UMD Uncovering Oldest U.S. Community of Free Blacks?

UMD Uncovering Oldest U.S. Community of Free Blacks? | UMD Right Now :: University of Maryland.

I hope everyone in the area can come and be a part of the archaeological dig on The Hill here in Easton. See the link above for more information.

“Uncovering Our Past” — An Update on The Hill

For those interested in learning the latest on the explorations and research into The Hill neighborhood in Easton, please plan to join us on Saturday, November 3, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

We believe “The Hill” is the oldest African American neighborhood in the country, predating what is thought of as the oldest documented African American neighborhood: “Treme” located in New Orleans, LA.

“Uncovering Our Past” will take place at the Talbot County Senior Center (400 Brookletts Place) and will provide a debriefing on the on-going documentation efforts regarding “The Hill” and a discussion on the role of archeology and historic preservation. Professor Dale Glenwood Green of Morgan State University School of Architecture and Planning and Dr. Mark Leone of the University of Maryland College Park Department of Anthropology will highlight a panel discussion followed by a open session for sharing and collecting stories of the neighborhood history. Light refreshments will be available.

For more information on this project, please see:

The Hill: Amazing Tales and Discoveries

Archaeological Dig on The Hill in Easton

Update from The Hill

Help Preserve an Historic African American Neighborhood: The Hill in Easton, Md.

My First Jamboree — Part 1

I just returned today from four jam-packed fun days at the Southern California Genealogical Society 2012 Jamboree. Why would a Marylander with no ancestors from Cali trek so far? Because she was jealous of all her friends who’ve attended and touted the event in years past. Plus, I’d never been to California before.

I arrived mid-morning on Thursday after a very early departure from Baltimore and tried to nap in my hotel room before hanging with my genealogy pals in the afternoon/evening. I say ‘tried’ because I wasn’t very successful due to some ambient noise in the hallway. Turns out we were sharing the hotel not only with this year’s American Idol finalists, who are on tour, but hopeful singers auditioning for The Voice 3. And they practiced. A lot. In their rooms. At all hours. Not all of them very well.

But I digress. I met up with several fellow genealogy bloggers in the lobby and bar that evening, include Denise Levinick, Amy Coffin, Thomas MacEntee, Caroline Pointer, Kimmy VonAspern, Randy Seaver, Lisa Alzo and Kathryn Doyle (hope I’m not forgetting anyone!). Kathryn and Denise had actually served as my welcoming committee as I first arrived at the hotel. We had a great time catching up, but I made an early night of it due to my lack of sleep.

I spent the next morning hanging out with a subset of the above group in the lobby of the hotel after having breakfast with Elyse Doerflinger. I also introduced myself to genealogy megastar Megan Smolenyak. I was ecstatic to run into Tonia Kendrick, whom I hadn’t seen since FGS in Knoxville in 2010. We had lunch that day and then Denise Levenick and I went to the conference registration desk to pick up our nametags and check out the exhibit hall before the first sessions of the conference. At some point during that day, I ran into Kim Cotton (or was it the day before?). I also finally got to meet Gini Webb. It’s so fun meeting folks I’ve only been in contact with over the web.

One of my favorite parts of the conference is networking with fellow genealogists, but there were sessions to attend. On Friday, I attended sessions on a genealogy case study and the impact of the Internet on genealogy. I skipped the last session of the day and instead was found in the bar with Lisa Alzo, Amy Coffin, Thomas MacEntee and many others who wandered in and out.

Carla Laemmle, on the right.

That night was one of the highlights of the conference — the Hollywood Gala. We were encouraged to dress to the nines, and many did. There were movie stars from days gone by on hand, including Carla Laemmle, who was in the cast of 1931’s Dracula. We had a lot of fun posing for a photographer while we gabbed and sipped sparkling cider.

More to come in a future post!

The Hill: Amazing Tales and Discoveries

I had an amazing time today at the presentation about The Hill in Easton — I got to hear stories from current and former residents about the way African Americans developed this neighborhood from the late 18th-century to today. We took a walking tour and stopped into one of the churches that is at the neighborhood’s core. I also discovered that I had happened upon a real gem during a prior project that has value for the history of The Hill.

Below are some photos and tidbits from the day (click on the photos for larger versions):

Our tour started on Higgins Street, in front of these duplexes that pre-date indoor plumbing. A resident said that bathrooms eventually were built on to the back porches of houses.

Another view down Higgins Street, with the AME church steeple in the background.

The steeple of the church is topped with a pineapple, a Colonial symbol of welcome and hospitality.

The church dominates the view down South Lane.

The “Buffalo Soldier’s House.” Sgt. William Gardner never lived there, but his enlistment papers were found there. The house was owned by his brother.

View of the “Buffalo Soldier’s House” with one of The Hill’s AME church steeples in the background. Archaeologists from the University of Maryland will dig at this site this summer.

Barney Brooks, a descendant of one of the owners of the “Buffalo Solider’s House” is interviewed by a student from Morgan State University during today’s breakout session, where residents could tell their stories and have their documents scanned for posterity.

Habitat for Humanity will be renovating this house. Today, they were painting the boards over the windows and doors to make them look like real windows and doors in the interim, to keep the property from looking abandoned.

This is one of the oldest houses, especially brick structures, in The Hill neighborhood, dating to 1798.

The corner of Hanson and South Streets, with 3 c.-1870 brick homes. The neighborhood has traditionally been mixed-race. Columbia, Md., developer James Rouse (aka actor Edward Norton’s grandfather, for those outside of Maryland), grew up here. He got his ideas for creating a mixed-income, mixed-race community from his time spent in Easton.

Frederick Douglass once spoke at both AME churches in Easton. The rostrums at which he spoke survive to this day. Here is the rostrum at the Bethel AME Church on Hanson Street.

Now, for the coolest part of the day for me. In a talk about the “Buffalo Soldier’s House,” local historian Priscilla Morris mentioned two black women from The Hill, Ann Eliza Skinner Green Dodson and her sister, Temperance (whose son was the Buffalo Soldier, William Gardner). [4/2: Oops! I was a little confused during this presentation — I was so excited when I realized I had the photo. Temperance’s sister Ann was an early owner of the property known as the “Buffalo Soldier’s House.” The house passed to Temperance’s son before it was sold to the Gardner family.] Morris mentioned that Temperance was a servant of the Hambleton family, who lived in the building that is now the Bartlett Pear Inn.

I realized I had a photo of Temperance.

When I did the history of the Bartlett Pear Inn, I came upon a stereograph image of the building (the top photo on the poster here) at the Historical Society of Talbot County. Pictured on the front porch are members of the Hambleton family. On the sidewalk, with two of the Hambleton children, is the Hambleton’s African American servant. Temperance.

No one at today’s meeting had seen the image before — I was able to show it to them on my phone. It was so exciting to share this rare piece of history with the group!

The Hill Project Presents: “A Stroll Down Memory Lane”

I hope those in the Easton area can attend this event on March 31 (click on the poster for a larger view):

I’m really looking forward to learning more about this area from the residents and to participate in the walking tour. I’ll post a follow-up blog post when the event is over!

Learn more about The Hill here and/or visit the Historic Easton web site.

RootsTech 2012: My View

It’s been almost a week since the end of the RootsTech 2012 conference and I’m finally able to get some thoughts down about my overall experience there. I’m adding my voice to dozens of other bloggers who also attended. I’m not going to try and cover the whole thing — just the highlights and a few low-lights for me.


One of my favorite things about these events is meeting the other attendees and this year did not disappoint. I finally got to meet several genealogy bloggers that up until last week I’d only known online and we all got along swimmingly. If nothing else, I think any conference can be a success from an attendee perspective if you get out there and meet the other attendees and network. I especially enjoyed getting to know my roommate, Footnote Maven. We had a really great time and looked out for each other throughout the conference (we both were hobbling around on injured feet).

Kudos to the conference organizers for scoring free breakfasts at the Radisson for attendees staying there. What a money-saver! I don’t know if that’s a standard part of the room package that the Radisson offers to event planners, but this attendee was thankful and used almost every one of my free breakfast coupons. The breakfast buffet was a great opportunity to run into other genealogists too. I’ve never had as much face time with Thomas MacEntee as the two mornings I was up early enough to find him at breakfast. What a treat!

The RootsTech app for smartphones and other handheld devices was a huge help to me — it was great to have the schedule at a glance (both the overall schedule and my own personalized session schedule). The alerts sent through the app weren’t all that effective — I usually noticed them too late and I think whoever was adding them was doing so as an afterthought rather than as planned missives. Better luck next time on that front. I was using this app on my iPad and it worked great, but I fear I would have found it to be too small on my phone, so I didn’t download it to that too. I’m also not sure there was a way to have your information from the app on one device automatically update on another.

I attended one or two really, really stellar sessions. Both covered advanced photography topics. Most of the other sessions were useful and educational, but there were one or two stinkers. Now we’re starting to get into the low-lights section, so let’s introduce that header, shall we?

Low Lights

Back to the sessions. There were a few problems here that started even before we all arrived in Salt Lake City. The session schedule for this conference was announced very, very late. I made a cursory schedule of sessions that I thought I might like to attend a few days before the conference and then shifted things around as the syllabi became available.

I think the schedule and the syllabi need to be posted much sooner and I think it would be a good idea for the conference planners to try and track what sessions folks intend to attend (the app is perfect for this!) and plan their spaces accordingly. Some of the sessions I attended were more than standing-room only. The rooms were uncomfortably packed and hot.

There were nearly 1,000 more attendees at RootsTech this year than last year and yet it felt like they were trying to cram us into the same number of sessions and spaces. Not physically possible. Shortly after arriving in SLC for RootsTech, I learned we were sharing the Salt Palace with another event — I think the conference organizers need to invest in more space next year!

On the content side of things, some of the presenters raced through too much material for their 60-minute slots or covered material that didn’t really align with their session descriptions. I’m going to join the chorus of attendees asking for more advanced session topics next year.

Another low light for me was the vendor area. It was expanded from last year and it was a little bit easier to navigate around (at least after the first day; more on that later). I’m not usually the type to want to learn about new software at a vendor booth — I’d rather visit their web site or download a trial version. If I’m going to visit a vendor booth, there’s gotta be something hands-on for me to play with that I can’t try out from my living room couch. Several other attendees bemoaned the lack of actual gadgets available at the conference. With the exception of Flip Pal, I don’t think there were any gadgeteers there. At a tech conference. Lame.

Back to navigating the vendor area on the first day of the conference. There were a few booths I actually did want to visit, but I couldn’t reach them. Why? Because they were mobbed by other attendees. But these weren’t attendees actually interested in the services those booths were promoting. They were just trying to get their passports stamped by enough vendors to win a t-shirt. Again? Lame. Nix the whole passport thing — if 2 percent of the folks getting those passports stamped had a valuable conversation with any vendor, I’ll be surprised.

My other complaints have more to do with the Salt Palace — they need to beef up their wireless signal availability. Also? Please get some better food options.

Am I likely to attend RootsTech next year? Probably. The registration fee has been reasonable. It’s right next to the Family History Library, which on its own is worth the trip. So long as I can keep networking with my fellow genealogists, I’ll be willing to fly out there. But I do want to see a few things improve for next year. Here’s hoping the organizers are listening.

Stay tuned for one more RootsTech post (my greatest hits — facts, tips and tricks that wowed me).