Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Community Based Genealogical Projects
I have three genealogical research projects. One is a family history which includes detailed information on each member of my family and which also includes information about the people who held them in slavery & their families (Haynes, Kincaid slaveholders). The second project is an abbreviated family history. This project contains a chronological history of the family (and some collaterals). The third project is a "community based" research project which endeavors to list every black/mulatto/native american person that ever lived in Greenbrier, Monroe, Pocahontas, & Summers Counties. Often, if I find someone from another county in an obscure source I also list them, and I list anyone who has an unusual name which is also found in one of my counties (i.e. Spriggs). If I should live long enough I will begin to compile information on other counties (Raleigh next).
I would have to say that the community based project is my favorite research project. For one thing, it is inclusive of my family history project. While listing names of the areas citizens from various sources I am constantly finding family members who I never would have found if I had purely done a family search. This is because the individuals may have married again and have a new name, or were erroneously listed under another name, or are listed with a nickname or with only abbreviations for a first name. (My grandfather was listed in one census with his first name (Mansfield) as his surname and I found him only b/c I was compiling information for the entire community).
The community based project has led me to be interested in what life was like for Black folks from the area from the time of settlement. (My ancestors - on one side - appear to be early residents of Lewisburg) There is no book that I know of that describes life in these counties from a Black person's point of view. Since nothing exists that I know of I am constantly on the search for snippets of information from other sources.
I now "mine" every book I can get my hands on about the area. I've found that there will be a few references about the Black citizens of the area in almost every book.
Information about this part of WV and its citizens can be found in unusual places. For instance, the July 1972 issue of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE contained an issue entitled "Mountain Days, Mountain Voices" by Bryan Hodgson. The article contains a photo of a Black male who is standing in front of "C.D. Hanger Jeweler". The man is not identified by name but his picture is accompanied by the following statement:
"Emblems of patriotism brighten a shop front in Alderson where a citizen savors a moment of quiet after the 4th of July parade. During the days of the underground railroad, freedom bound slaves passed through the mountains of southern Appalachia aided by sympathizers who in 1863 helped make WV a separate state".

I will take the magazine to WV on my next trip to see if anyone can identify the gentleman by name.

Tip: If I were to do a community based project for a larger city/area I would take one enumeration district only. I would start with 1880 and then go backward and forward. I would then start "mining" other sources for information on the listed residents. Obviously, this project is easier when you are looking for a group of folks that only make up a very small part of the community.

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