University Libraries – underused and overlooked?

There is a first time for everything right!? I recently contacted a University archive for the first time, namely The Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The archive houses papers that pertain to the American Missionary Association, but also works of art, photography and scholarly papers that document African American history, as well as the history of other Ethnic Minorities.

I was interested in records pertaining to the American Missionary Association, because of their preachers’ work at Camp Nelson. Two things prompted me to finally send an inquiry. A mutual blogger, Teresa Vega, commented on one of my posts mentioning Gabriel Burdett. He worked at Camp Nelson as part of the AMA and married my great-great-great-grandparents. Teresa encouraged me to contact the center, since she had received helpful information from their archives once before. I ‘sat’ on this info for a while and then I read a post about the importance of using University Libraries on Facebook by Tim Pinnick. Tim is an expert at researching African American Newspapers and lectures on Black Coalminers.

Finally, I emailed the center, explaining my interest in AMA activities and letters from Camp Nelson. I received a timely response and was given an index of men who had sent letters from that location. I chose three names from that list (Scofield, Hall and Burdett), that I recognized from reading the Freedmen’s Bureau Records and other literature. The referance archivist then looked them up and informed me that it would be at least 140 letters! He gave me a quote and I decided to go ahead and have the copies made. I spent around $80 dollars for 203 copies. I really hope to get more insight into the daily lives of my ancestors from these letters. The exchange was very friendly and the correspondance swift, although Mardi Gras delayed things a bit, but that’s New Orleans – I guess!?

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This was part of the packet I received from The Amistad Research Center

I learned quite a few things from this experience…For one, blogging can really put the word out and connect you to people who can share their research experience. Also, even if you are not where the archive is, the reference archivists will most likely work with you. Lastly, there is a wealth of information in these archives that is waiting to be found! If you got the impression that accessing these types of holdings will only cost you, please read my next post about what I found for FREE!

Camp Nelson CemeterieS

Memorial Day is a great prompt to blog about my recent twelve day trip to visit family in Kentucky. While there, I decided to do some family research and went to the Camp Nelson Heritage Park and cemeteries. I am using the plural for the latter, because there is the National cemetery, a graveyard at the Park, as well as a cemetery that was used by the families that stayed in the area after the Civil War (scroll left & it is right below the Jim Beam Preserve marker on Payne Lane). I saw them all!

The Camp Nelson National Cemetery is where two of my great-uncles and my father are laid to rest. It is a beautiful place situated upon hills.

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From Camp Nelson Heritage Park you can see the National Cemetery and old distillery buildings that mark the U.S. 27 exit, taking you to the Camp Nelson community. I walked the trails of the Heritage Park and got a good feel for how large the Civil War camp must have been. I literally felt it in my feet, due to my bad choice in footwear! I also learned that there was a graveyard at the Park marked by a white obelisk-type marker. The monument reads:

TO THOSE BURIED HERE

Here lie the bodies of numerous unknown Tennessee white refugees and Kentucky African-American refugees who perished from disease while at Camp Nelson. These civilians sought freedom and protection within this U.S. Army post.

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Maybe some of my people lay there. At the time wooden markers were used. They decayed, so the monument was erected.

The community cemetery is located on Payne’s Lane, Nicholasville, KY. It is on the other side of the highway, across from  the National Cemetery.

Refugee Camp U.S. 27 marker

Refugee Camp U.S. 27 marker

Refugee Camp U.S. 27 marker, back

 

 

 

 

 

 

My great-great-great-grandparents Josie and Ed Overstreet are buried there, as well as my great-great-great-uncle William Overstreet, whom I blogged about in earlier posts. William has his Civil War military service with Company K of the 124th U.S. Colored Infantry on his marker. Ed does not, unfortunately. I decided to take photos of all of the remaining grave markers in order to post them, possibly on Find A Grave. Also, I am sure I am related to a great number of the people that were laid to rest there, so the information will come in handy one day.

Edmond Overstreet

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Josie Washington Overstreet

 

 

 

 

 

 

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William S Overstreet

Scipio, oh Scipio…

I am waaaaaay behind on my weekly posting goal, so I decided to use a few old Facebook postings to get me started on this newest blog post. To prevent confusion here are a few things to remember when reading the following:

  1. My great-great-great-grandfather was Ed Overstreet.
  2. He was enslaved by Philonzo Scipio Fitch (a.k.a. P.S. Fitch) since birth, according to his own account in his military records.
  3. It is unknown to me how my family got or why they kept the name ‘Overstreet’.

In September 2013 I googled ‘African American Overstreets’ and found some of my old message board posts/queries etc. Among those was an old response from a white Overstreet sending me to Afrigeneas to look at the slave data she had donated. I found this index entry:

Holmes County, MS – Will Book #1 Page 78 Will of B. CHELTON OVERSTREET Brothers – John Overstreet, William Overstreet, Comendes Overstreet, Cerestus Overstreet Sisters – Mary Morrison, Ardelia Morrison Executor – Thomas Trainor Slaves – Andy, Lewis, Dick, Prince, Mahala, Lee Dated 1848, Probated 1848 Witnesses – Morgan L. Fitch, Wellington Jenkins

I looked up the original on Familysearch and came up with a very bad copy.

"Mississippi, Probate Records, 1781-1930," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-31018-3806-42?cc=2036959&wc=M7MJ-VNL:344560501,344668501 : accessed 23 Apr 2014), Holmes > Wills 1833-1888 > image 71 of 617.

BC Overstreet will

Fortunately there was a transcription available due to the state of the original! I will need to go through the whole will myself, but I found a short summary on a Rootsweb page.

There was a Fitch as a witness to the will of Chelton Overstreet in Mississippi! I looked ‘Morgan L. Fitch’ up on Ancestry.com and he was born in NY, just like the other Fitch. The town’s name: Scipio! P.S. Fitch’s certificate of death states his place of birth as – can you guess it!?- Scipio, NY. They could be related!

Some time in December, while decluttering my desktop, I (re)discovered a file containing documents for P.S. Fitch. I noticed an index of what seemed to be probate records from the 1800s. I could not remember when and where I had gotten the file from (SMH at myself…). I have a Mac, so I right-clicked and went to ‘get info’. The file was from 2009 and I had saved it from Familysearch.org. I decided to investigate and went to the site to see what record set this was from. I tried a regular search, but came up with nothing. Then I tried the ‘Catalog’ tab and searched for KY records. ‘Kentucky probate records, 1727-1990′ came up and they were available online!

I found my county, Jessamine County, then the Book, and finally scrolled to the page listed in the index. I ended up finding the enslavers will, from 1877. This was interesting enough, but didn’t yield anything of research value for the moment. I decided to look for some Overstreets. This entry for ‘Overstreet, Scipio (col)’ immediately caught my eye:

Overstreet, Scipio Probate Index

So, my Overstreet was enslaved by a Philonzo Scipio Fitch in Jessamine County. There was a colored man there named Scipio Overstreet, with a will in 1838. Also, there was a Fitch born in Scipio, NY, named as a witness in an Overstreet’s will in 1848!? Coincidence!? Who was this Scipio Overstreet? This is the transcription of the will:

I Sipio Overstreet a man of colour of the County of Jessamine and State of Kentucky being of perfect mind and memory. I do hereby make and ordain this my last will and testament. It is my will that my land and all other property which I own ( with the exception of my wife Mary and her two children Patsy Ann and Louisa) to be sold to pay any just debts or so much of it as will pay them. It is also my will that after all my debts are paid that my wife Mary shall be free. It is also my will that Mary my wife, shall have the aforesaid Patsy Ann and Louisa during her life and at her death the said Patsy Ann and Louisa shall be free. Lastly I do hereby appoint Thomas Overstreet Exor. Of this my last will and testament. As witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 24th of November 1838.                                                                                                                                          Sipio Overstreet s.

Att

T.Overstreet

Aron -his mark- Murphy

Jessamine County [?] December Court 1838

I certify that the [?] last will and testament of Sipio Overstreet decd. was this day produced in court and proved by the oaths of T. Overstreet and Aaron Murphy the subscribing witnesses thereto to be the act and deed of the said Sipio Overstreet. Whereupon the same was ordered to be recorded which is done.

Att [?] B. Price C

This is where I am at still. I haven’t done any more research into the matter, but my guess is I will figure it out down the line.

Maybe the Fitch’s and Overstreet’s intermarried and that is how an Overstreet slave could have ended up as a Fitch slave with Overstreet as his last name. Overstreet slaves could have been left to the Fitch children (P.S. and his siblings for example). Maybe they kept this name to find family members that were separated from them, because of the death of an enslaver, or marriage of a daughter? This just goes to show that African American’s must research their families as well as their ancestor’s enslavers. Now that I mention it, P.S. Fitch was married to a Margaret Hanley Moss and Ed Overstreet’s mother was Celia Moss Fitch! The search continues…

Europeana 1914-1918

Life has made me fall behind my weekly posting goal, but it also helped me find the topic for this post. After a sleepless night due to a teeething toddler, I found myself on the couch watching a morning show- which I normally never do. The hosts mentioned the upcoming centennial of the start of World War I and showcased a website called Europeana 1914-1918, launched in commemoration of the event. It hosts an archive of World War I stories from the public, national library collections from eight countries as well as films. Europeana 1914-1918 is viewable in eleven different languages and allows people to contribute to the archive themselves. There have and will be “collection days” throughout several European countries where material can be brought, scanned or photographed and added to the archive. It is also possible to donate material online. According to the site: “All of the Europeana 1914-1918 material is available for re-use.”

I could spend all day browsing the photos and diaries. This has reminded me that I have ancestors who were affected by and even fought in this war. My interest has been piqued and I want to find out more. Maybe I will be able to contribute as well.

My great-grandpa Jakob Bettinger in a WWI field hospital.

My great-grandpa Jakob Bettinger in a WWI field hospital (mid-photo, with widow’s peak).

 

Got Books?

I love books! I always have. I think I inherited this trait from my Dad. When I think of Dad one of the images that comes up is him, hand on his forehead, leaning over a book in deep concentration. One of my favorite shows on TV used to be Reading Rainbow, a show that featured children introducing books. I am pleasantly surprised that it still exists after 30 years (I am aging myself here…). Since this is a blog about family research, I want to share some book resources I have found and how they have helped me in connection with my search for family.

One of the members in a genealogy-related Facebook group I belong to regularly supplies us with links to free ebooks on amazon.com. I am not sure if she has a Google alert set up to notify her, or if Amazon offers alerts, but here is an example of a ‘purchase’ entitled Civil War Photography: African Americans. You can buy ebooks as well, of course. I prefer an actual book over an ebook, so I like the free version. I view them with the free Kindle for Mac or Iphone apps, since I do not own an actual ebook reader.

Cover of ebook Civil War Photography: African AmericansSo far, most of the books I have been interested in are still copyrighted, so you can’t just download them from Google Books. If they weren’t, you could. Nonetheless, this is a great resource where I have found some interesting leads, entries of books to consider buying, or information about people I am researching. For example, the last enslaver of my great-great-great-grandfather Edmund Overstreet, named P.S. Fitch, patented a ‘hemp brake’. This made me wonder whether hemp was a crop my ancestors tended to. I will need to do more reading on this, since I thought tobacco was more prominent in the area. I also found an entry for Fitch’s daughter in a directory for the Daughters of the American Revolution on Google Books. I will be using her submission, which I found on ancestry.com, to further research the Fitch family and hopefully find more on my Overstreet line.

Screenshot of P.S. Fitch's patent claim on Google Books

Screenshot of P.S. Fitch’s patent claim on Google Books

Books from the library are great since they are free to use and you can try them out before purchasing. One of my favorite books is Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity by Dee Parmer Woodtor. I first found this book at the military library on post, in Germany. I was so impressed by the way Mrs. Woodtor was able to explain the research process in a comprehensive way and tie in historical aspects, I decided to buy it. This book gave me the incentive to research my paternal side, since it shows you how to overcome the obstacles one faces when researching African American families.

Which brings me to Used Book Vendors. There are so many books in very good condition that are available through online stores or local book stores. I purchased Finding a Place Called Home for $20 a few years ago. Well worth it! I have also purchased biographies about my German great-uncle who was a Cardinal in the Catholic Church. This book is from the early 1900s and cost me 30 Euro!

If you want to avoid storage issues, Family Search and state historical societies -amongst others- offer books as downloadable PDF files or online. I downloaded Jessamine County and Woodford County histories from Family Search. I found the abolitionist John G. Fee‘s autobiography as an electronic edition, which you can scroll through page by page, but can’t download. The book was on the website Documenting the American South, sponsored by the University Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Now we know how to hoard these treasures in their physical or electronic form, but how do we organize them? I was reminded of this recently in a Facebook group on…organization! I have Books2, a free book cataloging app for my Mac that lets me scan the ISBN of a book using my built-in camera. It then tries to pull the info, such as cover image, publication dates etc. from the internet. If the app can’t find anything, you can enter the information manually. I have only done a fraction of my books, but it is a start and might keep me from buying duplicates. If you would rather catalog books online and make book lists to share, then you can try Library Thing or Good Reads (there are most certainly more…). I can only do so much social media, since the day only has 24 hours and I have 3 kids, so I will stick to my Mac app.

Screenshot of my Books2 library

Screenshot of my Books2 library

So this is my argument for utilizing books, in whatever fashion. They can help us visualize a time period, learn some social history or tweak our research skills and so much more. Despite the urge for instant gratification from Google & co. and my short attention span, I am making a conscious effort to grab books more often and read them from front to back or back to front!

Wordless Wednesday- Unknown Swagger

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Wordless Wednesday- Unknown Swagger

I love this photo of two young men wearing hats. I am always drawn to the one on the left. Unfortunately, I don’t know who they are. I found this photo at my Oma’s (german for ‘grandma’s’) house and she doesn’t know who they are either. I guess you can see it has been man-handled (fingerprints) in the past. Rest assured, it is now in an archival quality box in my house.

Reading a book from the back can give you goose bumps…

I finally received my copy of  Camp Nelson, Kentucky: A Civil War History by Richard D. Sears a few days ago! When I get a new book I read the part about the author first. When it is a genealogy-related book I also check the index for my people’s names. Since the book is about a place I have pegged my Overstreet line at, I looked under “O” and to my surprise found an entry for Overstreet, W. S., page 375!

To put this into context I have to rewind to the end of last year. That is when after listening to a podcast about a U.S. Colored Troop regiment, I decided to check the military collections on ancestry.com again. I thought I would try looking for a sibling of my Edmund Overstreet.

According to a family reunion booklet I copied from my great-aunt, Edmund had a brother named William. In the booklet the children (11 in all) are listed by what could be the order of birth for boys and girls respectively. Edmund is first, William is second. From Ed’s military file I know he was 19 when he enlisted at Camp Nelson on 30 October 1864. Because of the birth order I assumed William to be a few years younger than Ed, let’s say he could have been around 17 that year.

So, I looked for William and found these three entries in the Descriptive Lists of Colored Volunteer Army Soldiers, 1864 on ancestry.com. The list describes the names, rank, birth date & place, age, occupation, enlistment date & place, enlisting officer, enlistment period, eye, hair color, complexion, height, muster-in date & place, owner, remarks. These are the names, ages, birth places and owners of the Williams in the list:

Private Wm Overstreet 26  Jessamine, Kentucky Pattison John
Private Wm Overstreet 48  Jessamine, Kentucky Jno Hanley
Private W S Overstreet 16  Jessamine, Kentucky Fal Fitch
Snippet of Descriptive file found on www.ancestry.com

Snippet of Descriptive file found on http://www.ancestry.com

With this information I signed up for the free seven-day trial at Fold3. Again I found three William Overstreets, this time I saw copies of their actual military files, which named their units and included claims from owners.

Name Co Reg Branch Age Owner
William Overstreet I 124 USCI 26 John Pattison, Kenton Co
William Overstreet K 124 USCI 48 John H Hanly, Jessamine Co
William S. Overstreet K 124 USCI 16 Follansee / Philonzo Fitch, Jessamine Co

I think we have a winner! William S. Overstreet was 16 at the time of his enlistment. Philonzo Fitch was Edmund’s owner, according to the statement and claim in Edmund’s military file. I feel comfortable in assuming this is my great-great-great-grand-uncle!

With the name, birth and unit information I requested a digital copy of William S. Overtsreet’s compiled service records from the National Archives and Records Administration. This will take a few months I guess, but it will most likely be worth the wait!

So, why the goosebumps? After all this I opened page 375 of Camp Nelson, Kentucky: A Civil War History by Richard D. Sears to find this two paragraphs down:

I visited a small cemetery on a bluff with a view of the Kentucky River Palisades, not the big U.S. cemetery, but a village plot where the people of Hall have buried their dead for generations. Most of the older tombstones are weatherbeaten and unreadable, but one has a clear inscription: W.S. Overstreet, Co. K, 124 U.S.C.I. (United States Colored Infantry); a little “street” in Hall is named Overstreet Lane. He was one of the black soldiers who stayed at Camp Nelson with his family after the war was over.

GOOSEBUMPS!