Everyone needs a mentor. I’ve been blessed to have several amazing ones including the late James Dent Walker from the National Archives.
I was introduced to “Jimmy”, as he was known to friends, in 1977 when I wasn’t having any luck with my application to DAR – the National Society of the Daughters of the Revolution. No local chapter in my neck of the woods would invite me to become a member even though I had documented my eligibility. That may sound strange these days but that was back where there weren’t any African American members in DAR.
So many times, Jimmy and his wonderful wife, Barbara opened up their home in Washington, D.C. to me when I came in town to do research. That little bedroom …
My father, Thomas Melvin Batchelor was born on February 16, 1920 in Hamtramck, Michigan – a small city next to Detroit. He was two months premature and had head full of white hair that would soon turn into the flaming red hair he was know for in his youth along with a million freckles.
According to my grandmother, the doctor who delivered my dad said, “If he makes it through the night, he’s got a chance”. Fighter that he was, Dad not only made it through that night, but went on to survive a childhood of poverty during the Great Depression.
Even though he grew up without material things, Dad always remembered the best from those days. He used to tell us stories about those days and …
At the time I started researching my family back in 1976, my goals were simple – find all my great grandparents. Of course, I was hoping their information would lead me back yet another and that would have been the icing on the cake. But after only a few months of family history research, I was staring at the name of William Hood, my 4th great grandfather. He is still one of the biggest surprises in all my years of doing Black genealogy.
William Hood was a White man born about 1757 in Ireland who immigrated to Pennsylvania before the American Revolution. By the time the war began, history finds William living on the frontier in Northumberland County near the western branch of the Susquehanna River.
My Aunt Clara was the first person I knew who was passionate about family history. In 1976, when I decided to start researching our family, I didn’t know where to start. Somewhere I read that you should start by talking with your oldest relative. At that point, it was my maternal great Aunt Clara who was 81 years old.
Born Clarissa Mae Weaver on December 1, 1894 in Cleveland, Ohio, Aunt Clara grew into a strong, feisty woman with an opinion on everything and anything – whether you wanted to hear it or not. My childhood memory is that Aunt Clara was tall and imposing, the kind of person who commands attention when she walked in a room. And she sure got our attention.
In her later …
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