Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Time Traveling Along the Whaley Family Tree

Well, you know the first thing I did after visiting with my paternal grandfather was spend a few days researching my Whaley family roots. I'm actually surprised by how far back I was able to go in such a short amount of time! Armed with his memories, birth certificates that connect me to his dad (my great-grandfather), and the census and vital records available on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, I have a pretty credible chain that takes me back to a man named Joe Whaley, who was born about 1823! This makes him - my 3x Great-Grandfather - one of the earliest relatives on my family tree!

Here's a quick and dirty climb up the family tree, starting with my Great-Grandfather, Morris Lee Whaley. (Note: Because my grandfather is still alive, I'm not posting his personal information here. This is my general rule on this blog, for privacy's sake.)

This is the 1920 Census for Morris, living in Baker County, Georgia. He's barely a teenager - 13 years old - and living with his parents, my 2x Great-Grandparents, Kit and Grace Whaley:

He can also be found in Kit and Grace's household in 1910, though his name is written as "Moise," "Maise" or something similar. Given his age and the presence of siblings he would be close to, and even follow out of state, once they set off as adults, I have little doubt that this is him. His death certificate also gives Kit and Grace as his parents.

So, let's jump back a generation. And this is a 40-year jump. Here's Kit Whaley (sometimes listed as Kip or Kib. Or Kirt or Kitt, because, well, you know how it is!). It's 1880 and he's 23 years old, helping out his parents Joe and Sue Whaley as a farm laborer. And if Kit's age here is correct (other documents suggest it is), he was born about 1856, making him a pre-Civil War ancestor. He - and his parents and older siblings - were probably born enslaved.

1880 Census, Baker County, Georgia

Now let's take a smaller jump back in time, to the earliest census record I have for the Whaleys: 1870. It's definitely the earliest one I have for Joe and Sue, my 3x Great-Grandparents. And it's probably also the earliest for my 2x Great-grandfather, Kit. But if you look closely, you'll see why I say "probably".

1870 Census, Baker County, Georgia

Yeah, instead of a male Kit, there's a female Kittie listed. (Oh Census gods, why do you do this to me??) The age is right. I guess it's possible that Kit had a twin sister, though there's no other evidence of that anywhere (although if you look again at 1880, you'll see there does appear to be a set of twins). More likely, the census taker simply got his or her info wrong, or perhaps the family was hesitant to provide information about their oldest son residing in the house at a time when tensions in the country were still running high. (1870 is during the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era. It was a time of great promise for African Americans, but also great hostility towards them, especially in the South.)

A few other things to note:
  • As with Morris' connection to Kit, Kit's death certificate is an additional piece of evidence naming Joe Whaley as his father.

  • If you look at the 1870 Census, you'll see that Joe, Sue and their older children are listed as having been born in South Carolina. While this isn't repeated on most other records I've found to date, the 1910 Census does list Kit and his mother as being born in SC. It's a possibility I'll have to explore. 

  • Looking at the ages of Joe and Sue's children, some were born during slavery and others after. Assuming Sue was enslaved, can you imagine, bringing free children into the world after having born children during slavery?

  • As with other branches of my family - and so many other African American families as well - it seems the Whaley story is one of moving north for a chance at a better, safer future. As my grandfather tells it, when his father Morris was a young man, the family actively worked to get its young men out of the south. Racial violence was heating up - including lynchings - and they wanted their sons out of such clear danger. Between 1920 and 1924, two of Morris' brothers had moved to Steubenville, Ohio, and Morris himself arrived by 1930. My grandfather says as each family member moved north, they worked to pave the way for someone else to join them. By 1934 at least one sister had it to Ohio, and by 1940, two more of Morris' brothers had joined them, meaning at least 6 Whaley siblings made the move north from Georgia in a little over a decade.

Obviously there's a lot more to learn about my Whaley ancestors. And I haven't even touched on my grandfather's mother's family yet! We'll see what else I find; as usual, stay tuned for more documents, and hopefully the stories behind them!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Midwestern Snaps and Surnames

Chicago, the final stop of my Midwestern trip

I'm just settling in back home after a pretty interesting (and at times super fun) week-long trip to the Midwest. I hung out with my grandmother in Ohio and got to show her a few yearbook pictures of her and her siblings that she hadn't seen in years (score one for the internet!). Then my aunt and I went on a mini-road trip to West Virginia for the main purpose of my trip: interviewing her father, my grandfather, about his family history. And finally, I swung past Chicago for a great few days of catching up with a college friend, meeting her husband for the first time (I was at the wedding, but he was a *bit* busy), and loving up on their adorable baby girl. It was a good trip! Here are a few snaps and notes:

This is my great-uncle Ray West pictured as a first grader in Yorkville, Ohio! 
He is one of four siblings pictured in the 1954 Ductillite, Yorkville High School's yearbook. 
(Second row, far right, look for the chocolatey male.) 
Adorable, right? 

Ancestry.com. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

The hills of West Virginia, viewed from my paternal grandfather's home.
The Ohio River Valley, on both sides of the river, has been home to many members of my paternal family in recent generations.

My aunt, my grandfather and I took an "usie"to commemorate the trip.
This was our first meeting in over 20 years. But now that we're talking family history, we'll be keeping in touch. From him, I now know the names of my paternal great-grandparents, their other children, and assorted aunts and uncles, and know I need to be searching Georgia and Virginia for more info. Among other surnames, I'll be researching Whaley (of course), and Littlejohn. 

Oak Street Beach, on the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago.  
It may be blasphemy to even say the word Michigan when your family loves Ohio State, but I gotta tell ya, after a few days of planes, trains and automobiles, plus family history research, sitting on that beach with the warm sun on my skin, the sound of the waves breaking at the shoreline, a good magazine in my lap and a good friend by my side was a great way to spend an afternoon!

Now that the ball is rolling on my Whaley family research, stay tuned for more posts as I dig in! But with this plus Operation DC, and whatever lucky hits I get on my Evans and Harris families in Alabama and my Coopers in Georgia, I've got a lot on my research plate. Throw in one last international trip before my Year Off is over and an impending job search, and I've got a lot on my life plate, though, so please be patient with me!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Notes From the Ether: Life and Research Updates

I know it's been a little quiet (ok, very!) over here in KINterested land, so I'm here with a few updates.

A little over a year ago - September 2015 - I posted a list of genealogical hopes for my Year Off. Here we are, at the beginning of August 2016, and my Year Off is almost over. In fact, that's part of why I've been so quiet - with my time away from work running out, I've both been contemplating ideas for a final trip abroad and also beginning to think about job options and career possibilities.

For the first, I've finally decided to spend about 3 and a half weeks in Europe again, but this time exploring Denmark and The Netherlands. You'll find me writing about that over at my other blog, A Runs Away, beginning in late August.

As for the second, museum education remains one of my loves and I'm excited to dive back into catching up on what's happening in the field. But I'm remaining open to other possibilities that might be a good fit for my love of history, my organizational, research and leadership skills (wrenches arm out of socket patting self on back), and, frankly, my desire for that elusive thing called work-life balance. (Stop laughing - unicorns might not exist, but narwhals do! Which is to say, the perfect might not be possible, but surely I can get close!)

And as for my Genealogical To Do list from September, I've knocked quite a bit off the list. I've been digitizing my Grandma Doris' photo albums (s-l-o-w-l-y), I've been down to DC for 2 research trips, I've posted quite a few stories and mysteries here on KINterested, I've done a bit of long-distance Ohio research, I've reviewed some of my old research to search for mistakes and new research avenues, and I've researched in New Jersey and Alabama, and attended a family reunion in Georgia. I also attended the National Genealogical Society's Annual Family History Conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

And, as I type this, I'm sitting at the airport, heading out to Ohio, where I'll be traveling with my Aunt to West Virginia to visit my paternal Grandfather, someone I have never met as an adult, and met perhaps once as a child. This was a key part of my To Do list and I am finally making it happen.

I can't promise I'll post during this trip or immediately after, but I will follow-up. I'm looking forward to an interesting experience! Stay tuned...