Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Now that I'm back...

I almost cried before I left for work this morning. I am really sad that this trip is over. I had a wonderful time and I miss the South already. I WANT MY BLUE BELL!!!! **Laughs**

I was so fortunate to meet so many wonderful people and spend time with them. I was so blessed every step I took. I was well fed and taken care of! I miss Jean, Alice, Grace and Freddy so much. I've never spent that much time with them at once in my whole life. I feel like I need to call them more often now.

Jean...I don't even know where to start. I know I couldn't have done this without her. I am SO grateful and feel so lucky to have her! The same goes for Florence...she is is an invaluable resource. I still can't believe we had her up until 3am talking about what she knew. That taped recording is going to be worth so much! If I could have, I would have taken Raymond the dog home with me.

In all, I, with the help of many, collected the following information:
- From the children of King Atlas and Rachel Day, to date, I have been able to trace to present four of their six children: King, Jr., John, Sr., Andrew, William, Sr. I have been able to trace Sarah Atlas' line to at least 1938, and have still not found any information on if there was a son named Thomas born to King and Rachel. I still believe that this was a mistake, as King Atlas, Jr. had a son named Thomas and I believe people thought he had a brother with the same name.

- I discovered the whereabouts of two lines of the family: The descendants of Rachel Atlas-Hearns (Daughter of King Atlas, Sr. and Alice Smith) and the descendants of Rachel Atlas-Ferguson (Daughter of John and Sabina Atlas). These two Rachels were first cousins and named after their paternal grandmother Rachel Day.

Rachel Atlas-Ferguson's daughters are still living and live next door to each other in the Inland Empire in CA. I grew up not even 10 miles north of where they live; my family has been in that area for more than 20 years and had no idea they were there until now. These sisters have a letter that is over 130 years old from a family member from VA that use to be in the possession of their aunt until she died in 1973. Another cousin had read and seen this letter but didn't know where it had went once the sisters aunt had passed away. He didn't even know who came from CA to bury her, as he had been told that information from neighbors. Now we know who it is. This over 30 year mystery was solved by a visit to the grocery store by Florence. The butcher at Jongs in Lake Providence is the nephew of the two sisters mentioned above. He's lived in Lake Providence nearly his whole life.

I found Rachel Atlas-Hearns descendants after searching through online obituaries, which is something I haven't relied on doing. I discovered that one of Rachel's great grandaughters had died only two weeks before I found her obituary. I placed a cold call to the only name in the state that she lived in that matched in a free white pages search on the Internet. (Remember, up until this trip, I haven't paid for any of the research that I've done and didn't have a Family History Center that I could use while on my trip) It was the right person!!! Two weeks earlier, this section of the family thought that they had no one left on this side, for me to only call two weeks later. They were so excited to hear from us and couldn't believe that I found them.

- Transcribed information from the obituaries/funeral programs of 8 people that family that I visited had.

- Photographed and videotaped family burial sites at both Evergreen Cemetery (Lake Providence, LA), Southside Cemetery (Oak Grove, LA)

- Photographed and videotaped some of the instruments used by King Atlas, Jr., Louis Bareford Atlas, Sr. and Francis Joseph Atlas, Sr. to make tools. King Atlas, Jr. was a blacksmith, the father of Louis Bareford and the paternal grandfather of Francis Joseph.

- Searched the East and West Carroll Courthouses for documents noting the names of slaves at plantations owned and operated by The Hood Family (Harbrid, Govy and Letitia) and the Balfour Family. No information was found naming any family members as slaves.

- Found many entries in the Conveyance Books in East Carroll Parish documenting sales conducted by family members; of note, King Atlas, Jr. sold two horses for $175 in or around 1870.

- Searched the Mississippi State Archives and did not find any documents noting the names of slaves purchased by the Balfour Family that matched the names of family members in all of Issaquena County and part of the documents for Madison County.

- Found no information leading me to believe that King Atlas, Sr. was creole, never a slave and from Egypt.

- Discovered that King Atlas, Jr. served as a juror for two separate terms in Carroll Parish, LA. He was also a registered voter. King, Jr. was probably a slave and was freed at about age 16. By 1870, he had $1000 worth of personal estate in addition to serving in the capacities outlined above. He named his son (Louis Bareford/Balfour) after the son of a major slaveholder in Carroll Parish (Louis Gartley Balfour), although I haven't been able to make the tie that would document that he was held by that slaveholder.

- Discovered that Louis Gartley Balfour lost the Balfour family plantation in or around 1880.

- Transcribed marriage information for at least 30 marriages within the family in East and West Carroll Parishes.

- Visited and photographed the Registrar of Voters, where Francis Joseph Atlas, Sr., Nancy and Frank Nervis and many other people were denied the right to vote until the Voting Rights Act was passed. Francis Joseph Atlas' testified in front of the Civil Rights Commission which helped pass the Voting Rights Act. I also read his testimony before the Civil Rights Commission for the first time and have tape recorded myself reading it. His struggle is documented in the book "Witness To the Truth" by Cleo Scott Brown and John Henry Scott. To preview and purchase, please visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1570034893/qid=1142964467/sr=1-3/ref=sr_1_3/102-8593710-1832961?s=books&v=glance&n=283155

- Interviewed and videotaped Jean and Alice who were apart of the New Orleans Chapter of NAACP and CORE about their participation in the Freedom Rides and involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. Disocvered and purchased the book "Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice" by Raymond Arsenault. To preview and purchase, please visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0195136748/qid=1142583603/sr=2-2/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_2/104-6784507-1419169?s=books&v=glance&n=283155 . These two family members, as well as their sister (who is now deceased) are mentioned in many pages of the book. They say that it is probably the most comprehensive one written, to date. Ironically, while in Atlanta, we discovered that CSPAN was at the Bookstore of the Black Madonna only a week before we went there and will air the book signing of the book noted above. The workers at the store put their back room back the way it was for the book signing and took pictures of Jean and Alice with the book once they found out they were in it.

- Visited the campuses of Spellman and Clark Atlanta and took pictures. My father went to Clark College and played football there.

- Visited the King Center; photographed and took pictures of it.

- Met 22 family members that I had never met before and photographed them.

Two of them are the ONLY people in the 9th generation of the family; a brother and a sister. The sister is truly a princess! **Laughs** She was always the last person on my 130+ page family report, and something told me she was a special little girl when I noticed that. Now I know why. **Smile** I can also add her brother there so she's not alone!

I know this is probably not it, but the major stuff that happened. I know I needed to recap so it could be documented.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Aww man...well, sort of...

Today we made it back into Atlanta. Once we left Lake Providence, we spent the day in Oak Grove, which is about 15 miles north. We didn't find a whole lot on the family that was there other than marriage records, but it was something, you know?

From there we headed to Bastrop to visit a cousin and his wife. We had a ball there. They fed us to death too. I'm actually connected to his wife too! It was crazy meeting her for the first time and finding that out so many miles away from home. Nevertheless, I know I will get to see my cousins more often as they come to California more than I thought they did because of our little connection.

While in Bastrop, we met up with my cousin's oldest daughter and also had two more cousins come by, who originate from Oak Grove. A lot of people met for the first time. We took some great pictures too.

From Bastrop, we drove back through Oak Grove to Southside Cemetery. It was in much better condition that Evergreen was in Lake Providence. Unfortunately, we didn't find as many graves as we did at Evergreen.

From Oak Grove, LA, we drove to Jackson, MS. Our family there had a big party for us with a ton of food. I ate so much that I passed out watching Hotel Rwanda. **LAUGHS** I was CHARBROILED when they had the banana pudding on deck. I KNEW these folks were my kin when I saw that.

The next day, we went to the state archives in downtown Jackson. We went through a ton of documents and found nothing documenting slave sales for the Balfour family. We were quite discouraged, as we both have spent a lot of time in search of at least something. We made it through about a quarter of all the stuff that they had there on microfilm, so we knew we'd have to come back after this trip and check the stuff we couldn't get to. We then decided to go out for dinner and have some ice cream as comfort for not finding anything. LOL

My cousins and I ate root beer floats and laughed until the about 1:30am. I practiced my southern accent a lot...they said I was doing a good job. LOL

I think the earliest I've gone to bed was midnight since I've been gone. I'm dreading going back to work even though I don't have to go back to work for another week. I think this trip has given me a fresh perspective as to what is really important in my life, and I know that my dead end job is NOT!!!

Friday, March 10, 2006

We're in Lake Providence!

It's taken me forever just to get to the Internet!

I LOVE Lake Providence. It is truly a beautiful city. The people are so friendly. Jean says that they have cleaned it up immensly since the last time she was here, which was about 10 years ago. They even have a coffee shop with WiFi here. LOL We've met so many people since we got here on Wednesday. I have not a nary a cell phone signal, so I've been calling people back as soon as I can although I know my bill is going to be crazy with the roaming charges. I'm staying on the same road that my grandmother, uncle, mother and hosts of people in my family were born and raised on.

I've found a lot of records at the courthouse, and also at Evergreen Cemetery. We have not found anything on our ancestors as slaves. We were sort of disappointed that we hadn't, but we're hoping that something may be in Jackson, as the Balfour family was based out of Natchez, MS. It's been amazing going through original 100+ year old documents. It's also been sort of sad seeing your people sold like they meant nothing. It's also been great to see that they were selling a couple of horses and things for 150 bucks way back in the 1870's too.

I've taken a bunch of pictures and plan on getting some soil from my great grandfather's land to bring back with me today. I forgot to mention that I also took pictures and got to see the tools that my great-great grandfather used as a blacksmith. They're on our land down here.

We met a couple of my grandmother's childhood friends yesterday. They all kept telling me about how pretty I was and how pretty my mother was. Florence gave me a picture of my mother that I've never seen. She was pretty cute although I know she'll try to steal the picture from me!

We also met a relative who works as a butcher at the grocery store. I got his phone number and will probably call him when I get back to Atlanta for information. It's for yet another branch of the family I was stumped on.

Hopefully I'll get a chance to update this thing sooner!

Monday, March 06, 2006

I did it again...

Today was a pretty low key day on my trip. My cousins and I pretty much stayed at their house and talked. We were up until 3:30am last night talking about family stuff and also laughing our behinds off as we looked at obituaries, pictures and the like. I got some good information on their siblings deaths as well as their parents marriage.

We also went to the "Greasy Spoon" as they call it. LOL You know, one of those little hole in the wall places that has cheap and pretty decent food. This man had the nerve to give me his business card and say "I'm not trying to pick up on you, but..." LOL Yeah, OK. Like resting on their personality isn't enough to get women, so you have to bust out the business card to add a pretentious edge above other men. I thought it was funny. My cousins were baggin. One of them said "Damn...it's a sad when a man has to hand you his business card to get you to talk to him. Back in my day, it was 'Can I order you a drink?' And you told him what you wanted to drink, and if you seemed interested, he'd keep talking, if not, they'd move on. Now, they need a business card?!? That seems a little aggressive to me." LOL

I found another branch of my family today by accident I'm pretty sure it sounds like it's an accident all the time. LOL While searching through obituaries with my cousins this afternoon, I came across one for a relative that died only two weeks ago. I went on a hunch and found a phone number and address of a descendant of theirs, and it was a good hunch because they were the right people. He was blown away. Then his brother called me with his mother on 3 way. They couldn't believe it either. This branch of the family had be lost for nearly 70 years, maybe more. Glory to God for that!

Tomorrow is pretty eventful. We're heading to Lake Providence. The Lord is definitely turning up the excitement!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Atlanta is interesting LOL

I've been here for a couple of days and I find it an interesting place. It's nice being around so many black people for once. It's also interesting seeing streetlights on wires, noticing no one has a fence around their house and also that people smile back at you and speak in public.

It's definitely a contrast from California. I think too many of us out there have gotten way too concerned with the prospect of becoming rich and famous rather than showing a concern for our people. I can definitely say that at least in the last two days, I've learned and saw how materialistic California truly is.

Atlanta is beautiful. Although I'm seeing a lot of dead grass. LOL

My family has fed me to death. I've had two helpings of Blue Bell Ice Cream, Crawfish Etoufee and some gumbo. We're about to go on a walk.