As I put the final touches on my presentation for the AASIG meeting, I was preparing my conclusion slide and there were bullet points about handling sensitive information. I felt, though, that something was missing. This presentation was also about the research process. In my efforts to find my grandfather’s family, I searched the same records over and over again because I was looking for what should have been there based on family tradition. I didn’t let the evidence lead my research.
My first mistake in the process was the initial family Bible entry. My grandmother had written that the parents of LC Hill were John Lacy Hill and Rosie Sampson. On the next line she had written her parents as James Wright and Sallie Seals Wright. Notice the difference in the notation? I didn’t until later. I should have questioned the difference in the name of the wife. As I looked over other of my grandmother’s records, a married woman is always written with her maiden and married name. In the case of a cousin born before his mother’s marriage, his mother is listed with only her maiden name and the full name of the father. I didn’t pick up on grandmother’s subtle way of saying that there was not a marriage.
In my census research, I was so caught up in looking for an intact Hill family, that I didn’t look for individuals. Had my initial census search involved an individual rather than a family unit then I wouldn’t have missed the 1900 census showing Rosie Sampson living in the home of John Lacy Hill.
In the end, I of course realized that there were two families of John Lacy Hill one legitimate and one illegitimate. I added to my presentation that researchers must be unbiased in their research and in their conclusions. Yes, some family traditions may be proven inaccurate. However, the truth is far better for future generations than continually perpetuating misconceptions.
I’ve chosen the subject of my talk on September 17, 2011 for the African American Special Interest Group of the Dallas Genealogical Society. I will be speaking about John Lacy Hill and how to delicately handle family secrets.
Our family tradition holds that my grandfather’s father was John Lacy Hill. My grandfather’s SS-5 letter, delayed birth certificate and death certificate affirm this. I also have the death certificates of Granddaddy’s sister and two brothers listing the same set of parents – John Lacy Hill and Rosie Sampson.
Sounds pretty cut and dry, right? Well here’s the thing. John Lacy Hill was married to Ellen Edgar at the time. He and Ellen had several children of their own. And another thing, our family’s surname was recorded as Sampson in the census records and the Educable Children’s Listing.
Breaking the news – I originally shared this information with my dad and my aunts and uncles. They told me that I had to be wrong. They always knew the names of their grandparents. But they admitted that they had never met their grandparents or knew anything about them except their names. They also admitted that they had never met any cousins with the surname – Hill.
Reaching out – Eventually, my dad and aunts and uncles came to believe my version of the two families of John Lacy Hill. Armed with confidence, I went in search of the Hill family. I was looking for the parents of John Lacy and met a researcher who was related to John Lacy. Again, I was told that I was wrong and that I must be looking for another Hill family. I thought, really? It’s been a hundred years, can’t we just look at the evidence?
Going it alone – At this point, I have moved past the “outside” family stigma and am researching my Hill roots. It’s hard to show in a database, but I continue on. I am still searching for other Hill researchers to share information. If you know any with ties to Oktibbeha County in Mississippi, feel free to share with them.
I am working with my cousins to plan our 2012 family reunion. I am not a big part of the planning process. My main task is to complete research on the Seals and Wright families back to 1870 and complete a book of some sort that will be available for each family at the reunion.
Because I am prone to disorganization, I am spending the day not only organizing existing information but creating a detailed task list tied to my outlook calendar so that everyday there is a reminder that are things to do. I am also going to brainstorm about how to best present this information accurately in what seems like a short time (10 months)!
I am very excited that my family has asked me to do this! It often seems that I discuss the family history more with people outside the family than actual relatives.
No more procrastinating, I’m off to work!
L.C. Hill receives first pension check for 41 years of service
The picture above was published in our 2000 Family Reunion book. To date, I have not found the newspaper from which it was taken. The article is transcribed below:
FIRST TO GET PENSION – L. C. Hill (R), employee of Co-op Creamery and Dairymen, Inc. for 41 years, receives his first pension check from John Moore (L), assistant manager of the industry’s Mississippi Division. Hill is the first employee of 700 at Dairymen Inc. to take advantage of a new pension program offered by the company. A & M Dairy in Starkville is a subsidiary of Dairymen, Inc. (Staff Photo – Brumfield)
L.C. Hill is my grandfather.
The Wright Seals
Well your Aunt Kate, we called her Kate but her name was Virginia, anyway I have her original birth certificate and it says Letha Ann on it
So began the family history overview with my Aunt Louise. I just sat there shaking my head and my aunt just smiled. You know almost everyone had different names she told me. Like Uncle Pap, he was really Prentiss. While she talked, I scratched through notes and tried to grasp the entire family line of multiple Prentisses, Ediths and Eulas plus the never-ending initials – LA, MC, and NF. What do the initials stand for? Nothing.
Then Aunt Louise had an idea. We were thinking too big, trying to map too much at once. We were going to pick one family group and begin there. No more looking at the WRIGHTS and the SEALS. We were picking one family and sticking with it no matter what fascinating document we found or family lore that we happened upon.
We created our family group sheet
James Mann Wright married Sallie Seals in 1900 Oktibbeha County (no record located at Archives, will have to contact county)
Their children were Mattie, Prentiss, Edith, Eula, LA, Letha Ann (died in infancy), NF and MC.
Aunt Louise is going to record all the memories that she has of her mother’s siblings and the stories about her grandparents. I will complete the document research and we are going to get this family mapped out!
Aunt Louise using Family Tree Maker
Once again, the little family history corner of my living room is a mess. There are papers and books stacked haphazardly in the corner. My projects are swirling around in my mind but I haven’t put them in my OneNote notebooks! So this week, I’m going to get re-organized, re-focused and get to work!
The Hill Family – I want to thank everyone who sent me emails about the Hill Files to nowhere. I really feel energized again about this leg of my journey. I am going to Mississippi in a few days and have already called my aunt and cousin to review some of the clues I received from other family historians. Also, on my task list is to order the birth certificate for my grandfather’s sister, Dina Hill. I never ordered it because I had her death certificate. Then I thought, she is the only child that could possibly have a birth certificate filed near the time of her birth because she was born in 1919. Well after the state requirement for birth certificates! I’m giving it a shot.
The Wright Family – I haven’t explored the Wright family at all. I will continue to collect stories and set up some time to begin record searching once I get to a stopping point with the Hill family.
Rosie Sampson – The mysterious matriarch of the Hill family. I have the List of Educable Children for Oktibbeha County which lists a Rosie Sampson with parent/guardian Neal? Sampson. A definite next step is to locate Neal Sampson in the census. I am waiting for FHL film for marriage records. I believe that she married Otis Ratley/Ratliff in 1919 or 1920.
My goal for today is organize this information in my virtual notebooks and set up my task lists and not to get off track! I’m paying my daughters 50 cents per hour to file and catalog items so we should be able to accomplish this today.
I have come to the end of the research that I can do from home regarding the Hill Family. I have so many relatives that have given me their stories and I have come to the conclusion that we don’t know anything about our family.
The Hill Surname – My grandfather was born L C Sampson (according to the 1910 Census). His delayed birth certificate and SS5 letter record his name as L C Hill. His mother, Rosie Sampson, didn’t marry his father. Was there a (in)formal adoption? Is there an official name change document out there somewhere? Is our last name, Hill? I don’t know. My relatives don’t know. Regardless of name, I moved on.
Dina Hill’s Obituary – My great aunt Dina passed away last year. She left written instructions for her obituary. It listed her father as Elijah Harris and her mother as Rosie Sampson. It also listed a brother named Sampson Harris and a sister named Lacy Harris. Who are these people we all wondered. We questioned each other and thought maybe she was confused at the time of her death. Now I know that we are the confused ones.
Jesse Hill – The patriarch born in Virginia. When did he arrive in Mississippi? Where are the other Hills? Is there something in the names he chose for his sons – Romulus and John Lacy?
Now, I wait for a day that I can spend in the archives in Mississippi. I’ve looked at marriage records and death certificates. What can I try next?