Monday, February 27, 2012

More From the Rabbit Hole

Curiosity gets the better of me once again.

I recently purchased a genealogy on a cabinet card. Here's the front of the card:

As you see, it's not in great shape. Someone put a little tape frame around it that's been peeling off over the years.  The subject is an African-American man, standing in a very typical pose for the time, leaning on a chair. All mildly interesting, but here's what got me really interested in the card – the back:

Study it for a moment, then let's compare notes. It will be easier to read if you click on it.

Here's what I came up with: First, there's some faint pencil writing in the background, about the only readable parts of which are "8.95," "as is," and what appears to be a repetition of the name "Cocknell." It appears this photograph has been sold before.

Then, there's the circular "Grandfather Picture."

And finally, there's the list of names and relationships.

A list of names like this should be fairly easy to find in the census. How many Cocknell families could there be with a father named Tom, and sons named Ben, Jim, and Eugene?

Answer: none.  Back to the drawing board.

Okay, let's study the card more closely. Notice the last letter in "Father."  At least once, this person wrote a lower-case "R" that looks like an "N".

Is this family's name "CockRell" instead of "CockNell"?

Bingo!  Here's the Cockrell family in the 1910 Census of Matagorda Co., Texas.

Thomas Cockrell, the father, is 45 years old. He was born in Texas (space limitations prevent me from showing that portion of the record) and he's been married to Armitie for 20 years.

Armitie, who is 36, was born in Texas, but her parents were from North Carolina. She was married to Thomas Cockrell when she was about 16 years old.

They have three sons, Benjamine, Jim, and Eugene, aged 20, 19, and 18 respectively. The 3-3 you see in Armitie's line, just before Texas, means she had three children, all three of which are still living.  And the "Mu" you see in each record, right before the age, stands for "mulatto."

So this is "our" Thomas Cockrell and he was born in about 1865.

Going back to the genealogy on the back of picture,

because of Thomas Cockrell's age, and the chronology of the development of photography, it seems clear that Thomas Cockrell is the man in the picture, or "grandfather."  "Grandfather" is Thomas's relationship to the person who is recording the genealogy – a child of either Ben, Jim, or Eugene.

What can we learn about Thomas Cockrell? In the entire 1870 Census there is only one Thomas Cockrell that was born in Texas in about 1865; and, as it turns out, he lives in Matagorda Co.

This Thomas was 2 years old in 1870, making his year of birth about 1868, rather than 1865, and he lived with his mother, Amalia Cockrell, who was 22. The lack of other candidates, the proximity of the age, and the proximity of the place of residence all strongly suggest that this is the Thomas in the picture.

Thomas and his mother live with Richard and Nancy Cook and their daughters, Nellie and Elizabeth. Thomas's mother, Amalia, is their housekeeper. Was she also a relative, being helped with employment and shelter in the absence of the boy's father? Possibly.

Can we take this back further? Can we find out anything about Amalia?

Well, here we run into a big problem.

You may remember from the story of Victoria Leutwein that the U.S. Census began recording everyone's name in 1850; but there's an important exception to that.  If, in 1850 and 1860, you were not a free person, you were recorded in a "Slave Schedule," like a sack of wheat. No name; just your sex and your age:  two determinants of your "value".

Here's an 1850 Slave Schedule from Matagorda Co. (click on it!):

As you can see, James B. Hawkins owned two girls that were 2 years old. Either could have been Thomas's mother, Amalia. Or she might have been on another plantation. We've reached a dead end, for now.

[Just as an aside: when the newly-freed slaves were finally recorded by name in the 1870 census, Matagorda Co. seems to have an unusually high number of people who were reported as born in Africa. The legal importation of new slaves to the United States ended in 1808, but Texas was a part of Mexico until 1836. Then again, slavery was abolished in Mexico in 1829. It's curious. ]

So recapping what we know so far:  Thomas Cockrell, the subject of our portrait, was born in about 1865-68 to a former slave named Amalia. In 1890 he married a young woman named Armitie and by 1910 they had three sons: Ben, Jim, and Eugene.

To that I can add that Thomas and Armitie had two more children after 1910: Tomy in 1912 and Armanty in 1913. 

Thomas died in February 1919.

Thomas and Armitie's children had children of their own (thus the "Grandfather" on the picture]. And some of their descendants still live in Matagorda Co.

I wonder if they'd like their picture back. I'll let you know.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Other Blogs

Some bloggers post and post and have nothing worthwhile to say. (C'est moi!)

Other bloggers have just a few posts, and each one is worth reading. Case in point: Rob Shook.

Here's his post on the gay agenda.

And then there's his post, Considerations for 2012. Good advice for us all. And it got me wishing my brother Ted would start a blog.

On the Democratization of Literary Criticism

From an review of the book, Native American Photography at the Smithsonian:

I got the book for my husband per his request and as usually after so many days or weeks he decides he does not want it anymore but wants something different and back and forth we go. He drives me up a wall. I did see a few pictures and I thought they were nice pictures. 

 Four stars.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Clueless? Apparently.

According to Steve Benen, there is some controversy over whether this is authentic, but the Santorum campaign is not denying it. The undenied story is that the Santorum campaign sent the following holiday greeting to Jewish supporters in South Carolina (click on it to make it almost legible):

The quote from the Gospel of John is especially touching.

Reports are that the Jewish Santorum supporters in South Carolina were not offended. In fact, they are a couple of very nice guys.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Susan G. Komen-Planned Parenthood Debacle

Despite their protestations to the contrary, the closer you look at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure mess this week, the more it looks like a couple of twisted ladies at the top wanted to take the organization in a whole new right-wing direction.

Gail Collins has a few of the details and a prognostication I agree with: "A lot of the old Komen donors and supporters probably won’t be coming back."

In the past few weeks we've seen this thing called the social media rise up and – within just a couple of days – put an end to things that were better off not started: the Komen thing, and the SOPA/PIPA thing.

That's pretty impressive, but also worrisome. Is this a new form of democratic expression, or a new form of mob rule? If mob rule, then right now the mob seems to be a little brighter than our meritorious leaders. But what will happen when Republicans learn how to use computers for something besides Quicken? I shudder to think.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Classic Correspondence

Tobias pointed me to this one. It is a MUST READ. You will still be alive if you don't read it, but it will be a life much less worth living. Your choice.

To kick things off, I'll quote the introduction:
In August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdon Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdon — who, since being emancipated, had moved to Ohio, found paid work, and was now supporting his family — responded spectacularly by way of the letter seen below (a letter which, according to newspapers at the time, he dictated).

Rather than quote the numerous highlights in this letter, I'll simply leave you to enjoy it. Do make sure you read to the end.
And here is the most understated scarcastic letter I've ever read.  And do make sure you read to the end.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Some Morning Humor

Lucky you. I've been up since 3 a.m.

“The State Department issued a new travel warning yesterday, urging U.S. citizens to avoid Syria. Yeah, it was part of a new set of warnings called, ‘Things you were probably doing already.’” – Jimmy Fallon

“Beating Newt Gingrich in a popularity contest is like beating Stephen Hawking in ‘Dancing with the Stars.’” – Bill Maher 

“Mitt Romney, whose father was born in Mexico, is now talking up his Mexican heritage. Not to be outdone today, Newt Gingrich said he once cheated on one of his wives with a woman named Juanita.” – Jay Leno

“Mitt Romney is coming under fire because even though he is a multimillionaire, he only paid 15 percent in taxes. That’s not a tax, that’s barely a tip.” – Jay Leno

“Rick Perry dropped out. He said while it’s sad he won’t be president, he can always run again next year.” – Bill Maher

“Actually, Rick Perry pulled out of the presidential race yesterday – which is bad news for the guys on death row in Texas. He’s coming home and he’s not in a good mood.” – Jay Leno

“Mitt Romney is going to release 2010 and 2011 tax returns. Not to be outdone, Newt Gingrich is going to release his 1988, 1994, and 2005 wedding vows.” – Conan O’Brien

‎”After disappointing showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, Newt’s campaign looked terminally ill – which is generally when he moves on to something better.” – Stephen Colbert

“You’re not a Washington insider? You, the former Speaker of the House and Freddie Mac consulting millionaire, are THE Washington insider. When Washington gets its prostate checked, it tickles you!” – Jon Stewart (on Newt Gingrich campaigning as a Washington outsider)

“Today, the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins visited the White House. President Obama told them he loves hockey as much as any black guy who grew up in Indonesia.” – Conan O’Brien

4.5 Million Hits on One Post a Month (sigh)

Long-time readers will remember Margaret and Helen, "Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...."

They're not posting as often as they did, but when they do it's worth the read.

For example, The Passion of the Newt.