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Ruth Eleanor Stubblefield

Lithographer - Traveler - Genealogist

"The more I search, the more I find. The more I find sends me in more directions, so I have more to search than when I started...is there no end to this enjoyable cycle? Is life long enough to see the end?"

National Family History Month is an appropriate month to highlight the four year travel adventure that resulted in: a "Century Certificate" from the Walker County Genealogical Society, recognizing her familyís century-plus existence in Walker County, Texas; a compiled index, Walker County Texas, Black Cemeteries; and a six generation documented history of the Walker County, Texas Stubblefields, Thru My Eyes.

In January, 1992 she started the search with the typical research path, "start with your self, interview your elders, work back, check the vital records, do a census history etc." Soon it was evident that relatives donít always respond with family information in a timely fashion, especially if they have never heard of you or met you. Waiting for film orders in Family History Centers is frustrating and so was trying to get vital records from understaffed state offices who are not always sympathetic to anxious family searcher. So Ruth outfitted her recreation van into a research van, and started out for Walker county in May of 1999. She was not alone, Feo her cat was with her.

The drive from California to Texas gave her plenty of time to plan and organize her research tasks and even chart her research strategies. The charting was part of her professional experience. In 1960 at age 35, she had the triple distinction of owning her printing establishment, a Black in possession of the coveted union "bug" and the only women lithograph specialist in the country. In 1976, The Delta Sigma Theta Sorority named her, "Woman of Vision" in Economics at their sixty-third annual Founderís Day Luncheon in Culver City, Los Angeles, California.

Prior to her arrival in Huntsville, she had made the needed contacts with state and county personnel, the library, and the president of the genealogical society. The society selected and introduced her to a local professional genealogists to help her orientation to the resources that Walker County had to offer. When she arrived she visited the county and state offices, browsed through their libraries and attended the Walker County Genealogical Society meetings. Subsequently, she suggested that the society think about getting a reader-printer to use at the library and made a donation to start a fund. The members got out their checkbooks and the fund raising started. They now have a microfilm reader-printer. 

When Ruth discovered that there were no records in print about the black cemeteries or the people buried in them, her research goal changed. She temporarily put aside her family search and with her laptop computer she began the Black Cemetery search. Soon, she was known as the "Cemetery Lady from California" and was often stopped on the streets by local residents who gave her names and suggestions of the locations to search and grave sites for find... Even though she was searching for all blacks in the cemeteries she could not resist spending quick sessions in the court files searching for her family members. Finally she decided that she would make copies of every document that she could find that had the Stubblefield surname on it and sort them when she returned to California. Soon, the "Cemetery Lady From California" had the run of the deed room and went through every ledger they had back to the early 1840's. She found a great uncle listed as owing the dead owner of the local grocery store, and a contract showing her great-grandfather had dug a well for $9.50. From this search, she discovered that Clayton and Amanda Stubblefield had lived only a few blocks from the R.V. park where she stayed. Ruth had found them and they had been watching over her all the time. The Walker County Genealogical Society awarded her a Century Certificate--a recognition to those who could document ancestors living in Walker County before 1850.

Ruth did her searches inside when it was too hot to be in the fields, and outside when the weather permitted. She completed the indexing in August of 1999. She had three weeks paid rent at the R.V. park and she spent that time searching the Stubblefields only. Before she returned to California she presented the genealogical society with a master copy ready to print and sell.

Ruth had met her goals. She had found many of her ancestors and documented some of the familyís past to the present and future. She dipped her feet in Stubblefield Lake, and walked the lands of her ancestors. Even though she suffered serious insect bites and infections from tromping though unkempt, overgrown land. She was now able to say, now I know, now I understand, now I see, "Thru My Eyes", which is the title of her family history . She returned to Texas the next year because "the more I find sends me in more directions."

Ruth suffered a stroke a year ago which slowed her for a time but now she is up and about, traveling the state in her "scooter", gathering information and finding out that "there is no end to this enjoyable cycle."

Source: Contributed by Electra Kimble Price
 

15 Oct 2004 | 03 Oct 2006
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