Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bettie’s List Chapter 2 Discovering Sallie Ligon?

When I first started working in the photo lab as a large reprint specialist, I initially signed on guaranteeing I would work for at least one year. It seems getting good people who had an eye for color correction was difficult and the owner’s wanted someone who would be around for at least a year. Committing to one year of work seemed okay for me and since it was paying me good money for part time work it seemed like a good deal.

During that year of work I made time to conduct some copy negative work so I could reprint the photos my father expected me to share with the rest of the family. Organizing all of the photos took time considering I was working full time and part time but I felt I would have plenty of time to finish the project. Needless to say that was an incorrect assumption on my part; things tend to have a rhythm of their own and this was no exception. However, when pushed for time I seem to work more efficiently.

When it was coming up on the anniversary of committing to a year of working in the lab I felt the desire and need to move on. With a deadline approaching I went into another gear to finish all of the copying and reprinting of the family photographic history.

During my year of copy work I began noticing more photographs of people I had no clue about and this began the process of calling my father on a regular basis to see if he could identify the individuals I was seeing for the first time.

During my copy work sessions I soon made another surprising discovery! The day I was going to copy the image of Bettie I had to take it out of the frame so I could eliminate the glare from the glass. What I found underneath Bettie’s portrait was an image of another woman. I was excited about this discovery but as usual I had no idea who this woman was or why her portrait was in the same frame.

Margaret Ann Wilson nee Alexander
Immediately I phoned my father and told him about the discovery; he was not positive about the woman but thought it was the mother of Bettie’s husband, his grandfather Hadley Ligon. My father then told me this woman’s name was probably Sally and since I had nothing else to go on, accepted this as a fact.

From 1990 through 1994 I occasionally took the time to organize the photos put them in various albums according to their generation and put together packages of photos that I would send to other family members.

It was also during this period that I became mildly interested in genealogy. My father was telling me this fantastic and in my mind unbelievable stories of his grand parents. Bettie was supposed to be part Indian but he wasn’t exactly sure which tribe. His grandfather, Bettie’s husband he described as a runaway slave from Louisiana. All of these stories were heard by me for the first time and I couldn’t understand why he never spoke about them before now.

It was around 1994 I purchased my first desktop computer with an amazing 425 mb hard drive! It had 4mb of memory and a modem that allowed me to go online and seek information on my family’s “Oklahoma” roots for the first time.

I still didn’t have much knowledge on genealogical research and only knew a few things about my father’s people however, it was around this time two things occurred that began to shape my research and lead me in the direction of knowledge that I am eternally grateful.

The first thing that happened was I became familiar with some people online who were also new to the internet but they were genealogist who knew how to conduct research. One of the people I became familiar with lived right down the street from me and knew a great deal about genealogical research; she and a few more people in the area thought we should form a genealogical society so we could help each other learn the proper way to conduct research. One day we all met at Electra Price’s home to form the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California which is still going strong today I’m proud to say. 

The other people that played a significant role in my development as a researcher was an online introduction to Angela Walton-Raji and Robert Broome, both genealogy researchers familiar with Oklahoma. Angela became very significant as I will explain later. It was these three people and events that finally got me on track to conduct research on my family and led me to the discovery of my father’s “Indian” grandmother.
From 1990 through 1994 I would talk with my father occasionally and ask him about a new face among the many photographs in the boxes he gave me. I would describe an individual and together we would determine who that person was and what relationship they were to my father.
Gladys Ligon

We would discuss the people he knew like his grandmother Bettie, his grandfather Hadley and his father Mitch. My father would  tell me about his aunt Gladys and other members of his extended family like his great grandfather John Taylor or grandfather on his mother’s side; Caro Christian.

Some of them he knew personally and some he knew through stories he overheard as a young boy eavesdropping on the stories of his elders. It was after seeing the photo of his aunt Gladys I began taking some of what my father said about his Indian grandmother a little bit more seriously. Like a lot of people I saw in her photo what are typically considered physical features of what an “Indian” looks like.

As I stated earlier, the AAGSNC was my first introduction to genealogical research methodology and subsequently I became familiar with census research and the Church of the Ladder Day Saints. It must have taken me three months to finally locate his grandmother and father on a census record. The first thing I learned was spelling on census records is not correct and prior to 1907, the state of Oklahoma to my surprise did not exist!
1900 Census Indian Territory E.D. 168 p17b; T3S, R1W

This was the first time I experienced what genealogists refer to as the “happy dance.” When I began my research all I basically had were photographs and my father's questionable memory. The "old man" could only provide a few names he recalled from his childhood; Bettie, Hadley, his father Mitch and Aunt Gladys.  Combine those names with the misspelling on the census form I was certain this was the family I was searching for and soon realized there was more to this story than I first thought.

The more I looked at this document the more something began drawing me in for more inspection. There was another person in this household that I was not aware of and someone my father didn’t have an explanation.

The 1900 census indicated that the mother of Hadley (Atty Liggon) Ligon was a woman seventy eight years old by the name of Margaret Ann Wilson!!! I couldn’t wait to tell my father how wrong we were about that picture in the same frame as Bettie’s. According to this record, Hadley’s mother was living with him and his family and her name was not Sallie but Margaret Ann. Talk about scoring big time this had to be it. I was soon to become more surprised because again, census records can be totally incorrect yet hold the kernel of some truth.

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