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A debate wages on the internet as to whether former slaves took on the surname of their last owner. I'm letting that go on without me.

Instead, my quest is to find the last owner of my JETERs, particularly my 2nd Great Grandparents, John & Emaline. I know that they were slaves from their obituaries and that they were from Virginia prior to Emancipation. The 1870 & 1880 census supports this.

I decided to make a 'Fun' case study out of this by enlisting my genealogy friends - old & new - to look at the materials I have and help me break through this specific brick wall.

And in the process, we will help others with similar projects. This exercise will teach us all how to analyze and interpret the documents and photographs we have collected. This will also give the GenealogyWise members an opportunity to show their spirit of community and fellowship.

The benefits to me is obvious. I get a bunch of folks helping me. But I also feel that this can be a template for others. We will be learning, giving, and sharing. I hope that you will join in the conversation or at the least watch the journey!

I love you all; let's get started!

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Replies to This Discussion

No, the orbt it did not say that she was born in Charleston SC just that she was there. The Census said that she was born in VA. Start in SC then work back. One thing we all have a problem with is thinking in the 2009's instead of the 1800's. Start with SC. The owner family is connected to SC.
LOL to have to research Smith's! Doing that one now for someone. LOL!!
Thanks Michael,

There's a better word to use than 'assumption', I'm sure. Thanks for pointing out that caution.

At least two of her children were born before the war strongly suggesting that she and John were together prior.

I think there are more clues to be had by exploring the African American community in Towanda, also referred to as the 'Negro Colony', in a document I'll post shortly.

Keep the conversation going!
No Michael, I'm looking for the whole family! LOL
In fact, I'm looking for the 10 children who were sold from Emaline.

I think what you are seeing, so far, is the extracting of clues from Emaline's obituary. Of course, the surname comes from John and his obituary will, I'm sure, be scrutinized for details that will lead to other records. And so on.

Emaline's son, Jerry or Jeremiah, had a daughter named Emma. I haven't got to posting that information yet.

In the days and weeks to come, I'll be sharing more of the research I've already done on my family and others in the Towanda area.

BTW, I have checked the Virginia marriage records and the Freedman's Bureau marriage records and came away empty handed for my Jeters.

As a case study, it is my hopes that the dialog will inform, enlighten and educate other researchers trying to discover their African ancestry. This isn't just about me. We are all on a journey together.

Keep the conversation going!
Churches in Towanda

Following up on a tip from Alane Roundtree, here's something about the churches in Towanda.
The text in the green box reads:

Towanda has never had much of a colored population, but in 1853 a church was erected on State street as a Wesleyan Methodist. It was in service for over sixty years and is still in use as a church, being now used by the Free Methodists.
The document titled 'Bits Of Local History, Churches Of Towanda' is not dated.

The text outlined in red reads:

Colored Methodist Church.
This church was originally known as the Colored Wesleyan Methodist church. It was built in 1847, and continued to bear that name until 1871, when it changed to the African M.E. Zion church. There are about twenty members. Rev. Charles H. Smith is the pastor. William H. Robinson is Superintendent of the Sunday School, which has thirty scholars and a library of one hundred and fifty volumes.

This came out of the Towanda Business Review; dated 1881
That's a different Smith from the one Alane mentioned.
Nonetheless, there are some valuable clues to help us construct the African American community in Towanda.

Can this shed some light on my JETERs?
Old Landmark In Towanda Disappears

Folks, are you able to read this without me transcribing it?
If not, I'll do it.
This newspaper article, dated 16 Dec 1949, called the Black community of Towanda 'the Negro colony'.

Keep the conversation going!

"Guided by the Ancestors"
I can read it fairly well. Kind of sad to read about it being torn down! :(
And that was 1949.
Hi Angela,

By the time I made my 1st and only visit to Towanda, in the early 1980's, I don't think there were any Blacks living there.
Hi George,

I am enjoying this discussion on your JETER research. Like you I research an area (in VA), that at one time had a small black community, but when I visited in the late 1990's they were all gone. Many to escape discrimination and to the larger city (and out of state) for jobs and better opportunities. I found it interesting that in one article posted about Towanda, the author writes "there was never much of a colored population" (however enough to start a church in 1847)..then the other article talks about the "Negro Colony", which implies a larger community.

Looks like your research is taking you to my favorite "stomping ground" Virginia..JETER is a surname that I have seen in numerous records, but at this is just a surname like any other. Like the others that have posted I think you will have to find more about your families life there in Towanda.
If in fact this family does come to PA from VA during the 1865 to 1870 time (along with the other VA born individuals in that community) then some of the records contained in VA FB RG 105 that have just been indexed and digitized might provide you with some information.

I am LOVING this!!! I hope this idea spreads to us all..I hope we can take all turns contributing our own brick walls and strategies.

Here is my shot at what you've put up thus far: try the Methodist Archives located at Drew University:
They've got many of the Methodist church records. My Waters ancestors on the Eastern Shore of Maryland were Methodist ministers in the late 1800s (they had a separate Colored Conference) and I found almost every year of their service, every church assignment, obituaries and all manner of interesting little details. I'm thinking you can find this Rev Jackson's obit & hopefully it will tell us a city/county in Virginia as a lead. Also, see what you can glean about the church itself.

After that, I would try to trace some of the neighbors from VA forward in time to vital records (death & marriage), in the hopes of finding a city or county in Virginia on those documents. My approach would be to attempt to locate a prospective county first as opposed to searching for the Jeter surname in VA. I have a similar problem with my ancestor John Smith (yes you read that right) in Florida who came from Georgia, but I don't know what county. I dont know if you've searched deeds yet, but you may luck up and get a city/county of origin from those--again not just for your Jeters, but looking at deeds for some of the African American neighbors who list VA on the census.

You don't mention it, but I suppose you have thought of trying to research your JETER ancestry through Y-DNA. I checked on the FamilyTreeDNA web site, and there is a JETER project with 7 names. Are you one of them?

Regards and best wishes, Brett



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