A Race Against Time: The Quest for a Living Descendant


Vincent Flowers at Messiah Academy, Courtesy of Messiah College Archives

Vincent Flowers, Rachel’s brother passed away in 2002.
Edna Wiggins, Rachel’s sister-in-law, died in 2004.
About seven years later, Paul Stevenson passed away in 2011. He was Rachel’s nephew.

A great amount of history is lost with each death that occurs within the Flowers’ family. I cannot help to wonder if this research was started in the 90s, early 00s, or even four years ago, how much information could have been gained. Then again, I would still be a biology major with no blog, no research, and most importantly I would not be dealing with this brutal Boston weather. In pursuit of this family history, I learned time is not on your side. First, I must find a living descendant for the remaining Flowers are older in age. I also must wait for government records and documents, such as census records, are released to the public. The last census I need is the 1980 Federal Census, which given current privacy laws would not be released until 2052….

As I wait to hear back from graduate schools, it is my goal by the end of the summer to locate a living descendant of Rachel Flowers. This is new to me, locating relatives in the present day. As phone books have moved to online platforms and as more and more people are leaving a greater digital footprint, one must think it would be easier. It could be easier, it could not be easier. Let’s find out together.



Harrisburg Telegraph, 1928

It is no myth, an obituary is equivalent to hitting a gold mine when it comes to family history, ancestry, and genealogy. Out of the 80 plus members of this family tree (I focus on 40 members), I have eight obituaries and newspaper articles pertaining to the individual’s death. Given the prominent of this family, it was my hope to have at least twenty obituaries. For example, their are over 100 articles on Rachel between the Philadelphia Inquirer, Harrisburg Telegraph, and the Afro-American Baltimore. Articles speak of her activism within the community, her extravagant parties, and even her absence from events, yet there is no mention of her marriage or death. So, after three years of research I have the obituaries of the following family members: Harry Flowers, Henry Sams, Edna Wiggins, George Conway, Chauncey Sawyer, Hilda Wilson, Herbert Wilson, and Geraldine Wilson.


Philadelphia Tribune, 1936

Philadelphia Tribune, 1962

EDNA C. WIGGINS, age 77, on March 12, 2004, of Media, PA, born Twin Oaks, PA; wife of the late Henry Sams. A graduate of Temple University, where she received a BS and Masters Degree in Education, she taught Reading and English at Chester High School and Cheyney University for 30 years in years retiring in 1996. She received numerous awards in the field of education; sister of Jesse O. Brooks of Claymont, DE; stepsister of Mary Ellen Davis of Scotland Neck, NC; godmother of Kay Anderson of Media, PA….

Published in Philadelphia Inquirer on March 18, 2004.

This is the most recent obituary I have for any member of the family and this is where I will begin.

Until the next post,


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