Does Genealogy Illustrate History?

Yes, it does!

Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, two well-known African American abolitionists and public speakers from American history, were described in the unpublished manuscript of a local writer, Mary Worrell (Smith) Hudson. Frederick DouglassMary’s great granddaughter, Jan Wilkes, also a Topekan, found the manuscript among her family’s artifacts while researching her family tree. She shared the manuscript with me because of my interest in the Underground Railroad. I was surprised to see the famous people in an unpublished manuscript. Mary Worrell (Smith) Hudson, a Topekan, wrote about her family’s connection to the Underground Railroad and the many, now famous, people who graced her childhood home in Ohio, before she came to Kansas.

I had the occasion to present Jan’s manuscript at the 2014 Underground Railroad Conference in Detroit (July 16-20, 2014), along with her genealogy, which included Mary Worrall (Smith) Hudson and her husband Joseph Kennedy (J. K.). Each who has made their own mark on Topeka history.

Mary Worrell Smith Hudson Mary Worrall (Smith) Hudson was born in Salem, Ohio and moved to Kansas to marry J.K., her childhood sweetheart. She is the author of many articles and short stories that are located in the Topeka Room, on the Library’s second floor. But what is most significant to Underground Railroad history is her unpublished bound journal, The Story of an American Family also in the Topeka Room. In addition, her descendants have the unpublished copy of her remembrances in a manuscript she titled, “From a Station on the Underground Railroad.”

In both her journal and her manuscript, Mary narrates her family history and tells of the people that came to her childhood home in Ohio. She speaks of their activities on the Underground Railroad and tells her reminiscences of the speakers on the abolitionist circuit. She describes the abolitionists’ meetings as vividly as if it were happening today and gives a closer look at the Great Awakening religious debates and discussions that were part of the mid-18th to early 19th Centuries. What struck me most were her memories of Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, the only two African Americans who visited the Smith home.

Yes! Genealogy does illustrate history! Your genealogy may not be of famous people, but it likely has references to famous events. The only way you’ll know is to find out for yourself. Visit the Topeka Room and let us help you research your family tree!

Sherri Camp

Being the Genealogy Librarian at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library is so much fun! As a veteran genealogist, I love teaching and sharing digital family history and genealogy techniques and helping people solve genealogy problems. My work is to promote a greater knowledge of family heritage.