family history

Collection of letters, photographs and family items from the correspondence of AJ Micheaux and Lillie Smith Robinson, circa 1890-1899. Photo courtesy of Janice L. Cotton, 2016. 

These letters are my most cherished possessions.  They are well over 100 years old and have survived a massive flood and a house fire.  My great-grandfather was the uncle of the pioneer black author and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux.  My great-grandmother was Oscar’s mother’s first cousin.  These letters document correspondence between AJ Micheaux and Lillie Smith Robinson; and eventually include a proposal of marriage on Valentine’s Day 1898.

Story from Janice L. Cotton 


When he was in prison, Lorenzo Palma strongly suspected he was an American citizen. He had spent his whole life in the United States, and he knew his grandfather was born in El Paso, Texas, in 1914.

Palma had served five years for an assault conviction and was about to be released on parole, but immigration officials had stopped his release because they wanted to deport him. They said he wasn’t a U.S. citizen.

So in the summer of 2014, Palma found himself among dozens of inmates about to face an immigration judge in Huntsville, Texas. “They would sit us by groups of 10 and they would start deporting left and right,” he said.

Getting the paperwork to prove his citizenship was hard: He didn’t have money to call his mother in El Paso, Texas, so he was forced to send letters asking her to find the documents.

When it was Palma’s turn in court, Judge Richard Walton was short. Palma tried to explain that he was an American. But Walton simply asked Palma if he wanted time to get a lawyer; Palma said yes. Court recordings obtained by NPR show that Palma then softly asked Walton what his chances were of staying in the country.

You Say You’re An American, But What If You Had To Prove It Or Be Deported?

Photos: Bree Lamb for NPR

How my great-uncle Siegfried saved his entire family by punching a Nazi

So, my family were assimilated German Jews living in southwest Germany in a little town called Reinheim. And my great-uncle Siegfriend was both physically huge and also kind of a hot-headed young punk. It’s the mid-30s, and someone on the street calls him a “dirty Jew” so, naturally, Siegfried beats the shit out of the guy.

That evening, a mob starts to gather, wanting to lynch Siegfried for laying hands on a non-Jewish kid. The police come by the house and say “we know he was provoked, we’re not arresting him, but we’d like to take him into protective custody for the night to let this blow over.” He goes.

That night, someone at the police station lets the mob into his cell. They beat him nearly to death. When the police dump him at the family home the next day he’s caked in blood and nearly dead. The story I’ve heard always includes the line “his shirt was so full of blood it stood up on its own.”

And, of course, the mob is still coming for them.

That was the wake-up call they needed to get out of the country, early. It saved their lives.


(Can be viewed in high res.)

I’ve seen a few comparisons of champions and Crufts winners, but never one showing the development of a specific line. So here’s a timeline depicting the champions of Sparta’s branch of the BB line, starting with Specks of Mountfort in 1924 and ending (for now) with her multichampion grandfather “Simon”. Only one (Max of Clerwood, 1928) was omitted, because I couldn’t find a picture. It should be noted that Wallace was not a champion, but as the son of the foundation sire Butcher Boy, he is the earliest photographic example we have of this line.

Years on the pictures refer to when they got their English titles. Dogs are as follows: Specks of Mountfort, 1924; Eltham Park Eureka, 1926; Kinnersley Gold Dust, 1936; Helensdale Bhan,  1949; Helensdale Ace, 1950; Hazelhead Gay Wanderer, 1956; Penvose Brandy Snap, 1959; Riverhill Ratafia, 1961; Rodhill Burnt Sugar, 1968; Riverhill Ricotta, 1974; Haytimer of Hanburyhill at Hartmere, 1979; Shelridge Haywire, 1991; Lirren Hashbrown, 1992; Mohnesee the Sorcerer, 1993; Mohnesee the Illusionist, 1996; Rannerdale Ghostbuster, 2003.


So a while back I mailed in my spit for a DNA ethnicity.

British, Russian, and Nordic. Whoever suggested possibly Scandinavian had a good hunch.
The surnames relevant to the countries of origin were primarily from my father’s side. As I was tracing the lineage, I found people from the Great Britain and Eastern European countries but so far Northmen. I thought it was interesting I found no Irish, Scottish, or German ancestry.

This does explain the blonde haired, blue eyed, and porcelain complexion. If I had a sibling, the rearrangement of genes would be different resulting in different percentages of ethnicities.

Whoever claims no one is entirely white is full of shit.

This new Roots was magnificent

The story was amazing, heartbreaking, raw and extremely important. We need to know where we come from its important that we remember what we are and who we are. For centuries white people have been stripping us and beating our culture out of us wanting us to submit to their mayo ass culture. My black brothers and sisters if you have not watched Roots please watch it please learn about your family do not look at this as “oppression by the white man” remake because it is not, slavery is no longer taught in schools neither is black history we need to teach our kids their history. We weren’t brought over here freely we were beaten, raped, tortured, branded and sold as an object. Teach your children, teach yourself, learn your story, find out what your family name means. Your family’s history matters it’s important to you and your family’s future.

In the traditional meaning of flowers, the Pansy represents deep and/or loving thoughts.

When I took this picture this morning, I was thinking of my grandmother. Pansies were her favorite flower. And then suddenly, my thoughts of her became a reflective reminiscing of my childhood and times spent with all of the now-gone relatives of her generation.

I envisioned a thread connecting and floating through time and space. In its amazing way, memory allows us to travel rapidly without the tether of physics.

Swedish accents, hay mows, coffee, cousins, livestock, family reunions, macaroni salad with canned peas, rice pudding, the ornery bull whose stall we were forbidden to approach, laughter, sunburned faces of life-long farmers, women who could wring a dish cloth dry, cotton dresses and bow ties, the next generation in 60s Mod fashion in stark contrast, and a dozen of us cousins running through the yards with complete abandonment– once our parents gave up on us staying clean.

And these memories, brought on by this simple flower, made me smile, and honestly, tear up just a bit. And that brought one last memory. My great-grandpa holding my chin in his weathered hand, as I cried over something trivial. He said “be careful, or your face will freeze that way.”

That scared the shit out of me. :)

Finally did my DNA test, so I’ll mail that out tomorrow before work. My dad’s side is almost 100% Italian and Sicilian (with one Corsican), so I’m really interested to see what comes up on my mom’s side since her ancestry seems to be scattered all over Europe (ranging from German-Austrian with some Hungarian to Anglo-Scots-Irish).

I’m also really, really curious to see if there’s any North African or Sub-Saharan African genes from the Sicilian side since that comes up frequently due to a lot of historical cultural contact in the Mediterranean.

Digital comp sketch for an oil painting I’m planning. In a painting involving a lot of invention I like to anticipate most of the problems in a digital format so I can work through them at a quicker pace. Saves me a lot of headache later on. The painting is based on two small portrait photos of my great-grandparents.

No marriage license? Use a sampler as proof of marriage! 

This 18th-century sampler is one of just six we’ve found in our Revolutionary War pension files. 

The sampler is from the file of soldier John McKenzie. His wife Martha “Patsy” Bonner McKenzie of Georgia made the sampler, which shows she was born in 1775 and married John in 1792.

Widows occasionally used these as proof of marriage to claim a Revolutionary War widow’s pension, just as Martha did.

The sampler is on loan to the The Georgia Museum of Art. See it now in the exhibition “Georgia’s Girlhood Embroidery: ‘Crowned with Glory and Immortality.’”

You can read more about our six samplers here: