52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
Welcome to Kinfolks first ever blog - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
This first blog is a great opportunity to share my family history research with my family, friends, and potential clients. My personal family history has been a wonderful journey of discovery. I've learned a lot about the people who came before me and I'm still learning about how I came to be the person that I am. Our ancestors decisions influence who we eventually become sometimes in very small ways and sometimes in very significant ways.
I am taking "The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge issued by certified genealogist and librarian Amy Johnson Crow. This is a brilliant way for family history researchers amateur and professional to thoroughly examine their many many years of research and share it with the world!
This challenge will help me as I continue to pursue my genealogy certification and allow me to share some of my work with my family and friends. It is my hope that they will be inspired to learn more about their family history, lineage, and share their legacy with their children.
Thank you for joining me on this 52 week journey of discovery! Your questions, comments, and feedback are welcomed and appreciated.
Challenge Accepted! #52ancestors
|Posted on February 11, 2018 at 7:05 PM||comments (1)|
Week 7: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Valentine
What is Love?
By Nicole Hicks
The theme for Week 7’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge is “Valentine”. Valentine’s Day…flowers, candy, red, pink, and white, hearts, and love! I couldn’t think of how to link "Valentine" to family history! I’ve been writing so much lately, I may have run out of things to say. NOT! So, I’m going to give my brain a break and take the easy way out.
Each year on Valentine’s Day I post this scripture about love on Facebook. I remind people that there is more love to celebrate than romantic love. Love is family, love is friends, love is you, love is life, and love is God.
So, with that, I say love is the thing that makes the world go ‘round, despite all of the awful things we see happening each day. It’s up to each of us to know love, accept love, and spread love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-13 New International Version (NIV)
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
#52ancestors #kinfolksfamilyhistory #knowyourhistory #herstory #mystory
|Posted on February 10, 2018 at 8:05 PM||comments (0)|
Week 6 - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Favorite Name
What's in a Name?
By Nicole Hicks
Well, in my opinion our name is everything! Over the course of our lifetime, it becomes the thing that identifies you and sets you part from other people. For Week 6 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge a “Favorite Name” is the theme. Some names are handed down the generations from father to son and in some cases from mother to daughter. There are several unique names in my family tree, but I couldn't really call anyone of them my favorite. As I looked at them I realized I didn't know nor do I have the resources to find out what their origins were. But as I comb my family tree which lists more than 6,200 names, I did discover that there are some names that are way more popular than others. So, for this blog I'm going to write about the most popular names in my family tree. I selected one male and one female. Let's start with the masculine name, James. There are 142 males with the first name of James in my tree. James is a Biblical name and appears to have been handed down throughout the generations on both side of my family.
PRONOUNCED: JAYMZ (English)
VARIANT: Jaymes (English)
English form of the late Latin name Iacomus which was derived from Ιακωβος (Iakobos), the New Testament Greek form of the Hebrew name Ya'aqov (JACOB). This was the name of two apostles in the New Testament. The first was Saint James the Greater, the apostle John's brother, who was beheaded under Herod Agrippa in the Book of Acts. The second was James the Lesser, son of Alphaeus. Another James (known as James the Just) is also mentioned in the Bible as being the brother of Jesus.
Since the 13th century this name has been used in England, though it became more common in Scotland where it was borne by several kings. In the 17th century the Scottish king James VI inherited the English throne, becoming the first ruler of all Britain, and the name grew much more popular. Famous bearers include the English explorer Captain James Cook (1728-1779), the Scottish inventor James Watt (1736-1819), and the Irish novelist and poet James Joyce (1882-1941). This name has also been borne by six American presidents. A notable fictional bearer is the British spy James Bond, created by author Ian Fleming.
Excerpt from behindthename.com
I don’t have any direct ancestors with the given name James, but so many of my family members with the name “James” are colorful characters to say the least.
Naturally the most popular female name on my family tree is Mary. There are 81 females with the given name Mary, which is also a name from the Bible.
Meaning, Origins, and History of Mary
PRONOUNCED: MER-ee (English), MAR-ee (English)
Usual English form of Maria, the Latin form of the New Testament Greek names Μαριαμ (Mariam) and Μαρια (Maria) - the spellings are interchangeable - which were from Hebrew מִרְיָם (Miryam), a name borne by the sister of Moses in the Old Testament. The meaning is not known for certain, but there are several theories including "sea of bitterness", "rebelliousness", and "wished for child". However, it was most likely originally an Egyptian name, perhaps derived in part from mry "beloved" or mr "love".
This is the name of several New Testament characters, most importantly Mary the mother of Jesus. According to the gospels, Jesus was conceived in her by the Holy Spirit while she remained a virgin. This name was also borne by Mary Magdalene, a woman cured of demons by Jesus. She became one of his followers and later witnessed his crucifixion and resurrection. Due to the Virgin Mary this name has been very popular in the Christian world, though at certain times in some cultures it has been considered too holy for everyday use. In England it has been used since the 12th century, and it has been among the most common feminine names since the 16th century. The Latinized form Maria is also used in English as well as in several other languages.
This name has been borne by two queens of England, as well as a Queen of Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots. Another notable bearer was Mary Shelley (1797-1851), the author of 'Frankenstein'. A famous fictional character by this name is Mary Poppins from the children's books by P. L. Travers, first published in 1934.
Excerpt from behindthename.com
I only have one direct ancestor with the given name Mary. She was my paternal 3rd great grandmother, Mary Hicks. According to her death certificate, Mary was born in Jul 1829 in Virginia. She died on 23 Jun 1918 in Barnwell, Barnwell County, SC. When she was about 25, she married my paternal 3rd great grandfather, Joe Hicks around 1855 in Barnwell County, SC.
I have not located Grandma Mary and Granddad Joe in any Census before 1900. Mary lived in Georges Creek, Barnwell County, SC (now known as Denmark in Bamberg County, SC) in 1900 with her son Govan and his family. Govan was my 2nd great grandfather. In the 1900 census, Grandma Mary indicated that she had given birth to 5 children and only two were living. That would have been my Granddaddy Govan and his younger brother Hampton. I still have not learned who her other 3 children may have been. She was buried on 24 Jun 1918 in Brown Chapel Baptist Church Cemetery in Barnwell, Barnwell County, SC.
I think that in the “ole days”, names meant something to parents. I once read that families had naming patterns. For example, the 1st born son was usually a junior, named after his father. The 2nd born son was named after his mother’s father. The 3rd born son was named after the father’s father or an older brother of either parent or after another male relative that the family respected. For the daughters, the naming patterns were similar. The 1st born daughter was sometimes name after one of her parent’s mothers. The 2nd born daughter might be named after the mother or one of her parent’s sisters. Learning about naming patterns has been a useful tool for me as a genealogist in identifying family member not listed together in vital records.
Today, people want to name their children something unique versus maintaining old fashioned family names. While there is nothing really wrong with that, children’s names today have no real meaning or definition that can be attach to something noble like a biblical figure or an ancestor. They seem to have usual spellings that are difficult to announce and receive a great deal of scrutiny and are regularly stereotyped, especially among the Black community. So, what’s in a name? I say, everything, but I still appreciate are family traditions and names that are simple, but significant.
#52ancestors #kinfolksfamilyhistory #knowyourhistory #herstory #mystory
|Posted on February 10, 2018 at 12:20 AM||comments (0)|
Week 5 - 52 Ancestors in 52Weeks: In the Census
My 3rd Great Grandfather’s Life 166 years ago
By Nicole Hicks
The United States Federal Census is one of the most significant documents used by genealogist. The US census is a decennial census mandated by the Constitution. This means that it is required by law that a federal census is taken throughout the United States every ten years. Also, by law, a census record must be at least 70 years old before it can be released to the public. We genealogist await the 1950 census with baited breath as it will be released in 2022. The census records give us some insight about where our ancestors were we're living at a certain point in history. It also shows who was living in the household at the time the census was taken. The first federal census was taken in 1790, the most recently was in 2010, and the next census will be taken in 2020. Black Americans did not appear in census records until about the 1850s and only if they we're free people of color. But most of the time the 1870 census is the go-to census to determine where Black families were living 5 years after emancipation.
In the 20 years that I've been doing family history research I found little tidbits of information about my family that were very interesting and worth further investigation. My best example is of my 3rd great grandfather, Buncomb Saxon (1831 – 1901).
My first introduction to Granddaddy Buncomb was in the 1900 federal census in Williston, Barnwell County, South Carolina. On this census, he indicated that his father's birthplace was Africa. Tracing this down has proven to be almost impossible. But over time my research skills have developed and I'm still hopeful that I will learn who my 4th great-grandfather from Africa actually was. But again, it's still very telling information about a person that no one alive could even talk about, until now. Also, in the 1900 census my Granddaddy Buncomb indicates that he owns property. Naturally, I found this intriguing. How did a man who was a former slave come to own property in rural South Carolina in 1900? Fortunately, another cousin researching families in that same location stumbled across a record that showed who my 3rd great grandfather brought property in 1876. A bill of sale shows he purchased 44 acres of land from a man named Heyward Brown. Several years later, I learned who Heyward Brown was and about his connection to Granddaddy Buncomb.
Another piece of very useful information that the 1900 census provided was the fact that my third great-grandfather was a widow, about 68 years of age, and was born approximately October 1831. That made me excited! Even though I don't have an exact date in October 1831, how cool would it be if his birthdate had been October 8th, my birthday! His occupation is listed as farmer, he speaks English, he is unable to read, but he is able to write which I found very curious. Living in his household were his youngest daughter Lettie, age 14; his third oldest daughter, Ealer, age 39 and widowed; and his granddaughter, Ella age 16.
Because of a few misspellings and spelling variations (Buncombe Saxton, Bunkern Paxon), it took several months to locate Granddaddy Buncomb in the 1870 and the 1880 census. I learned the name of his wife and my 3rd great grandmother, Charity. I was able to find my 2nd great grandmother Pricilla or “Cilla” as she was more commonly called and her siblings in both of those census years.
It may not seem like much, but I just summarized the life of a man who was born 166 years ago using data “In the Census”! He was my mother’s, mother's, mother's, father! Before my research, no one knew of his existence. I was so proud to add another branch to my family tree. And I am very proud to be his descendant. Because of these census records, I have some information about him that will allow me to do more research and tell more of his story, my history. And I have! But I will save those stories for another day and another blog!
If you pay very close attention to the information “In the Census”, you could write a short story about the family you are researching, their lives, their geographic location, and the time period in which they lived.
|Posted on February 5, 2018 at 5:35 PM||comments (0)|
Week 4 - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Invite to Dinner
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
By Nicole Hicks
So, the theme for week 4 of the 52 Ancestor 52 Weeks challenge is “Invite to Dinner!” When I think of dinner as it relates to families I think of Christmas, Thanksgiving, and birthdays dinner, and of course family reunions. Food has always been the staple of family gatherings. Now there are branches of my family that don't get together often and then there are other branches of my family that have regular family celebratory events and reunions. And let me tell you there's nothing like a family gathering with great food, family love, and fellowship. But instead of thinking of the many many family gatherings that I have attended, I thought about what the ultimate family dinner I could host would be like. And guess who’s coming to my family dinner? All of my great-grandparents!
I would love to go back in time and have an old-fashioned Sunday dinner with all of my great-grandparents, all of them! We all have 2 sets of grandparents and 4 sets of great-grandparents. To be able to sit around the dinner table and listen to these 8 very wise and wonderful people would be phenomenal. Of course, the topic of conversation would be family history. I can visualize my great grandparents sitting around the table wondering why they all were invited to dinner and me telling them all about the research I have been doing and how important it is for me to write about them and their ancestors…the good, the bad and the ugly. I would explain to them how that the one thing that they all have in common is me!
I was fortunate enough to have known 2 of my maternal great-grandmothers Louise May-Walker (1905 – 1981) and Myrtis Byas-Kinard (1910 – 1985) and one of my maternal great-grandfathers, Clarence “Buck” Walker (1905 – 1985). While my Grandma Louise would occasionally talk about various family members, my Grandma Myrtis and my Granddaddy Buck did not. I have fond memories of them and several of them involve food. But to meet my 2 paternal great-grandmother's Cora Williams-Woodard (1898 – 1957) and Dosher Smalls-Hicks (1883 – 1954) would be truly intriguing. I’ve only heard positive stories about them and how caring and loving they both were, especially with their grandchildren.
Top left: Myrtis Byas-Kinard (1910 – 1985); Top right: Louise May-Walker (1905 – 1981);
Bottom left: Cora Williams-Woodard (1898 – 1957); Bottom right Dosher Smalls-Hicks (1883 – 1954)
It would be awesome to sit and talk with my great grandfathers too. My great-grandfather Haynes Sanders (1905 – 1971) would be a most interesting person to have a conversation with, because no one seems to really know anything about him. I think he might be the only one to decline the dinner invitation! He abandoned 4 of his children and they had no relationship with him. One of those children was my maternal grandfather Richmond Byas (1927 – 1995). He and his siblings knew very little of their father’s family and today all 7 siblings are deceased. Their descendants don’t even know each other.
I can imagine the men around the table, my great-grandfathers, my patriarchs, telling stories about their work a farmer, except for my great-granddaddy Nemise. He worked on a farm, then in a factory, and then as a barber. While dinner was being prepared, I can see them sitting on the porch smoking pipes or chewing tobacco.
Top left: Lovant Hicks, I (1877 - 1957); Top Right: Nemise Woodard (1900 - 1971)
Bottom Left: Clarence “Buck” Walker (1905 – 1985)
I would want them to tell me their stories. I would want to hear about their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. I would want to hear them talk about raising their children, their hard times, and stories of slavery. I would want to know about the good times and what was the best thing they had experienced during their lifetimes. I would ask about those elusive relatives that disappeared from the census records. The more I imagined this scene, the more I began to smile to myself. What an incredible evening it would be!
In turn, I would tell them about their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great, great-grandchildren. I would share with them, the long list of those who served in the military and those who worked in government. I would hope they would beam with pride about the vast number of college graduates that are their descendants. I would share the number of pastor, teachers and other professional occupations in which their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are employed. I would assure them that their struggles and hardships were not in vain and the success, growth, and legacy of their descendants increases with every generation. I would tell them that while we all have struggled at various points in our lives, it could never have been as difficult as what they saw, heard, and experienced during the aftermath of emancipation, the poverty during the great depression, the brutality of segregation, and the uncertainty of the great migration to places the offer more opportunity. The residual effects of those still plague the black community today, but they led the way, set the example, and showed us how to make our way, make our mark on the world! I would reassure them that we continue to press forward and that they all can be proud of their legacy! I would thank them for their sacrifices and teaching those before us.
The food…Oh my God, I can envision a large ham at the center of the table and a big plate of fried chicken. Of course, there would be collard greens, candied yams, and macaroni and cheese, three of my favorites. And cornbread and a huge pitcher of fresh squeezed lemonade and sweet tea! I can imagine all of my grandmothers debating over whose sweet potato and/or coconut pie recipe is the best! I know that my Grandma Myrtis would make an awesome buttered pound cake and Grandma Louise would make an Apple Jelly Cake. The “Ultimate Sunday Dinner.”
This “Invite to Dinner” would be one filled with curiosity, excitement, acknowledgment, fellowship, love, and the consumption of good ole southern cooking!
Who would you “invite to dinner”?
#52ancestors #kinfolksfamilyhistory #knowyourhistory #herstory #mystory
|Posted on February 2, 2018 at 10:05 PM||comments (0)|
Week 3 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks: Longevity
The Women in My Family Who Lived Long and Left a Legacy
By Nicole Hicks
I have always viewed the women on my maternal line as survivors. Survivors of slavery, survivors of oppression, survivors of poverty, survivors of racism, survivors of the untimely deaths or their spouses and children. And a great many of them survived these tragedies and lived well into 70, 80, 90, and in some cases 100 years of age! They set a wonderful example of endurance and resilience for future generations.
For this week's 52 Ancestors in 52-Weeks challenge, longevity is the theme. I instantly began to think about my 2nd great-grandmother Priscilla “Cilla” Saxon May, born in June 1864 in Williston, South Carolina. She died December 26 1943. She was about 79 years of age at the time of her passing. While that is not really extraordinary, the fact the she gave birth to 18 children, only to having 11 live into adult hood; that was extraordinary! Losing a husband in 1929, having a daughter murdered by her husband, and a son murdered by another son, and still finding a way to keep her family together; that was extraordinary. She was born at the tail end of slavery, but her parents and grandparents had been slaves their entire lives. They endure terrible hardships and by the end the of slavery, their slaveholder was bankrupt! They survived and went on to be landowner themselves; that was extraordinary. What makes her story special? What makes her story unique, is that this is my heritage! One of which I am extremely proud! The more I started thinking about what I could say about “longevity” and how it relates to my family’s story, I suddenly realized that 3 of her 6 sisters lived to be 93, 98, and 101 years of age respectively. Several of her nieces from the same lineage also lived well into their 90s and 100s. My Grandmama Cilla was part of a lineage of survivors, women whose longevity sets the tone for current and future generations!
I would give anything to go back in history to talk to and spend time with any one of these women. I would love to bring them into our time so that they can see how their legacies have flourished.
In this blog, I will simply highlight some of the things I have learned about the women the longevity of some of my family's heroines.
Ealer Saxon Blassengale (Mar 1861 – Dec 1954) died at 93 years old
- The oldest child of former slaves
Married David Blassengale whom she lost at a very young age.
Had only one daughter.
Took on her brother-in-law in court over her sibling’s inheritance in 1903…and WON!
- Was a farmer and worked the land left to her by her father and husband until her death.
Louisa Saxon Montague (Oct 1871 – Oct1873) died at 101 years old (8 days shy of 102)
- 7th child of 11 children.
Married to Jacob Montague after 25 years of marriage.
Had 12 children, one set of twins and one set of triples.
- Severed as a midwife to most of the black families in the area around Williston.
Lettie Saxon Thomas (Jun 1884 – Apr 1993) died at 98 years old (2 months shy of 99)
- Was the youngest child in at family of 11 (maybe more).
Her mother died a few months after her birth, she never knew her.
She was nursed and cared for by her older sister (my 2nd great grandmother Cilla) who was 20 years older.
- Had 13 children, lost 4 before adulthood.
Endurance, resilience, survival, and faith were the key ingredients to my ancestor’s longevity. Today, we may credit better living conditions and improved medical treatment to the longer lifespans of our elders, but having this information about my ancestors tells me that it is genetic! It’s in my DNA! It's my inheritance!
My grandmother, Grandmama Cilla’s granddaughter celebrated her 90th birthday in November 2017, one of her first cousins celebrated her 90th birthday in September 2017. Both credit their faith in God as the main reason for their longevity in addition to listening to their doctor’s advice and stay active. I told them it’s in their genes. Their longevity is our inheritance!
|Posted on February 2, 2018 at 9:20 PM||comments (0)|
Week 3 – 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Longevity
By Carolyn V. Salley-Frink
Wow, what a great question…longevity to me used to mean someone living into their late 90s; or maybe even 100 years old and older. Now I see -- or shall I say-- I evaluate “living long” as a Legacy. My grandmother, Ruth Hutto Washington along with my grandfather raised ten children: seven girls and three boys. My grandmother, Mama Ruth, was always referred to herself as truly blessed by her strength; love of family; and her craftiness by me, my siblings, and cousins.
Mama Ruth created homemade soap, knitted, crocheted, sewed and could get a stain out of just about anything. She raised her children to function as ONE unit. You ask ‘for real?!’ – yes, for real! When we went to Blackville, to visit her at least once a month from Columbia, everyone was there except my Aunt Reatha, who lived in New York with her family. But we’d get Aunt Reatha on the phone so that everyone would and could talk to her, something that took place often times on a Sunday afternoon after church.
During the summers when we visited for any length of time, Mama Ruth would gather up her grands to bake cookies, knit, and crochet (making doilies mostly). She would also take us across the railroad tracks to pick these “weeds” and we would make yard brooms. The yard brooms were gathered at or near the base, tied with heavy thin rope and used to sweep the wooden porch and yes, to sweep the yard. My grandmother did not believe in “unemployment”, even among children, every grand had a section of the small yard or porch to sweep!
I didn’t know to listen to her stories about her childhood; I didn’t realize just how important her life growing up actually shaped her to be a loving Mother, Wife, and sister – even more so, a grandmother and great Grandmother! Her sisters visited her often. Sometimes, she’d gather her grands up and visit with her siblings, often staying for hours. They all stayed within walking distance of each other. Those visits have left lasting memories for me, my siblings, and my cousins, she was teaching us about family.
Once or twice a year, we would all go to the Blackville Colored Community Cemetery and clean the graves of our ancestors. We’d pull weeds and lay flowers. Mama Ruth told us who was who in the cemetery and how he or she was related; she also taught us to respect the final resting place of those who had gone before us.
Her legacy is and always will be about FAMILY: loving them (because of and in spite of), staying close, supporting one another, and sometimes just being there to listen. Mama Ruth passed away February 1979, but her children, grandchildren, great- grandchildren have continued her legacy; from the cradle to the grave, all you have your brothers and sisters and LOVE. Mama Ruth’s longevity is in her legacy!
#52ancestors #kinfolksfamilyhistory #knowyourhistory #herstory #mystory
|Posted on January 15, 2018 at 9:00 AM||comments (1)|
Week 2 - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: My Favorite
My Favorite Photo: My Maternal Great-Grandparents
By Nicole Hicks
This is one of my favorite pictures. The year was 1976, the place was Blackville, South Carolina - I was 7 years old. The occasion was my Great Granddaddy Buck and Grandma Louise's 50th Wedding Anniversary. They were my maternal grandmother’s parents. However, in this is a picture are three maternal my great-grandparents.
My Grandma Louise was the 10th child of Boston May and Pricilla Saxon. She was married to Clarence “Buck” Walker on August 21, 1926 in Barnwell County. Buck was the youngest son of Mingo Walker and Janie Franklin. Together they raised three children. In attend were her two remaining children, their grandchildren, 7 of whom they raised, and the great grandchildren.
I have vague memories of that day. I remember it was HOT…summertime in South Carolina HOT! I remember my cousins running around. I remember eating a lot of watermelon. And THAT POUND CAKE!!
Figure 1: From left to right: Louise May-Walker (1905 – 1981) and Clarence "Buck" Walker (1905 – 1985) and my other great-grandmother Myrtis Byas-Kinard (1910 – 1985).
My Great grandmother Myrtis Byas-Kinard was my maternal grandfather’s mother. She was the 2nd oldest daughter of Benjamin Byas and Gertrude Brown.
Granddaddy Buck and Grandmas Louise and Myrtis were friends and in-laws. I was so very blessed to know all of them and considered this photo to be one of my greatest memories from my childhood.
|Posted on January 15, 2018 at 8:00 AM||comments (0)|
Week 1 52
Ancestors 52 Weeks: Start
The Start of My Family History Addiction
By Nicole Hicks
I was bitten by the family history bug in 1997. My uncle, the late Lovant Hicks III would talk endlessly about family history and shared the research he and his brother were conducting. He was extremely proud of his Hicks and Odom roots from to small counties in South Carolina. He and his brother, the late Josephus Hicks were actually my 1st cousins 1X removed, but I affectionately consider and remember them as my uncles, Uncle Junior and Uncle Joe.
I had been aware of their research, but as a teenager in the mid-1980s, I wasn't very interested of course. I was in high school the first time he showed me some of his research. I would look through the family history book he created to see there were hundreds of names. I would look to see who I knew, who was named Nicole (there are 11 of us) or who had a birthday in October, like mine. I would look to see who was born in Washington DC or in Barnwell or Bamberg County, South Carolina. I grew up around many of the people named in that book. I remember them fondly and I am close to many of them today. I was fortunate to know both of my parents and all four of my grandparents even though I was only close to three of them. I knew three of my maternal great-grandparents and some of their siblings. Not very many people can say that. And naturally I knew many, many first, second, and third cousins. Many of these people were around my entire life, so what more could I possibly learn about my family history? I thought there was nothing else I could learn or needed to know about my family history. I was never so wrong!
Over time, I became fascinated with all of the people who shared my last name and who shared my heritage. Then I became intrigued with where they came from, where they migrated to, and finally I wanted to know their stories. During his illness, I would visit with Uncle Junior and we would talk about family history and he would tell me family stories, but he had not written anything down. I would ask questions about various family members to help keep his mind off being sick. Our talks seemed to give him renewed energy. However; the one story I remember best was the one I became part of and the end result is one of my proudest genealogical accomplishments.
My 2nd great uncle, Jacob Hicks was born on 22 Jun 1891 the area once called George’s Creek in Barnwell County, SC. The community of George’s Creek no longer exist and a new county was created in 1897 and that area is now called Denmark which is in Bamberg County. He was the 4th child and the 2nd born son of Govan Hicks and Ellen Tyler Hicks and my great grandfather Lovant Hicks I was his older brother. In 1917 he was working as a cook at the town’s only lodging establishment, the Shamrock Hotel. My Uncle Junior remembers Uncle Jake and knew that he served in World War I. He was the only family member at the time to have traveled outside of the continental United States. He had been married twice, widowed twice, and had one son from his first marriage. His son Thomas also preceded him in death in 1941. When Uncle Jake died in 1969 his nephews and nieces took responsibility for his funeral arrangements. The family was unable to purchase a headstone for his grave and told the funeral director that he was a war veteran, but the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) rejected the application to have a military headstone place on his grave. The VA said that they had no record of his military service. He was buried in the Blackville Colored Cemetery without any military honors or a headstone. Uncle Junior had tried a few times to contact the VA to find his military service records, but they were unable to locate a service record for a Jacob Hicks from Blackville, SC for service in the US Military during the first World War. My Uncle Junior was very frustrated by this. It was certainly a mystery as to why Uncle Jake was not recognized for his service to his country. This is when my mission began!
On one of my visits, the subject of Uncle Jake came up again. Uncle Junior asked me if I had done any research at the National Archives in Washington, DC. I told him, “No”. I wasn’t even sure where it was! He told me that the Archives housed military records and that he had not been able to find anything on Uncle Jake’s military service when he visited. He wanted me to go downtown to see if I could find anything. At this point, he was gravely ill and I wanted to do something to help resolve this mystery and something to help keep his mind off his illness. I could tell how important it was to prove that Uncle Jake was indeed a veteran, so I agreed.
My first trip to the National Archives was a little overwhelming! I went on a hot Saturday morning and when I arrived there was a line around the building! Apparently, a genealogy society had planned a bus trip to Washington, DC that weekend. My first thought was that I wouldn’t be able to get in to do any research. The Rotunda, which displays the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution was still under renovation so I couldn’t go and view those historic documents while I waited. Still, I was excited to be there and really admired the architecture, the artwork, and vaulted ceiling. After a one-hour wait, I was finally assigned one of the 102 microfilm machines in this enormous and cold research room.
Once I was seated at my microfilm machine and I had absolutely no clue as what I was supposed to do. I started working at about 10:45 am that morning, after one of the librarians at the Archives suggested that I review the Federal Census records. Back then the Census records were not online. I had to do “old school” genealogy research using a microfilm machine. After about two mind-numbing and eye-burning hours of going through microfilm I had only located Uncle Jake in the 1900 and 1930 census records. As my time at the Archives was winding down, my frustration level was gearing up. I wanted to leave there successful! I wanted to leave there with something I could take back to my uncle that would help us solve this mystery of Uncle Jake's military service. At about 2:45 p.m. I was tired, hungry, and panicked. The Archives was closing at 4 p.m. and I had found nothing significant about my 2nd great Uncle. Again, I approached the front desk and the friendly librarian who had been helping me since my arrival. I explained what I was trying to find and that is when she told me about the Soundex Indexing System.
The Soundex Indexing System is how the Census records are organized. I was scanning the Census looking for surnames to be in simple alphabetical order and found it all very confusing. This was the reason I wasn't finding anything. The Soundex code has one letter and three numbers. The code is created based on the way the surname sounds rather than the way it is spelled. For example, the Soundex code for my surname, Hicks is H-200.
I moved onto combing the World War Draft Registrations as the librarian suggested and I began to think I would never find the key piece of information that I was looking for. For my entire life I had only known of one way of spelling my surname HICKS! But then I learned there was more than one way to spell almost any surname. This was my introduction to spelling variations in genealogy research. On that fateful day I learned that my surname could also be spelled HEX, HEXT, HECHTS HICK, HICKES, and finally HIX!
It was about 3:50 pm and the 2nd call announcing that the research room was closing had been made. When I found it, I screamed! Scared the crap out of the two people on either side of me. I went to find the librarian who had been assisting me and have her come look at my discovery. I was beaming with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Uncle Jake's military record was listed under the name Jacob HIX! His draft registration card was completed on June 5, 1917. I was ecstatic! Although cell phones were not allowed in the main research room, I DID NOT CARE, I pulled mine out to call Uncle Junior to let him know that I had located the information we needed to submit and request for a military headstone for Uncle Jake. He was beyond pleased! My full-blown addiction to genealogy started with that very event!
In his weakened condition and accompanied by my Uncle Joe, they went to the VA Offices to complete the application. The application was expediated and approved only one month after submission. The headstone for Jacob Hicks was place on his grave in the Blackville Colored Cemetery in Blackville, SC in September 1998, my Uncle Junior died on October 18, 1998. He knew that the headstone had been placed, but he never had the opportunity to see it for himself, or maybe he has, is grave is only 20 feet away from Uncle Jake’s, facing each other in the same cemetery. Before his passing, my Uncle Junior asked me to help my Uncle Joe to maintain our family’s history. After this experience, how could I refuse? When my Uncle Joe became ill in 2014, he made the same request of me that Uncle Junior had made 16 years earlier. Again, I could not refuse and I continue to honor their memory and dedication to preserving our family’s lineage.
I am so grateful to both Mr. Lovant Hicks, III and Josephus Hicks for introducing me to my heritage. I am grateful and honored by their trust in me to maintain our legacy and share it with future generations. They peeked my interest and motivated me to begin researching my maternal line. And if not for Uncle Joe continuing to encourage me, I probably would have quit before I realized how much fun, interesting, and important family history can really be!
Little did I know that a trip to the National Archives in Washington DC would turn me into a full-blown genealogy addict. I am hooked! I have been addicted for 20 years and I do not need to be cured! I want to help others learn about their history and tell their family's stories! I am purusing a professional certification in genealogy and started a family history and genealogical services business. Check us out at KinFolksFamilyHistory.com, hopefully our stories will inspire you to discover yours.