Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Uncle Thurman was a Gandy Dancer. . .

I came across a short film "Gandy Dancers" online that reminded me of my paternal uncle, Thurman Callen who retired from the railroad. Uncle Thurman was the eldest child of my grandmother, Lucy Callins and  Prince Mixon born in Dallas County, Alabama in 1917. Uncle Thurman was many things to many people. To his 11 siblings he was known as Brother, to his children he was Daddy, to his nieces and nephews "Uncle Thurman",to our extended family he was known as "Cut'n Thurmon" and to the members at Pleasant Valley Baptist he was known as Deacon Callen. Uncle Thurman was a real go getter, an entrepreneur, outgoing and very disciplined. During his life he served in the Army during WWII at Fort Benning, GA, barbered and worked for the railroad in Alabama which he retired from. Uncle Thurman stayed behind in Alabama to take care of the family property after my grandmother and his siblings joined the millions of African-Americans leaving the South during the Great Migration for New York. 

Gandy Dancers Trailer

I remember my Uncle Thurman as someone who always had something to give you. On one of our annual family trips to Alabama and  Mississippi, my uncle gave us a large paper bag of hard candies; lollipops, candy sticks etc. After we got back home, my two brothers and I ate the entire bag of candy and of course we got in "trouble" for it. But it was worth it! Eating at his house with my he and my aunt Edith, his wife, cooking was always good eating. Some of the very best Soul Food I've ever eaten, an even tie with my Aunt Doris.

Uncle Thurman passed on in 2007 at the age of 90 years old after a brief sickness. His funeral at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Jones, Autauga Co., Alabama was standing room only. Family members attended the funeral from all over the country.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Family Reunion Research: A Quick Guide

Summer has finally arrived and signals the start of the traditional African-American family reunion season. Families all over the United States will be gathering to celebrate family ties and remember the progenitors of their extended family. My maternal family, the Washingtons and Rounds, and my paternal family, the Callins, will be joining the several thousands of families who come together to annually celebrate extended family. 

For the family researcher, attending a family reunion is the perfect time to conduct research. With a multiple generations of your family members gathering together, you can make great strides in researching your family history. Most family reunions are 2 -3 days long and you will need a detailed plan of action if you want to maximize your short research time with the family.

Here are some things that you can make part of your research game plan while at the family reunion:

1. Interview the older people of your family.

During family reunions most people, especially elders, are more inclined to share with you what they know about the family or themselves. Create a short list of "Fast Five" questions of information that can assist you in your research. Keep the conversation and questions brief as you will most likely only have a limited time to interview a number of people. 

Here are my "Fast Five" I'll be asking during my reunion trip this summer:

1. What is your name?
2. Where were you born?
3. What are your parents names?
4. Where were your parents born?
5. Can you share a family story or memory??

 2. If your reunion is held in the ancestral home place, research locally

The great thing about having a family reunion at your family ancestral home place or homestead is that it gives you an opportunity to research in the areas where your family lived. Some places on your list to visit should be the local cemetery, the county courthouse and other places of note relative to your family history ie family church, homes/land etc.

3. You should also ensure that you have a Genealogy Road Tool Kit to document and preserve your research efforts. 

Take photos of records you access, your family members and places of note. Record your short interviews with a voice recorder or a video camera. Scan or photograph family photos. Use your laptop/netbook to store and organize your work as your progress. 

If you find these tips useful in conducting your family reunion research "Like" The Family Griot on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @familygriot and share your experience!

 Happy Ancestor Hunting!

The Family Griot

Monday, May 20, 2013

Family Griot to appear on Research at the National Archives and Beyond! with Bernice Bennett

Press Release  20 May 2013

Summary: This is an announcement that Research at the National Archives and Beyond! will occur on Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 9:00pm to 10:00pm

Mississippi Genealogy Resources with Laura Lanier
Bernice Bennett host welcomes Laura Lanier for a discussion on the various record sets available for genealogical research in Mississippi.

Laura Lanier is a family researcher from New York with ancestral roots in Alabama and Mississippi. Laura has been actively researching her family roots in Adams County and Wilkinson County, Mississippi since 2008. She currently maintains a Facebook page, The Family Griot, in which she shares records and research about her extended family.

More Info: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bernicebennett/2013/05/24/mississippi-genealogy-resources-with-laura-lanier