Monday, May 25, 2009

The Choir March Tradition

During my youth and young adult years (1970s and 1980s), I was a church choir member. During this time, the tradition of my church was for the choir to march into the church down the aisle, and into the choir stand. As the choir marched in singing, while rocking or swaying from side-to-side, the congregation would stand up and look towards the back of the church to watch the choir processional.

When the senior choir in my childhood church sang and marched down the aisle, I would always look at their shoes and would pass judgment in my mind as to if the shoes were pretty or ugly. I think that most of the children in my church did the same thing. I did not realize how much I missed and valued the choir march tradition until last month when I visited a family church.

Since the early 1990s, I have not been a member of a church where the choir marched into the choir stand. Instead, these church choirs simply gather in the choir stand prior to the beginning of service and stand up together before the opening song. I have, however, visited churches since the early 1990s, who still do the choir march.

Last month, when I visited my father’s family church, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in the Skippers area of Greensville County, VA, I realized how much I missed the choir march tradition. On that 4th Sunday in April, the youth choir marched into the church. As they marched in, a thought hit me as I watched and recalled that some churches, which formerly practiced the choir march tradition, no longer did this. I got excited as I watched these young people march and sing. For more on my 4th Sunday in April visit, click here.

In the second service that afternoon, the mass choir marched into the church. I was thrilled and excited by the upbeat music and their marching! I took several pictures instead of video, but later I wished that I had thought about my digital camera video instead. I promised myself that I would remember to videoe the next time I visited Antioch.

Yesterday, I visited Antioch again and the service was spiritually uplifting. This time I made sure to videotape the choir march. Some choirs sing as they march in; but the choir at Antioch marched in as the musicians played. They began singing when all the choir members got into the choir stand. Like some marching choirs, the Antioch choir was escorted in by an usher. (See portion of video below)

I do not know when or where the church march tradition began in churches, but I love it, not only because it is a reminder of the church traditions of my youth, but also because I believe that it sets the tone of worship as the choir enters the church singing praises to God.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings

Randy Seaver of Genea-Musing blog does a fantastic job in engaging other bloggers in interactivity as well as promoting other blogs. One of his weekly postings is The Best of Genea-Blogs where he selects blog postings for the weekly list based on the following criteria.

“My criteria for "Best of ..." are pretty simple - I pick posts that advance
knowledge about genealogy and family history, address current genealogy issues,
provide personal family history, are funny or are poignant. I don't list posts
destined for the genealogy carnivals, or other meme submissions (but I do
include summaries of them), or my own posts.”

I made the list for the second time with my Memory Monday posting entitled My Blog Gets Acknowledgement at Church Service

Thanks again, Randy, for this honor, and thanks for all your hard work in advancing and promoting genealogy blogging.

Professor Dru

Thursday, May 14, 2009

One Lovely Blog Award

I am honored to be a recipient of the “One Lovely Blog Award.” Many thanks go to my fellow Bloggers Greta Koehl of Greta’s Genealogy Bog, Cheryl Palmer Fleming of Heritage, and Earline Hines Bradt of Ancestral Notes, for selecting me for this award.

As a recipient of this award, I am required to nominate seven other blogs.

  1. Steve’s Genealogy Blog by Stephen Danko

  2. Family Griot by Family Griot

  3. African Roots Podcast Designs by Angela Walton-Raji

  4. The Blessedness of Believing by Linda Meadows

  5. Genealogy – Photograph – Restoration by George Geder

  6. Christine’s Genealogy Website by Christine

  7. Black Tennis Pros by Sheila
Finally, I will leave comments on each of these blogs. Thanks again to Greta, Cheryl, and Earline for your nominations. I am honored to be included in a group of such Great Bloggers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - Uncle Moses Robinson

Uncle Moses Robinson (1893-1979) was the son of my great great grandparents, Joshua and Ersie Jane Providence Robinson. My Robinson family lived in the Skippers area of Greensville County, VA. He is buried in the Robinson Family Cemetery of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Memory Monday - My Blog Gets Acknowledgement at Church Service

On the fourth Sunday in April 2009, I attended church services at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in the Skippers area of Greensville County, VA which is about an hour and a half away from my home. When I arrived at the church, I sat in a certain section by myself. A minute later a cousin who had invited me to the service came over to tell me that she and other members of our family were sitting on the other side of the church. I moved to where they were and sat beside one of my aunts whose wheelchair was adjacent to a front pew.

The service was spiritually uplifting and there were many visitors there, including myself, who came to honor a former pastor of the church.

Since 1987, I have visited this church on several occasions for homecoming services and funerals of relatives in my father’s family. A few minutes before the benediction of the first service, the church pastor gave remarks. He was a new pastor of this church and not the same one whom I had met on previous visits.

I don’t remember the pastor’s exact words, but below is the gist of what I recall him saying and my reactions to his words.

Pastor: “We have a special visitor here today…”

Me: I’m a visitor, I thought, but it’s probably not me—there’re a lot of visitors here today for this special service---I don’t think my cousin told him that I was coming.

Pastor: “And she has a website called “Find Your Folks.”

Me: Oh my God, Oh my God, I repeated in my mind. That’s me. I’m sure I was smiling from ear to ear by this time as my heart raced.

Pastor: She wrote on her site that she would be visiting here today and she is a member of the Robinson family. He was referring to the Church Homecoming article written on April 19, 2009. “And she goes by the name ‘Professor Dru’ on the Internet, the pastor announced.”

Me: I was still in shocked to learn that the new pastor of my family church was also one of my blog readers. Despite my feelings of shock and elation, I graciously stood up after Pastor Tatum revealed my Internet name, turned toward the congregation, and waved. I felt like a celebrity for the day.


After the service ended, two ladies, who were sitting to my left on the front pew, introduced themselves and revealed that they part of the Robinson family. They said that they were descendants of Margaret. I knew from my research that their ancestor was a daughter of my great-great grandparents Joshua and Ersie Jane Providence Robinson.

Another lady sitting behind me asked which set of Robinsons I was from. I didn’t recognize the name of her father who was a Robinson. Finally, I pointed to my aunt who was sitting beside me, and asked the lady if she was kin to her. “Yes,” she replied. “So, I guess that makes us kin too,” I told her.

I was anxious to talk to the pastor after his grand announcement during his remarks. After meeting my three new cousins, I walked towards the pulpit which was just a few steps away.

Professor Dru of "Find Your Folks" blog and Pastor Tatum of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church

“How, did you find my blog?" I asked Pastor Tatum as I stood below the pulpit.

“I wanted to know about the history of this church after I became Pastor, so I searched the Internet,” he told me. I did recall posting an article which included the history of this church.

“When did you become pastor?” I asked. (The genealogist in me had to have a date or time frame.)

“March 2008,” he responded.

Pastor Tatum also mentioned several other postings on my blog such as a photo taken in the cemetery of the church during the 1950s. I did not remember this photo at first, but eventually recalled the photo of my grandmother Hattie Moore Pair at the graveside of her father Robert Moore. Read here-Robinson Family Cemetery

“You made my Day,” I told Pastor Tatum at the end of this conversation.

When I returned home later that evening, I searched my blog for the article mentioned by Pastor Tatum that included church history of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. I found that it was posted on Sunday, April 28, 2008, which was the month after he became pastor of this church. Read here-Sacred Sunday I had obtained a written copy of the history of the church after I wrote a letter to the previous pastor sometime in the late 1990s.

It has been over two weeks since I visited Antioch Missionary Baptist Church and I am still SMILING every time I think about the events of that WONDERFUL Sunday.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mama and Little Me

This is my favorite picture of my Mama holding me when I was a baby over 45 years ago. Today, I pause to remember my Mama who died in August 2007. I am also blessed to have an 87-year-old maternal grandmother who is still alive.

To all the Mother's in the world, I hope you had a HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My 10 Favorite Genealogy Websites

Below are 10 of my favorite genealogy-specific and genealogy-related websites. I got this idea from Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings. Other bloggers also participated in the Saturday Night Fun (Read here)

  • Roots Television ~ lots of genealogy videos.

  • Afrigeneas ~ love the genealogy chats and forums.

  • Genealogy Blog Finder ~ great resource for finding genealogy related blogs.

  • ~ documents, documents, documents! So many electronic genealogy documents.
  • US GenWeb ~ great resource for locating genealogy resources for localities all around the country.
  • Roots Web ~ love using this site for various discussion boards and family trees.
  • ~ secure site with logins for my Bullock and Thornton families and a group of Family Tree Maker users.
  • Twitter ~ a great forum to share links to various genealogy resources and for meeting other genealogist.
  • Facebook ~ a great forum for sharing resources, meeting other genealogists, and old friends from high school and college.
  • YouTube ~ lots of videos on almost any subject imaginable including genealogy and software that can aid in managing genealogy and writing projects.
  • Tuesday, May 5, 2009

    Tombstone Tuesday - Aunt Lucretia

    This is the oldest tombstone I have found so far in the cemtery of Antioch Baptist Church in the Skippers area of Greensville County, VA. I have not looked through the entire cemetery yet, so there is a chance there may be other older tombstones still visible.

    L. C. Hill was Lucretia C. Robinson Hill, who was a daughter of my great-great grandparents Joshua and Ersie Jane Providence Robinson. Aunt Lucretia died at age 34.

    Sunday, May 3, 2009

    Using Date Calculator in Genealogy Software (Continued)

    Yesterday, I wrote about using the Date Calculator in Family Tree Maker 2009 and also introduced the saga of the two Bettys, who were two women freed from slavery in Greensville County, VA. (Read yesterday’s posting here)

    My research question in this case was “Who was the correct Betty and which one could have been the mother of Henry and Allen Ferguson?” Was she the 47-year-old woman who registered on August 23, 1814, who was born around 1767 and freed by Nathaniel Mabry? Or was she the other Betty, the 60-year-old woman who registered on December 29, 1820 and was born around 1860? There is only a seven year difference between their ages, so how could I identify the correct mother? Betty #1 would have been around ages 30 and 31 and Betty #2 ages 37 and 38 when Henry and Allen Ferguson were born in 1797 and 1798.

    Understand Laws of the Time
    In order to understand how to possibly solve this type of genealogical mystery; a researcher must first understand the laws* of the time affecting Free Negroes in Virginia.

    Beginning in 1793, the Virginia General Assembly mandated that Free Negroes or Persons of Color be required to register with the court every three years. The surviving register of Greensville County, VA was kept from 1806 to 1832.

    Since there were no photograph identifications at this time, a physical description was written about each free person. This register entries indicated skin color (black, yellow), age, and any distinguishing marks or characteristics of each person. Free Negroes were required to carry a paper with them at all times documenting their freedom. Freedom was obtained from slavery by following three methods:

    1. Birth (if their mother was free). Status of father did not matter.
    2. Purchasing their freedom
    3. By Will or Deed from slave master

    The registration for Betty #1 indicates that she was freed in a will, however the registration of Betty #2 does not name the document that gave her freedom. Further research revealed that Betty #2 was freed by a deed from Dr. Jessee A. Bonner in 1820.

    Establishing a Timeline
    Creating a timeline is always helpful in genealogy research because it helps to see a clearer picture of a sequence of events. Documents used to generate a timeline for this case were:

    • Free Negro Register entries for the two Bettys and Henry and Allen Ferguson
    • Will of slave owner Nathaniel Mabry
    • Deed of slave owner Dr. Jessee A. Bonner
    • Virginia laws for Free Negroes


    • Abt. 1760: Betty #2 is born

    • Abt. 1767: Betty #1 is born

    • 1793: Virginia Assembly establishes a law requiring Free Negroes to register with court.*
      February 1795: Will of Nathaniel Mabry is proved in court of Greensville County, VA which included his wish for freeing his slaves including one named Betty. (Greensville County, VA Will Book 1, pages 277-282.)

    • Abt. 1797: Henry Ferguson, son of Betty, is born

    • Abt. 1798: Allen Ferguson, son of Betty, is born

    • 1806: Beginning of Greensville County, VA Free Negro Register

    • August 23, 1814: Betty #1 registers in Greensville County, VA court

    • December 27, 1820: Dr. Jessee A. Bonner frees his slave Betty and her husband Sambo in a deed (Greensville County, VA Deed Book 5, page 368)

    • December 29, 1820: Betty #2 registers in Greensville County, VA court

    Based on the documents and information used to create this timeline, I conclude that Betty #1, the former slave of Nathaniel Mabry who was freed around 1795 was the mother of Henry and Allen. Given that Henry and Allen were born free about 1797 and 1798, Betty #2 could not have been their mother because she did not gain her freedom until 1820 and the law in Virginia dictated that the mother had to be free in order for her children to be born free.

    Additional Questions
    As a result of this conclusion, I asked the question, “What was the age of Betty #1 when the will of Nathaniel Mabry was proved in 1795?” Using the Family Tree Maker 2009 Date Calculator, I typed in her estimated birth year of 1767 and the date of the known event as 1795. Before I typed in these variables, I clicked on “Age.” at the top of the dialog box in Item to calculate. The answer to this question is that she was about age 28 at the time of her slave owner’s will. Numerous other slaves were named in Nathaniel Mabry’s will and these individuals and families will be discussed in later postings.

    *Note: Black Laws of Virginia : A Summary of the Legislative Acts of Virginia Concerning Negroes from Earliest Times to the Present (Paperback), Heritage Books (1936), ISBN-10: 1888265191 or ISBN-13: 978-1888265194

    Saturday, May 2, 2009

    Using Date Calculator in Genealogy Software

    Thanks to Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings for last Saturday’s night fun (April 25, 2009) on using the Date calculator in genealogy software. When I need to determine a birth year or some other genealogical calculation, I always create a formula in the Microsoft Excel software. Occasionally, I use a pocket calculator or the computer calculator located in the Accessories section in Windows. I did not know that genealogy software had a date calculator until last Saturday night.

    Family Tree Maker Date Calculator
    I use Family Tree Maker 2009 and I accessed the Date calculator by clicking on the Tools menu and the Date Calculator option.

    Date Calculation Project
    Since last Saturday night, I have been using the Date Calculator feature of my genealogy software to calculate various types of dates. Today, I pulled out data from the Greensville County, VA Free Negro Register, 1803-1832. I was focusing on the Ferguson family because Sandy Ferguson and his wife Susan are believed have deed land in the 1870s for the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. I do not think that I am directly kin to the Fergusons, but several members of this family have married into my Robinson and Greenway family in the Skippers area of Greensville County, VA.

    Henry and Allen Ferguson
    In the register, the mother of Henry and Allen Ferguson is named as “Betty.” I had calculated their estimated birth years a long time ago and determined that they were born some time between 1797 and 1798.

    The Two Bettys
    Two Bettys were listed in the Free Negro Register and I had not calculated their estimated birth year because I wasn’t sure which Betty was the mother of Henry and Allen. Instead of using Microsoft Excel or a calculator, I used the Family Tree Maker Date Calculator.

    Below, are the results along with the Free Negro Registration description on each Betty where I typed in the year they registered and age given on registration. The calculated birth year is in grey.

    Betty #1
    Betty, a free woman emancipated (as above*), about 47-years of age, 5' 4" high (in shoes), and has no material marks or scars on her head, face or hands perceivable. Registered August 23, 1814, Entry #44

    *Note "by the last will and testament of Nathaniel Mabry, deceased, of record in my office" Indicated in Entry #43, the one above Betty's entry.

    Betty #2
    Betty, emancipated by Doct. Jessee A. Bonner, of a dark complexion, aged about 60-years, 5' 3-1/2 high (in shoes), a small scar or lump on her right arm, her fore teeth out, by occupation a Spinner. Registered December 29, 1820, Entry #81

    Based on these estimated birth years, there is only a seven year difference between the two Bettys. Therefore, one could not possibly be the mother of the other one.

    However, searching other documents and generating additional date calculations have provided an answer to this mother mystery.

    Stay tuned tomorrow…