Cluster research again leads to a research breakthrough.
Shown at left is my grandmother, the ever-wonderful Mattie Mae Springer. She was born in Hardin County, TN in 1921. Both of her parents’ roots have been brick walls.
Her parents, Walter Springer and Effie Fendricks, were both also born in Tennessee. It is the search for their parents who have stopped me cold.
Both sets of parents indicate on the census that they were born in Alabama. The question is where in Alabama?
Mike Fendricks in Tennessee
Effie’s father was Mike Fendricks. I located him in 1880 as a young man, newly married in Hardin County, TN. The surname is odd. There was no one else living nearby with that surname.
In fact, it took me several years to locate Mike in 1880 because the census taker wrote FINWICK instead of Fendricks.
Mike Fendricks was not in Tennessee in 1870. I assumed he was still living in Alabama.
I found his household in 1900 (spelled Fendrix) and subsequently on all the other censuses until his death in 1928.
The most interesting thing in this census was that his father’s birthplace was Washington, DC. That is a good example of the evidence census records can provide if we search it thoroughly.
Mike Fendricks’ life before 1880 was like a gaping black hole, where I just couldn’t find anything. I was not going to search for him in Alabama without having a lead on what county he was from.
I decided to use the principle of cluster research. Mike Fendricks lived with a man named Deed Suggs in 1920 who was also born in Alabama. Perhaps they migrated together? Focusing on Dee’s roots is exactly what led me back to Lawrence County, Alabama.
There I noticed local African Americans with the surname Fendrix in 1910, 1920, etc. This was very promising since the name is so uncommon.
When I traced some of these other Fendricks, I found another man named Mike “Fenrick” in 1880 in Lawrence County! Now I was really confused.Who was he?
A Second Mike Fendricks
Remember, my Mike Fendricks was 27 years old and living in Tennessee by 1880. Could this “Mike Fenrick” be his father? This man was 53 years old in 1880, with a wife and children. His birthplace in this census is Maryland.
Trying to find this older “Mike Fenrick” in 1870 proved fruitless. Until I used the magical wildcard symbol * in my census search.
I decided to search for all black males, no first name, last name Fen*.
That search located a man named John M. Fenerick. That’s right. John M. FENERICK. Talk about a surname spelling variations.
Wow. His middle initial “M” is most certainly for Mike.
My Mike is not in this household in 1870 (later I found him living with his mother).
A Hypothesis Emerges
When I researched the Fendricks/Fendrix surname for white slaveowners, most of them lived in the Washington DC area in the 1850 and 1860.
My hypothesis is that Mike Fendrick’s father (John Mike) was sold to the deep South from owners in Washington D.C. during the domestic slave trade.
Now my task turns to finding possible slaveowners for John Mike Fendricks. High on the list is Samuel Shackelford, a large slaveowner who lived closest to John Mike, as well as the Bynum family.
I am an engineer by day, but my true passion lies in genealogy. I have been a researcher, writer, lecturer and teacher for over twenty years. This blog is where I share family history methods, resources, tips and advice, with an emphasis on slave research, slavery and its aftermath. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my family’s past. I’ve taken back– reclaimed– some of that lost memory, especially that of my enslaved ancestors. I hope you’ll sign up to receive my posts—if you do, you’ll get a free PDF with some of my favorite tips! And please do share posts that interest you.
I value your work with genealogy and the sharing of your knowledge.
Just today, I was reviewing and comparing census records between 1900 and 1910 and discovered that an indication of having only one child in 1900, died before 1910 and husband taking care of three more children in 1910 that were born prior to the 1900. My mouth was still open when I noticed your message in my inbox. Oh what a surprise. I appreciate your blog.
Keep claiming your kin
[…] Mike and Jane Eliza, migrated to Tennessee by 1880 and all I knew was that they were from Alabama. My journey to find out what county in Alabama was very similar to Luckies–it was more about using my skills now to reassess information […]
Great breakthrough & even better that it was in D. C. – no need to travel down south for this one!
(Also remember that the slaves in D. C. would have been likely to have the same tendency NOT to use the slaveowner’s name as you find in Maryland.)
Talk to you soon!
that is excellent!
Breakthrough indeed Robyn! As we have both come to know, the Ancestors will work it out for us!
Congrats! Congrats! Congrats!:-)
Wow! Congrats on your breakthrough!
Now, when was that picture of Mattie Mae Springer taken?
It appears to have been taken in the 60s, 70s or later; which would make her at least 40 yrs old. To my eyes, she looks to be in her in her 20s! That’s a compliment.
Anyways, that’s a good research tip about the ‘neighbor chart’. Record the names!
Most of us know to look several census pages before and after to see if there are any possible Ancestors, but do we actually write the names down as a matter of course?
Thanks for the tip!
“Guided by the Ancestors”
You’re so thoughtful, thank you George for your kind comments. That photo was taken in the late 70s when my grandmother was in her 50s. She was so wonderfully outrageous..she actually had a bikini on in that photo!
I hope my tip about Drew University for your Jeter line turns up some new tidbits for you…..I can’t wait to read your update.
Congratulations, and thanks for all the great tips!