How a 1929 Photo is Music to a Genealogist’s “Ear”

By Dr. Ann Wead Kimbrough


This picture strikes a perfect pitch for genealogists seeking accurate records about ancestors.

It’s my maternal side’s great-granduncle Ernest Wilks (name spelled incorrectly above) who is posing with his saxophone in this 1929 picture of the Pike’s Roamers Band. I happened upon this picture in the 7-volume “Blacks in the Ozarks.”

Here’s how Uncle Ernest’s photo broke through a long-term brick wall regarding his life outside of an outstanding military career:

  1. The photo provides a date — sometime in 1929 — as indicated by the writing on the bottom right, near the drum skin. It also appears that the photography studio is listed nearby.
  2. The name of the band is written on the picture along with the location of the photo — Springfield, Missouri. That is where Great-uncle Ernest was born in March 1909.
  3. The recorder of the photograph is also a first cousin, twice removed, Alberta Renfro Duncan. She has an interesting notation that indicates the band in the picture is an outgrowth of another band by another name.
  4. I started researching Uncle Ernest’s musical talents and learned that he is among the jazz trombonists chronicled in historical documents. In fact, one of my Florida water aerobics’ classmates recognized the name and he told me a lot about the bands that Uncle Ernest played in and his great musical abilities.

Uncle Ernest in Hawaii in an unknown year

I started researching my great-grandmother, Edna Wilks Robinson’s brothers after her death in 1989. I relied on what I recalled about each uncle and also consulted my mother, Angie Owen Wead. However, Mom only knew that Uncle Ernest was quite content with living in Hawaii. She knew that he retired there after a great military. That was it.

Sometimes when relatives end their knowledge of an ancestor, it may appear to be a brick wall. Yet, with Uncle Ernest’s military record and musical interests, the opportunities increased for me to learn more about him. My first Cousin Mark Owen, also my partner in our genealogical services business, located great photos of Uncle Ernest from the files of other ancestors.

That’s what made it even more rewarding to locate Uncle Ernest in his hometown playing in a band. I also found him in Honolulu playing in a band. From all indications, this permanent bachelor lived his best life.


https://www.newspapers.com/clippings/download/?id=67846304


Dr. Ann Lineve Wead Kimbrough is a certified genealogist interested in reconstructing her family’s histories. Beginning in February 2021, she will begin offering workshops and other Black Genealogy Services along with her partner and cousin, Mark Owen.

One of my fav finds in Black Ancestry Research

However, slaveholder Nathaniel Ford, an influential settler and legislator, kept them in bondage until 1850, even then refusing to free their children. Holmes took his former master to court and, in the face of enormous odds, won the case in 1853.

Breaking Chains

Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory

R. Gregory Nokes

“When they were brought to Oregon in 1844, Missouri slaves Robin and Polly Holmes and their children were promised freedom in exchange for helping develop their owner’s Willamette Valley farm. However, slaveholder Nathaniel Ford, an influential settler and legislator, kept them in bondage until 1850, even then refusing to free their children. Holmes took his former master to court and, in the face of enormous odds, won the case in 1853.

In Breaking Chains, R. Gregory Nokes tells the story of the only slavery case ever adjudicated in Oregon courts—Holmes v. Ford. Drawing on the court record of this landmark case, Nokes offers an intimate account of the relationship between a slave and his master from the slave’s point of view. He also explores the experiences of other slaves in early Oregon, examining attitudes toward race and revealing contradictions in the state’s history. Oregon was the only free state admitted to the union with a voter-approved constitutional clause banning African Americans and, despite the prohibition against slavery, many in Oregon tolerated it, and supported politicians who were pro-slavery, including Oregon’s first territorial governor.

Told against the background of the national controversy over slavery, Breaking Chains sheds light on a somber part of Pacific Northwest history, bringing the story of slavery in Oregon to a broader audience.” — by the Oregon State University Press

Oregon State University Press
121 The Valley Library
Corvallis, OR 97331
541-737-3166
Book Order: 1-800-621-2736

Email: osu.press@oregonstate.edu

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I am a curious, dedicated genealogist who began my adventure at age 10 by asking questions about my family’s ancestors. Five decades later, I am taking my research to a new level. Stay tuned.