18 November 2012

Family Oral History – It's not always a pretty picture.


Blog Carnival – "The Ancestors Told; the Elders Listened; We Pass It On"

As stated on the LowCountry Africana website, In honor of StoryCorps' National Day of Listening, the Preservinators (Angela Walton-Raji, George Geder and LowCountry Africana) have reunited to bring you "The Ancestors Told; the Elders Listened; We Pass It On," a blog carnival that's all about oral history. I am extremely excited to participate in this event.

Family Oral History – It's not always a pretty picture

Senomia Middlebrooks (1898-1994) was my great aunt. Her mother was Sudie Parks and her father was Alex Middlebrooks. Her grandmother was Malinda Guise who I wrote about in Finding Malinda – Part 1 (click here if you missed that post). I grew up knowing my aunt Nomie, as we called her, and visited her many times. As a cousin said "She was the matriarch of our family." Never once did I think to ask her about our family history and what it was like growing up in Meriwether County. It would be years after her death before the genealogy bug would bite me and I would crave for knowledge of my family history.  A missed opportunity for sure, and I can only imagine the stories she had to tell. Little did I know Nomie had already added a chapter to our Middlebrooks family oral history.

Last summer, a cousin shared with me notes from an interview her brother had conducted with Nomie. The conversation took place on Friday, 29 June 1990. I don't know what questions he asked or what he expected to learn. Maybe he wasn't looking for answers to any specific questions and was just picking her brain for memories of what the old folk had told her. Some of what my aunt shared sent chills down my spine and brought tears to my eyes. It is only a page of notes – no long narratives, just simple statements of "reality" as she knew it or as it had been told to her. It is family oral history in its rawest form and it's not always a pretty picture.

Original Research Notes (scanned copy)


          Cousin Senomie Martin:                      Friday

1-       MeLinda said "she ain't none of
            mine, you take her."  Laura raised
            by Eliza Hixon.
2-         The old marster was the Father
            of Laura , and the master would
            whip her Melinda until the blood ran.

3-         Alexander Middlebrook was
            slave on Powell platn plantation  ?
            Large man.  Middlebrooks lived
            on land formerly a part of Dan Long

4-         People had very Little access to
            doctors;  only alternative [?] was
            to use herbs
            Fess's father
            Eddie Lee Stinson killed
            Jim "Sandy" Dixon  over gambling
            after Grover was whipped.

            Grover Stinson killed J. C. Wright
            John killed a man in Greenville
No, it's not always a pretty picture. It is what it is.