Miles Lassiter (circa 1777-1850) an Early African American Quaker from Lassiter Mill, Randolph County, North Carolina: My Research Journey to Home
Signed copies available from the author.
Although antebellum African Americans were sometimes allowed to attend Quaker services, they were almost never admitted to full “meeting” membership, as was Miles Lassiter. His story illuminates the unfolding of the 19th-century color line into the 20th. It reminds us that, while traditional texts recount grand events, true history tells of everyday people who do extraordinary things quietly, not even realizing that they have left their mark.
Margo Williams had only a handful of stories and a few names her mother remembered from her childhood about her family’s home in Asheboro, North Carolina. Her research would soon help her to make contact with long lost relatives and a pilgrimage “home” with her mother in 1982. Little did she know she would discover a large loving family and a Quaker ancestor–a Black Quaker ancestor. This story follows her research journey through records and Carolina countryside as she uncovers her roots.
: 2012 Family History Book Award from the North Carolina Genealogical Society.
“This work re-affirms Margo Williams’s commitment to excellence and perfection, both as a researcher and as a historian. The reader is made part of the story, not only in place but in time. But, most importantly, she re-asserts the point that, by and large, the information is available to the researcher. All one has to do is to look for it. A job well done!” V. L. Skinner, Jr., Fellow, Maryland Genealogical Society.
[A] book I’d like to highlight for you is Margo Lee Williams book, “Miles Lassiter: An Early African-American Quaker from Randolph County, North Carolina.” I received my copy last week and found it to be a wonderful example of how to publish family history research. Immensely readable, Ms. Williams takes us back to the very beginnings of her research.
What’s notable is that the author doesn’t just walk us through the road trips she took while uncovering her family roots, she also shows us each step of the way which problem she was trying to solve.
I rather enjoyed her habit of placing her internal questions and comments in parenthesis in the text. This illustrates the importance of not just finding a record, but understanding what it is telling you and she invites us into that analysis.
Ms. Williams makes extensive use of social history to provide context to the lives of her ancestors and the book is somewhat of a Master Class on how to effortlessly weave social history into the story. For example, she gives us a chapter on Life in Pre-Civil-War Randolph County.
She discusses what laws existed that affected both enslaved and free blacks. We simply cannot understand our ancestor’s lives unless we understand the time and place in which they lived. Adding social history and context also makes our work exciting to read, especially for non-genealogists.
Ms. Williams took the time to provide source citations. This not only tells the reader what evidence supported her conclusions and where to find the information she uncovered, but it also allows the reader to see the depth and the breadth of the sources she utilized.
She not only consulted census and vital records and relevant books, she also used deed and court records, private papers, newspapers, oral history, Freedmens Bureau records and articles published in historical journals. Because her ancestor was a Quaker, she shows us the kinds of publications and information available to researchers on that subject as well.
Ms. Williams book reminds us that genealogy can’t be completed on the Internet. She gets out and about to visit various repositories near and far. Pictures and illustrations in the book enhance the text, and the last chapter presents biographical profiles on the first generation of the family. I highly recommend the Miles Lassiter book for anyone looking for a readable template on family history research. Get your copy from Amazon today.Reclaiming kin (24 March 2018):
“One thing that mortality teaches us is that we will not live forever. Usually it takes the searing process of life experiences to brand this truth upon our consciousness, a fact that usually comes like an awakening. It seems it takes some of us getting older, or the illness of an older relative, as a catalyst for us to want to know more about our family, to the point where we actually do research. I say all of this as personal introduction to Ms. Margo Lee Williams work on the Lassiter Family because I am not quite sure if this is how the process worked for her, though it does, for many.
Part of Ms. Williams motivation comes from the fact that her immediate family moved North, taking them away from, and separating them for a number of years from their roots. Ms. Williams begins her search trying to reconnect with her roots and flesh out her family history. This is a fascinating odyssey as she explains it, taking her into all kinds of family records. Ms. Williams balances this story with some emotion, in a clear and logical manner, leaving one ready to discover what she finds next. The book takes her back four generations to her descendent Miles Lassiter and the land that comes down from him. In the process, one learns some of what life was like for African-Americans in Randolph County in the state of North Carolina. Ms. Williams tells this story in a clear and cogent manner that not only makes her family proud, but anyone (such as myself), who has African-American roots within the county. I think it is quite humorous that Ms. Williams’ mother attended First Congregational United Church of Christ in Asheboro as a little girl. I find that humorous because there is a picture of it in Ms Williams’ book and because it is the church that I grew up in. See there, connections all around! It is also humorous to me that a distant relative of mine, Isley Walden, appears to have been a contemporary and acquaintance of some of Ms. Williams’ relatives, and to have frequented some of the same “stomping grounds.” A fine job, this! This is a book that is well-worth reading and especially a treasure to the Lassiter family.” The Careful Observer, 25 September 2015.
“I would urge anyone who has an interest in history and research to read this book. Margo Lee Williams has manage to take a journey of discovery via the oral history traditions of African Americans combined with research. Starting with stories her mother told her as a youth, she has managed to unearthed a treasure-trove of family history which also gave insight into one of a few African American Quakers in the South.” Harvey Boone, 16 January 2012.