Thursday, February 5, 2015

First Watch Night Service - Wed, 12/31/1862

I had never heard of First Watch Night Service until a few years ago. It is defined as a late-night Chrisitian church service held on New Year's Eve and ends at midnight. According to Wikipedia, the Watchnight service "provides the opportunity for Chrisitians to review the year that has passed and make confession, and then prepare for the year ahead by praying and resolving."  The reason that I am not of aware of the so-called First Watch Night Service is,  I am Catholic and  this ceremony is known as Midnight Mass. I have never attended a  Midnight Mass although older members of my family have participated.

The Watch Night Service, also known as Freedom Eve,  is significant in the African American community.It can be traced back to New Year's eve in 1862, where slaves and free blacks gathered in churches and homes to await the news   that the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln had become law. On January 1, 1863 at the stroke of midnight, all slaves in the Confederate states were declared legally free.When the slaves and free blacks learned of their freedom, they prayed, shouted, sang, and thanked God.

The First Watch Night Service has been celebrated every NewYear's eve since December 31, 1862.  African Americans gather in churches to thank God for living through another year and to celebrate "how we got over."  

Source: African American Registry

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Juneteenth National Freedom Day Observation - 19 June 1865

19 June 2014

Today we celebrate Juneteenth National Freedom Day. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It is the name given to Emancipation Day also know as Freedom Day by African Americans living in Galveston, Texas in 1865 when they first learned that all slaves were free.

Officially, the end of slavery was declared on 1 January 1863 by President Lincoln but the declaration was issued on 22 September 1962.  The people in Texas didn't learn of the decalaration until June 19, 1865.

Juneteenth is celebrated all over the United States with religious services, speakers, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, with food, dances and games.

Friday, February 28, 2014


Last week, I learned something about my great-uncle, Joseph Leo Bayonne. A shaky leaf indicated that the hint was a California marriage record for Uncle Leo. I thought, "No way could this be my relative; he has never been to California." I pulled up the information and checked out the groom's parents and there were the names of my great-grandparents, Jules Bayonne and Victorine Randall. To my knowledge, Uncle Leo had never lived in any places except Louisiana which is where he was born and Alabama where lived at the time of his death.

According to the marriage license, Leo Bayonne was 35 years old, a tailor and a resident of Oakland California when he married Sarah Blanche Broussard, 32 years, a housewife and a resident of Oakland, California on August 4, 1930. It was a second marriage for both of them - Leo was divorced and Sarah was widowed. Sarah's parents were Perry Lawson and Emily Hunter... three more surnames to add to my  family tree!

Although 1930 was before my birth, I would think that this would have come up in my research of  the Bayonne family. I had just watched a webinar on Ancestry entitled, "Forward Thinking: Tracing the Children of your Ancestors and their Children." Now I am more motivated than ever to get started tracing the children of Jules and Victorine Randall Bayonne.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Nelson Lofton's Obituary

Date: Friday, October 17, 1980  Paper: Times-Picayune(New Orleans, LA) Page: 25

Mr. Nelson Lofton, on Monday, October 11, 1980 at 10:00 a.m., at Touro Infirmary Hospital, beloved husband of Mrs. Rebecca Lofton, father of Ms. Carol Lofton.

Funeral sevice from Gertrude Geddes Willis Funeral Home on Saturday, October 18, 1980 at 10:30 a.m. followed by religious service at Mount Zion Methodist Church, on Louisiana Avenue.

Interment in Mount Olivet Cemetery. Wake serice on Friday October 17, 1980 at 9 p.m. at Gertrude Geddis Funeral Home.

Curtesy of Michael Willis

(author's note: This obituary was abbreviated because the print was blurred and difficult to read.)

15th Amendment Ratified Today

On February 3, 1870, the 15th amendment was ratified. Republicans wanted the amendment passed to obtain the the vote of the freed slaves.

The 15th Amendment ensures the right to vote to all male citizens of the United States, regardless of order or previous condition of servitude. The 15th amendment opened the door for the elections of African Americans to the US Congress and to Southern local and state offices. New Southern governments began collecting taxes for local public schools.

Women would have to wait until 1920 to get the vote, the year that my mother was born.

Source:  African American Registry 2/3/20014

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Nelson & Olivia Loften Revisited

A recent discovery of obituaries for Nelson and Olivia Loften and an notice of a marriage for Nelson by cousin Michael Willis, have necessitated an update in the post about them.

In my first post about the Loftens, I did not have the dates of death for them, just a month and year for Nelson's death which was listed on the Social Security Death Index. Michael found obituaries and the marriage notice in the newspaper subscription, Genealogy Bank.  I subscribe to it as well, but don't use it very much.

I lived with the Loftens on and off while I attended Booker T. Washington High School in the 1950s. My folks moved to Metairie when I was in the fifth grade and I needed an address in New Orleans to be able to attend BTW. These obituaries brought back a lot of memories that I had forgotten including the address where I had once resided. I was not living with them at the time of Olivia's death so I knew of the deaths but I did not remember the details. Here are the details:

Lofton - at the late residence 2023 Jackson Ave on Wednesday, October 25, 1961 at 9:25 pm o'clock, Olivia Lofton, beloved wife of Nelson Lofton, foster mother of Dolores Ann Lugo, sister of Emily Derozan and the Florence Hyde Royal, aunt of Mrs. Marcelyn Royal Cahn; also survived by other relatives and friends of the family.  

Relatives and friends of the family, also pastor, officiers and members of Mount Zion Methodist Church , officers and members of Ladies Tammany Benevolent Association and Cement Masons Local 567 are invited to attend the funeral. Services from The Gertrude Geddes, Willis funeral Home, 2120 Jackson Ave. (parking adjoining on Saturday Oct 28, 1961 at 12:30 pm. followed by religious services at Mount Zion Methodist Church, Louisiana Ave at Magnolia St. Rev. R. F. Harrington officiating.

Interment in Mount Olivet cemetery, Wake Friday night at the funeral home. Gertrude, Geddes, Willis Funeral Home, Inc. in charge.

What this obituary failed to state, is that Olivia's sister died the next day and they were waked and buried on the same day.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

New Details About The Wakefield

A couple of weeks after I returned from Audubon Pilgrimage Tour in St. Francisville, Louisiana, I sent Jolie Berry, the new owner of the Wakefield Plantation, an article about my Morgan and Weather families who were slaves on the Wakefield. All of the information that I related is on my blog and I will not rehash that information here.

I also included one question that the tour guides could not answer: "Is there a slave burial site on the Wakefield property?"  Jolie's response to that question gave me a lot of new information about the plantation. This is what I learned from her email:
  • She and her husband, Dr. Eugene Berry, acquired the Wakefield Antebellum Home in 1988 and are the first owners who are not Stirling family descendants.
  • They acquired 50 acres, the remainder of the original 63,000 acres after many divisions and losses through the years!
  • No slave quarters or production buildings (as sugar mill, cotton gin, grist mill, granary) exists.
  • At the peak of Lewis and Sarah Stirling's acquisition of land, the Wakefield Plantation comprised 62,000 acres!
  • Jolie did not know of a slave burial grounds on the Wakefield. Because of the vast acreage, slaves could be buried anywhere.
  • Jolie said that the land for St. Mary's Church and Burial Ground was a gift of a Stirling family descendant in 1880. (author's note: A plaque on the church indicates that the church was established in 1880.)
  • More land was given by another family descendant in 1990 with a request that a fence be constructed to encompass, protect and delineate the church burial ground - the areas of the graves having exceeded the boundaries of the original gift of land.
  • There are at least two Union soldiers who were buried in unmarked graves according to family speculation.
  • Lilie Stirling Sinclair placed the family documents in the LSU Library in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
  • Jolie asked if I and others would keep them informed about the history of the Wakefield and those whose lives were an integral part of the history of the Wakefield and the Felicianas.