As if my Memorial Day Weekend didn’t already get off to a good start, Day 2 was also incredible.
Today the family and I spent time accompanied by 4 visitors from Spain. One in particular, Carol, is on the search for her family here in Nashville.
Carol is the daughter of an English woman and an African American man from Nashville. While in the Army, Carol’s father, who I’ll call Mr. C, went overseas and had a relationship with Carol’s mom. Mr. C later returned to the states. While he knew of Carol, as did his own mother, Mr. C.’s family contact with Carol was extremely limited and Carol never had the opportunity to know her father. Mr. C. died in the 1970′s
In February, I was contacted by Carol’s friend Barbara, who’d been working on Carol’s US family tree. It so happened that Mr. C is from North Nashville, where I live, and grew up just a couple of blocks from Meharry. Carol was planning to come to the states and wanted to see the area where her US family was from, so I agreed to help do some research before she arrived (e.g. pulling obits, cemetery photos, etc.) and then take her around when she visited. Our visit was today.
Since Mr. C.’s family had been in this community since the early 1900s, I wanted to give them a sense of the history of this area. I showed Carol and her friends the original Pearl High School, we walked some of the campus of Fisk University, drove through Meharry’s campus, went up and down Jefferson Street, and a few other things – all the while talking about what this area was like back “in the day.” After driving the neighborhood, we went back to Herman Street to see if it would be possible to find someone who may have known Carol’s family. This is when the fun really began!
Our plan was to start knocking on doors and just asking if anyone knew of Mr. C’s family. We did, but unfortunately, no one was home as most of the houses we checked. Interestingly enough though, we did see a hub of activity further down the street. This was probably why no one was home.
It was the Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, established in 1922. We were here at 12pm on a Sunday afternoon, so of course church services were in session! Being brave, we all decided to just go to the church and see if any of the members knew anything to help us. When we arrived inside, services had pretty much just started so we attended the whole service.
And, as soon as services were over, started asking some of the church elders. Lo and behold we were in the right place!
Several members of the church knew Mr. C and was able to share some details of the family with Carol. Mr. C. had a brother named Mr. R.C. and we met R.C.’s stepdaughter-in-law and step-grandchildren. They had all grown up right on this street and shared some of their memories of Mr. C’s family. Then, amazingly enough, the stepgrandson of Mr. R.C. went out to his car and got this picture for Carol.
We don’t know who everyone is in this picture, but two of the girls are sisters of Mr. C – thus, are Carol’s aunts! The picture was given to us by the grandchildren of the woman labelled as “sister-in-law.” That family got the picture from the son of the woman labelled “family friend.” Amazing! Carol noted some family resemblance, especially in her aunt that is standing. The guess was that this was a social club picture, but they were not sure.
The dinner served at the church after services were over is primarily what allowed us to stay so long and meet and talk to Carol’s extended family members. This weekend, just happened to be the church’s Homecoming weekend. And, what a Homecoming indeed – for this is Carol’s family’s “home” church and she was able to be there today.
More time is needed to continue to look for additional family members, but the fact that we were able to experience this was incredible. We will keep the research going, will try to stay in touch with the family Carol met today, and perhaps it will lead her to even more living family members. Carol will be returning home back to Spain soon so may not have time to connect with them while here, but we hope this is only the beginning.
It was a pleasure meeting Carol, her husband, and their friends and I’m glad we had this time together today!
Meanwhile, if anyone happens across this post and is familiar with this neighborhood and church, please email me!