My maternal grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham, was born 129 years ago on March 12, 1888, in Lowndes County, Alabama. She died on August 13, 1974 in Detroit, Michigan. You can read more about my grandmother in this post Fannie Mae Turner Part 1.
I am the same age as my grandmother was when we posed together on her back steps. Looking at the photograph below of me and my granddaughter made me think about the endless circle and the passage of time.
This was Thanksgiving at my Graham Grandparents house in 1963, east side Detroit. My grandfather cuts the turkey. My mother sits on the right. I am on the left, my sister next to me. Wonder where my Aunt and cousins were? Usually there were four more around the table. How we all fit I do not know, but we did. The house is gone now. Everybody in this photo except my sister and I are dead. We are almost as old as my grandparents were.
My cousins lived upstairs in a 4-family flat on the corner of McDougall and Hunt Street on the East Side of Detroit. Their mother, Mary V. Graham Elkins, was my mother’s sister. She worked as a secretary at the County Building.
Their father, Frank “Bud” Elkins, graduated with honors from Cass Technical high school in the late 1930s. As an electrician, he tried to join the Electricians Union but as a black man was barred. He set up his own shop as an independent Electrician. He drove a truck with “Elkins Electric Company” on the side. I remember riding in it a few times. There were not seats for all and we sat on the floor.
From my grandmother Fannie’s scrapbook. “That’s my Shell” 1-25-59.
My grandfather, Mershell C. Graham came to Detroit from Montgomery, Alabama in 1917. He worked on the steamer “Eastern States” as a steward for awhile and then as a stockman in the library at the Ford River Rouge Plant in Dearborn, Michigan until he retired in the 1950s. Although he had a car, he did not drive to work, he caught the bus, first walking to the bus stop and then riding over an hour to get to work.
Here is a photograph of my cousin Dee Dee and her mother Mary V. Graham Elkins taken on Belle Isle in 1947. At first I thought the fuzzy black spot on the lower right was an ink spot, but when I looked closer I saw it was a little dog. Dee Dee is looking down at it a bit apprehensively.
Ancestry.com has a new feature called “speculative circles”. They take groups of people that share DNA and who you do not have any matches in your tree. They rate the DNA links from “emerging” (not enough people in the group yet.) to “very strong” which means that the reality of a connection is high. My sister was recently tested and received several “speculative circles.” Most of them were “weak” links. I had also never heard of the people in the trees, nor could I see where we might match up. With one circle, however, there were strong links with 8 out of the 12 people in the circle.
My grandfather Mershell Graham’s sister Annie (Click for more information about Annie) and her children appear in the 1910 US census in Elmore county working as servants for Oscar and Emma (Jackson) Barron . They were there in the 1920 census and until Emma died. Emma was the daughter of Absolom Jackson, a large slave holder in Autauga County (In 1866 Elmore County was formed from part of Autauga).
I began to think that my family may have been slaves on Absolom Jackson’s plantation. My grandfather was born in 1888 in Coosada, Elmore County, Alabama. His mother’s name was Mary Jackson. About 15 years ago a Jackson descendant sent me a copy of the 1832 Will of James Jackson in which he divided up the slaves between two of his sons (Absolom and Crawford) and his son-in-law (Lunceford Long). 1832 was before Mary Jackson (my grandfather’s mother) or her parents were have been born. All of James Jackson’s adult children had large numbers of slaves that, of course, weren’t mentioned in that will. Due to these reasons, I was not surprised that I recognized no names.
I started a tree for James Jackson and his family on Ancestry.com. I do that for any people I think might have enslaved any branch of my family. I use the information to look for wills and bills of sale, anything that might have my ancestors listed.
All of this is leading up to the circle. We share Lunceford Long’s and his wife Nancy Daniel Jackson Long’s DNA with descendants who have a paper trail. Lunceford (1797 to 1857) and his wife Nancy are the nearest common ancestors that all of the lines in the circle share. They are the 6th generation back from me. This means that we have DNA from both Lunceford and Nancy. How could this happen?
At first I thought that meant that one of the sons had a child with an enslaved woman. But the sons are not the closest ancestor, Longford and Nancy are. I believe it means that Lunceford Crawford Long had a baby with an as yet unnamed enslaved woman? And that said unnamed woman was related to Nancy Daniel Jackson so that they shared DNA.
I take all this to mean that I was right and the Jackson’s did own my ancestors. Now to look for more wills and other records that might show names I can recognize and hopefully place in family groups.
Aunt Daisy took us downtown to the show every summer and to Saunders for ice cream afterward. And I always ended up with a splitting headache. Too much high living I guess. She and Alice would buy us dainty, expensive little dresses from Siegel’s or Himllhoch’s. They all went to church every Sunday at Plymouth Congregational. Daisy always gave us beautiful tins of gorgeous Christmas candy, that white kind filled with gooey black walnut stuff, those gooey raspberry kind and those hard, pink kind with a nut inside, also chocolates, of course!
Here I am under the apple tree with my cousin Barbara where we built and rebuilt a castle for our fairies. Each family had one. Ours was Pinkie my cousins was Lucy. In between the castles we made various dirt pies and cakes. That little black utensil next to me was a sifter. It had holes punched in the bottom and we sifted the dirt with it.
We used to walk up the plank against the back fence and look out into the alley. Nothing really exciting out there, most of the time although I remember the police chasing a man through there once. I am pretty sure we were not standing on the plank watching. If we did, it was only for as long as it took an adult to call us inside While the chase went on.
It must be spring because we can see that there is no garden bu the Pussy Willow bush in the background seems to have buds. We are wearing our light jackets (or “jumpers” as Poppy called them.) and overalls. My saddle shoes are horribly dirty. My socks had probably slid down inside of them. Barbara is wearing buckled shoes but her socks look quite saggy. In the spring of 1955 I would have been 8 and Barbara would have been 7. She is missing a tooth, but not those you loose when you are 6.
In the fall my grandmother made the best applesauce with the apples from that tree. They were not the kind you eat uncooked. In spite of the sticky stuff my grandfather painted around the tree trunk, there were worms in the apples and they were very small and sour. They made the best applesauce ever though, with lots of cinnamon.
Mershell, Mary V. and my mother Doris Graham are sitting on their front steps waving balloons on sticks. It was 1926. The house was on Theodore, the east side of Detroit. Sometimes I dream about this house and the porch usually figures in the dreams as I leave or enter or start down the street going somewhere.