Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Family Photo with Maggie Ruth Moore

I have been divorced for at least 22 years, however I have always felt a part of my in-laws family.  Mama Moore has always accepted me as her daughter and when it comes down to it, we are family.

Update:  I just learned that Aunt Edith Williamson passed away yesterday.  January 21, 2014.  I don't think it is coincidental that I did this post. Aunt Edith, may you have a peaceful journey.  Love you.

(Front) My daughter Vanessa Moore and her grandmother Maggie Ruth Moore
(Back) Aunt Glenda, Great Aunt Edith Williamson and My X-husband Tommy Keith Moore.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Window Into The Past: Breaking Down A Brick Wall - Part #1

Maternal Adopted Ancestry

This is not the first time I have written about the Singleton-Gilliam Ancestry. I strongly feel that this is the beginning of my story of Slave & Master on my Maternal family line.  It is also very possible that the Nelson Surname is important to this research.  

Sure I have ancestors that were free people of color but I had many others that were brought across the seas to this land we call America.  My Great Great Grandmother Hannah D. Nelson-Singleton Gilliam born sometime in 1839, lived the life of a slave and also had the opportunity to play a significant role within her family and community during the Reconstruction years migrating from Craven County, North Carolina to Worcester, MA. Hannah was described as a very fair complected woman.  She had many household skills that she took with her into the Reconstruction reflecting on Hannah and not fully knowing her, I believe that she was a House Slave. Of course I can't assume, but I really don't think she worked a day in the field. From what I have heard, the family was very sophisticated and skilled in the homes of the Well-to-do in Worcester, MA.

In my mother's journal she spoke of Hannah being impregnated by the Slave Master.  In my research, I discovered that Singleton was the Slave Masters surname.  During slavery, my 2x Great Grandmother was married to a Daniel Gilliam.  I only see him mentioned through documents such as birth certificates, death certificates, city directories as Hannah being the widow of Daniel.  I finally found him in a probate record dated in 1867 in Craven County, NC.  It is clear that he never migrated to Worcester, so that made it easy for me to end his story where he might have been born. [I am unsure where he was born.]  I am unsure if he was colored or white; slave or free.  I have made many assumptions, but with my assumptions, it has put false walls up, so I am opening up on my conclusions and re-opening the box and stepping outside of it, allowing my ancestors to guide me to the truth. 

Hannah had at least five children [I think she had more, and some may not have been her biological children.] One of her sons was Leander Singleton Gilliam.  He was so fair, that he passed as a white man.  He didn't start "passing" until he migrated to Worcester with his mother Hannah and his Auntie Jane B. Collins.  The fact that he "passed"  somewhat surprised me as these two ladies were also very fair, however were advocates and leaders in the Black Community of Worcester and probably in North Carolina once the Slaves were free.

Lawrence Sr., Lawrence Jr., and sister Lynn
 Leander married a Swedish woman Flora Lawrence, and the two of them gave birth to three boys.  Their son's names were: Lawrence, William and Eugene.  All of the boys were given the Singleton surname as their middle name.  I find this very telling.  A few years ago, the husband of Lawrence's daughter contacted me believing that we were cousins.  After some discussion and the analyzing of our family tree and sharing of documents, we were able to confirm our relationship.  I could let our ancestry begin with Hannah, and speculate who the real father was of Leander and all her other children, but I felt there had to be a bigger story that could somehow be dug into deeper.  Leander was born in 1860, and it was documented in his marriage record that his father was a William S. [which meant Singleton to me.] I have other clues that give me this conclusion, however I will show this in another post as I attempt to prove through documentation and DNA.  The Singleton-Gilliam line to this day "pass" as white because after Leander "passing," the family line did not know of their African American ancestry.  This was disclosed to them once I was contacted.

So some time in August or September of 2013, I received an email from the grandson of Leander Gilliam. This was so important to me and I knew that the ancestors had to be working overtime.  When it is the right time to know, the truth will appear.  

So, Leander's grandson Lawrence Singleton Gilliam Jr. who is in his 80's communicates with me on a regular basis.  I truly adore this man, my cousin.  When I shared with him his ancestry, he mentioned that he always was told of their Native American Ancestry.  He knew nothing of his African Ancestry.  So the two of us decided that it was time for Lawrence to take a DNA test.  This is what he did, because one thing he wants to know at his age is where he came from and what his ancestry is. I was thrilled!  We just got the results back, and I am telling you, I was all over the place as they were slowly coming in.  I went from elated to uncertainty as to the results.  These will be revealed soon.

So, my main questions are?:   Is Leander's descendants of African Ancestry? Can we link Lawrence Singleton Gilliam to the Singleton Ancestry through DNA? Was the Singleton surname just the Slave Owners ancestry and just a name alone linking the Gilliams to the Singleton plantation?  Is it possible that Leander had a different father, and that possibly Daniel Gilliam is his father?  I hope some of these questions can be ruled out and answered correctly.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Walter James Porter & Betty Mae Peters: Honoring My Parents Legacy

On August 18, 1968, God blessed me with Walter & Betty Porter as my parents. It took a few months for me to be adopted and taken home to live with my forever parents.  I was born as Victoria Ann Espinoza, and when I was adopted,  my parents renamed me as Yvette Marie Porter.  I was there second child, as my parents adopted a little boy a year before they adopted me.

My mother, Betty Mae Peters was born on November 17, 1926 in Manhattan, NY to Agnes Mae Cully & Charles Irving Peters.  Betty was raised by her mother Agnes from the age of five years as a single mother, as her husband Charles had the high propensity to run off and gamble and run around with other women. 

Betty's mother was a well-known professional fashion designer in New York sewing for many well-to-do ladies, where she held and participated in many fashion shows. Her most prided customer was Marian Anderson, who was the 1st African American invited to perform at the White House for Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt.  She is also well known for her singing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after she was denied access and accommodations at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. which was owned by D.A.R. Daughters of the American Revolution.  Eleanor Roosevelt who was also a member of D.A.R. publicly resigned for this act of discrimination.  

After Betty completed her education in New York with a double major from NYU, they moved to Los Angeles with the urging of Betty's Aunt Zara Cully Brown who had also left New York for Los Angeles to pursue a career in Acting; Later to be known as Mother Jefferson on the Jefferson's Tv sitcom.  Betty was Agnes' only child.

My Father Walter J. Porter was born in Lake Providence, Louisiana on September 11, 1927 to Helen Bunn & Harrison Porter on the Brown's Plantation where his father was a sharecropper. Walter's mother did not want her son to have a life of hard labor wanting him to receive a solid education.  Because of her hopes for her son's future she ran away from the farm taking Walter at the age of five with her.  The two of them moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, where other Porters and Bunns would eventually move.  After a few years Helen being the family adventurer lead other family members to St. Louis, MO where my father was raised.  Eventually Walter and Helen migrated to Los Angeles, CA in the late 1940's. Walter joined the military in the late 1940's and was honorably discharged in 1951.  Walter was Helen's only child.

So Los Angeles is where Walter & Betty met.  They began dating in 1953 and married on August 18, 1957.  They wanted to be parents, however were not able to and so that brings them to my brother and myself.  We were very fortunate to have been raised by these two very wonderful people.  

When my parents met, my father was a correctional officer and my mother was an Elementary School teacher.  My father and mother had a very active social life.  They were active in politics in Los Angeles and my father was an entertainer.  He performed with his one-of-a-kind Act: Jody as a ventriloquist/comedian.  He was an M.C. at the California Club and opened up for many well known Jazz entertainers and other well known comedians such as Redd Foxx. 

The two of them started their family and this is where I consider my beginning.  Over the next thirty posts, I will be presenting my parents ancestry and their legacy.  With their never-ending love and their forever support I have been able to research and find my Birth Parent's families, and will continue to research so I can tell the story.  I feel it is my obligation to all of my ancestries through birth and through adoption to tell their stories also.

Both of my parents have passed away.  Today marks the Tenth Anniversary of my mother's transition as an Ancestor on January 5, 2004.  My father transitioned as an Ancestor on August 7, 2001.  To them, I dedicate this post as they continue to live on in memory.