University Libraries and Archives – Part 2

SalliandnormanOne night I decided to peruse the internet and found a site that accounted for my second positive experience with University Archives. I was searching in the Kentucky Digital Library and ended up at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at The University of Kentucky website. There were no results for “Camp Nelson”, BUT there was a hit titled “History of Hall, Kentucky Oral History Project”. From reading about the locality, I knew that “Hall” was another name for the refugee slave community Camp Nelson and hoped I’d find a relative in the index. Right off the bat I found two Overstreets!

I used the contact form to see how I could access the interviews, since the index only gave call numbers. For weeks I heard nothing. I finally decided to call the Center and inquire about the interviews. It turns out that I had used the wrong method of contacting them. The employee I talked to was very helpful and informed me that they were in the process of transcribing the interviews. He also promised to have the person in charge contact me and possibly get me access to the audio content. A few days later I received an email and was given links to the two Overstreet interviews! I listened to Norman’s recording. Although the quality was pretty bad, I was overwhelmed to hear Norman say that he was related to Ed and Josie Overstreet! The recordings were from an oral history project from the mid 1990’s. This is from the History of Hall Kentucky Oral History Project website:

“History of Hall, Kentucky Oral History Project

This project provides information on the community of Hall in Jessamine County, Kentucky. The community grew out of the refugee camp established at Camp Nelson during the Civil War, in which John Fee, founder of Berea College, had a large input. The interviews are with people who lived in Hall or nearby communities such as Poortown or Camp Nelson on the Kentucky River. They include information about race relations, the history of settlement at Hall in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, work in farming and at the local distillery, and community organizations such as the Brass Band and the Camp Nelson String Band.”

Sallie Overstreet turned out to be Norman’s wife. There are still no transcriptions available, but I can see why, since I had a really hard time transcribing Norman’s interview myself.

On my trip to the community cemetery on Payne’s Lane last year, I photographed Norman and Sallie’s gravestone, without knowing exactly who they were. There are 19 interviews in the collection and I am sure I am related to a few more of the interviewees! This is an invaluable, FREE, resource, proving my point of the importance of University Library holdings.

Happy Listening!

 

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…

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!