Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Notebook: A Gift Of History

My ancestors on my husbands side of the family have been poking me for quite some time. Their voice is loud and clear. It's time to share their story. And so we begin..

My husband has witnessed first hand my obsession with genealogy and my excitement as I have connected with new found relatives over the years. So I guess that I shouldn't have been surprised when he asked me one day, when was I going to find someone on his side of the family? I chuckled as I realized that he was interested in his ancestors after all..I took that as my cue to start digging into his past. His request was to find out something about his paternal grandfather who he knew absolutely nothing about.

I'll begin with my husband's father, Charles Emmit McKinney. He was an interesting individual, to say the least. Although I had known my father-in-law for years. I never asked him about his family. All I knew is that he was raised by his maternal grandmother, Edith Elizabeth FLEMING-PRATER, whom he affectionately called "Mom" and her husband Albert Thomas PRATER.

Charles Emmet McKinney
One day when he came to visit. I began to question him on his family. He told me that they were all from Tennessee and had migrated to Cincinnati, Ohio. He told me bits and pieces about his family. Most of which my husband didn't even know. I was amazed!  I was even more surprised when a few days later my husband came home with a notebook that his father instructed him to give to me. I opened it and there it was. He had written his family history, beginning with his great grandmother. There were Birth and death dates, Stories, pictures. My father-in Law passed away not long after this. How glad I am that we have this history to share. Glad that I was moved on that day to ask him the questions. What he left, a notebook written in his handwriting are puzzle pieces to the past. If I had of never asked him, I probably would not have known.

Charles was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on May 18, 1940 to Charles William McKinney and Mary Louise Fleming. His parents; who married as young teenagers, didn't stay together long. He described his parents as people who loved to party. His grandmother disapproving of this, took young Charles and moved to Minneapolis, Mn in the 1940's. Charles loved to sing and was a popular teen singer around Minneapolis in the 1950's. He was a member of  two bands. The five Velvetones and Little Charles  And The Big M's.

Now we come to Charles' father. Charles William Mckinney. I call him the mystery man. I don't have any pictures of him. What I know about him is written on one page, contained in the notebook that my father-in law wrote. He is describes his father as a man small in stature that liked to sing and wanted to be a prize fighter. He looked like he was mixed, part negro and Asian with curly hair. Charles William was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in about 1920. His mother was a light skinned woman known only as Mrs. Hunt. He had a sister named Christine and a brother named J.D. Charles is listed in the1940 census in Cincinnati,Ohio living with his wife Mary Louise and her parents.

What ever happened to Charles W. Mckinney? the answer to that question remains to be found. I am sure that he is out there somewhere, along with a whole family waiting to be found. In the meantime, I will continue to put this puzzle together..tracing the ancestors one leaf at a time.



© 2013 Denise Muhammad


  1. Oh, I loved the book that fell into your lap!! See what happens when we just TALK to people??Loved it.

    1. Exactly! we cannot be afraid to ask questions. Appreciate your comment. :)

  2. Wow! Great blog post Denise, I look forward to reading more about what you uncover about your husvands grandfather.

  3. Very Nicely done to start it off! Sending Wishes for the Ancestors to keep nudging!

  4. Love it when the husbands turn their ancestors over to us. Great post.

  5. Your father-in-law was just waiting to pass the history down to the family Griot!! Have you across any information of the relationships between the Chinese and the African Americans in Tennessee?

    1. No, I have never heard anything about the connection between the Chinese and African-American. Sounds very interesting!


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