Category: Tracing your roots
This post is about family history crossing into American history. Both histories get lost and forgotten over time. I’m certainly more aware of how my history drives my present and my future.
Today I’m posting a snippet from the archives of the Suffolk County Historical Society on Long Island, NY. I stumbled on this a short while ago when researching my husband’s “Smith” ancestry on Long Island. The small world factor was overwhelming to me when I learned of the connection between Henry Highland Garnet, abolitionist, activist and minister, and a distant ancestor of my husband, Epenetus Smith. It was that first name, Epenetus, that jumped off the page at me.
Henry and his family escaped slavery lived in New York City. There Henry was educated at the African Free School. After some time there, slave catchers attempted to capture the family. Henry ended up with Quaker abolitionists who sent him to Long Island to escape. Henry ended up in Smithtown as an indentured servant of Epenetus Smith. Henry worked in the tavern and was tutored by Samuel Smith. The two remained friends for the remained of their lives.
Once the slave catchers had given up, Henry was able to continue his education and grow into a remarkable African American. – PJN
From The Suffolk County Historical Society Library Archives:
“Although one of the most well-known African Americans of the nineteenth century, Henry Highland Garnet, sadly, is little remembered today. Even less remembered are his connections to Long Island and Suffolk County. As a young fugitive slave and an outspoken abolitionist, Garnet was given shelter by sympathizers on Long Island for several years. Quakers in Westbury took him in, and later they arranged for him to go farther east and be apprenticed to Epenetus Smith of Smithtown.
Despite his birth into the bondage of slavery, the loss of a limb, and the persistent discrimination and bigotry he faced, Garnet went on to achieve great successes: he was an effective orator and writer, prominent clergyman, educator, and diplomat. He was also one of the first African Americans to be appointed as a U.S. ambassador.
Henry Highland Garnet has the notable distinction of being the first African American to speak at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. On Sunday, February 12, 1865, within days of Congress’s adoption of the 13th Amendment banning slavery, Rev. Garnet delivered a sermon in the Hall of the House of Representatives.”
I’ve spent most of yesterday catching up on emails, cleaning up my office writing area and actually working on a manuscript. I’m working on a piece that is a little different from the picture books I generally write. This one is historical and biographical. Writing about a person’s life is harder than I thought when I began. But once I’m into something, it’s hard for me to drop it. And why would I drop this one? This character has become my friend. I refer to him as my 300-year-old friend. I have questions for him that I ask out loud as if he is going to answer me…Sometimes he does. Continue reading “Catching up.”
This weekend I was blessed to be included in the reunion of my brother with his biological brother. That’s right, my brother met his brother.
I should have mentioned that my siblings and I are all adopted from different biological families. DNA testing kits made it possible for this event to happen. One of my sisters located her mother a few years ago. I’ve located very general information of my own biological beginnings so I’m still digging. This reunion this past Saturday affirms for me that it can be very satisfying to meet the long-lost relative or family.
This was a very special day!
My picture book, David’s Flamingos was released on May 1, 2018. I’ll be working with my publisher to host a Facebook Live event in September. I’m also working on presentations for school visits. Hopefully this will be a busy few months as we speed towards the end of the year.
I’ll keep you posted.
Since its black history month, I’m sharing my DNA results. Not because it only revealed my African ancestry but because it also reveals my non-African ancestry. 500 new cousins also share some versions of my DNA, according to ancestry.com. I connected with some via email. I’m very pleased about that. Afterall, aside from learning where in the world one comes from why would you not want to make connections.
Being adopted, I learned why one would not want to connect. I imagined numerous scenarios about my biological beginnings before I got my DNA results. None of them reflected the actual results of my DNA spit test.
What my DNA results confirmed for me – Why?
- Love the color green
- Adore to Irish / Gaelic music
- Love to hear bagpipes
- Crave Corned beef and Cabbage on March 17th
I’ll look forward to more connections but in the meantime, I will reflect on what I’ve learned so far.
This has certainly not been an easy breezy summer for me. I’m continually asking myself, “what am I supposed to be doing now?” There are so many things competing for my attention both in my writing and in the rest of my life. Please don’t get me wrong, this is not a post about being too busy. The alternative scares me, but I do need to buckle down and focus. My way of re-focusing is compiling a to-do list and working through it.
So here goes:
- I accepted an invitation to speak at an SCBWI-PA sponsored event in August.
- I’ve worked on a couple of picture book manuscripts, new and revised, but I feel stuck.
- Looking for a new project to help get unstuck.
For the new project, I’ve logged several hours in the library for the research I started for a historical fiction picture book on a local (local to Long Island) African-American poet. A fellow picture book author suggested the topic during a discussion a couple of months ago. Over the years I have collected several articles and documents on this local poet to satisfy my general curiosity but never thought of him as a picture book subject until that discussion. – Thanks, A.L.
Information Overload – Exposure to or provision of too much information or data.
That is what you can get when research includes genealogy. Dates, places, names, occupations, marriages…
There seems to be no end to the genealogy loops that I’ve entered into.
I’m researching African-American characters from the mid-1700’s for a historical fiction picture book. There are gaps where African American facts are concerned, for sure. Some of that is just due to the fact that African slaves were considered property, not people. For the research that I’m doing, there was a lot of documentation and it has connected two of the largest northern “plantations” on Long Island. It helps that the slave owners were highly influential people. Their records have now become part of history maintained in libraries and museums. This is going to be fun!
I’m back on Long Island now and completely unpacked – not that I had all that much to unpack. I’m still behind in my blog posts, but I hope to catch up soon.
I need to begin to connect the bits of information that we have from our trip to Keystone Heights (Brooklyn) Florida. My brother, his wife and I traveled there to see what information we could find on my father and grandmother – both of which were listed as being born in Brooklyn, Florida. We went to the town hall and were met with an abundance of hospitality. The Mayor of Keystone Heights even offered of information on a local resident who’s family had been in the area back when it was called “Brooklyn”.
The intermittent torrential rain kept us from venturing out of the car, but we did drive to where the mayor suggested we look and we found Lake Brooklyn, one of the many lakes in the town. It was so close to where I think our dad and grandmother were both born.
Brooklyn was developed into a carefree lakeside community and Keystone Heights, as it was renamed, as a resort community. Many wealthy folks vacationed there, some were even founding members of the community. James C. Penny (yes, of J.C. Penny fame) was a developer in the area back in the early 1900’s. There are still references to that name in the area.