Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Rice Family Tree

My Rice Family Tree

It was about a year or so ago, August, 2009, when I wrote a blog about my Weathersby family. You can read that Facebook note at this link: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=137074478768 . Now I want to talk a little about the other side of my family tree, the side that I actually grew up thinking I knew about but later found out I didn't.

I was named after my favorite uncle, my mom's brother Edgar. I guess its appropriate since he's my role model. I could write a very long blog about why this is. Then my parents gave me the family name as a middle name, Rice. And my dad's family name is Weathersby. So that was my given name that I had to live with, like it or not. I was always at the end of the roll call in school and most of the kids couldn't pronounce my name properly.

As a youngster I got a lot of teasing because my first and middle names are the same as the author of the Tarzan stories, Edgar Rice Boroughs. He wrote the Tarzan stories and back in the 1940's and 50's there were a bunch of Tarzan comics and movies that made that name well known. Since I was named after my uncle, all of my family members called me by my first AND middle name, Edgar Rice, all of the time. That was to distinguish me from my uncle; so family member would know which Edgar they were talking about.

I lived in a small town in Mississippi, down in the country as many would say. And it was common in the south for people to be called by both their first and middle names. So you might hear Lillie Mae, or Bobbie Joe, or Clara Lee about any time. But I really didn't like being known as and called Edgar Rice because I thought it was "country". But to this day most of my cousins still call me Edgar Rice. Now my younger brother tagged me with an entirely different handle when he was about 10 years old, "Eggs and Rice". And to this day he still calls me Eggs. Even Sarah has now started calling me Edgar Rice.

So where did this Rice name come from? Well this is my great grandfather on my mother's side of the family.

FRANK C RICE Sr. This photo was posted by the front door in the "front room". (Some of you may remember what room that was) of our house in West Point; this is the house as it looked the last couple times I saw it, still standing after about 80 years.
I also lived for a while in this house
which was the church house, parsonage, for my grandfather's Presbyterian church. Frank Rice Sr was a former slave who, records show, was born in Alabama. He was married to Alice Jack in 1878 and they had 14 children. The only known photo of Alice is this very small one that does not reveal her features.

Growing up I knew there were some people called the "Jacks" that my family would visit and/or talk about but I really didn't know who they were relationship-wise. Some of these relatives even lived a few houses from where we lived and I heard full names called but I still didn't know who they were.

******* I need to digress for a minute. First, it has been speculated that since Frank Rice Sr was born in Alabama there could possibly be some relationship way down the line to the family of Condelessa Rice which is also from Alabama. All of my relative categorically disavow any relationship there. .. LOL On the other hand, we are very willing to claim the great football player, Jerry Rice, if there is a connection. ... Second, many of you remember our late friend from Yahoo360 and Facebook, Jacqueline Jack. When she and I first because acquainted and I learned that her last name was Jack we discussed the possibility of a family tree relationship. We even sent each other copies of family tree information that we had available. I have been to only one Jack's reunion, in the year 2000, and don't know them at all, except Artley Jack who still lives in West Point. So as a consequence of looking at our respective family trees Jackie and I then started calling each other "cous" because it was/is a remote possibility. She passed away a couple years ago and I do truly miss her, my cous. *******

So I grew up knowing Frank Rice Sr from his photo, all the while thinking he looked just like Santa Claus. And I knew only 6 of his 14 children; and only 4 of them really well. Grandpa Rice had 80-some acres of land in/near West Point that remained in the family until recently. Its my understanding that it was given up for back taxes because none of his descendants was interested enough in it to take over responsibility for it and use it. But back when I was a kid I visited the property many times and saw a few relatives there. The wood frame house that was on the property has long since fallen down and these days you cannot even see where a house may have been.

It was not until the year 2000 when I and my relatives started planning a family reunion that I learned how little I know of my Rice family. My uncle Edgar gave me a listing of the names of all of Grandpa Rice's children and my aunt Velma gave me copies of pages from her mother's family bible which contained names, dates of birth and death, and dates of marriage, along with a few other significant dates.

Its a blessing that someone took the time to record and keep these records.

So we produced a reunion booklet with all of the names and available photos

. I grew up knowing my grandmother Minerva and her sisters Minnie, Ola,
and Mary (not pictured). I lived with my grandmother and grand father for several years
up until my grandfather died in 1953. So I knew Minerva very well. She had a nickname for me, Little Beaver. I think she got that from an old comic book character, Red Ryder, who had a young boy sidekick called Little Beaver.

I remember Aunt Mary also because she lived across town from us; actually about a mile or so away across the cow pasture that was across the highway from my grandparent's house. She was a seamstress and had one of them dress forms in the front room of her house. And she was good at making doilies and had a bunch of them all starched and spread over the tables and arms of the chairs. (You young folks don't know a thing about such). Aunt Mary had one son, Thaddeus, and he had four sons, James, Pat, Percy, and Victor, and a daughter Joyce, who all lived on the other side of town and I occasionally had a chance to visit and play with them. They were the cousins I knew best because all of my other first cousins lived other places around the country. Pat and Percy are twins and to this day I cannot tell them apart. I loved visiting them because they were always into some "devilment", which for young boys was really fun. They both attended Jackson State University majoring in music and became music teachers.

I also knew Aunt Ola very well as she and Uncle Hal lived "out in the country" not too far from the Rice property. I loved to go out there also because they had a swing in the front yard. Mom told me recently that they had a school and also a small store, kinda like a 7-11 with a few supplies so neighbors didn't have to go all the way to town for things. And it seemed like every time we went out there they made a five gallon size batch of home made ice cream. Well if it wasn't five gallon it was a huge hand crank ice cream freezer and everyone had a turn at cranking it. I also knew Aunt Ola after she moved to DC and will always recall her very fondly because she was always very jovial.

She lived to the age of 100 and although she was very ill then the family had a birthday party for her.
I also know many of my relatives on Aunt Ola's branch of the family tree and have actually met many of them.
But there are a lot whom I have never met.

I didn't really meet Aunt Minnie until I moved to DC in the 1950's and always remember that she lived on French Street NW with her husband. Funny thing was I didn't find out until the 2000 reunion that his name was really Uncle Led; I thought it was Uncle Ed. He was blind from a job related accident I am told and had to scoot around on the floor as he lost the use of his legs after he went blind. Even though Aunt Minnie's kids lived in DC, I got to know only Roscoe and never met any of my cousins on this branch of the tree.

Now I remember meeting Avant, who was called Uncle Chub, but I don't recall every meeting uncle Frank Jr. Uncle Chub was rather rotund when I met him and never had much to say when we visited the Rice property. So from the 1950's until the reunion in 2000 those were all of the Rice relatives that I ever knew. I think I may have met Aunt Josephine but I don't really remember her.

When my Uncle Edgar told me to be sure to send all of the reunion information to his cousin Ed Rice Sr. in Chicago, I was shocked to learn that there was more family that I didn't know about. Now it was not like it was being kept from me or anyone else, the other family members were just never talked about. Or if they were talked about I didn't know who they were talking about and how we were related.

In preparation for the reunion Ed Rice Sr and I talked on the phone a couple times and he eventually sent me a copy of the Rice family tree that he had been keeping on his computer. He also sent me a few photos of his branch of the family.

The one interesting thing that I learned was that my grandmother Minerva had six kids, five girls and one boy, while her brother Frank had four kids, one girl and four boys. I know very well all of my mom's sisters and brother, pictured in the center of this collage.

And I know and have met all of my first cousins, their kids. But I have never met any of Uncle Frank's children. I did have those phone conversation with Ed Rice Sr and met his son Ed Rice Jr at the reunion.

Thus in the year 2000 I met for the first time Rice family that I did not previously know. And now as a result of Facebook connections I am meeting more of my Rice family, like cousins Jon and Joe Rice, and Aaron Rice. The problem that I still have is trying to keep straight in my mind who is who's kid. That's why I keep a printed copy of the family tree handy. And one of the regrets that I have in looking at the family tree is knowing that several of my grandmother's sisters and brothers passed away in the 1960's when I was almost 20 years old. I wish that I had had the interest back then to talk with them before they died, especially Aunt Mary who I knew pretty well. But I guess I was like most young people, no interest in the family tree until its too late to have a conversation with family.

Keeping a family tree is not a lot of work even though adjustments are always necessary, people pass away and babies are born. What I have found is that there is very little interest on the part of family members in keeping the family tree up to date. A few years ago I asked family if anyone wanted to take over the project from me and had no takers. The sad thing also is its very very difficult to get some family members to even give up the information about their branch of the tree so that the existing parts of the family tree can be completed for once. I have asked some of my family members over and over and their reply is "OK I'll send you the information", but they never do. And all I want is dates of birth and, if applicable death, and names and dates of birth of children. That's easy information to assemble and get to me, especially by computer. But I am thankful for what I have and hope that some day a family member will step forward and say, let me do that and keep it up. I am just about the oldest of my generation on the family tree and hope that someone from the next youngest generation will step forward. With what I have assembled already going forward will be much easier than it was up to this point.

And finally, the one good thing is I have more than 35 of my Rice relatives on Facebook and both of my kids and all of my grand-kids. And I hope that they all read this and that some of them learn something new from it.

1 comment:

  1. Ed this is amazing! Such a treasure. I am Brie Griffin (Ed Rice, Jr.'s daughter). I have been doing a lot of family history research as well, trying to uncover some more about the family before Frank Sr. and Alice. It has been a wonderful and puzzling challenge. I will make sure that I befriend you on Facebook so I can keep you updated on any new pieces I find. Love, your cous, Brie