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.

18 October 2012

Finding Malinda - Part 1

According to the death certificate for my great grandfather, Alexander Middlebrooks, his parents were Albert Middlebrooks and Malinda Guise.1 I found “A. Middlebrooks” and wife “Malinda” in the 1880 census for Woodbury, Meriwether County, Georgia.2 The death certificate and census record were all the documentation I had for these ancestors.

This is how the Middlebrooks family looked in the 1880 census.

I have searched and searched, then searched some more, but cannot find them as a family unit in the 1870 census. Actually, I have not found any of them in the 1870 census. I have a possible candidate for Albert in the 1870 census, but that is a story for another time. This post is about finding Malinda.

Over this past year, thoughts of Malinda have consumed me, but I continued to push her to the bottom of the list and focused my research efforts elsewhere.  Other than searching census records, I really didn’t put much effort into finding Malinda. Then, FamilySearch.org added Georgia, Probate Records, 1742-1975. The same night that I discovered these records were available online, I started looking for Malinda – and I found her!!

A few years ago, I made a copy of a will for Samuel Guise. Samuel Guise died in Meriwether County, Georgia in 1842.3 His will is dated 21 [?] 1841, and was recorded on 7 [?] 1841 in Meriwether County, Georgia.4 No enslaved persons were mentioned in Samuel’s will so I filed it away for another time. This time around, when browsing the records on FamilySearch, I checked for any inventories, appraisements and/or returns for the Samuel Guise estate.5

On 13 September 1858, an Inventory and Appraisement was made for the Estate of Samuel Guise deceased.6 Listed as property were:
Nancy a Negro Woman          valued at              $450
Mary and her child Melissa       valued at             $1275
Melinda and her child               valued at             $1200

I FOUND MALINDA!!  Although her name is spelled with an “e” instead of an “a” I’m pretty sure this is my Malinda Guise. Of course, I was elated. It is such an incredible feeling to see that ancestor’s name, but it’s tempered with mixed emotions; happiness for the discovery, sadness for the circumstances.  

Unfortunately, Melinda’s child is not listed by name. My great grandfather Alex was born about 1862, so for now I’m going to eliminate him as this child. Malinda also had a daughter Laura, born about 1854. This “child” could quite possibly be Laura who would have been about four years old at the time. But, why is there no name? I thought it odd that the name of Mary's child was given, but not Melinda's. Maybe this child was a baby recently born and had not been given a name. There are so many questions.

In the 1880 census there is a “Malissa” in the Middlebrooks household enumerated as the daughter to the head of household. This Malissa, who I always assumed was Malinda’s daughter as well, was born about 1860.  That’s only about two years after the inventory. Is it possible the Malissa in the 1880 census is Mary’s child Melissa? Or, did Malinda also have a daughter Malissa and named her after Mary's daughter? The next obvious question, of course – is Mary related to Melinda? Are they sisters? Finally, but just as important, who is Nancy? Could Nancy be the mother of Mary and/or Melinda? There are so many questions.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Finding Malinda. There are more unexpected findings.

1 A. L. Middlebrooks, Certificate No. 25008, 14 Oct 1927; Death Certificates, Vital records, Public Health, RG 26-5-95, Georgia Archives, digital images, Georgia’s Virtual Vault (http://cdm.sos.state.ga.us/index.php : assessed 10 Oct 2012)
2 1880 U.S. Census, District 669, Meriwether, Georgia, population schedule, Woodbury, enumeration district (ED) 83, p. 4 (penned), dwelling 28, family 28; Middlebrooks, Malinda; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 October 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 157.
3“Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch (hhtp://www.familysearch.org/pal : assessed 13 Oct 2012), entry for Samuel Guise.
4 Meriwether County, Georgia, Wills, Book A, (1831-1859), Samuel Guise, pp. 63-64; Georgia Probate Records, 1742-1975, Meriwether County Wills, 1831-1903, digital images, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 7 Oct 2012); the Guise will, images 46 and 47.
5 Other estate records under the Guise surname were found. This post, however, is limited to the estate records for Samuel Guise.
6 Meriwether County, Georgia, Inventory and Appraisement of the Estate of Samuel Guise deceased, pp. 574-575, 13 Sep 1858; “Inventories-Appraisements-Returns-Sales, Book F, 1856-1859,” digital images, Probate Records, 1742-1975, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 7 Oct 2012); the Guise inventory and appraisement is image 320.

10 October 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Middlebrooks Road, Woodbury, Meriwether, Georgia

07 October 2012

Answering The Call

It amazes me how once you start to research and explore your family history, the ancestors seem to come to life. They keep you up late at night as you research trying to find another piece of the puzzle. They linger on your mind like the melody of your favorite song, and whisper clues in your ear at the oddest times. They want you to find them; they want their story told, and they have chosen you to tell it. I have come to know that feeling very well - someone has something to say.

Lately, my Middlebrooks ancestors have been the focus of my research efforts.  The major players in this ancestor story represent my most difficult research challenge to date.  There are only a few clues to go on with no hint of a light at the end of the tunnel; it seems the only thing I can look forward to is another brick wall.

My great, great grandmother, Malinda is at the center of the Middlebrooks mystery, along with her daughters Laura, Melissa and Matilda.  There is also Malinda's son, and my great grandfather, Alexander Middlebrooks and my great, great grandfather Albert Middlebrooks.  But, Malinda is the one nagging at me.  I think she is the key to solving this family mystery.

I started this blog as a place to document my research journey as I attempt to solve the mystery of – The Middlebrooks Of Meriwether County.