Eula Mae (Smith) Breland (1914-2003)
For as long as I've known her, my mother-in-law, Eula Mae (Smith) Breland was always proud of being Cherokee and Choctaw Indian. Often she would mention that her father, George Allen Smith, had a roll number. Through the years, as I became a little more familiar with Native American genealogy, I understood that to mean a number on the Dawes Rolls; registers that were compiled by the federal government between 1898 and 1914. I had done a little research at the National Archives in Seattle, not really expecting to find anything - because how do you find the name Smith, and tell it's the right one?
Eula's father, George Allen Smith (1878-1951)
Eula's mother, Fannie Josephine (Buckley) Smith (1871-1952)
As a professional genealogist, one of the most important things I can do for myself, education-wise, is to watch webinars. I watch two or three webinars a week, and always learn something new. My most recent webinar, however, led to an amazing and exciting discovery! I had registered for "Doing the Dawes", which was presented by Kathy Huber, a librarian with the Tulsa City-County Library and Genealogy Center, through the Friends of the National Archives, Southeast Region. During the webinar, Kathy started showing some easy steps to look up an ancestor on the Dawes Rolls images on Fold3, a subscription website. Since I have a subscription, I decided to follow her directions as she was talking.
The home page of Fold3
I clicked on "Browse Records" to bring up the main category list (at left). I went to the Non-military records, and clicked on "Native American Collection" to bring up that list of publications.
Then I typed in "Taylor Smith" in the search box. Taylor Smith was my mother-in-law's grandfather. His son George Allen Smith, Eula Mae's father, was born in Baxterville, Mississippi.
Searching for the name "Smith", in any collection, is bound to get you thousands of hits, and this was no exception - over 9,000 results! But my eye was caught immediately by the first two listed, because they were in Mississippi.
Words can't describe my excitement when I opened the first record and read the location at the top - Baxterville, Mississippi!
This was only 1 record in this collection of Dawes Enrollment Cards. I had seen that there was another collection of Dawes Enrollment Packets, so I decided to explore that.
The first page (of 27 pages!!) in this packet verified that I was indeed looking at the records for my husband's great-grandfather. Four members of the Smith family applied for registration in 1901 - Taylor Smith, his brother Seth W. Smith, and his sons George A. Smith and Lewis C. Smith. The names listed in this registration packet were all familiar ones - Frederick Rester, Nancy Smith, Louisa Breland. And it appears that there is still more paperwork (these affidavits that are listed) that are not online, but are probably kept at the National Archives. I was jubilant!! My mother-in-law was right - her father DID have a roll number!
As I listened to the rest of the webinar, I set up a DropBox for extended family members around the country, and sent them invitations. Taylor Smith had 27 pages in his packet, including a priceless hand-drawn family tree, that took his ancestry back two generations, to names I had no prior evidence for. George, Lewis, and Seth Smith had 8 to 10 pages each, so I created a DropBox for each of them. For the next hour or so, I was busy online, finding confirmation of these names on census records, which I also saved to DropBox.
As a professional genealogist, I am really excited to find confirmation of what Eula Mae had said for years. At the same time, the information contained in these papers for Taylor Smith seems to disprove a belief held near and dear by family, and by Eula Mae herself - that she was full-blooded Cherokee and Choctaw Indian. Taylor Smith, in his affidavit, stated that he was only 1/8 Choctaw, through his grandmother Julia Bond. One of Eula's great grandson did a DNA test, and was puzzled and dismayed when the results showed "0% Native American ancestry for 5 generations."
The answer to this puzzle may be resolved by obtaining more records. DNA testing of Eula's four remaining children (now in their 60's and 70's) may give us some answers, along with death certificates. All of which serves to confirm what I've found throughout my 35+ years of research - there is always something more to discover!
Mom and Stacy, 2006
I joined Facebook almost 6 years ago, on November 20, 2006, mostly to keep up with my children, Stacy, Steven and Jason. I started out with just a few posts, every now and then; my first status report on November 22, 2006 was "is recovering from a skull fracture, and no, they're not kidding." Since then my crowd of friends on Facebook has grown exponentially, and I've been thinking about all the reasons why I'm on Facebook several times a day. I think it boils down to three important components: communication, information, and relationships. Communication has been uppermost in my mind over the last several months - my beloved nephew Jason (who came to live with us in September 2006; he calls me "Aunt Mom") is in the Marines, stationed at Camp Pendleton in California. Since June his battalion has been in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan. My fears for him were much assuaged by the regular updates he posted on Facebook, along with the private messages we sent back and forth. Yesterday, when I was trying to figure out how to let my Aunt Ethel know that Jason was back in the states, safe and sound, I sent a message through Facebook to her grandson Aaron (my cousin), asking him to call and let her know. He replied within 10 minutes.
When Stacy was in Spain for 3 months in 2008, we communicated not just by email and instant messaging, but also through Facebook; where she was able to post pictures of some of the places and events (bullfights!) she was experiencing. Now that she's at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and we get to see her only 3 or 4 times a year, it's been nice to chat using Facebook's messaging system. Being a librarian by profession, I love reading and information. I used to get my information solely from print sources: books, magazines and newspapers. Since the advent of the digital age, I find that more and more, I'm getting information online. I read newspapers on my laptop, and I've been reading books, more often than not, on my iPod touch Kindle. But one of the most important sources of information for me has been Facebook. Now that I've connected with genealogists all across the country (and internationally, in England, Scotland and Australia), when they post links to interesting articles or books, I follow up, and my education and experience are enhanced. A good example is a link someone posted to a recent article in the Smithsonian Magazine: The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson
. Many of my 306 (and growing) friends post links to blogs they write - such as Judy G. Russell's Lives as Property
, part of her Legal Genealogist blog, which in turn points to an important collection of online NC deeds from the 1800's. Thomas MacEntee (the King of Social Media for genealogists, as far as I'm concerned!) posts links to new blogs he discovers and keeps us updated on breaking news. Since I'm a member of several groups and organizations (or have "liked" their Facebook pages), I get regular updates from groups like the Western Michigan Genealogical Society, the historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, North Carolina, Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained; Facebook is where I find out about the new QuickLessons, such as QuickLesson 12: Chasing an Online Record into its Rabbit Hole. But for me, most of all, Facebook is about relationships. I'm an introvert anyway, and genealogical research tends to be a solitary endeavor. Because of Facebook, I have ongoing relationships with many people, from many different aspects of my life. Who would have thought, when I graduated from Florida State University in Tallahassee and moved to Seattle, that I would be able to keep in touch, on a daily or weekly basis, with the close friends I'd found there? I have friends from as far back as junior high school, who live across the country, most of whom I haven't seen in years. There are friends from my present church and my former church; friends from the church I worked at, and I'm even friends with several of my children's friends. (They keep me young!) I have a growing number of friends I've met (and some I haven't yet) at genealogy institutes and conferences. I consider that I have relationships with all these people - they're teaching me, and (hopefully) I'm teaching them by what I post. So even with all its problems, I hope Facebook is here to stay. I would be hard pressed to keep abreast of current events in the world of genealogy, and in the lives of my children and friends, without it.