State of VA, Henry Co. Cohabitation Register

The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce that digitization of the Henry 
County Cohabitation Register is complete. Compiled in 1866, cohabitation 
registers imparted legal legitimacy to African American marriages and children. 
It was also the first time many African Americans appeared in public record 
under their own names. In honor of the release of the Henry Co. register, 
today's Out of the Box post examines African American naming practices.


Tell Me Now . . .


Today was the Homegoing Service (Funeral) for my Great Aunt Louise. She was the youngest sibling of my Grandmother, Anna Mae. We were not particularly close. However, I did enjoy seeing her, no matter how infrequently. She always had a warm smile and big laugh and I was always glad to see her. She and my Grandmother talked weekly and always knew what was going on in each other’s extended family. This closeness didn’t really manifest itself to my generation.

She had been sick for sometime. Auntie (my mother’s oldest sister) kept me apprised on her general wellbeing. Auntie had told me several weeks ago, that nothing else could be done to deal with her illness. I dutifully placed her name on the prayer list of my church, and continued to also pray for her myself.

The day arrived when she made her final transition. I knew she was no longer in pain and had gone onto a better place.

As I read her life history, I marveled once again how fleeting life is and how small things overtime build a life. Where we were born, what school we attended, where we worked, civic activities and who we leave behind to mourn us. It’s very hard to truly convey one person’s life. There are so many relationships, jobs, family members and other triumphs and set backs along the way.

As I watched my Uncle Clarence, her only brother and the last remaining sibling say his final goodbye to her earthly shell. I wondered what does that feel like to be the last person standing. He has children and grandchildren, but nothing is quite the same as a sibling, someone you’ve known your entire life. The persons(s) you fought with and protected and shared confidences with. I wonder what it will be like for him to carry on without her.

In 1989, I lost 2 Aunts and my Dad, All in one year. It was quite a blow, one that took years to recover from. From that time I learned that we don’t have as much time as we think. We shouldn’t put off telling people how much we care.

Many years ago I found a poem titled, Tell Me Now. It said, don’t wait to tell me you love me. Don’t wait till I’m gone to cry for me and try to embrace me.

If you have any tender feeling for me, express it now. I’ve searched for that poem, but it has eluded me. Nevertheless, its meaning stays with me.

I would encourage you to hug your family, make up with your enemies and savor the sweet taste of life that we currently enjoy. The only constant is change, these are the good old days



Anna Mae’s Oldest Grandbaby

The Idea of Ancestry – Ethridge Knight

The Idea of Ancestry

Taped to the wall of my cell are 47 pictures: 47 black
faces: my father, mother, grandmothers (1 dead), grand-
fathers (both dead), brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts,
cousins (1st and 2nd), nieces, and nephews.They stare
across the space at me sprawling on my bunk.I know
their dark eyes, they know mine.I know their style,
they know mine.I am all of them, they are all of me;
they are farmers, I am a thief, I am me, they are thee.

I have at one time or another been in love with my mother,
1 grandmother, 2 sisters, 2 aunts (1 went to the asylum),
and 5 cousins.I am now in love with a 7-yr-old niece
(she sends me letters in large block print, and
her picture is the only one that smiles at me).

I have the same name as 1 grandfather, 3 cousins, 3 nephews,
and 1 uncle. The uncle disappeared when he was 15, just took
off and caught a freight (they say).He’s discussed each year
when the family has a reunion, he causes uneasiness in
the clan, he is an empty space.My father’s mother, who is 93
and who keeps the Family Bible with everbody’s birth dates
(and death dates) in it, always mentions him.There is no
place in her Bible for “whereabouts unknown.”

Etheridge Knight
I was fortunate enough to meet him once during an English Lit class in college. I later discovered this poem. It really shows our deep connection to each other across space and time.

National Archives is providing free access to all its digitized Civil War records for the United States Colored Troops – for a limited time

The National Archives is providing free access through to all its digitized Civil War records for the United States Colored Troops through May 31, 2014.  See here for details:

The military service and pension records are a gold mine of historical, genealogical, social, and community information.  You will find birth place and dates, physical descriptions, battles fought, wounds incurred, death dates and burials, parents, wives, children’s names, other relationships (marriage and children’s birth dates too), employment information, former enslavers names, and community information such as midwives names, ministers, neighbors, fellow soldiers names, land and asset ownership, and more.

Fold3 has digitized all the Civil War Service records, and has begun the process of digitizing Widows and Dependents pensions.  There are also links to order copies of pension records not digitized from the National Archives.  These are expensive, but you can also download the microfilm information and access the records through a personal visit to a National Archives branch near you.
Have fun digging!


Kate Clifford Larson, Ph.D. Winchester, MA 01890 781-756-1930 Check out my new and updated Find Me on Twitter

Author, Bound For the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero. (Ballantine, 2004);  The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln. (Basic Books, 2008); and Rosemary: An Interrupted Life. (Houghton Mifflin, spring 2015)

Consulting Historian, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway and All American Road. Eastern Shore, Maryland.

Adjunct, Dept. of History
Simmons College,
Boston, MA

Backup Your Research

Always back up your research. Whether you are using pen and paper or a computer database, backup your work. Make multiple copies and label them. If you are using electronic files you can use a cloud service or an online email service (by emailing the file to yourself).

Flash drives are also convenient for backing up databases, notes, pictures, etc. The cost is low, size is large and the ease is great.  You can back up your work on multiple flash drives and share them with fellow family members for safe keeping.

Today I used a device that automatically backs up everything on my hard drive with the click of one button.  This device is very handy when the inevitable hard drive crash or virus intrusion disables your computer. The cost for a professional retrieval can be very high.

Share your work with your family, allow them to share in the excitement of the chase. It is very inexpensive to copy and bind your work. (I’ll touch more on that in a later post.) We never think that our files will be lost. However, natural or man made disasters can befall any of us.

Happy Hunting!

Anna Mae’s Oldest Grandbaby

Separating Fact from Fiction

Separating Fact from Fiction

It’s important not to have knee-jerk reactions to images on the internet. Google recently posted a Google Doodle Tribute to Harriet Tubman. As a student of history I immediately recognized the picture and was excited about clicking on the link and learning more information. On Twitter a well known entertainer blasted the Doodle as racist and inaccurate. I could not understand for the life of me what was wrong with the picture. The entertainer did suggest that they might have been overly sensitive. I would answer yes. The problem we have here is that many people haven’t studied history and aren’t making informed statements. Clicking like and send is frequently done without forethought to the veracity of the post or tweet. The photo montage is courtesy of Black Press Radio. The top picture is the Google Doodle the bottom picture is an actual picture of Harriet Tubman.