A Genealogy Journey of 14,496 Miles in 86 Days ~ Part III

6/12/2010 1 comment(s)
Missed Part I or Part II? You can catch Part I here and Part II here. Then mosey on back to the conclusion.

The effort to venerate Great Grandmother’s presence continues; while there was a tacit agreement to place her picture on the kitchen door (the shack behind the Keller home), inclusion of her picture in the main house at present was suggested to be no larger than 5x7. One can draw one’s own conclusion and possibly be right.

An 8x10 for the kitchen door is also tacitly "reasonable" or acceptable, however a larger presentation whereby Great Grandmother, Great Grandfather and a pictorial organization chart to convey her role not only as cook, but as a mother, with a family is a more apt resurrection of history. She was one of many who were part of, and influenced the Keller household in so many different ways.

Viny Murphy, the other person depicted in the movies, plays and books was not the cook as most are led to believe. Her name is at least correct. Viny was nursemaid to Helen Keller's siblings; Phillip Brooks Keller and Mildred Keller. Now, as I have been advised, in the Southern context, the title nursemaid had a specific function and meaning back in the day, but I'll leave that for those more knowledgeable of such cultural and geographic settings to contemplate; thus, we were a vital element in people’s households and their lives more than what wants to be recognized.

Great Grandmother died in Tuscumbia, Alabama in August 1917. She has a headstone. Great Grandfather however remains in an unmarked and unknown grave. Through research - Great Grandmother and Viny Murphy were work mates; worshipped and fellowshipped together and shared roles as Committee members of Trenholm School, an African American school in Tuscumbia. Viny, who became a lead officer of an African American fraternal organization known as the Mosaic Templars of America (MTA) aka Order of Moses, ensured Sophie received her death benefit, and MTA headstone; thus, having been close to the Watkins family, she would have known where Rev. Fred Watkins was buried (though the MTA burial insurance fund did not exist at the time of his death in 1911). So, have the ancestors led me to find another unmarked grave? Was Great Grandmother buried next to kin (Rev. Fred) by Viny? I believe the evidence and logic points to his burial spot having also been identified in what was the segregated part of Oakwood Cemetery where no records are known to exist. Another cold case mystery solved, I believe.

Viny died October 1919. She also has a headstone. I'm thankful for not only resurrecting the knowledge of the MTA's existence in northwest Alabama, but to have been blessed to put the pieces together that has brought this mission to this point thus far.

In closing, "Aluta continua," translated from Portuguese means, "the struggle continues" but this is the journey that those involved in history and genealogy must pursue. Vigilance, research, Divine Intervention (definitely) and ancestors tap-tap-tapping upon one's shoulder whispering "make sure we're not long gone and forgotten" is what this journey, my personal journey is, and continues to be about.

I would like to thank Amy for this opportunity to "pinch hit" during her absence and for the opportunity to have contributed to this wonderful blog site. I'm particularly more grateful that y'all don't bite but just nibble. Thank you for that. To all reading this blog and engaged in keeping the ancestor's existence alive,

Peace, Love and Strength,

Tom McKnight


Sandra Taliaferro Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 5:09:24 AM

I really enjoyed reading your story. Thanks for sharing it with us. I wish you continued success in your research efforts.


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