My Story

"...I keep six honest serving-men. 
They taught me all I knew. 
Their names are What and Why and When
and How and Where and Who."  
—Rudyard Kipling (The Elephant's Child)
Hello!  I'm so glad that you stopped by my blog, where you'll find a variety of techniques that I've used to preserve my own Mississippian heritage.  As you get to know your ancestors, you'll wonder why you didn't start sooner but know that everything happens for a reason. 

Why & When
After watching African American Lives numerous times, I began actively researching my family history in August 2006. As my maternal grandmother* was still alive (then 83 years young and still going strong!), I began looking for her family. Itinerant laborers, it took me four months before I had my first lead.

During those same four months, I was also looking for my dad's family in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi. At Ancestry.com, there were leaves everywhere. Within a day, I had many branches going back to 1870. Years before, I was back in the States and waiting for my student visa to come through, I went to the home of father's eldest sister. " '...I remember there was a James and a Mary,' " she said.

Thinking that I could find my family in three months, I signed up for a trial membership at Ancestry.com.  Six months later, still rolling over my membership month to month, I realized that I had indirectly paid for an annual membership.  Save yourself some cash: sign up for the annual membership up front!

During my early research, my mom, a crafter, had a serendipitous moment at a local Farmer's Market. While talking to one of her clients, my name and newest hobby came up. Sue, a volunteer at our local Family History Center (FHC) in Naperville, Illinois, gave my mom a telephone number where I could reach her. We talked at length and arranged to meet the following Tuesday morning at the FHC.

She showed me around the facility and around Familysearch.org. In no time, I was ordering microfilm from Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah and combing documents until my eyeballs were ready to pop out of my head. With a secure footing, fate stepped in again. My sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas. "A plane ticket -- to Mississippi," I responded.

She thought that I had lost my mind and was grateful that I hadn't asked for a one-way ticket back to Nice, FRANCE, where I used to live.  And so, after a twenty year absence (since my grandfather and grandmother had died), I went back to Mississippi to reestablish family ties. Needless to say, that first conversation with my father’s youngest sister was stilted but could have been a lot worse had my cousin not been there.

While there, Mona Tomlinson, a local researcher, helped me confirm that my ancestors' slave-owner was also my great-great-great-great grandfather.  Incidently, I would later discover that I had already ordered this same microfilm and that it had been waiting for me, at my local FHC, but I hadn't taken the time to review it before my trip to the "Sip"!  Note to self: Don't do that again. 

According to the 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Oktibbeha County resident, John McDowell's real and personal estates were valued at $55, 000--keep in mind that he was one of the county's smaller slaveholders (see Oktibbeha County's Largest Slaveholders).

Moreover, to approximate today's dollars, multiply his yesteryear dollars by a factor of 20 and you'll soon understand why the Magnolia State seceded from the Union on January 9, 1861. By June 1861, eleven southern states would go to war over slavery's "Peculiar Institution" couched in terms of "States Rights".

After discovering that bombshell, I was thoroughly hooked on genealogy and full of myself. Not even a month later, in January 2007, I was in the air again.  During a long weekend, I went to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA and the National Archives in Washington, DC.  Again, I came home with more valuable information.

In between reading and rereading several how-to books (my favorite being the late Dee Woodtor's Finding A Place Called Home), I finally admitted to myself that I didn't know what I didn't know. With that in mind and when I wasn't working, that first year, I hit the road to attend seminars and conferences, near and far.

March 2007: Galesburg, IL -- Genealogy Computing Workshop
May 2007: Fort Wayne, IN -- Allen County Public Library Research Trip
August 2007: Fort Wayne, IN -- FGS Conference: Meeting At the Crossroads of America
September 2007: Saint Louis, MO -- Discover Your Roots Missouri Conference
September 2007: Phoenix, AZ -- Seventh Annual West Coast Summit on African American Genealogy
October 2007: Chicago, IL -- AAGHSC 25th Annual Conference
October 2007: Elmhurst, IL -- IL State Genealogical Conference

Everywhere I looked, I found kinfolk -- black and white -- who had served the Confederate cause.  How could that be?  Several were involuntarily pressed into service as slaves while others voluntarily enlisted as slaveowners.  In late 2007, I enrolled in two classes: a semester long summary on U.S. History to 1865 and a year-long treatise on the Civil War.

Several months later, the morning after finals, I was on another plane: this time to the Family History Library (FHL), in Salt Lake City. I spent a week at the FHL, practically opening and closing the library every night.  Thank goodness for Sundays, when the FHL isn't open, I was forced to do some sightseeing, which gave my eyes much needed rest.  Note to self: Don't do that again.  As I recall, once I was back home, I didn't read anything for three whole weeks.  My eyes hurt just that much!

I've made plenty of mistakes along the way and I hope that you'll learn from my experiences, good and bad.  In the years following, I found myself averaging five or six conferences a year, except in 2010 when I was laid off. Since then, I've met many individuals researching Mississippi and even found a couple more with Oktibbeha County (O.C.) ancestry.

Copyright © 2010-2013 by Anita Boyd
Question? Comment? Email me!

O.C. has been home to the Boyds since 1834. The Sand Creek community is located along Highway 82, heading east toward Columbus (in Lowndes County).

* My maternal grandmother, Alva Robinson, passed on October 26, 2012.