9 Feb 2016 – First Cousins On My Father’s Side Of The Family

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The picture above includes my first cousins – Rose (on the left) and Diane (on the right) – and my Uncle Charlie (in the middle).  Even though we are first cousins, I haven’t seen them since we were kids…with one exception.  That one exception was when my father died in 1996 at 64 yrs old.  Diane, Rose, and my uncles attended the funeral.  At that time, my parents were divorced so my father’s new wife handled all the arrangements.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but the lines of communication between my father’s side of the family and his children ended when my parents divorced.

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29 Oct 2015 – Restoration of Historic Barnes House at Montclair Community Library

On 29 Oct 2015, the Montclair Community Library in Prince William County held a ribbon cutting ceremony.  The community has waited for this library to be completed since the early 1990s!  Following is a picture of the new library.

 

Montclair Public Library Ribbon Cutting Ceremony - 29 Oct 2015

Montclair Public Library Ribbon Cutting Ceremony – 29 Oct 2015

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26 Oct 2015 – Alexandria, VA – Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery Memorial

As you know, I live near Washington D.C. which is full of history!  I recently discovered a historic site in my local area that I think is worth a post, the Contrabands and Freedman Cemetery Memorial in Alexandria, VA.

During the Civil War, there were many slaves that fled to Alexandria for freedom and a better way of life.  There were so many freedmen (called contrabands) moving to this area because of the Union occupation, that it created a refugee crisis.  Many arrived destitute, in ill-health, and hungry.  Initially, the government placed the contraband in barracks, but disease ran rampant and many died.

In 1864, after hundreds had perished, the Superintendent of Contrabands ordered that a property on the southern edge of town, across from the Catholic cemetery, be confiscated for use as a cemetery.  

In the first year, burials included those of black soldiers, but African-American troops recuperating in Alexandria’s hospitals demanded that blacks be given the honor of burial in the Soldiers’ Cemetery, now Alexandria National Cemetery. The soldiers’ graves were disinterred and moved to the military cemetery in January 1865.  The last burial in Contrabands and Freedmen Cemetery took place in January 1869.  (Source:  Contrabands and Freedmen Memorial)

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24 Oct 2015 – Wakes In The Home

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When my mother Alice was growing up, wakes were actually held in the homes. When a family member died, the funeral home prepared the body, placed it in the casket, and delivered it to the home.  During the wake, friends and family would come to pay their respects.  The wake was a celebration of life with food and drink.

My mother remembers her great-grandmother (Laura Washington) and grandfather (Joseph Brown) having a wake held in their home.  Based on the time of the funeral, the body would be delivered to the home the day before, and be available until an hour or two prior to the funeral which was held in the church.

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19 Oct 2015 – Ella Brown Thomas and Emaline Brown

Ella Brown Thomas

Ella Brown Thomas is my 3rd great-aunt (Mother’s side).  It is rare for me to have a picture going back six generations!  She was born in 1844 and died in 1944.  She is the daughter of Emaline Brown who was born in 1832.    I don’t know much about Ella Brown, but I do know that her mother was Emaline Brown.

When you are researching african american ancestors in the 1800s, it’s a challenge because the records are extremely scarce.  I was able to find limited information on Emaline Brown, mother of Ella Brown.  She had a savings account on 2 May 1872 at the age of 41.  At the time, her parents were dead, but the records show she had nine children:

  • Peter Brown
  • Margaret Brown
  • Simuel Brown
  • Ella (pictured above)
  • Elixander Brown
  • Thomas
  • Willie Brown
  • Carrie
  • Millie

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21 Sep 2015 – Eva Marie Davis

Eva Davis

Eva Davis

Eva was born on 19 Sep 1958 in Mobile, AL.  I will always remember Eva’s birthday because we were born a week apart.  Eva and I attended Fermi Elementary School in Chicago, IL.  On those days that Eva made it home before I did, Alice, asked, “Eva, where is your sister?”

Eva hung her head and responded, “The children down the street are fighting Debra, but I had to use the restroom!”  🙂

Our parents had to find other options besides the Chicago Public School system.  They joined the Catholic Church so that we could attend their schools, and St. Laurence Catholic Elementary School was our first.

In 1968, while attending St. Laurence, they selected Eva and I to attend St. Nicholas Middle School in Evanston, IL.  This was a difficult transition for us because the kids on our bus were the only African-American children that attended that school.  The travel time was one hour if traffic was good, but most days it would take up to two hours.   Once we arrived, the students and teachers didn’t really want us there! Continue reading

2 Sep 2015 – Davis Avenue

During the 1950s, my grandparents owned a night club for about a year on Davis Avenue.  By the 1960s, Davis Avenue was the hub for Negroes in Mobile.  There were grocery stores, night clubs, doctors, lawyers, barbers, hair salons…everything needed to support the community.

I couldn’t find a good picture of Davis Ave.  My mother told me that she never went on that side of town because the neighborhood had gotten really rough – people fighting, gun shots, stealing, etc.  I imagine it must have looked like this:

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31 Aug 2015 – Love Can Conquer All!

We celebrated my Mom’s birthday on 29 Aug 2015.  It was one of the most emotional, precious and memorable experiences I have ever had in my entire life!  Our family is truly blessed!  We all met in Tampa, FL 27-30 Aug 2015, stayed at a hotel in Ybor, the historic district of Tampa, and celebrated my Mom’s birthday on Saturday night.

Our plans for the weekend were to enjoy our family, reconnect, reminisce and celebrate Alice’s birthday.  We had five generations represented in person, and with our stories, we had up to eight generations!  It was truly amazing!  We had a nice turnout, from our newest member that is 11 weeks old (Andrea Jenea or AJ) to our oldest member, Inell who is 82 years old!  We used to have family reunions every other year, but with all the competing priorities in our lives, we stopped having them years ago.  In the past, when we got together, we were the kids in my generation, and now most of us are the grandparents!

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18 Aug 2015 – Introducing My Father’s Side of the Family

My father’s side of the family was very colorful – to say the least!  There was always excitement, but not the kind that my mother’s side of the family appreciated.   🙂

I remember all of my uncles very well.  In fact, along with my father, they were the ones that created all the excitement!  More on that later.  Let me tell you about them.

My grandmother, Rosie Lee Kennedy, was born in 1912 to Winslow Kennedy (age 28) and Onnie Kennedy (age 33 – still researching maiden name) in Marengo County, AL.  Rosie was a single parent with four boys – Cecil was born on 26 Jun 1931, Roland on 25 May 1932 (my father), Roosevelt on 3 Sep 1934, and Tonzie (we called him Charlie) on 18 Aug 1935.  In the 1930 census, Rosie and her children lived with Winslow and Onnie; however, by the 1940 census, all four sons were living with their grandparents, but Rosie was not.  I have not found Rosie in the 1940 census yet.

In the 1950s when my father was in high school, Rosie asked Roland to join the Army to help pay for bills.  As you know, the money my father sent to his mother was used to get his brothers out of jail on various occasions.  Rosie probably asked this of my father because her oldest son Cecil was always in trouble and not so dependable.

I was six years old when my family moved to Chicago.  Every summer we visited Rosie.  She was an excellent cook!  I remember eating the best homemade biscuits, fried corn, fried okra with tomatoes, collard greens, cakes, etc.  All the vegetables were fresh, not frozen.  Unfortunately, I have no recipes, and neither does my mother.  So sad.

The chicken and other meats were fresh as well.  One visit, we went to my grandfather Tonzie’s house for dinner.  At this time, Rosie and Tonzie were divorced (or separated).  There was a big meal prepared for us to include fried chicken.

The chicken that was on the table, started out his day running on the farm.  Someone grabbed it, rung his neck, plucked the feathers, and fried him up.  Fresh, fried chicken looks good but tastes nothing like what we are used to today.  That evening, I could not eat my chicken – it was just too fresh!

On one occasion while visiting Rosie, the brothers were out having fun.  When they returned, Charlie got out of the car, and slammed the door too hard.  It was Roland’s car, so he started screaming at Charlie who pulled out a knife and threatened to cut Roland.  Roosevelt joined the fight by threatening to shoot one of them with his gun, and Cecil was too drunk to care.  Needless to say, all four brothers were drunk!  Rosie, Onnie, my sisters and I were inside the house, peeking out the front room window.  The adrenalin was racing through my body because if shots were fired, I was afraid they might find us.  I was scared to look, but very interested in the excitement.

A variation of this scene was repeated every summer we visited!  Regardless of their actions, I loved each one of them!  The excitement left me with stories to tell my friends about how I survived my summer vacation!

A picture of Rosie is located below.  She is seated on the sofa (next to the lamp) near my sister Andrea.  My brother Roland is also in the picture.

 

Picture taken September 1976. Front to back/left to right - Roland, Anrea and Rosie Kennedy.

Picture taken September 1976.  Front to back/left to right – Roland, Andrea and Rosie Kennedy.

 

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