Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Children of the Dust

Dust is often thought of as unwanted, of no value, and often thrown aside because it has no purpose.
“Children of the Dust” are the unwanted children of American servicemen and Vietnamese women born during the war. Such children were left behind to face discrimination, poverty, and the shame of the communist government all alone. The mothers of these children were often not present in their lives because they were either in prison, killed, or raped, losing everything. They were shunned along with their children. In all of this devastation, the poor children were left motherless, directionless, and without much hope. HEARTBREAKING, isn’t it!!!!!
Oh, but there is hope. Through the work and dedication of volunteers of Humanitarian organizations worldwide, these children can get help finding their paternal relatives. How??? Through a wonderful and powerful tool called DNA. I took an Ancestry DNA test in 2013 and just a few days ago was contacted stating that I was matched with a man in Vietnam as a second cousin. He was born during the Vietnam War and his father may be my maternal great uncle. Although my great uncle never spoke about this child with his family, it might be that he had no knowledge of the birth of this child. Thus my DNA journey began. Although I am not directly related to him, I knew who to contact. Now it is up to the family to decide to take a DNA test for varification to prove the parentage of this “child of the dust”.
Furthermore, it is very important and with a sense of urgency that I write about this matter because families need to understand how needful it is for these children to find their families. Hopefully, embracing the newly found relatives will bring healing to their broken hearts. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Unlocking Doors

My grandfather's key

Picture of website
   My genealogical goal for this year is to find my paternal great grandfather. I have been researching and looking for Edwin/ Edward Johnson for six years. Family members have very little information to contribute to my search because he left his family when my grandfather was only ten years old.
So, when I get a clue to the identity of my great grandfather, I am over-the-top excited! You ask, “What clue did you find?” Well, as I was researching on the computer for information about “Railroads in the 1920s”, I hit the mother lode. As I was reading about working and riding on the railroads, I came to a picture that looked very familiar. I remembered that my mother had a key that my paternal grandfather, Charles Johnson, had. I compared the key with the picture and it was a MATCH!!!!! I had an O.M.G moment. Could this be the clue that I needed to unlock the mystery to my great grandfather? I was looking at “railroads in the 1920s” because there might have been a possibility that Edwin was a Pullman Porter. Some of the places he and his family lived in (according to census records) were accessible by train.
 This particular key that I am referring to is a Pullman Porter’s key. They used these keys to open up the berth (beds) for the riders in the sleeping car compartments. On the key were the words L&N Railroad ( Louisville & Nashville Railroad).  Most likely Edwin Johnson was a Pullman Porter for this railroad. BINGO, clue number one.
The other story is that my grandpa might have used this key when he took the mail from the Post Office to the train station to open the mail car. This car on the train was always locked because it not only held mail, but also money.
 So I have two mysteries to further investigate..
#1 – Did this key belong to Edwin, and was it the only memento his son, Charles, kept of his father?
#2- Did this key belong to my grandpa when he worked at the Post Office?

Although I am still researching about this key, I have an optimistic outlook of the possibilities it could lead to. This key will definitely UNLOCK  DOORS in my search.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

I May Be Bound, But I Survived: Lannie's Story

The mystery and questions surrounding my third great grandmother, Lannie Cheatham’s life are slowly but surely unraveling into a very interesting and complex story.

Lannie was born in Stewart County, Tennessee in 1828 during slavery. Through oral history from her granddaughter, Katie Shemwell, we know that she was a cook, servant, and took care of the children in the big house on the slave plantation. I am still searching for her slaveholder’s name, which would give me her maiden name.

According to the 1870 census (first census taken after slavery) Lannie is living in Roaring Springs, Kentucky with Henry Pinner and his five sons ( Samuel, John, Stephen, Lewis, William) and one daughter, Narcissus. Henry and Lannie were not married, according to this census. However, it makes sense that Lannie is taking care of Henry and his children because she had gotten into the habit of caring for children during slavery.  

Within the next five years, between 1870 and 1875, Henry must have died because Delena (Lannie) Pinner (widow) married Kit Cheatham (widower) on December 4, 1875 in Trigg County, Kentucky according to the Trigg County, KY Marriage License and Bond Book 1873-1887.

According to my cousin, Janet Cheatham Bell’s biography, The Time And Place That Gave Me Life on page 28, it says that Lannie bought into the marriage two sons and Kit bought in two sons. Lannie’s sons possibly were Aaron Pinner (stepson) and Noel Cheatum (son). Kit’s two sons were Frank and Sam Cheatham. Although Lannie and Kit had children from previous relationships, together they had seven more children- five boys (John, Stephen, Thomas, Jimie, and Dac) and two girls ( Frances and Lizzie). Kit had other children before and during their marriage including two boys Green R. Cheatham ( 1882-1955) ,Will Cheatham (1885) and two girls Mattie Cheatham (1860-1957) , Carrie Greenway (1888-1937).
Later in life, Lannie was noted in the 1910 census as being blind. This fact was also verified by her granddaughter, Katie Cheatham Shemwell.

In 1920, as Lannie’s health started declining she went to live with son, Thomas and his family in Bumpus Mills, Stewart County, Tennessee. Sadly, on August 6, 1928 she died of senility at the ripe age of 100.

I do not know if Lannie had any happy times in her life, but what I do know is that her life was hard, in constant transition, and filled with taking care of others. Lannie went from being a slave to being free to taking care of seventeen children and two men throughout her lifetime. NO WONDER SHE DIED FROM SENILITY, SHE WAS TIRED!!!!

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Mother's Love

A little act of kindness, leaves a lot of thankfulness in the heart of the receiver.

Ellistine Cheatham Allen was my maternal grandmother who had a heart of gold and would give anything to someone in need. My grandmother had two children Cathleen and Craig. When her brother’s son and daughter were left motherless, she stepped up and extended her love to take them into her home, raising them as her own. Her love for her children was limitless and she would do anything for them. My grandmother was selfless, loving, giving, and caring. She was and still is loved beyond measure. Following is a cherished memory by one of her dear friends, Ms. Lucille Lynch:
As a young bride, Mrs. Lynch and her husband lived upstairs from Ellistine’s mother, Princess. Mrs. Lynch remembers that she nor Ellistine had too much money. She could remember Ellistine giving her a box of Lifesavers for Christmas. She also remembers when she was in the hospital giving birth to her first child, there was a rotary pay phone by her bed. Ellistine gave her ten dimes for the pay phone. Ellistine told her to call her to talk about the baby.
Ellistine’s love certainly did extend beyond her family. She celebrated all of her loved one’s accomplishments, new beginnings, and births. She absolutely loved children.

My grandmother's legacy of love still lives on through her children and grandchildren.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Military Man & Family Man

The soldier is the Army. No army is better than its soldiers. The Soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.
George S. Patton Jr.
Frank Ewing Cheatham, my great uncle, was born in St. Louis, Missouri on July 27, 1931. During World War II, he was one of many African Americans that enlisted in the army. Uncle Frank could have enlisted as a way of escape from the racial tensions that were rising in St. Louis. Instead of staying home and enduring the hatred and discrimination of the times, my great uncle decided to go serve his country at a time of war, both here at home and abroad. Not only did he just serve in WWII, but he made the military his career. He served until his death in 1979. Although, Great Uncle Frank was a military man, taking care of his country, he also took time out for his family. Following are some cherished memories from his nieces Cathleen Allen Johnson and Lynn McFarland Kenney:  
Uncle Frank and his family were stationed in Monteray, California. My mom and her sisters took me and my brother and cousins on an adventurous train ride from St. Louis to California. It was three days of wonder and jaw dropping experiences. We all had a ball on the train. This was in the late 1950s. As children we knew nothing of segregation, Jim Crow, or racism. We were on a train heading to beautiful California to see our uncle. We had to ride a ferry, after the train ride. Another new adventure. We were so excited to see our cousins Andrea, Princess, and baby Kirk. Aunt Verna made huge banana-nut cakes and cleaned her sand-filled backyard, not dirt-sand. We went to the beach and the rodeo. With cowboy hats to prove it. We had so much fun. I couldn’t believe that every day was sunny and humid free. My hair did not “go back” the whole time!!! I I just remember the big smile on Uncle Frank’s face. While he was stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, we visited he and his family there, while we visited Famma’s sister’s farm in Hopkinsville. Famma was what I called my grandmother, Princess.  Fun, fun, fun on the farm. Cathleen Allen Johnson (niece).

My fondest memory of Uncle Frank was when he would come to St. Louis. He always drove his Cadillac and we knew we were going to have fun. He called us “Pep”. When I lived with him every Saturday in the summers were lawn day. That is why today I know how to take care of my lawn. Lynn McFarland Kenney ( niece)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Teaching: The Music of Marceline's Heart

My great aunt Marceline Jeanne` Cheatham Thomas was an excellent educator and fabulous person. She had a heart for young people and showed it throughout her life.
Born in St. Louis, MO in 1929, Marceline was the middle child of her five siblings. She was educated and taught in the St. Louis Public Schools. Her teaching career began at Benton Elementary School on Kingshighway in the early 1950s.  Now she was just not a regular run of the mill teacher, but extraordinary. What made her extraordinary? She was no non-sense, did not smile that often, very professional, stern, and had very high standards for her students and herself. She was all business in the classroom and took educating her eighth grade students very seriously. She absolutely loved all of her students and her coworkers. She not only taught eighth grade at Benton, but also at Hickey Elementary school. Moreover, Marceline was also deeply involved in her church, St. Peters A.M.E church on Shreve and Margaretta in St. Louis, MO. She was the Director of the Youth Chorale, a member of the Steward Board, and Secretary to the Quarterly Conference. In addition to all this, she served as an usher, Sunday School Superintendent, Sunday School Teacher, and Church Secretary. Marceline was serious about  God, church, family, and the education of her students.
Even though Marceline was serious about what she did, she did take time out to enjoy life. She loved sports and was a season ticket holder for the St. Louis Rams football team. She also played volleyball.  In the 70s, Marceline was one of the chorus singers in the stage production of Purlie Victorious by Ossie Davis in St. Louis, MO. Not only was she dedicated  in all she did, but she was a very talented lady.
Following is a cherished memory of her niece, Cathleen Allen Johnson, about her dear aunt.
My aunt was beautiful, intelligent, no non-sense, and an educator extraordinaire! My brother and I would love it when we would be walking home to Greer from Simmons and Turner Middle and Auntie Marceline would be cruising down the street in her red convertible and pick us up. Boy, we thought we were somebody! I remember how beautiful my mom and her sisters looked on Sunday mornings for church. They were dressed to the nines with their big legs and hour glass figures. They always wore the latest fashions. My freshman year in high school Auntie Marceline gave me her Spiegel Catalog and told me I could pick out $200.00 worth of clothes. Boy, I wore that catalog out. You talking about mixing and matching stuff! When those boxes came, well it was like Christmas in August. I still remember one of the outfits- grey wool box pleated skirt, with a matching short red jacket with gold military buttons. The collar and down the front of the jacket was trimmed in gray. I even had red flats. Boy, I was clean!!!

She passed in 1983, but her legacy of love for educating children lives on through the lives of her nieces, nephews, and students. Teaching and being an inspiration to young people was the goal of Marceline’s life. I would say that she accomplished that goal to the highest.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Everything's Copacetic

Have you ever met someone that was seemingly cool and nothing bothered him or her? Well that was my great Uncle James Cheatham. I never met him because he died before I was born.  However, I feel like I know him through pictures and the fond memories of his wife, Mariah, daughter Melanie (from retold stories), and his nieces and nephews.
According to his nieces and nephews, Uncle James was the coolest, smoothest, most handsome, and most fun uncle of them all. Yes child, he was tall, dark, and handsome. He had a sideways grin that, I understand, GOT THE GIRLS EVERYTIME! Baby, let’s talk about his swag. He had the cool, slow, not in a rush to get there walk. Whatever it was would be there when he arrived.
Everyone called him “Cheat”, but in my mom’s eighth grade autograph book he signed his name “Pretty Cheat”. ENOUGH SAID!!!! My mother remembers Uncle James picking up all his nieces and nephews in his new gold Cadillac. Ohhhh weee, what a treat that it was to ride in a brand, spanking new car. No not just a car, but a Cadillac at that. Only thing was that their feet could not touch the gold medallion crested car mats. Yes, Uncle James had his nieces and nephews riding with their feet suspended in the air the entire trip.
Oh and he could dance. Dancing on a dime was his thing. Whenever the Madison was playing, you would see Uncle James snapping his fingers and moving his feet. My mom said that when the music was playing he would come down the Madison line saying “Here comes Pretty Cheat”. Dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.
Uncle James Lived, Love, and had fun because