Friday, September 27, 2013

The Women: A genealogy of Needle and Thread

Jewell Bannarn Bobo
Have you ever wondered why you do the things you do?  What makes you, you? where did it come from? maybe you have have a passion for quilting or drawing. Or maybe you are an eloquent speaker and love to talk. As I look into the lives of my ancestors, I find many different occupations. They are all artistic in one form or another. I come from a long line of women who sewed, Seamstresses.

My mother liked to sew. I remember her making pajamas, undergarments and Christmas stockings. She also crocheted doilies. Her mother sewed. Grandma had several sewing machines, and made a little of everything..coats, dresses,curtains. She did it all. Her mother; my Great-Grandmother, sewed. She made a lot of their clothing. In her day, she used flour sacks to make dresses for them. She also made quilts. Aunt Shirley, my mother's Sister, sewed too..she also Crocheted. She was a master of both. When I was 9 years old. She made me a lavender skirt and matching vest outfit. All crocheted. I thought I was too cute with my white knee high boots to match!                                                                                

My earliest memories of learning to sew are with my mother. She had a modern sewing machine, and she also had an old antique Singer machine that was given to her by her aunt, Jewell Bannarn. I remember that my sister and I would sit in the chair together and push the foot peddle..our feet, to small to push it alone.

Aunt Jewell was an excellent Seamstress. She made everything! including tailored suits for her husband Ben. When I was a teenager, Aunt Jewell would come to visit. I would run and grab my dress I had made, anxious to show her. She would carefully look it over, pointing out to me all the areas that needed improvement. Then she would explain to me what I should have done, And how to correct it. I remember feeling  disappointed that it wasn't perfect. She would say to me, " It's Alright Honey, Just Keep Trying, You'll Get It ". I will always remember Aunt Jewell. She was a sweet, beautiful person.  and she was right. I kept trying and today I am a Seamstress like all of them before me. It has become my passion.

These women all served as inspiration to me. My path with the needle and thread was being designed for me before I even knew it. Sewing, is a common thread that runs all throughout the Bannarn family. As well as many other artistic talents. I know that I carry a piece of them all with me. We all do. I think it's what makes us who we are. It all started with the ancestors.

© 2013 Denise Muhammad

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Kitchen Table Talks

My grandmother Margaret w/her children, Richard, Gloria Jean and Shirley.
Growing up, I remember my mother's kitchen. In my house, like many other families that I know. The kitchen was the heart of the home. A place where mom made great meals and taught her daughters how to cook. A place where we prayed together, laughed and cried together. It was a warm special place. When my grandmother came to visit, which was very often. She and mom would sit at the kitchen table and talk for hours, which seemed like an eternity to my sisters and I. They always drank tea..Grandma, always liked black tea with lemon, and absolutely no sugar! As the years went by, It was my sister and I who fixed the tea for the both of them. Funny how I remember those details after all these years.

Grandma would talk about her family... Mama and Papa, as she called them. Her childhood, her ancestors, my mother's father and his family, the Bannarn's. It was always about family history, working hard and being proud of who you are. I'm sure they talked about other things, however this is the part of the conversation that I absorbed, for some reason. Listening to them tell theses stories about the ancestors..they were like characters in a book to me.They stood out among all else.When I think back, she was the true historian. She always thought it was important and wanted us to know all about our family. This burning desire to know who and where we come from, the sacrifices they made and the struggles they endured lives in so many of us in my family.

I never knew my grandfather, nor his parents..but I somehow feel that I did..for they live on and are given life through the stories of my grandmother, passed on to my mother, passed on to me.


© 2013 Denise Muhammad

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Story of Baby Esther

Little Esther pearl, a name that I always heard my grandma talk about. She was my great aunt..grandma's baby sister. Born in 1928. She was the youngest of seven children. At 14 grandma had the responsibility to help look after her younger siblings, she was very close to her baby sister. Grandma said Esther was like her day she got sick, she was sick for one was aware that while playing in the yard she had eaten the poison berries growing on the bushes in the yard. She died a few days later. A little angel gone so soon.  RIP little Esther.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Finding Home

My sister and I

 I never knew much about my father's side of family. My parents had divorced when I was very young.  My mother raised us as a single parent. I grew up with my two younger sisters and two older brothers..Yes, I was the middle child!  Mom, who was the greatest story teller ever!  would tell us stories about her childhood, her family history and my father and his family. Making it like a story, it was fun and exciting, and I loved it! I think that's where it really began, my passion for genealogy. Thanks to my mother. I knew so much about mom's side of the family I decided to start looking for my father's side. I had heard for years that I had other siblings and family in Missouri and I longed to find a connection.

So, I decided to start digging around on Dad's side of the family. My Father, Jesse Carl Taylor, most called him Pete. Was from Washington, Missouri.. he lived in Kansas city. He Passed away in 2000. Armed with my notes from phone conversations with my Paternal Grandmother, Luella Fowler Pryor. And notes from what mom had told me. I began building my tree in I made my tree public hoping that a family member would see it.

a few years went by and then one day, Much to my surprise, I received an email from a man who said that he was my father's brother. Although I had never met them, I knew that my father had several siblings. I was beyond excited! he gave me his number and asked that I call him. He explained how he had found my family tree, seeing my Dad's picture on We talked over the phone, him telling me all about my father's family. Then he asked me did I know that I had a sister? and my jaw dropped.."No", I replied. He told me that he knew where she was and would put me in contact with heart was beating so fast, I tried not to scream in the phone from excitement!  I called my sisters and told them all about our new found uncle and that we had a sister.

In a matter of  days my sister and I talked over the phone for the first time. That was amazing!  she is a beautiful individual, as are all my sisters.We all have so many similarities. All very artistic..we are Pete's daughters. My youngest sister, was thrilled that she now has a younger sister and can no longer be called the baby of the family..Lol! We finally met each other at the family reunion that summer in St. Louis, Missouri. I met my uncles,who reminded me of my dad., and so many family members. I had found the connection that I longed for. So many tears of joy, I had found my family. I was home.

Uncle Steve, Me,Tiffany

© 2013 Denise Muhammad

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Uncle Emmerson

Emmerson Doyle w/ Wife Martha E. Dabney and children Robert, Minnie and Madeline.
Although I never met him, I have heard his name often. Uncle Emmerson Doyle. Born abt. 1864 in Virginia. He was the brother of my Great Grandfather Peter Doyle. He was a Coal miner who left Virginia for the Coal mining camps of Buxton, Iowa. Even though many of the Doyle's came to Buxton in the early days. After the coal mining towns shut down, they all somehow made their way to Des Moines, IA. Grandma Margaret always spoke fondly about her cousins; Robert, Minnie and Madeline. They all grew up together  in Iowa.

Grandma always gave physical descriptions when she talked about her family, the ones that she knew I had not met. I always enjoyed hearing about their physical description as well as their personality. I loved it!  I would ask a ton of questions about family and she would patiently answer them all. Many of the Doyle's, especially in her father's generation had red hair, blue/green eyes and very fair skin. It always made me extremely curious to know what their father looked like, being that their mother Sarah Doyle had black hair. My mother has always called our family a "Potpourri mix". Emmerson died abt. 1918 in Iowa.

Friday, September 20, 2013

2014 Spring Ancestor Challenge

I am a member of the AAGSAR Genealogy Group. As a member I was asked to choose an ancestor that I wanted to know more about for my challenge. So here she is!  Miss Sarah DOYLE. My 2x Great Grandmother.

To find the Slave owner of Sarah Doyle, how he obtained her and her death date.
Challenge: To determine who the slave owner(s) of Sarah Doyle was, how he obtained her and her family and find out when she died. She was born in Virginia abt 1840, d. sometime between 1886-1892. No records other that the 1870 & 1880 census have been found for her. Interviews with descendants say that Sarah Doyle is buried in the DOYLE family cemetery (heavily wooded) in Gretna,Va.  I have mostly oral family history, stories passed on from her children and grandchildren.

Others: Possible slave owners Burwell LEE, Robert Austin LEE, Gen.Robert E. LEE, Mildred Dillard DOYLE LEE, John LEE of Rockbridge, Va.

Years: 1840-1865

Tribe (s):  Virginia- Pittsylvania and Campbell counties.

Summary:  Sarah is found on the1870 & 1880 U.S. Federal Census in Pittsylvania County, VA. She is shown living on the plantation/Farm of Burwell Lee along with her parents, Peter and Eliza Doyle, her siblings and children; Parris, Emerson, Mildred, Eliza, Peter, Mary Elizabeth and Mattie ( b. 1879 had a different father).
According to the family story Sarah was Cherokee Indian and white. She was a slave to General Robert E. Lee, and that he was the father of six of her children. She was brought to the plantation as a child and her parents were brought there later to live with her. At this point, I have found no evidence or even a clue that Robert E. LEE was her owner. All clues point to Burwell LEE and his family being the probable owner. Burwell had a son named Robert Austin LEE. I believe that the story changed as it was retold over the years and that Robert A. LEE was replaced with Gen. Robert E.LEE
  •   The fact that Sarah is shown living next to Burwell Lee in the 1870 census leads me to believe that he is the probable slave owner.
  •  The 1860 census slave schedule shows that Burwell Lee did own two mulatto slaves fitting the description of Sarah and her oldest son Parris. (B.abt 1858).
  •  The 1850 census Slave schedule, Burwell is not shown owning a mulatto slave fitting Sarah's description.
  • The 1860 census for General Robert E. LEE does not show him owning slaves fitting their description.
  •  On the marriage record of Sarah’s daughter Mary Elizabeth (b. 1870) to her second husband William Toler in 1904, although misspelled, she lists her father as Burwell LEE.
  Mildred Dillard Doyle, married John Doyle of Rockbridge in Sept. 1854 in Pittsylvania Co.Va. Since Mildred was referred to as the Widow Mildred D. Doyle, I assume that John Doyle died. She married Burwell Lee in 1857 also in Pittsylvania County.  Burwell was a wealthy tobacco farmer. He owned the town of Leesville, Va and later became the Justice of the peace.


1.    When did Sarah die?
2.    Were Eliza and Peter Doyle really her parents?
3.    Was Burwell LEE her owner? If so, how and where did he obtain her?
4.    Was Sarah owned by Mildred Dillard Doyle LEE prior to her marriage to Burwell in 1857?
5.    Was Sarah owned by John Doyle? Mildred’s previous husband.
6.    Was Sarah a gift to John Doyle and Mildred when they married in Virginia in 1854?
7.    Was Sarah and her family given as a wedding gift to Burwell’s son, Robert Austin LEE ?

Where do I go Next: 
Research family records of Burwell LEE family, Deeds, Wills..
Records for John Doyle and Mildred Dillard
Possibly look at records for Mildred's father Lynch Dillard

References: 1870 & 1880 census, uploaded to Basecamp
1860 slave schedules

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Remembering Grandma Margaret

Today I woke up with my grandma on my mind. It's been almost three years since her passing and I still have days that are difficult. I miss her so much. Grandma would think she was a celebrity if she knew I was blogging about her! She would ask me "What the heck is a blog?" She was " The Life of The Party" always laughing, smiling, she loved her family. This is my favorite picture of her. She looks so happy. It shows her twinkling eyes, blue in color. She was a special woman and very feisty. She had so many little quirky sayings, she kept us all laughing. I credit her for my passion for genealogy and sewing. We would spend hours talking about her family, her showing me pictures. We did this over and over again. over the years. Then she would pull out the sewing machine. "Mama and Papa" as she called them. Her Papa was a coal miner from Virginia that migrated to the Coal mining camps of Buxton, Iowa. She lived long, 94 years. Born in 1916 she knew all about the Great depression and talked about it often. She would say  "It's Sin to Waste Food". That is now ingrained in my head, I heard it so much growing up. Margaret Doyle James, will always be remembered. Her love, courage and strength that she displayed continues to inspire me.


52 Ancestors, Week 5: in The Census

Mariah Hall Conaway I'm playing catch up with the 52 Ancestors challenge. It's funny how quickly you can get behind. The promp...