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Three Generations of Boy Bands, Love Songs, and Screaming Girls!!!

Lately, I’ve been spending my workdays listening to the Bobby Brown Pandora Station and reminiscing on my childhood infatuations.  Like so many women, I have a long history of boy band crushes.  It all started in 1989, when I received my first cassette tapes and player.  My mother gave me two tapes: Salt-n-Pepper’s A Salt with a Deadly Pepper and The Boys’ Messages from The Boys. Some of you may not remember The Boys – the four brothers had a relatively short career –  but, back then, every girl in my elementary school went crazy when they heard “Dial My Heart”.  And yes, I went crazy too! I discovered my weakness for older men at age 6, when I fell for then 12 year old Khiry (the eldest brother/member of The Boys).  Check out his dance moves in their music video for “Dial My Heart”.

Later, I would follow numerous boy bands including the Backstreet Boys, N*Sync, 3T, and Immature. I spent my allowance on copies of Right On! magazine and the latest CDs.  I even spent hours watching The Box, MTV and BET and recording music videos, interviews, and any other footage I could get of my boy bands.  My mom found these minor boy band obsessions somewhat amusing.  She occasionally picked up teeny bopper magazines, escorted my friends and I to concert arenas filled with screaming girls, and framed my posters.  But the greatest sign of her understanding and patience was her willingness to listen to the same songs over and over AND OVER again in the car.  To this day, I don’t know how she managed to listen to some of those songs back to back!

Perhaps my mother was sympathetic to my pathetic admiration for boy bands because she had similar feelings when she was younger.  When my mother was a tween she was fascinated by a particular boy band…the Jackson 5! And who wasn’t!?! So many women – like my mother – grew up listening to songs like “I Want You Back” and “Got To Be There” imagining that one of those Jackson boys was singing to them.  Although she was only a year older than Michael and the same age as Marlon, my mother was smitten with older brother Jermaine Jackson.  (I guess the apple didn’t fall from from the tree when it came to crushes on older boys.)  I wonder if my mother caught this performance on the Flip Wilson show?

But, the boy band following didn’t begin with my mother and the Jackson 5.  I distinctly remember my maternal grandmother, Mildred Bundy, telling me about the entertainers she enjoyed in her 20s such as Jackie Wilson, Little Richard, and Peg Leg Bates.  [I’ll share my grandmother’s Peg Leg Bates memorabilia in a later post.] But, there was  one man that definitely grabbed her attention. That’s right! The Godfather of Soul, Mr. James Brown was one of her favorite musicians. After two daughters, two granddaughters, and over 30 years of marriage, my grandma grinned from ear to ear whenever she heard him sing.  It’s safe to say that James Brown was far too great of a musician, entertainer, and activist to be lumped in with boy bands, but he did have the ultimate swoon effect that most boy bands only hope to for.  I can only imagine how a younger Mildred reacted when she saw performances like this.

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Cousins Connect

 

My cousin Ruth (left) with my maternal grandmother, Mildred Bundy, sometime in the 1960s

I met with my 79 year old cousin, Ruth, in hopes of gathering information about my maternal great-grandparents Lucy and Henry Bundy.  Ruth is my first cousin once removed and one of Lucy and Edward’s many descendants.  I’ve mentioned the size of the Hendrick family but I should tell you that the Bundy family is rather large in it’s own right.  Edward and Lucy had eight children: Edward, Naomi, Andrew, Rosie, Lucille, Floyd, Edna and Henry.  Ruth’s mother, Naomi, and my granddaughter, Henry, were siblings.

As the youngest granddaughter, my mother is nearly 25 years younger than Ruth and the two were never very close; therefore, my mother’s older sister contacted Ruth and explained the premise of my work.  Together, my mother and I drove to our cousin’s home, eager to learn more about our ancestors and a bit nervous to meet a woman who we hadn’t seen in years and heard was quite a character in her day.  We were greeted by a petite woman with cocoa brown skin who could be no more than 4′ 10″ tall in her most upright stance and seemed so fragile and meek in our embrace.  She was pleasant and beautiful! As we talked, I kept thinking how I hope my skin would be as soft as hers when I’m 79 years old.

Although she insisted that she couldn’t remember certain events, I thought Ruth had a terrific recollection of dates, names, and emotions.  She explained that she knew little about Edward and Lucy because she did not spend much time with them as a child.  One of the few memories she had of Lucy was staying with her on the day her mother gave birth to one of her younger sisters.  She did, however, remember her first cousin Virginia, whose mother Clementine Mack was Lucy’s sister.  I found this piece of information to be very helpful because now I know that Lucy was not an only child.  I may begin to search for Clementine and Lucy to piece together my great-grandmother’s story.  Ruth also shared that Clementine had three sons, one of whom worked on a cement truck.  My mother also remembered this first cousin whom she claimed was an older man who occasionally visited her father (Henry) when she was a child.

To my surprise, I not only learned a bit more about my ancestors but my mother and I enjoyed connecting with our living relative.  We laughed hysterically at some of Ruth’s stories about her father’s strict rules, my great-uncle Floyd’s carefree lifestyle, and of course my disdain for laundry.  After nearly 2 hours of storytelling, she invited me to visit again so that she could share more stories about my grandfather’s family and some of her photos.  I gave her a copy of a photo (above) of her and my maternal grandmother, Mildred Bundy, taken in the 1960s.  She was excited to share this with her grandson and great-grandson who were also present and tell us that the flowers in her dress were a deeper shade of brown than they appear in the photo.  She said that those were good times.  By the look in her eyes I could tell they were.

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Finding Slave Owners

It seems like the more time I spend on Ancestry.com, the more obsessed I become with adding another generation of ancestors to my tree.  Thanks to the help of my uncle who conducted several interviews with relatives in the 1970s and my paternal grandfather who saved a number of obituaries, this has been fairly easy.  This sparked my curiosity in tracing my Hendrick ancestry as far back as possible, and led me to search for more information about my great, great, great grandfather, Billy Hendrick.

Billy spent most of his life in Mecklenburg Co., which led me to believe he was probably born there.  According to the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Billy was born in April 1858.  Census taken in 1880 and 1910 suggest he was born in 1851.  Despite, the descrepencies in his birth year, the facts that Billy spent most of his life in Mecklenburg Co., VA and was born in the 1850s led me to believe that this ancestor was more than likely born into slavery.  If this was true, then one of the best ways to learn about him would be to discover the person(s) who might have claimed him as property.  My paternal grandfather, Wallace Hendrick, once told me that his great-grandfather Billy took the last name of his owner when he was emancipated.  With this information, I used Ancestry.com to search the 1860 Virginia Slave Schedule for slave holders in Mecklenburg Co., Virginia named Hendrick and enslaved boys ages 9 to 2.

Low and behold Thomas Russell Hendrick and his father William Hendrick II, were prominent farmers in the area and enslaved a great number of men, women and children.  By 1854, William died and I assumed that his widow Mary A. Hendrick (Thomas’ step-mother) inherited much of his property because she was listed as owner of 136 enslaved persons.  Thomas R. Hendrick owned 71 enslaved persons in 1860.  The University of Houston’s Digital History Textbook reported that 25 percent of the United States population owned slaves in 1860.  If my memory served me well, I recalled from my African-American and American South History courses that the average holder owned 10 persons; this indicated that Thomas and Mary were quite well-to-do.

I have identified a number of “black” and “mulatto” boys ranging from 2 months to 9 years on the 1860 Virginia Slave Schedule who were enslaved to either Thomas or Mary.  Any of these boys could have possibly been my ancestor, Billy Hendrick. Initially, I was thrilled with this discovery.  It felt like such a great victory in my research to possibly have pieced together a puzzle and make an important discovery about my ancestor.  But, the “victory” of discovering my ancestor was enslaved has been bittersweet to say the least.

As an African-American, I always believed that I was the descendent of enslaved men and women, however, finding possible evidence of that enslavement was daunting. I was excited, motivated, accomplished, resentful, fearful, proud, sad, and angry all at once.  The 1860 Virginia Slave Schedules reduced my ancestor to a few facts that tell little about him or even confirm his presence.  It only indicated the objectification Billy and other African-Americans endured and subsequently left me in such a flurry of emotions as I realized I may never know much more about Billy and my other enslaved ancestors.

I have so many questions that may never be answered: How can someone morally justify owning 136 people? Was Billy one of the children listed? If so, which one? If not, where did he live? What does mulatto mean in Virginia in 1860? Who were Billy’s parents? Was Thomas R. Hendrick or one of his relatives my ancestor? What did Billy remember from those years of enslavement? What did/do Thomas’ and William’s descendants think about their slave holding ancestors? What might happen if I contacted one of these descendants?

As overwhelmed and frustrated as I feel by all of this I want to discover more.  Ironic, isn’t it?

References:

Mintz, S. (2007). Digital History. Retrieved Feb. 8, 2011 from
http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu

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Genetic Memory: Laundry Days

There aren’t many things in this world that I despise but laundry is definitely one of them! I hate separating clothes, packing the landry bag into the push cart, pushing the cart 1 ½ blocks to the laundromat, all the while praying for an empty machine.  I HATE waiting and waiting for the clothes to dry, and folding them only to find that a few garments could use extra time in the dryer. By the time I push the cart back to my Brooklyn apartment I’m too tired to put them in their proper place.

With such an attitude, who would have imagined that I descended from multiple generations of laundresses.  Yes, millions of Americans may be able to claim a similar ancestry, however, I found this particularly ironic as I pained over my laundry this weekend.  My aunt (my mother’s sister) told me that my maternal great-grandmother Margaret Payton and her husband, Guy, operated a laundromat in Baltimore City in the 1970s.  This should be no surprise because many of the women in Margaret’s family were domestic laborers.  The 1930 U.S. Census identifies her mother Teresa “Trecie” Payton (my great-great grandmother) as a laundress.  My aunt confirmed this by explaining that Grandma “Trecie” and several other women in her family did housework for the nuns and priests of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

I have a hard enough time building up the temperance to wash my own clothes, so I can’t imagine how these women pushed themselves to launder other peoples’ garments.  Judging from my grandmother’s attitude toward work, these women probably suppressed most of their feelings about the job and saw work as a means of managing their responsibilities as mothers, wives and daughters.  They would pride themselves on making their families as comfortable as possible.

As I separated my lights and darks I wondered, ‘Was it their experiences that made me feel so guilty about using the drop-off service?’,  ‘Did they hate folding sheets just as much as I did?’,  ‘Could my loathing of laundry days be a result of some genetic memory I inherited from these women?’  I guess I’ll never know but for now I feel thankful that I have automated machines instead of the boards and brushes my grandmother saved in her basement.  Thank God for innovation and hardworking mothers!

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Motivations

My siblings, cousin and I with our grandmother after the funeral of my paternal grandfather, Wallace M. Hendrick

In August, I joined my paternal relatives at the Hendrick/Mayo/Boyd/Harrison Family Reunion in Baltimore, MD.  To my surprise, this event has occurred annually for the last three or four years. When I arrived at the park I was amazed by the outstanding number of people present and the diversity of the group.  In age, appearance, speech, and education, our family demonstrated the breath and complexity of African American culture. It was incredible to look around and notice some relatives who appeared to have stepped out of an episode of “The Wire” and others a Ralph Lauren ad.  And somehow, I seemed to fit in.

My grandparents and the relatives of their generation had a funny way of explaining how these four families fit together.  When I asked “How are we related?”, they simply replied “That’s family.”  Eventually, I met a distant cousin who could provide a clear explanation of our ancestral ties.  She explained that the families married into each other over several generations and all of them traced their roots back to Mecklenburg, VA.

My grandfather’s first cousin, Anna Lee, later explained that our extended family was very large and it would be easy to accidentally meet a Mayo, Harrison, Boyd, or Hendrick in Baltimore City.  I thought – half jokingly – that as a single young woman I should get to know some of the older folks in the family to avoid dating a distant cousin.  I  scrolled through my mental Rolodex of single men in Baltimore and D.C.  No Mayo, Harrison, Boyd or Hendrick…Whew!  As relieved as I was, avoiding the romantic advances of a distant cousin, however, was only a minor motivation to begin this genealogical journey.

My grandfather’s battle with cancer ended in September 2010. He would be the third of my grandparents to pass away.  I was fortunate to have seen him during his last days.  Although he was incoherent, I felt comforted in the thought that he knew my love for him.  I have fond memories of my grandfather, but I still believe that I could have known him better in some ways.  In fact, there was so much more that I could have learned about all of my grandparents and their families.  Although I am thankful for the time I have spent with each of them, I feel compelled to document what I do know about their lives so that I may continue to learn from them.  I hope that as I better understand them and their ancestors, I will learn a little more about myself.

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January 31, 2011 · 1:43 am