52 Ancestors #3: Bessie STOKES STERLING (1893 – 1962)

Bessie STOKES, Momma Bessie as she is known to our family, was born to Henry and Malissa (Pickett) STOKES in Clarke County, MS on March 10, 1893.1 Today is the anniversary of her birth 121 years ago.

I was able to find Momma Bessie living with her parents on the 1910 census as a teenager.2 When she was 22 years old, she married John “Johnny” Sterling and she began her journey as a wife and mother.3 Together they had 7 children: Lillie (1915 – 2006), Lucille (1916 – 2000), Maudie (1919 – 1990), John (1920 – 2003), Thomas (1922 – 1988), George (1927- 2010), and Orvelle.

I followed her through the census records with her family until 1940 when I found her living with her four sons.4 She was listed as married, but I found Grandpa Johnny living alone in another part of the county. That is when I learned that they later decided to divorce in October of that same year after 25 years of marriage.5

I never got to meet Momma Bessie, I only know her through the stories told by my mom and her siblings. From their stories, I gathered that they loved spending time with Momma Bessie. My mom said “we would go wherever she would go to get away from the house”. Mom most remembered that she loved to go fishing and visiting people in the neighborhood.6 She was also the favorite aunt of my 95 year old cousin.  She says that Aunt Bessie, as she called her, was fun to be with and had something to laugh about all the time.7 I really wish I could have met her. Since I didn’t, I will do my best to preserve the memories of her.

My mother’s last memory of Momma Bessie is that she went to the hospital and never come back. Based on her death record she had suffered a stroke and died several hours after reaching the hospital. She died on August 4, 1962 in Quitman, Clarke County, MS at age 69.8 She was buried in the New Hope Cemetery in Clarke County, MS.9

Happy Birthday Momma Bessie!

This is my third post as a part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, created by Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small.

Footnotes:

1. Mississippi State Department of Health, delayed birth certificate no. 112100 (1956), Bessie Stokes; Vital Records; Jackson.

2. 1910 U.S. census, Clarke County, Mississippi, population schedule, Quitman, p. 76, dwelling 652, family 652, Henry Stokes, Malisy, and Bessie; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: 2013); citing Family History Library microfilm: 1374749.

3. Clarke County, Mississippi, “Freedmen Marriage Record, Colored; v3 1914 – 1919”, page 39 for John Sterling and Bessie Stokes, Office of the Clerk of Circuit Court, Quitman.

4. 1940 U.S. census, Clarke County, Mississippi, population schedule, Quitman, p.13, family 112, Bessie Sterling; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration, 1940; Roll T627_2015.

5. Clarke County, Mississippi, Chancery Court, divorce file 3950 (1940), John Sterling v. Bessie B Stokes Sterling, final decree; Office of the Clerk of Chancery Court, Quitman.

6. Jerlean (Edwards) Pruitt, Quitman, MS, interview by Amy Pruitt Cole 05 July 2013; audio privately held by interviewer, Georgia, 2014.

7. Malissa (Rogers) Speed, Quitman, MS, interview by Amy Pruitt Cole 12 March 2013; audio privately held by interviewer, Georgia, 2014.

8. Mississippi State Department of Health, death certificate 13450 (1962), Bessie B. Stokes; Vital Records, Jackson.

9. New Hope Cemetery (Clarke County, Mississippi; County Road 691 GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 31.98102, Longitude: -88.67754), Bessie Sterling marker, photograph taken by Amy L Cole, September 2012.

© 2014 Amy L. Cole and Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey. All rights reserved.

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Cite This Page:
Amy L Cole, “52 Ancestors #3: Bessie STOKES STERLING (1893 – 1962),” Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey, 10 March 2014 (https://tracingamy.wordpress.com: [access date]).

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52 Ancestors #2: Maudie Lee Sterling Edwards (1919 – 1990)

It was only natural that the second ancestor be a woman who is dear to me. I call her “My Strong Black Grandmother”1.

Maudie Lee Sterling Edwards

Maudie Sterling Edwards
(1919 – 1990)

Maudie Lee (Sterling) EDWARDS was born on January 13, 1919 to John and Bessie (Stokes) STERLING in the village of Carmichael, Clarke County, MS.2

She is my maternal grandmother, the only grandmother I ever got to know, so I cherish the my memories of her. She was a beautiful woman. Her hair was long and her skin was dark like chocolate. I seemed to have inherited the chocolate skin color.  It took me a long time to love the skin that I’m in.  I now realize that my skin color is the perfect combination of my ancestors before me, so I now wear it proudly.

She was a pleasant person and a Christian woman that was very kind, free-hearted, understanding, and lovable. She always spoke the truth and she definitely meant what she said whenever she spoke. Nothing ever got past her!

At the age of nineteen, she joined Richard EDWARDS in holy matrimony on August 14, 19383. From this union came eight children and she began the long journey into motherhood: Mae, Richard, Jr. (1940 – 2013), Audrey, A.V., Jerlean (my mother), Willie, Levon, and Vernon (1956 – 1989).

To me, she was a wonderful lady and a strong woman. She took care of her family with what she had. Even when my granddad grew ill and could not work, she managed to feed and clothe a household of eight children and tend to her sick husband on about $50 dollars a month. Can you imagine having to do that with eight children?

She was a talented seamstress.  She was also one to match her clothes. Her dress, shoes, hat, gloves, and purse matched. She made sure of that. She made sure that what she sewed was sewn right. This talent was honestly passed on to her three girls. It was also passed to me and my sister by my mother, but we don’t use it as much as we should. My mom says that grandma would teach them that if they were going to sew, they had to do it right. Whenever they made something, my grandma would inspect it and if it was not right, she would take it apart and they would have to start all over again. She sewed with perfection and it was during the tough times that she used her talent to keep clothes on her back and the backs of her children. When I was home, I found a pattern that she cut out of an old newspaper. It was a priceless find for me. It looked to be a pattern of a shirt for a small child. Based on the year on the newspaper, it could have been for one of us grandchildren. I guess I may never know.

She was the sweetest grandmother a person could ever have. I remember when me, my sister, and my brothers visited her, she would bake chocolate cakes for us and put them in this tall white cabinet and inside was that glorious chocolate cake. It would be so good! To me, no one could cook like my grandma. She knew that cooking these cakes made us happy. She would also always give us money whenever we visited. She was a great grandmother, indeed.

I believe it was around 1985 that she was diagnosed with cancer. At one point she was very sick, she got well and then sick again. She fought this degrading disease for five long years. On the night that she passed, I stayed with her, my mom, my uncle and my granddad. To this day, I can’t remember why I wanted to stay that night because we lived just across the street. But on that cold night, October 28, 1990, my grandma passed away4. She passed while I was sleeping. I knew she was tired and weak, but she was the only grandmother I had. My heart was definitely broken, but I now know that as long as I live, she will still live on in me. We buried her on November 1, 1990 at the New Hope Cemetery in Quitman, Clarke County, MS5.

Grandma, I thank you for the works that you have done, for the cakes you baked, for the smiles you gave and the love you shared. You inspired me to go on, no matter what trials come my way. For to me you were a strong black woman. A strong black woman indeed! I love you!!6

This is my second post as a part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, created by Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small.

Footnotes:

1. Pruitt, Amy, “My Strong Black Grandmother.” Typescript, 18 November 1996. Cole Family Papers, Georgia.

2. Mississippi State Department of Health, birth certificate 44945 (1921), Mauddie Lee Sterling; Vital Records, Jackson.

3. Clarke County, Mississippi, “Marriage Record, Colored; Book 7, 1932 – 1938”, page 608 for Richard Edwards and Maudie Lee Sterling, Office of the Clerk of Circuit Court, Quitman.

4. Mississippi State Department of Health, death certificate 123-90-20190 (1990), Maudie Lee Edwards; Vital Records, Jackson.

5. Maudie Lee Sterling Edwards funeral program, 1990. privately held by Amy (Pruitt) Cole, Georgia.

6. Pruitt, Amy, “My Strong Black Grandmother.”

© 2014 Amy L. Cole and Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey. All rights reserved.

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Cite This Page:
Amy L Cole, “52 Ancestors #2: Maudie Lee Sterling Edwards (1919 – 1990),” Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey, 02 March 2014 (https://tracingamy.wordpress.com: [access date]).

Please do not copy without attribution and link back to this page.
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52 Ancestors #1: John “Johnny” STERLING

John Sterling

John “Johnny” Sterling
1881 – 1947

John “Johnny” STERLING was born on November 9, 1881,1 first born to George & Dorcas STERLING in Clarke County, Mississippi in what was known as the Maxville community.2  He was born just 18 years after the emancipation proclamation and 16 years after the abolishment of slavery.

He is my maternal great grandfather and is also the ancestor that started me on this journey.  I didn’t even know his name until my mother called me and intrigued me with the story about his parents that she had recently heard.  She knew her grandfather’s name and had his picture stored away in a box, but she knew very little about him and nothing of his parents.  He died before she was born so, all she had were stories of him being a mean man. She wanted to know more about him and his parents.  She specifically wanted to know where and when he died and then where he was buried.  She also wanted to know if the story of his parents were true (that’s another post). So, she called me up and put me to work. I haven’t stopped researching since.

I was surprised at how quickly the information came to me and I was able to answer Mom’s questions in no time.  The very first census I found him on was the 1900 census for Maxville, Clarke County, Mississippi on Ancestry.com.3  I was ecstatic because there he was listed with his parents and most of his siblings.  I did note that the last name was spelled Stirling and not Sterling and the census taker did not bother to completely spell the name of Grandma Dorcas, instead they just wrote Dan. Even after this finding I wanted to learn more, so I kept searching.  I found him in every census available since his birth, 1900 – 1940.  I also found his draft card, land records, death, marriage and divorce records.  (I must say that most of his records were not found online, but were found by doing research in the archives of the county courthouse.  So, while I did learn a little with online research, I found a great deal more on my research trip home.)

1900 Census Clarke County MS

1900 Census for Clarke County Mississippi – George Sterling Household
Ancestry.com

According to his WWI Draft Registration card, Grandpa Johnny was tall in stature with a strong build.4 In 1915, at the age of 33, he set out on his own and married Bessie STOKES (1895 – 1964) on January 4th.5 Bessie was the daughter of Henry and Malissa STOKES.6  The date they married stood out to me immediately, because its my birthday!

John Sterling WWI Draft Card

U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 for John Sterling
(Ancestry.com)

John and Bessie STERLING had 7 children: Lillie (1915 – 2006), Lucille (1916 – 2000), Maudie (1919 – 1990), John (1920 – 2003), Thomas (1922 – 1988), George (1927- 2010), and Orvelle.

When viewing the census records, I found that, with only a 6th grade education,7 he continued the family occupation of farming as started by his grandfather, Claiborne STERLING. I did find land records where he was given land by his grandfather,8 but I also found that he was later able to purchase additional lands on his own.9 It was on this land that he lived and farmed.

After 25 years of marriage, Grandpa Johnny and Grandma Bessie decided to divorce in October 1940.10 Neither remarried.

John Sterling

John Sterling
Calvary Hill Baptist Church Cemetery
Beneath the thorn bush

Grandpa Johnny lived in the Maxville Community until his health began to fail and he was admitted into the Mississippi State Hospital in Rankin County. He passed away on March 3, 1947 at the age of 6511 and is buried at the Calvary Hill Baptist Church cemetery in Shubuta, Clarke County, MS.12

I know there is much more to learn about Grandpa Johnny in records that my eyes have not yet had the opportunity to see.  I must admit that when I first saw the picture of Grandpa Johnny, I thought his eyes were a bit eerie.  But I know the story behind those eyes now and as I began to research, that story and those eyes intrigued me (now I have even noticed that my mother’s eye are shaped the same as his).  So, my search doesn’t stop here.  I search until I am able to corroborate the family lore about those eyes that stare back at me.

Note: The Maxville community is now known as the Carmichael community which is a part of Shubuta, Clarke County, MS.13

This is my first post as a part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, created by Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small.

Footnotes:

1. United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917 – 1918, digital images. Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com: accessed 16 February 2014), card for John Sterling, serial no. 1773, Registration Clarke County, Mississippi; Imaged from Family History Library microfilm.

2. 1900 U.S. census, Clarke County, Mississippi, population schedule, Maxville, p. 14, dwelling 117, family 117, George, Dan, and John Stirling; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: 2012); citing Family History Library microfilm: 1240804.

3. 1900 U.S. census, Clarke Co., Mississippi, pop.sch., p.14, dwell. 117, fam. 117, George, Dan, and John Stirling.

4. United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917 – 1918, images, Ancestry.com, card for John Sterling, serial no. 1773, Registration Clarke County, MS.

5. Clarke County, Mississippi, “Freedmen Marriage Record, Colored; v3 1914 – 1919”, page 39 for John Sterling and Bessie Stokes, Office of the Clerk of Circuit Court, Quitman.

6. Mississippi State Department of Health, death certificate 13450 (1962), Bessie B. Stokes; Vital Records, Jackson.

7. 1940 U.S. census, Clarke County, Mississippi, population schedule, Maxville, p.30, dwelling 275, family 275, John Sterling; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 17 February 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration, 1940; Roll T627_2015.

8. Clarke County, Mississippi, Deed Book N-1:535, Claborn Sterling to John Sterling, 26 April 1922; Office of the Clerk of Chancery Court, Quitman.

9. Clarke County, Mississippi, Claborn Sterling to John Sterling, 21 August 1926; Office of the Clerk of Chancery Court, Quitman.

10. Clarke County, Mississippi, Chancery Court, divorce file 3950 (1940), John Sterling v. Bessie B Stokes Sterling, final decree; Office of the Clerk of Chancery Court, Quitman.

11. Mississippi State Department of Health, death certificate 4696 (1947), John O. Sterling; Vital Records, Jackson.

12. Calvary Hill Baptist Church Cemetery (Clarke County, Mississippi; County Road 622), John Sterling marker, photograph taken by Amy L Cole, September 2012.

13. Historic Clarke County Mississippi. Second Edition. (Clarke County, Mississippi: Historic Clarke County, Inc, n.d.), 46.

© 2014 Amy L. Cole and Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey. All rights reserved.

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Cite This Page:
Amy L Cole, “52 Ancestors #1: John “Johnny” STERLING,” Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey, 22 February 2014 (https://tracingamy.wordpress.com: [access date]).

Please do not copy without attribution and link back to this page.
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Maudie Sterling Edwards: Why I Called Her Name

Maudie Sterling Edwards

Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey

I can not begin to describe how I felt during the AAGSAR BLOGFEST2014 announcement of the New Kids on the Blog.  There were a lot of emotions all at once.  When the post was released, I clicked the link and waited in anticipation for the picture that I had chosen to come up in the slide show.  There she was, my grandmother, my inspiration.  To see my grandmother, Maudie Sterling Edwards, amongst the ancestors of my fellow New Kids on the Blog roster as representation for Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey, brought tears to my eyes.

I want to share the reasons why I chose my grandmother to represent the introduction of this blog.  See, this is not the first time that I have called her name.  I wrote a tribute to her when I was in college (I will share that at a later date) and she helped me with every word.  I truly believe that she must have known that I would be here, digging through records and helping to tend the roots of the family tree so that it grows to include the names of those before her that were unknown to me.

In addition to this, for as long as I can remember, I have been told that I look like her.  My mother and her siblings often look at me and say, “you look so much like momma.”  I know that I must bear a strong resemblance to her because elder relatives who see me for the first time look at me as if they have seen me before.  After the squinting of their eyes and cocking of their head, they too begin a sentence with “you look just like…”.  I just smile and say “I know”.

When I first started this journey, I started with her father, John Sterling, and her grandfather, George Sterling, both of Clarke County, MS.  Soon after starting, I made my first trip home to find out more.  My mom led me to the papers that my grandmother left behind and to my surprise, she had left me a treasure trove.  Amongst her papers were old funeral programs and even an old family reunion booklet for another line of the family.  I was delighted that she had kept these things and that no one had decided to throw them out after her passing.  I made a couple of trips home in 2013 and decided that I must go through those papers again, for fear that I have missed something.  And sure enough, I did.  With each trip I found additional papers to help with my research.  To top it off, I found a Bible of hers in which she wrote the names, death dates, and burial dates, and sometimes place of death of relatives.  Just recently, I referred to the Bible and realized that she had left the death date and place of a relative that I had been searching for.

Research continues on the Sterling line, but my focus was shifted to work on her mother’s line, Bessie Stokes Sterling.  Since connecting with the cousin that I mentioned in Collaborating with Cousins, I have learned that the family has been working on keeping and updating the tree for a while.  However, I am starting to understand why my focus was shifted to this line.  The research has brought me to the name of my 4th great-grandfather (her 2nd great-grandfather), Kelly Stokes.  I can’t say that I fully understand what it is that I am looking for, but I know she will help me just as she has done before.

Thank you Grandma for sending me to AAGSAR!  Also, thanks you to Luckie Daniels and the AAGSAR group for all of the continued support!  #BLOGFEST2014

Many Blessings and Happy Searching!

~AmyC.

© 2014 Amy L. Cole and Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey.  All rights reserved.

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.