"In this great future you can't forget your past" ~No Woman, No Cry, Bob Marley

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

HARLIN's Cherokee Freedmen

A couple of weeks ago, in my Facebook newsfeed, was the cut out of an article from a Portland, Oregon newspaper—The Oregonian (see below for the article as shared). The brief article, shared by one of my cousins, was about descendants of those enslaved by the Cherokee, and tribal membership. My uncle shared that his mother, my grandmother, had told him about this some twenty-five years ago. I commented that being descendants of Cherokee Freedmen this was something I have followed off and on over the years. My cousin then shared that she had not been aware that we were descendants of Cherokee Freedmen—that Facebook exchange prompted this post. 

The newspaper clip that was shared by my cousin

Cherokee Freedmen were those persons who had been enslaved by members of the Cherokee Nation, and were freed upon the passage and ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment (the Civil War ended in April of 1865; the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing the institution of slavery took effect in December of 1865. Some of these enslaved individuals, according to the website, IndiVisible African-Native American Lives in the Americas, accompanied the Cherokee on their forced march from the Southeastern United States to Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma). According to this same source, there were some 4,000 African heritage enslaved persons living amongst the Cherokee. When the Civil War ended, a treaty was signed that granted Freedmen, “all the rights of Native Cherokees” (see aforementioned website for this quote). However, according to the site, in 2007 the tribal constitution was amended such that in order to qualify for membership, one had to have “Indian blood”; this stripped almost 3,000 Freedmen descendants of their tribal membership.
Twenty-eight years after the end of the Civil War, in 1893, a commission was established, by an act of congress, to help negotiate land agreements with five Nations—the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole Nations. According to information provided by the National Archives, the job of the commission was to determine which individuals were to be allowed land that was being divided into plots. The Commission was to do this through an interview process and make the determination, in part, based upon whether or not the tribal government had previously recognized the applicant.

While I do not have very much on this family line, and am in the process of corroborating with the wife of a cousin who has done some research, what I do know is here. As far back as I can go thus far with the HARLIN line is the birth of Bass HARLIN, circa 1838/1839 (however, more accurately, it would be that of Mary HARLIN, who Bass names as his mother; his father’s name was Jesse ROACH, however, no given name is listed for the enslaver’s name, simply the surname, ROACH). Bass was, according to the information provided to the Dawes Commission, born into slavery, and was enslaved in Indian Territory (modern day Oklahoma) by Delilah HARLIN. Bass had six children that I know of, four of whom I can name (in no particular order): Clem, Solomon/Sol, Sallie, and Georgiann [it is speculated that one of the other two children was an individual by the name of Darkie]. It is from Sallie that my family and I descend.

Sallie married Jack McCONNELL on 06 January 1891 [the marriage record lists his name as Jack McCONNEL, Sallie’s delayed birth certificate lists his name as Jackson; he has also been seen with the name Andrew J.]. They had three daughters, Pearlie, Violet, and Bertha/Elnora (my second great grandmother). At the time of her interview, Sallie had Elnora living with her; the other daughters were living with their father. Sallie and Jackson did not stay together long, though according to her Dawes interview, she retained the McCONNELL surname. She also had  daughter with Samuel STIDMAN, Lizzie, and a son by the name of Willie GARNETT with Jerry GARNETT. Jackson did attempt to enroll, however, his application was rejected; the applications of his daughters’ with Sallie were approved. 

In addition, it seemed, based upon a letter Elnora received from the Department of the Interior, dated 07 July 1921, that both Sallie and Elnora had been granted significant parcels of land. My uncle and I wondered how this may have come to be. I posed the question to some individuals, and expert, Angela Walton-Raji shared with me, once a person was deemed eligible (the purpose of the Dawes Commission), they would then apply for and receive their land—mystery solved. However, as Ms. Walton-Raji shared, a lot of the land was lost with Oklahoma Statehood (1907), and the land of Freedmen was often some of the first land to be taken and sold away. My family’s land was used for the construction of a highway, as shared in an article my uncle shared with me over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, 2014.
Perhaps I will share more about the individuals from this line in future posts. 

Information for this post was retrieved from:
Sallie and Jackson’s marriage record
Dawes Commission records

*A thank you to my Uncle Cleatis, who shared with me a number of years ago some of what my grandmother shared with him. The information he provided (names) allowed me to find the family in the Dawes Records and in census records. All of the information presented here related to the HARLIN family comes from Dawes Commission interviews and enrollment cards.

Note: the discussion about whether or not descendants of Cherokee Freedmen should be allowed full, or any, tribal rights has been ongoing for quite some time. There are many resources online and not online that one can read to get acquainted with the topic; use your favorite search engine to point you in the direction of some reading material. Here are a couple of websites that may be of interest to you, they are shared with no endorsement http://www.freedmen5tribes.com/cherokee%20freedmen%20facts.doc.pdf ;
http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/tags/cherokee-freedmen [stay abreast of various things in Native American news]

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Benjamin SULLIVAN--A Mystery

Benjamin SULLIVAN:  father of my one of my maternal grandmothers (and two other children), husband of Margaret (MONROE) SULLIVAN, laborer, and mystery. Many have heard say or read mention of the fact that I have been feeling the tug of at least three Ancestors, Benjamin is one of those three (we’ll get to the others as time goes on, I promise).

Benjamin is someone for whom I have almost no information, and what I do have and know comes from census records, my grandmother’s birth certificate, a brief obituary notice, and his death certificate (which shares the same information found in the aforementioned records). No one living has any recollection of Benjamin, and based on what has been shared by his grandchildren his children did not talk about him very much, so very little was and is known. So, some might find it odd that there have been times during the feeling of tugging, it feels as though somewhere inside me, I can see his face—the face of a man whom I’ve never met, and of whom there are no known photographs. Here is what I know about my great grandfather, Benjamin.

I have been working to learn more about Benjamin, and seeking to learn the names of his parents off and on for roughly ten years; in that time I have, I admit, not gotten very far—he is buried deep, but shall, I hope be unearthed! He was born, based on ages in census enumerations and my grandmother’s birth certificate, between 1878 and 1881 in Missouri (probably Sedalia). According to information provided on my grandmother’s birth certificate Benjamin was 52 when she was born in 1932, making his year of 1880. I first find Benjamin in Snohomish County, Washington in 1900 working as a laborer and living as a border in a home. Whoever answered the enumerator’s questions gave his place of birth as Colorado. Whoa, Colorado—hmmm…? Okay, I talk this through with my Mom and myself, and try to make sense of this. I turn on-line records for Colorado, just to see what is available (and because I could not at the time take a trip to the state—besides, I wasn’t and still am not certain there is anything there for me—time will tell).
COLORADO: I discovered that a historical society for Colorado had a number of holdings that had been digitized (more have probably been so done since this time), among them some prison records, including mug shots of those who had been convicted of crimes. On a whim, I typed in the name Benjamin SULLIVAN and in under two seconds the site returned a “mulatto” Ben SULLIVAN who had served two years for burglary. He was 17 at the time of sentencing and was released in 1898; based on this, this individual was born about 1879. Could this be the same person? What did I have to lose? I ordered the record and a copy of the mug shot. The copy of the prison record describes this Ben as 17 years old, 5’7 ¼ inches tall, of slight build, and has “Mulatto” written across the sections for Complexion, Color of Eyes, and Color of Hair. His occupation is listed as “Laborer” and had a number of scars on his hands and above his left eye. His place of birth is listed as Fort Scott, Kansas—Kansas? Ah, but Sedalia, Missouri is fairly close to the Missouri/Kansas border; in fact, Fort Scott, Kansas and Sedalia, Missouri are separated by but just over 130 miles. Hmmmm….The mug shot received? Well since no one living knows what Benjamin looked like, relatives could only guess as to whether or not there was any resemblance between this young Benjamin and who would be his sons (Benjamin and Alfred) some years later.
WASHINGTON: As previously mentioned, Benjamin is found in Snohomish County, Washington in 1910. On 19 September 1910, he married Margaret MONROE in Everett, Snohomish County, Washington.  The witnesses, Belle GAINES and Henry CLAYTON were relatives of Margaret—her aunt, and her uncle via marriage. Their three children, Benjamin, Alfred, and Agnes (my grandmother) were born in King County, Washington. He died in Seattle, King County, Washington on 9 March 1938 as a result of false pneumonia. His age was listed as “about 60”, which would place his year of birth at 1878. No parents’ names are listed in the Colorado prison record (in fact, they are listed as deceased), nor are any parents names listed in the brief obituary (which lists his occupation as a plumber) or on the death certificate (which gives his place of birth as Sedalia, Missouri). I can account for Benjamin and family in city directories and in census records after his marriage.
While I am not certain I will ever learn the names of Benjamin’s parents, I hope to learn more about him and bring him from the depths of the unknown to the known and honor his story.
*Point of Curiosity/Interest: When examining the signature of Benjamin Sullivan on his marriage certificate in 1910 to that of the Benjamin Sullivan upon release from the Colorado Penitentiary in 1898, there appear to be some similarities. Below are the signatures:

Saturday, January 11, 2014


My second-great grandmother on my father’s side was Melinda (SNORDAN/SNODAN and its other variant spellings) KIMBROUGH. She is someone I would love to know, someone I would love to learn more about.

I have often looked at the picture of my second-great grandmother on my father’s side, Melinda (SNORDAN/SNODAN and all of its other spelling variants) KIMBROUGH and wondered about her life—who was she, what did she think, how did she feel, what were her experiences? It’s not that I don’t wonder this about all of my Ancestors, but for some reason she has been one resting quite heavily with me for a couple of months now (the other two are male Ancestors for whom I do not have photos; I will write about them shortly, but in different posts). This tells me that it is certainly time for her story to be learned and told. It is time to speak her story from the unknown past, what very little of it I know, into the awakening present, so that it can be carried into what I hope is a glorious future.
Melinda was born, according to her death certificate, on 29 January 1833. She was born into the institution of slavery in Kentucky to Isaac SNADAN (who was born in Virginia), and a mother whose name is currently lost to history (though I pray this will not be so for long). She was, according to family story, last enslaved by Thomas Gaines KIMBROUGH, who, according to some family information was the father of at least four of Melinda’s children, including my great-grandfather, Ezekiel Isaac (Zeke). I am still working to find some type of recorded proof (or at least a preponderance of evidence) that both of these accounts are true.

I have located Melinda in the 1900 and 1910 census enumerations (in Massac County, Illinois), but have not been successful in doing so in the 1880 or 1870 enumerations. According to information provided in the 1910 census enumeration, Melinda had given birth to 12 children and six were still living. I can only account for four of the living children and none of the deceased. The four living children were: Ephriam (born August 1872), Ezekiel Isaac—Zeke (born October 1876), Lucy (born February 1877), and Lillian—Lady (born September 1879) [birth months and years given come from the 1900 census enumeration]. Who were the other six children?
I have been going over the very limited information I have and noticed that in the 1870 Hadensville Precinct, Todd County, Kentucky census enumeration there is an Ephriam SNADON, and in the same household, there is an Isaac SNADON, aged 75 born in Virginia—might this be Melinda’s brother and her father (along with other family)?  Near this family in 1870, are at least two other SNADON families and a couple of KIMBROUGH families. In the home of Aaron SNADON, there was a 20-year-old by the name of Webster KIMBROUGH—might this Webster be one of Melinda’s children? I wish I could say for certain, but right now, I cannot; I can say that I have not found this Webster in any other census enumerations, and wonder if there is another name by which he might be listed.
There is an Ephriam SNADUN, who died in Hadensville, Kentucky in 1922 whose father was listed as Issaac [sic] SNADUN and mother as Jennie—who was also in the home in 1870—hmm; there is also another individual with the same parentage, Lucy, who died in Todd County, Kentucky in 1915.
Melinda died in Joppa, Illinois on 24 July 1918; I hope to be able to fill in the dashes that note her birth and death as my genealogy/family history pilgrimage of 2014 begins to get underway—stay tuned…..

*A note about Melinda’s surname—a cousin who was also researching this KIMBROUGH family received (and shared with me) a copy of an SS-5 (application for Social Security) form for one of Melinda’s daughters. The SS-5 is valuable because it asks for the names of parents, including the Mother’s maiden name. Melinda’s daughter noted that Melinda’s maiden name was Tolliver (the Tolliver surname, as all surnames, has many spelling variants, to include Toliver and Taliaferro).

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2014: The Year of Pilgrimage

This calendar year promises to be one of greatness on a myriad of levels, and the research of the family is certainly one of those levels. I anticipate this being a year in which many family history questions will be answered (and many posed, as I have learned that every answer brings with it at least three questions, particularly as it relates to the quest of learning history of from whence we come).
According to a word study as it relates to the word ‘journey’, found in the second edition of the Oxford Pocket Dictionary and Thesaurus, a journey suggests that a considerable amount of time and distance will be covered while a pilgrimage is applicable to a journey that is undertaken for a specific purpose. Ah, that is exactly what this endeavor is, a pilgrimage. I am on a journey, one on which I hope you will join me, to learn as much as I can, and share that knowledge with you, about those who came before, those who paved the way for us. I am on a mission to give voice to the Ancestors, to tell as much of their story as I possibly can, to connect past and present.
This year, I hope to learn more about, introduce you to, or reconnect you with Henry TRIBBLE, Benjamin SULLIVAN, Melinda KIMBROUGH, George GULLICK, Nannie SEAMAN/NAPIER, Alfred SAMUELS (and his brothers) and SO many more. I hope to share with you research challenges and receive insight from you. I hope, that in the process of giving voice to the Ancestors, we connect and build stronger bonds as a family—that we are able to get to know each other, that we can begin and continue to create beautiful legacies for our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.
I do not research in hopes of ‘gathering dirt’ or locating proverbial ‘skeletons in closets’. I research to learn, to grow, to connect. There are certainly wonderful and joyous finds, just as there are some heartbreaking finds—but they are all part of our legacy, and it is my mission to share it all, in grace, in love, with respect for both those gone before and those still with us in this realm. I hope you will join me as I make this pilgrimage—undertake this journey, if even just for the ride.