THE BEGINNING OF MY JOURNEY
While going through my AOL forum comments came across a comment of Linda McIntire Ball asking for descendants of my grandmother Ora Mae Perkins, this was the start of a relationship that has lasted to this day Here is the conversation as it was related to me:
My family has had an interest in our ancestry for as long as I can remember. After I married and became pregnant with my twins I thought how nice it would be for my kids to have the genealogy of both their parents, so I set off to working on my husbands’ family, on my own. At the time I hadn’t a clue how difficult it was to be, searching for African-American roots. We are a bi-racial couple and my family has been in Michigan since the 1860’s. We also live in Michigan, making records that much easier for me to obtain. Now not only was I trying to find African-American roots, I was having to look for documentation in Mississippi. Naive as I was, I figured well how hard or different could it be ? My twins are now 18 years old and I am still searching for many specific documents that I would like to have, and trying to keep up to date with a humongous extended family.
One of the most helpful resources for me has been an annual family reunion held every year in July. Its a wonderful place to obtain oral stories, and meet the elders in the family and keeping up to date with current cousins. The reunion is in the name of Ross-Perkins, the surnames of the furthest back ancestors that current family members knew. My husband’s line is that of Louis Ross and his wife, Mollie Perkins, from Holly Springs, MS.
Louis and Mollie had a very large family, some of their children didn’t live to adulthood and others married and started their own families. The elders stated in the beginning that Louis and Mollie had between 18 and 21 children. Wow, you can imagine how many cousins are going to come from a family of that size !
Using ancestry.com and their census records I was quickly able to find Louis and Molly right where they were supposed to be in Holly Springs. I thought to myself, how great it would be if I could find their parents and be able to give our current family a whole new generation backward that no one knew about. Having both Louis and Mollie’s ages, and know they were born in Holly Springs, I worked backward trying to locate a Ross or a Perkins that would fit in their Louis or Mollie. I started with Louis and soon located an Elijah Ross with a wife named Emily and 6 children, one having the name of Louis, who matched in age to my Louis. I turned to an elder family member and asked did he ever hear of Louis having had any siblings. He remembered there was a Wesley Ross, sure enough, Elijah and Emily also had a son Wesley. So I had found them ! How great was this an entire list of new names to work on with limitless possibilities of more relatives.
Working back in the census to 1870, I found no matches. Strange, I thought, I knew they had to be there somewhere, why couldn’t I find a match ? A friend from a genealogy chat room asked me, when was Marshall County, MS created. (Marshall County being the county Holly Springs is located in) So a quick search told me Marshall County was established out of pieces of DeSoto County and Tate County, MS in 1836, however in 1873 it gave up portions of the county to create Tate County and Benton County, as well as receiving portions of DeSoto County to now be included as Marshall County. So this would mean in 1870 Elijah’s family may not have lived in Marshall County, they could have been living in DeSoto County, and really never moved, only the county border lines changed.
I began a search in DeSoto county, MS for Elijah with a wife Emily and the same 6 children to match. Low and behold I found them, but this was strange, they were listed with a last name of Burrows. This confused me. Time for me to go to the African-American chat room and get some help.
The wonderful hosts of the African-American genealogy chat jumped right in with their thoughts and theories. After emancipation, I was told, the former slaves choose their own surnames and while many used the name of their owners, some did not. They may have had more then one owner and preferred one over another. Elijah could have known someone in town or on the plantation named Ross who he respected and used his name for that reason. He may have known who owned either one of his parents and choose the use that name. The reason Elijah changed his last name from Burrows to Ross may not ever be known, but what mattered was Louis Ross was actually born Louis Burrows.
Wanting to find who owned Elijah’s family was what I really wanted to accomplish. Knowing that I am now searching in DeSoto County, and that I would be looking for Burrows made a big difference ! Sadly, I am still trying to find the owners of Elijah and his family, but I haven’t been able to locate what happened to some of Louis’s siblings. Two of them unfortunately were recorded with initials only, a J.S. Ross and a J.R. Ross, not knowing what the initials stand for, they are still waiting to be found.
It’s been a very long and interesting journey for me. I have learned more history and met some wonderful people along the way. I hope that of the binders I have put together for our family, has given back to them in some small way. Letting them know how proud I am to be the mother of a strong, close-knit and prolific family !
Later in my journey Linda collaborated with me on my ancestral journey, me adding my line information with what she already had, has documented our family up to 8 generations and counting. Who knew that that one forum inquiry showing up in my AOL forum was the beginning of this interesting journey. And so the “Journey” continues.