Saturday, July 28, 2012

Fannie & Savannah: Hiding or Lost

Fannie (1880 - 1971) & Savannah (1895-1982)
My Gr. Great & Great grandmothers

Fannie and Savannah are some of my greatest genealogical mysteries. Savannah was my maternal grandfathers mother, and Fannie was her mother. As I tried to gather the pieces to their puzzles to eventually be able to tell their stories, I found out it wasn't going to be easy. I have no clue who Savannah's biological father was, or where she (or Fannie) was born. As the story goes Savannah was either born in Louisiana or Arkansas. Fannie is thought to have been from Louisiana. Different documents say different things. I cannot find a trace of them before 1910. I wish I could find something earlier to get to the bottom of it all.
  This is the earliest document I have found:

1910 U.S. Census, Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri
Fannie(listed as Annie) was married to Ardis(listed as Ossie) Phillips for six years (second marriages for both), meaning they were married somewhere in about 1904. Ardis and his brother Elsie are listed as born in Louisiana. Ardis was a laborer/janitor and his brother Elsie worked in a saloon. Fannie was born in Arkansas, and Savannah's is listed as Savannah Rogers - born in Missouri.
I searched the 1900 census and found this:

1900 U.S. Census,  Shreveport, Caddo, Lousiana

Ardis Phillips was previously married to a woman named Bell. He was living in Shreveport, Louisiana along with his brother Elsie,who was listed as a boarder. Four years later he would be married to Fannie, living in a new state. What became of Bell is unknown, as I can find nothing of her. I searched nearby looking for a Fannie with a child 4-5 years old named anything close to Savannah in Shreveport and adjacent counties with no luck. I also tried Arkansas and Missouri and came back with nothing. WHERE WERE MY GRANDMAS???
Looking ahead to the 1920 Census:

1920 U.S. Census, Springfield, Greene, Missouri
This time Fannie is listed as being born in Arkansas. Savannah is listed as a McBride, widowed with a daughter named Core Lee McBride, and born in Arkansas. In 1910- she was born in Missouri, ten years later and she's born in Arkansas?  At first I thought maybe she or Fannie did not know where they were born. Then I decided to see what I could find out about Savannah's first husband. I only knew his name was McBride.

This is what I found:

80426. Div 2. Final Decree 16 Sep. 1921 Book 128 p 420. Default. Decree for Plaintiff. She is innocent and injured party. Plaintiff awarded care and custody of minor child, Cora Lee McBride.

So clearly Savannah was not a widow! She lied! Why would she lie about being divorced? I figured divorce wasn't accepted as widely is it is now, and I knew they were heavy into the church. That's when my mom told me Grandma Phillips ( what the family called Fannie) was married to a minister. I rechecked the census records and sure enough, by 1920, Ardis Phillips became a minister! Kinda funny to me considering his brother worked in a saloon- but I digress...  

I found this:

 History of Reedy Chapel A.M.E.
Weaver Street, Springfield MO
"In 1918 Rev. A. PHILLIP and wife came to take over. They met the one member they had and held meetings every night. Rev. Phillip was a God fearing man and his wife had a voice like an angel. He preached and she sang and Sister Clay prayed until the doors opened and people came in. He organized the Stewards board and the trustees board.
With two other men of the neighborhood, Brother Green FULBRIGHT and Brother Woody REED, Rev. Phillip started a building on this very spot. They had prayer meetings and services in Sister Clay’s home until the building was finished. Rev. and Mrs. Phillip’s daughter, Mrs. Savanah MCBRIDE came to help.
The Church was filled with the Holy Ghost. People began to join the church. A choir was organized and was one of the best. After organizing the church, Brothers Fulbright and Reed became trustees. These men had furnished the money to build this church. A rich white woman named DICKERSON paid the mortgage of $600. The church was named after Brother Woody Reed.
The church thrived under the pastorate of Rev. A. Phillip seven years and he was sent to Kansas City, Mo."

The good Reverends daughter couldn't come back to town divorced, right? What would the congregation say?

 I was pretty convinced Fannie and Savannah were the kind of people to sweep things under the rug. Changing birth states, lying about divorces. I knew that Savannah didn't raise her daughter Cora Lee. Family story is once she married my Great grandfather Daniel Yancy Jr. ( Just 2 months after her divorce!),  Cora Lee stayed with Grandma Phillips( Fannie) and her husband Ardis, and visited her father who had two more children.

 By 1930 both Savannah and Fannie were claiming birth in Arkansas.

1930 U.S. Census, Kansas city, Jackson, Missouri
(Why did Fannie put her parents birth place as United States this time? Did she not know them?Hmmm...)
1930 U.S. Census,  Springfield, Greene, Missouri
Same thing in 1940. (Notice Cora Lee living with grandparents)

1940 U.S. Census, Springfield, Greene, Missouri

1940 U.S. Census, Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri
From looking at this, one might conclude that Fannie and Savannah were probably born in Arkansas. My grandpa always thought his mom - Savannah, was from either Arkansas or Louisiana. Apparently when she died, he was shocked by the death certificate because it said one or the other and he had always been told it was the other.Which is which is the question. He wasn't surprised at being surprised apparently because Fannie and Savannah were secretive anyway. I have to wonder why Fannie and Savannah had no other family members around. did they not want to be found?
I need to order the death certificates. I have no clue where to order Fannie's. I thought she died out here in California, but she may have died in Kansas city? I wish a genealogy fairy would sprinkle some dust and magically make any earlier documents appear.

As I type this, Blogger is acting up! Can only wonder if it's them trying to prevent me from writing this!lol

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Photo That Started It All....

Springfield, Greene Co., Missouri
Standing left to right: George Yancey, Estella Yancey , Florance Anderson, Daniel W. Yancey, Daniel J. Yancey
Sitting: Delphia Yancey 
This is the photo that started it all! I googled my last name and African American, clicked a link that said something about Yancey's of African American descent ,and this popped up as soon as the page loaded. The man on the far right looked just like my maternal grandpa.I knew his dad's name was Daniel and that he was from Springfield, Missouri.

Left: Herbert Yancy (grandpa), Right: Daniel J. Yancey(2nd great grandpa)
I was a little unsure if these people were related to me because we don't use the "E" in our last name. Family legend has it that someone got mad at his father over a property dispute and dropped the "E", changing our last name from Yancey to Yancy. I don't know how true it is as old records go back and forth between using the "E" and dropping the "E". Nothing consistent until later generations. Fortunately, there was other information related to this family on the website. Obituary records listed my grandpa and his siblings and I was able to confirm these were my peoples!

It wasn't until later that I realized just how lucky I actually was that I found such a wealth of information about one of my family lines the very FIRST time I attempted to dig into my roots. Turns out someone bought a house that once belonged to Estella Yancy (Anderson), my grandpa's aunt. It had been sitting unoccupied for several years. A friend volunteered to help the buyer clean the house out and found photos, obituaries, newspaper clippings etc. 
The most important part of this story is they did not throw them out! They preserved them, compiled them and luckily for me digitized them. Lots of these treasures were included in an exhibit about the History of African Americans in Greene, County Missouri. My ancestors were waiting to be found and remembered... I just wish my grandpa were alive to witness the things I uncovered.  

If it weren't for my favorite search engine Google, and the kindness of strangers ( DennisJ.Yancey, Judy Reustle, and Dr. Katherine Lederer- I have never met any of them- but I am SO thankful for them- wish they knew!) I may have never have known what I know now about my roots and where I come from. I may have never continued my pursuit of finding my roots or have been introduced to the wonderful world of genealogy.

Here are the lists of sites that started it all for me! If your searching for African Americans in Greene County Missouri or adjacent counties, I hope that you find these resources to be of use...

Yancey/Yancy genealogy by Dennis J. Yancey ( Awesomeness! Nice guy, very helpful! Loads of info!)