Finding Family History,
Part 6:


Joyce's mother, Verna with her brother Charles

Crenshaw, MS  [c. 1914]

Finding Family History, part 6 continues...

Joyce ("Genealogy Grandma") writes:

I have not cracked the "brick wall"… I have piles of information--as most genealogists do--but still, I am far from where I desire to be right now.

At the grand old age of 72-plus-years, no one is available to answer questions about our ancestors, as those who could are now all long gone. Moreover, with time passing rapidly, the rush is on to do more before the door of opportunity closes forever.

It is with this ….that I relate the following experience researching my mother’s maternal line:

“I was 5 years old in 1914”... those seven words scribbled on a crumpled piece of paper and found among my mother, Verna’s belongings after her death.  

These led me on a journey of discovery to my maternal great-grandmother, my great-great-grandmother, and eventually to the small West African County of Guinea-Bissau.

For weeks I pondered the hidden family history clues in that crumpled paper, which included:  my mother’s maiden name, her parent’s name and her deceased sister’s name.

It also listed her maternal and paternal grandparent’s names, which read "Jennie Sutton, Fred Allen, Mollie Hawkins and James Cunningham", and the statement…

..."I was 5-years-old in 1914."

Hmmm…was this the hidden clue--that she was 5-years-old when her mother died?  If that is the case, then why not write the Mississippi Department of Vital Records and see if there is a copy of the death record for Emma?

Six to eight weeks later, the request arrived. The words, "overjoyed" and "overwhelmed" could not fully express the delight I felt when I opened the document and read, "decedent died on August 28, 1914," and yes, which meant my mother was indeed 5-years-old in 1914…wow!

What was unknown at the time was information pertaining to my grandmother’s place of birth, etc., and now here it was for me to read and know.

My grandmother, Emma, was born in Leflore County, Mississippi on November 10, 1877. Her age at death was 36 years, 9 months, and 18 days. She is buried in Panola County, Crenshaw, MS.  

The cause of death was pellagra, a Vitamin B3 deficiency.  (Since reading her death certificate, I have discovered Pellagra was an endemic disease in the Southern part of the United States during the early 1900’s). Occupation: housekeeper.  

Parent’s name, and the name of informant, was my grandfather, Charles. 

But, wait, something was wrong here--my mother’s note says her grandmother’s maiden name was Jennie Sutton, and I clearly remember her telling me once that Jennie Sutton married Fred Allen. However, the death certificate says otherwise. 

This certificate says the maiden name of Emma’s mother was "Jennie Johnson" and that she was born in Georgia.

I thought all of my mother’s family was from Mississippi. Never did I ever hear anything about Georgia! The informant on the death certificate is my grandfather; did he not know where his mother-in-law was born?

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