Thursday, April 19, 2018

A History Road Trip with Family

Bernard mailing his African Ancestry DNA in
When my youngest son Bernard was a child, we visited many, archives, libraries, and museums.  By the time he turned twelve years old, he had traveled to twenty-two states. Tasting different food and meeting new people along the way. Sometimes we flew, and for the most part we would drive so that we could stop and visit some of the major attractions. 

With a big smile and his luggage packed he was all ready to travel on our summer adventure.  We made plans to take a road trip for two weeks driving up the East Coast and ending up in Washington, D.C, at the National Archives.  He was too young to go into the National Archives, so my ex-husband took him around College Park while I did some genealogy research.  I don't know how much of the history lessons he was retained at that time. I know I had to teach and expose him.

It was one of the best summer vacations we can remember. We purchased a map for him to follow along. We packed books and some of his favorite things he enjoyed playing with and hit the road headed  east.  During that time they didn't have a GPS to guide us on our trip. We made sure to purcahse postcards in each state to send back to the family at home. 

Reading records 
Years later we took another road trip with Moussa Albaka, a well known Tuareg silversmith to meet other Tuareg people from Niger, Africa who moved to Greensboro, North Carolina.  We're welcome with big smiles and hugs by the Tuareg people. We had dinner and wonderful conversation before head to the Atlantic ocean so that Bernard could take his African Ancestry DNA test.

He faced the ocean and imagined the ships coming to the Americas with his ancestors on it. We held each other in hopes that he will find out where in Africa his paternal ancestors come from. Six weeks later he finds out that his paternal lineage connected him to Nigeria, West Africa. 

Learning about our family history had taken us many beautiful places to meet some wonderful people and new family members along the way. As I write this blogpost, I can't help but think about the time Bernard and I drove to Chicago to visit our Harrell family member with my Uncle Raymond.  Bernard has just met his 3rd maternal cousins. He met cousins that his maternal grandmother hasn't met. I was happy that we took this trip that summer.

Uncle Raymond played one of his old-time gospel songs again and again. It seems like he played that song from the time we left Louisiana to we arrived in Chicago. Bernard asked him why did he keep playing the same song over and over again?  During our stay in Chicago, Uncle Raymond wanted us to meet the descendants of my great-uncle Warner Harrell.  So the three of us drove up to Wisconsin and met new family, and we really enjoyed our visit with cousin Dan Harrell and his family.

One week the white lines on the highway were calling me again. I asked Bernard if he wanted to go and visit the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee? He said yes and was eager to go. We packed our luggage on a sunny Friday afternoon and drove the five-hour trip. We went west to visit Alex Haley House Museum in Henning, Tennessee first.  We took the guided tour and took pictures before traveling back to Memphis to get dinner and checking in the hotel. 

The next morning after breakfast we headed to the National Civil Rights Museum and spent the day touring the Museum. What better way to teach a child about the history? He had a lot of questions to ask about the Civil Rights Movement.  I hope when he becomes a father, he'll take road trips with his children and teach them their history. One thing for sure the road trip we took by driving meant that we could stop all along the highway and get some good tasting food and site see. 

I hope he holds these memories dear to his heart like I hold them in my heart. This was our time spent together. Now that he is an adult we haven't taken a road trip and just because he is all grown-up, doesn't mean we shouldn't.  My grandchildren are taking road trips with me now.   They'll soon  become teenagers and they will have other plans. But the beautiful and sweet memories I hope will never be forgotten. 
I enjoyed taking him places with me and having him to be a part of the many events we went to. The only thing I regret is I wish that we could have had more time in his formative years. The time went by quickly that once little boy is now twenty-five years old. 

I want to make it a family tradition that we all take a road trip to visit museums, antique shops, fun attractions, and enjoy family time spent together. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Ethel Williams Temple

Ethel Williams Temple
Ethel was born to Jim and Emma Vining Williams in 1919 in St, Helena Parish, Louisiana. Ethel died in 1958 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Jim and Emma had four children; Ethel, Jimmy, Arthur, and Dorothy.

Ethel married Walter Temple and they had two sons together; Cleveland and Johnell Temple. Oliver was by her first marriage to Oliver Jackson, Sr.,  Walter and Ethel lived in New Orleans at 2408 St. Andrew Street.

During several conversations with cousin Johnell, he told me that his mama taught her boys how to cook, clean, and how to take care of themselves. She didn't have any girls so the boys had to learn how to help out with the chores. I guess that explains why cousin Oliver and Johnell enjoy cooking so much, 

Her sons Oliver and Johnell were both in law enforcement. Oliver worked for the Amite Police Department and Johnell was a Louisiana State Trooper. They both served until they retired from their departments. Oliver serves on the Board of Directors for the St. Helena Multipurpose Center in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana. He and the board spent years developing the center.  A country boy at heart, he loves his horses and cows. 

Ethel's mother Emma was married twice. Emma first marriage was to Thomas Richardson. Thomas and Emma had four children also. Emma's children by her second marriage died before all their siblings from Emma's first marriage. 

She is buried in Mount Zion and Greater Refuge Temple Cemetery in Montpelier, St, Helena Parish, Louisiana.

Ethel Williams Temple
Courtesy of Ruth Landrew Jackson

Because Every Picture Tell A Story

Ruth Landrew Jackson
A couple of days ago cousin Oliver Jackson, Jr., called me and asked me to contact cousin Ruth to get pictures of him as a baby and a picture of his mother, Ethel Williams Temple.  Oliver mother and my maternal grandmother were sisters. After Aunt Ethel passed away and my maternal grandparents legally adopted Oliver as their son. 

After making arrangments to visit cousin Ruth to scan the images. I learned that cousin Ruth is a family archivist. She had envelopes of photographs of her family and some of my family.

Her oldest daughter Sheron arranged the meeting. She told me that her mother kept a lot of pictures and other family memorabilia. I was so excited to hear that she did because a lot of people throw old pictures and family memorabilia away. Some family members will not share family photographs at all.  With today technology a person can share photographs with their camera phone. Sharing the images with others is very simple these days.  This past weekend nine states had tornadoes to take place. Most people can have their homes restored or rebuilt if they had insurance to cover the loss. No amount of insurance can replace the priceless family pictures when it's loss.

Ruth Landrew Jackson
Photo Courtesy of Ruth L. Jackson
She pulled out pictures of her mother, grandmother, and children.  Every envelope had each one of her children names on it. I went back down memory lane with her as we looked at the pictures. Beginning with her childhood pictures to most recent. I didn't know that she was from McComb, Mississippi and migrated to Louisiana with her family.  One of the pictures had cousin Ruth, her mother, and her grandmother on it.  Now her children have grandchildren of their own. I know that one day the grandchildren will look at a picture that has three generation of their grandmothers.

Every picture tells a story and I love picture reading. When we were children and couldn't read we would picture read. We looked at the backgrounds, the clothes, the locations, and the main subject in the pictures. 

I could have sat there all day and look through the basket filled with envelopes of pictures.  Like cousin Ruth, I have so many pictures that I took over the years of family members and different events. Blogging about the images is one way to share with the family.  At our next family reunion, we will have a brief workshop on the importance of preserving our family photo collection.  I would like to sit down with cousin Ruth and help her scan them so they can be shared electronically. 

One of the things I notice about her in the photos was her beautiful smile and radiant beauty. She inherent her natural beauty from her mother and grandmother. Generation of women with poise and certainly having the epitome of grace and elegance. She spends a lot of time with her great-grandchildren these days. Teaching her great-grandchildren the lessons her ancestors taught her. I feel honored that she opened up just a bit of her collection to share with me. I can see the joy on her face when she looked at pictures that brought back so many fond memories.

Sheron and I were looking at cousin Ruth's beautiful hairstyles,  the glasses, and clothes she wore. Sheron laughed at one of her hairstyles that I found very cute. Look like she made her fashion statements as a young woman. I look forward to visiting with her again to finish looking at her collection of pictures that tells a story.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Griot and Photograph Historian Shares the Family History

Jo-Ann Lewis Frazier
Jo-Ann Lewis Frazier is the oldest grandchild of my maternal grandparents Jasper and Josephine Richardson Harrell. Matter- of- fact she grew up with her youngest Auntie Delores in Amite, Louisiana. I guess she didn't call her auntie being that they were so close in age. In one of my blog post, I wrote about the photograph collection that our mutual maternal first cousin Monteral inherited from her deceased father. Jo-Ann mother Catherine and my mother Isabel are sisters.  Monteral's father Raymond is their youngest brothers. 

I'm excited that three first cousins are sharing our family history together. Jo-Ann is sharing through oral history and Monteral through photographs.  In addition to being the family griot, she creates and designs funeral programs that are sometimes called brochure or booklets that have somewhat summarize the deceased person life.  The higher percent of the programs designed are of African-American people and family members in Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes, Louisiana. She has an invaluable knowledge base of who is related and how. Not only for our family but for others in the community as well.

A couple of months back I interviewed Jo-Ann for our family documentary that premiered at 2017 family reunion. That's when I realized that Jo-Ann has a wealth of oral history information about her maternal side of the family. The oral history she shared was on the  Harrell, Richardson, Vining, and Temple Families from the Louisiana Florida Parishes. 

She often reminds me of her age, but I forget that so often because mother nature has graciously blessed her with the fountain of beauty and youth. I soon found out that she is blessed with the fountain of memories that connected us to our ancestors and history. 

Monteral Harrell
Photo Courtesy: Antoinette Harrell
Our grandparents gave birth to ten beautiful children. There are three remaining living children; my mother, her brother Henry, and youngest sibling Delores are living.  Jo-Ann grew-up in the house with some of her aunts and uncles.  She was a welcome addition to the family and the beginning of a new generation.  When I thought about it ―I'm the oldest of my siblings and Monteral is the oldest of her sibling. All three of us are the oldest of all our siblings and all are females. "What a  connection!" 

Monteral is working on her maternal side of her family. Collecting photos and researching her maternal lineage. What a great gift to give to her family? The family lineage and knowledge of self. I know everyone is going to appreciate her efforts and some may even join her.

Monteral shared her rich photograph collected she inherited from her father after he passed away. She remembered the boxes of pictures because of her father. She recalled how her father took the collection out to look at the photos and engage her in the family images history lessons whether she wanted to are not, she had to take his history class. That's one history class I know she is happy she took. I knew that her father inherited them from a cousin we called "Cousin Gert" after she passed away.  Cousin Gert was raised by Aunt Ella,  If; I'm not mistaken, Cousin Gert may have been legally adopted by Aunt Ella. Nevertheless, I need to find out!

The photograph went to the right person when Uncle Raymond inherited them. I say that because of his love for family. He was the kind of person who would visit relatives. It's through him that I learned about the Harrell family who migrated up North. He took me to visit my great Uncle Warner Harrell's family in Wisconsin, Milwaukee.  Uncle Raymond liked taking pictures and collecting them too. Jo-Ann and I were discussing the blog I posted about the pictures.  She informed me that Aunt Ella was a picture collector. Whenever anyone in the family or friends took pictures they had to make sure they sent Aunt Ella a photograph. 

Ella Harrell Harrison
Aunt Ella had pictures that dated back to the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s. Matter-of-fact she had several tintype photographs. I just wish we knew the people in the photographs. I think Monteral and I should just sit down with Jo-Ann to see if she recognize any of the people in the photographs. I did recognize my great aunts and uncles and some cousins in the images. 

Writing letters was sometimes the only method families had of staying in touch with each other after some family members moved away from home. Some of the pictures were postcards. On the front, you can see the handwriting addressing the postcard to Aunt Ella and the return address information. Aunt Ella received a lot of photographs addressed to her.  In the same collection, I found a photo that was addressed to Mr. Buster Harrell, that was most people called my grandfather Jasper.  Just sitting here writing this blog makes me really appreciate having family photographs that have been in the family for at least five generations. In memory of our late Aunt Ella, we appreciate her contribution to our family. In her collection, we found a photograph of all her brothers, sister, and mother in front of the old Emma Mead Harrell homestead. They were all dress up with fancy suits and dress on. I was wondering if they could have attended a funeral of a family members. Could it have been grandpa Robert or grandpa Alexander funeral? 

I grateful for my cousins who are sharing the family images and oral history. If there are any other family members who want to share photographs with Nurturing Our Roots Blog, please contact me by email at

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Who Are These Beautiful People in the Photographs

Courtesy of Monteral Harrell
My maternal first cousin Monteral Harrell and I was looking through the photograph collection of her deceased father Raymond Harrell, Sr., and saw so many beautiful pictures that tell a story. We have no idea who these well dress people could be. Some of them could be people we are related to and just don't know it. My cousin whom I call Moni and I just looked at the beautiful pictures. 

They took taking a picture seriously. On most of the photographs, you will see people looking very serious. Unlike today, digital technology has taken us to new levels in photography. Making silly faces, taking selfies, and taking multi photographs without worrying about the loss of films and the cost of developing the films is the new way of taking pictures in today's time.  So that takes the edge off taking pictures today.

According to an article in Time Magazine,  November 28, 2016, issue, the first photographs were taken in the late 1820s. Our family had to have some means of money because they took a lot of photographs. Some were taken in the studio and some were taken at different homes.  The bottom line is someone had access to a camera and money to have them develop unless they had their own darkroom for processing the images. I just wish I knew who it was. I found more pictures on my Harrell side of the family then the Richardson and Vining side of the family. I wish I could find more image in every branch of my family tree.

I can take my grandfathers' Jasper's sister Aunt Bertha Harrell for example, she appeared to be a lady that enjoyed fashions and taking photographs.  But the question is; who are these beautiful distinguished people in the photographs?

Courtesy of Montreal Harrell
Every family has a keeper of the oral history, family photographs, and some are the keepers of the family heirlooms. Monteral like her father is the keeper of the family photographs. We are hoping that someone who may read this blog can identify someone in the images.  Many families had albums of unknown photographs and don't know what to do with them. Sometimes if you are lucky‒you can find an inscription on the back of the photograph and some may not have inscriptions or labels. 

We can interpret a lot from a photograph when we look at it closely.  The way they dress and the time period of the photograph. How they wore their hair and the location of the photograph! Looking at the images backgrounds. Did they take the photograph in a studio are did they take the photograph at home? Are there people that you recognize? 

One thing for sure, we should never throw away photographs. Especially pictures from the l800s and 20th century. Sometimes those pictures can be one of a kind and the only image there is that can connect us to a previous generation. Who wouldn't be happy to find a picture of an ancestor? I know I would be delighted and overly joyed.

I was browsing around on eBay and found an entire collection of African-American Photo Family Lot Talbot Ga Family Al 20s South Tintype selling for $99.00.  Vintage photographs can be pricey as well.  If you ever stop at a museum or antique shop, you can find that African-American images can be very expensive. 

Genealogist conferences, workshops, and family reunions are excellent places to start educating the family on the importance of keeping the old photo collection. Would you want your photo collection sitting outside in the trash? Have you thought about making plans for the collection? Do you know how to professionally archive your collection safely? 

I was happy to see that Monteral and her dad didn't laminate them. It best to use acid-free sleeves. And by all means please, avoid adhesives and please store your albums in a dry place free of all chemicals.  You do not want to use staples and paper clips that could stain and damages the photographs.  I strongly suggest wearing cloth gloves and avoiding latex gloves when looking at old photos. 

Please make sure you're in a clean area without in liquids or food when looking at the images. Some lights can be very harmful to the images, so do be careful when you are handling old and rare photos. I'm happy that Monteral and her father are two of the keepers of the Harrell family tree.

On the Vining side of the family, our cousin Ann Lee Vining Hurst inherit her mother Hilda" Zemora" Vining collection. Some of the photographs Ann was able to identify the people and others images she had no idea who the people were.

The Alexander Harrell Branches Linked Through A Photograph

Jo'elle and Baylee
We've all heard the someone say, " a picture is worth a thousand words" at one time or another.  My maternal first cousin Monteral Harrell inherit a family photograph collection after her father passed away. She understands the true value of the family photographs collections. It's the Harrell family treasure that holds images of our beautiful family. The collection consist of original black and white photographs and some metal printed photographs.  The tintype dates back to the period during the 1860s and 1870 and persisted into the early 20th century. 

"My daddy made sure I sit down and listen to him talk about the people he recognized in the image. Daddy would be so happy when  he shared the family oral  history through the photographs." He was proud of his family photograph collection," said his daughter.  I had to put them up to keep people from taking them becuase some are missing she said. 

Every genealogist wants to find family photographs while conducting their family research. The images tell stories and give clues. Just recently Monteral was going through her mother's photo albums when she came across a picture of my mother. She posted the images on Facebook and some people started commenting on the images.

Isabel Harrell
Courtesy: Monteral Harrell
A woman named Beverly Stewart Lewis saw the post and recognized my mother. She stated that she and my mother are cousins. I know the majority of my mother's paternal and maternal first cousins, and I didn't recognize Beverly.  I had to ask her to make the family connection for me. She then stated that my grandfather Jasper and Uncle Palmer Harrell use to visit her grandmother Rowena. Well, it turned out that Rowena was their sister. 

Mom often talks about the Stewart family in Arcola, Louisiana.  She recalled during an incident at the funeral of her father Jasper;  there were two ladies sitting on one of the front roll pews that were destinated for the immediate family and the usher asked them to please reserve the seats for the family. "One of the ladies said we are his sisters, that how close we are!"

At this point, the story is getting better. My granddaughter asked me could she have a sleepover with her friend Baylee who is her classmate. Baylee mom called me to confirm that it was alright. In the meantime, Beverly and I are communicating on Facebook and Baylee mother who is also a Stewart are talking by phone. I'm asking both of them questions at the same time. I found out that Beverly is Baylee great aunt and Baylee's grandfather is Beverly's brothers. I was so amazed that I couldn't sleep and I call another cousin and genealogist Karran Royal Harper with the news. Karran was excited to find a new Harrell branch.

My head is spinning with so many questions because I have been trying to make the connection between a woman named Corrine Harrell who is buried at Big Zion Cemetery in the same section of my branch of Harrell. It turned out to be that Corrine Harrell and Rowena were sisters.  I knew that my maternal great-grandfather Alexander had other children. No one ever said how many children he had or if it was males of females.

Beverly Stewart Lewis
I called my mom to asked her some questions about the Stewarts.  She remembers going to school with a young man by the name of Sheldon Stewart who was related to the Stewarts. Later she found out they were related. 

Corinne was born in 1890 in Tangipahoa and her sister Rowena was born in 1892 to Elsie Williams.   Corinne and Rowena were the daughters of Alexander Harrell. Rowena married Lance Brown and they became the parents of; Excel, Miller, Clarice, Ora Lee, Lancine, Marlan, Maceen and, Clara Brown. 

Baylee is the great-granddaughter of Clarice and the 4th great-granddaughter of Alexander. My granddaughter Jo'elle is the 5th great-granddaughter of Alexander. The little girls who thought that they were just good friends found out during the sleepover that they are actually cousins who share 4th and 5th great-grandfather. That connection that brought them together as friends have now brought them together as cousins. They kept looking at each other smiling and giggling like girls do.  The girls are calling each other cousins. They started face timing their other friends to tell them.  Baylee called other family members her age and introduce Jo'elle to them as their cousin. 

Because Monteral posted a photograph of my mother, we have now found a branch of our Harrell family tree. Yes, pictures can tell a story and often times give us a clue. In this case, a picture introduced me to new family members. We all can find ways to share family photographs with others in the family. It's one sure way to make sure the photograph will never be lost.