MS Roots

April 10, 2011

Sidetrip through the Griffith Line

Recently, I was able to connect to the Griffith line of my family. For all intents, this line was lost. My cousins even thought that I had the last name wrong and that it was Griffin not Griffith. (The family historian wins!) I began taking notes on this family line using one of my favorite tools – The Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Contracts search tool available on The Mississippi State Archives website. This tool allows you to search labor contracts by Freedman’s name, Planter’s name, Plantation or County.

I was able to find the following information about Icy Griffith in 1865:
Planter: Milton Griffith
Freedmen connected to Icy and Orange Griffith (3rd Great Grandparents)
Icy – 45
Alfred – 15
Isom -12 (2nd Great Grandfather)
Milly – 11
Elvira (Vira) – 7
Lacy (Lucy) – 5
Icy is listed with all of her children from the 1870 Census with the exception of Norvel, who was born free.

From my very brief overview of the census records, I was able to find the following leads for further research:
Icy Griffith- Born in Kentucky (per 1880 census record)
Milton Griffith (planter) – Mother’s name was Icy, parents lived in Kentucky prior to move to Mississippi (per family trees on

So there is research to be added to my list of research to be done.


April 4, 2011

Finding the Griffiths of Covington County, MS

One of my goals for this year was to complete a narrative sketch of Arthur and Idella Hathorn. They were my great-grandparents. I only have two photographs of them, but the stories of their faith and love of family have provided permanent images in my mind and heart.

Idella Griffith Hathorn was a bit of a mystery. While I knew that she was loved and praised by her daughters and granddaughter as a gentle loving woman. I knew little about her family except that she was a Griffith.

I wasn’t able to locate a family in the census that fit with the age as recorded in the 1910 census for Idella when she was a wife and mother. In the previous census, there was Ida Griffith who seemed too old and Ada Griffith who seemed too young. I wasn’t able to locate a marriage record for Arthur and Idella in Covington County. I ordered Idella’s death certificate and waited.

About two weeks ago, I received Idella’s death record. It listed her parents as Isom Griffith and Mira Smith. The informant was her husband, Arthur Hathorn. She had been listed in the 1900 census as Ida Griffith and that recorded age most closely matched the date of birth recorded on her death certificate. The Griffiths lived a few houses away from the Hathorns and I had seen that record in the census so many times!

I began mapping the Griffith family through census records and checking if any of the records had been saved by anyone else on The 1900 census record for James Griffith, youngest brother of Idella, had been saved to another family tree. I contacted the owner and found my cousin, James!

We talked about Life…how it keeps going. He had always meant to get back to his small hometown to reconnect with the cousins from his childhood, but Life kept happening. He had attended my uncle’s funeral in 1968, but didn’t make it to my mother’s. He had called her “Sis” his entire life and didn’t know that she was known as Toni. We have made plans to have our families meet in the next two weeks. It will be easy since he lives only 20 minutes away! Life.

March 14, 2011

Matrilineal Monday – Thelma and Elna and Christine

My grandmother, Thelma Hathorn Johnson Graves (pictured on the left), and my aunt Elenor “Elna” Hathorn Burkhalter (pictured on the right) were always together. My aunt Christine Hathorn Durr, the third member of this trio, is probably hiding away from the camera. My Nanny and Aunt Elna were the ones out front. They laughed loudly, smoked cigarettes and drank beer. Aunt Christine was quite reserved in contrast. She would rarely speak in public. She never drank beer or alcohol or smoked cigarettes. The youngest three sisters of the Hathorn family. The secret keepers.
As I have embarked on the family history journey, I’ve uncovered bits of the secrets that they kept. But no ultimate Truth to date.
My grandmother had a first husband, Eddie Hugh Johnson. I found the marriage certificate. A cousin told me that she seemed to remember that someone had said that my grandmother had been married once before my grandfather but she couldn’t remember what happened to the man.
My Aunt Elna was married to a man named Joe Burkhalter. Again I found a marriage certificate. Again a cousin says that she seemed to remember a marriage, but she couldn’t remember what happened to the man.
My Aunt Christine was married to a man named Mack Durr. Yes, I found a marriage certificate. Yes a cousin says that she remembered something. This time, however, I found the niece of Mack Durr. A fellow genealogist who was able to give me a little more of the story of this woman with whom I had lived my childhood and adult life through 2008.
Oh, the things they kept!
My latest challenge? Those cousins who remember a little of this and a little of that have asked if I could find their father’s father. This is the big secret of the family. The eldest daughter of Arthur and Idella Hathorn had a son out of wedlock. This son was raised as the youngest child of Arthur and Idella. It wasn’t until he was 65 and applying for benefits that he discovered that his biological mother was his sister.
Of course, my cousins asked my grandmother and her two sisters for the answers. As my cousin says, “Your grandmother and Aunt Elna and Aunt Christine called us everything but the child of God, so that was the end of that.”
I don’t know if we will find the answers, but I’m thankful for the riddles.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy – Illness and Injury

Or How My Career as a Hand Model Ended
After my mother passed away in the Spring of 1990, my family struggled with our new roles in our new lives. Caregiver had not been assigned. I was the first to understand that this much needed role had been overlooked.
My younger brother and I were home alone. We were arguing about something and I got so mad that I tried to punch him with my right hand. I missed. Towering over me he laughed and hurled another insult at me. To catch him off guard, I punched him with my left hand. This time, I connected. It was a hard punch to the sternum. So why was I the one writhing on the floor in pain? Apparently, I didn’t know how to curl a fist and you shouldn’t punch someone in the sternum who is wearing football pads.
The pain that was shooting through my hand was unbearable. I sat there crying and screaming. My brother didn’t know what to do. We called my dad at work. His response was that he was at work and he would take care of it when he got home and that we shouldn’t be fighting anyway. My brother pulled out the big medical book that was on the shelf. We iced my hand and waited.
My father took me to the hospital at about midnight. He worked the 3pm to 11pm shift. They told me that my pinkie finger was broken and basically there was nothing that could be done. I had a little metal splint put on. To this day, the tip of my pinkie on my left hand points downward.
I always tell my brother that if he ever makes any money, I will sue him for ending my possible career as a hand model. I tell my dad that was so not the way mom would have handled the situation.
My bent little finger is my reminder that people love differently not less…just differently.

February 6, 2011

Sunday’s Obituary – Abraham Lincoln Graves

Filed under: Graves Family,Sunday's Obituary — by tmailhes @ 5:23 pm
Tags: , ,

My grandfather’s obituary. Sadly, we lost communication after my mother’s death in 1990. I found his obituary on Ancestry and I am trying to contact any of his surviving children.

The Hattiesburg American
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Services will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday at Greater Trueway Holiness Church in Hattiesburg for Abraham Graves, 86, of Hattiesburg, who died Nov. 12, 2004, at Bedford Care Nursing Home.
Burial will be in Highland Cemetery.
Survivors include his wife, Mary Graves of Hattiesburg; five daughters, Essie Gordon and Jessie Graves, both of Gulfport, Carolyn Graves of Hattiesburg, Rosalind Campbell of Buffalo, N.Y., and Marie Graves of Atlanta; five sons, Earl Graves of Mount Olive, Michael Hunter, Roderick Graves and Byron Hunter, all of Hattiesburg, and Carl Hunter of Plano, Texas; 20 grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at the church.
Century Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Originally published November 17, 2004

February 4, 2011

Finding Focus – Arthur and Idella Hathorn, The Beginning

One of my goals for this year is to write a narrative sketch of Arthur and Idella Hathorn, my maternal great-grandparents. Thanks to the weird north Texas winter storm, I have had four days to organize my thoughts and find focus for the project. I have decided to focus on the beginning of their lives together

The Near Beginning
1910 Federal Census, Beat 1, Jefferson Davis County, MS
Arthur Hathorn H M B 24
Married for 5 Years, Renter, Working, Own Account, Farmer
Farm Schedule #49
Idella Hathorn Wife F B 23
Married for 5 Years, 4 births, 4 children
Clara Hathorn D F B 4
Flucor Hathorn S M B 3
Irma Hathorn D F B 2
Rucus S M B 6/12

The Location
Jefferson Davis County was formed from parts of Covington and Lawrence counties in 1906. The county seat is Prentiss, MS. Prentiss is a rural agriculture community.

The Time Period 1900 – 1920
The Hathorn family would have lived in the midst of the Mississippi’s Jim Crow system and frequent epidemics. Death from disease and lynchings would be a part of life. During the first 20 years of their marriage, the Hathorns would experience WWI and the First Great Migration.

I have decided to start writing even though, there are some questions that need to be answered.
1. Who are Idella’s parents and where is she from?
2. When and where were Arthur and Idella married?
3. How old was Idella?

I have ordered Idella’s death record. Hopefully that will provide the leads to fill in the other questions quickly.

January 23, 2011

52 Weeks Personal Genealogy and History – Home

I moved into the house I call my childhood home during the Winter before I started 1st Grade. It was a ranch style house in a new subdivision of Jackson, MS called Presidential Hills. All the streets were named after Presidents and we lived on Warren Harding Drive. (Warren Harding was the 29th President infamous for the Teapot Dome Scandal.)

The houses looked much the same with neat front yards, obligatory pine trees and boxwood shrubs. Rarely, did we ever play in the front yard. We always played in the backyard and knew how to turn the hinge on neighbor’s back gates to get in and see if anyone wanted to come out with us.

Family parked in our driveway and entered the house through the utility room. The utility room was a small room that housed the washer and dryer, floor freezer and my father’s Fingerhut purchases. The man was obsessed with appliances. He would use them for a while and then they would go to the utility room, where he stored them for later use. The “later use” moment never came.

Everyone else parked on the street and entered the house through the sitting room / dining room. This room was always, always immaculate. It was furnished with a beautiful sofa and settee, large hand-blown glass lamps, formal dining room table and china cabinet. It always smelled like potpourri. Even though my father would tell my mom that she shouldn’t be so particular about that room and that a house was supposed to lived in; you could tell how proud how he was when there was a get-together at the house and someone would say that the room was so pretty. “Oh yea, Toni did all this. She keeps this room looking nice.” Of course we never allowed in the room except for parties, Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas morning.

My favorite room was my room. It was me unadulterated. Pink walls! White four poster bed and white desk. My bedspread was floral with pink and green flowers. I grew up in that room and didn’t ever grow out of it. If my husband would agree, my bedroom would still be pink.

My dad and my step-mom moved out the house about 6 years ago. When we travel to Mississippi now, I always think that I’m going to see my dad because home is in old subdivision of Jackson.

January 16, 2011

52 Weeks Personal Genealogy and History – Cars

My sophomore year at Tulane University in New Orleans, my dad bought me a brand new Geo Tracker – blue with removable white top. It was the most wonderful vehicle ever invented.

During the Spring of 1992, my girlfriends and I drove the Tracker to Atlanta for the unofficial Black College Spring Break called Freak-nic. I look at the photos of that weekend and look at those girls – short skirts and shades on Peachtree Street. Wow, would our kids recognize us? Would they think it possible that their moms were parked in the middle of a major thoroughfare standing in a convertible talking to boys in the next car? All the things we warn them against now.

The Tracker took my little group everywhere for the next 4 years. Cruising around Lake Pontchartrain. Driving to Texas for football and basketball games. Escaping hurricanes. And of course the trips to Hot-Lanta!

In the end, the little Tracker had to be sold. It was beaten beyond my financial ability to repair it. And someone had stolen the vinyl covering that served as the back window! Mold had begun to grow in the back seat. The sell was probably my first grown up decision. I wanted to hold on to the Tracker forever, but it was time to let go.
The Geo Tracker

January 15, 2011

Surname Saturday – The Disappearing Sampsons of Oktibbeha, MS

Sampson is an English surname with French origins. Currently, the largest concentrations of Sampsons in the US live in Rhode Island and Vermont. There is a smaller concentration of Sampsons living in Montague County, Texas.

Rosie Sampson is my paternal great-grandmother who lived in Oktibbeha County, MS during the early 1900s. Little else is known about her. To date I haven’t found any “cousins”. And my father says that he doesn’t remember any Sampsons living in their community.

I have found Rosie in census records, alone. No parents. No siblings. The only other Sampsons near her during the time period was a woman and daughter living in the home of a son-in-law.

I have found a Rose Sampson listed in the Enumeration of Educable Children – 1885. She is listed with several other Sampson children – Dennis, Prince and two other names that are unreadable. The adult name is Neal Sampson. I have not been able to locate census records for the others listed with this Rose Sampson.

Questions abound with the Sampson family. Where did they come from? Where did they go? Where are they now?

January 10, 2011

52 Weeks Personal Genealogy and History – The Two Winters of the Hill family

Filed under: Hill Family,mississippi family history — by tmailhes @ 4:43 am

There are two distinct Winters of my childhood. Both are cold and gray and covered in a thin layer of ice taking place in Jackson, Mississippi.

My mother had an aversion to winter. She didn’t like to go outside once the temperature dipped below 50. I always thought this was strange since her fair skin burned easily in the hot sun. But so it was.

Her aversion was passed along to us kids. She would dress us in long johns, heavy sweaters, corduroy pants, thick soled shoes, two pairs of socks, gloves, a hat, wool coat, scarf and a layer of Vaseline before we ever left the house. We were miserable.

My father would shuffle outside to bring in cut wood that my mother ordered for the fireplace. The fireplace drove our dog, Jellybean, crazy. He would sit staring into the blaze and bark each time there was a crackle. My father would then yell at him for barking at nothing. I would ask why we couldn’t just turn on the central heat and my mother would say it was too expensive.

During this Winter, our house smelled of spices and beef stock. My mother cooked and froze batches upon batches of beef vegetable soup. She would freeze the soup in individual and family size containers. If you ever said you were hungry, her ready response was “Heat up some soup”. Yuck! She also prepared what she called spiced tea. As an adult, I discovered that this was an actual drink and not something that she just made up. It is a mixture of Tang and spices. Other kids had hot cocoa and we had spiced tea. Again, yuck!

When my mother passed away, Winter changed.

We used the central heat. Our fireplace was idle and Jellybean laid in front of the hearth waiting for nothing.
Gone were the long johns and wools coats and extra socks and the Vaseline.
There was no soup and no spiced tea.
Just the cold and gray and thin layer of ice.

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