You never know what you will find under a tree!

Part 2 of my quest to locate Ambrose Cureton has began this morning. I remembered my visit to Loudon County, TN a few years ago. As mentioned I have Ambrose and now wife Lue J. (Grinway) in the 1880 census in Loudon Co. I remembered this blog about meeting folks and having a beer under the tree. It was time to revisit my notes about this day and plan a trip to Loudon County. I need to find out where Ambrose died. I have narrowed it down that Ambrose died after 1880 and before 1903. Why 1903, because I just located his wife Lue/Lula in 1903 city directory in Knox County and she is a widow and Black. (love the city directories) Lue dies in Knox County TN. Now Ambrose’s son Govan is also in Knox County, so I am not sure – yet- if Ambrose made it to Knox County also. I also have to separate the Cureton’s by race to avoid confusion and stay on track with the right family. There is a white Govan born in Mecklenburg, NC around the same time as my Govan Cureton. So what’s my next move—find the death record between Loudon and Knox counties TN. Yes, you never know what you might find under a tree.


Genealogist at any level will follow the basic steps to locate information. Our goal is to find information or leads that document our ancestor’s life. There is a need to talk to family and others in hopes of a connection to our ancestors. First, we try to figure out what we “already know” about our ancestor then, what we “need to know”, such as where an ancestor was born, married or died, and last, who knows “what we need to know.” This will lead us to the state or local vital statistics records. We know we can obtain these records if they exist by writing and requesting a copy or ordering online. We wander aimlessly throughout courthouses seeking land records, such as a deed or bill of sale, or any type of public records. We like to ask questions-where did uncle Carl grow up, where did he attend school, what…

View original post 523 more words

Posted in Genealogy | Leave a comment

Ambrose Cureton…I am coming for you! Pt. 1

As we know when you are getting started or refreshing your research you have to stick to the basics of genealogy research. I am sure this line will take me past 1870. It’s going to be a challenge since I don’t know much about Tennessee. I will have to make a few turns because I am assuming I am leading into doing some deep rooted slave research on this line. African American slave research has its own set of genealogy challenges but we shall see. Now “what do I know about you” Ambrose Cureton:

  1. You are my great great grandfather on my father’s side. Your name is Ambrose Cureton. You are African or African American. I am not sure you were born in America due to some oral history. My Uncle Carl shared with me and my mother back in the 60s (here the hints from oral history) that Ambrose or his father (I do not have his father’s name) was a 9 year old African who came in on a slave ship either into North or South Carolina or from the West Indies. Also, my dad mentioned something about Dutch people when two Jehovah Witness individuals knocked on our door. I am not sure what that means actually and of course I am going by my memory. So, with this blog I am going with the thought that the 9 year old is Ambrose until some other evidence shows itself.  The plantation owner who brought Ambrose had the last name of Cureton and that is a good place to start.
  2. What resources are available for me to learn about TN and Cocke County, TN. I had to make a list where I can go to first:
    7.,_Tennessee_Genealogy#African_American It appears that Ambrose was born between 1833 to 1840 and thats only because of what I have seen on the 1870 and 1880 federal population census. Now we know the census are not always the most accurate so we will consider anything on the census on “quick leads” to follow up on.
    8. Another great site to check out is there is a State and a Slave research  forum. It’s time to post some questions and gets some help. Maybe I will connect with someone else who is also researching the area which is always good to have a genie buddy.
    9. Mapping the Freedmen Bureau site developed by Angela Walton-Raji and Toni Carrier can show the closest Bureau Office, maybe Ambrose went there for help once he became free-
  3. Yes, I first see you Ambrose in the 1870 census with a wife, Eliza and two children; Govan age 5 and Elizabeth  age 3 months. Where you free? or if not who “owned” you prior to 1865? Are you the only Blacks on this census page? Note where everyone was born-it looks like Tennessee is where most of the folks were born besides one in Kentucky and a few from North Carolina. As you see Ambrose your son, maybe your first born son Govan is 5 years old and is noted as being born in North Carolina. Why? (Yes, I will be bringing out my thoughts and talking to my great great grandfather while doing my research. It helps me to have good conversations with my thoughts).  I believe I resolved where Govan was born since he was the informant on one of his daughter’s dead record and he says he was born in Cocke Co. Tennessee. But let’s hold that thought anyway. Also, I know Ambrose you all show up in Loudon Co, TN in the 1880 Census with Govan, but not Eliza or Elizabeth maybe they have died prior to the move to Knox Co. for a few years and then Govan and family moves on to Ft. Wayne Indiana around 1917 and Govan dies in 1928. I will need to research for possible death records on Eliza and Elizabether before 1880. So note in the 1880 census in Loudon Co. there is a new wife and children and all of the children’s names in the 1880 census are just initials. Now if I ever meet that census taker, you know what I want to do to her/him, huh…initials only, geez another topic to blog about. It is time to do a “SO WHAT” and WHAT’s NEXT on what I know. ambrose cureton 1870 census Cocke County TN
  4. I have checked for other Blacks in the 1870 census and there are only three Black households per the census with the last name of Cureton: 1) James b. 1808 and Mary J b. 1819, there is a total of 16 in the household and the post office is Newport. 2) Elbert b. 1844 and Abagail b. 1845, household of 9 and the post office is Wamsburg. 3) Ame (Ambrose) b. 1833 and Elzia b. 1843, household of 4 and the post office is Wamsburg. I need to know if the other Black Cureton’s are connected to Ambrose or Eliza. If you both were previous slaves I will need to know who is connected to you or not. Just because Ambrose has the last name Cureton doesn’t mean he is a blood Cureton, or he took an owners name, but you never know.
  5. The census year of 1870 is key for African American research there are so many questions and possibilities that can arise from being found in the 1870 census. It is the first census where former slaves now have names and surnames in the federal census. It gives us names and approximately birth years and clues to birth locations. I have to keep wondering if the others are related…I will look at the birth years of these other two households, and the different post office locations, there is more to check our here. I wonder how far they were living from each other?  Hmmm! I have to find the locations of these post offices-I need a map of Cocke County!
  6. Next I checked for all of the white Cureton’s in 1870s in Cocke County. There are six white head of households: 1) RF b, 1811 and Nancy E b. 1829, only those 2 in the household and the post office is Newport 2) William b. 1816 and Mary b. 1820, 7 in the household and the post office is Newport 3) Robt b. 1840 and Cassandra b. 1845, 7 in the household and the post office is Parrottsville (a new one), 4. Catherine b. 1841 and Thomas b. 1850, 4 in the household and the post office is Newport, 5) Richard b. 1844 and Margaret b. 1845, 6 in the household and the post office is Newport. I also note all of the other surnames on this page and will review the rest of the “whole” county later.
  7. These post office’s are going to be key in determining where in Cocke County in 1870 the Cureton’s were living, the white and black Cureton’s. So I wonder if I can find out the locations of Newport, Parrottsville, and Wamsburg post offices. Okay I need to make a few posts on Facebook and see if anyone else is researching Cocke County, Tn and I also wonder if Wamsburg is an abbreviation for maybe Williamsburg, since the founder of Cocke Co, is William Cocke. (just a thought). I did learn that Newport is the county seat for the county and still has a post office, Parrottsville is a still a town and also has a post office location. Hmmm but no Wamsburg post office. I believe I have enough to focus on when I return from work.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of finding Ambrose Cureton!

“Know Your Roots, they are Strong and Long”

Happy digging from familytreegirl

(Feel free to share my blog posts, I write them to keep myself focused and share tips, etc. Just make sure you cite where you received the information. Mahalo!

Posted in Genealogy | 6 Comments

It’s really hard to believe! Struggling with African American Ancestry Research.

Why am I still doing genealogy research? Just a few thoughts have popped into my head. As a researcher sometimes I struggle with some of the facts/evidence I find. It forces me to come to terms with what I think of the human race and being an American overall. Some of the information is really interesting, exciting and some are horrible and unbelievable and the tears flow. Sometimes I just have to pray in order to stop myself becoming just like them. Today is July 8th and the KKK has planned a rally in Charlottesville. All this negative energy going on causes me also to struggle. I wish the media would stop flying the hype and BS and just ignore them. Now the praying really begins as I pray for peace and safety for all during the rally.

I am well aware of the challenges and struggles individuals will face when conducting African American ancestry. These challenges will surface dealing with other ancestry research as well. I too have the “brick wall challenges” just like anyone else. When doing African American ancestry researchers will face some of the following challenges:

  • Records not recorded into public record
  • Records destroyed
  • Denial-don’t want to know, it’s the past
  • Knows the info, but won’t share
  • Lack of access to information
  • Received information that is not the truth or reliable-questionable Oral History
  • Do you really have a brick wall/challenge? Did you create one?
  • You don’t know what you have-no analysis was done on the records (SO WHAT!)
  • Things are in the “house repositories” and not being shared
  • Not using FAN Principle by (E. Shown Mills)
  • Not using the Murphy’s “So What” concepts of analyzing information
  • Jumping out of the box too quick with assumptions and no evidence!
  • 21st century thinking

These challenges have to be worked out and resolved. Some might be conflicts or gaps. Some other things I struggle with are: the ownership of human beings, the selling of babies, families being torn apart, the Christian religion, rapes, and the killings. Yes, I said the Christian religion and that would be another conversation. Sometimes it is too much to bear and I have to close the file or the book. Just think, some individual’s, as in African Americans who survived the 18th and 19th century really don’t know whom their parents are or even what their real name is. This is not just those who were slaves, free born folks faced some horrendous conditions as well. Don’t assume they had it better. The readings will have you cringe on some of the things they faced. I have read in several different books and articles that once the Civil war was over some, now freed slaves spent the rest of their life searching for their family. Family: mother, father, and siblings or even aunts and uncles, etc. Can you image the lost feelings folks went through? How could this country allow this to happen?

Recently there was an article written by Shaun King about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemming’s relationship. Shaun was very clear, I mean very clear this was rape and basically folks need to stop romanticizing the relationship. (

Well Shaun King I have to agree with you. You nailed it right on the head. I can’t let all of the ugly be won over by the good. Some things will not get a pass from me. Mr. Jefferson continued to live with the fact that he owned people, broke up families and sold children away from their parents, etc.

This all becomes emotional and we won’t heal all of it but we will have to deal some of it. The emotional side individuals will have to prepare themselves as to how they will deal with the information and how they will share the information. I often ask myself is it my role as a researcher to tell some of these emotional things, or should I stay in my lane and just hand over the information. As researching how do we overcome our struggles or do we?

Happy Root Digging!



Posted in Genealogy | 4 Comments

It’s time for the 2017 National Genealogical Society Conference, Raleigh, NC.

 shelley photo 2017 What do you know about the National Genealogical Society, aka “NGS”? It is time to check out who they are and what they do. It is a membership organization. They have history similar to the Daughter’s of the American Revolution (DAR) and other societies/organizations in America. I am proud to be a member of both of these societies along with a few more. Some of these type of organizations/societies have the option of selecting who their members are and who won’t be members. Yep, I said it. At one time people of color were not allowed to join some of these groups. But I think there has been some efforts to change the imagine and perspective of the societies. For 2017, the annual NGS conference will be held in Raleigh with typically well over 2,000 attendees. Are you coming? If you are I would love to meet you personally. Please call me out and say hello.

Well, I think there is something that will be interesting for genealogists. Not just for the members of NGS but also of the Federal of Genealogical Socities (FGS), Association for Professional Genealogists (APG) etc. I am not including the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI). Their membership is open to all “genealogist/family historicans, etc.” who would like to focus on African American genealogy research. It’s open to whom ever wants to learn. (

If you are in Raleigh join us and hear the panel discussion on African American genealogists and other genealogists. What can NGS do to make sure “all” genealogists feel they are part of their society? As a member and a member who is a person of color really appreciates the opportunity to hear and be part of the discussion. It’s the first dialog that I know of. This is your invite!

The panel will be moderated by the NGS President, Ben Sprattling along with Jan Alpert Conference Chair for 2018 NGS Conference to be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bernice Bennett of the Midwest African American Genealogy Institute (MAAGI) and producer of the Blogtalk Radio show, Research at the National Archives and Beyond, Judy G. Russell, The Legal Genealogists and MAAGI, Shelley Murphy (me), and with MAAGI, and Shannon Christmas of the Christmas Collective and MAAGI.

When does all this happen? It’s Thursday May 11, at 5:15pm. It is called the NGS President’s discussion in Room 306B. I hope the word gets out. I know there are competing things going on, but this is important and I hope folks will attend. It concludes at 6p. Oh, by the way Judy G. Russell will also give a talk on this topic on Friday morning for NGS. Judy’s talk is called the Helen F. M. Leary Distingushed Lecture Sponsored by the BCG Education Fund, “Rainbows and Kaleidoscopes: Inclusion as a Professional and Personal Genealogical Standard”, Ballroom C, F307 I believe at 8 or 8:30am. We just need to be there and support this effort. 

Remember, its not just about African American Genealogists, it’s all American Genealogists. I love that we come in all sizes, colors, sexual preferences, religions, national origins, and more. Come one, come all. It’s time to talk!  #NGS2017GEN


Posted in Genealogy | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Connections are everywhere!

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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 (

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. (, 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?

Posted in Genealogy | Leave a comment

Witnesses-what do you do?

bullying in the workplace

I recently presented on the witness’s perspective of bullying in the workplace at a conference at Shippensburg University, PA. The National Workplace Bullying Coalition hosted the event called “#Dignity15, Restoring and Protecting Dignity at Work: Addressing Discrimination, Harassment, and Bullying in the Workplace.!2015-conference/cwmr (I am front row, sitting, first on the left)

The conference was successful, they recorded all of the presentations and they will be put up on the Workplace Bullying Coalition’s website. The presentation I presented was from my study  conducted in 2013, ( . I referenced that in some cases the witnesses impacts were worst than the actual victims and the health aspects are unreal but believeable. Some will find that hard to believe, but I truly understand and have seen this myself. People think how can you watch and not do anything when a supervisor is slamming your co-worker via humiliation, yelling, cursing, could be throwing…

View original post 143 more words

Posted in Genealogy | Leave a comment

Who should we really be talking about regarding the Slave Trade?

This will be short and sweet. I am asking those of you who conduct African and African American slave research a couple of questions.

Question 1: Is there a country that did not involved themselves in the slave trade?

Question 2: Should our conversations really be about the Dutch?

On my ride home I tuned in to one of my favorite podcasts, which is Ben Franklin’s World. I knew a bit about the Dutch and their involvement, but not as much as I really should know. Check this one out:

This will probably be my next book purchase by Wim Klooster, who is a Professor at Clark University:


As usual your comments are welcome!

Posted in Genealogy | Tagged | Leave a comment