I started my genealogy journey looking for anyone who had Robert Jenkins and Bridget Guy on their family tree. Almost immediately, 2 unknown cousins connected via e-mail and began sharing stories. It became clear that we knew a few things about the Jenkins branch of our family tree and knew almost nothing about our Smith branch. This blog will share information of my search for Jenkins, Guy, Smith and now Phillips, Torney and Watts people on the branches of my family tree--Maryland to Louisiana!
Maybe your ancestors migrated to Kansas in the 1880s from Louisiana, Texas or some other state. The 1875 Kansas Homestead Act offered free land and a hope for many African American farmers and their families. Read more
Approximately 40,000 Blacks from across the U.S. made their way to Kansas in 1879. Many freedmen settled near the towns of Topeka, Fort Scott, Coffeyville, and Dunlap. In 1880, there were about 2080 Texas born Blacks in Kansas, over 800 in Labette County. Members of my Richardson family branch were in Labette County, Kansas in 1920.
So many families were drawn to Kansas that there soon was not enough land to accommodate them all. Many families on their trek to Kansas, found themselves diverted instead to St. Louis, Missouri and to Nebraska. Hey, maybe the title of this post should have been, “So, You Live in St. Louis, Missouri Now!”
In the year 2000, I’d found Amelia Smith and Oliver ‘Alava’ Jenkins on the 1900 census. I looked for them and their children on the 1910 and 1920 census pages, but could not find them in any electronically indexed website or on any microfilm. The 1930 census would become available to the public in 2002 and so I waited impatiently for the release. As soon as 1930 census was available online, I logged in and typed Oliver Jenkins in as search terms. And wonders of wonders, I found him. His name was spelled correctly–he wasn’t Alava as he had been listed on the 1900 census. But, Amelia was listed as Media! That didn’t matter because listed with them and near them were their children: Livingston, Oliver Jr., Charlotte, Cora, Gladys, Elsie. Also listed were Elzenia, my great grandmother and my grandmother Sarah.
Where had Oliver and Amelia been for the 1910 and 1920 census pages? Who knows, probably living in the ‘House Surrounded by Sugar Cane…!
And, what had become of Joseph aka Young and Charlotte Smith? I searched for death records for them in Iberia and neighboring St. Mary Parish, but could not find any. Then I searched Ancestry.com for public trees that had Joseph and Charlotte Smith. I didn’t find any. So, I searched for Young and Charlotte Smith. And to my surprise, I found a tree with Younger Smith and Charlotte who lived in Iberia Parish. I had found additional offshoots to my Smith branch–Provosts, Williams, Turners, Benjamins, Harris, etc.!!
Since I’d had luck finding Young and Charlotte, I looked to see if anyone else had a Young or Joseph Smith or a Charlotte Smith on their public tree. And I found another tree that listed a Charlotte Smith and included her death record in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Joy of joys, Charlotte’s death certificate included the names of her parents: Joseph and Charity Phillips. Charlotte was born in Maryland in 1828. So, now I had names of people possibly born before 1800.
Several family members had taken the Ancestry DNA test. There were a number of people who closely matched us of all and they lived in Calvert County, Maryland. I typed Joseph Phillips in the Ancestry.com search boxes and chose Calvert County, Maryland as their place of residence. There in my search results for 1870 were Joseph and Carrity (Charity) Phillips. In the same household was a 74 year old Hester Phillips and a young boy, Joseph Tawney. And on that very same page was the Tawney family that matched our DNA in Ancestry: Mager, Eliza, Peter, Lloyd, Rebecca, Moses, Joseph and Hester Tawney (Torney).
So, Joseph and Charity ‘Carrity’ were Charlotte’s sister and brother and Hester was her mother. Charlotte must have spoken often about Joseph and Charity Phillips, because someone remembered those names and included them on Charlotte’s death certificate. They may not have remembered the relationship of Joseph and Charity Phillips to Charlotte totally correctly, but they remembered their names. I later found Joseph Phillips’ Maryland death certificate and found out that his father’s name was also Joseph Phillips.
My tree had suddenly grown vertically! Wow!!
What’s in a name? A whole lot!
Proverbs 22 A good name is more desirable than riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
In researching my Smith branches of the Smith-Jenkins family tree, I was confused and unable to determine who were Amelia Smith’s parents. Amelia was born about 1883 and her death certificate listed her father as Young Smith and her mother as ‘S’. Right away I was able to find on the 1880, 1900 and 1910 census a man named Young Smith who was the right age to be her father. His wife’s name was Hester or Esther. This all seemed to fit Amelia’s death certificate. The names fit, but I could never find Amelia in Young’s and Hester’s household or living anywhere near them. Young lived in Glencoe, St. Mary Parish, Louisiana and not Patoutville, Iberia Parish where I was told that Amelia lived.
Amelia’s husband was named Oliver Jenkins. So, I searched for him on the census pages in St. Mary/Iberia Parish beginning with 1900. I couldn’t find him anywhere. Amelia and Oliver’s children were born and grew up in the Patoutville area, so I knew they had to be somewhere on the 1900 Iberia Parish census page. I used Ancestry.com, Familysearch.org and Heritagequest.com, with no luck. I gave up trying to use electronically indexed web sites and went to a local genealogy center and pulled out the microfilm. I painstakingly scrolled page after page and almost gave up until something caught my eye. What I found was a Joseph Smith, his wife Charlotte, two daughters Amelia and Cora and a son named Alava. I turned the reel a half turn or so and then scrolled back. I’d found them!!
Oliver was Alava! But, he wasn’t Amelia’s brother, he was her husband. And, her father’s name was supposed to be ‘Young’ and her mother’s name was supposed to start with an ‘S’. Charlotte could be spelled with an ‘S’–Sharlotte. So, I threw out Young and Hester in Glencoe as Amelia’s parents and instead placed Joseph, aka ‘Young’ and Charlotte, aka ‘S’.
I’ve been searching for information about my ancestors Oliver and Amelia Smith Jenkins for quite some time. The search has been complicated by misspelled names on the US. census pages, families totally missing from census records for decades and from the absence of marriage and death records.
I’ve searched Father Hebert’s books for clues that may be among the births, baptism and death records. But, the only detail that I had been able to find is a marriage record for Oliver and Amelia. That is until the other day. I once again entered the name Oliver Jenkins in a search bar. And, to my surprise, among the search results was a book. The book title was “The House Surrounded by Sugar Cane – The Smith-Jenkins’ Farm”. Needless to say, I could scarcely contain myself. When I clicked the link to the bookseller, there was a brief synopsis of the book and it mentioned Oliver Jenkins, his wife Amelia Smith, and Patoutville, Louisiana.
The book was written by Leanna Williams, grand daughter of Oliver Jenkins. She didn’t know about either Oliver or Amelia as they both died before she was born. But, she described with much detail what life was like for sharecroppers, farm workers and those living near the large sugar cane plantation. The story she tells was a wonderful find for me. She provided insight into how my family lived and a new lead for research. And as always, I found a hidden treasure and research challenge in her story. She mentioned Amelia’s father a number of times as ‘Mr Smith’ and and uncle named David. Who these men were, was a mystery to me. And so, I started by quest to find out how they fit on my Smith-Jenkins tree and how they came to live in “The House Surrounded by Sugar Cane…”.
I love searching the Chicago Defender Newspaper online. Just when I think I’ve discovered all the articles printed about my long-lost family members or Texas families that I am researching, I find a gold mine of additional treasure.
So, I verified that Henry and Louis Jenkins were brothers. Now I needed to find where their children all disappeared to after 1910.
Henry’s children were: Oliver, Victoria, Louisa, Henry Jr., Matthew, Lloyd Joseph, Profit, Clarence, Agnes, Maviola. Several of Henry’s sons moved to Texas, but most remained in Louisiana.
Louis’ children were: Robert, Prophet, Northern, Roselia, Campbell, Clinton, Aurelia, Horace and Ezekiel.
I’d found 2 of Louis’ sons on the 1910 census in Omaha, Nebraska .
Now comes the other really cool part!!
I was searching the Chicago Defender Newspaper via the Houston Public Library online resource. I typed in Jenkins and Omaha. And among the search results was a obit for N. Jenkins who was born in Iberia Parish Louisiana and died in Omaha, November 1935. N’s (Northern) children: Helen Jenkins Lambert and Guy Taylor are mentioned. Also mentioned were Northern’s surviving siblings: Robert and Horace of Houston, Ezekiel of Chicago, Clinton of San Diego, Orelia Johnson of Cleveland and P.H. (Prophet) Jenkins of Omaha. Northern’s funeral was officiated by Rev. J. S. Williams at Hill Side Presbyterian Church and he was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park. He worked at the University Club.
P.H. Jenkins was identified as a detective with the Omaha Police Department. Also, in the search results were stories about arrests that P.H. made, of his commendations and about his promotion to police detective. Included were the names of his wife Amanda and his daughters: Verdia Forman and Neola Combs. Even his church is mentioned–Zion Baptist .
And joy of joys, there was even a photo of P.H.! Another bonus in the search results was information about P.H. and/or wife Amanda visiting their married daughter Verdia Forman who lived in Chicago.
After I found out where the other Jenkins siblings moved to from Iberia Parish, I was able to read more about them in the Chicago Defender, through Ancestry.com., Familysearch.org and through old city directories.
I discovered that Ezekiel lived in Chicago and drove a cab and that Robert Jenkins had moved to Houston by 1915 and lived in 3rd Ward Houston with his wife Sophia and daughter Geneva. He operated a barber shop at 2411 McKinney Street. Robert died in 1943 and was buried in Jeanerette, LA.
I found information that P.H. died in 1956. His daughter Verdia married Sidney Forman of Marshall, Texas. They had a daughter who the named Neola. Sidney worked as a cooper (barrel maker) for a packing house.
So, I will continue to mine the Chicago Defender newspaper to see what additional nuggets of information are there to be uncovered.
Reached at dead end in tracing your African American family–one census year they were in Texas and then the entire family seemed to disappear? Maybe they moved north in search of better jobs, education or just a chance to start over again. Many people kept track of what family members were doing by reading and submitting articles to the African American newspaper, the Chicago Defender. There were regular features on the happenings in distant states. I found an article about my grandfather being on program in his church in Louisiana in 1932! That was indeed a sweet find. See where your relatives may have gone and what they may have been up to. Use that library card, sign in and read for yourself. Articles from 1910 – 1975.
I am looking for anyone who has Robert Jenkins and/or Bridget Guy Jenkins in their family tree. I am a twig that sprang from the Jenkins Tree. My ancestor is Oliver Jenkins, son of Henry Jenkins of St. Mary and/or Iberia Parish, Louisiana. Henry’s parents are listed as Robert and Bridget. The problem is that I can find Bridget on federal census pages 1880 – 1910 in Patoutville and Jeanerette, but I can only find Oliver from 1900 onward and can only find Henry beginning in 1900 after he married his second or third wife Mary Mathieu. I have never found Robert on any census listing, Louisiana or Texas. And, Bridget is not listed until 1880.
I think Henry had several siblings: Caroline Jenkins Epps Withers Hope, Dora Jenkins Robertson, Louis Jenkins, Stephen Jenkins and Armistead Jenkins. I’ve been trying to piece together who were Henry’s children. This I believe is complicated because I believe his first two wives may have died young and Henry and children may have been living in separate households. I believe his children with his first wife were: Victoria, Oliver, Simon Felix, Louisa and Henry. Henry had a number of childen with Mary Mathieu (Matthews).
The Jenkins family lived in St. Mary Parish and/or Jeanerette, Iberia Parish, Louisiana. If any of the above names fit on your family tree, then we are kin!