Researching in Georgia - Taliaferro, Toliver, Lawrence, Brewer, Askew, Dorsey, Jackson, Poole, Butler, Allen, Gilbert, Crawford, Middlebrooks, Gates, Parks, Thompson, Alford, Favors, Guise, and related surnames.

04 September 2009

A Family Keepsake, Census Records and Message Boards Help Connect The Past To The Present.

I wrote this a few years ago in response to a request from Ancestry for African American research stories. I thought I would share it here.

I never knew my father. Those words had haunted me for all of my childhood, and most of my adult life. As an African-American, the possibility of tracing my paternal ancestry was never an avenue I thought to pursue with any success. A cursory search on under the surname "Tolbert"did not yield any results that fit the few facts that I had learned over the years. I assumed I would not be able to find anything. On day, while looking through some old photos and papers, I discovered two telegrams dated the day I was born. Both contained the surname "Taliaferro." This triggered something. I had a vague memory of my mother telling me about my birth and the hospital spelling my father's last name incorrectly. I remembered that from an early age, I knew that my father’s correct surname was "Taliaferro" not Tolbert as stated on my birth certificate, and that he pronounced it "Toliver." This, I assumed accounted for the hospital’s mistake. I also knew from conversations with my mother, the names of my father’s mother and his siblings. Armed with these facts and a renewed determination I rejoined and began another search.

This time around, I was able to locate my father with his parents (my grandparents!) and brother and sister in the 1930 census. All the names fit with my information. What a thrill! Searching back, I was able to locate my grandfather and his parents (my great grandparents!) in the 1920, 1910, 1900 and 1880 census records. I also found my great grandparents in the 1870 census. A few households away was another Taliaferro(Toliver) family. Could these be my great, great grandparents? I felt fairly confident that all the relatives I had found so far were my ancestors, but there was no way to connect this last family from the 1870 census to my ancestors.

I turned to the Taliaferro message board on in hopes of finding someone researching my Taliaferros. I went through each message one by one and then......BINGO. Someone was looking for any relatives of my father’s parents. I could not believe my tired eyes. It turns out that this message was posted by my father’s brother’s daughter in June of 1999. (The name fit with one my mother had given me). She was no longer a member of Ancestry. Good luck in finding her, right? Well, I did; right here in the same city where I live. She sent me an article written on our grandfather which confirmed all the names I had found in the census records. This article also confirmed that the male Taliaferro living in the household near my great-grandfather in the 1870 census was, in fact, my great, great-grandfather! I could not have asked for more, but I did get more. After contacting that cousin from the message board, I have a new family from my paternal side; 4 first cousins, an aunt (my father’s sister) and a brother!!!! My quest goes on, but if I find nothing more, it was well worth the hunt (the ancestor hunt that is)!


Since then I have found more information on my Taliaferro ancestors. However, nothing can compare to discovering living relatives, especially my brother. In 2005 I had my name legally changed from Tolbert to Taliaferro. It was a long time coming, but felt so right, so comfortable, so me!!


  1. The reality that we are doing our Ancestors work -- mending what was severed -- really struck me as I read your post. We are doing what they could not.

    Your blog title is also my reality -- while I know his name, I cannot say that I know my namesake, Don Ameche Daniels.

    Late August marked 28 yrs since I've last seen him. Eight letters, written some 13 yrs ago from a jail cell, are all that I have as an inheritance. And although nominal in number, those 8 letters healed me & gave me the understanding I needed to move forward with a healthy outlook on life & love.

    The state of Black Fatherhood is somewhat of a mixed bag for me -- part I attribute to the karma generated by slavery & vicious breeding cycles but the other I lend to descendants not stepping up to effect change. I feel my Father & MANY fathers are a bi-product of both.

    Thank God for Ancestry, Afrigeneas & other mediums like them that bless us to connect with our bloodlines!

    I too have discovered new siblings & family that I hope to meet one day soon.

    We have been blessed with an AMAZING opportunity -- to heal the wounds of the past in real time.

    That is just surreal!


  2. Indeed what a touching story!! What joy to find your family, to find a long lost sibling and to connect----truly connect with your family! Wonderful lesson in this story.

  3. Sandra,

    This is such a moving story!
    Finding and changing your 'name'.
    Finding your family!
    I am so happy for you and will be visiting your blog often!

    "Guided by the Ancestors"

  4. Hello I'm Richard Dillon I never met or knew any thing about birth father... I try not to think about it but i still think about I have no info can he be found?????