Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Raymond Mansfield Cully, Proof that he Played with Cab Calloway Band

     There is no specific system that I have followed in researching the children of Ambrose E. Cully and Nora Ann Gilliam.   I have spent hundreds of hours over the past seven years researching the children of my Great Grandparents.  Eventually, I will have separate pages for the thirteen children that I have been able to document and have a narrative of each one.

     Raymond Mansfield Cully was the eleventh child born to my Great Grandparents, and he was the youngest of the boys.  Raymond was born October 20, 1907 in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Ray along with his youngest sister Nora were raised by their Grand Uncle and Aunt, Joseph A. & Jane B. Collins after the untimely death of their mother from giving birth to Nora (who by the way, was named after her mother).

     It was told to me by my mother and the children of Raymond that he had been a drummer and singer.  Ray often played along side his brother Wendell in local bands of Worcester, MA. Raymond's brother Wendell became a well known trumpet player in various jazz bands in New York such as Sissle Noble, Cab Calloway, and Count Basie.  It was told to me by Raymond's children that they believed he played with some well known musicians.

    This is not a complete extensive search to link Ray to jazz bands outside of Worcester, but did spend many hours searching.  My search did bare some fruit, as I did find one article that proved Raymond played in Cab Calloway's band on May 25, 1935.  It is still to be determined the time period and the length of his membership.
Raymond M. & Jeanette Agnes (Arnold) Cully
Courtesy of Gail Cully Middleton

The New York Age
May 25, 1935

Copyright by Yvette Porter Moore (2011)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cully Family Update

     On Wednesday, November 30, 2011, I will be interviewed by Richard Falco, director of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Jazz Department.  The interview will be about the migration of the Cully family from North Carolina to Worcester, MA.  I will be discussing the life and family history roots of Wendell Phillip Culley, who was an American Trumpet Jazz musician and played on over 200 recordings.

     I will be taking a break until Wednesday as my computer crashed and I will be spending some time to prepare for the interview that will take place online.  When I decided to do family history and genealogy, I had no idea as to all the other avenues that the stories of my family would come to life, and that I would have the opportunity to share them with the public.

     Once the interview is completed, edited and posted online, I will give a link so you will have the opportunity to see it.

As Always!  Happy Researching!!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

First Fruits of Freedom: Index #2 (Jane B. Collins)

     This is a continuum of an index series of First Fruits of Freedom, by Janette Thomas Greenwood to see prior posts go here.

     Looking through the index of First Fruits of FreedomI came across the name Collins, Jane, 152 on page 228.  Could this be my Great Great Grand Aunt?  I immediately went to page 152 and here is an excerpt of that page:
"As the Worcester Telegram so delicately put it, such institutions "In the city have always drawn the line on the race questions with distinctness,"  In response, twelve women from the AME Zion Church organized "the Woman's Progressive Club, of Worcester, Mass.,"  In October 1898 and incorporated the organization two years later.  Like the city's many fraternal organizations, the Progressive Club incorporated both southern-and northern-born members.  Of the twelve founders, three were from the South: Jane Collins hailed from North Carolina..."
     Jane Collins most definitely had to be my Great Great Grand Aunt.  Through prior research of my Great Grandfather Ambrose Cully's in-laws, this is what I found in the records.  Jane Collins was known as Jane B. "Ellis" Nelson and was born in January of 1840.  Jane was born to Zara Humphrey Jones & Benjamin "Ellis" Nelson in North Carolina. Jane's sister was my Great Great Grandmother Hannah "Singleton" Nelson Gilliam.  A later post will be dedicated to the "extra" surnames as the Nelson family were born into slavery, and the adoption of the various names has its own history.

     According to the Craven County marriage registrar, Jane married Joseph A. Collins prior to August 1866, as they were cohabitating before emancipation.

     Prior research and my research trip to Worcester this past April 2011 revealed to me that the Collins, Gilliam and the Cully family were active members of the Zion AME Church in Worcester, Massachusetts.

     So to keep this post to the point, my question was, "Is this my Aunt Jane Collins?"  A few years ago, I came across this newspaper article from The Worcester Spy, Jan 2, 1902.  Even though this article was written a few years after the forming of the Woman's Progressive Club, it is very relevant to answering the question.

Worcester Spy
Jan 2, 1902
     The Woman's Progressive Club gave a turkey dinner yesterday afternoon from 12 to 6 o'clock which was well patronized.  The proceeds will go to the Home for Aged Colored People on Liberty Street.  The committee in charge of the dinner was Mrs. Minnie Lee (chairman), Mrs. Ida Wilson, Mrs. Amos Walker, Mrs. Sylvester Kennard, Mrs. John Kennard and Mrs. Jennie Everett.  The dinner was served by the younger members of the club.
     In the evening there was a concert under the auspices of the club, in charge of Mrs. Jane B. Collins.  There were songs by the chorus of the club readings by Miss Ada Bell, Miss Jessie Brogden, Miss Annie May Bell, Miss Jane Gilliam and Miss Virone Dudley; Solos by Joseph Gilliam; prayer by Rev. Hiram Conway; address by Rev. W. H. Coffey; reading of the Emancipation Proclamation by George Dominus; duets by Misses Harriet and Georgiana Shannon, Miss Marie Kennard and Miss Inez Dudley and Misses Hannah and Zara Cully.

You could imagine my excitement when I linked this article with the information in First Fruits of Freedom.  In this article my Great Grandmother's siblings were listed Jane Gilliam and Joseph Gilliam.  Also My Grand Aunts, Hannah and Zara Cully were in the article and this confirmed to me that I had made the family connection.  Aunt Zara had played on the Jefferson's TV Sitcom.  Last in my list but first in the article was my Great Great Grand Aunt Jane B. Collins.  The Women's Progressive Club was an auxiliary of the AME Zion church, so I knew the information from First Fruits of Freedom was on the exact trail I needed to be on.

     Jane B. Collins was the Aunt to my Great Grandmother Nora Ann "Gilliam" Cully

     I will reveal more family connections from the index of First Fruits of Freedom in Index #3.

The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

First Fruits of Freedom: Index #1

     One of the first things I do before reading a non-fiction book (for research purposes), is to glance at the table of contents, as it gives a general idea of the subject matter to be covered and it is a road map as to where the book will lead.  

     Secondly, I page through the index, looking to see if  there is familiarity with the names, places, ideas and subject matter that will be read in the book. If I find anything in the index that peaks my interest as it relates to the research, I will go directly to that page and read a paragraph or two.  Reading ahead allows me the opportunity to familiarize myself with the subject matter, and it tends to help me with my overall reading. 
     My interest in reading First Fruits of Freedom, by Janette Thomas Greenwood as stated on the back cover of the book:
"It offers a rare glimpse into the lives of African American men, women, and children on the cusp of freedom.  First Fruits of Freedom chronicles one of the first collective migrations of blacks from the South to the North during and after the Civil War.
     First Fruits of Freedom breathes life into the migration of African Americans leaving Eastern North Carolina for Worcester, Massachusetts through a series of networks.  By reading this book, I figured I could put flesh on the bones of my ancestors.
     It was told to me that my Great Grandfather Ambrose Cully (a single man) was sent by his father to Worcester so he could get away from the race issues in North Carolina. So, naturally my focus was on Ambrose.  
     My theory is that Ambrose met my Great Grandmother Nora A. Gilliam in Worcester, got married and started a family.  (This theory may or may not be so.)  Maybe their families knew each other in North Carolina, and they left at the same time to start a new life. (It is possible the families knew each other, but I discovered Ambrose's in-laws were in Worcester by 1880 or the later part of the 1870's).  Maybe Ambrose's father knew the leaders within the network and insisted that his son leave with them. (Very Possible.)

     I am realizing that looking at the women in the family (in-laws of Ambrose) is very important to my study.  I have gathered information via U.S. Census reports, newspapers, documents, etc., but I had not analyzed the material with my varying theories. (At least not until, I began reading First Fruits)
     The next post: Index #2, I will share one of the names that popped out at me, with documentation, as I begin to answer my questions.   

The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Research Update November 20, 2011

There has been a lot of progress to my research.  I have been collecting information, connecting with individuals that hold the answers to my questions and of course, taking some time to read.

Tomorrow I will be posting some of the successes of my research, as I better do before it gets lost into the other stories I have not told.

I have added 20 pages to my blog that I will be filling up in a few days.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Zara Frances Cully Brown: First Fruits of Freedom-The Title

I am taking my time reading First Fruits of Freedom by Janette Thomas Greenwood . I wanted to make a quick comment about the reading as of date. I have not gotten very far as I am on chapter #2.  What I have found very interesting about the meaning of the Title of the book, is that First Fruits (without going into detail) represents the first born generation after Slavery, of the civil war and during the Reconstruction Period in History (and it stands for the promises of equality and obtaining the American Dream.)

As I came to the understanding of the title, I connected it with Zara Frances Cully Brown's generation as she was born in 1892.  Zara's father Ambrose E. Cully was the only member of his immediate family that migrated to Worcester, Massachusetts from New Bern, North Carolina.  Ambrose followed neighborhood friends and their families who prepared the migration path at least 8 to 10 years prior to his arrival into Worcester, MA in 1889 or 1890.

I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the individuals in First Fruits of Freedom. As I gather more information surrounding what I have read, I will post my discoveries.

There is an article in the Worcester Telegram by Jacqueline Reis that tells more about the book and the author.  If you are interested go to this Link  PATH TO FREEDOM

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Research Material: First Fruits of Freedom by Lanette Thomas Greenwood

Actual scanned copy of Book Cover

     I am currently reading First Fruits of Freedom a historical narrative of the lives of African Americans  (former slaves) who migrated from the South to the North during and after the Civil War.

     This book will be a guide to my own research as it relates to my ancestors migration from New Bern, NC to Worcester, MA.

     Zara Cully Brown's father along with their in-laws and close friends migrated during the 1870's to 1900 from New Bern to Worcester.  In time many of the individuals and their decedents will be revealed in my book as they made contributions to various states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Washington, D.C., California.

For more information: First Fruits of Freedom by Lanette Thomas Greenwood

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Moving On Up!" A New Direction

Zara Cully Brown
     As I continue to gather information on the Higgins Papers, I will be reading books and documents that I can draw from to help me to place the Cully Family in historical context.

     This Novel that I am preparing to write has morphed into a different direction again, and I now believe that I have settled on the theme and integral character for this Non-Fiction masterpiece.  The historical novel will cover the periods of 1800 to 1978, with emphasis during the life of Zara Cully Brown who was born January 26 1892 in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Zara F. Cully was born during the Rise of the Industrial America which took place 1877-1900.  Zara's paternal ancestors were a free people of color rooted in New Bern, North Carolina in the late 1790's.  Zara Cully Brown was known for her appearances on The Jeffersons-Television Sitcom, as she played the part of Olivia Jefferson-The mother of George Jefferson.

     I had initially wanted to write about my mother's memoirs of Harlem-Sugar Hill, NY, then upon further research and travels to my ancestral hometowns of Sugar Hill, NY; Worcester, Cambridge and Boston, MA; Washington D.C.; Maryland and Florida, I realized that the story was larger than my mother, because it was her ancestors who set-up the next generations to achieve the American Dream.  I then decided I would research the Cully Family and the families they married into and talk about the family in historical context with my mother being the integral character, but after some thinking and advice from a mentor, I realized the theme "Moving On Up!" would be the thread that needed to run through the novel.

     It is common knowledge that people and families migrated throughout history looking for better opportunities, equality and a better life.  This is what the making of this novel is about.  I am still formulating and trying to visualize what this final project will look like.

     As I continue searching for documents, literary works, papers, and conduct interviews, this project will take a more solid form.

As I always say, Happy Research!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Higgins Research Update for October 19, 2011

     Yesterday was a day of inquiry for me.  I contacted the Worcester Historical Museum and spoke with Robin in the research department.  The museum is holding Higgins Papers that are of interest to me.  I explained to Robin what I was interested in and she let me know that I need to send her an email with the specific items I would like her staff to research.  I was informed that there is a free 15-20 min preliminary search and thereafter there would be a fee per hour.

     Today I will put together an email of exactly what I would like Robin and her staff to look at for me.  E-mails to the Worcester Historical Museum Research department is

The home page of the Worcester History Museum states: Founded in 1875, Worcester Historical Museum is a unique organization dedicated to collecting, preserving, and interpreting Worcester's history in all time periods and subject areas. The holdings of WHM encompass thousands of unique documents and artifacts vital to the study of Worcester history.

     Once I finished my call, I contacted the New England Historical Society, now known as American Ancestors, located in Boston, MA. The Researcher informed me that I could fill out a request form which is posted on the website, fill out with detailed information.  The fee for the service is based on one's membership.  The fee is $50.00 an hour to research, read, make copies, etc.  I will probably do this but as you can see, everything costs money and it could be quite expensive especially if you need a researcher to read a diary.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Higgins family collection, 1897-1972 & 1741-1925

Higgins House
Donated to WPI-1971
by Aldus Higgins upon his death
     I spent most of my day searching online Library Catalog's, trying to locate the Higgins Family Papers of Worcester, MA, with the intent to contact the institutions that hold the records. 

     I was familiar with the well known Higgins that had a lot to do with the contributions to Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  I read about John Higgins in prior years who loved armory and had a castle built to store all of the armory that he collected and is known as the "Higgins Armory Museum."  There is a wealth of information on the Higgins and one could clearly make a study of it.

     The purpose of my searching is to locate the household employee records, and to possibly find some type of correspondence that would confirm the employment and relationship my Cully's had with the Higgins.  As a researcher, I would like to be able to document this information in my book.  I have stories handed down orally and written that talk about my family working for the Higgins, but I think to have it substantiated will give my story some credibility.

     Recently, I was looking at all of the Higgins of Worcester, MA.  I began to think that this would be tedious and should begin with what is tangible and quite possibly would answer my question as to who is my Higgins?  

     I am still reading the Higgins genealogy, but not sure how important that is except I was trying to see if they were related to E.G Higgins, of who I wrote about a few weeks ago that sold the finest wall papering in the United States.  

     It is my belief that my Great Grandfather Ambrose Cully worked for Milton & Kathryn Higgins who had four children: Aldus Chapin, John Woodman, Katharine Elizabeth, and Olive Chapin.  

     My search today payed off.

     I located Higgins Family Collection 1897-1972 which is held by the Worcester Historical Museum. (Archival material, 1897) [] The description of the collection is as follows:

Photographs of members of the Higgins family and related families of Chapin, Lupton, Prouty, Bennett, Smith, Riley, and Carter; papers of Clara Carter Higgins and her husband, John Woodman Higgins, president of Worcester Pressed Steel Co., and Higgins Armory Museum; Aldus Chapin Higgins, treasurer of Norton Company and trustee of Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Milton Prince Higgins (father of John Woodman Higgins and Aldus Chapin Higgins), president of Norton Emery Wheel Co., and elevator company, and promoter of trade schools in the U.S., and Katharine Chapin Higgins, his wife; and Bradley C. Higgins and his children; journal/diary (1909-1919) of Mary Louis Carter; financial records, including check stubs (1963-1972) of Clara C. Higgins, Higgins household employee records and time sheets, and general financial records of John Woodman Higgins and Clara Carter Higgins; and genealogical materials, including family genealogies compiled by Katharine Chapin Higgins.

I also located Higgins Family Papers 1741-1925 at the New England Historical Genealogical Society.

There are various reasons that I believe that this is the correct Higgins family connected to the Cully’s.

1.      Milton Higgins was the father of Trade Schools and my Uncle Osborne Ambrose and Grandmother Agnes Mae Cully, both attended the Girls and Boys Trade Schools in Worcester, and I believe that they were encouraged by the Higgins.

2.      My Uncle Wendell Phillip Culley attended the High School of Commerce, and was the only African American in his class attending at the time, and when I looked at the 1924 & 1925 School Annuals, a Marion L. Higgins was working at the school, and I am assuming that she was a cousin or relative of “The Higgins” family and they encouraged Wendell to attend and pursue his musical career.

3.      My mother stated (tape and Journal) that the Cully’s worked for the Higgins family that owned a large industrial corporation, even though she was unsure of the type of business it was.  She also stated that they were millionaires and gave my Aunt Zara & Catherine substantial financial support.

So my next step is to speak with the Archivists at the NEHGS and Worcester Historical Museum and have them help me with confirming the employment of Ambrose, my two aunts, and my Great Great Grandmother Hannah Gilliam.  Hannah, as it was told to me laundered their clothing and household laundry.  I will also figure out the timeline as to when my family worked for the Higgins so that this portion of my book will be complete.

   I received some information from Professor Rich Falco of WPI today pertaining to the Higgins...which I will share tomorrow as he is doing research on Wendell & Raymond Cully and their Jazz.


The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Connection from New England Jazz History Database

Central Worcester Jazz Musician Tree
Wendell Culley at base of tree
by Richard Falco of WPI
     Sometimes our plans of what we are going to research and post next on our blogs does not always play out that way.  We, as family researchers and historians must always be ready for changes.  

     I am currently reading "Richard Higgins," a book on the descendants of the Higgins.  It has been a slow read, and I am not so sure I need to read cover to cover.  There is an index with names and I could possibly look at the descendants and the possible collateral descendants of Richard in the Worcester, MA area so I can quicken my step.

     I usually give myself one to two hours of reading and research time a day during the week. Sometimes it is just re-affirming what I already know, or I discover something new (which happens every so often).

     I was reading yesterday when I received a call from a Jacki Boyette stating that her Aunt Effie Watkins was married to Sydney Grant, a saxophonist from Worcester, and had been friends of my Grand Uncle Raymond Mansfield Cully, Sr.   (It is very possible that Sydney also played with Raymond's older brother Wendell as he played the trumpet and were close in age.)

     The call was in reference to a posting that I  attached below.  Jacki and I spoke for a good hour as she shared the life and history of her Uncle Sydney and in the meantime letting me know that she has a couple of school pictures of Raymond Cully and would be sending it to me (which I will forward the original to his adult children).  We also agreed that I would meet with her in Harlem to go through hundreds of photo's of parties, gigs, etc., that possibly include family members.

The Chet Williams Blog has some information about Wendell P. Cully and as I stated on a previous post, I will be interviewed in November 2011 regarding the Cully family and Wendell Cully by Professor Falco who developed the New England Jazz Database.

6 Responses to “J14: Worcester’s Lil’ Darlin’ Wendell Culley”
  1. Yvette Porter Moore on January 2nd, 2008 1:44 pm
    I am a family member of Wendell Culley. He was my great Uncle. I am currently doing a family tree and trying to pull some information together and go through the family photos
  2. Gail Middleton on October 19th, 2008 8:44 pm
    Raymond Cully was my dad. Wendell Culley was my uncle.I’d love to see the high school photos you mention on this site -
    Please let me know if there is any way for me to see them.
    Thank you.
  3. Karen Cully on December 30th, 2009 11:42 pm
    Hi Yvette,
    this is most interesting.
    Wendell Culley was my father, Richard Cully’s uncle as you know. My Father’s Name was Osborne Cully. My grandfather was one of the first Black Americans to obtain a Master’s Degree in Engineering. However, he was not hired in his field of expertise because he was Black. I am told that MIT or Wentworth College hired him as a Professor. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this effort. Will look up more on the Hayes/Haynes Greene Side. REmember Aunt Edith. She waa a major Matriarch of our family. He maiden name was Hayes.
    Talk to you soon.
  4. Jacki Boyette on January 21st, 2010 1:31 pm
    My uncle, Sydney Grant,was a musician (saxaphonist) and had a dear friend named Raymond Culley who was also a musician. Ray Culley and his wife were often in our home with their son, Raymond M. Culley, Jr. I recently found a 5th grade photo of Ray Jr in my deceased uncle’s memorabilia. He would be 55 - 60 years old now. Please let me know if this is the right family.
  5. Yvette on March 28th, 2010 11:29 pm
    Ray Culley was also my great Uncle. His brother was Raymond. They actually had numerous brothers and sisters as their mother had between 15 to 20 children but many died young. I would love to see this picture of Ray Cully from the 5th grade. He was a musician and played the drums. He had three children. He is deceased and I have one picture of Raymond. You can contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx.
  6. Gail Middleton on June 19th, 2010 11:22 pm
    Dear Jacki Boyette,
    Yes, this is the right family! Raymond M. Culley Jr. is my brother (we spell our last name Cully, with no “e”). Did you meet my parents at your home?Jazz History Data Base

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Richard Higgins & His Descendants

    My research right now is focused on the Higgins in Worcester, MA.  I am trying to pinpoint the exact household my Cully ancestors worked for.  I have some clues from the beginnings of my mother's manuscript, and to ensure that everything I speak of in my historical book, I need to have everything documented.

     The other day I looked at E.G Higgins and his company, but needed to do more investigation.  I headed straight for Google Books and keyed in Higgins, Massachusetts and some other key words...and wallah!  I made a big hit!!!  It was everything in this book online that I wanted to see, and it was free to read online!!!  I call that the Ancestors working for ya!!!  I was more than surprised to find the book titled "Richard Higgins & His Descendants" by Katharine Chapin Higgins.  Katharine is the husband of Milton P. Higgins and this is the exact family I was wanting to know more about.  I don't have to search too much further as this book was printed in 1918 and my interest time period would be 1880-1920.

     This book pretty much has it covered for my research purposes in figuring out what Higgins belong to what line, as it may very well be that all of the Higgins in Worcester were family.  So, of course I will need to read and I will let you know what I uncover.  This will also allow me to make a more complete family line tree and possibly have the opportunity to connect with some of the Higgins descendants once I get closer to the completion of my project.  How cool would that be to connect with them?

Google Books (Free)

     What excites me the most is that Katharine Chapin is a person after my own heart! She was a genealogist, the family historian and she was able to get the various lines of the Higgins family that descended from Richard Higgins to contribute genealogical information that they had or needed to research for. They had lots of documents that they freely lent so that their descendants would have something to know about their very beginnings before America and after. The Higgins valued family and their community, and I so look forward to discovering more about this remarkable family.

The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

E.G Higgins & Company Part #2

     Yesterday I began digging up information on the Higgins family...There appears to be more than one Higgins Family in Worcester, MA during the 1800's through the 1900's that were business owners, and lived on large estates. The other family I am looking at is Milton Prince Higgins & Katherine Elizabeth Chapins descendant line as it seems that this might actually be the family Ambrose Cully (my G-Grandfather worked for).  There are some Tax and expenditure papers at the Worcester, Massachusetts City Library that I will need to have researched and ordered in order to have the information confirmed.

     As I stated on a previous post, I am putting together a Higgins family tree.  I am also reviewing various biographies of the members of the families while gathering their home and business addresses (Worcester City Directory)   to see if they are all connected in some way while comparing them with Census Reports, and other documents that I have collected.

     Today, I am following up on E.G. Higgins & Company.  I found this background information on (free books) in the Worcester Directory of 1898.  

    Reading E.G. Higgins Company information, you can conclude that the  Wall-Papering business was lucrative.
      My mother told me that the Higgins, my ancestors worked for (in their home) were millionaires. I can  begin to do process of elimination, by looking at the jobs and the addresses and then comparing the individuals from the Biographies that I have found..(will be revealed on another post) to begin to narrow it down to what household they worked out of.
Worcester City Directory 1898
Higgins Households
    Some clues I can look at, is that the Higgins that my ancestors worked for supported the Education, and they encouraged my Uncle Wendell Culley to attend High School of Commerce, as he was the only African American at the school when he attended.  There is also a Katherine Higgins was a teacher at Commerce when Wendell was attending, and I am wondering if she helped him to remain in school and graduate.

The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

E.G. Higgins & CO (Wall Paper Ad) Part #1

     This week has been dedicated to researching the Higgins family, of which my Great Grandfather and two of my Grand Aunts worked for.  I was not going to post my research that I had for tonight as Professor Falco of Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts needed me to transcribe an article and I wanted to expound on it before posting....

   I decided to spend my night looking for the Cully name in the newspapers in Worcester, MA when I came across this advertisement for Wall Papers, from E.G. Higgins & Co.  I read about the various companies the Higgins owned and their standing in the community and was pleasantly surprised (but not too surprised), as it was not expected for me to find this tonight, so I thought I would blog it.

    My next goal for tomorrow is to find information about the E.G. Higgins & Co, to make sure I have the right Higgins family and to post what I find.

Date: 1890-12-07; 

Paper: Worcester Daily Spy

The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Research Day One: Higgins Family & Wendell Culley

     I had planned to spend my day researching The Higgins Family of Worcester, MA.  My mother love to tell stories about the history of our family on her mother's side, and in her journal she stated that my Great Grandfather Ambrose E. Cully
"lived in the plantation house (in the "manor", as it were), he learned to be a "gentleman", because he grew up in that sort of atmosphere, so being really able to "pass for white", and being well-schooled in the "gentlemanly" skills, he became a professional "gentleman's gentleman" or valet, for a very rich family in Worcester, Massachusetts."
     The very rich family my mother talked about were the Higgins.  They were millionaires and very well-known in Worcester. In 1890's it was not uncommon for families of the sort to have many servants under one roof.  Ambrose was the chief of the household staff.

     I also know that the two oldest daughters of Ambrose, my Aunt Hannah & Zara (of the "Jefferson's TV sitcom), worked for the Higgins and they were treated as their "pets".  They were given a great deal of financial help.

     So with this information, it is very important that I learn more about the Higgins family, so I started a family tree on of  the Higgins.   The purpose of the family tree, is so I can have some sort of timeline and get some sort of idea which Higgins household (according to generation) my family worked for.

     I went online to look at the Worcester, Massachusetts Public Library Catalog to see exactly what information I wanted to begin ordering copies of some of the Higgins Family Papers.  There are journals, financial statements and expenditures, biographies of family members, books, etc.  If I can get the time again, I am going to make another trip to Worcester and spend time looking in the Archives.  This is how far I got with the "Higgins" today, which I felt was not enough.

  I was pleasantly side-tracked by Professor Richard Falco from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  I had made initial contact with him at the beginning of 2011 to let the Professor know that my Grand Uncle Wendell Culley should be in his Jazz History Database that is specific to New England Jazz musicians.  I had come across it, I believe in 2008 and found other Jazz artists mentioning Wendell.  I also had found a genealogical Jazz musician tree that was created by another professor in MA, that placed Wendell at the base of the tree.  From these few informational points, I knew that I had to ensure that Wendell had his story told to the Jazz World and expressed to Dr. Falco that I would like him to be included, and he agreed.  

     Wendell had been a trumpet player for Noble Sissle, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, Count Basie and other greats.

This is one of the emails I received from Professor Falco:

     "In October, I will be conducting a class on "field research" and preservation of historical materials related to New England jazz.
 At that time, I'd very much like to contact you and/or other family members and friends of Mr. Culley.  My plan is to do telephone interviews with a few folks and use edited versions of the phone interviews on the web site.
 As you locate more names or more materials, please feel free to send them off to me via email.  I will compile these materials and have them ready for the Fall when I begin teaching this course.
 Please feel free to contact me over the Summer or Fall with any updates or questions you may have.
 Thank you for following up with this email.
All the best in your continued search!
 Rich Falco
Professor Richard Falco
Director of Jazz Studies
     So the call from Professor Falco was to confirm my interview which will be done electronically over a video system allowing me to be present in his class next month.  I will have the opportunity to share background information on the Cully's of Worcester, Ma, and the life of Wendell P. Culley, through an interview process that will be recorded and placed in their archives.  I am so looking forward to this opportunity. 


The material, both written and photographic on these pages is the copyright of Yvette Porter Moore unless stated. Material on this site may be used for personal reference only. If you wish to use any of the material on this site for other means, please seek the written permission of Yvette Porter Moore
© 2010-2011

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Time Flies

     Where has all the time gone?  It has been a few months since I have posted anything on this blog, but I am back.  Thanks to my cousin, Debra Newton-Carter.  Debra had been taking some time off to research and finally posted on her blog:  In Black and White: Cross-Cultural Genealogy.  She stated that I had inspired her to re-evaluate how she was posting on her blog.  Her writing is top-notch and very scholarly.  She stated she was going to use her blog to begin posting some of her research for her writing project.

     Well, I have to tell her, that she inspired and encouraged me from what she posted because I realized that I have not been focusing on the right task at hand.  I enjoy posting on Digging Roots: My Family History blog, but I have not been focusing on my main project.  My focus is on The Cully Family, who were a Free People of Color in the early 1800's.  It is true that I want to dig deeper into the other Surnames, which will come naturally as I relate the individuals to the Cully's in the Novel, but I need to stick to what is relevant to my project.

     Yes, I will still be posting to my Genealogy blog, but you will see more posts to this one on a regular basis.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Looking For The 411: Research

A street my Grandparents lived on in the 1920's

When writing a historical novel, it is so important to research the historical information of where the setting takes Place, who the people are (as they are not fictional), and interview those who may have known those individuals, or have been to those places.  It is important to put the Novel in a historical context; what were the clothing the people wore, what types of jobs did they hold, what was going on locally and nationally that was news worthy?

The Cully Family Novel is based off of the life of Betty Mae Peters, her ancestors, her family, and those she interacted with.

This week I am taking the time to read some books, so I can get an idea of how I would like my book to be.  I am making it a goal to post daily on my Digging Roots: My Family History Blog.  Some of the family information I write about is not just about the Cully Family even though the wealth of my information is from this blog.  This allows me to sort through the boxes, folders and piles I have on my family and put them in some type of organized filing system.

My research has taken me on Family History Trips to places like Harlem, NY; Worcester & Boston, MA, and Washington D.C., Florida, and Los Angeles.  I have interviewed people, looked for information in various libraries, made a wealth of phone calls and connections through the internet.  I have compiled a lot of information, but now it is time to make sense of it all.

I have been looking at a few free writing programs to allow me organize my writing in chapters.  Now that I have the majority of my research complete, I feel that I can begin writing.  The other information that I need can be filled into the story once I receive it.

So starting this week I will be writing and will do a daily post as to the progress of my writing.  I hope that this does not become mundane and I hope to bring something refreshing to the table.

Happy Writing!!!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Quote by Rina Swentzell (Inside of Book)

I like it when a book begins with some type of Quote, poem, or saying in the inside cover, or even on the front cover of the book.  I came across this Quote a few years ago, and I feel it sums up the meaning of why I do my genealogy, why I take family history trips, and why I believe that my ancestors are guiding me through the process.  I do plan on getting permission to use this in The Cully Family Book.
"What we are told as children is that people when they walk on the land leave their breath wherever they go. So wherever we walk, that particular spot on the earth never forgets us, and when we go back to these places, we know that the people who have lived there are in some way still there, and that we can actually partake of their breath and of their spirit."

Rina Swentzell, Santa Clara Pueblo

Monday, August 08, 2011

Studying & Preparation: Wrapped In Rainbows

What would reading other historical novels have anything to do with my preparation in writing my Cully Family History?  I find that it is important to read other materials in the literary world so that I have an idea of what other history researchers, and novelists have done in their style of writing, what their index looks like and what type of materials they are reading in their bibliography.

I read Wrapped In Rainbows, by Valerie Boyd a few years ago, but did not fully take note as to her process of writing...This time around I am, because it is clear to me that it is important to emulate, and learn from those that have gone through the process of writing and have the finished product.

I met Valerie Boyd April 25, 2008 at University of San Diego (USD)...I shared with her my project of writing my mother's memoirs and she gave me her e-mail so that I could keep in touch.  It took me over three years to contact her via e-mail, but I did.  (Message Below)

-----Original Message-----
From: Yvette Porter Moore
To: vjboyd
Sent: Fri, Aug 5, 2011 4:37 pm
Subject: Follow up since April 25, 2008

Good Afternoon Valarie,

I met you April 25, 2008 @USD at one of your book readings with the “BIG READ” program put on by the San Diego African American Story Tellers.  It has taken me this long to say hello as I felt I needed something substantial to begin our conversation.

I believe I shared with you that I was writing my mother’s memoirs of Sugar Hill, NY.  Well my writing has taken a different twist and a different turn.  I am fully immersed into Genealogy research, Writing, and Blogging about my family history.  I am reading your book again, “Wrapped in Rainbows,” and am really looking at your scholarly work, as I want to do the same for my book.  I want to have the same level of standards of the work that you introduced to the Reading world..I think you are amazing!

I am currently writing two books…”Embraced Identity” and “The Cully Family-An African American Legacy”  I hope to complete the 1st one in 6 months.  The later is very detailed and will probably take me another 5 years.

I just wanted to say thank you for encouraging me to move forward and work towards my dreams, even though our interaction was for a short moment.

My blogs are:,, I hope to have one more for the Cully Family writing.

I hope to stay in touch with you, and see what your next projects are.

You have a blessed and wonderful week, and hope to connect with you soon.


Yvette Porter Moore

Hi Yvette,Thank you so much for your message. I really appreciate your taking the time to write to me about your engagement with "Wrapped in Rainbows." I'm so glad you're enjoying the book the second time around. Good luck with all your writing and publishing endeavors.Stay in touch,Valerie

As a writer, a student of life, it is so important to reach out to those that you may not normally contact, but many are very open to supporting your efforts.  Valerie Boyd is a top notch researcher, historian, Author and writer, and one that I would not mind having as a mentor.

To Learn more about Wrapped In Rainbows and Valerie Boyd follow this link..Valerie Boyd/Wrapped In Rainbows

© Yvette Porter Moore-All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 05, 2011


Welcome to my new blog: The Cully Family-An African American Legacy.  It is my sincere pleasure to invite the outside world into my space to see how my Historical Novel will develop into a well researched Masterpiece of Art.  Why do I call it a Masterpiece of Art?  Because whenever you make something out of nothing and develop it into something that has an impact to the spirit and the heart of a people...I believe then that it is a Masterpiece of Art.

It is my sincere hope that you enjoy what I write and that my writing intrigues you enough to want to know more.        My interest of writing my Family History began when my mother passed, as I had promised her when she was living that I would help her with her memoirs of Sugar Hill in New York City.  I was to help her with her genealogy and discover names and piece together some of her historical background of her roots.  My mother never lived to realize the dream she had, but through me, I plan to incorporate her stories in the book I am writing on the Cully Family.

I look forward to any constructive criticism, advice, and your comments.  Thank you for taking the time to read my posts, and I look forward to sharing with you.