In honor of our ancestral Mother’s Days


In the words of our family’s maternal matriarch, the late Lou Edna Wilks Robinson, “every day is Mother’s Day.”

Born in 1892 as the oldest daughter born in Springfield, Greene County, Missouri, to Melissa Catherine Gray and Robert Wilkes, our “Grandma Robinson” was the glue that kept our family together.

We’ve often wondered how our ancestral mothers were able to accomplish so much in their lives. Except for Grandma Robinson’s birth to two children, including our maternal grandmother, Mary Helen Wilks Owen Douthy, most mothers ‘in her day’ bore several children. Midwives brought babies, especially those of African American heritage, into this world. Indoor plumbing was nonexistent for our ancestral mothers. They grew food, drew well from waters, cooked, cleaned and managed the households. They raised other people’s children, they were our teachers, loyal church members and builders of great legacies admist the harsh societal conditions that often pushed our ancestral mothers to the least known positions.

Yet, our ancestral mothers rarely complained about their fates. Instead, they often rejoiced about the present and future that always included the achievements — known and unknown — of their children and lineage.

We honor you, ancestral mothers.

Official start of Mother’s Day in the USA

In 1914, a few years before the birth of our maternal Grandmother Mary Helen, the nation received an official declaration from U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, to honor mothers on the second Sunday in May. The recognition began simple enough: To honor mothers in celebration of peace.

The origins of Mother’s Day as celebrated in the United States date back to the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.

These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe. In 1870 Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.

Other early Mother’s Day pioneers include Juliet Calhoun Blakely, a temperance activist who inspired a local Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan, in the 1870s. The duo of Mary Towles Sasseen and Frank Hering, meanwhile, both worked to organize a Mothers’ Day in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some have even called Hering “the father of Mothers’ Day.”

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mothers-day

A few current-day Mother’s Day facts

  • The honoring of mothers has reached a feverish commercial pitch with an estimated $36 billion being allocated in U.S. receipts in 2023.
  • There are approximately 43.5 million women who are considered mothers in the United States.
  • More than 100 global countries celebrate their mothers on various days on the calendar.
  • The white carnation is the official flower of Mother’s Day.
  • Mother’s Day is the busiest day for restaurants in the U.S.

Happy Mother’s Day.



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The forgotten stories of “Black Magnolias” from Oakland Cemetery

First in a series

Jihan Hurse, guide, Atlanta, GA.’s Oakland Cemetery’s “Black Magnolias” tour


Atlanta, GA — On a chilly Saturday winter morning, Oakland Cemetery’s “Black Magnolias” Tour Guide and Author Jihan Hurse, excitedly gives highlights of the Black women who lie among its 70,000 “residents” in the city’s historic cemetery.

The hour allotted for the tour was not enough time for all of the stories about accomplished Black women who are buried in Oakland Cemetery. Yet, the Black Magnolias tour was a refreshing collection of insight into the lives of Black women who were quiet and major influencers in the Atlanta region, Georgia and nationwide. Along the multiple paths laden mostly with bricks from days gone by, there were periodic stops at the chosen grave sites of many women who were doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, mothers, wives, educators and skilled technicians.

The Black Magnolias story at Oakland Center is grounded in the fortitude of laundry or washerwomen whose citywide protest resulted in violence, arrests, intimidation and ultimately, a major victory for the Black women who refused to return to work unless their financial and work life demands were met. Their well-organized strike involved some 3,000 Black laundresses and it nearly imperiled the 1881 World’s Fair in Atlanta.

Former slaves strike for better pay and work conditions in 1881.


While praising the domestic workers’ brave and labor market altering stance, Hurse strategically showcased other Black women whose legacies are integral to the success of the Atlanta area, Georgia and the nation. Despite the achievements that stretch beyond racial and geographical boundaries, most of the 12,000 African Americans — including approximately 1,800 slaves — are buried at Oakland in segregated sections known as the African American, Slave and Potters sections.

There are also exceptions to the burial rules of segregating whites, Blacks and Jewish deceased persons from one another. When whites sought permissions to move the burial area initially designated for Black slaves, the graves were moved to the back of the cemetery. Some natural markers such as stones and sticks were not preserved. When that relocation was completed, some families such as the Boylstons asked for an additional set of permissions and that was to bury their “domestic worker,” Catherine Holmes, alongside their family members, according to Hurse. Elise Boylston had a special fondness for “Caty” and the young Boylston lady authored work that included her slave. By the 1960s, Blacks were not segregated to one area or two areas of the cemetery

The grave marker for “Caty” Holmes, a “domestic worker” in the Boylston household, is left. This is a partial view of the extensive Boylston plot in the former Slave section of Oakland Cemetery.


A dozen other Black Magnolias were pointed out by Hurse as significant based on a range of qualities such as the first Black lady buried in Oakland Cemetery, to the sisters who established the first hospital with 15 beds that was available to Black patients.

Below is the grave site of Estella Henderson was an attorney, an author of books on race relations and was recognized by U.S. President William Howard Taft. Her sister, Dr. Blanche Beatrice Bowman Thompson, was a doctor whose practice pioneered specialty work for Black medical professionals in Georgia.


Future blogs will highlight the historical women of Oakland Cemetery. For those interested in the many stories of the Black men and women buried in Oakland Cemetery, the virtual tour is found through this service:

Good Genes Genealogy Services encourages readers of this blog to investigate similar historical stories in cemeteries that bear great stories such as those found at the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.


The 48-acre cemetery that is also considered a city park. The Oakland Cemetery Foundation conducts several tours each year, including a handful devoted to honoring Black history and women’s history.


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Grandmas’ hands creatively cooked cuisine in Nebraska kitchens

The Good Genes Genealogy team share maternal grandmothers. We benefited from tasty treats and meals from our Great-Grandmother Edna Wilkes Robinson, and equally great dinners and gatherings at the home of her daughter, our Grandmother Helen Wilkes Owen Douthy.

Grandma Edna Robinson, third from left, and her best buddies in the church and Evans Tower kitchens.

Grandmother Robinson, third from right

In honor of the New Year, our thoughts and gratitude are in honor of both grandmothers’ traditional dishes of “hot water” corn bread, black-eyed peas, mixed greens, ham, goose or another poultry item, and the best desserts.

In addition, our respective paternal grandmothers cooked up their best foods for us to celebrate January first as Jubilee Day. Jubilee Day or Emancipation Day celebrations for Black Americans used to be singularly celebrated on the first day of each year. However, the years since our childhood have yielded the progressive movements for Juneteenth — June 19th — to become a national holiday and as such, also share in the honors of being known as Jubilee Day.


Yet, it was Grandmother Robinson’s chosen profession as a cook in some of Omaha Nebraska’s nicer hotels and in the white households that brings forth an added reference during this time of year. She rarely spoke of her work outside of her home or what we could witness each week at our home church, Clair United Methodist Church. There, Grandmother Robinson “owned” the massive kitchen that was equipped with multiple ovens with large enough spaces to cook meals for the entire church families and members of our near northside Omaha community.

Grandma Robinson had great command of everything from recipes to the table setting etiquette. Often, she would bring in the perfectly ironed and folded table cloths for coverings on the main table for our pastor, his family and special guests, as well as the families whose children would often leave red stains from spilled sweet punch that often was laden with thin pineapple chunks and ice cream.

From Grandma Robinson, I learned the term “soul food” that was derived from the slave households where leftovers — food often discarded — made it to the tables where pig feet, ears, cow brains, hogshead cheese, chitterlings and other scraps were the main dishes. Grandma Robinson never spoke of slavery or Africa while cooking her delicious and abundant dishes. However, her references to foods such as sweet potatoes, corn meal and other grains that were beaten into powdered substances and mashed into its finery, were clear references to the cooking styles of African families and Black slave heritages.


To the lady who taught us how to fold napkins and where to place them on the table, how to use a ladle to dip the right amount of punch into the crystal etched cups, how to serve others at the kitchen window or at the covered folding tables, thank you. To the lady who taught us how to anticipate when the hot rolls were done in ovens where the temperature and alarm gauges did not always work, how to best wash the dishes and dry them and replace them in the proper way, thank you. To the charming little lady who often wore her cooking apron, thank you for teaching me how to make coffee, tea and how to shine those beautiful silver pots.

Thank you, Great Grandmother Edna Wilkes Robinson’s hands, from our family.

We are sure that you have similar stories. Share them.

Happy 2023!

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Our Creative, Progressive Ancestor: Mama Helen

The forever Actress, Musician, Clothing Designer, Seamstress/Tailor, Theatre Director, Opera lover … our Grandmother “Mama Helen” Mary Wilkes Owen Douthy, Omaha, Nebraska 1963
Mama Helen’s Omaha (Nebraska) Central High School yearbook photograph, Class of 1935.
Mama Helen retired from SAC Headquarters, Offutt Air Force Base in 1969.

To summarize my maternal grandmother’s life: She did the most.

In the winter months during 1963, my Maternal Grandmother, Helen Mary Wilkes (and also spelled Wilks), was donning a thinly clad garment and acting in the Greek tragedy, “Antigone.” That in of itself is nothing spectacular.

That is, except that “Mama Helen” (as were told by her to call her), in 1963 was also a mother of adult children and a high school student while working as an unnamed “Hidden Figure” at the Strategic Air Command Headquarters, Offutt Air Force Base in nearby Bellevue, Nebraska. She was not supposed to be a “brain” at Offutt where she worked as administrative assistant to the scientists. She was actually an astute mathematician with an amazing intellect with exemplary secretarial skills.

Mama Helen was not supposed to be on the theatre stage at her age, 45, in a supporting role to help build her acting repertoire. She was not supposed to understand the Greek language and read Latin. She was not supposed to be old enough to be the mother of the play’s director. After all, she was a black woman who should have been content to remain hidden as a white-collar worker albeit with tremendous skills outside of the workplace. I often traveled with her from North Omaha to theatres around the city and developed my love for Latin, global travels and writing.

Thankfully, Mama Helen was never content being confined to what the so-called societal norms were in Omaha and across the nation. She would always tell me about her travels around the world. She was the super volunteer for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). She played the organs at various churches on Sunday, often for no pay as she considered it her tithe to the church and unto God. Monies were stretched in the household, according to my mother, Angeline Cecil Owen Wead, the oldest of six children born in five years to Mama Helen and Grandpa Eugene Owen, II. Mama Helen was mostly the single parent in their household as my grandfather was off to build his hopes of a Hollywood career as a dancer and singer.

Thankfully, the village that was led by our Great-Grandmother Edna Lou Wilks Robinson, worked. Mama Helen received significant assistance from Grandmother Robinson.

In later years, Mama Helen was voted into the prestigious Omaha Central High School Hall of Fame. In this tribute to Mama Helen when she was inducted in the Hall of Fame that also honors Warren and Susie Buffett, my Dad, Dr. Rodney S. Wead, countless athletic, political, academic, world leaders and more, Mama Helen was remembered:

“Helen loved music and the arts and volunteered with Opera Omaha, Omaha Community Playhouse, Center Stage, and Chanticleer Theater. She served on the Nebraska Arts Council and Omaha’s Human Relations Board.

Helen passed away in 2008 at the age of 90.”

Upon Mama Helen’s retirement, she devoted her time to a program that she earlier developed to help single women develop skills to become secretaries, assistants and other related jobs inside of offices. She conducted the classes at a local community center.

Create a social media post honoring your ancestor

Steps to help you to share stories about your ancestors

  1. Walk with your ancestors by researching their lives.
  2. Narrow down your work to focus on one ancestor.
  3. Once you locate periodicals, broadcast reports, historical data on military cards, death certificates and more about your ancestor, take the time to capture where the information leads you to build the rest of the story.
  4. Honor your ancestor. Take a moment and offer a wonderful prayer for her/his walk before you. Look for similarities between your life and the ancestor’s.
  5. Share your results so that others may benefit from their stories. It also helps to establish your interests in activities.
  6. Repeat steps 1 – 5.

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Aunt Ancestor Still Leading me on Genealogy Journey

Paternal Aunt Beverly Ann Wead Blackburn Jones

On this annual day of Epiphany, it is also the birth of my most cheriished ancestor. Today, Jan. 6, 2022, would have been my Paternal Aunt Beverly Ann Wead Blackburn Jones’ 85th birthday. She transitioned in 1973 at the age of 36. I was 15 years old. It was the first family death that left an indelible mark upon my life.

My father’s baby sister, my mother’s best friend, my dear ancestor Aunt Beverly, has taught me so much over the nearly 49 years since her transition. Many of our ancestors have that ability to guide us through our genealogy journeys. My advice: Let them.

Aunt Bev’s Grave Marker in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Omaha, Nebraska

Aunt Beverly is more than the grave marker of her birth and death dates. She was a standout scholar, athlete and civic citizen that began in her high school years. She continued with similar activities in college and added accomplishments that included journalist, sorority member and U.S. Senate recognized achiever. She was twice married, had three children during her first marriage, owned businesses and hosted many recreational and entertainment activities for children and teenagers in our hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.

The summary of Aunt Beverly’s life from our family tree on ancestry.com’s website

When I wrote about my dear Aunt Beverly a year ago, I did not have the family details that I have since retrieved. Thanks to Aunt Beverly, I offer the following genealogy tips that lead to more discoveries in our ancestry searches:

  • Update ancestor’s information. Review the ancestor’s information for updates that are often added through online sources. I found new information relevant to Aunt Beverly’s ancestry data. A closer look at the 1940 U.S. Census data for Aunt Beverly’s/my Dad’s family showed that their Dad/my grandfather completed one year of high school.
  • Review linked ancestor’s information. While reviewing your ancestor, follow her or his lineage for the same purpose of online updates. I found new and rich updates about my ancestors who are Aunt Beverly’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-grandmother’s information.
  • Resist the tendency to keep your original research. Often, we don’t want to release our early research about our ancestors after we find new documents that provide validity. For instance, my great-great grandmother’s birth year and location were incorrect on my family tree. Documents were recently released that gave accurate results based on Fannie Robinson Wade’s recently found birth certificate from 1841.

4. Verify new information. Using my paternal great-great grandmother’s data, I verified her birth year by reviewing the 1880 U.S. Census for her age at that time. I also found two other trees that included Fannie Robinson Wade as part of their research. The reconciled birth year information appears to be accurate.

5. Select a routine day or date to review and update ancestral information. I use my ancestors’ birthdays, marriage anniversaries, holidays and death anniversaries to pause and review existing information for updates. With Aunt Beverly, I review her life’s story on her birthday and in June of each year.

The how-tos that I presented can be expanded by each researcher reading this WordPress blog and social media post. Share your ideas to help others and the Good Genes Genealogy team to gain new research techniques.

This column is reprinted from WeadWriteAwayandGenealogy

Author: Learning family histories

Our genealogy traces our family from western and central Africa and western Europe. Our ancestors entered the United States at the Virginia and Georgia Ports. First cousins Mark Owen and Ann Lineve Wead (it is protocol to use the maiden names of females in genealogy searches) are responsible for writing this blog. Although Ann has been involved in genealogy research while searching for certain ancestors since the age of 10, the cousins began deeper research of their families during the COVID-19 Pandemic Year of 2020. Devoting as much as 6 hours some evenings to the methodical training and research of genealogy, the cousins completed the year 2020 by earning genealogy certificates. Join us. @goodgenesgenealogy on wordpress and fb, twitter Sign up for our blog and enjoy the journey. View all posts by Learning family histories

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#32 My recommended great reads: African American history

My bookshelf is stocked with a great variety of good reads. They are loosely categorized by subject areas that include “Health and Healing,” “African American History, ” “International and Domestic Finance/Business,” “Black Authors,” “Book Publishing,” and “Media and Journalism” and “Other.” I also have personal journals that date back a few decades.

Over the years, I have amassed hundreds of books from my days as a college professor and dean and from purchases and gifts from countless friends and family who know that I love reading and growing.

As I perused my shelves, my frayed books are those in the “African American History” and “Black Authors” categories. I love history and ancestral truths that have inspired me over the years. I have shelves, baskets for books, closets and tables full of varying books and magazines that suit my interests. The sample shelves from my stacks of books are what I wish to share in this blog.


I offer that reading transforms lives. Reading truths about our ancestral journeys — with appropriate citations such as the extensive ones offered by Dr. Lerone Bennett — uplift the downtrodden. By providing clarity in one’s life about what our ancestors overcame and how they invented so many food dishes, everyday products, expressed themselves with eloquence and grace, fought for and defended human rights, and worked tirelessly to build institutions that we take for granted … keeps me inspired.

Another top row sample of the second half of my book shelves in my home office.

What’s on your shelves? Please share and tell us about your favorite African American books.

Keep reading.

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