prepared 1) to ask the right questions to push my research along, and 2) to share what I've found since the last reunion.

All of this has prompted me to start a focused research project that I'm calling Operation DC. Washington, DC is where my grandparents Elnora Cooper and Louis Shepherd met, it's where my grandfather married the only maternal grandmother I was able to know (Doris Reid), where the Coopers migrated from Georgia, where my great-grandmother Katherine Shepherd moved from New Jersey to live with her aunt, and where my mom and her siblings were raised. There's quite a lot of my family history in that city!

For Step 1, I thought I'd focus on the who, what, when, and where of their lives in DC, with an eye towards the "where" especially. I've spent the past week or so recording and organizing every known address I've found from the time the first relative moved to the city until the year the last of my mom's siblings was born (1964). We're talking census records, city directories, deeds, and more!

The first result of that is this map, which is a simple visual of when people arrived in Washington, DC, and from where. It's not necessarily new information, but it's helpful - at least for me - to see it mapped out.

Clicking on a red marker will tell you the family or individual, their starting point, and a little about life at home. Clicking on the green line will tell you when (sometimes approximately) they arrived in DC and what they were up to after they arrived.

A few things:
  • The Coopers, Shepherds, and Allens/Ellises are my starting families - I am biologically descended from them, the Coopers through my mother's mother, the Shepherds and Allens/Ellises through my mother's father.
  • The Ferguson, Petite, Reeves, and Reid/Watkins families married into the above families.
  • With the possible exception of Oswald Petite, everyone came from a farming family and had done some work on a farm or in a farming household.
  • Members of each family had arrived in DC by the 1930s, putting them firmly in the Great Migration, which saw millions of African Americans move from the rural South to the urban North (and West and Midwest) during roughly the first half of the 20th Century.

As I continue with Operation DC, I'm looking forward to learning more about their schools, communities, jobs, and all of the other things that made up the context of their daily lives, especially given how different DC must have been from the farming communities where so many of them were raised! This is gonna take a while, but stay tuned as I use maps, timelines, photos and more to dig into these stories.

 And, as always, please share if you know something I don't!

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