Through the Eyes of the Black Experience Symposium
Through the Eyes of the Black Experience holds a symposium expressing the importance of preserving local Carroll County history.
NATE HOWARD: Hello, and welcome to the Community Media Center, Carroll County’s source for local, public, educational, and government television. Today’s symposium is outreach to the black community as part of CMC’s ongoing Carroll County History Project. This history project is an ongoing effort to– dedicated to preserving the history of the county and the memories of its residents.
The CMC intends to tell the story of Carroll County’s rich history as well as record its resident’s short stories and make them permanently available for generations to come as video on demand, programming, and in a permanent archive available online through your library. Carroll County, Through the Eyes of the Black Experience is the main focus of today.
We want to thank the sponsors of this project, the Carroll County NAACP, Carroll County Human Relations Commission, Carroll County Public Library, and the CMC. We want to recognize Jean Lewis, president of the NAACP, for all her good work to organize interested people and organizations towards accomplishing the goal of collecting stories and memories from the county’s minority residents.
The focus of these archived interviews is to preserve Carroll County’s black history through personal stories told to volunteers that have been trained to collect and archive this video documentation. Today, you will hear from some of the leaders who have helped initiate and carry out the goals of the Carroll County History Project. There will also be a special presentation on researching genealogy by Vivian Fisher and Jeff Korman of the Enoch Pratt State Library Resource Center. After the special presentation, there will be a series of breakout sessions which will help you to get engaged with the importance of knowing your history and how to preserve it.
For those who are interested in finding out more about your personal genealogy, there will be sessions at 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM in the CMC’s conference room with the Enoch Pratt State Library Resource Center. There will be stations set up for you to research your family history with the guidance of Vivian and Jeff.
Right here in the studio will be sessions at 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM for those who would like to learn how to interview. Now, these sessions teach you how to conduct and archive one-on-one interviews, as well as provide the skills to set up and run the necessary video equipment. After attending one of these sessions, you will be able to help the CMC gather and archive residents’ stories to make them available online.
Now, this project is an ambitious undertaking and needs the help of the community to be a success. If you’re interested in preserving history, this is a good place to start. You probably noticed some tables in the CMC’s front lobby as you walked in this morning. Representatives from the Historical Society of Carroll County will be available there throughout the day to give advice on caring for precious family and historically significant heirlooms. Also, if you brought some of your own artifacts, you can have them documented by CMC staff, so they too can be assessed through the history archive.
Timmy Pierce, the executive director of the Historical Society of Carroll County and Cathy Baty, the curator of collections for the Historical Society, will be available for questions. Community interviews will be recorded throughout the day from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Check your program for times and locations within the CMC facility and across the parking lot at Carroll County’s Career and Technology Center. Those who want to be interviewed, but not today, can leave their contact information at the front desk, and a CMC staff member will get in touch with you. But if you’re ready to tell your story today, please stop by and help us to start building up our archives.
As I mentioned before, the Career and Technology Center is also being used for today’s event. There will be two additional community interview booths set up at the Career and Technology Center to start archiving your stories at 2:00 PM. A limited number of box lunches will also be available in the cafeteria, beginning at noon.
Now, please be sure to get a lunch ticket at the CMC’s front desk. If you want to pick up something else for lunch, here’s a suggestion. Turn right on Washington Road for Hoffman’s Ice Cream for great sandwiches, or left on Washington road across route 97 to go to Bullock’s Restaurant.
So as you can see, we have a very busy day ahead of us. I want to encourage you to get involved with the Carroll County History Project. It takes a community effort for something like this to succeed. Be a volunteer interviewer and capture a part of our history that can only be learned from someone who lived it, or be interviewed and share your past, so that future generations will understand and learn.
Stop by the CMC’s front desk to sign up for upcoming Learn to Interview workshops or to schedule an interview. Now, be sure to tell your friends and relatives to contact us too if they are interested in getting involved. There is no limit to our archive, and we believe everyone has a story to tell. For those who could not make it out today, but would still like to get involved by either telling your story or by becoming a volunteer to gather interviews, please call the CMC at 410-386-4415 or visit us at www.cmcmd.tv. OK.
Now that we have all of that out the way, I would like to introduce Jean Lewis. Jean is the president of the Carroll County NAACP, as well as an enjoyable part to the Through the Eyes of the Black Experience committee. Jean, welcome.
JEAN LEWIS: Thank you, Nate. Good morning, everyone. This is truly a pleasure to be standing in this spot. When we started talking about this, as late October, we had no idea we could pull it together this quickly and have such a wonderful project. I was fortunate enough to visit six of the African American churches in the community, where I was privileged to speak and encourage people to come out and share their stories.
This has really been wonderful. We’ve gotten wonderful publicity from the Carroll County Times and also from the Westminster Eagle. Also I’d like to reiterate the fact that this is a wonderful opportunity for us to tell our stories of our lives here in Carroll County.
If you’re sitting at home on your sofa in your jammies, take them off, wash your face, come join us this morning. This is an excellent opportunity. It’s an opportunity for our young people to learn how to– the process of running the cameras. To learn the process of interviewing. It’s a skill that you can take.
The cameras, once you’ve had a training, you can go to nursing homes and interview individuals there. Maybe you have someone who’s not comfortable leaving their home to come for an interview, but they would be comfortable there if you have a relationship with them. It’s a wonderful opportunity for families to gather in circles and share their information that they’ve had. Multigenerational information will be absolutely fantastic to have.
This is a wonderful opportunity, and we’d also like to thank Marion Ware and the Community Media Center. They have been– gone above and beyond and shown us what a community really means when it comes to this activity. It’s been fantastic to have had– been a partnership with them.
Also the other partners. The Human Relations Commission has been a wonderful partner, because they started this process about two years ago and ran into some stumbling blocks and put it on the back burner, as Marion and I had done five years ago, when we initially started it. But we’ve gotten it on the road now. And so all those pieces that were fragmented before have come together, and we are working as one body. It’s wonderful that it’s going to be archived with the Carroll County Public Library and also on the Community Media Center’s website. This is fantastic.
Youth, you can get your community service hours. This is something that you can carry on, because you’ll be able to learn the skills of working with the cameras and the practical skill of interviewing. That’s a skill that’s always well needed in your community.
It’s been– it’s been a wonderful process to be part of, that we’ve gotten so much interest in this. And for the black community, I think it’s outstanding. Because this is one time they can really tell about their joys and woes of being in Carroll County. And I think we’ll come out with more joys.
And I would just like to encourage everyone to be a part of this process, which is an ongoing thing. Carroll Remembers is a three year process, and this will be going on. So we will, again, get together and do some more interviews. Thank you.
NATE HOWARD: All right, Jean. Thank you very much. And again, thank you for your terrific effort in helping to make this day and this project possible. Next, I would like to have Xiomara Pierre come up. Now, Xiomara is the education chair for the Carroll County NAACP, as well as a committee member for Carroll County Through the Eyes of the Black Experience. Xiomara. Welcome.
XIOMARA PIERRE: Good morning, everyone. I’m very excited to be part of this project. What I would like to do is provide a commentary as to why this experience is at all significant to the overall concept of cultural diversity. Approximately 50% of the population of the state of Maryland is comprised of minorities, and the population of minorities is quite diverse; African Americans, Hispanics, Asian, and Indian, just to name a few. And the demographics will continue to change.
Now, how are we as citizens prepared to address our unique, diverse culture? Should we only recognize the cultures as it exists in our communities? Do we emphasize or modify our thinking to include a more global perspective? And how do you encourage a racially homogeneous community to embrace some cultures outside their own?
You, see Carroll County can be any county in the United States of America. That’s why this project is so important to me. And how can one learn to value the differences in someone else’s culture and begin to correct the skewed perceptions of race held by so many of us?
So we as Americans are inordinately obsessed with race, as it has always been extremely important to identify race of a human being first, before judging their character. Now, because of this unfortunate truth, we have developed prejudice and discrimination as an accepted social structure to a level that prevents many cultural groups, still, from thriving to reach with full and equal opportunity the American dream, which, of course, is not guaranteed.
This social challenge that we have created makes it difficult to understand why it is necessary to embrace cultural diversity. However, race remains as the predominant factor in identifying another culture. It unfortunately separates people into racial groupings and presumed behaviors.
There still exists a misheld belief that race can predict behavior. As long as we persist to be so preoccupied with race, we may inadvertently raise a society that is socially inept to appropriately address national as well as global concerns. So this project, to me, attempts to bridge the gap between real and imagined cultural history of blacks in Carroll County by taking a closer look. Thank you.
NATE HOWARD: Thank you, Xiomara. Well, my next guest, Leo Eaton, is an independent producer and director of national and international programs, including PBS performance specials Natalie MacMaster’s Home to Cape Breton, and Tango, the Spirit of Argentina. Leo is also a member of the Community Media Center board of directors and one of the driving forces behind the History Project’s Carroll County Remembers, and I must say, a colleague from my days at PBS. So welcome, Leo. It’s good to see you again.
LEO EATON: Hello. Um, I not only make PBS programs, I make programs for networks around the world. And a great number of those are history programs. And I’d done a series a few years ago and was talking to some people at a network, actually, in the UK, who said, well, who really cares about history? Yeah. We live in the present. That’s what’s important today. You can get bogged down in the past.
And I felt at the time, it’s a little like a leaf sitting on the end of a tree and saying, ah, the branches and the trunk aren’t important. It’s just me that’s important. My time that’s important. History is who we are. History is our memories, our common shared experience, everything that’s happened in the past that’s led up to where we are.
And living history, which is what memories are, is perhaps the most important, because it puts us in touch with previous generations in a continuum that goes back– you know, we talk about our parents’ stories, we remember their parents’ stories. There are stories that go back. A few years ago, I was in Iran. We were doing a film on Alexander the Great. And there was word of mouth stories going back over 1,000 years, passed from family to family to family.
You’ve all, I suspect, heard of the National Public Radio radio program which records stories. Carroll County Remembers, which is part of the Carroll County History Project, and part of what we’re doing today, is equally important in that it’s a way to get those memories while they’re still around. While people can remember them.
It’s important that one knows how to get those memories out of people; your relations, your friends, people who have tremendous memories. If you’ve got stories, it’s important that you become a part of those and share them, because what is really important for this Carroll County Remembers Project is that we, over the course of the next few years, try and get those memories, those past experiences of this county that can really give us a sense of a county as it is today, as it was yesterday, and because it is a continuum, maybe as it’ll be tomorrow.
So I hope that all of you will be a part of the workshops. All of you who have stories or have friends or relatives who have stories will encourage them to share them with us, and I hope that some of you will become volunteers to actually capture those memories. Thanks very much.
NATE HOWARD: Thank you, Leo. On a personal note, I’d like to just reflect quickly on some projects that I had the opportunity to work on and be with– with PBS, kind of mirror what Leo was talking about. In the last couple years, PBS aired African American Lives and African American Lives 2, and we saw national figures like Oprah Winfrey, Tina Turner, Chris Rock, all looking at the history.
Now, this gave a national perspective, but this is your opportunity to give a local perspective to the African American experience about black history and to have your generation talk to the importance of preserving our history. So I can’t thank enough, again, to all of our speakers, and thank them for the opportunity to be able to do this. So I would like to introduce some of our special presenters from the Enoch Pratt Free Library State Library Resource Center, who are here to give a short introduction to the basics of genealogical research.
Vivian Fisher is the manager of the African American Department for the Resource Center, and Jeff Korman is the manager of the Maryland Department for the Center. Now, please join me in welcoming Vivian and Jeff for their presentation on genealogical research. Welcome, Vivian and Jeff.
JEFF KORMAN: Thank you, Nate.
VIVIAN FISHER: Thank you.
JEFF KORMAN: Vivian, do you want to lead off this morning?
VIVIAN FISHER: Good morning. Thank you for having us here. We are really ecstatic about being able to present to you the beginnings of African American genealogy. As we know, and as Nate had mentioned, nationally, African American genealogy is now really coming to the forefront. And basically, it begin when Alex Haley decided to trace his roots. And roots was what set off the trend for African Americans to begin finding out who they are.
The African American experience has not been an easy experience. And with the issue of slavery, many records were not kept. And when you’re doing genealogy, records are very, very important in tracing who you are and where you come from. So this morning, we are pleased to begin a conversation about beginning African American genealogy.
As you can see, photographs and records are very, very important when you begin doing your genealogy. How do we begin? Well, first you begin by working from the present backwards, and that means beginning with yourself. When you begin with yourself, you start with your parents, your grandparents, anyone that you know that’s in your immediate family, and work back.
You also seek out family papers, such as the Bible, news clippings, journals, letters, journals that your relatives may have kept. Many of you who may have had relatives from the South, knowing that probably right after the turn of the century, many records were not kept in the traditional sense of record keeping. Therefore, many of the records, particularly births and deaths, were recorded in family bibles.
And I know many African American families had family bibles, and I– my own family had– has my grandmother’s family Bible that has listed births and deaths. Because sometimes, you may have a relative, particularly if they were born, maybe in the ’30s or the ’20s, who’s birth may not have been recorded like it has been recorded today. And in my own family, I had a relative who had two different birth dates, years that he was born, and that plays a very, very important part, particularly when you’re trying to get Social Security.
So record keeping is very, very important. Also look at old family photograph– photographs, family albums. Because they give you a sense of who some of these people are. Your kind of connection to some of your relatives, even though you may not know their names, someone in your family, particularly older people, may know some– be able to identify some of these people to help you out in terms of who your relatives are.
Also begin reviewing community and local history. Talk to family members and considering conducting oral history interviews yourself. Now, with some of the early records, we are fortunate here in Maryland that some of– there– there are some good record keeping, and then there are some that are not so well.
But we do have early records in terms of the runaway slave advertisements that were documented from local newspapers from the 1730s to the 1790s. And this volume here is Maryland’s volume. There are other states that also have volumes, like Georgia and Virginia. So if you have relatives from those areas, that would be important to look at as well.
And here’s an example of a runaway’s notice from 1777. And as you can see, this– the person who was looking for his slave was Captain Charles Ridgely. And this came out of the Annapolis, Maryland Gazette from July 24 to 17– July 24, 1777.
And as you can see, in these runaway slave notices, they give the description of the slave, where they were living, where they think they may end up, and in this particular notice, you’ll see Baltimore Town, which is now Baltimore City. And this was a Negro man named Jack, and he was– he belonged to Colonel Hooe of Charles County. And he was sold to a Dr. Walter Jenifer. So this gives you a good bit of information about this particular slave. And it also states that he was confined in leg irons.
Now, some of the resources that we have at the State Library Resource Center in Pratt Library, we also have indexes such as this, which lists Maryland slave owners and superintendents from 1798. And this just gives you a listing of some of the slave owners that were in Maryland at this particular time.
Also, we have resources such as Free African Americans of Maryland and Delaware from the Colonial Period to 1810. And this is by Paul Heinegg, who has done a lot on genealogy throughout the state of Maryland. And as you can see, the red volume was the Maryland Colonization Society Manumission Book, and this is from 1832 to 1860.
Because prior to the slaves being freed in 1868, manumission papers were something that a lot of slaves ended up getting, because– for various reasons, whether they purchased themselves or whether the slave owner had died and left in their will for the slave to be manumitted. And as you can see at the top of this, you can see Eliza was manumitted by Will– by Will , a William W. Feeders.
And this was on April 20, 1844. And all– and this was for– [INAUDIBLE]. And you can see Ellen, at 18, was manumitted by the same person on this– at the same time. And both of these records are from in Arundel County. The decennial census records Jeff Korman will discuss.
JEFF KORMAN: Thanks, Vivian. [INAUDIBLE].
–you can certainly use the more general information that’s available to us. So I wanted to talk about probably the most basic record of all, and those are census records. You know, since 1790, we have been counting and looking at the population of the United States.
Now, there is an agreement between the National Archives and the Census Bureau that when you fill out your census form, it’s going to be kept confidential for 72 years. And as you can see, that’s why it says census records are available up to 1930. We got 1930 in the year 2002.
The information that you find on a census record varies from one census to another. In 1960, they may have asked someone when they filled out their form, do you own a transistor radio? Well, that’s not so important today as it was at that time. Today, they may want to know if you have a personal computer, or maybe in 2010, they’re going to want to know if you’re driving a hybrid car.
But the early information does give us a picture of our ancestors. Now, unfortunately, up until 1850, the only person that was enumerated was the head of the household. That is, it would have been, generally, the man in a particular area or house and not everyone else was listed. There may have been a slash mark there if there was a wife, and there may have been a number, two or three if there were two children and three slaves. But it does give some information.
However, it’s after that time that we really get what I like to call the juicy stuff. There are early print indexes that are available up until 1870. But you know, today, in 2008, we don’t need that anymore, because we have databases that, fortunately for us in Maryland, are free. And anybody who has a library card here in Maryland can gain access to those today. Now, you must remember that the 1890 census for the entire US, or pretty much most of it, was destroyed in a fire. So there’s very little available for 1890.
Let’s take a look at what a census record looks like. This record actually is from 1920. And as you’ll notice, when you bring up a census record, either on microfilm or through a database, you’re looking at the actual enumeration. That is, you have to deal with the handwriting that the census enumerator had. In some cases, like this one, it’s OK. Sometimes, it’s highly illegible.
And the difficulty there is not just in our ability to read it. It also kind of takes a second step to the person who’s doing the indexing. Because mistakes are made in reading names, and a letter, most likely a vowel, gets transposed somewhere, and that makes it very difficult sometimes to find people. The people we’re looking at in this enumeration– are– it’s actually my grandmother’s household in 18– 1920.
The third person down, listed, is Jenny Korman, and I had been on a long search for my grandfather, who came into this country just before World War I. And finally, when I found one of us in the 1920s census, I find that he’s not there. And there are reasons why he’s not, and that’s a long story.
But what I found very amusing at that time was the name on the fourth line there is Harold Korman, and that was my father. And you’ll notice under his age, if you can read the small blocks there, it says one twelfth. He was a month old at the time that the census was enumerated. And that really made me feel very good about finding someone.
Now, there is a specific slave schedule for 1860, the Maryland 1860 census. And this is available in book form. And as a matter of fact, we have that book with us here today, and we’ll be able to show it in the breakout sessions. This is an example of in it, some of the entries from that book. And we’ve highlighted some Carroll County people who lived in various election districts here in 1860.
Now, of course, we’re very happy to be here this morning, and we’re energized by this entire project. But what really got us at the Pratt Library and at the State Library Resource Center involved are these tabular statements of ownership of certain slaves, because these are from Carroll County. And we were given an anonymous gift of these a few years ago. They’ve been digitized. They’re on the website at the State Library Resource Center.
And by the way, for people who are here with us this morning, we have a handout by the door that shows all of the URLs, all of the web addresses that we’re talking about today. So you’ll be able to go back and see those things. And of course, you can always contact us to get this information, if you need it. But you’ll notice that this is a list of slaves from a particular person who listed them as property after the Civil War.
Now, one of the other basic resources that you want to turn to if you have an opportunity are city directories. And I usually try to describe a city directory as a telephone directory without telephone numbers. Because generally, they were published before there were telephones or telephones were common.
For Baltimore, if you have ancestors that came from Baltimore, they were published up until the year 1964. And other cities and towns have them published over various time periods. I know we do have a fairly long run of Westminster directories at the State Library Resource Center in Baltimore.
This may be the first place you want to look in some given period of time if you have an idea that perhaps you had a relative or an ancestor who lived, let’s say, in Westminster in the 1920s, or in this area, it’s a very quick check to look into a city directory and see if someone is listed there. And you can get added information too, and I’ll show you that in a moment.
But I also want to mention crisscross directories or reverse address telephone directories. These are phone books that list people by their street address rather than alphabetically by their last name. So that way, you can look on a street, and you can even find out the names of someone’s neighbors.
Let’s take a look at a city directory. This is from 1922 for Baltimore. And I think the value of not only finding someone’s name here, is that in parentheses next to the person’s name, you’ll see the name of their spouse, you’ll see their occupation, and then you’ll see, usually, a lowercase h and an address, h meaning that’s their home address.
So if you’re able to identify someone in a city directory, look how much information we have, without doing, essentially, any work. We’ve got enough to begin digging a little bit further. And there’s more than that in city directories.
This is a copy of an introductory page from the 1908 Baltimore city directory. And if you look at all the abbreviations in here, you’ll notice on the bottom, persons marked thus– there’s an asterisk– are colored. So you’re able to identify the African American population in Baltimore. And oh, yes. This was done for many, many years.
In that same directory, I’ve copied a page here, people with the surname Perry. And it’s fairly easy in this way to identify the African American population. Who they were and where they lived. Now, of course, if your relative’s name was Edward Perry, you’ve got at least five or six of them to choose from to start out. And that’s your challenge. But this will really give you a foothold into beginning doing genealogical research on this family. Vivian?
VIVIAN FISHER: One of the other resources that is very, very helpful and beneficial in doing genealogy, particularly if you may have had relatives from Baltimore City is that the first directory of Baltimore, which we’ll call the Coleman Directories, basically, lists anything that pertained to African Americans, similar to the Baltimore City Directories.
They would also give you various businesses. As you can see on the front cover of this, Dunbar Theater, Rio Theater, some of these businesses as well as occupations and various information. As you can see, it gives you a list of organizations among coloreds in Baltimore and their location. And at the top, it would give you some of the businesses where you had African American lawyers. It would give you the names and the address. And like I said, this pertains to Baltimore City.
Also what’s important, many of you may know about the Criss Cross Directories. But the Criss Cross Directories were very, very important as well. Because basically, the Criss Cross will list– if you live– particularly on like, Division Street, then it would give you the other surrounding streets that were parallel and perpendicular to Division Street. And it would also give you the addresses, so you could look at– find out who the neighbors were, and it would give you phone numbers.
So we don’t use these VEs, and I remember Longwood six, now we’re so– everything is numbers. But used to have letters and numbers. And if someone was looking for– and often times, even the census, when you look at the census, you know, your– it’s listing by the neighbor, so you may have your family member and the address, and you can see beneath them, there would be another family name along with their address. So it also helps you to list people who were neighbors of your family members. Church records. Jeffrey.
JEFF KORMAN: Church records. Before there were vital records in Maryland– vital records are generally thought of as birth, death, marriage, divorce, adoption, those types of things. You might think that they go back to the beginning of whenever a hospital or a doctor began documenting a birth, for example. But that’s not true.
As a matter of fact, the earliest vital records in Maryland only go back to 1875, and that’s really not that far back. Prior to that time, church records are the best source of information for finding them. All of these vital record type information can be found in a church record. The problem is, where do you find these records?
Well, we’re very fortunate in Maryland to have two locations that hold large holdings of microfilmed records, and those are the Maryland Historical Society in downtown Baltimore and the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis. Now, in Annapolis, they’ve gone so far as to create a website that has a database of all the church records. Because you may know that an ancestor lived in Manchester or Sykesville, and you know what denomination they were, but you don’t know the name of the church.
So you can, by sort of looking through the records, identify a place and make an educated guess about what’s there. And this particular online database makes it very easy to find churches, because they have them arranged geographically. And there are also ways to find them by denomination.
And we’ve been helped in Maryland a great deal by a lady who was actually a librarian at the Enoch Pratt Library. She was their government documents librarian for many years, Edna Kanely. Now deceased. But Miss Kanely was a wonderful genealogist. And part of the legacy that she’s left us are these two resources.
The Directory of Church Records in Maryland has two sections to it. One is geographically, so you could look under Carroll County and get a listing of all the churches in Carroll County and where those records are. She also has a second section in that book that lists by denomination. So if you know that the relatives were Methodist, then you could look under Methodist churches, and it will list all of those in the state, and that helps.
Just before she passed away, Miss Kanely published this two volume section resource that is the Directory of Maryland Ministers, and it only covers oh, 350 years’ worth of history, here in Maryland. It’s a wonderful book, because sometimes you go to a family Bible, and you know, you open up the cover, and it says, Aunt Nellie was married by Reverend Jones in this church on this day, but it doesn’t have the name of the groom, and who was that?
Well, one of the ways to find that would be to get to the church record. One of the ways to get to the church record would be to look up Reverend Jones in this resource, and it would give you a listing of all the churches that he ministered and the time period. And once you have that information, then you can turn back to the church record.
I’m making this sound very easy. Usually, this is a life’s work, for most people. I realize that. But these are the basic resources that you want to look into. Now, of course, as I mentioned, after 1875, we have vital records. But there’s a catch to that. Vital records only begin in 1875 if you were in Baltimore City. For all the other jurisdictions here in Maryland, they begin in 1898.
But by mail, there are many indexes that are available, both online, thanks to the Maryland State Archives, at least with death records, and also in print that we can use. If you’re looking for something that’s more recent, maybe you need some documentation from someone who may have died within the last 20 or 30 years, or some recent birth information, then you need to go to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to their vital records division, where they’re held for a certain time period, and then eventually, they’re shipped to Annapolis to be part of their collection.
And as I said, the State Archives has gone to great lengths to begin a digitization process that now, at least, has death records or the death indexes from– at least in the counties– 1898 to the 1950s. And for Baltimore City it has from 1875 to the 1970s. So that’s a really good resource to go to online to try and find someone’s date of death and also the number of their death certificate.
Just a quick look at the web page for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that shows you all the links that you can use to find records. This is a screenshot from the Maryland Vital Records Indexing Project that I just mentioned. And you’ll notice where it says, Select a Maryland County Death Index, there are actually the Board of Health indexes up to 1910. Very easy to use. If you know your alphabet, you can find it.
After that, you may need to Soundex a name. And of course, Vivian and I are here today to teach you how to do that, if necessary. Or you may have to go page by page through an index. But there is some method to the madness that created these indexes. And generally, you can find people.
One of my favorite resources are war rosters. Finding a relative who fought in a war from Maryland. And do you know that we actually have rosters in print from the French and Indian War in the 1750s all the way up through World War II. And I’m not overlooking any war. That includes Marylanders who fought in the Mexican War, oh, yes. And Marylanders who fought the Spanish American War, as well as the other large wars that we’re familiar about.
And generally, it’s information about that person. It’s their military record. Who they were. When they enlisted. When they were discharged. If they were taken a prisoner of war. If they were killed in action. The more recent conflicts, usually, you can find that information online.
And it’s really very interesting to look at these. This is a page out of the union roster for Maryland. Of course, Maryland being a border state, we had a large number of enlistees here in Maryland who also fought for the South. But you know how you’re sitting around the dinner table at Thanksgiving and talking about an ancestor, let’s say, Henry A Bruce, who was a private. And how the family story is how it’s been passed down for four or five generations now, that he was a war hero at Chickamauga, you know, he personally took a hill by himself, saved his whole community.
And it turns out that that’s not what the US government thinks. He deserted. So these are the official records, by the way, folks. And if you really do find something, and you’re interested in tracing that a little further, the actual service records for the Civil War of both soldiers who fought for the North and the South are available at the State Library Resource Center.
So you can get a record if they were taken prisoner of war. If they were wounded in battle, you can get their hospital records. If they lost a horse and had to pay back for it out of their– out of their pay, that too is available. So using these war records are really very interesting.
I mentioned that there’s a second volume, at least for the Union, because the second volume includes those who fought in the Union Navy. And a lot of times, people go through the records and don’t find someone who they’re pretty sure fought in the war, but didn’t know to check the second volume, where they found out that they actually served on a ship.
Also notice that in this second volume, we have a regiment, USCT, United States Colored Troops. And in addition to finding those who were fought– you know, were in the Naval section, you also find the colored troops that were there, too. Now, we’ve had a lot of help in this state by genealogists who have worked before us, specifically a woman by the name of Agnes Callum, who still attends as many genealogical programs as she can. And Alison has actually published books that specifically have information on the US Colored troops. Let’s take a look at some of the work that she’s done.
This is from Agnes’ roster of the Seventh Regiment. And again, look at all the information we have here about people. We have their rank, we have their age. We know when they enlisted, where they were from. Which again, is important, because it allows us to go back to that jurisdiction and look for other family members. And of course, in her remarks, she gives their final status.
One other thing I want to mention while we’re talking about basic resources are newspapers. And we can’t overlook the value of them, because here in Maryland, we’re lucky that in our public libraries, we have wonderful collections of old, if you will, newspapers from all around the state. And if you can’t find it right where you live, we have them in Baltimore.
They’re an excellent source to find death notices and marriage notices. As a matter of fact, for Baltimore, we just had a new volume come out, too. I have up here that indexes go up to 1880. If you could use the Baltimore American, they actually go up to 1885 at this point. So we’re getting a little closer to the present time.
And we have microfilm of these newspapers. Librarians at the State Library Resource Center have guidelines, but they will search those newspapers for you. If you can give us a date of death, we’ll look for five issues to try to see if there was a death notice or an obituary for a person. And you can imagine how valuable that can be.
And once again, the State Archives has honored us by creating a database that has a way to find what newspapers are available, what years of those newspapers are available, and who holds them. And again, in this box, the red box up on the screen, you’re able to search by date. So you have a relative died in Carroll County in the 1870s. You want to know what newspapers existed in this area at that time. This is the way to find them.
Or maybe you just want to know all of the newspapers that were published in Carroll County for that time. You can do this very simply on this website. But there are a number of other resources that are a little more specific to names, and I want Vivian to step over and maybe talk about those for a moment.
VIVIAN FISHER: As Jeff had mentioned previously, he mentioned Agnes Callum, and who is actually a genealogist extraordinaire. Agnes has done so much extensive research on the African American genealogy, that she has, in fact, created the black geological journal. And these journals, she began doing them at least back to the 1980s. And they are indexes, but they’re a wonderful resource. And for those who are doing African American genealogy, this would be one of the first things that I would actually look at to get a feel for the kinds of information that she has in these– in these particular journals.
Where can we conduct research? It’s always a problem when people who don’t know how to research, or they don’t know how to get started. And one of the places– there’s several places– but the first– you may want to start with the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis. Because they do have all of the Maryland state records there. They have a great amount of records there.
Also the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, because they do have a lot of wonderful manuscript collections. They have a lot of collections by various families who were slave owning and who have actually records of slaves that were in their care. The Central Library State Library Resource Center at Enoch Pratt Free Library, downtown in Baltimore.
We have several departments, including Maryland Department, the African American Department, Social Science and History, and the Periodicals Department. All of those areas can be looked at in terms of when you’re beginning doing African American genealogy. Don’t overlook your county historical societies. Your county historical societies are a wealth of information, and oftentimes, people tend to overlook that.
And I know when I had been doing research, trying to trace this woman in South Carolina, and I contacted the historical societies, you know, their local libraries. Because they do have a lot of information there. Otherwise, people don’t think of going to these places. Washington, DC, right down the– down the highway. It’s a wealth– we’re really in a great location, because we are close to Washington, DC.
The National Archives. The National Archives have a fantastic collection, and they have, actually, a person that we had at a conference one year, Reginald Washington, who has given– gave a beautiful presentation about African American resources in the National Archives that one would never think about looking. They have so many records, even from the military records on up to the various departments that will have records that will aid you in your research.
The DAR Library and the Library of Congress. All of these resources are at your disposal. Many of them are free to go into. You may have to just pay to actually– for some of the copies. But these are great resources, here. Right here, within the reach of your driving distance.
I know gas is a little high now. You may have to think about that. But oftentimes, you’re also able to contact them by phone, email, with this electronic age. So information is right there at your fingertips. All you have to do is decide that you’re going to embark on this journey to find out who you are.
But before you go, there are some basic things that you may want to check. First of all, many of us are very computer literate. So look at their website and be able to– so you can identify what their hours are, what the rules are. Because oftentimes, a lot of these places may not be open at the time that you may want to go there, or you may have to go there on a Saturday, or maybe you’ll have to take the day off.
So please check the hours and the rules. Begin doing some– a little introduction to genealogical research at the facility. Guides and records may be also available online.
And I tell you, if you Google genealogy or African American genealogy, you will be surprised at the amount of information that’s there that tells you all the steps. We have resource guides as well that we brought here today for you. But there’s just so much information now.
Also check to see if fees are involved. You know, do you have to pay a fee? Oftentimes, there may be a nominal fee. And, you know, if you’re doing research, and it’s very, very important to you, because when you’re researching in some of these places like Vital Records, you do have to pay for these records, for death and birth certificates. So some of these research facilities, just check to make sure.
And find out if there are any restrictions. And that’s very, very important. And restrictions can run the gamut of what kinds of things that they may restrict. Each facility may have different restrictions. So ask if there are any restrictions.
The Maryland State Archives is the best place. The best place when you’re searching the Maryland State Archives is to start online, because they have so much. They have a rich source of vital records. You can find out what the fees are for death certificates, for birth certificates.
If family history is not actively collected, then use search functions on the website to identify. State Library across the street has geological materials. And at the bottom, you will see the URL for the Maryland State Archives website. So please go to there and check out some of these websites, because that will help you get started and will demystify some of the myths or concerns that you may have when you’re beginning this. Because it’s going into new territory. But once you get into genealogy, it becomes a lifelong mission.
Here you see a shot of the web page for the Maryland State Archives. And to get into the genealogical aspect, you would go down to Special Collections, where you can see it’s boxed in. And that will take you into another shot of the– where you can go to do your genealogy.
Also, under Favorites, you will see Vital Records. And when you’re looking for information about Vital Records, whether it’s birth, death, marriage, or divorce, you will go to that particular– click on that link, and it will take you to the Vital Records page.
Now, at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, we have the Maryland Department, which has several collections that pertain to genealogical research. It is a resource– the department is a resource that has a number– a number of items there in terms of doing geological research. And they have a vast amount of county material there. They also have cemetery records, people who have compiled. So it is a great source.
Also, the African American Department, if you’re beginning genealogy, there are books that we have. There are other resources that we can help you when you’re beginning your African American genealogy. Most of this is accessible to the public.
And there are other departments that I’ve mentioned, like Periodicals and the Maryland Department, who have microfilm holdings of geological resources and newspapers. And I know the Maryland Department has extensive– the Maryland Department gets most of the newspapers, if not all the newspapers around the state of Maryland, and a lot of those have been transferred to microfilm.
Electronic resources. Don’t overlook Ancestry and Heritage. Now, Ancestry, you can purchase that at home. But the library. The Pratt Library, also have ancestry. The only drawback to that is that you have to use it at one of the Pratt libraries.
But Heritage Quest can be utilized through Sailor. And so if you’re looking for information– and I use both of those in tandem to one another, because one– Ancestry is, probably to me, the best. But Heritage Quest also has a great amount of information there, too. And it is constantly growing. Ancestry’s been around a while. So Heritage is kind of catching up. But they’re two great tools to use.
There are various online guides to materials and services that you can find online. And particularly from the Maryland Department and the African American Department. And at the bottom, if you go to the Pratt Library web page, which is prattlibrary.org, go to Locations, and you can get to the Maryland Department, the African American Department, and the Periodicals Department.
And this is a screenshot of the Maryland Department’s web page. And as you can see, highlighted is genealogy. So when you enter the– go to the Maryland Department, under Locations, go to Genealogy, and this will begin your journey into researching African American genealogy. And the African American Department, if you go under Research Help, and then go under More, they will give– there’s a listing of beginning genealogy. There’s a how to guide on how to begin doing African American genealogy.
This is a shot of the African American genealogy. And as you can see, we give internet sites. There’s books and there’s also databases that you can begin doing your African American genealogy. And I would suggest, if you’re not familiar with this, go ahead and look at some of these websites, just to get a little familiar with.
And one of the books here, that’s shown here, are Black Roots; A Beginner’s Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree, by Tony Burroughs. It’s really an excellent book. And if you haven’t had an opportunity, perhaps you can get Tony Burroughs to come here, because he’s a wealth of knowledge. He’s out of Chicago.
He’s a genealogist, and he has given great– the Maryland Department has had him at least twice, if not three times, there for their annual geological lectures that they have in March. So Black Roots is actually a very, very good source to begin doing African American genealogy.
Other useful websites are Cyndi’s List. And as you can see, each one of them has a URL underneath. Maryland GenWeb Project, LDS Family Search, Heritage Quest Database by way of Sailor. And we can give you more information about that in the breakout sessions for using those URLs.
You can contact us. The telephone reference number, as you can see, is 410-396-5430. We also have the Maryland Department’s direct number. The African American Department’s direct number. And we even have Night Owl.
So I– Night Owl begins at 8 o’clock and stops at 11:00 PM. So if you’re up 10, 11 o’clock, and you’re– well, at least 10:00 to 10:30, and you’re doing some research, and you get a little stuck, you can always contact Night Owl up until 11:00 PM, and they’re there to help you. Also, you can email us.
Ask a librarian. We will return your email. We do– we do respond. And if you have a question that’s a burning question that you need some help– and some people do get stuck– we’re there to assist you.
And also you can check with us by going to Ask Us Now, which is also on the web page, and we will– there’s someone that will actually chat with you, have a live chat with you to help answer any of your geological questions. Thank you so much.
NATE HOWARD: Thank you again, Vivian and Jeff. All right. How about another big hand for all of our speakers and for Vivian and Jeff for their presentation. I would also like to give a special thank you to Timmy Pierce, the executive director of the Historical Society of Carroll County, and Cathy Baty, the curator of collections for the Historical Society, for providing guidance on preserving artifacts.
Well, you’re all in for real treat with these breakout sessions. So enjoy learning about history and how to preserve it. And remember, those of you who could not attend but would still like to get involved by either helping to conduct and gather interviews or to tell your story, please contact the CMC at 410-386-4415, or visit www.cmcmd.tv to find more information. Again, thank you for helping us preserve the history of this great county and its community. Good luck.