, Boolean search strings, and finding lost post Civil War ancestral lines

I always enjoy genealogy research conference calls with my Edgefield-connected cousins Donya, Sheila, and Loretta. They are always illuminating. Nine times out of ten, we can solve whatever thorny genealogical conundrum we’re faced with at the time. During a recent call with our cousin Donya, Loretta reminded me of a research strategy I had used to employ regularly…and had simply fallen out the the habit of doing.

The research strategy Loretta reminded me of was doing very broad searches using

As I mentioned in my previous post – Using military draft cards to find your kin during the post US Civil War migration periods via – my Old Ninety-Six regional kinspeople rode out of their native South Carolina in three big pulses:

  1. The first pulse came quickly upon the heels of the Civil War, with groups of ancestral kin leaving South Carolina for Ohio (Elyria, Ohio in particular), North Carolina (Winston-Salem, Asheville, and Raleigh in particular, as well as Halifax, Wake, and Buncombe Counties in general), and Arkansas. Smaller groups rode out to Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee during the same time period.
  2. The second migratory pulse occurred during the WWI era, with large groups of kin heading north to Michigan (mostly Detroit), Illinois (Cook County), Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, as well as Chester County), Washington D.C., Maryland (Baltimore), Delaware, New York, and New Jersey. A second pulse into North Carolina also occurred during this period.
  3. The third great movement of family occurred during WWII and continued through the 1950’s. Their ports of call mirrored those in the second pulse, with the addition of Massachusetts, Georgia, and, to a lesser extent, California, as places for relocation. has been a key resource in picking up the threads for many of my ancestral lines which left South Carolina. Using broad boolean search strings (permission granted to nerd out on that term!) on has enabled me to find these lines; and follow up on what happened to them once they left South Carolina. 

What is Boolean Search?

The website defines a Boolean Search as a way to organise your search parameters using a combination of keywords, and the 3 main Boolean operators (AND, OR and NOT), to produce more accurate and more relevant results for online searches.

The first important thing to appreciate about Boolean, is that there are only 5 elements of syntax to understand. These are:

AND  OR  NOT  ()  “”

By applying these appropriately, along with the keywords you wish to consider, you can create a huge range of search operations. There is no limit to how often you can use any of these elements in a search, so you can create very specific search strings, which will save you a lot of time in filtering the results.

Think of this as fine-tuning or refining online searches to achieve better, more accurate, or more relevant online search results. For more in-depth explanations of Boolean searches and how to use them, please visit to see how recruitment consultants use these search strings. The article has real world examples that are easily adaptable to online genealogical searches.

I began my search using a simple, broad search string:

I wanted to focus on former Edgefieldians who lived and/or died in Pennsylvania with this search. I wanted to exclude any newspaper articles that mentioned Strom Thurman. The revelation that Strom had a natural born daughter with a black family servant was big news at the time. This wasn’t what I wanted to research. Using this boolean filter excluded some 100 or so articles from my search. Which still left me with just over 3,000 articles to work through in Pennsylvania. In all, I found around 30 Pennsylvania newspaper articles, mostly obituaries and marriage\engagement announcements, that were very useful.

I repeated the same for Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and the District of Columbia. These were the main places I know my kinsmen removed to during the three migration pulses I outlined above. 

I will rinse and repeat this process for the following terms:

  • Of Abbeville
  • Of Aiken
  • Of Barnwell
  • Of Greenwood
  • Of Greenville
  • Of McCormick
  • Of Newberry
  • Of Richland
  • Of Saluda

These were significant places of origin connected to my South Carolina kinspeople. It only makes sense to use the same strategy to find kinspeople from these South Carolina areas in the various states I’ve listed above.

I will warn you in advance: this is a lengthy and time consuming research strategy. It casts the widest possible net. The rewards though outweigh the effort of sifting through each and every result.

So let’s take another look at the image I used above:

Take a look at the map image in column on the left side of the image. Anything jump out at you? It’s no surprise that South Carolina appears in a dark shade of the colour red. Edgefield is an old county in South Carolina. It stands to reason that there will be thousands of articles in South Carolina newspapers. So this isn’t significant in and of itself. You’d expect this to be the case.

No, what piqued my interest was why Tennessee appeared as a dark pink. I knew Edgefieldians had removed themselves to Tennessee. However, I thought these family groups were outliers. was telling me there was far more going on than a handful of families moving from South Carolina to Tennessee. Something significant was happening.

I then found an important and very straightforward indication of what was going on:

Indeed, many of the early articles that formed the search results for Tennessee, that mentioned Edgefield, were dated between 1868 and 1890. This timeframe aligns with the first post Civil War pulse of migration I mentioned earlier. There was an interesting link between Nashville and Edgefield  which requires far more in-depth research. Something was going on for this relationship between these two places to have happened. At the moment, I have no idea what that the underlying force was nor when this relationship between these two areas began.

If the relationship between Nashville and Edgefield  was established earlier, in the slavery era, this will have implications for my research. The explanation could be, and probably is, that I will have enslaved kinspeople who were taken to Tennessee from Edgefield. Some of my  missing  Nineteen Century black ancestral lines will likely to be found in Tennessee, something I hadn’t considered in any great depth. Now, I have to consider this likelihood. Settle(s) / Suttle  is one Edgefield surname I’ve seen in some of the Tennessee articles from the 1870’s time period. That is one of the significant surnames from my direct line. I’m looking forward to investigating this further.

I do have one caveat. I have exclusively referenced There are other online Newspaper repositories, such as Chronicling America I understand simply because I have used it for years, and I understand how it works with a deeper understanding than I do with other similar newspaper repositories. It’s a personal preference. You might find another divital newspaper archive service better suited to how your research needs. 

I will also use African American newspaper repositories to further locate family lines that were lost due to migration viaðnicity=African+American&language#tab=tab_search

This research strategy is a lengthy one. However, it can reveal pure nuggets of gold.


Endogamy on the plantation

**updated 20 December 2017**

Today I am going to spend a little time discussing endogamy -the practice of generations of cousin marriages – within a specific context. Enslaved African-descended people toiled across every pre-industrialized sphere. While I have uncovered small numbers of enslaved kin who laboured in mines, aboard paddle boats, were dock workers, or manufacturing; the vast majority were enslaved within an agricultural context. That is the sphere the majority of my research has focused upon. It’s what I know. Hence the somewhat narrow scope of this article.

Before I delve into the topic of this article, I’d like to paint a quick picture of what life was like on the farm or the plantation. I do so with the aim of illustrating the practical reality of how endogamy affected commnities of enslaved people. For African Americans who have tested their DNA, this will be an important aspect of your ancestry that needs to be understood. Endogamy is a complicated factor that absolutely influences genetic cousin matches: the number of chromosome segments you will share with dna cousins, and the amount of cMs you will share.

A farm or plantation (for convenience, I am going to use the term farm for both) was, for all intents and purposes, was like a county, or a state, or a country, in microcosm. The boundaries that formed the property of an enslaved person’s (EP) enslavers acted like the border of a country. That’s not far-fetched. An EP needed a piece of paper from his or her enslaver in order to leave it, and safely return. God help the unfortunate EP who came across a slave patrol without that piece of paper, which acted like a type of passport.

Your life, and every aspect of your life, played out within the confines of the farm you were enslaved on. What you did, when you did it, and how you did it, was controlled. Typically, you did not have the freedom to come and go as you pleased. Typically, you did not have control over your own body…that belonged to someone else.

Did my enslaved ancestors and kin have a say in who they had children with? It looks like some did, and some did not. For every Venus Josey who chose for herself, I have a Louisa Hammond or Elizabeth Henley who did not. No clear picture has emerged when it comes to reproduction among my ancestors’ enslaved EPs. What I can say with certainty is this: my ancestral EPs married within the same enslaved community in which they themselves were bound.

Let’s take a look at how such a community could be comprised.

The above image comes from my own ancestry. It illustrates the enslaved population held by Daniel Williams, Jr and his wife, Luanna “Anna” Henderson, my 6x great grandparents. Daniel inherited EPs from both of his parents. Anna would have brought dowry slaves with her when she married him. She too inherited EPs from her parents. This is also a great example to work with. Anna and Daniel were first cousins – a prime example of endogamy within a family defined by a series of cousin marriages. Some of the EPs she brought with her from her mother, Elizabeth William’s, family – those who were biologically Williams, Petersons, Keelings, and Sheppards – were cousins to some of Daniel’s EPs who were biologically Williams, Sheppards, Keelings, and Petersons themselves.

My Williams family has been interesting to research. They had two types of EPs: those who were their kin, and those who were not. EPs who were kin were largely kept within the family for generations; going from parent to his or her children or grandchildren. EPs who weren’t kin were typically sold to whomever – unless the EP was a female who bore one or more mulatto children to her enslaver. Those who bore children to their enslaver were then classed as family.

Daniel’s ancestors weren’t coy or shy about marrying their cousins. Beginning in early colonial Virginia, then into North Carolina and South Carolina, Williams married Sheppards, Keelings, and Petersons over and over again. All of those names in Daniel’s paternal family box? They were cousins. Those cousins also produced enslaved mulatto children, some of whom came into Daniel’s sphere through subsequent inheritances…and had children by their enslaved Williams cousins. His mother’s enslaved Clark kin entered into this mix. As did his wife’s EPs, whether they were her kin or not.

Now, you’re an EP who has reached adulthood. The time has come for you to start a family of your own. You either have the chance to settle with a mate your enslavers approve of from within your own community….or you’re used as a breeder, mated with anyone your enslaver so pleases. For the purposes of this article, I am focussing on the former.

Using my ancestral EPs held by Daniel as an example, you would be a young adult with a high probability of settling down with a cousin from within your confined community. One way to avoid that would have been to form a union with an unrelated EP newly introduced to your community through a purchase. Or by settling down with a mistress’s dowry slave, or a child of someone who was a dowry EP. Your ability to avoid marrying another EP who was a cousin depended upon the number of non-related EPs introduced into your community via marriage or purchase.

The above image is taken from the book Slave Records of Edgefield County, South Carolina. The EPs I’ve highlighted with proven surnames link back to Daniel’s paternal family.It’s an image that perfectly illustrates endogamy within an enslaved population. You will see the Sheppard surname in the list of names in Daniel’s paternal family box.

Some of these families left the sphere of the Williams to enter the sphere of the Sheppard’s due to a Sheppard-Williams cousin marriage.

My cousin, the author Donya Williams, and I have spent years working together researching our Edgefield family. The information above, covering some of our common ancestral EPs, has been the result of years of research. Our research has shown that whether your surname was Harling, Hill, Peterson, Sheppard, or Stark – you were part of the same family that was white, black, and mulatto. You were part of the same family because your ancestors were held in bondage by the same extended enslaving family generation after generation. I’d even argue that, by 1800, none of my EPs needed to have a white father in order to pass European DNA to their children (although this was still occuring up to the dawning of the Civil War). That DNA was already within the enslaved population going all the way back into the early colonial period of Virginia.

Endogamy within the farm community meant shared ancestral European and African DNA becoming amplified. It’s the reason why Donya and I share a minimum of 6 or 7 sets of shared black and white ancestors. It’s why we share an unusual number of chromosomes, chromosomal segment lengths, and cMs.I have to laugh at this point because our white, black, and mixed cousins didn’t stop marrying each other after 1800. Heck, cousin marriages were still going strong in the 1900s!

Turning to Anna, all I know about her is within the context of being Daniel’s wife. I know nothing of her life prior to her marriage. If she is indeed a biological Henderson, then I know enough about the families the Hendersons married into to have enough of an insight into the biological inheritance of the EPs she brought with her into her marriage. Those bloodlines merged with those of Daniel’s EPs. Those surnames will begin to appear among some of the families listed in the second image above. I can’t confidently figure that out until I figure Anna and her family out. DNA has clues, as does the 1870 Census. However, to seal the deal, I would need to see probate records and deeds from her parents. In order to do that, I need to know who her parents were.

To summarize, in order to understand the genetic history of your EPs, you must understand the community of EPs your enslaved ancestors were part of. Who were the other families held by the same enslaving family…and for how long were they held in bondage together? The answer to this is one means of smashing the brick walls around your ancestral EPs.

For further insight into how endogamy affects your research, I invited the you to read my previous article on the subject: Endogamy: Or how an entire county can be related via

John Yeldell (aka Rev. Elijah Flemon): A 19th Century black political activist

elijah flemon

Rev Elijah Flemon is the elderly gentleman seated at the head of the table. Picture credit: African Americans in Mercer County by Roland Barksdale-Hall, Arcadia Publishing, 2009 via

Born in Edgefield, SC at the end of slavery, John would go on to become a household name in the America of the 1880s. He was more famous than Frederick Douglass for a spell. It’s a story that has fascinated me for years, once that my cousin Donya Williams shared with me.

The story of John Yeldell (aka the Rev Elijah Flemon) is worthy of a movie. Sincerely. The twists and turns are incredible.  However, as Donya Williams has written about him in her book, Comes to the Light: The Entangled Families of Edgefield County, it’s a story I have left for her to tell.

You can get a great overview of his history in the video below:

Pleasant Roane Part II: An unexpected link to Thomas Jefferson and Monticello

There are times when my adventures in genealogy blow my mind.  This is one of them.

I wrote about my visit to Monticello last week (Visiting Monticello via )  What I didn’t say in that post is that the day after my visit to Monticello, I received an email from a Steven D. Now, Steven had no idea that I had visited Monticello the day before he sent his email.  No one did.  My phone battery had died by the time we reached the estate, so I had no way of sharing that adventure on social media.

So imagine my surprise when I received the email from Steven regarding the remarkable story of Pleasant Roane (Pleasant Roane (Rowan) and the road to manumission in Lynchburg via

His [Pleasant’s] father was Peter. Peter was owned by [John] DePriest, but Peter, his wife and a son were purchased from Thomas Jefferson in 1791. I have copies of John Sr and Jr, wills regarding the slaves they kept and sold.


Thomas Jefferson

Monticello and Thomas Jefferson…again.

I also now have the name of one of Pleasant’s parents, which I didn’t have previously: his father, Peter. This short email has opened a new line of research for Pleasant and his family. 

To clarify, Steven is a DePriest family descendant. I literally had goose bumps when I read Steven’s email. I was just there. I had just stood on the ground where Peter, Pleasant and their family had lived and toiled until they went to John DePriest. Take away the modern developments, and the trees that were planted by the subsequent owners of the estate…I had just seen the same vista that they would have seen. That’s some powerful mojo.

This is the perfect reason why genealogy is a powerful actor in my life. I never know what discovery is on the horizon.

Needless to say I’m in touch with the people at Monticello to see what records exists for Pleasant, his parents, and his siblings.

Visiting Monticello

I had the opportunity to visit Monticello the other day. Considering my recent trip where I visited some of my Roane family relations on another plantation in Louisiana, I knew It was going to be a day of mixed emotions.

While I knew Monticello sat atop a mountain, it never occurred to me exactly what went into its actual construction. Enter our (amazing) tour guide, Mary. One of the first things she told our tour group was that it had taken hundreds of enslaved people to literally level the uppermost part of the mountain in order to create the flat plateau visitors to Monticello see today. It didn’t occur to me until long after our tour had finished to ask how much earth had been removed as part of that human engineering feat. It was an exceedingly hot and humid day when we visited. I couldn’t image the physical toll that endeavor must have taken. While the view from the house and the surrounding gardens and terraces are stunning…they came at a real human price.


The land surrounding Monticello is what remains of the top of a mountain which was cleared away through the labour of enslaved people


The image above gives you some idea of the view of the surrounding area from Monticello.  You can literally see the surrounding countryside for miles in every direction.

Thomas Jefferson, the man behind the building of Monticello, was a practical man. The tons of earth his enslaved population removed, in order to clear the land for the estate, were used to make the very bricks which built the house. It was also used to daub the gaps of the cabins built for his enslaved population. Very little, it seems, went to waste.


The bricks used in the construction of the house and the surrounding terraces and outbuildings were made with the distinctive red soil that was removed in the creation of the flat plateau.

At the start of the tour, Mary asked people in our group where we’d come from. I mentioned that I was from London and Boston. I can’t remember the exact question that prompted my next answer. It had something to do with was I excited about being there. I laughed as I told her I was, but for a reason she probably would find very hard to believe. She countered with “Try me.” So I mentioned that Thomas Jefferson was an ancestral cousin via one set of known common ancestors – Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset, and his wife, Margaret Wolton. Mary didn’t blink and answered with something of a cheeky grin: “Why on earth would I find that hard to believe?” There are other common ancestors via my Randolph line, however, I need to do much more work on that family to find the relatively more recent common ancestors via that line. My sister mentioned that Sally Hemmings was also a cousin and a Sheffey family relation via her Woodson descendants.

It was at that point that I clocked her surname…and spent the rest of the tour impatiently waiting for a chance to ask her a question about some of her ancestors. Mary’s surname is one that I know very, very well from years of researching my Virginia family. Because I haven’t had an opportunity to ask her if she’d be fine with me using her full name (I’m positive she would be. However, it’s always good to have that permission), I’m not going to publish her surname.


My brother (left) and I chatting to our newfound cousin Mary (centre). The small building in the background is where Thomas Jefferson and his family lived during the construction of Monticello.  Picture courtesy of Khoncepts

So, as we moved to one of the terraces, I asked her if she was a descendant of a famous Jamestown family. She readily answered ‘yes’. I explained how I was a descendant of the same family via a labyrinth of Ball-Mottrom marriages on my father’s maternal line through his Roane line, as well as Poythress-Strother marriages on his paternal side of his family through his Clark line. She laughed out loud. That was it. We were cousins. I had to laugh myself. I joked with her that she couldn’t have expected that as she got ready for work that morning. She couldn’t resist sharing that piece of news with the rest of the tour group.

Which just goes to prove one of the central premises behind Genealogy Adventures: Americans are connected to each other in amazing, surprising, and long forgotten ways – regardless of race, ethnicity, or other measures used to divide us from one another.

Things took a decidedly deeper, more contemplative, and spiritual turn as my siblings and I made our way to where Sally Hemmings had her rooms.


My brother and I standing in front of Sally hemming’s rooms. Picture courtesy of Khoncepts

Where she lived is currently an active archaeological dig site, so we were not able to actually go in and see. Nevertheless, in the moments before the above snap was taken, I spent some time contemplating the life of this familial relation. The range of emotions was wide and varied.

Next came Mulberry Row.  It was here that I stood inside a cabin for enslaved people for the first time in my life. The Hemmings cabin, as it’s called, is a reproduction – and by no means your typical slave cabin. From what our second tour guide told us, it reflected the status of the Hemmings family – well, as much ‘status’ as any enslaved person could attain  Just to put that into a realistic context.


Exterior shot of the Hemmings cabin


Interior shot of the Hemmings cabin

Too many thoughts went through my head to share here. Everywhere I looked, I returned to the thought than an entire family would have shared this humble space. I went pretty quiet as I contemplated that existence.  Suffice to say it was a powerful and stark experience. My only comment was to my brother as I said that, while I knew there were many African-descended Americans who couldn’t make the same claim – that our family had come a long, long way from the days this cabin represented. That’s all that needed to be said.

Our final stop before we left was the cemetery for the enslaved people. That space hit me the hardest.


There are 400 known enslaved souls who toiled at Monticello. To-date, only 40 of their burials are known. No one knows who any of these 40 individuals were. They are nameless. The area of the demarcated cemetery is small. It would take a minute to walk across its width, and about a minute to walk across its length. It’s small. As for headstones or engraved markers? There are none. Just a few rocks.


The image above is a plaque with a list containing the names of only a fraction of the enslaved souls who died at Monticello.  It is not an indication of any of the 40 known graves in the fenced off portion of the cemetery.

To say this hit me hard would be an understatement. It was like being sucker punched. I simply wasn’t expecting it. Nor was I alone. A friendly, middle-aged European-descended couple arrived just as my siblings and I were leaving. The wife asked us if we knew where the slave cemetery was. My siblings and I pointed to the space in front of us , and said, almost in unison: “This is it.”

Both of them looked perplexed. And the wife asked us another question: “But where are the headstones?” My voice was pretty flat as I spoke. “Those handful of rocks. That’s it.” Both of them were horrified, and visibly upset. All I could offer them was, “It is what it is.”  Really, that’s all I could say.  In that instance they got it.  I knew they got it. I could see it on their faces. And, I suppose, that is the unspoken power of places like Monticello.

That’s the full circle of my experience at Monticello.  At the start, it was visiting the ancestral home of a distant cousin.  The latter, the stark reminder of why I am related to Thomas Jefferson at all….through slavery. It’s quite the thing to wrap my head around at times and face.  However, as I said to the couple at the cemetery for the enslaved, it is what it is.

The Moses Williams Project in the news: San Diego Free Press

image showing The Moses Williams Project Article: A Genealogy Adventure with Slave and Supercentenarian Moses Williams | San Diego Free Press

The Moses Williams Project Article: A Genealogy Adventure with Slave and Supercentenarian Moses Williams | San Diego Free Press

Donya Williams, the four-times great-granddaughter of a man named Moses Williams, asked me if I would help draw attention to some research she and a cousin are doing titled: Stronger Together: The Moses Williams Genetic Genealogy Project.

So I started reading a bio she sent me of their work and can’t help but think they already know what they’re doing.

I was barely into reading other information when the names Strom Thurmond, 50 Cent, Al Sharpton, and L.L. Cool J jumped out at me – names I wouldn’t ever expect to appear in the same sentence.

I mean what could a white Southern senator who loves the KKK and a man who raps, “There’s no business like ho business” and a melodramatic Baptist preacher “Keepin’ it Real” and the creator of “Mama Said Knock You Out” possibly have in common?

Well, they’re all from Edgefield, South Carolina. And they’re all in one way or another related to the cousins. When this project is completed I want to hear that story.

Read more:

Save these dates: We’re on the Extreme Genes radio show, 1st-3rd July 2017


Set your alarms to listen. My cousin Donya and I will be on the Extreme Genes Genealogy show, which will be broadcast on 1st and 2nd July. The on-demand streaming version will go live on 3 July.

Donya and I talk about finding each other through DNA, genealogy…and, of course, the Moses Williams Project and what we aim to achieve through the project.

Click the link below to set a reminder:[%7B%5C%22surface%5C%22%3A%5C%22post_page%5C%22%2C%5C%22mechanism%5C%22%3A%5C%22surface%5C%22%2C%5C%22extra_data%5C%22%3A[]%7D]%22%2C%22has_source%22%3Atrue%7D&source=108&action_history=[%7B%22surface%22%3A%22post_page%22%2C%22mechanism%22%3A%22surface%22%2C%22extra_data%22%3A[]%7D]&has_source=1

Stations carrying the broadcast:
WTKI AM 1450 Huntsville AL Sun. 6-7 PM CT
WTKI FM 92.9 Huntsville AL Sun. 6-7 PM CT
WEKI AM 1490 Decatur AL Sun. 6-7 PM CT
WEKI FM 94.7 Decatur AL Sun. 6-7 PM CT
WTKI AM 1450 Huntsville AL Sat. 5-6 PM CT
WTKI FM 92.9 Huntsville AL Sat. 5-6 PM CT
WEKI AM 1490 Decatur AL Sat. 5-6 PM CT
WEKI FM 94.7 Decatur AL Sat. 5-6 PM CT
KARN FM 102.9 Little Rock AR Sat. 3-4 PM CT
KTAR FM 92.3 Phoenix AZ Sat. 6-7PM MT
KTAR FM 92.3 Phoenix AZ Sun. 6-7PM MT
KFCS AM 1580 Colorado Springs CO Sat. 11-Noon MT
KFCS AM 1580 Colorado Springs CO Sun. 3-4PM MT
WFLN AM 1480 Arcadia FL Sat. 1-2PM ET
KAOI AM 1110 Wailuku HI Sun. 6-7 AM Hawaii
KAOI FM 96.7 Wailuku HI Sun. 6-7 AM Hawaii
KSNA FM 100.7 Idaho Falls, ID Sun. 9-10AM MT
KSNA FM 100.7 Pocatello, ID Sun. 9-10AM MT
WLRT AM 1250 Lexington (Versailles), KY Sun. 11AM-Noon ET
WLRT AM 1250 Lexington (Versailles), KY Sat. 5-6 PM ET
WRKO AM 680 Boston, MA Sun. 6-7AM ET
WPKZ AM 1280 Fitchburg, MA Sun. 9-10AM ET
WPKZ FM 105.3 Fitchburg, MA Sun. 9-10AM ET
KWOC AM 930 Poplar Bluff, MO Sun. 8-9AM CT
KELE AM 1360 Mountain Grove, MO Sun. 7-8PM CT
KWOC FM 93.3 Poplar Bluff, MO Sun. 8-9AM CT
WVBG AM 1490 Vicksburg, MS Sun. 6-7 PM ET
WMXI FM 98.1 Hattiesburg, MS Sun. 8-9AM CT
WVBG FM 107.7 Vicksburg, MS Sun. 6-7 PM ET
KNNT FM 98.5 Battle Mountain, NV Sat. Noon-1PM PT
KNNT FM 98.5 Battle Mountain, NV Sun. 10-11AM PT
KZBI FM 94.5 Elko, NV Sat. 6-7AM PT
KZBI FM 94.5 Elko, NV Sun. 6-7AM PT
KELY AM 1230 Ely, NV Sat. noon-1PM PT
KELY AM 1230 Ely, NV Sun. 10-11AM PT
KXNT AM 840 Las Vegas, NV Sat. 6-7PM PT
WSDQ AM 1190 Chattanooga(Dunlap), TN Sun. 6-7AM ET
WSDT AM 1240 Chattanooga(Soddy-Daisy), TN Sun. 6-7AM ET
WEPG AM 910 Chattanooga(S. Pittsburg), TN Sun. 6-7AM ET
KAZZ FM 98.5 Cedar City UT Sat. 11-Noon MT
KVNU AM 610 Logan, UT Sun. 9-10AM MT
KZNU AM 1450 St. George, UT Sat. 11-Noon MT
KAZZ AM 1400 Cedar City, UT Sat. 11-Noon MT
KNRS AM 570 Salt Lake City, UT Sun. 6-7 PM MT
KNRS FM 105.9 Salt Lake City, UT Sun. 7-8 PM MT
KZNU FM 93.1 St. George, UT Sat. 11-Noon MT
KVNU FM 102.1 Logan, UT Sun. 9-10AM MT
KMAS AM 1030 Shelton, WA Sat. 8-9AM PT
KMAS FM 103.3 Shelton, WA Sat. 8-9AM PT

If you don’t see a station in your area you can go online listen to:

Lucretia “Creasy” Williams: Finding another daughter of Moses Williams, Sr

Sometimes the universe takes pity on genealogists and places a gift right in our laps. This is one of those times.

The Moses Williams project team took a short hiatus from the project to work on other parts of our respective family trees. This is an enormous and intensive project. Naturally, we’ll be taking breaks from it to catch our breath and clear our heads…and think of new ways to tackle the formidable research obstacles. So it was kind of nice landing a major find on the second day back on the project.

The message below is what led to the discovery we’ve just made today:

Christopher Williams

There was just enough information provided for me to decide to take a look. I thought I’d give it 15 or so minutes just to see what I could find.  I know, I know, every genealogist says that…and 12 hours later, you find yourself still working through your research. Not this time.

In no time at all, I was able to trace Christopher’s life journey from Greenwood County, South Carolina (which was actually still part of Edgefield County when Christopher was born) to Ohio. Working backwards in Greenwood County, I had his parents and his siblings.

Christopher was the son of Frank Williams (1883 – ?) and Eula (maiden name unknown) of Kirksey, Greenwood, South Carolina. Frank Williams. in turn, was the son of John Williams (1847 – ?) and Amanda Susanna Ross, also of Kirksey, Greenwood, South Carolina

Now Frank has been in my tree for a long time. He caused me all manner of confusion. I had two Frank Williams born abt 1847 – one married to an Amanda Ross and one married to a Susannah Ross. I treated these two Franks as two different men, even though I strongly suspected they were one in the same person.  It was the different given names for his wife or wives that threw me.  After some further digging and searching through additional records, both Franks are indeed the same man.  Now, whether Susannah Ross and Amanda Ross are the some woman, or sisters, I don’t know. For now, I’m treating them as one in the same person until more death certificates are found for their children.

Frank’s mother was Lucretia “Creasy” Williams (abt 1820 – ?). And then I truly hit a nugget of gold.  I found her in the 1880 Census with her mother, Mariah Stallworth. Lucretia, it turns out, was born and lived in apart of Edgefield that become Greenwood County when the district boundaries changed.

To see that name Stallworth was simply everything. It gives us a specific name to search on for additional children. We can also begin to identify the family who enslaved her, and trace her life through various slave deeds and probate records.

Taking a look at where Mariah and Lucretia were living in 1880, I immediately knew who Lucretia’s father was. We knew the name of his second wife already, which was Mariah (maiden name unknown). 10 minutes later and everything came together. The Mariah Stallworth who was Lucretia’s mother was one in the same as the Mariah who was Moses’s wife.

Here was another of Moses Williams’ missing 40 daughters.

There’s still a basic mystery with Lucretia. Who was the father of her mulatto son, John Williams?

To-date, the team has found 8 of Moses Williams 45 enslaved children:

  1. Ellick/Aleck Williams, born abt. 1780, and living in Laurens County by 1870;
  2. An unknown daughter, born in Edgefield County around 1790, who had at least one child by an unknown McKie.  that child was Moses McKie, Sr, born abt 1825 in Edgefield County. He is living in the midst of his extended Williams family in Edgefield in the 1870 Census;
  3. Moses Williams, Jr, born abt. 1791 in Edgefield, and died in the 1880s in Barnwell County;
  4. Violet Williams, born abt. 1809 in Edgefield County. She was the wife of Peter Peterson of Edgefield County (my 4x great grandparents);
  5. Lewis Williams, born abt. 1815 in Edgefield County. Presumed to have died in Edgefield County before 1880;
  6. Henry Williams, born abt. 1818 in Edgefield County. Presumed to have died in Edgefield or Greenwood Counties by 1880;
  7. Elizabeth Williams, born abt. 1840 in Edgefield County, and living in Barnwell County by 1880; and
  8. Lucretia Williams, born abt. 1820 and living in Greenwood County by 1880.

At present, we’re missing 1 son and 33 daughters – as well as the name of his first wife, who was the mother of 21 of his 45 children.


Media Appeal: The Moses Williams Project


In an atmosphere of division and rising tensions, especially around the issue of race, Stronger Together: The Moses Williams Project is a project that encourages people to talk to another. More importantly, it’s aim is getting people who wouldn’t normally talk to one another, namely people from different races, to talk. And to realize that there is more to unite Americans from different backgrounds than divides us. You never know who you’re related to.  Chances are, unknown cousins will look very different from the family you already know.

We are bringing this topic to you in the hopes that we can get a platform discussing how important this research is, and the impact that it has on America today.  The Genealogy Adventures team believes this research – and bringing Americans from different cultural/ethnic backgrounds together through genetic genealogy – has the makings of a riveting show segment.

Genealogy challenge: Researching the 45 enslaved children of Moses Williams

Knowledge is power.   It’s through that concept that the Genealogy Adventures team presents to you a project worth getting behind. The Stronger Together: The Moses Williams Genetic Genealogy Project began with two strangers who found each other through genealogical research…and discovered they were cousins via DNA. In fact, these two cousins share several common ancestors. It was in that find we realized that the place our ancestors came from (Edgefield, South Carolina) was not just another small town, but a place when, in its hay-day, had an enormous impact on American history.

Edgefield, South Carolina connects to well-known people such as Strom Thurmond, Senator Andrew Butler, the infamous Preston Brooks, 50 Cent and L.L. Cool J.

Our research has shown that in one way or another we are related to all of them. More than this, we’re related to pretty much everyone in the greater Edgefield area: white, black, and native Americans. When we learned that our 4x great-grandfather Moses Williams, who lived to be 115 years old, in his lifetime had 45 children it all started to make sense. Having that many children connects his descendants to a staggering number of Americans – white, black, and native Americans. Moses children were born in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, with the majority of them being born in Edgefield and its surrounding counties.  When we first found him, he was listed as a slave of an American Revolutionary Patriot John Williams. It was through a series of legal deeds we learned that Moses was passed to his son Daniel. DNA analysis points to Daniel Williams II as the father of Moses.

Myself and Donya Papoose Williams set out to uncover this historic story along with four of our black and white DNA cousins: Loretta Bellamy, Sharon Rowe, Hammad Settles Asad and Sheila Hightower-Allen. The task this research group set itself was to find these 45 children, born in the depths of the slavery era, as well as Moses’s siblings, extended family, as well as the descendants from this family. It is a task that will connect millions of Americans to one another at the most basic level – genetic.

The challenge in finding these kids?

  • They are estimated as being born between 1786 and 1836. That is deep into the colonial days and the heart of slavery;
  • 40 of them are girls – This makes them even tougher to find due to marriage at an early age and the changing of the last name after marriage;
  • Moses Williams was having children at the same time as his eldest children were also having children, adding a multi-gernatoinal challenge in identifying correct parents for the descendants we find; and
  • Records for African Americans are extremely difficult to find

These six cousins have not only found the various enslavers of Moses (who were also his blood relations), we have found 7 of his 45 children, and a host of grandchildren, from deeds, probate records, census records, newspaper articles, and DNA triangulation.

We are hoping that having a discussion with you, and sharing that discussion with your audience, will provide a controlled question and answer period on the largest elephant in the room slavery and its effect on the American People. It is time to address this problem and Stronger Together: The Moses Williams Project is the way to get started to do it.

We are currently in the process of booking interviews. We’d like to extend our thanks to Scott Fisher, host of the nationally syndicated Extreme Genealogy Show ( for being the first to invite us to share our project with his audience.

These interviews are to shed light on this project and the importance of tracing your ancestors, discovering American history through genealogy research, and building bridges through conversation.

We would love to include you as part of our line-up.

This project is historic – in scope as well as subject. Thank you in advance for your support!

Thank you so much for your kind consideration.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

The Genealogy Adventures Team

Impact Goals

  • America is more than a country of immigrants. Tens of millions of us are connected at the most fundamental level there is – genetics.  Tens of millions of Americans are family, regardless of race/ethnicity/culture, religious beliefs, sociology-econonic and education attainment, or any other construct that serves to divide. we’re about connecting people from different backgrounds and breaking down perception barriers;
  • Leading people to think of people who are different from themselves as an important part of society;
  • Increasing understanding of ourselves and American history;
  • Helping people see the value in a myriad of life stories and experiences; and
  • To recognize and celebrate the commonality we share through the wonder of an enormous, extended family.

Go Fund Me Fundraising Campaign

Our Go Fund Me fund raising link is

Team Biographies

Below are bios for both Brian and Donya and where to donate to this cause. We are constantly updating our progress on our Genealogy Adventures Facebook  page and we appreciate your time and look forward to speaking with you both privately and publicly on this issue.

Brian Sheffey (Boston, MA)

My genealogy adventures began in 2010. My father was turning 78 and I wanted to give him a more personal birthday gift. I mean, what do you give a 78 year who literally has everything, right? We knew very little about his family history… Genealogy Adventures was born. My own genealogy primarily encompasses trans-African, European, Jewish, and Native American ancestry.  Each requires a different skill set, which I have focused on and developed over the years.

My adventure has had its ups and downs with each ancestral story that I have discovered. What I can say, with my hand on my heart, is that the adventure and the journey has been one of the most profoundly empowering, awakening, and grounding experiences of my life. I have learned more about myself, my people, and American history through genealogy than I have through any other means.

I discovered my American identity through genealogy. That sounds odd for an American who was born on a large Naval base in Groton, with a father who was career Navy, and plenty of uncles who served in the armed forces. Yet, as a person of color, I was made to feel that America was my not country. Discovering that I am the direct descendant of American Presidents (and related to many other presidents), the authors of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution – as well as a whole host of governors, congressmen, and senators – changed all that.

Donya Williams (Washington DC)

-I can honestly say that Genealogy has been requesting my attention since a little girl, but it wasn’t until 1996 that I finally began to answer the call. Since then I have been placed on a journey that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

My genealogical make up is African, European, East Asian and Native American. Researching has opened my eyes to what I didn’t learn in school. I learn something new every day and it is the best thing I have ever done in my life outside of having my children.

Because of Genealogy I have submitted articles to the oldest running newspaper in South Carolina. I have been the leader for bringing all branches of my family together. But the most important thing that Genealogy has done for me is the ability to educate those on who they are and where they come from.

Sharon Rowe

I have been doing genealogy since 1976. While I learned of enslaving ancestors almost at once, it was many years before I realized how many of my family were involved. Through the Internet, I have been able to find some descendants of those people my family enslaved. DNA testing has linked me to more African-American cousins, though the actual connections remain murky for the most part. But more profoundly, I have found out I have trace African ancestry.

We are all cousins under the skin and I am excited to help with more discoveries.

Loretta Bellamy

My genealogy research began 29 years ago when I decided to locate my biological mother. Fortunately, my research ended successfully without the aid of online searching. Even then, I knew I had the gift of research. I’m a “Needle in The Haystack” type of person. When I joined in 2004, I never could have imagined the profound and fulfilling journey I would take. The ability to research my own family history as well as help so many others who may not have the resources is so fulling to me. The education I have gained since this journey began is immense. The old saying is so true, “You’ll never now where you are going unless you know where you come from.” It’s about helping people make those connections. The more research I do, the more I find the world is getting smaller and smaller, thus making people more biologically related than we ever thought possible.

Using church names and obits to find your ancestors in rural areas

When it comes to genealogical research, few places in America have challenged my grey matter like the Old Ninety-Six region of South Carolina.  I’m laughing as I write this next bit: old Ninety-Six has literally given me a few grey hairs.

South Carolina Districts 1769

There are a few simple reasons for this:

  1. Everyone with roots in Old Ninety-Six , regardless of ethnicity, are related to one another.
  2. Not only are people from this region related to one another, they are related in multiple ways. One cousin and I share no less than seven common pairs of ancestors – who were related to each other, as it so happens. This is due to entrenched endogamy. We’re talking cousin marriages that stretch back to early colonial Virginia. In some cases, generations of cousin marriages began in Great Britain. By the time my British-descended ancestors began producing children with enslaved African-descended women, they passed this inter-related mix to their mulatto children. These children, in turn, also married other mulatto and black cousins.  By the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, no one in Old Ninety-Six could move without bumping into a cousin of some sort or another.  This brings me right back to point #1 above.
  3. DNA segment triangulation is a nightmare. Try applying specific surnames to DNA segments with a fourth cousin when the two of you share an above-average amount of DNA across more segments than fourth cousins should typically share. In the case of the cousin I mentioned above, you would think we were second cousins rather than fourth cousins.
  4. While a slight exaggeration, everyone in a rather huge extended family used the same dozen or so names for their children. Everyone. I have enough Old Ninety-Six Janie Lou’s – white and black – to fill a modestly sized New York City music venue. Even a name like Hazeltine, which should be more or less unique, was commonly used.  It makes identifying records for a specific person a challenge.

So when it came to dealing with a family tree that is exploding in size due to the Moses Williams Project…I had to think of another way of finding the records I needed for specific individuals myself and the project team has been researching.

A different approach hit me out of the blue.

My Old Ninety-Six ancestors and family worshiped at specific churches.  Churches like Springfield Baptist Church, Liberty Springs Baptist Church, and Shaws Creek Baptist Church were established and built by members of my family. Their descendants still worship at these churches to this day. That was the clue that I needed. It’s one of those clues that has been under my nose the entire time.

I decided to do a general search on the terms ‘Liberty Springs Baptist Church’ and Greenwood, South Carolina’ on I struck gold immediately.


There they were…dozens upon dozens of obituaries and news accounts specifically related to Liberty Springs. Surnames that I now know as well as my own – Adams, Gilchrist, Moore, Parks, Keys/Keyes, Dean, etc – leapt out at me.

I took a gamble. I decided to try and do a bit of reverse engineering.  I added a new orphan profile page on for the first few individuals I found on  By ‘orphan’, I mean the individuals I added  weren’t attached to anyone else in my tree.  They were stand alone ancestral profiles. I keyed in the relevant information from the obituary I was working from:  full name, date of birth, date of death, county of birth, county of death, their parents’ names, the name of their spouse, children’s’ names (and their places of residence based on the date of the obituary), siblings’ names (and their places of residence based on the date of the obituary), and any other family members who were mentioned. And…bingo!  Ancestry produced the correct records for the person I whose obituary I had. I didn’t have to trawl through two dozen possible death records or Social Security Claims Index records for a dozen or so Willie Mae Joneses in the hopes that I could find the right record for the specific person I was researching.  Ancestry gave me the correct one immediately.

The reason is pretty simple:  I already had all of the correct, specific, vital life information. This included maiden names, which are gold dust.  Having all of this information made it far easier to locate correct census returns. I could easily place this person’s branch of the tree into my overall tree within two to three generations.

Even better…I was picking up the trail of my black family members who left the south as part of the Great Migration into the northern states. It still strikes me as nothing short of miraculous that family deaths in places like Washington DC, Newark, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Newport News, Detroit, Chicago, and Boston were being reported back home in South Carolina.

Using this approach enabled me to plug some serious gaps in the Old Ninety-Six, South Carolina part of my tree within a matter of three days.  OK, three days of rather intensive focus using this approach.

This approach works for a few simple reasons. My Old Ninety-Six family stayed in the same place between 1860 and 1890. The family members who left as part of the Great Migration stayed in contact with the family left behind in South Carolina for at least one generation afterwards. Last, but not least, those family ties to their family church remained – and continue to remain – strong.

Now, as always, there is a caveat.  Obituaries were not the preserve of everyone prior to 1940.  Not in South Carolina at any rate.  If your family was poor, regardless of race, the chances are slim there will be an obituary.  In terms of this part of South Carolina, prior to 1940, the handful of obituaries I’ve seen for people of colour fall into two categories:  1) either the ancestor was classed as an ‘exceptional negro’; or 2) he or she did something remarkable (like live to be 115 years old and have over 40 children).  If your family was poor and white, well, your ancestor had to do something extraordinary and/or heroic to warrant an obituary.  After 190 is different – blacks, and whites of modest means, begin to have obituaries in the local papers in this part of South Carolina.

Basically, there are three things you need to have in order to make this research approach work:

  1. A family tree that has more than your immediate family line (in other words, it also has the siblings of your ancestors, and their extended family and descendants;
  2. Familiarity with all the families your ancestors married into (allied families); and
  3. The name of the church where your ancestors and their family worshiped.

I’ve only used this approach for family who lived in a very rural area.  I haven’t applied it to those who lived in cities.

I hope it’s an approach that works for you.  Let me know!