Sunday, December 29, 2013

Shirley Bannarn Tanksley: Positive Affirmations

Shirley Bannarn Tanksley-1967 ( photo courtesy of Shari Doyle-Chandler)

As this year comes to an end. I find myself reflecting on the past, counting my blessings, and looking forward to the new year. Clearing out the old and making room for the new. I remember my new years resolutions that I made at the beginning of this year. Talking out loud to myself..a trait that I know I inherited from my mother. I had firmly declared that this would be the year that I would take my genealogy research to the next level, I wasn't exactly sure what the next level was. I just knew that I had to do more. I told myself that I would push harder, strive to invest more time and find an improved strategy to find my ancestors.

Looking through my genealogy files I came across some papers that reminded me of my Aunt Shirley. She had given them to me several years ago. It was Thanksgiving day and my family gathered at my brother's home for dinner that year. She smiled, handed me a stack of papers and said. "Here Honey, take these papers",You will know what to do with them more than I will". I was surprised that she gave them to me. knowing how interested she was in genealogy, she had also been researching our history. The papers contained names of family members that she had written, generation after generation with birth and death dates. Included were her notes of some of her research that she had done and information on the Seminole Indians. Once again, I was being handed family information and being told that I would know what to do.

Shirley Ann Bannarn Tanksley was my mother's sister.The oldest child of Anthony Bannarn and Margaret Doyle. She passed away in May of this year at the age of 73. Growing up, we called her the Cool Auntie. A name that we made up for her because of her laid back and soft spoken personality. I never once heard her raise her voice. She was so proud of her family. Always smiling, always optimistic, she could see the sunshine even on a dark cloudy day. I've always admired her for her positive outlook on life and loving spirit. She truly believed in the power of positive thought and the power of prayer. She used to say that there was energy contained in positive and negative thoughts. Be careful of what you say. Your words carry weight, once released into the universe they have the power to change things. Speak what it is that you want into existence. You can achieve anything you want. You must see it and believe it. Positive affirmations being used to manifest change in your life.

When I reflect on this year, the resolutions that I made in the beginning. I realized that my genealogy research has indeed reached another level. I didn't even notice, It swept right past me. Somewhere in the midst of finding the Facebook group AAGSAR (African American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research), starting a blog and sharing my family history. It happened. I was at the next level. This was the improved strategy that I had been looking for.

If Aunt Shirley were here, maybe she would tell me that by talking to myself I had called what I wanted into existence. She would love the blog and would be proud that I was sharing the stories. People are placed in our lives for reason, and a season. They touch us in one way or another and become part of the story. Aunt Shirley is still with me, she is with us all. Smiling, turning cloudy days to sunshine and encouraging us with her loving, positive words and thoughts..

Aunt Shirley 2011


© 2013 Denise Muhammad

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mary B. Carr Doyle: Who Is Frank Molloy?

If you like a good on!

This past summer my cousin gave me this funeral announcement hoping  that I could figure out the mystery of who Frank Molloy is, and is he related to our family. This article was found in a large old bible, that was published in 1882. This bible, with pages crumbling and falling apart had an ornately engraved black leather cover and had belonged to my Great-Grandmother, Mary Belle Carr Doyle. There are no inscriptions inside. Neither one of us had a clue of why it was in the bible, nor had we ever heard the name MOLLOY in our family.

According to this announcement, Frank was a young man who drowned in a boating accident at pine lake in La porte, Indiana. In July of 1886. A young woman by the name of Mrs. Rose Stern was in the boat with him. She drowned as well.

I began researching Frank, trying to find a connection. I found that he was just 16 years old at the time of his death. The news of this accident was printed in several local newspapers, even in the new york times..which I thought was strange. Why so many newspapers, in different states? I also found that Frank was the son of  a very well known Evangelist named  Emma Molloy. Emma was known as the Temperance Evangelist. She also was an editor of a newspaper that she ran with her husband, Edward Molloy. Frank was her only natural child. She had adopted a few other children. So far I've only found her daughter Cora LEE. Emma became a part of a huge scandal when a murder took place on her farm.

  The Graham Tragedy and the MOLLOY-LEE examination


My Thoughts:

Mary B. Carr was born the same year that Frank Molloy died, 1886. So obviously she didn't cut that news clip out of the paper. Maybe the bible belonged to her husband Peter LEE DOYLE. And the news clip was sent to him. Maybe there's a connection between him and Cora LEE. Maybe it belonged to her mother. So who was Frank MOLLOY and how does he relate to my family? I have really tried to think out side of the box on this one..and still, no answers.

 © 2013 Denise Muhammad

Friday, December 13, 2013

Mary Belle and John CARR: The Big Puzzle

Mary B. Carr-Doyle
My maternal Great-Grandmother Mary Bell Carr has always been somewhat of a mystery to me. Grandma Margaret talked about her mother often. However, she hardly knew anything about her family history. Mary was born in 1886 in Lynchburg, Virginia. She married Peter Doyle in 1903 becoming a step mother to his three young daughters from his first marriage; Hattie, Mattie and Letha. Mary Belle never talked about her past, not her parents, not her grandparents..nothing. Grandma always said she thought that it was very strange. Who doesn't talk about their family?  she always thought there was some big secret she was hiding. Mary had one brother, John Wesley Carr. Known as "Uncle Johnny". The only thing that was known is that they were from Lynchburg, Virginia. Their mother died when they were children and that they were raised by an aunt. John and Mary were very close. Uncle Johnny didn't talk about his past either. He only said that his mother told him on her death bed to take care of his little sister, Mary. I remember my grandma telling me that in her day, children were seen and not heard. As a child, you just simply did not ask questions. And she never did. She wished that she had known her grandparents. She asked me if I could find out who they were. She said that it would be great if she could just find out what their names were before she died.

As I started looking more into Grandma Mary's past. Cousin Martha, who was very close with Grandma Mary, told me all about her past. She said that Mary Belle and her brother John were the illegitimate children of their mother and the German doctor that she worked for. This doctor took advantage of their mother. The mother died when they were very young. After her death, the father wanted to take Mary and John and raise them, however the mother's family would not have it. She said that they were raised by the mother's family. Aunt Bert or Bertie..she never could remember the name exactly. According to cousin Martha, this was part of the reason why she never spoke of her family. She was too ashamed of being an Illegitimate child.

Looking for Her Parents:
I put up many posts on various message boards hoping to find a connection. Finally a cousin, who seen my post and contacted me. She was from the CARR family. Said that she found the marriage record of Mary and her husband Peter Doyle. This record listed her parents names as Nellie GOGGINS and John CARR There it was! Grandma Margaret was so excited! She had finally found the name of her grandparents.
John Wesley Carr 1884-1959
John W.Carr was born in Lynchburg, Virginia  about 1884. I'm not sure when he came to Minnesota. He first shows up in the 1920 census, where he is shown living with the Sherman Finch Family in St.Paul, MN. He worked as a Chauffeur for the family for 25 years. Mom remembers that he loved to go fishing. He married Sue Sten in about 1938-39. Sue was from Germany. I'm sure that STEN was a shortened version of her original name. After he and Sue divorced he came to live with grandma Margaret. My Mom was a little girl then, she remembers Uncle Johnny bringing her baked beans all the time because she loved them so much. John was a member of the Sterling Club in St.Paul, Mn. To my knowledge he never had any children. He always took care of his sister. He bought her a house after her husband died. Grandma said he had a lot of trouble with his legs from all the driving he did. He died in Hastings, Minnesota in 1956. John was wealthy and left most of his money to his fishing buddies. Grandma always fussed about that.When he died Grandma Mary had him brought to Iowa to be buried in Glendale Cemetery where the family was buried at.

The latest mystery. A cousin who was contacted by a Carr family member, who found adoption records in Iowa stating that that John and Mary were actually NICHOLS and were adopted by the Carr family. She said that the Carr and the Nichols family were related...Hmmm..this is strange being that they were born in Virginia. I'm Still researching this one.

Other than her marriage record. I've never found Mary in any document before 1910. She first shows up in Mahaska county Iowa in the 1910 census, living with her husband and children. As I said earlier, John doesn't show up in the census until 1920, in Minnesota. I realized that searching for my ancestors who were light enough to be taken as white. Makes it more difficult when you don't know exactly what location they were in. Throughout the census records after 1920. John was listed as white and black. Talk about confusing!

Just a few of my endless questions:
Where were Mary B. and her brother John between 1884-1900?
When did Mary come to Iowa?
Who did she go to Iowa with?
Were they really adopted?
It makes me dizzy..So many unanswered questions. Wait..There's another mystery to this story about Grandma Mary! more about that in my next blog post.

Siblings: Mary B. Carr Doyle and John Carr-photo courtesy of Shari Chandler Doyle


© 2013 Denise Muhammad

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Finding Hassie Bannarn

Hassie & siblings- with parents, Steve Thompson & Alice Fuller
I came across this photo once again today and knew that it was time to pen this blog which is long over due.

This past summer, my mother called to tell me that she had received a picture of her paternal grandmother, Hassie Thompson Bannarn. She said that the picture was of Hassie as a child with her parents and siblings. She knew that I would be excited, being that in all these years we've never been able to locate a picture of her. Once I saw the picture, I was even more curious because I've never heard of Hassie having any siblings except for one sister named Lela. I wondered if they were really her siblings..if so, why hadn't I ever heard of them.

The Photo 
I have been looking at this picture for months trying to figure out why it looks so strange to me.I've looked at every detail, searching their faces, looking at their clothing. And it occured to me, that the little girl on the right is leaning back. Her eyes look strange, slightly off. Actually both girls are leaning a bit. I wondered if they just had bad posture or if they were  deceased. What a morbid thought. However, I know that there was a time when they took photographs of the dead.They all look so sad to me. Still and solemn. I wonder why they didn't smile back then.

My mother never met her grandmother. She died in 1942, when my mother was just a baby. I've always wondered what she looked like, as did my mother. My Grandma used to tell me all about her mother-in-law, Hassie..Mrs. Bannarn as she called her. She said that she was an Angel and the sweetest woman that she knew. Hassie and her husband Dee Bannarn had come to Minnesota from Oklahoma in about 1913. Hassie later developed severe arthritis that left her body deformed. Her arms and hands were drawn up to her chest. She couldn't walk and was confined to her bed. They took her to many different doctors, even to some place were they had hot springs. They still could not figure out what was wrong or how to cure her condition. Her husband and children took care of her. Grandma Hassie's hair was so long, they would have to drape it over the iron bed rail to brush it and it almost touched the floor. My Grandma remembered Hassie's son, Mike, being very close with his mother. She said that he came home from school everyday and took care of her. My cousin, Mike's daughter, remembered a similar story. She said that he would sleep on the floor next to his mother's bed. Grandma was there the day that Grandma Hassie died. She said that when they lifted her off the bed that the bed springs played a song. " My God Near To Thee". I've never fully understood that, but grandma swore by that story and told it to me a million times.

My Mother at 23 years old.
When I asked my grandma Margaret what Hassie looked like. She replied "Like an Indian woman". They were all Indian, meaning, Grandma Hassie's husband  Dee and his family. The Bannarn's. She followed that by telling me that if I wanted to know what she looked like, just look at my mother, because she was the spitting image of her. Same long black hair, same skin tone, same features..she looked just like her. Aunt Jewell, who was Hassie's daughter always told my mother the same thing. That she couldn't believe how much mom looked like her mother, Hassie. 

Lela Thompson Bannarn: Hassie's Sister.
Hassie was from Texas. According to her death certificate she was born in 1880 in Lonestar, Texas to parents Stephen Thompson and Alice Fuller. I have always been told that she was full blooded Creek Indian, however some say that she was also part Cherokee. The first census that I found Hassie in was the 1880 census for Cherokee county, Texas. She was five months old and is shown living with her parents, who were also from Texas. Her race is listed as Black.There is also another child shown living in the same house. Her name was Rosey. She was 3 months old, and also is listed as being the daughter of Steve and Alice. Her race is listed as white and according to this record, her mother was from Georgia and her father was from Alabama. Now I'm trying to figure out , who was Rosey? maybe she was a family member that they took in. It doesn't seem like she was the biological child of Steve and Alice. I've wondered if Rosey is one of the little girls in the picture. Being that they were close in age. It could be. If these are her siblings in the picture. Who are they? and what happened to them? At this point. I have found no information about Rosey or any other siblings besides  her sister. Lela. Lela married Dee Bannarn's brother John, and was part of the migration to Minnesota with the rest of the Bannarn family. 

I continue to search for Hassie, she's so interesting. I've traced her in the census from 1880-1940. I know that she was Indian. However, I've yet to find her listed as that. Always mulatto or black. There's still so much more to find. The search continues..


© 2013 Denise Muhammad

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why I Blog: My Heart And Soul

Grandma Margaret and cousin Beanie

Thanks to Bernita Allen I was inspired to pen this blog. After reading her story about her grandma Edna. My grandmother instantly came to mind. Bernita's story, which was like reading a great book. Made me think about the beauty of family and why I blog about family history.

I am the last person that thought that I would ever be blogging. Especially since up until a few short months ago I didn't know exactly what a blog was. It wasn't until then that I realized that the stories that I grew up listening to were enough to fill the pages of a book. Genealogy has been my passion for many years. I thought that having a family tree on was good enough. I've always made my tree public. Sharing my collection of names, dates, and a few pictures. Finding relatives along the way. What I never shared were the stories. These stories of my ancestors are what my grandma Margaret had shared with me all my life. They were wrapped up in the special private moments that we shared with one another. To many moments to count. Thanks to her, I had a personal story to go with the most of the names. Grandma knew something about everyone in the family. Relatives that I didn't know, those who were long gone. They lived through the stories that she told about them. She gave special details of what they looked like, their personality, what their life was like. So much information that since I've started blogging I sometimes don't know where to begin.

Through these stories she was sharing a piece of herself with me. The memories of her parents and her family were special to her and she wanted me to know.  I became fascinated with my grandma and everything about her. The stories of  my ancestors have been engrained in my mind and reside in my heart. I can still see us sitting at her small kitchen table..talking over a cup of tea. Even as an adult I would go spend the weekend with her at her home. I remember the last time that I was there. She insisted that I take the huge family picture book. I refused, knowing how special the pictures were to her. She insisted again, telling me that she wanted me to have them. She said that it was time and that I would know what to do with them. At the time she was 90 years old and I hadn't a clue of what she meant by saying that. I took the book and didn't ask her what she meant. I kept thinking to myself,  had I really asked her everything? What else could I ask her that she had not already told me. I tried hard to think of something..nothing else came to mind. It wasn't long before her life changed. I watched my feisty grandmother who was always sharp as a tack slip away. Her eyes no longer sparkled, their color had changed to a dark dull grey. She had become a victim of Dementia, and it had robbed her of her memories. She no longer recognized me as her granddaughter.
L. to R. Mom with her mother,Grandma Margaret and unknown cousin

Letting Go And Sharing The Story:
The day that I requested to join the new Facebook group AAGSAR (African American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research)  was a new beginning. Little did I know that becoming a member of this new group would change my genealogy research as I knew it. I thought it was like any other Facebook genealogy group. I quickly found out that was not true. This is a serious ancestor seeking, helping one another, working group. Thanks to Luckie Daniels and her gentle nudge..well, it was actually more like a big push. Always gently encouraging me to keep moving. I started a blog. In the beginning, it was very uncomfortable. I remember thinking that I have absolutely nothing to say, what would I blog about?  I felt like I needed "Blogging for Dummies". I was not a writer. I certainly was not prepared for this. Following the example of  the great bloggers of AAGSAR..I continued to work on my blog. There were so many beautiful blogs. Each one was amazing. In this group." Each one teach one" truly comes to life.

Everyone stands on the shoulders of those who came before. Someone always leads the way. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. I guess I was finally ready to share the stories and a blog was the platform that I needed. I am thankful that I was guided to AAGSAR and for it's creator, Luckie Daniels. With four blogs I would say that I have become a bit addicted to blogging. I still consider myself a newbie, always searching for the right words. Trying to find my way.

I blog because of family, for my grandmother, for the Ancestors who are leading the way. I know now that I must tell their story. It continues to be a journey of self discovery. I have learned that Blogging is truly good for the soul. I now understand why grandma wanted me to have the picture book. I know what she meant when she told me that I would know what to do. She knew what I didn't know.. This is what I was supposed to do. Share the story. She had given me everything that I needed. I just had to reach within myself.


© 2013 Denise Muhammad

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...