Tag Archives: Roots

Maternal Genealogy – JONES/ROBINSON Families

Some of my earliest ancestors to move to Toledo arrived in Northwest Ohio between 1860 and 1870.

Nancy JONES was born in 1859 in Bainbridge, Ross County, Ohio. She was enumerated with her family on the 1860 United States Census when she was 8 months old.

Her parents were Mary JONES and John Wesley JONES who was listed as an “ME Minister” on the Census record. I believe that “ME” stood for “Methodist Episcopal. My maternal line have been members of Warren AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church for many generations.

Nancy was the youngest child listed for Mary and John JONES on the 1860 Census. She had two older siblings listed as well. Her older sister’s name was Martha JONES and her older brother’s name was John JONES Jr.

John W. JONES Jr. was the oldest child. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1852. Martha JONES was also born in Pennsylvania but in 1854. Nancy JONES was the first of the JONES children born in Ohio.

John W. JONES Sr. stated on the 1860 Census that he was born in Maryland. He was born in approximately 1805. Mary JONES stated that she was born in Pennsylvania in approximately 1823.

I found Mary JONES and her three children on the 1870 Census living in Washington Township, Lucas County Ohio.  Washington Township is now a part of the City of Toledo.   On the 1870 Census there was another JONES child listed who was a younger sister to Nancy JONES. The youngest JONES child was named Francis JONES and she was born in 1860. I believe that they moved to Northwest Ohio around 1866. The Toledo Lucas County Public Library has a death record for a John JONES in 1867 but I am not certain that this is “my” John JONES due to the common name. However, he is the only John JONES listed in the death records between 1860 and 1870 and I am 80% certain that this is “my” John JONES.

During my genealogical compilation for this family, I was faced with many odd, in my opinion, difficulties. When you start out doing genealogy, one should start from the most current generation and work their way back. Luckily, Nancy JONES did not die until 1950 so my grandmother and her sister (my great aunt, who is still alive) knew Nancy JONES and they were able to provide me with a decent genealogical link to her that was easily verified via the census record information contained within familysearch.org.

My grandmother remembered Nancy as Nancy BAKER. She stated that Nancy, her grandmother, had lived with them for a time when she was a child. So going by that information, I looked up Nancy BAKER and basically hit a wall on this family that lasted for about 10 years.

In 2010 the 1940 census was released. I was not actively researching during that time due to regular life’s busy-ness so it wasn’t until around 2012 that I searched again for genealogical information. I looked up my grandmother on the 1940 Census since she was born in 1936. I thought it would be cool to have such a close link to historical information. My grandmother died in 2004 and I still miss her dearly and I was thinking of her at the time when I looked her up in 2012.

That query did pull up my grandmother, her siblings, including my great aunt who is still alive and their parents. It also showed that a Nancy BACKER lived next door to them which finally gave me a true connection to Nancy BAKER.

Many times on Census records surnames and given names are horrendously mispelled. Finding a Nancy, who was listed as approximately 80 years old in 1940 was extremely exciting for me!

From there, I found that Nancy had been living with a man named Stephen BAKER on the 1930 Census. At that time she also lived near my great grandmother. A big tip for people using Census records for genealogy is to peruse the entire handwritten page for neighbor’s names. Many times, people lived near their relatives or with their relatives and with today’s technology, if you search for a specific name, it will only provide you a printed, transcribed version of exactly what you were looking for so it is up to you to do additional digging.

After much research, I found out that Nancy was not originally married to Stephen BAKER. I had been looking for my 2nd great grandmother under the last name of BAKER due to thinking that BAKER may have been her maiden name. Instead I found out that Nancy was originally married to a man named James Edward ROBINSON.  Stephen BAKER was her second husband.

I found the death certificate of my 2nd great grandmother on familysearch’s database for Ohio Deaths. She died in 1941 from kidney disease. On her death certificate her mother was listed as Nancy JONES and her father was listed as James ROBSON. As with BACKER on the Census, ROBSON was written incorrectly. She was actually a ROBINSON.

This discovery allowed me to pull up all of the information regarding James Edward ROBINSON and Nancy JONES ROBINSON on Census records all the way back to 1900.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a solid marriage certificate for them. Due to Nancy being in Lucas County, Ohio on the 1870 Census, I know that she lived in this area. Lucas County kept pretty good records for deaths, marriages, and births long before most states started to do this consistently. I did find a marriage record for a James E. ROBERTSON and Amanda JONES for November 11, 1874. I am somewhat sure that this is James and Nancy ROBINSON. Throughout the years ROBINSON has been spelled in many variations including the following: ROBINSON-ROBSON-ROBESON-ROBISON-ROBERTSON and another crazy variation that I will speak of below, which caused another brick wall for me that lasted until this year (2015).

James Edward ROBINSON showed up in the city directory for the City of Toledo in 1876.

He death certificate states that he was born in Harrisburgh, Pennsylvania.  His father’s name was listed as Frank ROBISON and his mother as “Becky” only.

Upon further review of ROBINSON’S in Pennsylvania on the 1860 and 1850 census records, I found a James E ROBINSON on the 1850 census listed with his father Franklin ROBINSON and mother Ellen ROBINSON.  Even though Ellen differed from what was listed on James’ death certificate as his mother (Becky), I am 100% sure that Ellen was James E ROBINSON’s mother.  Many times the informant who fills out a death certificate did not know the name of the person who passed away.  Information I have found lead me to believe that Ellen ROBINSON may have died or separated from her husband Franklin by the early 1860s.  On the 1860 census, Franklin ROBINSON is listed with his son but this time the name was listed a Edward James ROBINSON.  On various census records throughout the years, James Edward was listed as Edward James.  I am certain that he was the same person due to always being listed with his wife Nancy and their children as either James E, James Edward, Edward, or Ed.  The switching of the first and middle name is actually what made me know 100% that this family was the ROBINSON family I was looking for.

I have yet to find any death records for Franklin ROBINSON or Ellen ROBINSON.  I did find an exciting tidbit regarding Ellen in an online scholarly article about the effect of the Fugitive Slave Act on blacks in Harrisburgh, PA, but I will save that for another entry.

Due to census records not providing much detailed information prior to the 1850 census, I am temporarily at another road block for this family.  An interesting tidbit I am currently looking into is the fact that Franklin, Ellen, and James E ROBINSON lived with Thomas and Dinah WATKINS on the 1850 census.  I am going to attempt to connect the WATKINS families with the ROBINSON family and I am hoping that they are relatives of Ellen and/or Franklin.

After moving to Toledo, James Edward ROBINSON married Nancy JONES.  They eventually had seven children – Francis (1876-1932), Edna (1880-1929), Edward (1884-1951), Florence (1892-1941), Fred (1894-?), Naomi (1894-?), and William Alton (1898-1917).

Florence ROBINSON was my second great grandmother.

James Edward ROBINSON died in 1910.

As stated above, Nancy JONES ROBINSON BAKER did not die until 1950.  She was 90 years old when she passed away.

One of the best finds I discovered just this year was finally locating James Edward and Nancy ROBINSON on the 1880 Census.  After searching through both electronic records at the library via micro film, on family search and ancestry.com via census records and via hardcopy 1880 census indexes at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, I was unsuccessful in locating this couple in Toledo or in PA or anywhere really.

I had decided this past summer to make a visit to the Newberry Library in Chicago since we make frequent visits there to see family.  I was initially only looking up a specific family that also was an early settler in NW Ohio – the WHITFIELDS.  I will write another post about that research later.  After finding the information I was looking for on the WHITFIELDs, I decided to look up other holdings of the library and they had a book which was loosely titled (going off my memory here, will edit later with the correct title) Blacks in Ohio in 1880.  It basically was a book that contained a list of all the black or mullatto or other “colored” residents in the state of Ohio on the 1880 census.

Within that book, I found all of my Ohio lines and due to there not being many black people in Toledo itself in 1880, I also saw a entry which listed a Nancy and Ed “BOBISON” who had older children who matched the names of the older ROBINSON children mentioned above.

I wanted to scream at the library!!  It was soooo exciting for me to see them in this book!  I had almost given up on this line and just chalked it up to not having any other way to research them.

Upon reviewing the 1880 “BOBISON” family it showed that they lived in a house with a Mary JONES and her children, John and Francis JONES.  This was how I found an entire new generation of the JONES family detailed above.

I am currently trying to connect the ROBINSON and JONES families to see if they both lived in the Harrisburgh, PA area.  Hopefully it won’t take another 10 years to find a connection.

 

The Story of Mrs. Hannah Davidson – Former Slave/Toledo Resident

The second formerly enslaved person interviewed by the WPA (see The Story of Mrs. Julia King) was Mrs. Hannah Davidson. Mrs. Davidson was approximately 85 years old at the time of her interview in 1937. She was interviewed by a person identified as K. Osthimer.

At the time of her interview, Mrs. Davidson lived at 533 Woodland Ave. Below is a picture of her home obtained from the Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s “Images in Time” collection. This collection contains many pictures of homes, businesses, and neighborhoods in Toledo from the 1800s forward. Mrs. Davidson’s home was photographed between 1937 and 1965 and the photograph was a part of a tax assessor’s records.

Hannah Davidson House

UPDATE:  I recently found a picture of Mrs. Hannah Davidson at the google news archives website.  She is pictured with another woman who is labeled as the “oldest members” of an organization.  I am thinking they were the oldest members of Third Baptist Church:

Mrs. Davidson is on the right

picture1

In the narrative, it was shared that Mrs. Davidson lived off of a $23 a month “old age pension.”  She was a boarder and rented a room in her home.  Many black Toledoans rented rooms as boarders or rented out rooms in their home for extra income during this time period.

Mrs. Davidson stated that her maiden name was Hannah Merriwether and that she had four sisters and two brothers.  Her parents names were Isaac and Nancy Merriwether.  She was born in Ballard County, Kentucky in approximately 1852.  She and her family were the slaves of Emmett and Susan Merriwether.

Mrs. Davidson’s story is dramatically different from that of Mrs. Julia King’s being that Hannah Davidson’s family did not come to the Toledo area via the Underground Rail Road as runaway slaves.

Mrs. Davidson stated that her folks were sold so many times that she “lost track” of them.  She also mentioned that she and her sister  Mary were kept over twenty years after emancipation by their slave master as slaves because the master would not let them leave.  She spoke of how she desperately wanted to learn to read and go to school but that the one black man who came to her county to teach “colored” people was beaten and run out of town by whites.  Mrs. Davidson eventually learned to read by herself with the help of WPA programs in the 1930s.

Mrs. Davidson reiterated many times about how hard she had worked her whole life.  She spoke of how one time she was so tired that she hid under a house just to take a nap and go to sleep because she was exhausted.

She also mentioned that her mother was the last slave to try to leave the plantation.  Her mother tried to take Mrs. Davidson as well but their master would not let the mother take her children.  Her mother was kicked off the plantation and Mrs. Davidson never saw her again.  Later on in life Mrs. Davidson forced her own sister Mary to leave the plantation by threatening her with a rolling pin.

Mrs. Davidson mentioned that “terrible” things happened to herself and her sister Mary.  She did not go into detail but it is well documented that female slaves were highly likely to be sexually assaulted and abused.

When she was 31, Mrs. Davidson stated that she married her husband William L. Davidson.  She stated that at the time of the interview, she only had one grandchild still living – Willa May Reynolds who was a teacher in City Grove, Tennessee.

Mrs. Davidson was a member of Third Baptist Church in Toledo.

My favorite quote from Mrs. Davidson was “I believe we should all do good to everybody.”

The idea that she maintained such positivity throughout her lifetime is a testament to the human spirit and is indicative of black American culture in regards to strength in faith and hope for the future.

I was very saddened and inspired when initially reading Mrs. Davidson’s narrative.  It is also interesting to compare the two persons interviewed in Toledo – Mrs. Julia King and Mrs. Hannah Davidson.  Mrs. King’s family escaped slavery when she was a young girl and so Mrs. King did not have to live with the trials of this horrible institution like Mrs. Davidson.  Mrs. Davidson did not get the benefit of being educated and thus could not obtain employment such as that afforded by Mrs. King’s background and subsequent work for the local government.  Mrs. King owned her home while Mrs. Davidson rented a room in  her old age.  The contrasts between the two women really do show how oppression and forced servitude and a lack of freedom can drastically reduce the opportunity afforded to one in their life.

The Story of Mrs. Hannah Davidson

GENEALOGICAL INFORMATION REGARDING MRS. HANNAH MERIWETHER DAVIDSON AND FAMILY

William DAVISON/DAVIDSON born 9/8/1865 died 3/10/1920 (familysearch.org – Ohio Deaths 1840-2001)

George DAVIDSON born 1898 in KY, lived in 1930 in Toledo, Ohio (familysearch.org – 1930 Census) son of Hannah DAVIDSON

Wanda DAVIDSON born 1915 in OH, lived in 1930 Toledo, Ohio (familysearch.org – 1930 Census) daughter of Hannah DAVIDSON

Hannah DAVIDSON born 1852 in KY, lived in 1930 Toledo, Ohio (familysearch.org – 1930 Census)

Helen DAVIDSON died 1/18/1928 in Toledo, Ohio (familysearch.org – Ohio deaths 1908-1953) wife of George Davidson

 

 

Part 1: Researching Black American Genealogy – How I got started

Many black Americans today are interested in learning more about the history of their families, including those of us here in Toledo.

I always have been a self-proclaimed “history nerd.”  Black history has always been a passion.  I grew up here in Toledo and am a product of Toledo Public Schools.  I felt that I received an adequate, “All American” education in our public school system even though many people here gripe about the state of TPS.  I recently moved back here to my hometown and being away for over 15 years has showed me that all in all, we have pretty good schools and the curriculum here is much better than other larger cities, especially in the southeast where I lived during my time away.

That said, I didn’t learn a lot about black history in TPS.  Mostly just during “Black History Month.”  During February, we primarily learned about the same people every year – Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, and various sports figures like Jackie Robinson.  Only the “firsts” it seems were important during Black History Month.  I learned nothing of local black history until I saw a special on our local PBS station – Channel 30.  I didn’t grow up in the Central City.  I have been told that the schools in that area did focus more on black history but the majority of my school years were spent in the Old South End schools of Westfield, Jones Jr. High, and Libbey where I graduated from high school in the late 1990s.

Luckily I was a voracious reader.  I read “Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglas, an American Slave” when I was around 9 or 10 years old and it made me obsessed with black American history.  I’ll speak on my odd love affair with the great Mr. Douglas at another time, I’m sure but we’ll save that for later.

I read every “narrative” I could find at our wonderful library system here in Toledo after reading Douglass’ book.  I read all I could on slavery in general.  I read about black people in America and the system of indentured servitude.  Everything was and is still pretty fascinating.

My mother made me watch “Roots” every year on TV and when I was around 12 or 13, I finally paid attention to it and became intrigued and wondered if I could find out about my own family and trace us back to Africa.

Unfortunately, like the majority of black Americans, my family was not aware of any old African ancestors.  We had no passed down Mandika  words.  So I began my research by badgering my older relatives about our family history.  I know I particularly got on my grandmother’s nerves while helping her remodel her home in the Old West End when I was a teenager.  She finally told me that many of the answers to my questions were “none of my business.”  But she did give me a couple picture books that belonged to her mother of which I still have in my possession.  And she told me of her parents lives and her grandparents who she remembered and even a great grandparent who she said was an “Indian.”  (Us black folks always have an “Indian in the family.”  This will be discussed later as well).

Luckily I was born during the internet age.  We got “America Online” service in my home on a black Hewlett Packard that I thought was super “techy” in 1995 or 1996.  I found a site that listed Ohio death certificates and looked up all the last names I had gathered from my maternal grandmother and my paternal great grandmother.  I found the Social Security Death Index.  I found a lot of different people but could not 100% connect them to my own family.

I found ancestry.com back when it was free and developed my first family tree around 1999 when I was 20 years old.  I went all the way back to the 1870 census on multiple branches of my tree which today is even more simple to accomplish given the large amount of free information available online for us to peruse.