Not every piece of writing we pick up for a casual afternoon's read is slathered in footnotes, of course, but for those scholarly tomes in which we occasionally find ourselves lost while seeking dead relatives, footnotes or endnotes are the preferred mode of bestowing credit. We ignore them at our own loss.
It was in the pursuit of the only online link which contained the phrase, "King Stockton," that I ran into the sole mention of the man I believe to be the former slave from the McClellan plantation in Wellborn, Florida. Granted, it was not much of a lead: the entry referenced in my Google search barely gave the man the nod of a full sentence in a thirty three page journal article. One sentence turned out to be enough.
As it was, the article did provide more than just that one key sentence. It gave me a sense of Wellborn in the early years following the Civil War—the friends, associates and neighbors who not only were connected to the subject of the journal article, but to King Stockton, as well.
But what would Mintie and Kelly Dean and their son James—focus of that journal article—have to tell me about King Stockton? James Dean's story certainly didn't help me determine whether King Stockton was indeed the nameless man I was seeking from my childhood memories.
The mention of those names in the journal did help me connect the James Dean in that Florida Historical Quarterly article with the James Dean of Wellborn in the 1870 census—which then led me to notice that, as a child, he did live only five households away from that of King Stockton and his family.
As for the Summer 2008 article's intent, its title sums it up: "The Pioneer African American Jurist Who Almost Became a Bishop: Florida's Judge James Dean, 1858-1914."
The second page of the article mentioned the influences on James Dean's early years, among them King Stockton. The last paragraph simply stated,
The Dean family belonged in the post-Civil War era to the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. This connection likely first arose thanks to King Stockton, a local AME minister who filled Wellborn-area religious needs in the absence of a regularly organized church and who lived in close proximity to the Deans.
That last paragraph—with the blip of a mention about King Stockton—wrapped itself around the footnotes on the bottom of page 17 and continued for seven more lines, dropping several other names, on page 18. It was only at the end of that lengthy paragraph on the subsequent page that I spotted another footnote. Not sure whether the footnote referred to the last name mentioned in that final sentence, or somehow included all the previous ones as well, I was inclined to just skip the formalities of slogging through the footnotes at the bottom of the page.
It's a good thing I didn't. There, in a footnote stretching over ten lines of its own, was a source for what surely had been the original mention of King Stockton's name. The title in that footnote promised a biography of the man, enough to cause me to grab my mouse and snip the title. From there, my hunt changed from "Who was King Stockton?" to "who has that book?"
Now, my search has moved from a nameless man liberated from slavery in 1865 to a potential Wellborn neighbor to the specific title of a book about his life. I never in all my life would have dreamed I'd finally discover all that detail. When I first heard the story as a child, all I knew was that there was this unnamed book about a nameless man.
I've learned, however, not to get too elated over small victories. As it turned out, according to WorldCat.org, there is only one library in the whole wide world which contains a copy of that book. Hint: it isn't anywhere close to where I live.
The process of genealogical research may be more a marathon than a sprint. It sometimes turns out to be one in which each step can demand agonizing effort. It's feast or famine; hurry up and wait. Now, I have to polish up my credentials as a researcher, and present myself for consideration: will I be deemed worthy enough to divulge the contents of that rare-books-and-manuscripts collection's holdings?
I asked. And am waiting.