Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Searching For Charles William McKinney: The Value of City Directories

Charles E. McKinney (son of Charles W. McKinney) 1947
It's funny how I can have my mind all set on spending the weekend searching for a certain ancestor and then BOOM!- a thought, a word, a sentence, or even a picture..sends me totally in another direction. This past weekend it was my husbands endless talk about how little he knew about his paternal grandfather, Charles William McKINNEY. I had become frustrated with searching for this side of his family and had decided a few months ago to put that research on hold for awhile. It was obviously time to dig in again..the ancestors called, and I had to respond. However frustrated that I may get. Quitting is NEVER an option for me. So, I pulled out the notebook that my father-in-law left, thinking maybe there was a clue that I missed. Family stories are like puzzles, each piece is a clue to the past. Sometimes going back over notes and stories, It makes me think of things that I had not thought of before. On my father-in-laws birth record it says that his father was from Knoxville, TN. He was born in 1920. I knew that he and his family  had migrated to Cincinnati,Ohio sometime in the 1930's. It was there that he married Mary Louise FLEMING about 1939-40.

Being that I have been unsuccessful in finding his family in the census. I decided to see if I could search the city directories for Cincinnati, Ohio. Starting with 1940, I worked my way back. According to my father-in-law, his father, Charles W.  had a sister named Christine and a brother named J.D.  I was told that his mother was a fair skinned woman known as Mrs. Hunt. As my eyes scanned the page, I found a Christine McKinney. Her address was listed as 539 Carlisle Ave. A few lines down I  noticed a J.D. Mckinney. He had the exact same address. My next step was to search the 1940 census for Cincinnati.

I couldn't believe what I found next. Christine and J.D. Mckinney living with a woman named Lottie HUNT! She was born in 1886. Christine was 16 and J.D. was 17. They were from Tennessee. Everything matched, I feel sure that it is them. It turns out that the Mrs. Hunt that my father-in-law spoke of was the grandmother. I was jumping out of my chair! I had found my first connection to Charles W. McKinney's family. I had looked at this directory months ago, How did I miss this?  I went back to the 1940 city directory to see if I could find Lottie HUNT.  There she was, living at the same address as J.D. and Christine. She was listed as the widow of CHARLES HUNT. Wow! I had another name. I continued to search the city directory back to 1930. I found the family up to 1935. So this gives me a clue to when they may have came to Cincinnati.

I wondered why Christine and J.D. were living with their grandmother. Where were their parents? I still don't have their names. At least I have more to search with now. I am confident that I will find a another connection. I'm off to search for Miss LOTTIE HUNT and her husband CHARLES HUNT. Hopefully they will lead me to Charles William McKINNEY and a whole family. I'm sure that their out there somewhere.


© 2013 Denise Muhammad

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Whispers In The Deep South: Many Rivers To Cross

Augustus & Viola Wooley (Woods) with their son Augustus Jr.
After viewing episode four of Many Rivers to Cross tonight, I just had to finish penning this blog post.  This episode made me think of my husband's family, my family. It's interesting that through marriage, families are intertwined.Your family becomes my family and so on and so forth..

My recent visits with my mother in law have been very interesting. They usually are. I asked her what life was like growing up in Alabama in the1950's. For many years I've heard stories about her parents, Augustus WOOLEY and Viola WOODS. I remember her father, my husband's Grandad, so many years ago. Unfortunately I never got to meet his grandmother, Viola. She passed away shortly before I came into the family. They were both from Alabama. The cities of Johns and Calera. Augustus left Birmingham in about 1956, moving his family to Minneapolis, MN. His father Berry WOOLEY had also left Birmingham and came to Minnesota earlier. With family still living in Birmingham and Jasper. He would drive the family from Minnesota to Birmingham, Alabama and back again to visit family, only stopping for gas. No stops to eat in those days. Viola cooked before they left home and brought the food with. Nearly a twenty hour drive back then. After viewing Many Rivers To Cross and hearing about the "Negro Motorist Green Book" I now understand why stops were few to none.
Augustus Wooley

I thought about my recent trip to Alabama to visit my husband's family. Which gave me some insight to what life must of been like for so many who came from the south. This was my first time visiting Alabama and I was excited to see where my husband's family had lived for generations as well as meet family. I had always wondered why his grandparents left Birmingham in the 1950's to come to Minnesota..the longer that I spent time in the south I began to get a better understanding of why they left.

Viola Woods Wooley
I visited the Tuskegee University Institute. Home of Booker T. Washington. I was so amazed by this man and his educational history. The red bricks. Wow, such a rich history. I was in awe as we passed by the massive cotton fields. Cotton as far back as my eyes could see. A sight that I've never seen before. I could see the ancestors in the field and hear their whispers. Something that gave me a slight chill. Alabama was the south, life was what it was. And you knew your place. Segregation. Plain and simple.White and Colored drinking fountains, Everything divided by color. Something that I've tried to imagine, but just couldn't seem to grasp. A  visit to the Civil Rights Museum  gave me a better understanding of segregation and so much more. I left thinking to myself, Why wouldn't you want to leave the south back then? I wiped a tear from my eye as we crossed the street to see the16th street Baptist Church. The church that was bombed  in 1963, four young girls died. Again, I felt a slight chill.
Arlington Antebellum Plantation-Birmingham, AL
 I was in awe as I viewed this beautiful yet enormous home, a plantation called Arlington. It sat, like a watch guard over the city, surrounded by small houses, our family lived only blocks away. I couldn't help but think of the enslaved ancestors who once lived on this plantation. I wondered  what happened to them after slavery ended. I could feel their presence. How could I be here in this place and not think of them and all that they endured. I wondered what their life was like, were my ancestors slaves here? I thought about it the rest of the day and night. Slavery, a reality that was everyday life. I felt a strange chill..cold. This visit was bitter sweet.

"Lifting The Veil"  Monument at Tuskegee University


© 2013 Denise Muhammad

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Notebook: A Gift Of History

My ancestors on my husbands side of the family have been poking me for quite some time. Their voice is loud and clear. It's time to share their story. And so we begin..

My husband has witnessed first hand my obsession with genealogy and my excitement as I have connected with new found relatives over the years. So I guess that I shouldn't have been surprised when he asked me one day, when was I going to find someone on his side of the family? I chuckled as I realized that he was interested in his ancestors after all..I took that as my cue to start digging into his past. His request was to find out something about his paternal grandfather who he knew absolutely nothing about.

I'll begin with my husband's father, Charles Emmit McKinney. He was an interesting individual, to say the least. Although I had known my father-in-law for years. I never asked him about his family. All I knew is that he was raised by his maternal grandmother, Edith Elizabeth FLEMING-PRATER, whom he affectionately called "Mom" and her husband Albert Thomas PRATER.

Charles Emmet McKinney
One day when he came to visit. I began to question him on his family. He told me that they were all from Tennessee and had migrated to Cincinnati, Ohio. He told me bits and pieces about his family. Most of which my husband didn't even know. I was amazed!  I was even more surprised when a few days later my husband came home with a notebook that his father instructed him to give to me. I opened it and there it was. He had written his family history, beginning with his great grandmother. There were Birth and death dates, Stories, pictures. My father-in Law passed away not long after this. How glad I am that we have this history to share. Glad that I was moved on that day to ask him the questions. What he left, a notebook written in his handwriting are puzzle pieces to the past. If I had of never asked him, I probably would not have known.

Charles was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on May 18, 1940 to Charles William McKinney and Mary Louise Fleming. His parents; who married as young teenagers, didn't stay together long. He described his parents as people who loved to party. His grandmother disapproving of this, took young Charles and moved to Minneapolis, Mn in the 1940's. Charles loved to sing and was a popular teen singer around Minneapolis in the 1950's. He was a member of  two bands. The five Velvetones and Little Charles  And The Big M's.

Now we come to Charles' father. Charles William Mckinney. I call him the mystery man. I don't have any pictures of him. What I know about him is written on one page, contained in the notebook that my father-in law wrote. He is describes his father as a man small in stature that liked to sing and wanted to be a prize fighter. He looked like he was mixed, part negro and Asian with curly hair. Charles William was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in about 1920. His mother was a light skinned woman known only as Mrs. Hunt. He had a sister named Christine and a brother named J.D. Charles is listed in the1940 census in Cincinnati,Ohio living with his wife Mary Louise and her parents.

What ever happened to Charles W. Mckinney? the answer to that question remains to be found. I am sure that he is out there somewhere, along with a whole family waiting to be found. In the meantime, I will continue to put this puzzle together..tracing the ancestors one leaf at a time.



© 2013 Denise Muhammad