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Family Genealogy Workshop – Hillside International Truth Center


Gems from Gems

A few jewelry pieces gifted to me from my maternal grandmother, Helen “Mama Helen” Wilkes Owen Douthy.

Mama Helen, my maternal grandmother, had the most extensive jewelry collection with pieces from the 1920s – 1960s that remain rare finds.

She offered a story behind just about every piece of jewelry. It is why I am to piece together so many connecting points in her life and that of our family. Her pearl necklaces from Asia, Native American pieces from Mexico and Harlem Renaissance-era bracelets and necklaces, are among the several pieces in her jewelry collection that tell me how she lived. Mama Helen continued to collect jewelry until about a month before her passing in 2008.

What she left behind and what you may locate in your relatives’ jewelry boxes is more valuable in genealogy research.

If you wish to know more about how to turn your ancestor’s home into a genealogical treasure hunt for “Road Show”-style results and for successful ancestral purposes, plan to join us for three workshops Family Genealogy Workshop – Hillside International Truth Center in February 2021. The workshops are tax deductible and all proceeds will benefit the Sankofa Hillside International Truth Center, Atlanta, GA.

Our Family’s Civil War Contributions

At first, black soldiers are paid half of what white soldiers were paid. This was corrected in 1864, with some black units receiving back pay for their services.

Check out this great history lesson about Arkansas (my family’s home) Black Union Troops

Many former African-American slaves and freedmen from Arkansas answered President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to help put down the Confederate rebellion. Across the war-torn nation, 180,000 black men responded. An estimated 40,000 lost their lives in the conflict. Lincoln later credited these “men of color” with helping turn the tide of the war, calling them “the sable arm.” The official records from the U.S. government credit 5,526 men of African descent as having served in the Union army from the state of Arkansas. Between 3,000 and 4,000 additional black soldiers served in Arkansas during the war, including in heavy artillery, cavalry, and infantry regiments. In addition, black soldiers manned all of the batteries and fortifications at Helena (Phillips County) from 1864 until the end of the war in 1865.

U.S. Medals of Honor were presented to several great men who fought against all odds in the Union Army during the Civil War. Source: Wikipedia

Regiments of black soldiers were organized in Arkansas during the American Civil War as fighting units of the U.S. Army. These regiments and others were all created on May 22, 1863, when the U.S. War Department created the Bureau of Colored Troops, most commonly known at the United States Colored Troops (USCT). All of the black regiments were led by appointed white officers. On March 11, 1864, all USCT regiments were reassigned unit numbers, which historians differentiate with “old” and “new” classifications. For example, the Second Arkansas Colored Infantry became the Fifty-fourth U.S. Colored Volunteers. At first, black soldiers are paid half of what white soldiers were paid. This was corrected in 1864, with some black units receiving back pay for their services.

The Arkansas regiments included First Arkansas Battery–African Descent (Battery H, Second U.S. Colored Light Artillery), Eleventh U.S. Colored InfantryFirst Arkansas Infanty–African Descent (Forty-sixth U.S. Colored Infantry), Second Arkansas Infantry–African Descent (Fifty-fourth U.S. Colored Infantry), Third Arkansas Infantry–African Descent (Fifty-sixth U.S. Colored Infantry), Sixty-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry, Fifth Arkansas Infantry–African Descent (112th U.S. Colored Infantry), and the Sixth Arkansas Infantry–African Descent (113th U.S. Colored Infantry).

The First Arkansas Colored Infantry (Forty-sixth Colored Infantry) was assigned to the Department of the Gulf in June 1863. In addition to these regiments, other regiments of black soldiers also participated in battles and skirmishes in Arkansas. The First Kansas Colored Infantry was one such regiment. It was made up of ex-slaves from Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri. Black troops fought for the Union despite the Confederate Congress passing on May 1, 1863, a proclamation to the effect that any captured black solder fighting for the Union would be executed. Arkansas’s black regiments were garrisoned at Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Helena (Phillips County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), and Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) from late 1863 to the end of the war in 1865.

The First Arkansas Colored Regiment had its own marching song. Penned by Captain Lindley Miller of the First Arkansas, the song was sung to the tune of “John Brown’s Body” and was published in 1864. The opening stanza expressed the pride the soldiers felt in their work:

Oh, we’re the bully soldiers of the “First of Arkansas,”

We are fighting for the Union, we are fighting for the law,

We can hit a Rebel further than a white man ever saw,

As we go marching on.

Time and time again, the black soldiers proved their prowess and courage in battle. Major General James Blunt wrote after the Battle of Honey Springs in Indian Territory, in which the First Kansas Colored participated, “I never saw such fighting as was done by the Negro regiment….The question that negroes will fight is settled; besides they make better solders in every respect than any troops I have ever had under my command.” A writer for an abolitionist newspaper in Leavenworth, Kansas, remarked upon the courage of black troops at the Skirmish of Island Mound in Missouri on October 29, 1862, between Union and Confederate forces. “It is useless to talk any more of negro courage,” he wrote. “The men fight like tigers, each and every one of them, and the main difficulty was to hold them well in hand.” Writing after the battle of the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry on April 30, 1864, division commander Brigadier General Frederick Salomon said the black troops under his command fought with conspicuous gallantry.

At the Engagement at Poison Spring, fought on April 18, 1864, the black soldiers of the First Kansas suffered heavy casualties—117 died and sixty-five were wounded. The death toll was aggravated by the fact that Confederate soldiers executed the captured and wounded men left on the field. These atrocities were witnessed firsthand by the regiment’s white commander, Colonel James M. Williams. It also gave rise to the battle cry among his troops to “Remember Poison Spring!”

After the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry, fought just a few days later on April 30, 1864, an officer of the Second Kansas Colored explained, “It was a question…whether the blacks would fight.” But the black soldiers’ prowess in battle convinced not only the Confederates they would be a worthy enemy, but it also convinced many of the white soldiers who were fighting alongside them. Even the German-American soldiers of the Twenty-seventh Wisconsin, who harbored contempt for all blacks in general, agreed the black troops had done well at Jenkins’ Ferry. There were reports of black soldiers committing war atrocities, too, cutting the throats of the Confederate wounded left on the battlefield at Jenkins’ Ferry. Many black soldiers had witnessed firsthand the brutal treatment given wounded African Americans and their officers by the Confederates, and they knew they would be given no quarter.

In total, black troops fought in twenty-nine battles and skirmishes in Arkansas during the war. According to the Official Army Register of the Volunteer Force of the United States Army, 1861-1865, these battles included:

·        Arkansas River, December 18, 1864—Fifty-fourth U.S. Colored Infantry

·        Bayou Boeuf, December 13, 1863—Third U.S. Colored Cavalry

·        Big Creek, July 26, 1864—Battalion E, Second Light Artillery, Sixtieth U.S. Colored Infantry

·        Bogg’s Mill, January 24, 1865—Eleventh U.S. Colored Infantry (Old)

·        Camden, April 24, 1864—Fifty-seventh U.S. Colored Infantry

·        Chippewa Steamer, February 17, 1865—Eighty-third U.S. Colored Infantry (New)

·        Clarksville, January 18, 1865—Seventy-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry (New)

·        Fort Smith, August 24, 1864—Eleventh U.S. Colored Infantry (Old)

·        Fort Smith, December 24, 1864—Eighty-third U.S. Colored Infantry (New)

·        Helena, July 4, 1863—Second Arkansas Colored Infantry (Fifty-fourth U.S. Colored Infantry)

·        Helena, August 2, 1864—Sixty-fourth U.S. Colored Infantry

·        Horse-Head Creek, February 17, 1864—Seventy-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry (New)

·        Indian Bay, April 13, 1864—Fifty-sixth U.S. Colored Infantry

·        Jenkins’ Ferry, April 30, 1864—Seventy-ninth and Eighty-third U.S. Colored Infantry

·        Jenkins’ Ferry, May 4, 1864—Eighty-third U.S. Colored Infantry (New)

·        Joy’s Ford, January 8, 1865—Seventy-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry (New)

·        Little Rock, April 26, 1864—Fifty-seventh U.S. Colored Infantry

·        Little Rock, May 28, 1864—Fifty-seventh U.S. Colored Infantry

·        Lotus Steamer, January 17, 1865—Eighty-third U.S. Colored Infantry (New)

·        Meffleton Lodge, June 29, 1865—Fifty-sixth U.S. Colored Infantry

·        Pine Bluff, July 2, 1864—Sixty-fourth U.S. Colored Infantry

·        Poison Spring, April 18, 1864—Seventy-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry (New)

·        Prairie D’Ane, April 13, 1864—Seventy-ninth and Eighty-third U.S. Colored Infantry

·        Rector’s Farm, December 19, 1864—Eighty-third U.S. Colored Infantry (New)

·        Roseville Creek, March 20, 1864—Seventy-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry (New)

·        Ross’ Landing, February 14, 1864—Fifty-first U.S. Colored Infantry

·        Saline River, May 4, 1865—Eighty-third U.S. Colored Infantry (New)

·        Saline River, May 4, 1865—Fifty-fourth U.S. Colored Infantry

·        Wallace’s Ferry, July 26, 1864—Fifty-sixth U.S. Colored Infantry

·        White River, October 22, 1864—Fifty-third U.S. Colored Infantry

For additional information:
Bearss, Edwin Cole. Steele’s Retreat from Camden and the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry. Little Rock: Arkansas Civil War Centennial Commission, 1967.

Burkhart, George S. Confederate Rage, Yankee Wrath: No Quarter in the Civil War. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2007.

Christ, Mark K. “‘They Will Be Armed’: Lorenzo Thomas Recruits Black Troops in Helena, April 6, 1863.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 72 (Winter 2013): 366–383.

———. “‘To let you know that I am alive’: Civil War Letters of Capt. John R. Graton, First Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 78 (Spring 2019): 57–80.

Christ, Mark K., ed. “All Cut to Pieces and Gone to Hell”: The Civil War, Race Relations, and the Battle of Poison Spring. Little Rock: August House, 2003.

———. Rugged and Sublime: The Civil War in Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994.

Glatthaar, Joseph T. Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers. New York: Free Press, 1990.

Hargrove, Hondon B. Black Union Soldiers in the Civil War. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2003.

Lause, Mark A. Race and Radicalism in the Union Army. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009.

Nichols, Ronnie A. “Emancipation of Black Union Soldiers in Little Rock, 1863–1865.” Pulaski County Historical Review 61 (Fall 2013): 76–85.

Robertson, Brian K. “‘Will They Fight? Ask the Enemy’: United States Colored Troops at Big Creek, Arkansas, July 26, 1864.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 66 (Autumn 2007): 320–332.

Trudeau, Noah Andre. Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War 1862–1865. Boston: Back Bay Books, 1999.

Urwin, Gregory J. W. Black Flag over Dixie: Racial Atrocities and Reprisals in the Civil War. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2005.

Walls, David. “Marching Song of the First Arkansas Colored Regiment: A Contested Attribution.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 66 (Winter 2007): 401–421.

Steven L. Warren
Overland Park, Kansas

Black Union Troops – Encyclopedia of Arkansas

My great-grandparents, Eugene Owen, Sr. and Armentha Owen, moved from Shelby, Tennessee to Hope, Arkansas in 1916, the same year that my grandfather, Eugene Owen, Jr. was born. In 1924, my great-aunt Nannie Marjorie Owen was born.

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It’s in the cards: Three generations of family ties together genealogy gaps

“Those are the breakthrough moments in the collection of Black genealogy. Seek out those special times when generations blend. Take a few notes or record some of the conversations.”

By Dr. Ann Wead Kimbrough

Clockwise: My mother, Angeline Cecil Owen Wead (left); her great-grandson, Kingston Apollo Kimbrough; his sister, Kaidence Aurora Kimbrough; and my son, John Charles Kimbrough

One of the best ways to glean information from family members across the generations is to enjoy a meal together or play games, especially during the holidays.

In December 2019 in Tallahassee, FL, my mother, Angie Wead, made her annual trek from Atlanta to enjoy the holidays with my grandchildren, son and wife, close friends and me. During that Christmas season, my youngest son, John, also visited us. It was a full house.

John is blind and partially deaf. The cards, including UNO cards (his favorite game) include Braille. Most of the games that we purchase include the Braille language.

During such times, my grandchildren learn from their great-grandmother about her childhood and she listens to accounts of their lives. There are often a lot of “I didn’t know” moments.

Those are the breakthrough moments in the collection of Black genealogy. Seek out those special times when generations blend. Take a few notes or record some of the conversations.

For instance, I did not know that my mother grew up with an aunt who became blind. When my son, John, lost his sight at age 8, it was my mother who recalled independent tasks that Aunt Ada would perform including cooking , sewing and playing the piano. Her husband, my great-uncle Cecil was also very supportive.

How a 1929 Photo is Music to a Genealogist’s “Ear”

By Dr. Ann Wead Kimbrough

This picture strikes a perfect pitch for genealogists seeking accurate records about ancestors.

It’s my maternal side’s great-granduncle Ernest Wilks (name spelled incorrectly above) who is posing with his saxophone in this 1929 picture of the Pike’s Roamers Band. I happened upon this picture in the 7-volume “Blacks in the Ozarks.”

Here’s how Uncle Ernest’s photo broke through a long-term brick wall regarding his life outside of an outstanding military career:

  1. The photo provides a date — sometime in 1929 — as indicated by the writing on the bottom right, near the drum skin. It also appears that the photography studio is listed nearby.
  2. The name of the band is written on the picture along with the location of the photo — Springfield, Missouri. That is where Great-uncle Ernest was born in March 1909.
  3. The recorder of the photograph is also a first cousin, twice removed, Alberta Renfro Duncan. She has an interesting notation that indicates the band in the picture is an outgrowth of another band by another name.
  4. I started researching Uncle Ernest’s musical talents and learned that he is among the jazz trombonists chronicled in historical documents. In fact, one of my Florida water aerobics’ classmates recognized the name and he told me a lot about the bands that Uncle Ernest played in and his great musical abilities.

Uncle Ernest in Hawaii in an unknown year

I started researching my great-grandmother, Edna Wilks Robinson’s brothers after her death in 1989. I relied on what I recalled about each uncle and also consulted my mother, Angie Owen Wead. However, Mom only knew that Uncle Ernest was quite content with living in Hawaii. She knew that he retired there after a great military. That was it.

Sometimes when relatives end their knowledge of an ancestor, it may appear to be a brick wall. Yet, with Uncle Ernest’s military record and musical interests, the opportunities increased for me to learn more about him. My first Cousin Mark Owen, also my partner in our genealogical services business, located great photos of Uncle Ernest from the files of other ancestors.

That’s what made it even more rewarding to locate Uncle Ernest in his hometown playing in a band. I also found him in Honolulu playing in a band. From all indications, this permanent bachelor lived his best life.

Dr. Ann Lineve Wead Kimbrough is a certified genealogist interested in reconstructing her family’s histories. Beginning in February 2021, she will begin offering workshops and other Black Genealogy Services along with her partner and cousin, Mark Owen.

One of my fav finds in Black Ancestry Research

However, slaveholder Nathaniel Ford, an influential settler and legislator, kept them in bondage until 1850, even then refusing to free their children. Holmes took his former master to court and, in the face of enormous odds, won the case in 1853.

Breaking Chains

Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory

R. Gregory Nokes

“When they were brought to Oregon in 1844, Missouri slaves Robin and Polly Holmes and their children were promised freedom in exchange for helping develop their owner’s Willamette Valley farm. However, slaveholder Nathaniel Ford, an influential settler and legislator, kept them in bondage until 1850, even then refusing to free their children. Holmes took his former master to court and, in the face of enormous odds, won the case in 1853.

In Breaking Chains, R. Gregory Nokes tells the story of the only slavery case ever adjudicated in Oregon courts—Holmes v. Ford. Drawing on the court record of this landmark case, Nokes offers an intimate account of the relationship between a slave and his master from the slave’s point of view. He also explores the experiences of other slaves in early Oregon, examining attitudes toward race and revealing contradictions in the state’s history. Oregon was the only free state admitted to the union with a voter-approved constitutional clause banning African Americans and, despite the prohibition against slavery, many in Oregon tolerated it, and supported politicians who were pro-slavery, including Oregon’s first territorial governor.

Told against the background of the national controversy over slavery, Breaking Chains sheds light on a somber part of Pacific Northwest history, bringing the story of slavery in Oregon to a broader audience.” — by the Oregon State University Press

Oregon State University Press
121 The Valley Library
Corvallis, OR 97331
Book Order: 1-800-621-2736



I am a curious, dedicated genealogist who began my adventure at age 10 by asking questions about my family’s ancestors. Five decades later, I am taking my research to a new level. Stay tuned.

Asian sidewalk entrepreneurship steps up with service, convenience

My all-time favorite “pop up” and on-the-street entrepreneurs is the pedicure specialist who boasted she will “do your toes” on the streets of Ho Chi Minh … My other favorite entrepreneur was the television repairman who worked in the open air in Kowloon

I just finished another lengthy conversation with a service provider regarding my cable, internet and phone services. The customer service supervisor for the nameless monopoly, stated that “we have to get this information to follow our policies and procedures.”

What about consumers’ policies and procedures that include providing reasonable service to accommodate my lifestyle? I would appreciate customer service to match the hype. I don’t need a service call scheduled a week from now for today’s challenge.

Then I harkened back to the crowded streets of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam and Kowloon, Hong Kong. I witnessed customer service par excellence on the go.

Although highly dangerous, a particular driver loaded his motorcycle with multi-gallon containers of gasoline to deliver to farmers and others in the Vietnam countryside. Wow. Taking a chance of getting in an accident with hyped chances of combustion is the chance this man takes to satisfy his customers he said through a translator.

His customer service was high risk compared to the mobile vehicle whose salespeople peddled mobile telephones, and the nearby truck that marketed investments and bonds in downtown Kowloon.

My all-time favorite “pop up” and on-the-street entrepreneurs is the pedicure specialist who boasted she will “do your toes” on the streets of Ho Chi Minh (I missed my turn) and in front of a bakery, ATM and restaurant. My other favorite entrepreneur was the television repairman who worked in the open air in Kowloon who was nice enough to offer a large screen television viewing of programs while he repaired televisions. It was interesting to view his customers carrying large, flat screen televisions to his shop admist the bakeries, banks, restaurants and housing.

I loved the seeking of commerce, but even more, the collective support among the entrepreneurs who looked out for each other. It was usual practice to witness a nearby entrepreneur to help with getting change to buyers of services for monies exchanged. I especially found it heartening to watch as some merchants behaved as security guards for their neighbors. I likened them to neighborhood watch block captains.

It wasn’t just the services offered by these merchants. It was the manner in which they spoke to their customers. There is a way of doing business that includes verbal courtesies and sans the jealousy for a fellow entrepreneur.

As Westerners, we can adapt lessons learned from our global brethren. Shy of repairing my television on the street or receiving a pedicure, United States business owners, government employees, university educators, clergy and others can adopt true customer service improvements.