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Thursday, January 09, 2014

How did you find that...Phyllis Violeta Diggs Draffen Wallace.

Phyllis Violeta Diggs Draffen Wallace
Courtesy of Shayla MacDonald

How did you find that document... about

Phyllis Violeta Diggs Draffen Wallace?

One of the most interesting aspects of genealogy -- at least to me is the approach taken to get answers.  Some people are very focused on one particular line.  When challenged to look beyond that they will say; "..Well that person isn't "kin" to me so it's not part of my research."  However, individual family members whether they are blood related or not; capture their own set of memories, documents and stories that they may or may not pass down. Some stories may match one relative's narrative or their perceptions/memories can conflict with the recollection of others in the family.

My approach is to look widely, be open to new information and don't make assumptions about what you may or may not find. Don't be afraid to delve into something that doesn't look like an absolute perfect fit.  Things are spelled wrong, dates can be incorrect and memories.. well...mixed.

Here's an example:  If you are researching your grandmother and you don't look at her siblings then you may miss part of the story.  Aunts, uncles and other relatives (even distant ones) can hold nuggets of information that might give you insight into a family or a story that is very relevant.  That said, a good story depends on your perspective, your own memories and relationships with various people in the family. I think all stories are good ones.. because I didn't know anything to begin with... so every new find is a celebration. I'm being silly, but you get my point?

My friend Linda Palmer and I have been collaborating on family history research for years.  
I met her when I still lived in Long Beach California via a website called Afrigeneas.  We were in the midst of exchanging numerous emails one night over 10 years ago and both of us commented on the rainstorm outside.  It turns out she was in Los Angeles and I was in Long Beach.  I also learned that she was from Columbia, Missouri and our family lines seemed to always cross paths.  Now we've traded places, my family relocated to Columbia and she's retired in sunny Southern California.  

Linda and I are collaborating on a presentation for Black History Month next month at the Daniel Regional Boone Library on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 here in Columbia from 7:00 to 8:00 pm.

I will be presenting Carter Braxton: a freedman from the Hannibal Missouri area and his descendants in Chicago, Fulton, Hannibal and Sedalia Missouri. This presentation will be at the Fulton branch on Monday, Feb. 10 at the library in Fulton from 6:30 -7:30 p.m

Third University of Missouri President
William H. Hudson (1856-1859)
In Search of Harrison Diggs
Black History Month Presentation

The subject of our research for the Columbia presentation is Harrison Diggs.  He is an ancestor of Linda's husband Terry Palmer. Initially, we didn't know anything about Harrison other than he was owned during slavery by William Hudson, an early University of Missouri President. He also worked as a janitor on the campus.

It's hard to believe but plenty of people in Columbia have said to me, "I didn't know Missouri was a slave state," or "..Only half of the state had slaves.. but not here," and the best one from a mature woman and employee of the University who said, "You know -- I had no idea that there was slavery in Missouri."  I thought to myself -- this person is either lying, dumb or in denial or all three. I thought this case would be an opportunity to tie pieces of history together: slavery, the University of Missouri and it's use both of slave labor and people of color to perform "servant" work -- but not until 1950 allowed Blacks to matriculate.

Anyway -- so far the research has been challenging.  First, there are just too many dog-gone Annie and Arthur Diggs.  Plus, Harrison Diggs and his wife had 10 kids AND we found Black Diggs families in Boone, Cole, Cooper, Howard and Moniteau Counties.  Our game plan was to figure out for SURE and sort out whether or not any of these families were actually related to each other or if they just shared the same name -- DIGGS?

We had a heck of a time -- sorting out at least 5 marriages with the name Annie Diggs. Exasperated I went to the courthouse and pull every single Annie Diggs marriage before 1900.  Then we had a problem with men named ARTHUR E. DIGGS.  Harrison had a son named Arthur but we found others in our attempts to match up the family groups.  Again -- the same challenge of sorting out all DIGGS marriages in Boone County.  Quite honestly -- we probably exchanged over 200 emails trying to figure out the DIGGS families!.

The thicket of Diggs folks was so complex that cuzin Linda (that's what I call her) was getting pretty ticked and frustrated.  We huddled and strategized on what to do next.  We decided to focus on a marriage record for a Bettie Smith who married an Arthur Diggs in Randolph County, Missouri in 1883. His named was indexed as DIGGES.

Their son Arthur E. Diggs died Feb. 9, 1920.  in Kansas City, Missouri. Arthur's father of the same name was the informant for the death record.

Arthur E. Diggs Jr. also had a brother named Roscoe Diggs who died from injuries related to a street car accident.  A wrongful death suit was filed against the railroad company and Linda is in the process of retrieving that case from the Missouri State Archives.   The thing that is driving us mad is that we can't find Arthur E. Diggs Sr or tie him to one of our families with evidence to prove we're right.   We considered what other documents might give us answers?  What if a will or estate file on Bettie Diggs existed?   

Her death record dated April 24, 1939 gave some clues.  Her husband was listed as Arthur and another clue.. she lived in Sturgeon.  We found Bettie Diggs on the census but NO Arthur!  I was fortunate to find two notices about Bettie's death. This is sometimes another avenue for clues.One obituary tells us much more information than the other.  One tells us she had a living brother; her occupation, who she worked for and for how long.

Omar D. Gray was the publisher of the Sturgeon Leader newspaper, but was also a very interesting man.  Download the link -- it's a free e-book -- see what historical information you find out about Mr. Gray.
Note the difference between the two obituaries above.   The Sturgeon Leader in my opinion -- was really a superior publication from a researcher point-of-view.  I appreciate the detailed bits and pieces of information about people (particularly folks of color).  My friend Sherry Raleigh-Adams has transcribed several years Boone County newspapers and makes them available as downloadable e-books via her website Gone West Publishing.  You can search an online index to determine if your ancestor is listed. I consider it an excellent resource for genealogical researchers... check it out!

Back to the Diggs Search....

As I mentioned earlier, Linda and I regrouped again and thought about the possibility of finding a probate case and/or will.  We paid a visit to the Boone County Probate (BCP) department to view an index of wills -- which are kept in two gigantic old books that list reference numbers to estate files. We found a case number for Bettie Diggs; however her estate file was not on microfilm at the State Archives in Jefferson City or on film at the BCP office. Fortunately the index to Boone County probate cases were digitized so we could look specifically for an estate file for either Bettie or Arthur Diggs.
The only hitch with the index above is this: certain files are in storage and not readily available. Bettie's file was one of those. So, I had to request that the file be retrieved so I could review it -- which took about 2 weeks or so.  Notice in the document to the right -- that cases number 8992-11-464 are in storage. We were banking on the probate case (fingers crossed).  

The case ended up providing some good clues. Again -- what we wanted to know... is if Arthur Diggs who married Bettie Smith was somehow related to Harrison Diggs, his 10 kids, and/or his 3 siblings. The names of children among the siblings was also similar.  In any case, Bettie left a will and her grand-daughter Phyllis Diggs Draffen sent a letter inquiring about her grandmother's estate.    Phyllis' mother was Enola Wright -- she was the daughter of Phillip Wright and Lottie Chase and they lived in Arrow Rock, Saline County, Missouri.  Enola married Arthur E. Diggs Jr. on Sept. 13, 1906 in Sedalia, Pettis County, Missouri.  Arthur Diggs died in 1920 and as I mentioned above; his father was the informant on his death records.   Enola married 2nd Lester Green.

So we are interested in Phyllis because she was a DIGGS and we'd like to know which Diggs family her father and grandfather belonged.  The internet and facebook are powerful connecting tools.  The Draffen family has a facebook page devoted to connecting with relatives and sharing information.

FIELDING D. DRAFFEN, SR., son of Fielding W. Draffen and father of Fielding D. Draffen, Jr., Felicia M. Smith, Curtis W. Draffen, Gloria Stegall, Nancy Draffen Brown, and Christopher L. Draffen
Thank you to Nancy Draffen Brown and Shayla McDonald -- descendants of Fielding Draffen for sharing Phyllis' obituary and the beautiful painting of Phyllis at the top of the page.

Shayla noted: "My grandmother Nancy Draffen painted it.  She was married to Fielding Draffen who is Phyllis Draffen's son (below). The Draffens descend from John and Harriett Draffen of Bunceton, Missouri. I will revisit this family and other ties to the Finleys and Hogans in the future.

 Obituary of Phyllis Violeta Diggs Wallace.

Now at the end of the day -- TODAY --  Cuz and I figured out a couple of things we missed. First -- the marriage record for Bettie Smith and Arthur Diggs was performed by Rev. J. S. Diggs.. and he (Rev. Diggs) IS connected to Harrison Diggs.

Also Arthur E. Diggs who we can't find -- was involved in a real estate transaction in 1950 in Randolph County, Missouri. So we know.. he was AROUND.  But where the hell is he?  If you have any information leading to the capture of Arthur E. Diggs -- please let me know..

Stay tuned.. and we hope to have this mystery and others settled by Feb. 11, 2014!

Traci Wilson-Kleekamp

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