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Research Trips: Dreams Do Come True!

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

Dreams do come true.

This summer, I am receiving grants that will allow me to travel to do more research on Robert Jefferson and his family. The ultimate goal will be writing a book about him, his life, and, of course, his family. I have never been more excited about anything in my life. Well, except when I married my husband, Patter, 15 years ago on Aug. 4. That will always be the pinnacle of my life.

But, because of one grant I have received already, I will be traveling next week to the West Coast to meet with several of Robert and Celia’s descendants. I. Can’t. Wait.

On Wednesday, July 27, I head to Los Angeles to visit with two men – Bill Roberson, a descendant of Robert and Celia’s daughter Lucy, and Michael Powell, a descendant of Lucy’s sister, Georgianna. I have flown into and out of LAX airport, but I’ve never actually visited the city. So, I’ve decided to play the part of the consummate tourist: I have booked a bus tour of Hollywood and Celebrity Homes.


In fact, I’m taking a nonstop flight to LA from Indianapolis; so, I will be tremendously disappointed if there isn’t someone famous on that flight. Just sayin’. And they’d better be sitting right next to me, dammit! (Hey, like I said, dreams can come true!)

Then, on Friday, the 29th, I leave L.A. for San Francisco. I’ve been there before – my sister, my mom and I went there in 1999. One of the highlights was the tour of Alcatraz. It was amazing.

I will be staying four nights at an Airbnb in Oakland, and I plan to do some touristy stuff while I’m there, too. Definitely must include a wine tour, right?

I plan to meet with Emily Roberson, a second-great-granddaughter of Robert and Celia, while I’m there. Emily was first contacted about this research in about 1998 (long before I got involved) by Lynda Jae Brietwieser, who is one of the people responsible for obtaining National Landmark status for Eleutherian College.

On August 2, I’ll be heading for Seattle, but will make a stop in Portland to meet with Steve Woods, another descendant. In Seattle, I’ll be meeting with Sue Anderson Potter and her mom, Margaret Lee Anderson, who, like Emily and Bill, also is a second-great-grandchild of Robert and Celia. Bonus: Margaret’s two sisters will be visiting while I’m there, so I will get to meet them, too. And Sue and I plan to get them to do DNA tests, too! Because we all know, at the end of the day, the more people you can test for a DNA project, the better. I’m looking to see who her sisters might match that Margaret does not!

While I’m in Seattle, too, I will be staying with a very dear friend who I haven’t seen in probably 25 years. Her name is Sandy, and we met while in high school working at Wendy’s in Van Wert, Ohio. (We were members of the very first crew!) We went to different high schools; that was the best part for me when I worked there. I got to meet kids who I hadn’t gone to school with since I was 5 years old. It definitely expands one’s horizons.

We also will be having dinner with an old friend I met when at Ohio University in Athens, as well as a paternal cousin, Lorayne, whom I’ve never actually met, although we’ve been friends on Facebook for many years. Her mother was my first cousin, my dad’s oldest brother’s daughter. I never met her either; she passed away a couple years ago.

In September, I will be traveling to West Virginia and Virginia to do more research. Then, probably in October, I’ll be traveling to Jackson, Mississippi, where Lucy and Georgianna were born.

I am beside myself, and I feel extremely blessed. I am hoping, while I’m in Mississippi, that I might actually meet some descendants of Celia’s relatives. I am pretty sure that I have identified her father, and I think that these cousins should meet their Jefferson cousins, too!

At some point, too, I plan to travel to Ontario, Canada, to figure out why Robert Jefferson went there shortly after buying freedom for himself and his family and moving them to Madison, Indiana, in 1852. I have a feeling he did not travel there alone; I’m convinced he may have escorted other enslaved family members across the border so that they could be free, too.

Keep your fingers crossed. It’s going to be a wild ride.

Here I am, getting a tour of one of Microsoft's campuses, where my dear friend Sandy, who was my host while I was in the Seattle area, used to work.

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