When I first started looking into the life of Sadie Peterson Delaney, I hadn't gotten serious about genealogy yet. I'd written some biographical profiles for a book on Irish American history, but the author who hired me for that project didn't expect me to delve into original records. All the typical sources of genealogical information were still unfamiliar to me back then, so I hadn't gotten around to looking for Delaney in census records and such until recently.
Because census records are easily available to me through Ancestry.com, they're usually the first resource I consult when I begin to investigate a person's life. I'd already located articles written by and about Delaney, so I had a pretty good idea of where she was living during the decennial census years. I'd even made a timeline of significant events from Delaney's life. Unfortunately, I hadn't developed the genealogist's habit of citing sources, so the timeline I put together back in 2002 provides no hints about where I found the information.
Now that I've taken the time to retrace my steps and do some more investigating, one of the events on my timeline appears to be incorrect. And much to my surprise it wasn't the census that cleared things up!
I'd always assumed that Sadie had a daughter by the husband she divorced in 1924, probably because I'd read that Delaney "married Edward Louis Peterson in 1906 and had one daughter, Grace Peterson Hooks, in 1907." Some of the census records I found seemed to support my assumption, while others cast doubt on it.
In 1910, Sadie M. Peterson lived with her parents (James and Julia Johnson) in Poughkeepsie, New York. She was married, but husband Edward Louis and daughter Grace were not enumerated with the Johnson household. In 1915, Sadie Pettison [sic] and Grace Peterson both lived with the Johnson family, with Grace listed as the "granddaughter" of James Johnson, head of household. Edward Louis Peterson did not appear to be a member of the Johnson household at that time. In 1920, Sadie Peterson still lived with her parents in Poughkeepsie. Twelve-year-old Grace Peterson went from "granddaughter" to "boarder," and Edward Louis Peterson remained conspicuously absent from the household. Ten years later, Sadie Delaney had moved to Tuskegee, Alabama, and lived with Rudicel A Delaney, her second husband. Grace H. Peterson was there too, listed as "daughter" to the head of household. By 1940, Grace no longer appears to be part of the Delaney household in Tuskegee.
Sadie Peterson Delaney worked at the Harlem branch of The New York Public Library (NYPL) before starting a library at the veterans hospital in Tuskegee, and a collection of her papers can now be found at the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division of NYPL's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. A finding aid for Delaney's papers contains information about the collection, including the name of the person who donated it. Apparently, the Sadie Peterson Delaney papers were a gift from "Mrs. Grace P. Hooks, Dr. Delaney's stepdaughter."
Now that certainly puts a new spin on things, doesn't it? So much for all my assumptions. What a find, and in a finding aid, no less! Not in the papers the finding aid describes, but in the finding aid itself. Interesting . . . and quite unexpected.
I'll definitely have more to say about this discovery in the future, but for now I'll point you to my friend Gena Philibert-Ortega's blog. Gena's been keeping busy this month with her 31 Days of Resources for Researching Your Female Ancestor series. Check out her latest in Women's History Month 2013: Finding Aids.
 Edward T. O'Donnell, 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History (New York: Broadway Books, 2002).
 Betty K. Gubert, "Sadie Peterson Delaney: Pioneer Bibliotherapist," American Libraries 24 (February 1993): 124, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25632815.
 "Sara P. Delaney," Gale Biography in Context (http://www.galegroup.com : accessed 11 Jul 2011); citing Notable Black American Women (Detroit: Gale, 1992).
 1910 U.S. census, Dutchess County, New York, population schedule, Poughkeepsie Town, enumeration district 76, sheet 12B, dwelling 220, family 259, James Johnson household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 Mar 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 937.
 1915 New York state census, Dutchess County, population schedule, Poughkeepsie, page 19, street [blank], house number [blank], James Johnson household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 Mar 2013); citing State Population Census Schedules, 1915 (Albany: New York State Archives).
 1920 U.S. census, Dutchess County, New York, population schedule, Town of Po'keepsie, Arlington, enumeration district 63, sheet 2B, dwelling 40, family 41, James Johnson household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 Mar 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 1098.
 1930 U.S. census, Macon County, Alabama, population schedule, Precinct 1, Tuskegee Institute, enumeration district 44-20, page 60 (stamped), sheet 2B, dwelling 47, family 49, Rudicel Delaney household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 Mar 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 36.
 1940 U.S. census, Macon County, Alabama, population schedule, Tuskegee, enumeration district (ED) 44-2, sheet 3B, visitation 56, Richard Delaney household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 26 Mar 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 55.
 Finding Aid for Sadie Peterson Delaney Papers, 1921-1958 (http://www.nypl.org/ead/3605 : accessed 26 March 2013).
Copyright © 2013, Madaleine J. Laird. All rights reserved.