Kalonji Surnames

Visiting the Plantation

I’ve had some difficulty posting to my blog, but it looks like I’ll have success tonight.

In my last post, I talked about my research at the Talladega Public Library.  After leaving the library on the Monday afternoon of our family vacation,  we went back to our hotel, had pizza and relaxed for awhile.  After dinner, we had what really was one of the best genealogy highlights of the trip.

My husband had a great-grandfather named Champ McClellan. Champ was born June 3, 1887 in Talladega.  Though he never talked about it, it is the family’s belief that his father was white. Champ’s mother was named Fannie and his grandmother was named Rebecca.  From past research, I’ve tied Champ and his family to the lands of General William Blount McClellan and I believe he Genral to be Kalonji’s slaveholding family, and one of the McClellan men to be Champ’s father.  From past research and correspondence with a historian researching the General’s daughter, Idora,  I knew that the home of the general was still standing in Talladega.  So, after an email exchange with the historian she informed me on which road the house stood.  We decided to go look for it.

The General’s home was called Idlewilde and since I had a picture, we were able to locate it pretty easily after a few minutes drive on the Eastaboga Road. There was even an iron sign to mark the spot.

It certainly is a beautiful home on the outside. We drove along the driveway to take some more pictures and as we got around to the back, we saw a car there. Hmm… to knock on the door or not? Well, knock on the door we did! Especially since it was open. It took a few minutes, but eventually a lady came to the door.

Now, how do you explain to a complete stranger that you’re visiting their house b/c this is the property of your enslavers. Well, I explained just that and upon hearing Kalonji’s last name of McClellan, she immediately perked up. And, she even invited us inside to see the house!

OMG. I was so excited! It turns out that the home is owned by the McGehee family and her father bought the home around 40 years ago from one of the McClellans, Marcus McClellan. I’m not entirely sure, but I think the Marcus she referred to was the General’s grandson, but there was more than one Marcus in the family. Her father had been friends with the McClellan family and it was through that association which he was able to buy the home. She toured us around showing us the various parts; the wing she had built on, the breezeway between the two original buildings which her father had enclosed, the marble table in the breezeway that was designed by Italian artist Giuseppe Moretti – the designer of the Vulcan statue in Birmingham; the original rooms of the house – both upstairs and downstairs.  She really spent quite a bit of time with us and we were so grateful!  The home is a private home, not on any register of historic places, but she took the time to host us that evening telling us, “if you’d gotten her 5 minutes earlier, you’da caught me in the pool!”

After our visit, we thanked her profusely and then I had everyone take a picture on the front steps.

It truly was a memorable evening.  When I think of Kaleya being able to grow up with this, it amazes me. Her 4th great-grandmother, Rebecca McClellan & 3rd great-grandmother Fannie McClellan were on these grounds before the Civil War. It really makes you pause for reflection.

When we got back to the family and shared this experience, they were all amazed. Kalonji’s grandmother, Frances, never knew about the home though having lived all of her 84 years in Talladega, living less than 5 miles away. Truly astonishing. This is definitely a visit that I have to do scrapbook pages for and share them with the family.

Research in Talladega

Earlier last week I posted about Day 1 of our family vacation at the beginning of the month and what we did on Day 1.  Day 2 we spent on the road all day as we drove from Indiana to Alabama. Day 3 was much more interesting in terms of genealogy.

We went to Talladega, Alabama – the home of my father-in-law and his family.  Whenever we go to Talladega, I pretty much always try to do something family history related, but this time since we were there during the week, I made it my goal to visit the public library and peruse their collection.  Since the public library does not have a strong online presence, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

Kalonji dropped me off at the library around 10 am and I was there until about 4pm.  It turned out that the library had a genealogy room, so that was great news!  I took a few pictures of the genealogy room; while small, I still spent most of my day in there.

I took a few minutes to look around and see what they had.  I’ll try to be brief, but here is a general outline of what I looked through.

1.  A set of yearbooks they had from Talladega High School that dated anywhere from the early 1930s to the early 1970s.  None of Kalonji’s family was to be found however since blacks during that time attended different schools.  But, it was interesting to just browse.

2. microfilm records of the local newspapers.  This was actually frustrating b/c they only have on microfilm reader and it was not focusing correctly.  But, I did find some of Kalonji’s family’s obituaries. I also found a newspaper article that mentions the white Champ McClellan (backstory: Kalonji’s great-grandfather was named Champ McClellan and the suspicion is that his father was white. While researching the white McClellan family, the family of General William Blount McClellan,  that owned Kalonji’s ancestors, I found out that there was also a white Champ McClellan.  The white Champ McClellan was the grandson of the general.)  This story did not produce any new leads, but it was one more tidbit that I can use to help construct the family. 

3. General McClellan had a daughter named Elizabeth Idora who became a well-known writer of stories that focused on the lives of poor whites and plantation blacks of the rural south. I knew that she had a home that still stood in Talladega and I wanted to see it.  I found a reference to it in a book about southern homes that had a nice description of it’s architecture,  Antebellum Mansions of Alabama by Ralph Hammond.  No address though, and that was one piece of information I needed in order to go find it 🙂

4. City Directories – the library has city directories that began as far back as 1948.  I went through several of them looking for Kalonji’s grandparents and great-grandparents and found them! I was unsuccessful in finding his great-great grandmother, Fannie McClellan Skelton, but that could just be because of the nature of who were listed in directories.  By the late 40s she was living with Kalonji’s great-grandfather, but not working outside the home, so perhaps that is why she’s not there.   I found Kalonji’s great-grandfather Champ and his wife Leola misrpresented one year as “Jack & Viola” 🙂

5.  Since I also try to think of quick things that I can do to help other researchers, I also took a look at many of the reference books that cover Talladega records.  When possible, I like to photocopy book indices for posting online so that others can tell if anyone they may be interested in is covered in a book source.  So, I photocopied the index of a book that compiled marriage information from the county marriage books from 1833-1846 and shared that with the Talladega County mailing list.  There was also a list of Confederate veterans that lived in Talladega County in 1907 and for each there was descriptive personal information.  I plan on sharing that too.  Now, I’ve tried to share that with the ALGenWeb Talladega County Site Coordinator, but have not received a response from her nor the State Coordinator of ALGenWeb. I’ll keep trying though!

And, other than that, I spent a lot of time just browsing the old newspapers. These tend to be my weakness 🙂  Overall, I had a very nice day.  The library staff were nice and helpful, and I also met the library director.  

More to come with respect to the family of General William Blount McClellan on the next post!

The Resemblance Is There

On Wednesday I posted a montage of pictures and asked if anyone could see resemblance among them. I got two comments on the blog, plus I shared the picture with someone else that I know who is very good at looking at people and seeing similarities. Consensus: there are similarities and I’ve confirmed that I’m not making it up just because I want there to be 🙂

The people in the picture are from L to R:

1) General William Blount McClellan
2) Champ McClellan, my husband Kalonji’s great-grandfather
3) Idora McClellan (the General’s daughter)
4) Frances McClellan, Champ’s daughter and Kalonji’s grandmother

I’ve posted before that I have suspicion that one of the General’s sons may have fathered Champ, and there were comments that Champ does favor the General.  My “offline” friend commented that she in particular saw great similarity in the shape of Frances’ face and the General’s face. 

So, more info to add as I work towards getting the DNA test. Unfortunately, we still have not had the kit done just due to trying to balance family expenses, but I have it as part of my 5 year plan to get it done and track down male McClellan descendants in order to see if one of them would be willing. 

I was inspired to do this initial post upon being contacted by a researcher who is doing thesis work on Idora.  She even sent me a picture of the Idlewild Plantation that was the home of the General and his family.  

I wonder if Champ was ever there?

Wordless Wednesday: A Picture Montage

Who looks like who in these pictures? Do you see any resemblences? Let me know if you do.  I’ll post later on why I did this. 

Gravesite of Betty Sanders

In follow-up to my post earlier this week on Kalonji’s great-grandmother Betty, I was indeed able to go to the cemetery today and take a picture of her headstone.  The Oak Hill Cemetery here in Evansville maintains a database of all those buried there, so they make it rather convenient to locate your loved ones. It is a huge cemetery so, it is quite necessary.

Betty is buried in Section 54 of the cemetery and here is her headstone:

Since we had the exact section information, Kalonji and I were able to find her literally in less than a minute.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of her children, her daughter Elnora, was buried next to her.  The year of birth on Elnora’s headstone is 1920, but the records I have so far suggest 1919.  I’ll have to sort that out later.

While I was visiting the cemetery, I took a few pictures at random to see if they were needed for FindAGrave.com and I ended adding Betty, Elnora and about 12 strangers up to FindAGrave.

Betty Sanders (1901-1982)

Today is the anniversary of the death of Kalonji’s great-grandmother, Betty Sanders.  She was born July 16, 1901 in the Hebbardsville community of Henderson County, Kentucky and died on this day (June 23) in 1982 in Evansville, Vanderburgh County, Indiana.

Currently, the family is unsure of who Betty’s father may have been, but her SSA has the name of a Parker Sanders.   Her mother’s name was Marge and from Kalonji’s mother, I understand that Marge was a former slave and lost her foot due to frostbite. This interestingly enough, is similar to a family story that one of my great-great-grandmother’s also lost part of her foot due to frostbite. I’m sure this must have been a common happening when access to proper footwear may have been an issue.

I do know that Betty’s maternal grandparents were a Willis Sanners and Betty Collins. I am unsure about the spelling of the “Sanders/Sanner” last name – are they two different names? Or, are they the same name with different spellings? The record trail that I have for the family so far makes it difficult to tell. Will & Betty had at least 5 kids, Marge being one of the younger ones.  Marge herself would have around 8 kids if I have the tree right.

Kalonji’s mother knew her grandmother well and has shared tales of how wild Betty was – she always had two or three boyfriends, was always on the go and always down for a good time. Kalonji’s mother always went places with her and has very fond memories of her grandmother.  In July of last year, Kalonji and I took a trip to the new African-American Museum in Evansville, which is located on a block next to where Betty used to live.   I still haven’t posted Part 2 to that post, but in the post, I included pictures of where Betty’s house used to be located.

As I take a moment to review my research on Betty and her family, I see many potential places for further research.  Betty was a member of Nazarene Baptist Church in Evansville – I wonder if they have any records, old programs, etc. where she may have been included?  Betty is buried in Oak HIll Cemetery and I have not yet been to take a picture of her gravesite. We are going to Evansville this weekend, so I must make an effort to visit her gravesite.

McClellan Cemetery

Last weekend we went to Talladega and I took pictures at the cemetery where Kalonji’s great-grandfather, Champ McClellan is buried.  The cemetery is across the street from the house that Champ’s mother lived in and where Kalonji’s uncle currently lives at now, just off McClellan street.  The cemetery, McClellan Cemetery, had no entries in FindAGrave, so I’ve gradually over the past week added pictures of what I took to the FindAGrave site. I did not get every headstone, but I’ll continue when we next go back.

Contributing to FindAGrave is a great way to give back! If ever at cemetery take a couple of extra pictures, someone may be looking for that gravesite!

My DNA quest begins!

I have previously posted about my husband’s McClellan ancestry and how I wish to do DNA tests to see if there is any match with the white McClellans.  To this end, today, I finally ordered the DNA kit from FamilyTree DNA and the kit will be shipped by week’s end! I’m so excited. To test the proper male descendancy, we are going to test a cousin of my husband’s. I chose the Y25 marker test as a starter. It wasn’t too expensive (especially with the surname group discounts/coupons) and I figured it was a good starting point for the number of generations I’m looking at.  I’ll post more as my experience continues. Now, I need to really do some bona fide DNA genealogy testing research!

Browning Genealogy Database

Today on her blog, Arlene posted a nice review of the Browning Genealogy Database provided through the Evansville Public Library. I was very happy to see this as this database has been one of my best resources! Kalonji’s family is from Evansville, and when I discovered it last year, I had so much fun looking up his family members.

Between the death information and the local history information, I was able to locate so many news items on his family and extended family members. Including, this picture of his mom’s high school graduation picture from Central High School in 1963. The information from the paper tells us that she was in the Future Nurses club, a member of Y-Teens and on the Student Council. Kitty does in fact have the real picture that is represented in the paper, but I did not know of her club memberships until finding this card in the Browning Database.

This database is amazing and I cannot speak well enough about it.