William Dorsey's Philadelphia and Ours: On the Past and Future of the Black City in America

By Roger Lane | Go to book overview

APPENDIX II
Sources for William Dorsey and His Family
Research on Dorsey's family was greatly helped by his granddaughter, Virginia Ramsey Chew, her niece Felicia Blue, and especially the family historian, her nephew Dr. Preston Johnson. Among other materials the family has shared are photographs of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas J. Dorsey, William and Virginia, Sarah, Ira and Thomas J., and several others; documents concerning William's marriage and the birthdates of his children; and letters. Dr. Johnson has done considerable research in archives and cemeteries. But above all he and others have their memories to share, which with a few minor differences check out in all available historical records, and have enabled us to crosscheck each other. The family has some personal memories of William Henry; the major blank spot in both the historical and these living records is his whereabouts and occupation until the early 1860s; he first appears in the city directory of 1861 as a "waiter," afterward as an "artist." His sisters Sarah Seville and Mary Harlan were not known, the latter's memory it seems deliberately suppressed, although there is an awareness of the Seville and especially Harlan connections, as the Harlan daughters grew up in Philadelphia, and there is a photograph of Robert Harlan, Jr., by then nearly 90, presiding over a family reunion in 1939. William's wife Virginia (Cashin) is still recalled vividly; so are their children who remained in Philadelphia, Thomas, John, and above all Sarah Ramsey. Virginia Dorsey Doll is also well remembered, but Ira and Vandyke, only occasional visitors or residents, are more shadowy figures.Other sources, official, private, and printed, are listed below:
Official Sources:
The manuscript census despite the strong caveats suggested in the introduction to Part II remains an essential tool. All census material from 1850 through 1880 may be found, cross-indexed and xeroxed, in the records of the Philadelphia Social History Project, kept at the university of Pennsylvania's Van Pelt Library; and PSHP's data bank has provided a printout of all black Dorseys officially found in the city during those years, with their ages, relationships, occupations, addresses, and birthplaces. The family's effective male founder Thomas J. Dorsey appears in all before his death in 1876, with his wife, to 1870, his children, and sometimes a

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