Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My Family History Mystery



Yesterday was one of those strange days when things didn't quite go as planned but also seemed to flow as if it were meant to be.

Honey and I woke up and had coffee. I saw her off to work as usual. I started getting my dance clothes ready and getting myself geared up for a day of ballet teaching. But then I get a call from Honey saying that she had a tremendous migraine and felt like she was going to faint. Needless to say I made her come home and I cancelled my classes for the day to make sure I was home when she returned.

By the time she got home she was fine (all is good now. I'm sure you all were wondering. This is not about Honey's migraine) and just wanted to sleep it off. So we climbed back into bed, she to sleep and me with the laptop.

While changing my blog header and looking at the photo of my great grandmother I started thinking. Hmmm... I don't know anything about my family. I mean sure, I know the basics: My aunts, uncles, their children, and my grandparents but that's it. Especially on my mother's side. My mom is not the most open person in the world. I don't ever remember her talking much about her family when I was growing up. Maybe that's because my mom is from Gary, Indiana and moved to the south long before I was born for college. That's how she met my father.

I realized that I didn't know my grandma's maiden name. And my great grandmother (pictured in my header), well I only knew that her name was Lula. Nothing else. That bothered me a little. Since I'm so into anything old, I want to learn a little more about where I come from. My family doesn't have a lot of things left over from times gone by. So I want to at least learn as much as I can and be able to see myself in my family.

So... I called up my mom and asked her what my Grandma's maiden name was...Harris... So that makes my great grandmother Lula Harris.

I went on ancestory.com and started a subscription and a family tree. It is actually kind of difficult to find your lineage if you are a person of color. Since, as we all know, blacks were slaves up until a hundred years ago and still considered less than a person just up until the 60s and 70s there is not much information on black families. So while ancsetory.com wasn't a complete bomb it didn't help too much.

Then I thought... Hmmm...why not Google my grandparents. It was a long shot but Honey was sleeping and I had nothing better to do. So I did. I only found a small amount on my paternal grandparents. Just my Grandfather's obituary and some Census records. So then, I Googled my maternal grandfather and things started showing!

One thing that popped out was a blog that mentioned Harold Cotten...my grandfather...

So I clicked the link and THIS popped up!!!

A small history on my grandfather's parents and siblings. Made by a woman I had never met, Jennifer. But knew at once she was part of my family because she spoke of a woman named Hortense as her aunt. Well, my mother's aunt is also Hortense.

So while I'm sure other family members know Jennifer, I have never met her. But found her on the interwebs!!!! How cool is technology!?!?!?!

She also has another blog that is all about her journey of finding information on our family. Her blogs have a wealth of knowledge about the Cotten (my grandfather's side) of the family. I haven't read through both sites in their entirety yet but I intend to. It's a little overwhelming but I can't wait to see what I find out. She also has a lot of helpful advice on how to research your own family tree.

What I have learned so far:

My family has an even bigger link to Louisiana than I ever thought. I thought it was only on my father's side but now I've found out, also on my mother's side!! I'm totally a Louisianan girl!!! And proud of it...

I have someone named Napolean in my family! Great name right! I know that is a random fact but I got a complete kick out of it!

I think I get my love for homemaking and all things domestic from that side of my family.

I also (as I already knew)  get my love of nostalgia from them also. It seems that Jennifer loves old movies, vintage and antiques!!!!

I need to ask mom again about my great grandmother's name. The blog says that my paternal great grand's name was Lula also. The picture on my header is my MATERNAL great grand Lula... So either mom got it wrong or there was a Lula on both sides. Which I guess is not impossible but...

I still have a lot to read and find out. I'm totally excited! I wish I could get some photos to go with everything I learned. I'm just happy I found someone who can fill in some of the blanks.  I've contacted Jennifer through her blog and am excited to connect with her.

I also want to learn more about my maternal grandmother's side. That woman in the photo is a mystery to me (I guess I could ask my Grandmother but she's not exactly an open book).  And I'm interested in learning more about her... I'm not sure why but I feel a pull to her.

So that was my day yesterday. An interesting one if I say so myself. I know this was wordy, sorry about that. But I was so excited that I had to share!!!!

Here's to more research!



Sorry... No photos today...Just me yapping away! Back to your regularly scheduled programming tomorrow!

Do you know a lot about your family history???

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29 comments:

  1. Hi there! I love your blog and, as a matter of fact, I've been tracing my family tree (off and on) for the past 5 years :) I thought I was going to hit a bunch of brick walls along the way, but I've been able to trace my family back to 1800. Yes, I typed that correctly- I found my Black family in years prior to slavery. There is a lot of work involved with thoroughly researching family trees, but fortunately for us, the internet has made it so much easier!

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    1. WOW! That's fabulous and totally gives me hope. I guess just a lot of patience and persistance is the key. I'm just starting out so we'll see how it goes!!!

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    2. Yup, pace yourself and don't give up! It's so exciting when you make even tiny breakthroughs. I remember the first time I saw my great-grandmother's name on a census record, along with her 7 sisters :) Pure joy!

      Nothing is going to feel as good as being able to explain your family history to your (future!) babies. I recently amped up my research since having my daughter, and she's a great motivator for persisting with my research.

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  2. That is pretty darn cool. I know that being of Hispanic, specifically Mexican descent linage gets really confusing and complicated. The typical Mexican name includes both your parents name and your maiden name. For example Guadalupe Vega Damian. Vega is the spouse's name and Damian is her maiden name. You can see how hard this would be to track. I once made a family tree when I was in 4th grade was able to get to my great-great grandmother but after that no one really knows much. My husband is Caucasian and has his ancestry tracked back pretty far.One of his ancestors was Aaron Burr.

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    1. Aaron Burr!?!?! That's crazy!!! And yeah... multiple last names can problem get confusing!!

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  3. What a beautiful, fascinating post and look at some of your family history. I've always been fascinated by genealogy and in the start of 2010, decided it was high time I really applied myself to researching and learning more about both sides of my family, too (or which, I relatively little to go on in most cases when I began, too). From the first moment onward, genealogy took hold of my heart and has been one of the biggest passions in my life. I usually devote at least a few hours to it each week now (and sometimes many more), and have made some tremendous strides with certain branches (others remain much more elusive, but I won't ever give up the search for more information).

    I use the site Geni.com (highly recommended!) to build and (privately) store my tree and also, to a lesser extent, for research. One of the features of that site that I just adore is that if you have the pro membership (it's about $60 annually), there's a feature that allows you to search through the huge database of profiles there, select a name (famous or otherwise) and try to determine if you're related to that person (based on the names and connections in your own tree). It's really fun because sometimes you'll find out you're, for example, fifth cousins three times removed with someone famous.

    I love genealogy in general, not just my own family's and am always here to help if you need a hand or just want to talk shop, dear gal.

    ♥ Jessica

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    1. Oh definitely! Its an exciting venture that I can't wait to really get started on! I will definitely need your ear!

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  4. That is so exciting. I realized a few months ago that even though I have a genealogy on both sides of my family, I know little about how my grandparents grew up. They just don't talk much about those things. I don't know if it is a generational thing, since we are so used to sharing every aspect of our lives these days, or it was a personal thing. It is really cool to find out about your ancestors lives. It helps us feel like we're complete, knowing where we got our bits and pieces from.

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    1. I think you're right about it being generational. And with my grandma being elderly and in poor health its hard to get anything out of her. I'm going to keep digging though.

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  5. I love family mysteries like this. How exciting. My brother and I have been trying to find out about our family and it's starting to get expensive trying to get the records from Europe. But I found out that I had butchers on both sides of my family which is crazy because several of us are vegetarians! Good luck with this!

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  6. I'm so glad you're able to find some info and best of luck in your attempts to find more.I have the same problem,as much as I LOVE elements of the past as far as my past I don't know a lot and everyone in my family is pretty hush hush about it.The funny thing is the more I find out over the years the more I start to understand why no one talks much.Lots of skeletons!

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    1. I'm almost positive we have skeletons! Some of the things I do know are scandalous enough. Can't imagine some of the stories I don't know!

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  7. Hey Cuz. I had to use google chrome to comment. Love your blog. Love it even more that you're psyched about genealogy. But be warned. It's very addictive.
    I told my mother about our emails and she says she remembers your great great grandmother. Sometimes you never know until you ask.
    I left a reply to your response on my blog. Just FB me when you can. I look forward to sharing more with you.

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  8. I'm so excited and thrilled for you sweetie! I have been doing the same a bit here and there but hitting lots of walls. In my case many people have the names of the people in my family and about 90% of all the elders are gone now including my grandparents. That might be the reason why I scrapbook and memory keep for my family-I want my children to have a sense of their history!!! Keep us posted-this is truly beyond exciting!!!! xox

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    1. Oh I will definitely keep you posted!!!

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  9. Great project, I hope one day you and Jennifer can meet and discuss your family:)

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    1. I hope so too!! We've connected through FB already! Maybe it's time to make a trip to Chicago!

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  10. Oh forgot to say, love it that you added your great- grandmother to your header:)

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  11. That's exciting news!! I am the family historian of my family and have been researching for about 17 years. Census records are great as well as newspaper articles, obituaries, marriage records, death and burial/cemetery records. Also do a Google search of the county your ancestors lived in and add GEN WEB to the search (for example "Onondaga County Gen Web") it will lead you to a wonderful website dedicated to the area that your family lived in, they usually have great search engines and also extensive cemetery records for the area. Any family bibles kicking around?? Those may have written information in them, or daily journals. Ancestry.com is great but the website familysearch.org run by the Latter-Day Saints is extremely helpful (great for death, census and marriage records). Also try findagrave.com for cemetery listings and burial info. If you ever have time, interview the eldest members of your family (while they are still here, I've missed out on so much information by waiting too long and people passing away) pick their brain and tape them talking and also write it down. It's like your are on a treasure hunt! Happy hunting!!

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    1. OMG! Thanks so much for all of the useful information!!! That is REALLY helpful!!

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  12. Being Egyptian, our names carry on the father's line. For example you're first name, then middle name is your father, then last name is his father, then his father and so on.I know names, but not much history. My mother always tells me stories. and we know about 4 generations upwards. But I can never remember them. I might have to create my own family tree on these websites. My mum has around 30 first cousins on her own! Its near impossible.
    But definatly a great important project to keep track of.

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    1. Wow!! That's interesting!!! I never thought of how hard it would be for other cultures who aren't European to track their history!! Crazy!

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  13. Wow! How exciting, and amazing that you were able to find out so much about your family history online! It's also very cool that you have found Jennifer, another family member to connect with. I will be curious to hear the rest of your research!

    On a side note - I really like your new header! :)

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  14. I just started on ancestry.com this week. I honestly started it to seek out info on my biological parents. But then got the idea to do a family tree for my adopted fam since it has been my fam since i was 2 days old. It has been difficult. All my elders are dead from my grandparents generation. A bunch are gone from my parents age, the few that are left didn't pay attention to thier elders stories and are not much help. It's just as hard searching when your family was eastern european immigrants. My husbands fam has been in America forever, they have so far traced back as far as a judge in texas during the civil war. My moms side came from Russia, the first great grandparent came in 1885, the last came in the early 19teens. I have found very little, and can trace nothing from before they came here. Most of what I have, I already had before I started. My dads parents came from Poland and except for death records and one 1940s census (that had my grandmas name mispelled and my dads age wrong), nothing. A friend whose family came from Ireland at the same time had a way easier time finding records. I wonder if language barriers have anything to do with it.

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