On Saturday, January 18th, we held our first meeting of the year. We were fortunate to have Dr. Angela Sutton present and showcase a variety of emotionally moving monuments around the world created to memorialize the experiences of enslaved populations. Dr. Sutton shared these projects as a context for the potential that lies before the city of Nashville as plans are considered for a monument/memorial at Ft. Negley.
I Am Queen Mary (2018) in Denmark – the statue is a monument to Mary Thomas, a woman who was enslaved in St. Croix and coordinated a slave revolt in which 50 plantations were burned
Each of these monuments is worth learning about and we encourage you to research them and their significance. Dr. Sutton’s talk and review were inspiring as fodder for the ultimate question: How could we help the world to understand the experience of Nashville’s enslaved and their descendants?
We thank Dr. Sutton for her presentation and let us all use this as an opportunity to contribute our voices for what could be at Ft. Negley.
In the genealogy blogging community, there are a series of daily writing prompts that are shared to help with ideas for blogging. Today is Saturday, and one of the prompts is “Surname Saturday.” So, for this post, we took inspiration from the blogging prompt and are writing a short blurb about Bell families in middle-Tennessee.
The idea to do this came about earlier today, while I was engaged in a conversation with fellow AAHGS board member, Natalie Bell. We spoke about the numerous Bell families here in the middle Tennessee area. Undoubtedly, many can likely trace their lineages back to affiliation with Montgomery Bell (1769-1855) who owned a large iron furnace in Dickson County and enslaved hundreds of individuals during his lifetime.
Montgomery Bell’s listing in the 1850 US Federal Slave Schedule Census shows that he owned more than 250 individuals in that year alone. I did a quick search of the 1870 US Census, the first census conducted after emancipation, and found more than 200 black and mulatto people with the surname “Bell.” It would be interesting to conduct a surname and/or DNA study of African American Bell families to more fully explore their possible connections and interrelationships.
Natalie can trace her Bell family connections back to Charles Bell and Lucy Stringfellow Bell of Cheatham County. Charles died in 1927 and Lucy in 1944. Both are buried in Belltown Cemetery – located in a community that was founded by those formerly enslaved by Montgomery Bell.
The 1910 US Census shows Charles and Lucy to have been married for 6 years, with 3 children – John L., Mary, and Charles H. Charles was 36 years old and Lucy was 23; this was Charles’ 2nd marriage. Unfortunately, Natalie does not have any additional information about Charles’ background and family and it remains an area of research.
What surnames are you researching in the middle Tennessee area and what roadblocks have you encountered? Part of our AAHGS Nashville mission is to help individuals explore their family histories – let us know how we can aid in that endeavor!
This week, many of us will be around friends and family over the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s the perfect time to grab a family member or two and ask them to share a few of their stories!
Each year at Thanksgiving, StoryCorps – a non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage people to share their stories, encourages story sharing through their Great Thanksgiving Listen project.
Visit the website for details on how to use the app, suggestions for interview questions, and more. Stories can be private, but if you choose, it can be shared online with other users and archived at the Library of Congress.
I’ve personally used the app to record a few family stories – including this one of my mom talking about her grandmother’s yearly visits.
It’s only 2 minutes in length but catches a great glimpse of my mom’s childhood experiences with her grandmother.
What stories will you record over the Thanksgiving holiday?
In late Summer 2020, the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) is scheduled to open here in Nashville. With a prime location downtown at 5th and Broadway, NMAAM will provide an opportunity to showcase the many contributions individuals of African descent have made to the musical landscape not only in this country but abroad.
At our meeting yesterday morning, AAHGS Nashville was delighted to host Dr. Steven Lewis, curator at NMAAM, as he shared with us an overview of the museum’s development history and extensive details about the museum’s layout, exhibits, and programs.
This museum is going to be just incredible!
The exhibits will feature 5 main galleries and there will be additional gallery space for rotating exhibits. The five main galleries and their central themes include:
Wade in the Water – music reflecting the religious experience
Crossroads – about the emergence of the blues
A Love Supreme – jazz music
One Nation Under A Groove – funk, r&b music
The Message – hip-hop music
Additionally, the museum has artifacts and items from individuals affiliated with many different segments of the music industry and the educational immersion via the exhibits are very well designed. There will be a theater that seats almost 200 individuals, a digital hub and music research library, community meeting spaces, and more.
Many thanks to Dr. Lewis for sharing with us so extensively about the museum.
Visit the museum website to learn more and consider becoming a member and/or signing up for their email news list.
In 1850 and 1860, there were special census surveys conducted to record enslaved individuals. Known as the “slave schedules,” these records included the slaveholder name and a list of all enslaved person they owned. Each enslaved person however, was usually not recorded with a name. Instead, the listing was often organized in reverse chronological age order, usually with each person represented by sex, age, and color.
This week, FamilysSearch announced the addition of the 1860 US Census Slave Schedule to their website, which means they can now be accessed for free! FamilySearch already had the 1850 US Census Slave Schedule so now both are freely available.
While usually not conclusive when used alone, in tandem with other resources, such as wills, probate, and tax records, the slave schedules can provide additional insight into your investigation.
Will books often contain many details that can help break the “brick wall” often experienced when researching enslaved individuals prior to emancipation. To aid Davidson County researchers, the Nashville Metro Archives now offers an online database of names of enslaved individuals found in Davidson County records.
The Slave and Free People of Color Database provides access to thousands of names of enslaved individuals found in Davidson County will books. Additional data points may include:
the type of record (e.g., will, bill of sale, estate inventory, settlement)
the slaveholder’s name
the slaveholder’s residence
enslaved individual’s age and sex
whom the enslaved individual was transferred to
details about the entry, such as date, will book, and page numbers.
Today’s workshop was a delight as we were led through an engaging session on writing your personal and family history with our very own AAHGS Nashville member, Deborah Wilbrink. Deborah has in-depth experience in writing and helping individuals and organizations tell and share their stories. She brought samples of her work and referred to them often during the talk.
As a workshop, the session was interactive and we did several brief exercises to help us understand strategies, processes, and techniques to write our stories. We even had opportunity to share brief stories from our families and Deborah demonstrated how even these brief snippets we shared can be part of the backbone of a larger personal story-telling narrative.
Overall, our workshop today was motivating and I think more than one of us left determined to get started telling the stories of our lives.
Through her company, Perfect Memoirs, Deborah offers services to help with personal family story telling so you’ll want to check out her website – www.perfectmemoirs.com. You can sign up for her blog, through which she shares how-to tips. You may also want to consider picking up a copy of her book, “Time to Tell Your Personal & Family History,” which is filled with how-to-tips meant to inspire and motivate. I picked up mine!
Many thanks Deborah for an educational workshop! We have much to take with us as we pursue writing our own personal histories.