Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Disappearing Act


While I publicly agonize over my lack of research progress in identifying further details about the formerly-enslaved King Stockton, behind the scenes, I've been trying my hand at building a family tree for the man. The progress has been modest; so far, I have listed about one hundred of his descendants—mostly driven by the discovery that DNA may connect me with some of them.

And yet, the going is rough. As I trace the lines of each of King and Louvenia's children from their 1870 home in Wellborn, Florida, something invariably happens, once I cross the line from one century to the next: they disappear.

I've had my guesses about what might have been going on. After all, people do not simply drop out of sight—not, at least, as a regular occurrence across multiple lines of the same extended family.

Now that I'm—finally!—attending the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy's course on African American genealogical research, I'm hoping for some research direction. You know, pointers about those hard to find, hidden-away resources that no one ever thinks to check.

We started the week's curriculum at SLIG with some heady reminders from course instructors LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson and Judy Russell to consider both the historical and legal background undergirding any unfolding events in the timeline of these sought-after ancestors. And then we came to that standard resource all of us use: the decennial United States enumeration.

Don't presume that was our arrival at the basics of the course. The discussion quickly maneuvered to all the other material that can be found in what is so often viewed as a most common resource. In the process of this review, instructor Deborah Abbott, Ph.D.—whose qualifications can be found in genealogical organizations far and wide—happened to mention something which perked up my ears.

Some African American ancestors seemed to disappear. Like, right about the times I had noticed that same phenomenon in the saga of King Stockton's family. And, as we had discussed earlier on this first day of class, we need to consider the historical and legal context.

I suspect, for some of King Stockton's descendants, life following the Reconstruction era—and especially as African Americans felt the impact of the difficult time of Jim Crow laws—may well have caused many to find ways to "disappear." Reading local news reports from that time period are sobering reminders, indeed.

Of course, I can't be satisfied to claim that as my alibi and do nothing further. I still want to push back farther in time and connect King Stockton to his roots, and I need to discover the branches which connect those few DNA matches I've found. This week at SLIG promises to deliver that needed guidance to lead me to additional resources to do just that.



  1. Did Walter Plecker’s policies extend beyond Virginia?

  2. I can't wait to hear what you have learned!

  3. This is great stuff. I so look forward to your "reports from the front." I appreciate the way you share everything you learn.

  4. Ella Stockton Cook (1863 - 1934) may be a branch to check when you decide to look at King's family tree again. She married Frank Cook in 1878.


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