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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #20 - Fannie Vick Brooks: She was a Chairwoman

This is another article for the 52 Ancestor Challenge which was put on by Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small.

For this week’s Ancestor Challenge, I chose my Great-Great Aunt Fannie Vick Brooks.  Aunt Fannie was born around 1887 to Thomas and Easter Exum Vick in Fremont, North Carolina. There isn't a lot of oral history about Aunt Fannie however, someone once said that Fannie moved to Washington, DC and was able to buy herself a home but she never married.  Well my research discover otherwise. 
1920 Census for Fannie Vick Brooks
In 1920, Fannie was indeed living in Washington, D.C. with her 14 year old Great Niece, Emma Fuller.  Fannie was listed as a 28 year old widow renting a home on 9th Street, NW. Her occupation was described as a “Chairwoman" for the Pullman Station and her pay was based on wage worker scale.  I don't know what a Chairwoman did but perhaps this was a job that a lot of women could fill. In fact, Aunt Fannie lived amongst other Chairwomen and laundresses, chauffeurs, cooks, porters, clerks, teachers and janitors. I believe Aunt Fannie must had been a very confident and a very fearless woman because she was living in the “big city” by herself with a teenager.  

I did not find Aunt Fannie on the 1910 census and she's wasn't living in North Carolina or Washington, D.C. under the Brooks or Vick surname.  She was MIA during that year which leads me to a few questions.  Who and when did she marry and when did her husband die?  I didn't see any other families with the surname Brooks living nearby or I would say that she was living near her "in-laws."  

1930 Census for Fannie Vick Brooks

By 1930, Fannie was still living in Washington and she had done very well for herself. She owned a home valued at $7,000. Fannie was still a Chairwoman but her employer was listed as the U.S. Government. At first I thought that this could not be my “Aunt Fannie” because she was listed as the head of the house with three men described as “lodgers” in her home.  Well, what respectful Southern young lady would be living in a home as the lone female with three men.  But it was Aunt Fannie. How did I know? One of the lodgers was her nephew, Ashton Saunders.  Ashton was Fannie’s youngest sister, Lela’s son. 

1940 Census for Fannie Vick Brooks
1940 Census for Fannie Vick Brooks 
In 1940, Fannie was still a widow and the head of the house.  She had four lodgers including her nephew Russell Saunders. Once again her occupation was described as the Chairwoman and this time her employer was the Senate Office Building.  Aunt Fannie made $800.00 a week. Eight hundred dollars a week! Now that had to be a lot of money during the 1940s. For a single widow female, she was doing fine.  But still we don't know a lot about her such as when did she die and where was she buried?

I can't help but wonder what was Aunt Fannie's duties as a Chairwoman? Did she have to wear a uniform? Was there a Chairwoman association? If so, did the Chairwomen take group pictures?

A side note, in college, I had an assignment where I had to attend a congressional hearing. When I got on the elevator there was this lady who push the buttons for those of us in the elevator.  The lady was sitting in a chair. Could this be the answer to my questions? Were Chairwomen ladies who operated the elevators?

If someone who reads this post knows the answer to my questions, please don't hesitate to respond.  So until this mystery is solved, Aunt Fannie's story is to be continued.

1920 Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T625_211; Page: 15A; Enumeration District: 199; Image: 292,
1930 Census Place: Washington, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: 298; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0220; Image: 164.0; FHL microfilm: 2340033,
1940 Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia; Roll: T627_571; Page: 61B; Enumeration District: 1-518,

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

52 Ancestors: Week 18: Uncle Walter Williams

Walter Williams

Recently, at my Uncle Walter Williams’ daughter’s birthday celebration, his grandson James said that the family didn’t have much information on Walter. James said Walter's parents were slaves and he asked me to see what I could find. This post was created in response to my cousin James’ request.

Walter Williams married my Great Aunt Lena Powell on June 12, 1921. He was 28 years old and Lena was 19 years old.  Walter and Lena had 9 children: Walter Jr., Ernest, James, Hettie, Ada Gold, Juanita, Sharon, Rudolph and Ernestine.

According to Walter’s death certificate, his parents were Henry and Sarah Williams, and he was buried at St. Delight Cemetery in Green County, North Carolina. His daughter Ada Gold Jones provided the information on the death certificate. Walter probably lived near or with her because his address was listed in Kenly, North Carolina which was where Ada Gold also resided.


Walter's Death Certificate

Walter’s parents were Henry (1851-?) and Sarah (1851-?) Williams and they were the parents of Louise (1874-?), Lula (1869-?), William (1871-1938), John (1875-); Reddick (1877-?) Annie (1881), Sudie (1886-?), Lizzie (1888-?) and Nigat (1890-1965). Walter was the youngest of the family.

In 1870, Henry and Sarah are living in the Speights Bridge area of Snow Hill, North Carolina. Henry was 27, Sarah was 23 and their daughter was 8 months old. In the home was another person, a young man whose first name is illegible but his last name appears to be Thomas.  This little boy was 10 years old. All the occupants of the house stated that they were born in North Carolina.

By 1880, the couple’s personal information seem to drastically change. Henry was 40 years old and Sarah was 28. They family still lived in Greene county in the Speights Bridge area. I’m not sure if all of the children are Sarah’s because the eldest child was 11 years old which would make Sarah 17 when the child was born. This census also stated that Henry and his parents were all born in Virginia, not North Carolina. According to this census, Henry aged by 13 years and Sarah only 5 years.


1880 Census for Henry and Sarah Williams

Walter doesn't appear on the census until 1900. His parents are still residing in the community of Speights Bridge, in Greene County. Sarah stated that she was the mother of 12 children with 11 living. Walter was 6 years old on this census while his father was 63 and his mother was 48. Sister Lousenia (sp) was 24 and the eldest of the children. Seven of the children are living at home. Sarah and Henry had been married for 30 years.
1900 Census
The 1910 census was the last census that we find Sarah. She was listed as a widowed with 10 living. Three of her children were living with her: Louise, Wijat and Walter. Also in her household were her grandsons Sam and Ivy and a granddaughter, Effie. These grandchildren were probably her daughter Louise’s children. Apparently, Louise did not have a husband because the children’s last name was Williams like their mother.

1910 Census for the Williams Family


The birthday lady, her sister and niece.
Photo courtsey of Penny Brown.

Further Research:
It appears that Henry and Sarah live in Green County all their lives which is possibly where they were enslaved or perhaps they wanted to live near their extended family. If the couple were slaves in Greene County, then, their cohabitation records were destroyed in the Greene County Courthouse fire in 1897. The cohabitation records would had given us the names of their parents and possibly where the couple was born.

Between 1910 and 1920, Sarah passed away. It's possible if I traced each of Walter's siblings then I could find additional information on the Sarah and Henry.  For example, I found one of Walter’s brother’s death certificate. It was William M. Williams who died on September 13, 1938 in Greene county. He was 66 years old. His death certificate stated that their father was born in West Virginia and mother in Wilson County, NC. Since William was one of the older children; I believe he would had known where he’s parents were from. So it’s possible that William passed the information on to his wife and children who provided the information for the death certificate. On the other hand, Walter's brother Wijatt or Wyatt or Nigat’s death certificate (He died June 9, 1965 in Greene County, NC.) didn't provide much information because Walter's sister-in-law didn’t know her husband's parents name which is probably why they’re listed as unknown. But this information shows that the family remain in Greene County. 

I did find a tree managed by one of Reddick Williams descendants on This tree stated that Henry Williams died in 1910. It’s possible that Henry was buried in the same cemetery as Walter, St. Delight Cemetery. If any of Henry and Sarah's descendants read this post and has additional information, please contact me so I can pass the information on to my cousins.