Sister Marcia: contribution to the genealogy talk

Someone in the audience knew Charlotte Yates from her time in Binghamton before 1954.

Even though she hasn’t been to our hometown of Binghamton, NY in over a decade, my sister Marcia has contributed mightily to the genealogy talk our cousin Lisa presented recently.

Lisa spoke at the Broome County Area History Conference on April 21 at the Bundy Museum. She came all the way from Washington, DC to introduce two families, one Black and one Jewish, which my wife, daughter and I attended.

As she wrote in the precis, our “second great grandfather, James A. Archer, a free Black man who, along with two other family members, fought in the Civil War. They survived and returned to Binghamton to raise families and start businesses.” In part because of other photos Marcia put online, Lisa was able to ascertain that the post-Civil War photo I’ve posted to this blog included not only James Archer, but the brothers of his wife, Harriet Bell Archer.

“In the late 1800’s the Archer family purchased a house on Maple Street, which became a hub of family activity for several generations to come.” That was the house my grandmother and mother grew up in.”

She also told about her great grandparents, Isaac and Sarah Berman, who were born in Latvia and Lithuania, emigrated, first to Denmark then to the US in 1913 and settled in Binghamton. Isaac “started an egg business that eventually turned into a trucking company that was the first to offer overnight service from the Triple Cities to Boston.

“Both families grew and in 1937, the two came together with the marriage of Ernest Archer Yates and Charlotte Berman, my grandparents, who faced their own challenges as an interracial couple.” Ernie was my grandma’s brother and Charlotte the third child of Isaac and Sarah.

This picture also came from Marcia’s collection, with Ernie and Charlotte together in the back row, my mother’s arm on Ernie’s shoulder. Given the presence of three of their four children, I peg the photo in 1945 or 1946. Someone in the audience knew Charlotte from her time in Binghamton before 1954, when she and the children moved to Queens, NYC after Ernie died unexpectedly.

When Lisa came to Binghamton, she had to take a detour off Front Street onto Gaines Street and pass another Archer property at 5 Gaines Street, where MY nuclear family lived in the 1950s and 1960s.

So Marcia, even though she was far away, was an important part of Lisa’s presentation. Happy birthday, baby sister.

I really am Irish, I guess

This is fascinating, because all the Census records I came across suggests that she was black.

I discovered only recently that my maternal grandmother’s brother Ernie, born in 1904, was arrested in 1928 near Syracuse, NY and that he spent nearly five years in prison in Auburn, NY. Apparently, he was spending time with a young white woman, her father didn’t like it, and helped manufacture a charge of rape against Ernie.

In the mounds of papers filed in anticipation of him being paroled in 1932 was this “social history” such as his education, his military service (none), religion (Catholic – I did not know that), marital status (single), and family background. His father, Edward Yates, had died in 1910 at the age of 58. His mother, nee Lillian Bell Archer, remarried to Maurice Holland in 1911. (His Census track is fascinating, born either in Texas or Mexico, depending on what Census one checks.)

This, though, was the kicker for me. It indicates that she was of Irish descent! This is fascinating because all the Census records I came across suggests that she was black. Surely she was partially black, but as the rules of the time would suggest, anyone partially black was considered black. And that’s still largely true of most mixed-race people; see Barack Obama, Halle Berry, etc.

Lillian, my great-grandmother though, at least on this document, was Irish, and that’s reason enough, besides my name, to be wearing the green. Oh, and Ernie, who agreed to live an “honest and upright life” married Charlotte Berman, a white woman of Eastern European descent, in 1937, and did just that until he died in April 1954, just 50 years old, when I was but one. I have no first cousins, but most of the second cousins I’m close to, including the one who retrieved this prison record, are his grandchildren, who, I suppose, are all a little Irish, too.
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Creepy old Simon and Kirby comic: Nasty Little Man

Green Light, Red Light

Arthur’s maybe a little Irish

Grandparents Day: my grandmas, and one of my daughter’s

Curiously, this picture triggered a memory of some kind about my OTHER grandmother.

One of those holidays I think WAS created by Hallmark is Grandparents Day. Well, technically not, but it FEELS that way.

Here’s another picture my sister Marcia found, taken at some point in the 1940s; no idea where, when or why. The woman in the top row, second from the right is my great aunt Charlotte and the guy next to her in the sweater is her husband, Ernie Yates. Ernie died while his kids Raymond (directly in front of Charlotte), Frances (sitting on the floor), and Donald (on the blonde girl’s lap) were still young, but Charlotte had grandchildren, as Fran, Donald, and Robert (either not yet born, or an infant) all had children. Fran and Donald now have grandchildren.

The woman behind the blonde girl, partially obscured, is my grandma, Gertrude Williams, Ernie’s sister. She had three grandchildren, including my two sisters. And the young woman in the back row next to Ernie is my mother. I don’t know who she was holding hands with, but it was not my father. She too had three grandchildren, as my sisters and I each had a daughter.

This picture was posted on Facebook, and a cousin suggested that it was taken on the second floor of something called the Interracial Center at 45 Carroll Street in Binghamton. The only people I recognize are my mother and her mother in the front row.

Curiously, this picture triggered a memory of some kind about my OTHER grandmother. A guy named John wrote, “I worked with your Grandmother Agatha Green in the Sunday School as a teacher at Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church Binghamton NY at the earlier location on Sherman Place & the church moved to Oak St. in 1960. Yes, I of course also recall your Mother and VERY artistic Dad, Les … A GREAT encouragement, motivation to me was knowing your Grandmother … (& I do mean “Grand”)…one fine Lady who made a HUGE difference in [my] life to the extent that she did NOT, sadly live to see. God Bless Her Soul!!!”