|Lansing Area African American Genealogical Society
|Fall 2011-2012 Newsletter|
|Volume 5, Issue 2|
|Web Howard - Waiting to be Discovered|
|by Mike Bryan|
| The unlikelihood of this discovery was emphasized by the fact that the census taker back on July 5, 1870 failed to record first names for over one-half of the people on the page. At the Howard residence, Web was the only one given a first name. I can only imagine his insistence on getting his name on the official record - the first census after the Civil War and the first where newly freed ex-slaves were recorded in name. The history of the times subtly shone through the document. A second luck of the moment was that my second search that day on Heritage Quest gave me nothing on Web. His name had been skipped by the database transcriber. Had I run that database first I might have missed him.
I printed a copy of the census record for later examination and hopefully more discoveries. I have found one should look again and again in this detective work called genealogy. Upon re-examining the page later that day, it became obvious that there were a whole lot of Black citizens, with their occupation listed as “works on farm”. A few scattered white folks appeared on the page, with their occupation listed as “farmer”. The “farmers” were the land owners, as shown by the record of the real estate values on the same line. Five years after slavery was abolished, many of the former slaves were working the same fields as before the war. By my reckoning, Web Howard was working on land owned by a F.I. Hall near the town of Waterproof, Louisiana - the post office listed on the census page. A few days later an Internet search for plantations in Tensas Parish yielded another piece of the puzzle. The Hall family had owned what was known as the Newfoundland Plantation. Now, nothing on the 1870 census said anything about the Newfoundland Plantation.
Maps often give perspective to genealogy research. Finding accurate, detailed and legible maps of antebellum plantations can be challenging. I found some on a Louisiana genealogy site however, the detail was absent.
By chance, luck, (the spirit of Web?), I searched for Newfoundland Plantation using Google Maps. There it was as a “place” a few miles down the road from Waterproof, Louisiana. continued on page 5
| As I searched for a parking spot near the Mississippi Archives in early November, little did I realize that the spirit of Web Howard was inside, waiting to be found. My wife and I had traveled to her ancestral state for a combination of reasons, including a continuation of genealogy research. On our last trip we had a fruitful day of finding old marriage records at the county chancery clerk office in Vicksburg. On this trip we had hoped to find more information through another avenue: death certificates. In Mississippi the older death records are housed at the state archives in Jackson. We had agreed that due to limited time, I would spend a day in the Archives while she attended the Mississippi State University Insect Rearing Conference, one of the primary reasons we were in the state.
I had a working list of eight ancestors and relatives in my brief case as I got out of the car and walked around the corner to the main entrance. Once inside the scene was familiar to most who do genealogy research - darkened rooms and people sitting in front of microfilm readers pouring over images of old documents. Several hours later I had paper copies of some of the certificates I had come for, including one for my wife’s maternal grandfather, Ensign Howard. Two bits of information stood out - father: Webb Howard and mother: Rose Alice Howard. My wife‘s sister was reportedly named after their maternal great grandmother. Through family oral history we knew that Ensign’s parents were born into slavery on plantations in Tensas Parish, Louisiana. His death record confirmed their birthplaces as “La.” (Louisiana).
About a week later, Web was waiting to be discovered again. This time in a search in the Ancestry.com database. I found Web on my very first attempt, with a hit on the 1870 Census for Tensas Parish. The original document image showed Web Howard age 18 living with two other people of the same surname, listing only the initial of their given name. The probability of finding that record was unlikely although there it was standing out on the computer monitor. Pieces of information were coming together, like words on the TV show Wheel of Fortune.