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.  

Advertisements

Genealogy Year in Reflection: 2013

It’s the last day of 2013, so I have been reflecting on how the year has gone as it relates to my genealogy research.  As I think back, my year really started when I got the Exploring Our Roots & Finding Oprah’s Roots DVDs for Christmas.  That was followed by a mobile handheld scanner for my birthday on January 4th.  I was really excited because I had made such progress since I started in July 2012. But this year, I was determined to learn more about the process of researching genealogy and family history.

January 2013 – I watched every episode on those DVDs and made notes of comments that might help me in my research. I watched some of the archived webinars on Ancestry.com.  I also started organizing planning my first research trip to my hometown to gather documents and conduct interviews.

February 2013 – I conducted 3 phone interviews to prepare myself for the trip I was about to embark upon.  Toward the end of the month, I finally decided to order Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree by Tony Burroughs.  I read parts of the book at the time, because I wanted to only review the parts that I would need for my trip.  Didn’t realize at the time that I really needed to read that book cover to cover before running off on a research trip!  Lesson learned.

March 2013 – I went on my first week-long research trip to Mississippi to my hometown.  I created a calendar and had everything planned out from visiting the cemeteries where my family was buried, the county courthouse (Clarke), the state archives (which is a 2 hour drive one-way from my parents), conducting interviews, and searching through the “family archives”.  I got to interview my 94 year old cousin, who was an absolute delight! I also got to meet some people on my Dad’s side of the family who I had not previously met, even though they only lived about 15 minutes away from my parents all my life.  My mom was my riding partner and she braved the cemeteries (deep in the woods of Mississippi), helped me dig in at the courthouse and the archives, sat through interviews and scanning sessions, helped me track down where funeral home records went, and contacted everyone she knew that could help me.  She is still helping me now with my questions and hunting down those that are living who can answer the questions that she doesn’t have the answers to.  March was an excited research month for me and I came back with lots of information for my research.  To top it all off, there was the birth of my 8th grand nephew (I have 5 grand-nieces as well)!

April 2013 – I started to attend genealogy seminars that were being held here in Atlanta. My first seminar was a lecture by Tony Burroughs and he signed my book!

May – September 2013 – I attended more seminars and even got my feet wet in The National Archives at Atlanta.  It was during these months that I realized that I was seriously unorganized!  I begin to catalog, scan and file.  I am still working on the organizing part (computer issues).  Didn’t realize I had so much stuff.  I did some research as well, adding to the pile! 🙂  I also started to join Facebook groups looking for guidance. It was through one of the groups that I was able to get the death certificate of my 2x great-grandfather, Henry Stokes, which included the names of his mother and father, taking me back another generation.

Richard Edwards, Jr.

Me and Uncle Richard

October 2013 – I lost my Uncle Richard.  Richard Edwards, Jr., born February 19, 1940 to Richard Edwards, Sr. and Maudie L. Sterling Edwards.  He passed away October 7, 2013.  We were hurt, but we know he is at rest and that we were blessed to have encountered him.  I cried as I recorded the date in my tree.  That was the hard part of genealogy for me.  I can still hear his laugh.  I am thankful that my sister and I were able to sing a joyful medley at his funeral.  I also got to meet his youngest son, a first cousin that I didn’t know existed.  October was hard, because my mother lost her brother and 2 cousins that month.  That is 4 deaths in all for my family for the year (1 on my dad’s side a few months earlier).

November 2013 – I refocused and started to research the Stokes side of my family.  I conducted a couple of phone interview and tasked myself with gathering vital records again.  On Thanksgiving Day, I met a cousin who added to my collection of funeral programs and even gave me a copy of a fictitious account of the lives of my Great-Granduncle Charlie Moody and Aunt Libby Stokes Moody.  The book is called Paw Charlie’s Triumphs by Roy Conner. I read it a day’s time…I was that excited!  I finally decided to finish reading Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree by Tony Burroughs!  After I finishing that book, I also read Got Proof! by Michael Nolden Henderson in two day’s time. I love reading, can’t you tell!  November was also the month that I was able to obtain the death certificate of Taylor Stokes, father of Henry Stokes.  That death certificate had the name of his father, Kelly Stokes, taking me back yet another generation.

December 2013 – I started to focus on how to properly document my research.  My 9th grand-nephew was born!  I was connected to a cousin who is the keeper of the Stokes family tree.  Lastly, I joined AAGSAR and started this blog to share my research.

I’d say that was an ok year in genealogy, wouldn’t you?  I’m pretty excited to take it to the next level and see what my ancestors will show me in 2014!

Happy New Year & Happy Searching!

~AmyC.

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

Collaborating With Cousins

I am so excited! Since joining Ancestry.com in the past year, I have reached out to several persons that have the same ancestor on their family tree. These trees usually come through hints and when I review, I will send a note. It has taken months for some to reply, but lately they have been replying back to back for a the particular line that I am researching at the moment.

I have been researching the STOKES line because there is a family reunion this year. I want to learn as much as I can before attending. So, I am elated to have found 3 relatives who are also researching. One of my cousins just happens to be the keeper of the family tree and may have most of the details that I would be looking for.  He turned out to be the son of  my Great grand-uncle Alonzo Stokes that I was having trouble finding any information on!  Alonzo Stokes is the son of Henry Stokes and Malissa Pickett Stokes of Clarke County, Mississippi.

My cousin and I spoke today and while he does have a lot of information, there is much work to do to tie up loose ends.  He has mentioned some queries that he would like some help with and we are also talking about pulling together a website dedicated to family history for descendants of Taylor and Cornelia Stokes of Clarke County, Mississippi.  I love it!

Now, I must get to work!  I just wanted to share that having the courage to reach out and adding in much patience eventually pays off.

Happy Searching!

~AmyC.

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