I enjoy meeting people and attending fabulous events in a community, especially in the Charlottesville community. It is rich with history and it tells its own story everyday. Annually there is the Virginia Festival of the Book (http://vabook.org). It is a huge attraction for the local community. Folks come from other states to attend this event. As a genealogist for over 30 years I have had several encounters with others with common interests. It never fails, the ancestors are alway making connections for us. I listen for the whispers and they have never failed me yet. This is a sneak peak of my day at the book fest. You never know when you are going to meet people who might share a common history or even be a distance cousin.
First, I attended a session where my newly found distance cousin, Rachel was the moderator and she did a fabulous job. How Rachel and I met will be another blog, so stay tuned to hear about our 8 hour Panera adventure! Rachel engaged with the two authors and the audience enjoyed every minute of it. The next venue was at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center (http://vabook.org/program/through-darkness-to-light-photographs-along-the-underground-railroad-3/). It was amazing and thought provoking. I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t think I could especially after tuning in to Legacy family tree webinars and listening to Judy G. Russell, the Legal Genealogist (http://www.legalgenealogist.com) educate us on photos, etc.
The photos were of areas around the country that were part of the Underground Railroad. The exhibit also included a map, so as you looked at a photo and if you were not aware of the location, say in Michigan or Indiana, you could look at the map (it was an old map, where there was no West VA or Kentucky, it still showed all of Virginia, at this time, I believe it was 1839). There were other people in the room all chatting and one lady heard me say something about Frederick, Maryland and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. I was standing at the map. I shared that I was in Chambersburg last year presenting and also had been contacted regarding the Black Memonites (Throckmorton’s). I wrote a blog on the Bible coming home (https://familytreegirl.com/?s=bible).
Moving forward, I shared about my Davis’s (Free colored family) sold their 11 acres in PA in 1858 and moved to Medina County, Ohio. Then when the 1862 Homestead Act opened up, in 1863, they sold their 25 acres in Ohio and migrated further north to Michigan. William and Mildred (Brand) Davis were the first family of color to homestead in Benzie County, Michigan that I have found evidence of. Then another gentleman says my wife is from that area, have you heard about the lady who died or froze in Crystal Lake, I had heard of this story, but then he says it’s his wife’s family the Oliver’s were out of Frankfort. What? I know the Oliver family, in the village of Frankfort I asked? he said yes. I said I know that Joseph Oliver was the first white settler in the town of Frankfort. Now his wife has entered the conversation, they said what? I said one of my distance cousin’s father is one of my Davis’s, and he had two children by a Oliver. So now the interest has peaked all of us. We were in conversations in familiar territory. We never know where a connection or a cousin is going to show up. It can happened anywhere and anytime and I love it! As a young girl, we spent our summers on the homestead properties in Benzie and Manistee County. The husband was also familiar with Manistee County where my Marsh/Goings line was the first folks of color to homestead there as well. Manistee is a neighboring county.
The wife had not heard the story about Joseph Oliver, well I pull out my iPhone and of course pulled some information up. Since she didn’t know of Joseph Oliver, I suggested that it was maybe a generation or two back and there needs to be some more research done. I am not aware of any other Oliver’s in Frankfort and maybe there are two Oliver families. But I know this Joseph Oliver is celebrated every year. (http://www.frankfortmich.com/history.html, see the third paragraph mention Joseph Oliver). The husband said you are my wife’s cousin, LOL, well, we are somewhere distantly related.
We chatted and exchanged names and contact information. They live with 40 minutes of where I currently live in Virginia, so I suspect and hope that we will meet again to further the conversations. I contacted my Oliver/Davis cousin on Facebook to let her know I made this connection. This is what I love about genealogy and the research we do. We know the communities we research, we know surnames and have stories to share. All of this happened while viewing a map.
A typical day in the life and time of a genealogist. What has happened to you recently?