Tuesday, May 12, 2015


  While researching the Vandegrift family line I continued to come across a city or are of birth as Frankford. Having lived in Philadelphia i recalled there being a Frankford Avenue but not a city proper named Frankford. I also remembered fondly the loud rattle of the Frankford-Market elevated train. The hallmark of Frankford to me was the EL as it is affectionately called. So why would so many of the Vandegrift family list their homes in this are instead of Philadelphia? I decided to find out.
Of course it all begins with William Penn. He sold a tract of land along the Quessionwonmick River to the Society of Free Traders. The area was established by Dutch and Swedes, mostly trappers. The first meeting house was erected in 1683 and later a Post Office was ordered to be established by Penn in that same year. 
The Waln street meeting house in its present form is still the oldest meeting house in Philadelphia. It is known as a frequent stop for members of the Continental Congress meeting in secret meetings regarding independence from the English throne. 
The area was described at the time as " land with houses, barns, orchards, gardens, fence, enclosures, and improvements thereon.” It is a remarkable comment about the areas industry considering the area was wilderness just 18 years earlier.
The Frankford became a substantial area of commerce by the 18th century. th King's highway was laid out and roads to Bustleton and Asylum pike. In 1770 German immigrants established themselves and built a church and roads.
Frankford became incorporated as a borough of Philadelphia in mid 1800 so as this was a new face to community it would seem plausable that many would still consider their homes to be Frankford and thus use this in documenting their residence. In my research of my African-American ancestry Frankford became the focus as I stated earlier.    An A.M.E church was also named in some of these records of which I have located this photo.

In East Frankford during that time there were many old black families who resided there. Some of the old families were the Epps, the Smiths, the Blacks, the Brooks, the Grays, the Barretts, the Fletchers, the Millers, the Turpins, the Stewarts, and many more. Many of the families came from North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina and West Virginia.
      During that time, there were several black-owned businesses. There was also an all-black school were children were taught by excellent teachers. There was also three Afro-American doctors as my aunt was growing up — Doctor Levy, Tollivar and Pressley.
      During those years Frankford was a very safe place to live. People left their doors unlocked and opened all night. There was very little crime. The people had a great deal of fun.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Familysearch.org stole my family from me.

I remember the day my Aunt showed me the crumpled, imperfect and torn family tree drawing that my grandfather Gerhard McGee I had drawn. The branches were skinny, dead looking apendages to the attempted artisticly craved tree trunk. Names were scattered from branch to branch with obvious care and forethought to the generations later that would attempt to decipher them.
This first encounter with family history touched in me what my faith taught me was named "the spirit of Elijah". The term is taken from the biblical book of Malachil chapter 4 wherein the prophet of Elijah is promised "to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers" My heart had been turned to my fathers and was set in motion 23 years of seeking them out. 
When I became a member of The Church of jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I was eighteen years old and had lost both my parents and two of my grandparents. I understood the desire and hope that many feel to be reunited one day with deceased loved ones. The doctrines of the lDs church which hinged on genealogy research spoke to that hope and longing in me to see my parents and to know from where I came. 
The years that I have spent locating documentation, connecting with online groups of researchers, contacting distant cousins and discovering within myself an identity led me to entrust the LDS church with my growing family tree containing over 1000 names, notes, dates and personal stories. What was once contained on a personal hard drive came to be part of the online community called Familysearch.org. As a member of the LDS faith additional information and tools are available to the user of the site. 
Fastforwarding to the current day I find myself writing this post from a state of disappointment. I am no longer a member of The Church of jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints via excommunication for my views on sexuality and marriage.  The unfortunate result is that my records of family history that my grandfather began and I built upon for many mnay years have been stolen by familysearch.org. When i state that the records are stolen I mean that they have all of my research, notes etc to the benefit of the familysearch database yet have seen fit to block my access to them. While I am not the author of the said records individualyl I am the author of the organization of said records into the family tree linked to my account with them. Just as Tyndale did not write the Bible, his organization and notations,commentary on the scriptures make him rightful owner of a copyright so to speak. 
While I am certain there are terms and conditions of utilizing the familysearch.org site, there are most certainly ethicaly boundaries that have been trampled upon. As I search for a solution to this dilemma I hope my story serves as a warning to those who share and trust digital sites so easily.