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Dr. Mattie E. Coleman Wreath Laying Ceremony

Dr. Mattie Elizabeth Howard Coleman was a prominent figure in Nashville’s African American history. A 1906 graduate of Meharry Medical College’s School of Dentistry, Dr. Coleman was a medical, religious, and community service pioneer.

This weekend, Saturday, October 14th, Capers Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church will honor Dr. Coleman with a wreath laying at her internment site in Greenwood Cemetery. The church is celebrating the Centennial Celebration of the Women’s Missionary Council and invites members of the public to attend.  More details are available here.

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Meeting Recap: Cemetery Community of Rutherford County

This past weekend, we held our October monthly meeting and learned about the freedmen community, called “Cemetery,” in Rutherford County.  Established soon after the Civil War by former enslaved African Americans, the story of the Cemetery community is being actively preserved, shared, and disseminated through the efforts of descendants, historians, genealogists, and community members.

Our guest speaker was Dr. George C. Smith. Dr. Smith has been thoroughly engaged in these efforts and it was truly educational to here his discussion of the community’s significance.  There are only a few remaining freedmen-established communities in the state of Tennessee so it is important for their stories to indeed be told.

“Cemetery Notes” column in the Nashville Globe newspaper (May 24, 1907).

An archive of materials related to Cemetery is available online via Middle Tennessee State’s Public History Program; visit the site to learn more. The African American Heritage Society of Rutherford County is very heavily engaged in helping to capture the story of the Cemetery community to follow them on Facebook or visit their website to stay abreast of project updates.  You can also hear a presentation by community member Leonora Washington.

Greenwood Cemetery Biographies

For more than 120 years, Greenwood Cemetery has served as the final resting place for many of Nashville’s African-American community members. AAHGS Nashville friend, Kathy Lauder, continuously works to showcase the lives of the individuals buried in the cemetery through short biographies she writes each week to complement her work for the Greenwood Project.

The Greenwood Project, started in 2014, seeks to create an as comprehensive list as possible of individuals buried in the historic African American Greenwood Cemetery here in Nashville (including Mt. Ararat & Greenwood Cemetery West). Burial records are culled from a variety of sources, including personal family knowledge, newspaper obituaries, death certificates, extant burial listings, and more.

We are now pleased to have a page on our AAHGS Nashville site to list the biographies and help raise awareness of the life stories of Nashville community members who are no longer with us. There are currently more than 100 biographies! Visit our new page to learn more about their phenomenal lives.

 

Researching with Freedmen’s Bureau Records

Many thanks to our members who were able to come yesterday for our workshop on using Freedmen’s Bureau records for family history research! This was our 2nd members-only workshop of the year; our 3rd one is in November and will be about DNA for genealogy research.

Formally known as “The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands”the “Freedmen’s Bureau,” was established in 1865 to provide assistance for thousands of formerly enslaved African Americans and impoverished whites. Operating in the Southern United States and the state of Ohio, the Freedmen’s Bureau played a critical role in relief efforts after the Civil War.

Many records were created as part of this extensive effort – records about schools, health care, marriages, employment, labor contracts, military claims, crimes, and so much more. With records spanning the time period between 1865-1872 and containing a plethora of information about black Americans, learning the ins and outs of how to use this collection is important for everyone researching individuals of African American ancestry.

Here are some resources to help you navigate this collection of records:

  • Just as with other forms of genealogy, location is important.  Use the maps at Mapping The Freedmen’s Bureau to find field offices, hospitals, and bank offices located near where your family lived.
  • Thanks to the wonderful efforts of FamilySearch, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, the California African American Museum, and about 20,000 volunteer indexers, more than 1.8 million names have been indexed from the collection and are searchable on the DiscoverFreedmen website. Search for your own family members!
  • Even with the excellent indexing efforts over the past couple of years, not all the records are indexed; FamilySearch has many sets of the records with the images available online that you can browse, including the Tennessee Field Office Records. Though not indexed, browsing online is certainly much more convenient than using traditional microfilm readers. Learn more about which record groups are searchable vs. browsable on the FamilySearch Research Wiki. Explore the browsable collections to see what you can find.
  • The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) created very detailed descriptive pamphlets of the records — you will definitely want to peruse them to learn more about the structure of the records, and for insight that will help you use and interpret what you find in your search results. Visit NARA’s African American Freedmen’s Bureau Records page for details.
“United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Marriages, 1861-1872”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q296-QX9V : 25 February 2016), George Mcgowen and Rachel Anksum, 1864.

In my own research, I’ve located marriage records, labor contracts, and more about my family. At the meeting yesterday, one of our members shared a bank record she located that listed her ancestor and his family; the family members had been previously unknown to her!

Have you found something relevant for your own family? Share and let us know.

Our next meeting is October 7th (see details). If you’re in the Nashville area and interested in African American history 0r genealogy, we hope to see you there!

June 18th: Exploring Your African American Genealogy

On Sunday, June 18th, AAHGS Nashville is participating in a series of events hosted at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage as part of their Juneteenth Celebrations.

Join us at 2 pm as we present a 1-hour genealogy workshop, followed by individual consultations from 3-5pm.  If you have already started your genealogy research, come with as much prepared information as you have as that will help us offer you more specific help and advice.

Use the button below to register.  We look forward to seeing you there!