Slavery… What Was the Freedmen’s Bureau?

When the Civil War ended in 1865, the United States government created a department whose main concern was to look after the well-being of former slaves. Whether it was naive or ignorant, it was thought that one year would be enough to attend to the freedman’s needs. It wasn’t. There were tens of thousands of freed slaves who had been kept against their will, unable to learn how to read or write and unable to navigate the treacherous waters of freedom, especially considering the bitter prejudice that existed in the south.

The aim of the Freedman’s Bureau was to provide for the maintenance and education of freed slaves and monitor their conditions of employment and administer justice. It was a corrupt, dysfunctional mess. That’s what happens when those in charge use a government bureau for their own political motives. The power of the Freedmen’s Bureau must have been vast. Besides the above-mentioned duties, the bureau controlled land that had been confiscated during the war. In 1872, the bureau disbanded but not until after it did a lot of damage. In the end, it had the reputation of doing “more harm than good.”

Suellen Ocean is the author of the series, Civil War Era Romances. Available here:

Book One, Black Pansy: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1484900278

Tracing French-Canadian Ancestry… How’s That DNA Test Working for You?

My husband’s mother came from a colorful line of French Immigrants dating back to the 1600’s, when brave people sailed from France to New Canada. Funny thing is, he doesn’t identify with it. And because I’m the one doing the research (and I have a bit of French ancestry) I’m the one who is developing the bond.

The French genealogical community is very colorful and culturally rich. Whether it’s from the descendants who remain in Canada after generations or those who reside in Louisiana’s Acadiana in Lafayette, the determination to keep the culture alive suffers no boredom or apathy. I am impressed by the details kept through the years by the Catholic church. Those details are found on genealogical websites, (ancestry.com geni.com, etc.) and include pictures of graves, churches, homes and home sites as well as wedding pictures. In Louisiana, the Cajun community is one of the most active social groups I’ve ever seen. Talking about sticking together, they do. The Cajuns in Louisiana are the descendants of the French who were exiled from Canada by the English in 1765 and years following. The name Nova Scotia is British but it was an Acadian homeland before that. Many of New France’s descendants are also found in Quebec.

Did you get your DNA tested and if so, how’s that working out for you? Did you find that you had the French ancestry that you expected? Was it more or less so? And what else did you find? Any surprises? And did you come across any cousin matches? If so, were they friendly? It seems like an association with the Cajun communities in the United States and Canada would be a genealogical treasure. When my brother-in-law, with his dark, curly hair, picks up the mandolin and plays it like he’s been playing for a thousand years, I become more determined. One of their French ancestors was wild on the violin. A DNA test will convince them of the need to acknowledge and explore further, the culturally rich heritage of their French-Canadian ancestry.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret GenealogyA How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry, Secret Genealogy IIUncovering the Jewish Roots of Our Christian Ancestors, Secret Genealogy III From Jewish Anglo-Saxon Tribes to New France Acadians, Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees, Secret Genealogy V– Black, White and Hamite; Ancestors of Color in Our Family Trees and Secret Genealogy VI – Freemasons, Jewish Conquistadors and the Holy Family. Available here:

Secret Genealogy:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/0965114082

Secret Genealogy II:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1484053222

Secret Genealogy III:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/148407579X

Secret Genealogy IV:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500756105

Secret Genealogy V: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HJ622DU

Secret Genealogy VI: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MY35VCP

They Might Be Indians But They Are to be Treated as Runaway Slaves…

During the early 1800’s, when Andrew Jackson (the Indians called him Sharp Knife) worked his way into the presidency, he worked on relocating the Seminole Indians from Florida. The end game was the removal of all Seminole Indians from Florida. They were to exchange their land for land in the west. They were offered money, blankets for the men and frocks for the women. Woe to any Seminole who had an African ancestor. They were to be treated as runaway slaves. It did not matter if the taking of a mother or father, tore the family apart. Like the one-drop rule in other states, the white colonial relocators believed that anyone with any black ancestry should be enslaved.

Eventually, after several “Seminole Wars,” there were Seminoles who emigrated west as requested. They took cash and offered peace. But for many years the Florida Seminoles fought successfully. While the men fought the military, the women and children found refuge in the thick Florida jungles. Today, the descendants of the Seminole who resisted, can still be found in Florida, especially in the Florida Everglades.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the series, Civil War Era Romances. Available here:

Book One, Black Pansy: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1484900278

Book Two, Blue Violet: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B018ZWX0R4

Book Three, Black Lilac: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EKJMTKA

Book Four, Ellie: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LWVNCTS

Book Five, Rose Thorn: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X1GN58T

Book Six, Mississippi Wild Blue: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072L2WWMR

Book Seven, Dandelion Lane: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073WPHMWG

Throw it on Your Back, Your Bed and Your Floor but Don’t Forget Where it Came From

President Donald Trump has brought a lot of attention to the Civil War this week. Making scholars remind us of the truth about that war, maybe even confusing us. History buffs will let you know that the Civil War wasn’t all about freeing slaves. It was also about preserving the Union. Ouch. That hurts.

Dividing the United States of America was unthinkable to the North. America’s economy was in crisis. At the beginning of the Civil War, the price of cotton started to increase, obviously because the north was shut off from the south but in 1865, when Robert E. Lee surrendered, the price dropped.

Fortunes were made on the backs of slaves who labored in the sun-drenched cotton fields. People died out in those hot fields. And today, we forget all about that. We take our cotton for granted. We throw it on our beds, onto our backs, onto our floors and into our mattresses. We dry off with it and lay on top of it at the beach. We make balls of it to swab our skin and make strips of it to use as bandages and slings. Tents, tarps, you name it, we’ve made it from cotton. How many of us think of the history behind cotton? It’s hard to understand all the politics surrounding the Civil War but the next time you put your hands on cotton, think of all the history behind it. And be grateful that it is behind us.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the series, Civil War Era Romances. Available here:

Book One, Black Pansy: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1484900278

Book Two, Blue Violet: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018ZWX0R4

Book Three, Black Lilac: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EKJMTKA

Book Four, Ellie: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LWVNCTS

Book Five, Rose Thorn: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X1GN58T

Book Six, Mississippi Wild Blue: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072L2WWMR

Southern History… The Legend of Dixie or was it Manhattan?

Most Americans have heard the song about Dixieland. And in the history books, we’re taught about the Mason and Dixon’s Line, a survey boundary line that was used to designate free states from slave states. So, it’s easy to see how people assume that Dixieland is somehow related. But there is another story and it is one far removed from the South, in Manhattan no less. The story goes that in the early 1800’s, a man named Dixie had a plantation on Manhattan Island. He had many slaves. When slavery was outlawed in the Northern United States, Dixie sold them into slavery to Southern plantations. The Manhattan Dixie story has him treating his slaves so well, they longed to return to his “paradise,” Dixie’s land. Slavery was not paradise. Occasionally, white “masters” treated their slaves well but my research shows that by and large, American plantation owners were unkind (that’s putting it mildly) to their slaves. Yet even in captivity, people by nature will find things to appreciate.

Life is beautiful. Especially when you’re free. In the last half of the twentieth century, African Americans returned to the South in great numbers. Not because it was paradise but because they had history there. And maybe they wanted to enjoy some of the fruits of their labor. After all, those beautiful plantations were built upon their backs.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the Civil War Era romance, Rose Thorn. Available here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X1GN58T

Black Like Me

Black PansyYears ago there was a white author who darkened his face and went into the world to see if he would be treated differently. He was and he wrote a book about it, “Black Like Me.” A white person can never really know what obstacles African Americans have overcome in the decades post Civil War, but they can read about it. And often the books are free, either in the library or as an Amazon free Kindle classic. In the Kindle search field, type “free history books.” Two of my favorites are, “Up From Slavery: An Autobiography,” by Booker T. Washington and “The Underground Railroad,” by William Still.BLOG Size FRONT Canva Cover Secret Genealogy V

My father was from the Old South. When I was a child, he told me stories about his experiences and friendships with African Americans.  As an adult, somehow I stumbled onto writing romances with ethnic conflicts. I’ve read about the history of the “Negro Church,” and the above two mentioned books, and have immersed myself in research on ancient slavery and black genealogy. Sometimes when I pull my head out of one of these books, I have a sense of what it feels like to have been persecuted and oppressed because of the color of my skin and I am impressed with the fortitude and optimism that African Americans have shown, considering the obstacles that were put upon them.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the Civil War Era Historic Romance, Black Pansy: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Pansy-Suellen-Ocean/dp/1484900278

and Secret Genealogy V- Black, White and Hamite; Ancestors of Color in Our Family Trees:https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-Hamite-Ancestors-Family/dp/153518972X

 

 

Mixed-Race Love Affairs Throughout History…

BlackPansyKindleCoverI’m an author and a blogger. I write about a wide variety of issues and many of the historical things I write about are not pleasant but that does not make me shy away. But there’s one issue that I keep avoiding. I think it’s because I can’t believe it. After the Civil War, Mississippi accepted that former slaves lived together and had families. The children became legitimate and the marriages became legal. That must have brought relief. But at the same time, Mississippi condemned mixed-race marriage partners to… life in prison. Life in prison? Because two people love each other and they don’t happen to have the same skin color? Are you kidding me? Wow. That was only a-hundred-and-fifty-years ago. Life in prison? Unbelievable. There must be more to it.

What’s interesting is that during the middle ages in Spain, mixed race marriages were no big deal. It was not uncommon for affluent women to take black lovers. On the other hand, back in 1724 when the French were in charge of the Louisiana territory, which Mississippi was a part of, they too forbade mixed race marriages and cohabitation. The French said, “We forbid our white subjects, of both sexes, to marry with the blacks…” When white masters took advantage of their female slaves the master was fined and deprived of the slave and the children but the slave who was forced into the relationship and the children arising from it were “… forever incapable of being set free.”

Butterfly BLUE VIOLET Front Cover

Millions of people, black and white, live in America today and their DNA tells us unequivocally that the Louisiana Code Noir, the Slave Code, did not stop people from inter-racial relationships. Nor did the harsh penalty of life in prison after the Civil War. And let’s be clear. There were plenty of instances of deep love that crossed the color lines. Here is one of those I ran across in my research:

Peter, 27, stout fellow. The negro lived with Stephen Townsend of Charlestown, South Carolina that near 2 years ago married Mr. Townsend’s daughter when his master gave him to her.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the series, Civil War Era Romances. Available here:

Book One, Black Pansy: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Pansy-Suellen-Ocean/dp/1484900278

Book Two, Blue Violet: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018ZWX0R4