Newspapers, Obituaries, and African American Genealogy

By the 20th century, the black press was a cornerstone in the black community giving voice to essentially Black America. It was the “Black Twitter” of the past. In the late 19th and throughout the 20th century, this was the source of black news in America, it was what the black community turned to for the latest news, events, and gossip. Today, black newspapers play a vital role in my research. As I told a fellow researcher, census records, death certificates, and everything you retrieve from Ancestry.com or other genealogical websites, serve as the backbone to your research. They provide you with dates, locations, occupations, etc. On the other hand newspapers provides context, relationships, and the interactions those you are researching had with the world around them. It gives you a glimpse into the lives of those you researching that is unseen when looking at a census record. Without the black press, I would have never found out that Rachel was an activist, a singer, an educator, or a hostess. I would have never learned of her sisters’ popularity in Philadelphia or their participation in opera or even golf. I encourage you to turn to these archives to expand your research. Check out the Chicago DefenderPhiladelphia Tribune, Afro-American Baltimoreand the Pittsburgh Courier‘s archives. I used these newspapers due to their proximity to Philadelphia and their popularity; however, there are many other black newspapers across the nation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


As I discovered more about the Flowers from these respective newspapers, I also uncover many obituaries. The obituary of Harry Flowers was found within the Harrisburg Patriot, which surprisingly is not a black newspaper, Chauncey’s in the Tribune as well as Herbert’s, and Henry’s. Hilda and Geraldine’s obituary were found in archives. Those are the only obituaries I have; therefore, the search continues, especially since the Flowers family tree has been expanded.

Grandparents (Maternal)

JJ Sawyer  1837-1919………………No obituary
Susan Sawyer   1850-1903………………No obituary

  Parents/Stepparents

Harry Flowers 1946-1928
Nancy Sawyer *maiden name* 1873-1963………………No obituary
Henry Sams (stepfather) 1888-1949………………No obituary

    Uncles/Aunts (maternal)

David Sawyer (1859-?)………………No obituary
Carrie Sawyer (1875-?)………………No obituary
Joseph Sawyer (1879-?)………………No obituary

      Half-Siblings (Father’s first marriage to Lydia Bradley 1860-?)

Samuel Flowers (1875-?)………………No obituary
Mary Adell Flowers (1878-1943)………………No obituary
Josie Flowers (1880-?)………………No obituary

        Half-Brother (Mother’s second marriage to Henry Sams 1888-1949)

Henry Sams Jr (1914-1975)
His second wife: Edna Sams (1926-2004)
His first wife: Eleanor Johnson (?)………………No obituary
                         Their daughter: Cathy Sams (?)  ************LEAD******************

            Siblings

Chauncey S. Flowers (1895-1936)
His Wife: Earnestine (Ernestine) Hagins (1899-?)………………No obituary
Their children: Chauncey Flowers Jr. (1920-1966)………………No obituary
His wife: Gladys Flowers (?)………………No obituary
                        Margaret Flowers (1922-?)  ********************LEAD****************

John Carrolis Flowers (1898-?)………………No obituary

Fred Flowers (1899-1982)………………No obituary

Theodore Flowers (1903-1933)………………No obituary
His wife: Irma (?)………………No obituary

Vincent Allen Flowers (1906-2002)………………No obituary

Gladyce Flowers (1908-1988)………………No obituary
Her Husband: Paul R. Stevenson (1900-1960)………………No obituary
Their children: Arnita Stevenson (1932-?)****************LEAD************………………No obituary*****
Paul Stevenson (1936-2011)………………No obituary

Hilda Wilson (1910-1975)
Her Husband: Herbert Wilson (1907-1962)
Their children: Geraldine Wilson (1931-1986)
Herbert Wilson Jr. (1936-?)………………No obituary
His wife: Sandi (?)………………No obituary
Their daughter: Nandi Wilson (?)………………No obituary

Harry Wilson (?)………………No obituary
His first wife:  Sonja Wilson (?)………………No obituary
His second wife: Corona (?)………………No obituary

1st database—Philly.com, Advance search, choose all time on the drop down menu beside the calendar.

This is not a black newspaper. I use this because there are a few family members who have recently passed away.

Herbert Wilson, husband of Hilda Flowers

Herbert A Wilson

Perhaps this is the Herbert Wilson I am researching, but of course you must pay to see the rest…

Edna Sams, 2nd wife of Henry Sams

SAMS EDNA C. WIGGINS, age 77, on March 12, 2004, of Media, PA, born Twin Oaks, PA; wife of the late Henry Sams. A graduate of Temple University, where she received a BS and Masters Degree in Education, she taught Reading and English at Chester High School and Cheyney University for 30 years retiring in 1996. She received numerous awards in the field of education; sister of Jesse O. (Naomi) Brooks of Claymont, DE; stepsister of Mary Ellen Davis of Scotland Neck, NC; godmother of Kay Anderson of Media, PA. Funeral Service 11 A.M. Thurs., March 18, 2004 at Murphy A.M.E. Church, 7th & Yarnall Sts., Chester, PA, 9 to 11 A.M. Int. Chester Rural Cemetery, Chester, PA. Contributions may be made to Taylor Hospice, P.O. Box 147, Ridley Park, PA 19078 and Abounding Grace Family Worship Centers. Arr.

I will follow up with some of the surviving family members.

2/42– I knew this database would be a hit or miss for I was looking for recent obituaries (2000-2015).

2nd Database-Jacksonville, Florida Area Obituary–Ancestry.com
Again this is not a black newspaper; however, I am hoping to find a few leads on Harry Flowers and Nancy Sawyer’s early life.

0…nada…nothing…

3rd Database-Chicago Defender
Found a great number of articles, but no obituary.

4th Database-Philadelphia Tribune/Afro-American Baltimore
THREE NEW OBITUARIES…and one report on the murder of Theodore Flowers

Theodore Flowers 

Murder of Theodore Flowers

Theodore’s murder was a recent discovery. Once I discovered how he died, I constantly sought out details as to why. As the article states, it was due to an argument between James Hall and Harry Morgan. It seems as if Theodore was an innocent bystander or a friend of one of the man. Then again it seems as if Morgan had some sort of feud Theodore for he shot him first.

 Paul R. Stevenson, husband of Gladyce Flowers

Paul R. Stevenson's Death

There was not much I knew about Paul. I know from Geraldine’s writings about her family, Gladyce and Paul’s relationship was strained. Following his death, Gladyce and her children moved to Los Angeles, California.

George Conway, husband of Mary Flowers

George Conway Obituary

Mattie Flowers, possible wife of John C. Flowers
I need to do more research to confirm this.

Mattie Flowers


This is a promising start. Finding a few obituaries is always better than finding no obituaries. I am still hoping to locate Rachel’s one day in the future. Luckily, my graduate program has access to many of the databases I need and a few additional ones that I can explore until school begins.

Until the next post,

Christina

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s