Saturday, January 28, 2012

ALA RUSA "Genealogy is Bigger in Texas" Preconference - part 2

The second presentation at the American Library Association (ALA) Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) History Section's genealogy preconference at the Midwinter Meeting in Dallas on January 20 was by Ari Wilkins, a staff member at the Dallas Public Library and a principal with Black Genesis.  It was entitled "The Story Behind the Fountain Hughes Case Study - Cross Country Research."
Fountain Hughes was a former slave who was interviewed about his life by Hermond Norwood, a Library of Congress engineer at the time, in Baltimore, Maryland, in June 1949, when Fountain claimed to be 101 years old. The recording is one of only 26 in the Library of Congress' American Folklife Center's Archive of Folk Culture and is currently part of the Voices from the Days of Slavery collection.  Ari began her presentation by playing portions of the interview.
Ari decided to follow his life, documenting the places where he lived, and she used a variety of resources.  In the recorded interview, Hughes said he, his mother, and his father "belonged to Burnley" and that he was "born in Charlottesville, Virginia."  Working backward through census and other records, she verifed that he was owned by the Burnley family in Albemarle County, Virginia, which is the same county where Charlottesville is located. Using a tax record of the slave owner that documented his age, she determined that he was probably born around 1860, and thus he was about 89 when he was interviewed, not 101.

In the interview, Fountain Hughes said, "My grandfather belong to Thomas Jefferson," and "my father got killed in the Army" [in the Civil War].  It's not clear who Fountain's father was.  He may have accompanied a Burnley master in the war as a servant.  His grandfather was probably Wormley Hughes, who became the head gardener at Monticello, and whose mother was a sister to Sally Hemings.

She also found contact information for the sole surviving direct descendant of Fountain, using the Reference USA database.  She recorded an interview with her which she played for us.  Shallie Barrett Marshall remembered her great-grandfather living with the family when she was a child.

This was a fascinating case study, and Ari provided a handout listing resources for African-American and slave era genealogical research, including a list of misconceptions about such research.

© Amanda Pape - 2012 - click here to e-mail me.

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