Social History for Genealogy and the Colored Farmers’ Alliance

Social history plays a significant role in successful genealogical research. The events of a particular time-frame shed new light on the lives of our ancestors and ultimately lead us to new finds. In this post, Gems Reader Trisha asks questions regarding her family’s ties to the Colored Farmers’ Alliance.

social history for genealogy

“The Colored Farmers’ Alliance.” NBC News. NBCUniversal Media. 29 July 2007. NBC Learn. Web. 22 January 2015.

Did a Member of the Family Belong to the Colored Farmers’ Alliance?

Our Genealogy Gems Editor, Sunny Morton, received the following email recently from Trisha:

I am researching my great-grandparents in Northeast Arkansas. The census records I have found so far list that my great-grandfather was a famer. So, I started looking up farming associations hoping that maybe he was a member and I could find out more information about him and possibly any relatives that lived nearby. I came across the Colored Farmers’ Alliance that was in existence from 1886- 1891 in the southern states, but I have only been able to find out basic general public information about this agency. Do you know if, or how, I can find an Arkansas member list or something similar? Any help or advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

The History of the Colored Farmers’ Alliance

The Colored Farmers’ Alliance was formed in 1886 in the state of Texas. A group of southern African-American farmers had been barred membership to the other Farmers’ Alliances and hoped by creating this group, they would be able to cooperatively solve the common problems of its members. The group also encouraged African-American farmers to become economically independent by purchasing homes and eliminating debt. [“Colored Farmers’ Alliance,” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History (https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/populism-and-agrarian-discontent/timeline-terms/colore : accessed 28 Oct 2016).]

The organization took off and spread across the Southern United States. It’s peak membership was up to 1.2 million in 1891. However, the organization did not survive long. In 1891, the Colored Farmers’ Alliance called a general strike of African-American cotton-pickers and demanded a wage increase from 50 cents to $1 per hundred pounds of cotton. The strike failed and the group dissolved. [“Colored Farmers’ National Alliance and Cooperative Union,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colored_Farmers%27_National_Alliance_and_Cooperative_Union : accessed 28 Oct 2016).]

Pulling Together Some Answers

We pulled the whole team together for this one, and Sunny reached out to me regarding Trisha’s questions. In our initial research, we didn’t come across any references online to membership lists for any branch of the Colored Farmers’ Alliance, including Arkansas where Trisha’s ancestors lived. We did however find an article titled Preliminary research for writing a history of the Colored Farmers Alliance in the Populist movement: 1886-1896 by Omar Ali, written May 11, 1998, which states:
“Little detail is known about individual members of the Colored Farmers Alliance, including its leadership.”
That may not be surprising considering that the organization was attempting to improve member’s situations and fight for better pay. It’s possible that members may not have wished to be named due to concerns about repercussions. It would be important to learn more about the organization and the political and historical environment in which it operated in order to determine the probability of membership rolls existing or surviving.
While not everything is online (by any stretch of the imagination,) the web is the best place to do further homework to track down offline resources. Trisha could start by contacting the Arkansas State Library, and then exploring these search results from WorldCat.org which include a variety of works on the subject. It would also be very worthwhile to spend some time digging into the wide range of online resources such as Google buy syphilis medication Books and the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America digital newspaper collection. Let’s do that now!

Google Books

A search of colored farmers alliance delivers several results on the topic. Use search operators to help Google deliver even better results, by putting quotation marks around the search phrase “colored farmers alliance.” This instructs Google to return only web pages that contain that exact phrase. You’ll find more Google search strategies in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, which also includes an entire chapter on using Google Books for genealogy.

Here’s an example of one book I found called The Agrarian Crusade: A Chronicle of the Farmer in Politics by Solon J. Buck (1920).

 

Click here to see the entire search results list for the search query Colored Farmers Alliance in Google Books.

While I didn’t discover any references to actual member names beyond some of the leaders, Google Books certainly offers more depth and history on the Alliance.

Digitized Newspapers

colored farmers alliance

Indian chieftain., March 03, 1892, Image 1 at the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America.
(The Indian Chieftan was published in Vinita, Indian Territory [Okla.]) 1882-1902

While only a small fraction of newspapers published throughout history are digitized and online, what can be found offers a wealth of information. The Library of Congress’ Chronicling America offers an excellent cache of searchable newspapers for free. Subscription websites such as Ancestry’s Newspapers.com and Newsbank’s GenealogyBank offer real value if the newspaper you seek is held within their collections.
Since Chronicling America is free, that’s a good place to start. At the main search page, click the Advanced Search tab. On that page, you will have the option to search by state, publication, and dates. Under “Enter Search” fields, there are three options. Type the phrase colored farmers alliance into the “with the phrase” field. That will narrow the search results down to newpaper pages that include the entire phrase and will eliminate pages that have some or all of the words independent of each other. A search of all states for that phrase delivers over 325 digitized newspaper pages featuring articles that include that phrase.
At Newspapers.com, I found dozens of references as well, many from Arkansas newspapers. I also noticed that several individuals wrote and signed letters to the editor on the subject.

For more help on researching newspapers for genealogy, listen to my two part podcast series titled “Find Your Family History in Newspapers, Part 1 and Part 2.”

colored farmers alliance

members named

Google Scholar

Google Scholar offers not only well-researched works on a given subject, but also the ability to request only results with source citations. These citations not only help you weigh the accuracy and value of the paper, but provide intriguing new leads for research materials.
Using the same search operators as I did in Google Books, I retrieved over 175 results. To filter these results to only those with source citations, click the “include citations” box on the search page at the bottom, left side.
google scholar search for colored farmers alliance
The savvy genealogist will also want to experiment with variations on the query by adding words and phrases such as members included, members list, list of members, and so on.

YouTube

Since I devoted another chapter of my book to using another free Google tool, YouTube, I would be remiss if I didn’t run a quick search at the video giant website. Here is a link to the video I found online.

It’s amazing what the family historian can discover from the comfort of their own computer. With so many valuable resources discovered through an online search, a well-prepared trip to the library or archive will prove even more fruitful.

How to Use Google Lens

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 27

Original air date: 10/1/20
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history.

how to use google lens

Google Lens with Lisa Louise Cooke

What is Google Lens?

Google Lens is a free technology that Google says helps you ”search what you see.” It uses the latest in Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and artificial intelligence to accomplish tasks.

In this video and article we’ll discuss where you can get Google Lens and how to use it for a wide variety of tasks.

Hang on tight to your phone and let’s jump in!

Google Lens is in Google Photos

Google Lens is doing much of the work in Google Photos. It can detect the faces in your photos, and allow you to search by face. It can also detect objects and text, making it a super fast way to search the photos and images you store in Google Photos.

If you’re not interested in storing all of your photos on Google Photos, that’s OK. As a genealogist, you could still use it for more strategic purposes. You could use it just for family history photos and related genealogical images like documents and photos of tombstones. All of the content you add can then be quickly and easily searched for and found. It can even help you identify a known ancestor in other photos where you may not have recognized it was the same person.

We will talk about specific ways to use Google Lens in Google Photos. But first, let’s talk about all of the ways you can get your hands on Google Lens.

Where can I find Google Lens on my phone or tablet?

Google Lens is available on most mobile devices but not all. Some Samsung devices don’t currently support it. Here’s where you can find Google Lens.

Google Lens is built into Google PhotosDownload the Google Photos app to your phone. Pull up one of your photos and look for the Lens icon at the bottom of the screen. If it is there, your phone supports Google Lens.

Google Lens in the Google Search app – You will see the Lens icon in the search bar if your phone supports Google Lens.

The Google Lens app – On Android devices look for the Google Lens app in the Google Play app store.

Where can I find Google Lens on my computer?

Google Lens is primarily a mobile tool although Google Lens is built into the functionality of Google Photos. (It works behind the scenes – you won’t find a Google Lens icon.)

However, you can use your phone to user Google Lens to capture text and then send it to the Chrome browser on your desktop computer.

Using Lens in the Google Photos App

To use Google Lens on your photos in the Google Photos app, you’ll first need to give the app permission to receive the photos you take with your phone. You can then open the Google Photos app and select a photo. In this episode I used the example of a potted plant (Image A below).

Google Lens in the Google Photos app

(Image A) Google Lens in the Google Photos app

Tap the Google Lens icon at the bottom of the screen and you will receive search results that include the name of the plant, photo examples of the same plant, possible shopping options, and web pages providing more information about that plant.

Here’s another way you can use the Google Lens feature in the Google Photos app:

  1. Take a photo of a business card. (I used Google’s PhotoScan app to do this. The app does a great job of removing glare and other distortions that can occur when you photograph something with your phone. You can download the free Google PhotoScan app from your device’s app store.)
  2. Access the photo in the Google Photos app.
  3. Tap the Google Lens icon.
  4. Lens turns the information on the card into actionable buttons:
  • Add to contacts
  • Call now
  • search on the web
  • go to the website

 

Google Lens is in the Google Search app

On many mobile devices such as the iPhone (but not all devices) the Google Lens icon will appear in the search bar. If you’re not sure if you already have the Google Search app on your phone, go to the app store app on your phone and search for “Google Search.” You will see the app listed with a button that either says “Open” (because it is already on your phone) or “Install” (because it is not yet on your phone.)

You can also check to see if they app is on your phone by searching for “Google Search” in the search bar of your phone.

Here’s what the Google Search app looks like on a phone (Image B below):

The Google Wearch app

(Image B) Look for the Google Search app on your phone.

 

The Google Lens App

If you have an Android phone, search the Google Play store for the Google Lens app. Here’s what the app looks like (Image C below):

google lens app

(Image C) Android users with phone’s supporting Google Lens will find the app in the Google Play app store.

What Google Lens Can Do

Once you start using Google Lens the possibilities for its use can seem endless. Here’s a list of the kinds of things Google Lens can do:

  • Shopping
  • Identify Objects
  • Copy Text from printed materials or objects
  • Search for Text on printed material or objects
  • Solve math problems
  • Read text to you
  • Translate text

How to Use Google Lens to Read a Book

Before you buy that next history book or go through the trouble of requesting it through inter-library loan, why not let Google Lens determine if it is already available for free online? This next tip works really well for old books that are likely to be in the public domain or printed before 1924.

  1. Open the book to the title page
  2. Open the Google Search app on your phone
  3. Tap the Google Lens icon
  4. Hold your phone over the title page
  5. Tap the search button
  6. If the book is available on Google Books, the title will appear along with a blue “Read” button
  7. Tap the “Read” button to access, read and search the book on Google Books for free!
Learn more about Google with this book

(Image D) Point your phone’s camera or Google Lens at the QR code

Open the camera on your phone and point it at the QR code above (Image D)  to be taken to the book in the Genealogy Gems store.
Use coupon code LENS to get 20% off!

Resources

Premium Video & Handout: Solving Unidentified Photo Album Cases. (This video features using Google Photos.)
Book: The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke. (Includes search strategies, Google Photos, and Google Translate.)

Bonus Download exclusively for Premium Members: Download the show notes handout

Answers to Your Live Chat Questions

One of the advantages of tuning into the live broadcast of each Elevenses with Lisa show is participating in the Live Chat and asking your questions. 

From Rosalyn: Lisa are the old photos hanging on your wall the originals or copies? They are very nice.
Lisa’s Answer: I always put copies in frames when I hang them on the wall because light can fade originals. They are all my family.

From Jn Rollins: ​Does it do the same identification for birds?
Lisa’s Answer: I haven’t snapped a photo of a bird, but I’m sure it could. I used it on a photo of a bird, and it identified it perfectly.

From Susan: ​I have to download an app to get the lens icon?
Lisa’s Answer: If you have an Android phone, you may be able to download the free Google Lens app from your app store. Otherwise, you will find the icon in the Google Search app or the Google Photos app on supported devices.

From Patriva: ​Is Google Go the same as Google Search?
Lisa’s Answer: Google Go is a “lighter faster” search app. I think it may be geared more toward Samsung devices. I have a Samsung Tab and it doesn’t support Google Lens.

From Carrie: ​Does this work with the Google Chrome app?
Lisa’s Answer: The Chrome app doesn’t have the Google Lens icon.

From Jn Rollins: ​I installed Lens a while ago on my Android phone, but when I open Google search the lens icon doesn’t appear next to the microphone icon. How can I change that?
Lisa’s Answer: Some Android devices (like Samsung phones) don’t support Google Lens so you won’t see the icon. Check the app store to see if they offer the Google Lens app for your phone. However, I’m guessing it probably won’t be offered since it sounds like your phone doesn’t support Google Lens.

From Christine: ​I love this technology for speeding up research! But I have some reservations—what privacy are we giving away? How will Google use our search history?
Lisa’s Answer: I would not use Google Lens for anything I consider “sensitive.” Go to the privacy settings in your Google MyActivity to learn more.

From Lynnette: ​Can you put the text into Evernote easily?
Lisa’s Answer: Absolutely! Tap to copy the detected text, open an Evernote note, press your finger in the note and tap Paste to paste the text.

From Colleen: I see you are google searching. Does doing this with photos allow others to access my google photos when searching for an item? For example, the example you used with the purse?
Lisa’s Answer: To the best of my knowledge your photos are not searchable by others online. However, it is possible that Google uses the image internally to “train” the machine learning. Go to the privacy settings in your Google MyActivity to learn more.

From Christine: Lisa, can this be used to compare photos to determine if they are the same person? Thanks for sharing all your wisdom!
Lisa’s Answer: Yes! Watch my Premium membership video called Solving Unidentified Photo Album Cases.

From Caryl: ​Don’t know what a symbol is on a headstone? Now this would be oh so helpful!!
Lisa’s Answer: Yes, indeed!

From Susan: ​I quickly took a photo of the book cover, so now I can get your book! Is it better to buy directly from you or go to Amazon?
Lisa’s Answer: The book is available exclusively at my website: https://www.shopgenealogygems.com

From Debbie: Will FamilySearch’s app be independent, or will it work / integrate with Google?
Lisa’s Answer: FamilySearch would not be integrated. However, as handwriting technology is developed I’m sure you’ll find it in use in both places.

Please Leave a Comment or Question

I really want to hear from you. Did you enjoy this episode? Do you have a question? Please leave a comment on the video page at YouTube or call and leave a voice mail at (925) 272-4021 and I just may answer it on the show!

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