Forgotten Cemeteries – Shanks and Liberty Hill

During my document gathering phase in 2014, I found the index listing and ordered the death certificates for my 2nd great grandparents on my EDWARDS line.  While quickly reviewing their death certificates (I was supposed to be focused on getting ready for my little one’s arrival), I noticed that the cemeteries listed were ones that I did not recognize.  They were listed as Shanks Cemetery and Liberty Hill Cemetery.  I went to Find A Grave and searched all the cemeteries in Clarke County, MS and could not find them listed.  I also googled the names and still found nothing.  I started asking around and no one could tell me where these cemeteries are located. My mom got on the phone and asked around and people said they remembered one of the cemeteries but couldn’t quite tell us how to get there.  There was quite a stir.  Several people became interested and wanted to locate them as well.  When it seemed as though no one would be able to help me locate the cemeteries, I resolved that I was going to have to research the land records somehow to see if I could pin point them myself.  Researching the land records would require a trip home to Mississippi.  So, until I was able to make the trip home, I had planned to try to research through census and death records.

That was my plan until finally, earlier in 2015 I received a call from my mom saying that our cousin had spoken to an older gentleman who could take us to the cemeteries. They were in the woods and not easily accessed by car.  We would need 4×4 wheel drive.  In fact, he says that there are three cemeteries in those woods.  I was so excited!!!  Of course now I can’t just jump in the car and drive down for a weekend trip because I have a little one.  But I was making plans to get there since I was told this good news!

I finally got to go home for Thanksgiving 2015 and we met with the gentleman to find one of the cemeteries.  I’ll tell you more about what I have found when visiting in a later post.  Just know that I later found out that this cemetery was not the one I was looking for.   Since we would possibly need 4 wheelers to access the other cemeteries and I had my little one in the truck, I only got to visit the one.

Before going, I did put together a research plan, but since returning, I realize I need to add more to it.  There are more African American cemeteries in those woods than I thought.  The elders of the community named two more, bringing the count to five.  Five forgotten cemeteries.  My heart has sunk.  Most of my ancestors on my mom’s side lived back there.  The question that has been bouncing around in my head since that trip is: What happened to the communityand why did they abandon the area leaving their loved ones to be overtaken in an unkept resting place?  I guess I have to expand my research plan to find out.

If you have some tips on researching a cemetery and unearthing the community that surrounded them without being physically there, please share them in the comments section.  

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The Debut of Tracing Amy

Welcome to my first blog post!  My name is Amy L. Cole.  I am the 4th child born to Lee Roy Pruitt & Jerlean Edwards Pruitt of Quitman, Clarke County, Mississippi.  Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey is about my quest to learn more about my family history.

I started the blog after reading the appeal by Luckie Daniels, founder of African American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research, to make more of the research of African-American ancestry available online.  After much consideration and a nod from my family, I decided to start blogging!  My goal is to be able to provide a space where family members can follow and participate in my research.

Now that the blog history is out of the way, I think I should tell you a little about the names and places that I am researching.  I decided that I wanted to do research on both my paternal and maternal lines.  From what I know, both lines have deep roots in Clarke and Jasper Counties in Mississippi, post emancipation.  My paternal lines are Pruitt, Dukes, & Carr and the maternal lines are Edwards, Sterling, Shanks & Stokes.  I will tell you more about what I have found for each line in other post.

I have been able to take 3 of the 4 maternal lines back to the 1870 Federal Census giving me the names of ancestors that were possibly born into slavery.  I was able to accomplish this by sifting through family records, conducting interviews with family members, visiting cemeteries, and collecting obituaries.  Although I believe I have the name of the ancestors who would have been born into slavery, I have not yet started slavery research for my maternal line.   I want to ensure that all of my information post civil war is correct.  So, I am busy collecting birth marriage and death records as well as other records that will assist the search for my grandparents and great grand parents generation.  I plan to continue to go back one generation at a time collecting these records and learning as much as I can so that I have a solid beginning to enter into slavery research.

On my paternal line, I have only been able to get back to the generation of my great grandparents.  I will have to gather more information on this side because not much is remembered by those still living.  So I have some…..lets call them speed bumps on the paternal side, they haven’t turned into brick walls just yet. 🙂

So that is a summary of how far I have gotten on the family tree as a whole.  I have a couple of family reunions coming up in 2014, so I will probably focus on those lines the most in the coming months.  I will try to keep you posted along the way.

~AmyC.

© 2013 Amy L. Cole and Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey.  All rights reserved.