Lansing Area African American
Genealogical Society

Newsletter
Volume 5, Issue 3
Winter/Spring 2014-2015 Newsletter
Web Howard  - Waiting to be
Discovered
  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.
   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 farmâ€�.  A few scattered white folks
appeared on the page, with their occupation
listed as “farmerâ€�.  The “farmersâ€�
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
Page
4
by Mike Bryan