Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Rufus Littlejohn, Not Quite a Horse Thief

One of the reasons I was so excited to find a document placing my 2x Great-Grandfather Rufus Littlejohn in Cleveland, Ohio in 1923 is because I'd recently found an interesting newspaper article about a man of the same name in the same place:



This snippet was carried in the 16 December 1922 edition of the Richmond Palladium and Sun-Telegram (Richmond, Indiana). Other stories from Ohio were also carried on the same page.

Given that there were no other Rufus Littlejohns in Cleveland at this time, this has to be my 2x Great-Grandfather. And, as I'll share in later posts, Rufus had a "colorful" stretch of years, so I had my suspicions as soon as I saw this article. I have so many questions about this incident! Was he actually trying to steal the horse? Is there a court or police record related to this? If so, what do they say? Who did the horse belong to? Where did Rufus take the horse? What did the horse's owner do when he or she discovered it missing?

I want the story so bad, y'all!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Differentiating Rufus Littlejohns, aka Making Charts Makes Me Happy

Spreadsheets are awesome for solving, or at least better understanding, genealogical problems. Once your information is organized, you can literally see things more clearly, make better inferences, and see where opportunities, possibilities and solutions may be. 

So as I've been trying to untangle Rufus Littlejohns to see if indeed my 2x Great Grandfather from South Carolina is the same man who passes in Pennsylvania in 1934 - or, if that PA Rufus is actually a second Rufus Littlejohn from South Carolina - I made a spreadsheet. Here is a simplified version:



“My” Rufus Littlejohn
PA Rufus Littlejohn
Other SC Rufus Littlejohn
Born
Abt. 1867
1867 or 1868
Abt. 1866
Parents
Strap and Eliza Littlejohn


1870
Draytonville, Union, SC


1880
Draytonville, Union, SC


1892

Kentucky

1895 - 1896

Cleveland, Cuyahoga, OH

1897

Pennsylvania

1900
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH

Limestone, Cherokee, SC
1902
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH


1904
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH


1906
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH


1908
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH


1910
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH

Limestone, Cherokee, SC
1914
Steubenville, Jefferson, OH


1920


Limestone, Cherokee, SC
1923
Cleveland, Cuyahoga, OH


1926
Deceased (per wife’s city directory listing). Alive  (per wife’s later obit).


1929
Deceased (per wife’s city directory listing). Alive  (per wife’s later obit).


1930
Alive  (per wife’s later obit).
Beaver Falls, Beaver, PA
Limestone, Cherokee, SC
1933
Dies (per wife’s later obit)


1934

Dies in Beaver County, PA
 (per own death certificate)

1940


Double Shoals, Cleveland, NC
Spouse(s)
Flora Virginia Woods, 1899 – at least 1911
Jane “Jennie” Alexander, legal marriage unknown, together about 1892 – 1897
Sarah “Sallie” Walker, together about 1889 – at least 1940
Known Siblings
Junius, Jilson, Hamlet, Anna, Franklin, Edward, Henrietta, Eva, King, Butler, Emanuel


Known Children
Raymond, Franklin, Gladys, Edward, Mary, Florence
Alma, Geneva (Eva), unnamed son
Edna, Alethia, Brownie ?, Eva, Clyde, Mattie, Amanda “Mandy,” Burt, Nathan, Hiliard, Govan, Myrtha or Murphy, Ethel
 

A couple of things stand out:

1. The other Rufus Littlejohn seems to consistently live in Limestone, Cherokee County, SC from 1900 to 1930. Even in 1940, when he lives in Double Shoals, Cleveland County, NC, all he's done is crossed the county line separating North and South Carolina - Cleveland County and Cherokee County share a border.
 

2. Meanwhile, my Rufus has traveled from South Carolina north to Steubenville, Ohio. Of the two, it seems much more likely that he is the one who would also spend time in Cleveland, OH and Beaver County, PA (which is along the Ohio River Valley northeast of Steubenville.


3. The PA Rufus is with his wife/children's mother Jane "Jennie" Alexander from about 1892 to 1897. In 1898, she marries someone else and in 1899, my Rufus marries someone else.

4. Meanwhile, the other SC Rufus has been with his wife from about 1889 to at least 1940. What re the chances he's living that successful of a double life, between 5 states (PA, OH, KY, SC/NC)?

5. Both the PA and SC Rufuses have a daughter named Eva. If not for the other evidence, this could be a complicating factor. But my Rufus names two of his sons after his brothers (Franklin and Edward), and...he has a sister named Eva. So if the PA Rufus is him, he's just continued this practice of naming a few children after his siblings. 

6. Finally, the other SC Rufus is still alive in 1940, as evidenced by the Federal Census. Meanwhile, both my Rufus and the PA Rufus die at approximately the same time, in 1933 or 1934, respectively. And given that 1) the year of my Rufus' death is provided in an obituary for his wife who passed 30 years later, and 2) his wife had begun referring to herself as widowed in the 1920s despite proof in other records that Rufus was still alive (she was apparently a "grass widow" or a woman abandoned by her husband), it's not unsurprising that the year would be off by a year. With likely little contact with their father so many years ago, what are the chances the child who wrote the obituary would get the exact year right? S/he was only off by 1 year.

All of this is circumstantial evidence. There is still no smoking gun. But, as there is no other death certificate that could be my Rufus Littlejohn, born in South Carolina in about 1867, and given all of the information above, I am comfortable declaring that my Rufus and the PA Rufus are indeed one and the same. 

So, what do you think? And do you, by chance, have the smoking gun? If so, I want to hear about it!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Rufus Hunt: Another Obit Strengthens the Case

In my quest to prove or disprove that a man who dies in PA in 1934 is one and the same with my 2x Great-Grandfather Rufus Littlejohn, I've been approaching the problem from several angles. I've been researching the PA Rufus' descendants using vital records, census schedules, and obituaries; researching a second Rufus Littlejohn born in South Carolina about the same time that my Rufus was born in that state; and seeing what else I can find about my Rufus' birth family and siblings to see if that opened any doors.

It was that last prong of research that lead to a very helpful finding. 

As you can see on his 1899 marriage certificate to my 2x Great-Grandmother Flora Woods, my Rufus' parents are Strap and Eliza Littlejohn, and he is from Union County, SC.



Jumping back in time to census records from Union County, SC in 1870 and 1880, you can find Rufus with his parents.

1870


1880



Of course, these records also gave me the names of a number of Rufus' siblings: Junius, Jilson, Hamlet, Anna, Franklin, Edward, Henrietta, Eva, King, Butler. Note the head of household for the family immediately below theirs in both years: Emanuel (Manuel) Littlejohn - he's Rufus' brother as well (confirmed via his Death Certificate).

So, I've spent the past few days using online records to dig into the stories of my Rufus' siblings. Lo and behold, I found two obituaries for his brother Edward, who passed 15 July 1923. Note that, as is customary, each names the deceased's surviving family:

Obituary for Edward Littlejohn, published in the Cherokee Times (Gaffney, SC) on 16 July 1923.

Obituary for Edward Littlejohn, published in the Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, SC) on 17 July 1923.

See our fun fact about Rufus? In 1923, he's living in Cleveland, Ohio! This is supported by a Cleveland, OH City Directory listing from 1922:



How does this help me? It puts my Rufus in a location where I know the PA Rufus had previously spent time. You see, several months ago, I found that the PA Rufus and his wife or partner Jane "Jennie" Alexander had a child together in Cleveland in 1895:


Here's that Rufus in the 1895-96 Cleveland City Directory (he also appears in the 1896-97 Directory, at 582 Broadway):


Is this a smoking gun? Definitely not. But in addition to drawing a geographic connection between these two men - my Rufus and PA Rufus - it also makes it much harder to believe that it's possible the PA Rufus could be the other South Carolina Rufus I have been exploring. That Rufus is living in Limestone, Cherokee County, SC every census year from 1900 to 1930. What are the chances he up and moved to Cleveland, Ohio both in the 1890s and in the 1920s, and returned to South Carolina each time? It's much easier - and more reasonable - to believe that my Rufus moved north from South Carolina and stayed there. In fact, I'll explore this more in my next post.

What do you think? Am I on the right path? Do you know something about Rufus Littlejohn or his family that I should know about? Please share in the Comments section below!



Saturday, December 23, 2017

Piecing Together the Pennsylvania Littlejohns

In my quest to either prove or disprove that a Rufus Littlejohn who dies in Beaver County, Pennsylvania in 1934 is the same Rufus Littlejohn from whom I'm descended, I've been seeking out obituaries to scour them for information. The hope was that the PA Rufus would have an obituary stating his parents' names - I know "my" Rufus's parents, so making the connection would be easy. But alas, I've found no obituary yet - no smoking gun, as it were.

However, I did get my hands on two additional obituaries recently. The PA Rufus was living in the home of his daughter Alma in 1930. Tracking her through records, we can find that her mother was Jane "Jennie" Alexander. The first new obituary is hers - it was published in the Beaver Falls Review on 13 May 1937:


The second obituary is for Jennie's daughter and Alma's half-sister, Madlin. It was published in the Beaver County Times on 2 December 1967:


Rufus Littlejohn was not Madlin's father, but again, receiving this obituary helps me reconstruct the family. It may be worth it to try to trace down the family tree to see if there are any living descendants who want to connect.

Do you know something about the Pennsylvania Rufus Littlejohn or his extended family that I should know about? Please drop me a note in the comments box below!

*Many thanks to the Beaver County Genealogy and History Center for doing the obituary look-up for me and mailing their findings.

Friday, December 22, 2017

No Smoking Gun...Yet

On the heels of my recent success in finding obituaries related to a person who might be my 2x Great-Grandfather Rufus Littlejohn, I thought I'd see if my luck continued by seeking out the obituary of the potential candidate himself.

I learned two things:
  1.  The good people at the Beaver County Genealogy and History Center respond very quickly to queries (based on my sample size of 3 requests in 1 message).

  2.  Luck was not on my side.

Within a couple of hours of sending my request, I already had an email from them in my inbox. They had found 2 of the obituaries I requested (and were mailing the very next day), but unfortunately, there was no obituary for Rufus in the local paper. My hope was that such an obituary would name at least one of Rufus' parents, or perhaps a few siblings or other children, something that would connect him to - or disconnect him from - the Rufus Littlejohn I know to belong to my line. Sadly, they have no such smoking gun. Because of when and where he died - during the Great Depression and in the county Poor Farm - they don't believe an obituary was published.

On the one hand, this is surprising: he had children and extended family in the area. No one wanted to write an obituary? On the other hand, just 4 years prior, he'd been living with one of his daughters. Was there a schism in the family that resulted in him being put in the Poor House rather than continuing to live with his daughter as a man in his late 60s? If so, perhaps this explains why there may be no obituary.

If you read my last post, you know that there are a few things that point to the Beaver County Rufus being "my" Rufus:

- Similarity in year of death: 1933 in my Rufus' wife Flora's 1964 obituary, 1934 for the Beaver County Rufus.

- Similar birth year: approximately 1866-1868 for both

- Same state of origin: South Carolina

- And it's interesting that my Rufus marries my 2x Great-Grandmother the year after the woman he'd previously been with and had several children with, Jane "Jennie" Alexander, gets married. It's like they went their separate directions and each found someone new.

All of that said, there's not one smoking gun among those points, particularly when you add in the confusing fact that my Flora Littlejohn, my 2x Great-Grandmother, is listed as widowed on multiple documents, including:

1926 Steubenville City Directory



1929 Steubenville City Directory


(Yes, both of these say Flora was the widow of "John" - he is referenced as John R. Littlejohn or John Rufus Littlejohn on several of his children's vital documents as well. And yes, both of these city directories list Flora as widowed before the year her obituary says he died.)

So, I'm still searching for a smoking gun.  But I do have 2 new obituaries that help me understand this family a little bit better.

Do you know something I should know about either Littlejohn family? Please leave a comment below!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Obits Open Doors: Searching for Alma Littlejohn

Work continues to keep me busy, but every moment I have a chance, I try to do a little more genealogical digging. Today, I got lucky!

In researching my paternal roots, I've come across an interesting, and somewhat elusive, character, my 2x great-grandfather Rufus Littlejohn. Born about 1866 in South Carolina, he lived a colorful life in Steubenville, Ohio - with the newspaper articles to prove it - before passing away in 1933. Or, at least that's when his wife's obituary says he passed away.


Flora Virginia Littlejohn's obituary, published in the 1 June 1964 Weirton Daily Times. This is one of the few times Rufus is referred to as John R. Litllejohn (colorful life, remember?).

You see, there's a death certificate from Beaver County, Pennsylvania for a Rufus Littlejohn in 1934, born about 1868 in South Carolina.



Now, that seems pretty obviously to be my Rufus. Same approximate birth year, same birth location, and Beaver County, where this one died, is only about 31 miles from Steubenville - both are in the Ohio River Valley. This death certificate doesn't list his parents, whose names I know from other documents, but the rest lines up. And the difference in the year of death is probably a matter of someone's faulty memory. But, I have to do my due diligence, right? So the first thing I do is a quick search of Rufus Littlejohns born in South Carolina about 1866. And yes, there's another one!

Screenshot of results for Ancestry.com search of 1930 Census Records for Rufus Littlejohn, born about 1867 in South Carolina.


At this point, at least two things need to happen: 1) I need to create a document tracking both men - Rufuses? Rufusi? - across time so I can distinguish between them, and 2) I need to find out as much as I can about this Rufus in Pennsylvania, who I believe to be mine. I haven't done the former yet, but every now and then, I push forward with the latter.

Using city directories, census schedules, and birth, marriage and death records, I've been able to reconstruct the following, starting from a 1930 census showing Rufus Littlejohn living in Beaver Falls, PA with his daughter Alma Jackson (new to me!), her husband Michael (not that Michael) and their children:

  • This Beaver Falls Rufus had at least 3 children with a Jane "Jennie" Alexander between 1892 and 1897: Geneva (known as Eva), Alma and an unknown male. The male is born in Cleveland, where Rufus and Jennie are living in 1895/1896. It is unclear if Rufus and Jennie are married at any point.
  • In 1898, Jennie marries Joseph Washington, in Beaver County, PA.
  • [Meanwhile, in 1899, Rufus marries my 2x great-grandmother, Flora Virginia Wood(s), in Jefferson County, OH. Her obituary gets the year wrong.] 
  • Jennie and Joseph have at least 4 children together, giving Alma and Eva (and their unknown and perhaps deceased brother) half-siblings: Ethel, Madlin, George and Clark.
  • Over the next few years, Jennie's daughter Alma is involved with Harold (Harry) Ricksey/Rixie and then marries the aforementioned Michael Jackson. These relationships produce several children (Harry Ricksey/Rixie Jr, who tragically does not live to the age of 1, Leroy Ricksey/Rixie, a baby Jackson who is sadly stillborn, and then Carl, Dorothy, Raymond and Geneva Jackson.
  • Jennie's husband and Alma's step-father, Joseph Washington, passes away in 1930.
  • Jennie, Alma's mother, passes away in 1937.
  • Alma's husband passes away in 1951.

All of this left me with the question: What happened to Alma herself? And would that tell me anything else about her father Rufus? 

So today, with some time to spare before my Saturday plans, I did some Google genealogy. I literally searched for "Alma Littlejohn Beaver" but without the quotes (using quotes in a Google search will look for the entire phrase, but not the words separately). The third result? An obituary for Karl Jackson, the son of Michael and Alma Elizabeth Littlejohn Jackson. And in that obituary are listed the most recent names of four siblings who preceded him in death: Dorothy Jackson Zachery, Geneva Veasey, and Kenneth and Leroy Rixie! Without this obituary I would not have known Dorothy or Geneva's married names, and wouldn't have known that Kenneth existed at all!

So what did I do next? Still on the hunt for Alma, I Googled: Geneva Veasey "Beaver Falls". Success! Out of five results produced in response to that query, the first was her brother Karl's obituary (again), the second and third appear to be her obituary, but they are behind the paywalls of Newspapers.com and NewspaperArchive.com. (You bet I'm going to work to get it, though!) The fourth is a newspaper article mentioning her - it seems to be about a crime report, and I will be getting that, too.

And the fifth result? It's a link to a PDF document hosted on FultonHistoy.com, also know as Old Fulton NY Postcards, by Tom Tryniski. (Have you ever searched this website before? You should! It's a gem of free resources, including many old newspapers available for free, and it's where I found the articles mentioning my step-great-grandfather's acting skills.)

What was the PDF? Page 16 of the Utica (New York) Daily Press for 27 November 1968. And on that page, an obituary for Mrs. Shelley Herron, also known as Alma E. Herron. 

Daily Press, Utica, N.Y. 27 November 1968, P16.


Not only did I learn her date and location of death, but also that she remarries in 1959 and to whom. Plus, there are seven daughters and five sons who survive her: Geneva Veasey, Louise Johnson, Lillie M. Cooper, Gloria Herron, Shelley Carter, Essie M. Jackson, Leroy Rixie, Kenneth Rixie, Karl Jackson, Herbert Herron and Adam Smith! While Alma's parents are not listed in this obituary, the avenues for research that are opened up between this and her son Karl's are exciting and sure to provide more interesting information!

This feels pretty good for a Saturday morning Google search.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Tantalizing Tidbits for July Jr and Sr

As part of my ongoing research into my maternal Cooper family line, I did a Google search not long ago to see what I could find on African Americans in Washington and Hancock Counties in Georgia.

Guess what came up?

A book called African Americans of Washington County, Georgia: From Colonial Times Through Reconstruction.

Pulled from records at the Probate Office, the Genealogy Research Center at the Old Jail Library, the Georgia Archives, and more, it was compiled by Adam Adolphus, Sr, who was at the time researching his African American roots in the county. I came across it on the Lowcountry Africana website, which pulls together resources and research tips for people doing black genealogical research in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. Not only can you read the book's Introduction on their website, you can access the Table of Contents as well as the Index. And I found the name July in the book multiple times, including twice as July Cooper. (Note to Self: Spend more time exploring this site!) You can't read the whole book online, though, so I needed to find another way to access it.

A search on WorldCat, which calls itself the World's Largest Library Catalog, told me that the nearest copy was at the New York Public Library. I don't live in New York. I will happily travel there when I need to, but did I have any other options?

Well, I'm lucky enough to have right in my own backyard the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, which prides itself on having the "largest genealogical collection in the Mid-Atlantic region". (Full disclosure: I am a member of their Genealogical Advisory Group.) So I figured I should do a search and see if they had it.

Success!

So after work one day, I headed down during their extended evening hours and took a look through the book. What did I find that was of interest? Some tantalizing tidbits:

  • In a list of names pulled from Union Baptist Church Minutes, there's a July Cooper who is "received by experience" on September 25, 1858. His "Holder" was a man named Archalous Duggan. This is promising because my great-great-grandfather, July Cooper, Jr, was born in 1858, and in tax records listing Freedmen of Washington County, his and Sr's employer is listed as a man named A. Duggan or A.C. Duggan. The listing for the person below July in the Washington County book lists her Holder as A.C. Duggan. Is this July perhaps my Sr, joining a church the year his son was born? 
 
  • In the extract from the Probate Appraisements Book A for Washington County, there's a July who is owned by Robert Cumming (dated Sept. 3, 1857). This one's tantalizing for a few reasons. First, the family tree and oral history state that July Sr's brother Noah was taken in by a Cummings family, so a connection to this surname is interesting. Second, also listed in this appraisement is an enslaved man named Kinion. In the set of tax records I wrote about at the link above, just up the page from July Cooper Jr and Senior in the book for 1872-77, you see a man named... Kinion Cumming. 

Ancestry.com. Georgia, Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.(Washington County, Militia District 96.) Original data: Georgia Tax Digests [1890]. 140 volumes. Morrow, Georgia: Georgia Archives.

 What are the chances Kinion would be enslaved with a July and then end up near a different July in the same county? And third, the Cooper/Cummings family tree states that July Sr's spouse was a woman named Harriet. Guess who else is enslaved in the household of Robert Cumming? A woman named Harriet and her child. In fact, July, Harriet, and Harriet's child (only named as such) are listed one after another in the extract. It is possible they are a family group.


  • In the same Appraisements Book, there is a child named July who is owned by Matthew C. Williamson. It is January of 1863 and he is 5 years old, making his birth year 1858. This is the same birth year as my July Jr.

  • In the 1867 Reconstruction Returns for African American Voters, there is a July Cooper. A scan of the original record (listing both "colored" and white voters) is available on Ancestry.com. This one's tantalizing because you can see that about 8 lines down from July, there's that A.C. Duggan, who is my July's (or at least a July I strongly expect is mine) employer across several years of tax lists.

Ancestry.com. Georgia, Returns of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Books, 1867-1869 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.(Washington County, Election District 20, Precinct 8.)

  • There's a July who is owned by a John Duggan when Duggan's estate is appraised in 1854. Given the A.C. Duggan connection in 1867 and the 1870s, this is of interest. In fact, if you look back at the 1867 Qualified  Voters and Reconstruction Oath Book, you'll see that just 2 rows above A.C. is a J.C. Duggan. Is this John?

  • Finally, there's a listing in the extract of the M.C. Smith Funeral Home Records for a Charlie Cooper, who was born 28 January 1883 and died 19 February 1935. His parents are listed as July Cooper and Amanda Duggan. Other records show that July and Amanda married in Washington County in 1892. Right now, this isn't enough to connect to my Julys, but stay tuned for another post that explores this further.

The rest of the July mentions are much harder to discern any relationships from, but they're still interesting and worth noting. For example,

  • There's a July who in 1862 is owned by John G. Bryant and is hired out for $60, according to the extract of the Probate Office Record of Returns F.

  • There's a July listed in the Probate Division of Estates Book A. He was owned by Ezekial Finney and was valued as part of a lot of 3 men worth $1750 when Jacqueline Finney purchased or inherited him in December of 1851. (Jef and Dan were the other 2 men.)

The more information I find, the more questions I have, but overall, I do feel like there's a blurry picture that is slowly (s-l-o-w-l-y) coming into focus. With more time, more digging, and more focused analysis, maybe I'll have a few new stories to share in time for next year's family reunion.

Before I sign off, though, here's one more thing I came across in the book, which broke my heart a little bit (as though there wasn't enough in the rest of these extracts related to enslaved men, women and children to break my heart). This takes us back to the first record I mentioned, for Union Baptist Church. Read the listing for Cherry:
 

In August, the church wondered where she was. In September, they learned she was gone, "carried off to Florida". This just makes my heart hurt. My great-great-grandfather was July Jr. His wife was Scoatney Scott. Her mother's name was either Cherry, Chansy or Chaney. I can't say that this is her, but whoever this Cherry is, she had a community, and they noticed when she disappeared.

These people were real people.

Slavery research is going to be hard.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tax Time for the Julys!

Header (First Columns) Georgia Property Tax Digest Book (1878-82). Accessed on Ancestry.com.
 
I'm not ashamed to say that the idea of looking at tax records makes me want to lay down. Maybe I'm afraid of numbers. Maybe I'm lazy. I dunno. I just know that even though I've known full well for several months that the name of my maternal great-great-grandfather July Cooper, Jr - and perhaps even his father, July Sr - shows up in tax lists on Ancestry.com, I could not bring myself to start looking at them.

Until one day I did.

Huh. It turns out tax records can be pretty interesting.

Header (Remaining Columns) Georgia Property Tax Digest Book (1878-82). Accessed on Ancestry.com.

 I spent a few hours going page by page through a record set on Ancestry called Georgia, Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892. This collection pulls together a century of tax records from 137 Georgia counties, and includes both white and African American males who were 21 and over. (It also includes women who owned property!) Interestingly, as Ancestry notes, "Details on white taxpayers were recorded on a two-page form," while "Freemen were logged separately on a different, one-page form". The records are organized by militia district. (Note: when you are looking at a new record set, be sure to read their description of it, so that you understand what you're looking at and how it's organized. Trust me, it helps!) 

 I went into this record set with these touchpoints for my July Coopers:
  • They were father and son, but only based on the Cooper/Cummings Family Tree. (I have found no primary sources that directly state a familial connection.)
  • July Jr was born about 1858 in Washington County, GA.
  • July Jr was living in neighboring Hancock County, GA, by 1870 and remained at least until 1880.

Doing a search for July Cooper turned up 29 records, all from the years 1870-1890. All but one were in either Washington or Hancock County. The outlier was for a July Cooper living in McIntosh County, which is 7 counties away from Washington County, as the crow flies. I've come across this July Cooper before and there seems to be no evidence connecting this one to mine.

As for the remaining Julys, in Washington and Hancock Counties, it seems very clear that there are only two and that they are Junior and a Senior. Sometimes this is stated directly in the books, as below.

Snippet, Georgia Property Tax Digest, 96th Militia District ("Giles"), Washington County, 1872-77.

Sometimes, one of them was listed as either "Jr" or "Sr," but the other had no suffix. Given there are only ever two of them at a time, I went ahead and assigned the missing suffix to the other, after a quick check of other evidence. And at other times, I had to make inferences with no suffixes, based on who was listed where, when, with what amount of land or assets, and in relation to what other people. This was a little more difficult. Basically, I had to make a chart:



(I used Excel for this, for the ease of sorting columns to look at the information in different ways. In fact, after I took this screenshot, I added more columns after I found a new way I wanted to arrange the info.) In the "Suffix" column, if the "Jr" or "Sr" is in parentheses, that means I inferred that from the other evidence.

So, what did I learn, or gain more evidence of?


  • There were definitely both a July Sr and a July Jr. And they are always found in close proximity to one another.

  • Both men were freed slaves. It was a reasonable guess anyway, given their presence in the Cotton Belt in the antebellum (Pre-Civil War) era, but their denotation on these lists as "Freedmen" adds support to that hypothesis. (According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, "Free blacks made up a mere 0.3 percent of the state's black population in 1860, and they were concentrated largely in urban areas, especially Savannah and Augusta.").

  • The names of some of their associates, both black and white. For example, A.C. Duggan, and George C. Walker are listed as employing one or both July's in 10 of 28 records. (I'll have to dig in and see what I can find about these men.) We also see the names of other freedmen working alongside them, such as Joe Archer, Aaron Chivers, Jesse Archer, and Ben Womble. And some familiar surnames appear on the same page as them, including Cummings and Scott. Jr's wife Scoatney was a Scott, and according to family lore, Sr's brother Noahwas taken in by a Cummings family.

  •  July Sr becomes a landowner. Sometime between 1878 and 1882, Sr acquires 184 acres of land in Washington County! This is reduced to 130 aces by 1883 and remains that size until at least 1890. The land is valued at from $368 to $650. How does he get it, and what happens to it? The record set has no listings for him after 1890.

  • And so does Jr! Between 1878 and 1882, he acquires first 10 and then 20 acres of land in Washington County. (Edit: But while July Sr is listed as being his own employer, Jr. is not. Twice, he is employed by members of the Garner family, and once, July Sr. is his employer.) By the mid-1880s, he's no longer listed as owning land here, but...

  • One of them moves to Hancock County by the mid-1880s. It's likely Jr. (My great-great-grandfather July Cooper, whose father was supposedly also July Cooper, was living in Hancock County by 1880.)

  • Sr. occasionally employed other freedmen.  This coincides with the time that he owned land. Here's an example, showing Harold Dixon as a freedman (second column) and July Cooper as his employer (first column). July owns 184 acres, valued at $552.
Snippet, Georgia Property Tax Digest, 96th Militia District ("Giles"), Washington County, 1878-82.


  • That their personal property included livestock, furniture and farm tools. Makes sense in this agricultural region.


But, What Don't I Know? What Questions Do I Have?
  • If my July, Jr is living in Hancock County in 1870 and 1880 (per Federal Censuses), how/why is he also living in Washington County in the 1870s?

  •  Are these two men definitely father and son? While today we use Jr and Sr to specify a father/son relationship, in the past, these suffixes could simply be used to indicate which of two men - of no relation to each other - was the older and which was the younger. (Expect a post one day where I discuss my efforts to actually connect my July to his father. Census recs and tax rec and vital recs, oh my!)

  •  And basically everything else! What were Jr and Sr doing with the land they owned? (There's an 1880 Agricultural Census that can shed some light.) How did they get it and when and how did it leave their hands? How does their land ownership  compare to other freedmen in Washington and Hancock Counties (this requires a bigger spreadsheet!)  When they were enslaved, were they owned by A.C. Duggan, who employed them both in the 1770s? Or another of the employers listed nearby? Why did Jr move to Hancock County?

Every piece of information I can find on July Coopers living in Hancock and Washington Counties is another piece of the puzzle, so I'm glad I finally took the time to dig into this record set of tax lists. Now I need to drill down further and discover what it all means!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Finding July Cooper

I probably shouldn't say this too loudly (shhh!), but I've had a little extra brainspace over the past couple of weeks. And you know what I do when that happens!

Ever since I visited my mother's family's land in Georgia, I've been really interested in digging deeper into the stories of the Coopers who lived there and came before. So a good part of my evenings and weekends has been spent reviewing the records I already have, along with the family trees our Cooper family historians have previously put together and the memoir my cousin wrote, and then plotting how to find out more. That's resulted in a number of city directory listings and some useful World War II Draft Registration Cards, among other things.

I am ashamed, however, to say that it also resulted in a new census record, and one I definitely should have found before. You see, in 1880, my great-great-grandfather, July Cooper, Jr, was living in the 114th Militia District of Hancock County, GA. Living with him was his wife, Scoatney, written here as Sconey. You can see them highlighted in purple, below.



The young couple, listed here as 22 and 19 years old, are working as laborers while living in the household of the much older Andrew (83) and Silvy (69) Tucker, and their grandson, Freeman Tucker. What is the relationship between the Coopers and the Tuckers?

Maybe, I thought, I can find out more about the Tuckers - let's look for them in the 1870 census. Maybe this will give me a clue as to where July was in 1870, or why he's with them in 1880.

Well, I still don't ave an answer to the second piece, but now I definitely know where July was.

1870 U.S. Federal Census listing July Cooper, Jr as July Tucker and Living with Andrew and Silvia Tucker
in Hancock County, GA.

He's living right there in Hancock County, GA, with Andrew and Silvia Tucker! Age, location, and clustering of people absolutely makes sense - it's only the surname that doesn't. Why is he listed as Tucker? Perhaps there's a story there. Or perhaps the census taker or informant just didn't know any better. (And bonus question: Who is 9-year-old Sid or Sia Tucker?)

What's fun about this is that just a few pages away, you can see the young lady who would become July's wife, 10 years old to his 12, and living with her family. ( I make this assertion because her death certificate, completed by her son Flag, lists her parents as Solomon and Cherry Scott. We have nothing stating a clear familial relationship between July Cooper and the Tuckers, which is why I don't make a similar claim for them.)

1870 U.S. Federal Census listing Scoatney Scott - July's future wife - as Scodney Scott, also living in Hancock County, GA.

I won't continue to kick myself for not trying this sooner to find July in 1870. I'll just say that I am so happy to have found this record! Each piece of information I accumulate about the individuals in this generation  - ancestors who were born before the Civil War - gets me one step closer to learning more about my family's relationship to slavery in the United States. And while that will be a difficult journey, it's one I absolutely want to take.

Do you know anything about the Coopers - or Scotts - during the Civil War or before? Please share in the comments!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

I've Been Profiled on GeneaBloggers!



Before the thought of starting my own genealogy blog crossed my mind, I'd stopped by Geneabloggers.com many times, looking for new blogs to explore and more examples of personal family history research processes. I wanted to know how other people were doing their research, what tools, tips, and techniques they were using to unlock answers to their pasts, and how they were sharing the info they'd uncovered.

That's why it's super cool that my own blog is now listed on the website, and even cooler that I've been profiled in their "May I Introduce to You..." series. Many thanks to Wendy Mathias for the great comments and for reaching out and lifting up my voice!

Please stop by Geneabloggers.com to read my profile and to discover other family history bloggers doing interesting research and writing!