Photo Credit: Farrell Kramer
I can’t hold the secret any longer!! Earlier this summer, I sat down with one of my favorite genealogy bloggers and all round gal pal, Dionne Ford of Finding Josephine. Let me say that as busy as Dionne stays, I so appreciate her taking the time to interview with me. Here are excerpts from our genea-chat!
RR: Dionne, thanks for agreeing to this interview at Reconnected Roots!
Dionne: What an honor. Thanks for thinking of me.
RR: Sure. Let’s begin with how you got started in genealogy. What peaked your interest?
Dionne: When I was about 12, my grandpa, Martin Ford came for a visit from New Orleans and told me the story about his grandmother, Tempy Burton who had been a slave and his grandfather, Col. W. R. Stuart, who had been Tempy’s master. That pretty much hooked me for life.
RR: Fascinating! What advice do you suggest for the absolute beginner who may be overwhelmed on where to start?
Dionne: I still consider myself in the beginner category so, from one beginner to another I recommend talking to your older relatives first to find out what they know. Had I not had a casual conversation with my grandfather almost 30 years ago about his family, I would have never known about the colonel and Tempy, an integral part of my history that could have very well been lost to me. Younger generations can be good to query too. I was surprised to find how much of our history my New Orleans cousin knew (and she’s my age). She also has amazing family heirlooms passed down from our grandmother like two 1905 glasses inscribed with our great, great-grandmother Tempy Burton’s name and our great grandmother Josephine Burton Ford. She also has documents like our grandparent’s marriage license. I recommend having a family barbecue, bringing a notebook, and finding out what your relatives know.
RR: Speaking of relatives from older generations, how do you deal with people, be it relatives or community members who believe in keeping our family history buried?
Dionne: Most of the people I’ve encountered have been encouraging about telling my family story, perhaps because I’m surrounded by people who are also telling their family stories. But what I have found interesting is how angry some people get, both in my family and the community at large about some of the details in my family’s story, especially the perplexing relationship between the colonel, Tempy and the colonel’s wife, Elizabeth. It’s also maddening to me at times, but I find the revelations extremely healing and reconciling even when they’re disturbing bits of information.
RR: Yes, I see how that can be frustrating and therapeutic all at the same time. Is there any genealogical find or event that made you almost want to throw in the towel (for the day, that is)?
Dionne: Seeing an appraisal that listed Tempy Burton, my great, great-grandmother and her infant son valued of $1,600 sent me to bed for the day. Literally. Seeing how little control she had over her own life made me so sad, but then remembering that she lived a long life and was held in high esteem by her community according to her obituaries made me realize how resilient the human spirit is. She triumphed even in slavery.
RR: What strength! Dionne, regarding frustrating days, what tips or advice would you give the beginner-to-intermediate genealogist in terms of “brick walls,” those genealogical dead ends?
My biggest brick walls were finding out what ever happened to my great-grandmother, Josephine and trying to find out the names of my great-great-grandmother, Tempy’s parents. Both of these brick walls were smashed by genealogical acts of kindness, complete strangers finding the information and forwarding it to me. So I suppose, my part in that was to be blogging about what I was looking for and where I was looking.
RR: Amazing, how that all came together, for you. Of all the family stories passed down to you, which one sticks with you the most and why?
Dionne: I think the story of my great-grandfather, Sam Jones escaping from the Ku Klux Klan in a pine box from Oklahoma is the story that sticks with me the most. It’s a touchstone of courage and perseverance for me. It makes me feel so very proud that Mr. Jones found not only a way to persevere in the face of terrorists, but went on to build a wonderful life and to thrive and help other young black men do the same. When I think of my ancestor crawling into a wooden box, faking dead and crossing the desert, I figure I ought not let his courage go to waste. I ought to stand up for myself too.
RR: What genealogical legacy are you in the process of leaving for your descendants?
Dionne: As I discover things on this journey, I share them with my children and immediate family by telling them about what I’ve found as well as blog about it. I plan on also writing a book about my family’s history to have all the findings in one (or two or three) volumes.
RR: Speaking of writing things down, how important is organization in what we do and what system do you currently employ to keep your records and findings organized?
Dionne: Organization is both highly important and not my forte. Luckily, I have a research partner in my cousin who is extremely organized (think Martha Stewart) so I’ll tell you what she does. She prints out every email, document, etc. that could pertain to our family. Then she files them in categories in her beautifully decorated and labeled binders which now line her kitchen wall. I try to do this too, but I’m woefully behind (She has about 7 binders. I’m working on my third). But I’m good about saving everything on my computer and backing it up on a USB port.
RR: What location would you like to visit next for genealogy purposes and why?
Dionne: While I’ve been there before, I think I would like to revisit Ocean Springs, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana. I’d like to visit Tempy’s grave, the colonel’s grave and retrace the steps of my people.
RR: Which of your ancestors would you like to be able to go back in time and spend one day with? What would you ask him or her?
Dionne: I’d like to spend one day with Tempy Burton, half of it during a time when she was enslaved, the other half after her emancipation. I’d ask her why she continued to live with the colonel and his wife and if she feels she made the right choice by staying with them.
RR: Tell us about your genealogy goals for the rest of 2010.
Dionne: I’d like to find out where the Burton surname came from, why my great, great-grandmother, Tempy Burton got separated from the rest of her family, and who her father is.
RR: Finally, Dionne, as we close, who would you like to see in the “Spotlight On...” feature next?
Dionne: Liz Hall Morgan of My Big Fat Family Blog or Reclaiming Kin.
Dionne, I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to pick your brain and for sharing so much of your family history with us.
**As a side note, Dionne says that since this interview this summer, she has indeed traveled to Tempy’s grave, as well as the Colonel’s. See her blog post, to hear more about the visit. If you liked what you read, please visit Dionne at Finding Josephine. Comments or questions for our guest? Leave them below, and Dionne will respond as time permits. Oh, and Liz? I’ll be calling you to see if you’re up for the challenge!!
Until Next Time,
Spotlight On... Leslie Ann Ballou
As many of you know Reconnected Roots is now featuring "Spotlight On...." This is the area where I spotlight one of my fellow genealogists / bloggers / researchers. You never know where the spotlight will fall, but for this month, we are in Florida.
Leslie Ann Ballou
Some of you call her Gen_Freak, (her Twitter moniker) some of you call her Leslie, but one thing we can all agree on, she has a passion for family heirlooms and treasures. So without further ado, please welcome Leslie Ann Ballou, of Lost
This past April, Leslie was kind enough to sit down with Reconnected Roots, to share some little known genealogy facts about herself. Here are excerpts from our interview.
RR: Thanks so much for agreeing to be "spotlighted"!
Leslie: Wow! I am speechless! I feel so honored that you would choose me to be your "first"!
RR: What got you interested in Genealogy?
Leslie: Looking back, I guess I would have to say that it was Grandma Smedley that planted the seed of genealogy and family history in me when I was a child.
Every time we went to her house the first thing I would do is run to the kitchen and grab a cookie out of the cookie jar, sit in front of the heater (in the winter time) and then start looking through all the photo albums.
When I would come to the old wedding picture of my Gr-Great Grandma & Grandpa Price, she would always tell me, "He used to say that you could walk the streets of London all day long and never find a more beautiful woman." I may not remember all the stories that she used to tell me about my ancestors, but that will always stick with me and I will probably pass this wonderful sentiment to my grandchildren.
Grandma had two big genealogy books that were called Books of Remembrance. They were legal paper sized. One was about her ancestry and the other was about her descendants. I was always looking at these books, and when she gave me my own book to fill I hand copied all the pedigree sheets and family group sheets from her book.
RR: What an amazing start! Did Grandma Smedley also show you the ins and outs of how she conducted her research?
Leslie: Not exactly. I was a teenager when I first went to the Latter-Day Saints family history center with my mutual classmates and that introduced me to the research part. As the years went on I would research off and on as time and circumstances would allow. It was about 1997 when I got a computer. Since then, in trying to confirm information that I inherited I found quite a few errors and wrong lineages that I had to repair.
RR: That can be extremely frustrating. How important is accuracy in this type of research?
Leslie: It is very important to be as accurate as possible, after all we don't want to be running around claiming that we are something we're not, right?. The girls in my family were all excited years ago when I told them that we were descendants of Lady Godiva. Well about a year ago I had to burst everyone's bubble when I discovered that our ARNOLD line has no proven royal connection. It was concocted in 1870 by a genealogist who just wanted to please the patron he was researching for. If I may, I would like to suggest a website that every genealogist should be aware of, especially descendants of America's first families. This site reports some of the known fraudulent genealogies. Click here to visit Genealogy Frauds.
RR: That is great information to know! Sometimes, at least in my own family, members can show reluctance or a lack of support for "drudging up the past." Has your family been supportive of your work?
Leslie: No one's against it or anything. I think mom may appreciate some of the things that I find. Everyone knows that I am the one to come to for such matters, but I don't think anyone else really cares one way or the other. Although hubby says I spend too much time on the computer which I admit, I do need to cut down. It sure would be nice to have someone in the family who truly understands and shared the importance and the passion that I have for genealogy and family history.
RR: I think that is every researcher's wish! What has been your greatest genealogy challenge?
Leslie: I think my biggest challenge has been trying to find proof and confirmation on ancestors that have been disowned by their fathers.
RR: That can be quite a challenge. Speaking of which, what other goals do you have for the remainder of 2010?
Leslie: hope to be able to get more documentation like birth certificates, death certificates, etc.
RR: In your non-genealogy time, what do you like to do?
Leslie: I love to go fishing and camping in the mountains when we can. Sadly, we haven't gone camping for about seven years because there are no mountains in Florida! It's pretty rough camping in Florida without an air conditioner.
RR: Who would YOU like to see featured next in "Spotlight On..?"
Leslie: I would like to see Luckie Daniels in one of your spotlights.
Well, there you have it. Luckie, the people have spoken. I will be checking in to see if you are up for the challenge!
Leslie, Thank you for agreeing to let us peek in at your life and sharing your time with us. You can visit Leslie at her blog, Lost Family Treasures. You can also catch her on Twitter as @Gen_Freak.
Until next time,
September - 2010
June - 2010