From Whence I Came: Gilbert and Mary

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Thus far, in searching out information to learn more about “From Whence I Came,” I have relied on records from the United States Federal Census, Illinois Death Records, U.S. Social Security Death Index, and U.S. World War I Draft Registration forms.

I am not sure what, if anything, I will find out about my ancestors who were born into, married and/or died during slavery.  Since enslaved African-American men, women, and children were not recorded in Census Reports until 1870.  My enslaved family, though identified in Census Reports, were recorded under their slaveholders’ name.  They were listed by their first name or nameless along with race, height, and weight.

At this stage in my research, I have not been able to find out when my great-great-grandparents, Gilbert and Mary Shegog, married.  However, I feel confident they were married for more than forty years given the:

  • 1900 Census report their oldest children as twins, Thomas and Minerva, age 13.
  • 1990 Census report Gilbert’s and Mary’s age as 34 and 25, respectively.
  • 1930 Census report the youngest child, Josie, is living in the home with her two young children.

It appears that Mary passed away sometime after the 1930 Census Report as the:

  • 1940 Census reports Gilbert living in the home of his youngest, son, Robert and wife, Edna.  His marital status was recorded as widowed.

Since I found the record of Gilbert’s death in the Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths, Index, I assume he was either visiting or living with his children who migrated from Mississippi to Chicago, Illinois, in the late 1930s or early 1940s.  Gilbert was laid to rest in his hometown, Clarksdale, Coahoma County, Mississippi on November 30, 1947.

 

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Gilbert Shegog – Born About 1866

Gilbert and Mary’s children were the great-grand aunts and uncles who loved and embraced me from my childhood until their death.  A strong family commitment brought them together to fill the void left by my grandmother and great-grandmother who died before I was born.

There is no doubt “From Whence I Came — 

“I am the descendent of a slave family.  We were captured and lost our identity.  Yet, we have survived and thrived despite the obstacles placed in our paths.”

In coming weeks, I hope to uncover information and write about my great, great-grandmother, Mary, as well as the 13 children born into this union.

 

Family Memories: Miss Mattie and George

I want to create an identity for those family members that came before me.  For my family history has been lost, misplaced and forgotten.  I will begin by searching for information, asking questions, and recalling memories.

When information is found, I will write.  When I recall memories, I will write.  When I get answers, I will write.

I want to leave written words for my children, grandchildren, and future generations so that they, “know from whence they came.” 

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So, I begin this journey with fond memories of my maternal great-grandparents.

George and Miss Mattie

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George and Miss Mattie – Wedding Photo

During my childhood, I assumed George and Miss Mattie were only good friends.  After all, they worked on the same plantation and lived in close proximity to each other.

As the plantation owner’s family cook, Miss Mattie, lived in the big house with the plantation owner’s family. I recall a large white house surrounded by huge shrubs, sitting on lush green lawns, with peacocks walking around spreading their colorful wings.

George worked as the driver  who supervised the sharecroppers working in the plantation fields.  Therefore, his house was a bit larger, painted a bright red and better maintained than the sharecropper homes on the plantation.  Sitting directly behind the big house, it shared the big house’s lush green lawns, huge shrubs and the peacocks even wandered by George’s front porch spreading their colorful wings.

Growing up, I knew George was the driver on the plantation.  Unlike the drivers described during slavery, the sharecroppers on the plantation respected and trusted George.

Even though slavery ended in 1865, its remnants remained in the south and its replacement was sharecropping.  

I am not sure when George or Miss Mattie began working on this plantation located in the rural Mississippi Delta.  For certain, George worked as the driver throughout my mother’s childhood as well as mine.

Miss Mattie and George married sometime around the mid-1950s and were together until George passed away in 1971. Miss Mattie died several years later.

Though. I refer to George and Miss Mattie as great-grandparents, we shared no bloodline.

George the Single Parent

My mother rarely talked about her past. But, she did tell me how George became my great-grandfather  He married my great-grandmother, Minerva, around the late 1930s. She was raising four grandchildren after the death of her daughter and only child, Minnie.

Several years later, when Minerva, died four of her sisters offered to take one child each.  George rejected their offer.  He did not want to see them separated.

George was very protective of the children.  He stressed getting an education and their moving up north for a better life.  When other children on the plantation went to work in the fields, my mother and her siblings went to school.  When the two girls were ready for high school, he sent them both off to boarding schools.  I remember mama saying, “We wanted to go to the field with the other children, but George wouldn’t allow it.”

The two boys were with him until they enlisted in the Navy during World War II and the two girls left when they married.  All eventually moved north as George wanted.

I have many, many memories to share of times spent with this compassionate, loving, and generous man as I continue down this path of discovering “from whence I came.”