The Adventures and Misadventures of a Neer Do Well Artist Living in Baltimore.
I am a visual artist and writer living in Baltimore. I don't have any artist friends. Frankly, artists scare me, there so darn flaky. The above picture is either of me or proof that I'm a pretty decent artist. My goal is to be a self sufficient artist, whereas I wouldn't have to do something else in the day in order to eke out an existence. I also like to attend various cultural events around town. I go to plays, the symphony, etc. Also, I have Asperger's Syndrome. I found this out recently and it has explained a heck of a lot as to why I am as I am.
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Thursday, February 02, 2006
Happy Imbolc and Happy Ground Hog Day too!
The reason I found this show fascinating was not only the familial insight I got into the background of African American celebrities but the whole focus on genealogy. You see I have always been fascinated with the idea of tracing my family roots. However, every time I tried to research my family I went up against a brick walls I even had an uncle now deceased who at the time was the oldest living Willis forbid me from researching the family. This of course made me wonder what was the horrible event that happened in my family that he was trying to hide. Was it murder, rape, incest, prostitution, or maybe they were gun runners or bootleggers?
Also, curiously, my family does not have an oral history like the majority of African American families do. So the only thing I know about the Willis family is that both my grandparents Edward and Mamie Willis were from Gloucester, Virginia and that there is some sort of a link with the West Indies. The most recent information I found out is that they lived in the Ware township of Gloucester, Virginia.
After feeling fired up from watching the mini-series I went to the African America Lives web site and read the suggestion that Henry Louis Gates, Jr. wrote for researching African American families. Gates suggested that research for African American families should start with the 1870 census. I had never heard that advice before. Wow!
I found the names of my grandparents whom I never met as well as their parents and siblings. Heck, my father does not even know his grandparents names and now I do! The reason is because by the time he was born in 1929 his grandparents had long since left this Earth.
First off, I did not bother with going to Ancestry.com because I feel that information like that should be free for every one and not held hostage for a price. Also I am suspicious of sites that seemed to be geared soley towards getting your credit card number. So I went over to the USGen Web Census Project. I love this site because it is 100% free!! Also it contains typewritten legible US Census Information. I imagine that if I went to ancestry.com I would have to decipher through the original handwriting of the census taker. On the USGEN Web Census Project website someone else has went through the herculean effort of deciphering old time handwriting in to modern day type.
While at USGen Web Census Project I found my grandmother, Mamie Evans at age 10 in the 1900 census. The Evans family appear to have been farmers. Also in the 1900 census I found a set of my fathers uncle and aunt. An interesting side note I found is that one of my maybe possible ancestors married a Cosby. I am not sure if this Cosby is in any way related to Bill Cosby. I only found this out because I found a curious family name of Cue Willis popping up during this period of history, 1870-1900. So I decided to do a Google search on the name and found someone who was a direct descendant of Cue and Phoebe Willis. He/She mentioned that Phoebes maiden name was Cosby.
I also believe that I found my grandfather, Edward Willis in the 1880 census at age 2. It appears that his mother was a widow. Could the family shame be that my grandfathers mother, Delia Willis, was a single mother raising 7 kids alone? The next question I have to find out is when did her husband die? Was it before or well after little Edward was born? If it was after then, Oh Boy! This could be a case for Jerry Springer or Maury Povich, Who is Delias Baby Daddy? Or maybe the father is one of her brother in-laws who curiously enough is also a widower? What the heck happened to their spouses? Did they really die or maybe run off together? There are five billion questions running through my mind about this.
Another interesting fact I found out is that the Willis conglomerate of families lived next door to the Graham family. I have an aunt who married a Graham. I wonder if he was a descendant of the next door neighbors?
My mothers people were originally from South Hill, Virginia then moved to Nansemond County, Virginia which is where my mother was born. Sadly, Nansemond County no longer exits. It has long since been incorporated into Richmond, Virginia. From Virginia my grandparents, Bob and May Time Jiggetts moved on to Baltimore. They stayed in Baltimore until the day they died.
The most prominent members of the Jiggetts family that I know I am related to are George and Martha Jiggetts of New Jersey. They have owned theJiggetts Transportation bus company for well over 50 years. I remember as a child that they would come down to visit my grandparents Bob and May Time during the summer.
I just did a Google search on them and I found two nice aricles that someone wrote about them. One article talks about the struggle that George Jiggetts went though in migrating from South Hill, Virginia to New Jersey. The other article goes through a brief history of the Jiggetts Transportation Company complete with photos of George and Martha.
The only thing I can think to write is that if your last name is Jiggetts there is a 100% chance that we are somehow related. Also if anyone out there has any information about the mysterious Willis Family from Gloucester, Virginia in the Ware township circa 1870-1900 please send me an email.
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