I am in awe of the neat but stylish hand of an Army captain who, in 1870, transcribed the registered voters of Rusk County, Texas, where some of my forebears lived. I can't read his signature, except for his first name being Charles (abbreviated Chas.), but most of the voter names are clear and easy to compare.
Following the Civil War, the former Confederate states were required to draft new state constitutions and register both black and white men, 21 and over, as voters, provided they swear an oath of allegiance to the United States and not have served the Confederate government. I find myself constantly inspired by these early post-war voter rolls, on which appear -- many for the first time in official records -- the names of men formerly enslaved, including some who were probably held by my Harle kin and their related McFarland neighbors.
To honor the memory of some of these early Black voters, I have been tracing a few of their family trees and documenting them on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, particularly brothers Caesar and George Harle and Alex Harle, Orfee McFarland, Commodore McFarland, and Riley Pruitt. The families of the last four moved to southeastern Kansas in the early 1880s, settled in and around Independence, Montgomery County, and intermarried.
I will be sharing some of my findings because in our time, when people can move many times in a lifetime, being registered to vote and exercising the opportunity to vote is perhaps the greatest active tie between people and place.