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!

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