Decades ago, cartoon enthusiasts looked forward to the single-panel daily dose of humor delivered up in Gary Larson's The Far Side. One specific cartoon comes to mind this weekend, as I recover from a week full of training at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy: the cartoon with a hapless student raising his hand and calling out, "May I be excused? My brain is full."
While my brain is indeed full—and churning away with an abundance of fresh ideas on approaches to research dilemmas—that doesn't mean I merit a hall pass to get out of class. I will certainly need this weekend to recoup energy and clarity before launching on a new research pathway for February. But the time has been a worthwhile investment. For anyone else struggling with the perplexing intricacies of researching the family history of African Americans, I wish you the gift of being able to hear such clarifying instruction.
I say intricacies, as exploring to the minutest fibers the contextual fabric of life in the South preceding the Civil War reveals a web in which even to become a freed slave meant being ensnared in not just social mores but laws and customs which severely restricted that supposed "freedom." No wonder there were actually petitions by some who were manumitted requesting return to slavery.
From what I gained in this past week's training, I'll formulate research goals regarding my pursuit of the details of King Stockton's life both growing up in Florida, and at the Georgia plantation where he was born in 1830. But this will no longer be a mere pursuit of who, what, where, or when. The why of it all needs to be incorporated into the full story of a family history, as well. Though my family has the benefit of an oral history regarding this man and his family, there is so much farther to go to delve into the full aspect of the history, both at the McClellan plantation in Wellborn, Florida, and back at the origin in the Tison plantation in Glynn County, Georgia.
And yet, that full brain needs some breathing room before expanding further. Yes, I'll review the videos of the class sessions once again—there were so many books recommended, I'll need to draw up my wish list, too—and make sure I haven't missed any research tips pertinent to this search for King Stockton's story. But to reflect is the final call from this week's proceedings. There is a great need to reflect on the meaning—the import—of the whole slave trade and what it meant to a nation's psyche, as well. Heady stuff, indeed.