Claiming Kin Virtual Cemetery at

This Memorial Day I honor my maternal and paternal ancestors (veterans and non-veterans) virtually with the launch of the – Claiming Kin Virtual Cemetery– at! [1]

Click to visit virtual cemetery online now!

I actually established this “on-going” virtual cemetery New Year’s Day of this year, but did not want to release it online until –

1) I had 20 or more ancestors listed
2) I had a chance to verify each ancestors’ connection to me and my family

The purpose of this new virtual cemetery is to link the interments of all my maternal and paternal ancestors together despite the geographical location of their graves. Those of you who have been following me for a while know  is one of my favorite online resources to use with my family research. I started creating virtual cemeteries last year with the launch of my “on-going” Chapple Family Virtual Cemetery and when I see the number of visits that post has received via my blog’s Google Analytics dashboard widget and Feedjit live traffic feed, I hope that this post about this new virtual cemetery will do just as well too!

According to the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, on May 5, 1865, Decoration Day was established for our nation to decorate the graves of veterans with flowers. The first observance of this federal holiday took place at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. But by the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 across the United States. By 1971, the US Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday and it was at that time that it would be observed on the last Monday in May.

With so many Americans honoring the deaths of love ones who were not veterans on Memorial Day, in December 2000 Congress passed and the president signed in to law — “The National Moment of Remembrance Act” — so that veterans are particularly not forgotten on this national day!  [2]

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.”

To my family and friends, have a wonderful Memorial Day and if time allows, visit a local cemetery today! If you cannot make it to an actual cemetery, then I invite you to take a virtual stroll through the Claiming Kin Virtual Cemetery by clicking the link or the graphic above; feel free to leave virtual flowers if you like!


Source Citation:

1.   Taylor-Harris, L. (2013, May 25). Claiming Kin Virtual Cemetery. Find A Grave – Millions of Cemetery Records and Online Memorials. Retrieved May 25, 2013, from

2.   U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. (2012, November 30). Memorial Day History. Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. Retrieved May 25, 2013, from


It’s National Voters Registration Day 2012!

Click to Enlarge

According to today, September 25, 2012, over 1100 organizations across this country will come together nationally to inform people about voting opportunities and get them registered to vote in time for the 2012 General Election!

This day reminds me of my 83 year old paternal great-grandmother, Birdie Elizabeth (Green) Aldridge, who I blogged about last year, being the talk of the town as her photo and comments about the 1971 election in Parsons, Labette County, Kansas were captured in their local newspaper. Momma Birdie (the name everyone called her) had not missed voting in an election (local or national) since she moved to Kansas from Texas in 1912. The reason for that she says is, “Voting is second only to worshiping God (to learn more about Momma Birdie, read —My Fearless Female Ancestor Who Made the News)!”

So why is this National Voters Registration Day 2012 so important?

It is no secret that voter suppression is still alive and well in this country, and poses a real threat to millions in this year’s presidential election. It has been reported that 17-21 states (mine included), have put in place strict photo ID laws which will literally prevent many young people and the elderly from being able to vote in this year’s election. States claim they put in place stricter photo ID laws to prevent voter fraud which they alleged happened in various counties during the 2008 election. Yet, when it comes to states proving voter fraud actually took place, there has been no real hard evidence to back up their claims.

I believe the real reason for the stricter photo ID laws today is to prevent record numbers of minority voters from showing up at the polls as they did in 2008. According to the US Census Bureau,

“About 131 million people reported voting in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, an increase of 5 million from 2004, according to a new table package released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. The increase included about 2 million more black voters, 2 million more Hispanic voters and about 600,000 more Asian voters, while the number of non-Hispanic white voters remained statistically unchanged.”

Just as my great-grandmother believed voting was next to worshiping God in importance, I believe this National Voters Registration Day is just as important as the November 6, 2012 general  election itself. And if my 83 year old great-grandmother made it to the polls in her physical condition (amputee due to crippling diabetes), then I know anyone with reasonably good health can find their way to the polls to vote in this year’s election!

For more information about voting in the United States, visit –
For more information about voting in Texas visit —, an official government website created by the Office of the Texas Secretary of State to provide information to citizens a one-stop website regarding voting in Texas.

Please keep in mind that voter registration deadlines and early voting vary from state to state. So Texans, here are dates important to you:

Voter Registration Deadline  – October 9, 2012

Early Voting in Texas – October 22, 2012 – November 2, 2012

General 2012 Election – November 6, 2012

Please, please, please, DO NOT wait until election day to find out if you’re registered to vote or not; to know who you’re voting for (trust me you are going to want to vote on other issues that appear on the ballot that will impact your life); to know where to go for early voting and/or voting in the general election. Learn the answers to ALL these frequently asked questions early by visiting today!

Workday Wednesday: A Day in the Life of a Boiler Washer

With Labor Day 2012 less than a week away, I’ve been thinking a lot about the various jobs and occupations many of my ancestors were engaged in from Emancipation to the 1940’s. According to the 1940 US census, my paternal step-great-grandfather, Morgan Terrell Aldridge, was a Boiler Washer for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (M-K-T) Railroad Roundhouse in Parsons, KS. That makes him about the sixth or seventh male ancestor that I’ve identified (I’m sure there’s more) in my family tree that has connections to the railroad industry in this country!

When I stop and think about the African American railroad experience in the US, the first and only name that comes to mind is A. Phillip Randolph, the organizer, and president of the Pullman Porters (the first predominantly Black labor union in America). Beyond Mr. Randolph, what little I did know about our involvement in this industry came from seeing black train attendants and porters in old Hollywood films. But thankfully as I learn more about my ancestors’ involvement in the development and growth of this industry, those old Hollywood movies don’t begin to tell the story about the social, cultural, political, and economic impact this industry had on the lives of my ancestors and the African American community!

As I researched for information about what a typical day was like for a Boiler Washer, I had the good fortune to find and read, Railroads in the African American Experience: A Photographic Journey by Theodore Kornweibel Jr. This EXTRAORDINARY book took me on a photo journey of the black railroad experience  — from slavery to Amtrak — I won’t soon forget!

So what was a typical day like for my great-grandfather at the
M.K. & T. Railroad Shop in Parsons, KS?

In the postcard photo above and below, you can see the interior view of the M.K. & T Roundhouse (or Railroad shop) in Parsons KS  was massive — 860 feet long and 125 feet wide! [1]

Roundhouses employed hundreds of workers who worked around the clock in shifts called “tricks.” The main focus of these shops was to repair and maintain existing trains, as well as develop new ones. Therefore, there were skilled craftsmen, their apprentices, and helpers working together on steam locomotives brought in from the passenger station or freight yard. These engines were fueled by burning coal, wood or oil, to produce steam in a boiler; this steam is what drives the engine.

While skilled craftsmen and their helpers performed repairs, engine wipers removed grime and then polished the upper parts of the locomotives. More laborers greased their moving parts. Locomotives received a washout by Boiler Washers every 30 days to remove sludge and scale that had built up from impurities in the water. Once servicing or minor repairs were complete, fire builders returned locomotives to steam while fire watchmen responsible for a number of engines kept them steaming sufficiently so that full boiler pressure could be raised in a short time to ensure prompt departure.” – Theodore Kornweibel Jr., in Railroads in the African American Experience [2]

Why was it important for the Boiler Washer to washout locomotives every 30 days?  Scale and sludge that would build-up from impurities in the water could corrode the boiler to the point that it would have to be rebuilt or replaced, which was very expensive.

How is a Washout done?

According to Wikipedia,  a washout is done by

. . . draining away all the boiler water through the “mudholes” at the base of the firebox and the removal of all the “washout plugs.” Scale is then jetted or scraped from the interior surfaces using a high pressure water jet and rods of soft metal, such as copper. . . .  At large maintenance facilities the boiler would have been both washed and refilled with very hot water from an external supply to bring the locomotive back to service more quickly.” [3]

This type of work was not only difficult depending on how accessible the boiler was for cleaning, but very dirty and dangerous as scale and sludge removed by high-pressure water jets ricocheted back on to the boiler washer in the process.

Have an ancestor who was a Boiler Washer, or other occupation that contributed to the development and growth of the railroad industry in this country? Let me hear from you in the comment area below!


Source Citation:

1. “Interior View, New M. K. & T. Shops, Parsons, KS.” Postcard. Railroad Line Forums.  2000-10. Web. 28 Aug 2012.

2. Kornweibel, Theodore. “Chapter 12: In the Shops, Freight Houses, and Offices.” Railroads in the African American Experience: A Photographic Journey. Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press, 2010. 309-310. Print.

3. Rabensteiner. “Sectioned fire-tube boiler.” Photograph. Wikipedia. n.d. Web. 28 Aug 2012.

4. “Fire-tube boiler.” Wikipedia. n.p., n.d., Web. 28 Aug 2012.