Saturday, April 18, 2015


Many years ago, in the early 1990’s, my Aunt Jessie and I were having a conversation about my mother and her sister Sarah’s (aka Johnnie Lee’s) father, Harry Carillur. Aunt Jessie told me that he had passed away in Philadelphia when we were living on Kay Avenue in Trevose. She came upon his death notice in the Afro-American newspaper back in the late 1960’s. She did tell my mother about this, but she stated that “Suh, just ignored me”.

So off Aunt Jessie and I went on a quest to find this news article. She and I traveled to the Philadelphia Archive located on Vine Street to scan the microfilmed copies of the Afro-American newspaper. We spent many hours browsing but we could never find this article. Reading down the next few lines you will be able to see why!

A few years later, while speaking to Uncle Izear, he told me that grandmoms’ first husband, Harry Carillur drowned, while crossing a river in Georgia, when mom and Sarah were little girls. He supposedly worked in Georgia at the time. Over the years, I think that this was quite possible especially after finding his WWI draft registration card at All men between the age of 18 and 44 had to register for this draft. Harry’s registration took place in Pierce County, Georgia on June 5th, 1917. At that time he was working for the Davis Zirkle Lumber Mill in Zirkle, Pierce County, Georgia where he resided.

Internet: Zirkle, Georgia does not exist today. Before 1926, Zirkle was the second largest town in Pierce County. It had a saw mill and more than 300 workers who processed lumber every day. There were stores and homes. In 1926 the saw mill closed production and the town was no more. Zirkle’s population went to zero. Slowly the community went back to nature as the vegetation took over the buildings and evidence of the town disappeared.

Money that was used to pay for items in the town

The registration record indicates that he was born on April 15th, 1894 in Union Springs, Alabama and that he had a wife and 2 children. Even more surprising at this time, is that he signed the card with his own name, which was quite rare. Most Black men signed with an “X”.

The reason why I am correcting history is because recently loaded a myriad of marriage records to their database and I received a “leaf” under William Webb’s name. The leaf was for a marriage record for him and Hannah Corillus dated May 17, 1919. Uncle Izear did tell me that were never married. Not true!

Also, I can understand why mom ignored Aunt Jessie because at that time her facts were out of sync with the reality of the situation! Plus, mom did not like talking about the past and did not like to share information.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Macon County Alabama Reunions - 2012

Here are some of the family reunions that will be taking place in Macon County during the month of July.

1. Randolph -Warrior Stand - June 29 -July 2, 2012
2. Harris - Tuskegee Institute - first week of July 2012

The Wilson-Borum reunion is being held in Cleveland, Ohio, July 19-21, 2012

Updated:  05/23/12

Searching for the family of Ramon Napoleon Harris

I am not a Harris myself, but my two sons, Bryce and Ramon (Ray) are. I know next to nothing about their Harris roots because their father, Ramon Napoleon Harris II, passed away in June of 1999, just two months before my youngest son was born.  My sons have only my memories to get to know their father and his family. We had only been together three short years when he passed away.  I want to construct a family tree for them of their father’s family to help them understand their roots and where/who they come from on his side. An additional factor that makes this all the more important to me, and important for them, is that their father was African American (I am not). I have no way of sharing this extremely important part of their heritage with them other than by reading and sharing the history you can find in books. While that is important, I don’t think it will offer a complete enough picture for them. It is not the same as hearing from your own family about their real experiences. Essentially, I want more for them than a history lesson. I want that history to come alive, with names, faces, places, experiences…  The only way I can give this to them is to learn everything I can about their Alabama families, and then combine that with history to share with them the true story of where they come from on their father’s side. I want them to have a clear understanding of everything that came before them, and everything their ancestors did, and had to survive in order for them to ever have been born.  I want them to know whose shoulders they stand on.

What I know for sure:

Their father, Ramon Napoleon Harris II was born on Valentine’s Day in 1967 at the Tuskegee Institute. His parents, Ramon Napoleon Harris and Thelma Davies were married in Bullock County in 1966. After Ramon Jr. was born, the family moved to Pontiac, Michigan, where Ramon Sr. was a high school teacher until he retired. They moved back to Alabama after retirement, but have since moved to the East Coast to live near their daughter, the only other child they had.  I know from the few conversations I have had with them that they have deep Alabama roots. Some of the family (not sure if it is the Harris’ or the Davies’) moved to Ohio and stayed there. 

I do not know the names of any of Ramon Jr’s grandparents, so I have not been able to locate the family prior to 1930. If I can accomplish locating relatives prior to 1930, I can begin to build the tree and begin learning about my son’s ancestors.

Jen Russell, Bryce and Ray’s Mother
If you have any information to provide, please contact me at:  email:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Finding Roots - The Beginning

Finding those family members who have paved away for my existence have been a continued quest of enlightening myself and others to the strength of a people who endured under the horrible conditions of slavery.

There was a tinge of interest in genealogy when my 4th grade black teacher, Mr. Thomas asked the class to provide the names of our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.  I can say after these years that the family history turned in for this project was very incomplete; which is an understatement!!

In the 1970’s, my brother, Lister Steve Harris, was stationed in Fort Richardson, Alaska while in the army.  He sent my mother, Carrie B. Harris, a beautiful white bound bible that contained colorful paintings depicting different biblical stories. My sister, Dorothy “Jean” Harris documented the date of March 2, 1972 that it was received by my mother.

In turn, I started to update the section in the middle of the bible labeled as genealogy,I was about 14 years old at that time. I was able to add our personal information, but had to ask my parents about their sides of the family. I knew that they were from Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama and their parents.  Mom was born to Harry and Hannah Thomas Cariller and his mother was Johnnie Cariller. Hannah’s parents were Orange and Peggy Thomas.  Dad’s father James Harris, Sr and his namesake, was married to Hattie Bryant. Hattie died June 15, 1930, the date my dad gave me at the time.  Years later when I was able to retrieve a copy of her death certificate, the date matched exactly.  Until this day, I do believe my father was traumatized after losing his mother at age 11. His father was a strict beyond strict disciplinarian.  Religion was not a part of Dad’s life.

The tree for each one of my parents did not extend very far.  On my paternal side, my father was able to give me the name of his grandfather, “Bama” Harris.  Yes, this was the stumps I had to work with. No branches or leaves.  Years would pass by and my interest got into full swing. Back in 1994 during the infancy of the internet, I felt it would be a great place to research.  However, not that much data was available.  Finding a few articles on the Tuskegee Airmen was not enough.

Time passed by and in the later part of the 1990’s, the internet was taking a positive turn to bring genealogy online!  The first web-based genealogy sites that drew my interest was Afrigeneas and Christine’s Genealogy Website.  Afrigeneas was just a mailing list but I found someone has begun to transcribe mortality schedules for various counties in Alabama!  I was excited by the prospect of what data could be gleaned from these records.  These schedules listed the people who died within the county in a 10 year period. They eventually added Macon County.  I could not relate to any of the names listed.  But I did file this collection away for further research.