Category: Family Stories

Black History celebrates the narrative of Harold G. Bough, Merchant Marine.

We are one week in the celebration of Black History Month, a month of recognizing the achievements and contributions of African-American people in the diaspora. For those of us who value our ancestry and history, join me in focusing on your family’s contributions that made a meaningful impact to your community and the larger society.

As we do our research, we will discover the many small and large influences that our family members have made to enhance the quality of life of others, and which still remains an impact today.

So get to work, dig into the wealth of information out there, then document and share your proud heritage weekly.   Be sure to leave a link to your post in the comments of this post.

I have already started and so far, I have uncovered that My great, great, great-uncle Harold Bough had served 24 years in the US Navy when the Spanish-American War was being fought.

A 1932 St. Croix Tribute Newspaper Article also indicated that he was in Chinese waters for the Boxer Rebellion with the Party of American Surveyors in 1894, he crossed the proposed route from the Atlantic to Pacific of the Nicaraguan canal, a project that was considered before the present Panama Canal Route had been decided upon, and from 1879-83 he was stationed in the Pacific during the Peruvian and Chilean War.


Printout about Harold Bough from G. James Fleming Article “Journal and Guide of VA

Harold Bough was the son of Ida Rosalie Keutsch and George Bough both of St. Croix US Virgin Islands formerly the Danish West Indies.   He met and married Maggie J. Keeling of Norfolk Virginia and settled in Portsmouth Virginia together they had eight (8) daughters known as the “Bough Girls”

Harold Bough who left the shores of St. Croix to St. Thomas and sailed around the World twice as a Merchant Marine was honored to serve.  Harold Bough died in Portsmouth, VA at the age of 84 years old.


Rosalyn Bough applies for Military Headstone for her father Harold Bough.


As Bell Hooks explains, “reclaim their history, call their names, state their particulars,  gather and remember, to share our inheritance”

The theme:   Weekly Black History Narrative  (from your family tree.)

I look forward to reading your story.  Don’t forget to leave a comment with a link to your weekly Black History Narrative.  Or contact me by email at


52 Ancestors #50 Naughty Ernest Bough

Amy  Johnson Crow  “no story too small”  suggested that we write a story about an ancestor who probably received coal in the their stocking


Looking for naughty ancestors was a fun task.   The ancestor who got coal in the stocking was Ernest Bough.  He is the son of Julius Bough and Bernice Rowell, both of the Virgin Islands and who migrated to New York.   In our family, I remember hearing, as children, the anxiety the adults would have speaking about Uncle Ernest, who ran away from home.    But my thoughts were different coming from a family with immense rules and etiquette.  I would cheer him “yippy yi Ya”.   I viewed him childlike as one being a courageous and adventurous runaway.  But now, with research and oral history, Ernest Bough was the adult who served in the military and never returned home.  I came to thinking why would he just vanish, and cause the family  so much heartache, headache, and  stress. He ended up in Detroit, Michigan, never to be heard of or seen again.  So, I decided to stir the Pot.

Research revealed that Ernest B. Bough had served over 10 years in the military between 1932 – 1946, with the New York National Guard and the US Army.   By 1934, he was married to Rosalia Benjamin of St. Croix.  By 1937 he received an honorable discharge from the National Guard.  It is at this point that Ernest B. Bough never returned to his family, nor did they hear from him again.  The research supported the oral history  that Ernest  went to Detroit, Michigan.

So it hit me that he went to Detroit because it was booming with the Auto Industry.  He thought he would return home when loaded, or he heard about Motown and wanted to audition for Berry Gordy.  (Poking fun)  Listed in the “Classified Business section for complete list for Businesses and Professions” for Dearborn, Michigan City Directory, 1941 was Ernest B. Bough, Porter in Garfield Detroit. (huh)

Ernest, at 32 years old enlisted in the US Army for 2 years.   In February 1951, he then married Maggie Kelso from Martin, Tennessee by all standards; they were farm people who became a part of the “Great Migration”.  Those were they who were fleeing the South going North or West for a better life filled with hopes and aspirations.  Still, all in all, Ernest B. Bough died on February 7, 1973 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was 61 years old.

What brought Ernest from New York to Detroit could have been the fact that his mother, Beatrice, was married to a Gentleman by the name of Lonnie Haddon of Ohio who lived in Michigan.  Did he have any children?  Why didn’t he send word to his New York family he left behind is all left unknown?  One thing I know for sure, regardless of the situation his behavior was naughty.   Yes, my Great Uncle Ernest probably received coal in his stocking.



Photo by Getty Images {link to}. St. Croix Population Database   New York, U.S. National Guard Enlistment Cards, 1917 – 1954,  1910 US Federal Census   1920 US Federal Census : New York, New York Marriage Index 1866 – 1937  Michigan Marriage Records  1867 – 1952

Wikipedia: History of Detroit. : US Directories 1822 – 1995 Michigan Department of Vital and Health Records, Michigan Deaths 1971 – 1996









Shopping Saturday – A.C. BOUGH STORES

My great-grandfather August Curtis Bough was one of the islands greatest merchants on St. Croix. When I settled on St. Croix in the mid 70’s, saw his name boldly posted (AC Bough Stores) on one of the buildings in the town of Christiansted; I made a subconscious commitment to know more about my family history. It would be two decades later when genealogy would take hold of my life.

August Curtis Bough was a popular and respected citizen who owned several establishments in the town of Christiansted dealing in dry goods, hardware, provisions, wholesale, retail and commission. His sons including my grandfather Julius Curtis Bough and many of the vendors went about the town and country selling his goods. The height of his business career may have been the best days of the island. He often talked about the money he made while sending his money to the bank in kerosene tins!!!

While visiting Estate Whim Museum looking through their collection of historic photos, seeing a picture of AC Bough store was pure excitement as well as discovering that he experimented with making and distributing soda pop.

A.C. Bough's Store Photographer  C.E. Taylor circa 1899

A.C. Bough’s Store
Photographer C.E. Taylor
circa 1899

It was particularly disturbing to learn from family members that his establishment was burglarized, but perhaps this was the turning point in his life, when he decided to enter into the ministry with the same zeal he had for his merchandising.

A.C. Bough was a proud and remarkable man who worked very hard for his family and community.

Wishful Wednesday – Chat and chew with Nancy of Africa

Here’s a new blogging prompt from GeneaBloggers, called Wishful Wednesdays. The page for Wishful Wednesdays says, “What ancestor do you wish you could have met?”

I thought of quite a few ancestors I wish I could have met. Then I thought, why not start from the beginning. I chose my earliest ancestor (that I know of) and my latest find which is Nancy the African, my 4th grand-mother. (Featured once in a prior post called “Thursday Treasure 1855 census.”)

According to the St. Croix Census of the Danish West Indies my 4th grand-mother Nancy was born in Africa, described as one with a good moral character. There are so many moments in her life that I wish I could be a part of for this post. However, I settled on being a part of the “Winter Years” of her life, as Nancy recalls her journey, unlocking her past, I listen anxiously.

Below I attempt to describe my Wishful Wednesday chat and chew (meeting/interview) with Nancy through pictures and text. beginning with the census establishing her birth place.

nancy-1855 St. Croix Danish West Indies Census

nancy-1855 St. Croix Danish West Indies Census

Captured, classified as cargo, departing Africa to the Caribbean. Approximately a 100 day voyage before arriving on St.Croix, the Danish West Indies.



Two girls bet the ages of 12- 14 Nancy and Petronella both of Africa stood on the auction block, and was sold for 800 Rigsdaler to a Danish Sea Captain.



I turned to Nancy and asked did you ever dream of a better day. Then I pulled out the family tree scroll and pointed to her descendants, along with telling the stories about how they overcame the obstacles and challenges despite its limitation, that would shape a legacy that would make her proud.

Bough Family Scroll

Bough Family Scroll

Joy and hope, filled my soul when discovering the life of Nancy that seemingly been closed, has consumed me with a need to engage my grandchildren with creating a project, looking at Nancy’s life from the eyes of a child that would celebrate the memory of Nancy. We cherish and honor her survival.

Almost forgetting the most important yet delicate part of the interview; was when I would ask my Nancy to tell me about her Mama and Papa, and as her eyes watered from the experience of exile and deep isolation, I whispered, say no more. Look and see how your flock has spread across the World. With that Nancy got the pots going and we chewed on some fry fish and johnny-cake.

Bough Family Reunion 2012

Bough Family Reunion 2012

Workday Wednesday-The Cigar Maker

No doubt I had looked at the 1870 census many times before, and saw that my ancestor Esram Bough’s occupation/trade was listed as a Cigar Maker, but this time was different. I noticed that most of the ancestors of the family (George A. Bough) sons’ occupations were: Clerks, Shoemakers, and Taylors throughout the 1800’s.

I knew that Sugar was the main industry, and Tobacco was just another crop that was grown on small plots. However, due to my lack of knowledge of any cigar industry in the Danish West Indies, it was difficult for me to understand the profession and its dynamics. Therefore, I decided to do a further research focusing on tobacco.

I learned that Denmark only imported tobacco from the Danish West Indies for their own cigar production, and those Cigars that were produced in the Danish West Indies were never officially imported to Denmark as a finished product. Cigar-making on St. Croix was most likely made out of the family home. Most of these sole proprietors worked alone at a long table with their own tools, rolling cigars.(

Although, Esram did not establish a generation of Cigar makers in the family, however he made a profitable living out of it. I honor my ancestor, the Cigar Maker, for embracing a profession that took not only skill, and concentration, but a sense of pride that went into the making of a fine cigar.

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Esram Bough

Esram Bough

Esram Samuel Bough (twin) (1846-1900) was born just two years before the emancipation of the slaves in the Danish West Indies. He was the son of George A. Bough and Susan Crow-Bough. He was classified as a free person of color. At the age of 13, he was an apprentice in a trade. As an adult his profession was listed as a Cigar Maker. Esram Samuel Bough died in June 1900 at the age of 54 in St. Croix, Danish West Indies.

Military Monday- Army Nurse

Army Nurse

2nd Lt. Kathryn Bough-Nicols

Kathryn Yiensena Bough was born on March 18, 1909 to Harold Bough of St. Croix, a retired Wardroom Steward of the US Navy, and Maggie Keeling of Virginia, a retired Teacher, in the Public School System.   Kathryn was the 4th of seven sisters (known as the Bough girls in Portsmouth Virginia).

Kathryn, a Registered Nurse, graduated from Lincoln School of Nursing in 1934.  She also did some studies at Columbia University.  Before joining the Army Nurse Corp. where she attained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, she served as Head Nurse at Harlem Hospital, New York City.

She joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1942 and was one of 12 African-American Nurses during WWII to serve at the Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama.  Because of segregation, the Tuskegee Airmen could not use the White Medical Facilities.  As a result, the nurses had to provide most of their medical services in the colored facilities.

2nd Lieut. Kathryn Bough worked along with Head Nurse Lt. Della Rainey as her second in charge.  Kathryn along with four other nurses started the operating room services used by the Airmen at Tuskegee, Al.  It was said that Kathryn might have been a doctor had it not been for her race and gender.

In 1943, Kathryn Bough married Tuskegee Airman, Edward Kingston Nichols Jr. who was an Attorney and Pastor.  Edward‘s father was AME Church Pastor Edward K. Nichols Sr.   His mother, Laura Drake Nichols, was a Social worker.  Kathryn and Edward Nichols had a daughter, Charlotte Nichols.  The couple settled in Philadelphia PA., but subsequently divorced.  Kathryn returned to her home in Portsmouth, VA, and served as head nurse on the ob-gyn ward at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital from which she retired in 1970.

During the 90’s, while on a cruise she had the opportunity to visit her father’s birth-place (St. Croix) unaware that she had a host of relatives that she was connected to on the island.

Kathryn Y. Bough-Nichols lived to the ripe age of 95 when she died in Philadelphia, PA.  Her year book with pictures of all the Tuskegee Airmen and Nurses was donated to the Military Museum in Norfolk Virginia.

This connection began with a 1932 St. Croix Avis Newspaper Article that was given to me from Veronica “Ronnie” Phillips Researcher/Family Historian in the Virgin Islands.   Further research led to discovering the life of my 3nd Great Uncle,  Harold Bough, (written in an August post)  and the lives of his seven daughters, with an eventual connection to a living relative, Charlotte Nichols.  She is the  grand-daughter of Harold Bough, and daughter of my subject Army Nurse Kathryn.  

From an email address to a phone call to Charlotte, as I waited to hear her voice as I began to tell her about my journey  The love and warmth that was poured out to me for my effort broke down all fears.  As I shared with her the story of her grandfather and other relatives in St. Croix through my research, she gave me the story of her mother Kathryn, the Tuskegee Army Nurse.  It was so wholesome, so real that I am forever inspired to continue telling  our stories.  I make mention of the other sources that assisted me with research, and contacts; whereas I’m able to sort and shape this narrative as well as get a better picture of this prominent, yet humble family in Portsmouth VA


1.             Charlotte Nichols (daughter of Kathryn Bough Nichols)

2.             “Inscriptions of Triumph” by Mae Breckenridge    Haywood – Retired Librarian, President, African-American Historical Society of Portsmouth, INC

3.            Christina L. Carlton, Fisher Hill Website, researcher/Manager

4.             The Afro America, August, 1943

SUNDAY’S OBITUARY -August Curtis Bough

Reverend August Curtis Bough

St. Croix Avis, Newspaper-March 20, 1939 Obituary  

Rev. A.C.  Bough (1866-1939)

We regret to record the death of Rev. A. C. Bough, 73 years, of Frederiksted A.M.E.  Church, which sad event took place Saturday evening about 7 o’clock, at the home of his son, Mr. Kaj Bough,  Christiansted.  The funeral which took place yesterday afternoon was attended by a large and representative gathering, including Frederiksted and the country districts.

Rev. Bough was one of our popular and respected citizens, and the large number of people who followed his remains to the last resting place of man – the grave, showed the high esteem in which deceased was held in this community.

Five ministers were in attendance at the funeral.  Rev. E.E. Johnson, of Bethel A.M.E. Church, Rev. Robeson, of St. Luke’s A.M.E. Church, Rev. C.S. Mayhew of the Church of the Nazarene, and Rev. E.C. Phaire of the Pilgrim Holiness Church were guest ministers and occupied seats in the altar.  The five ministers led the long funeral procession.  District Attorney James Bough, Mr. Kaj Bough and Mr. Oscar Bough sons of the deceased, as chief mourners walked directly behind the hearse.

The bearers were:  Judge D. Hamilton Jackson, Attorney R.H. Amphlett Leader, Chief of Police G. Ebbesen, Messers, Anselmo Fabio, M.G. Fabio and Wesley Motta.  Mrs. Harry. Taylor and Acting Administrator R. Petersen drove in the Administration car.  Administrator Taylor is in St. Thomas.  In the procession was a long line of motor cars numbering thirty-four.

To the members of the bereaved family we tender our sincere condolence.

Requiescat in Pace

I had heard wonderful stories about my great-grandfather, August C. Bough, his popularity as a retail merchant, landowner and Reverend/co-founder of the AME church in Christiansted St. Croix.

Finding August Bough obituary on the Microfilm Roll was a joy and a gift.  In fact, it was the gift that kept on giving.  It helped substantiate the oral history, plus gave the date my grandfather died.  Now all roads were leading to the Vital Statistics office to request a death certificate of August C. Bough.
When I received the death certificate it was the evidence that corroborated with my earlier research.  (relief) Plus the death certificate revealed the cause of death.  Hemorrhage into Cerebrum.   Suddenly, I had that OprahTada! Moment.  I wanted to do more with my genealogy other than the basics.

  With eagerness, I wanted to begin the research as to causes of death of my ancestors. I decided that the information gathered would be the core to create a detailed attractive graph.  The finished creation would be distributed to the family members, to study with the purpose of looking at our health in a new way.

Will keep you posted as to whether an exercise session becomes the results of these new findings.  This is another task in progress.

Thankful Thursday

With the power of the internet, genealogy has been “revolutionize.”  However, as every family historian has discovered, when you begin to trace your ancestors,  you are inspired by other researchers within the genealogy community.   Genealogy is  a collective knowledge.    My friend, Rickie Marshall a researcher/family historian, leads out with the VI Ancestry Group on St. Croix and works with the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums.  She is the most inspiring person one would want to meet at the library.  I am thankful, for her kindness and friendship, but mostly for having the audacity to believe.

I’ve been influenced by Rickie’s positive attitude towards genealogy, especially when it can become quite daunting.  I remember feeling like the rug was pulled from under my feet.  Over the past 15 months of extensive planning and research for the Bough Family Reunion held in  July 2012, I was tasked with having the tree chart ready for display.   The tree had about 60 names to begin with, but once the family caught the gene-fever, in the span of 6 months the tree expanded to over 900 names.  

Part of the reason why the family tree was growing so fast, was because family members were able to participate by entering their basic family information on their branch of the tree.  Plus with the additional research data from Rickie it was almost an over-flow.   This tree climbed up to 9 generations.  

Rickie and I decided that the best way to display the tree at the family reunion would be in the form of a Family Tree Scroll.   With that in mind, I continued to receive information for the chart, I gave myself a deadline of a couple of  weeks up to the big day before the cut-off.   Setting a deadline was crucial as it allowed me to make the necessary edits and corrections before printing the lengthy scroll.After going from place to place with the data, I discovered that no vendor on the island had the software connected to print the scroll. After nearly two years of prepping for this moment, I was exhausted, and threw my hands up believing that this was over and it couldn’t happen.  I came to the conclusion that I would be cutting and pasting the next  week.   I started to get the feeling of despair and hopelessness.  

After telling  Rickie about my dilemma, she agreed to go with me to the vendor and talk I.T. language and was sure it could happen.    We spent some time printing samples, and talking ideas to the manager who shook his head and said he didn’t have the type of printer/software to  help.  

My conversation with Rickie when we left the store was all negative, while her response was one of hope and solutions.  I couldn’t imagine or understand the logistics of transcribing all that data or anything else.  In the meantime I was setting myself up for the task of cutting and pasting. I hadn’t seen. or heard, from Rickie for a while. We were days leading up to the event, I don’t think I slept at all those couple of weeks.   

Then I got that 2am text, “We got it done pick up the scroll!!!”   I was ecstatic.  

On this Thankful Thursday,  I thank  Rickie Marshall for having the audacity to believe, when the forecast looked gray, and for her immeasurable patience.  

Thank you again for your continued inspiration.

My Family Scroll

And thank you for being my friend.


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