As a tribute to Father’s Day, I decided to take a look at my paternal side. As a young girl and into adult life, this side of my family ancestry was always closed. My siblings and I barely knew of any southern connection. Although the information received was sketchy, I decided to go on a hunt.
Through the US Federal Census records, I discovered that this side of my family is a part of the first Great Migration (1910-1930) of African Americans that migrated from the Rural South to the Northeast. It is through the census records, that I can track my family, as they become a part of the statistics, of this Great Movement.
The 1900 US Census shows my great grandfather John Matthews, (wharf watchman) and his wife Amanda; both of South Carolina, This record provided the birth place of my great-grandparents. They are living together, with their six children all born in Georgia; at Chatham County, Savannah Georgia. as shown in the census below, beginning with line 87 and ending on line 94 with my grandfather Charlie Matthews, the youngest child.
My great-grandfather John Matthews (deceased) does not appear on the 1910 US Census. His wife Amanda is listed as a widow, head of household, living together with three of her children, in Chatham County, Savannah Georgia. As shown on the Census beginning with line 88 ending with 91 with my grandfather Charlie Matthews.
As I continue tracking the family movements leading up to their migration; I cannot find the whereabouts of my great-grandmother Amanda Matthews in the 1920 Census. Perhaps Amanda was out of the district when the census was being enumerated? Or was she already on the road, with other family members traveling north? The 1920 Census for that district reveals that Amanda’s youngest son my grandfather Charlie Matthews was still living in Chatham County, Savannah Georgia.
Eventually, family members left Savannah Georgia; seeking new opportunities during the years of 1921- 1922. I use this range of years, because the 1925 New York State census indicates that my grandfather’s children were all born in New York, beginning with the eldest child Henrietta ,being born in 1923.
Still, all in all, my entire paternal family head to the Northeast and settle in New York City; and become a part of the Mass Exodus that Isabel Wilkerson so eloquently describes in her book “The Warmth of Other Suns.
In 1928 my great-grandmother Amanda Allen Matthew died in New York and was buried at Flushing Cemetery Queens,NY.
Since that Great Migration, it would be over 85 years before a direct descendant would return to the South.