A peculiar inheritance: slavery and the case for reparations in the US

The draft journal paper below was produced in answer to a general call for papers on the subject of Reparations in the US. Myself, and my cousin, Donya Williams, address the subject through the lens of genealogy.

The draft version of our paper is provided in two formats: an embedded PDF document and widget that you can either read online, or download. A text version follows beneath the embedded PDF widget.

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Text Version

Introduction

Since the beginning of man’s life on earth, the family has served as the cornerstone of society.  The integrity of the family set the standard for society from the beginning of time as the underpinning of our civilization, reflecting the beneficial differences between men and women and the complementarity of their hearts, minds, and bodies.  Aristotle argued that the natural progression of human beings flowed from the family via small communities out to the polis.  The state itself, then, as a natural extension of the family, mirrors this critical institution.”[i] [ii]

And:

The family is the entity that gives real meaning to life and to existence. The family is the cornerstone of the social system. The family is not a casual or spontaneous organization of people but a divinely ordained group. Marriage is noble and sacred, a social contract that confers mutual obligations on the couple and society. The progress and welfare of society, or its breakdown, can be traced to the strengths and unity, or the lack of it, in the family. This also applies to civilization…

The family has an important role in providing socialization and values for children and in providing social and economic security as well. Being part of a family motivates individuals, motivates us all, to work hard, sacrifice our well-being, and work for the welfare of the family.

In all faiths and religions, the family is the foundation of society. The peace and security offered by a stable family unit is greatly valued and considered central for the spiritual growth of its members, society, and humanity. The harmonious social order is created by the families and extended families in which all children are treasured, valued, and nurtured.[iii]

There are established arguments in support of, and against, descendants of enslaved Africans in the United States receiving reparations[iv]. The arguments in favor of reparations are based upon the economic advantage slavery provided the United States[v]; the brutal conditions of slavery[vi]; and the social, political, judicial, and economic disenfranchisement of African Americans. [vii]

A common argument against reparations cites the indigenous practice of slavery within the African continent. We acknowledge that the practice of slavery in Africa was ancient and well established by the Europeans began to export human beings from that continent. However, it differed greatly from the form of chattel slavery that existed with America with the arrival of Europeans.

In Africa, many societies recognized slaves merely as property, but others saw them as dependents who eventually might be integrated into the families of slave owners. Still other societies allowed slaves to attain positions of military or administrative power. Most often, both slave owners and slaves were black Africans, although they were frequently of different ethnic groups.[viii]

In the American system, slavery was a condition that was not only held for life, it was passed down through the generations via the status of the mother, codified by the laws of the individual states. It was a brutal birthright. This paper illustrates the profound and destructive force this peculiar form of slavery would have on the authors’ enslaved ancestors in Edgefield County, South Carolina. The authors will demonstrate the effects the American slavery system had upon the most fundamental aspect of the human experience – an attack on the fundamental building block of society – the family.

Lewis Matthews by Brian Sheffey

lewis-matthews

Image courtesy of Mr T. Dabney

My maternal 3x great grandfather, Lewis Matthews, was born in 1824 in the Blocker region of Edgefield County, South Carolina. He was the son of an unknown slave woman and her owner, Drury Cook Matthews (1760-1830). Born to a slave, he inherited his mother’s slave status from the moment he first drew breath. Despite being sired by his owner, he maintained the status of a slave until freed through the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

 

Apart from an oral tradition among the Matthews (including Mathis family members) still residing in Edgefield, little is known about Lewis’s life. What kind of man was he? What was his nature? What were the quirks and foibles that made him individual? These questions are part and parcel for any genealogist. When it comes to researching ancestors who were born into a lifetime of bondage and servitude, forbidden from learning how to read and write, each discovery made is akin to finding a sacred precious object. Each discovery for an enslaved ancestor is a hard fought for success. Something as basic as discovering even a first name for an enslaved ancestor is cause for celebration. This dynamic makes African American genealogy something unique. A people stripped of history, customs, traditions, family and ancestry have precious few clues to find their ancestors. This was by design. American slavery was designed and developed with this in mind to better control a people who chaffed at the slavery system. It also laid the foundations for the American expression of white supremacy.

Lewis Matthews was illiterate, born in a time when it was illegal for slaves to learn how to read and write. He was incapable of leaving any words to his descendants. Nor were his children capable of leaving a written account.  All of his known 22 children were illiterate. What I have gleaned of his life has largely come from vital records and slave records. He was human property. He was first owned by his father, and then by his half-sister, Susannah Pope Matthews. Like a chair, a horse, a parcel of land, or a table; he had a dollar value. US$ 450 in 1831 ($US 12,500.00 in 2016 currency) and US$ 500 in 1847 (US$ 14,705.88 in 2016 currency). Where there is property, there are accounts.

There are no words that can describe first seeing a Dollar value placed against an ancestor’s name on a Deed of Sale. No matter how prepared I was to see such a thing, it nevertheless broke my heart.  It was a visceral and raw experience. One I will never forget.

I cannot visit, much less share, Lewis’s history without touching upon the history of the place where he was enslaved. The history of Edgefield, South Carolina.

An overview of Edgefield’s history, including ITS founding families

Prior to its formation in 1785, Edgefield County was a part of Ninety-Six District.

Ninety-Six was divided into new counties, afterwards called districts, which included:  Edgefield, Abbeville, Newberry, Laurens, Union, and Spartanburg. Augusta, now in Georgia, also formed part of this county.

Old Ninety-Six, as it’s now called, was an active and critical trading post since the 1690s. The trade was mainly in furs. Prior to the arrival of European settlers and African-descended slaves, these lands were part of the dominion of the Cherokee Nation and the Creek. It was, and remains, an isolated, rural, and wild part of South Carolina.

Families such as Abney, Brooks, Cloud, Park, Sim(p)kins, and Stuart/Stewart, all slave owning families, were among the earliest settlers. DNA tests taken by the authors reveal a genetic connection to these families.  A latter wave of 18th Century arrivals from Virginia to Edgefield would include additional slave owning families such as Adams, Brunson, Dorn, Harlan/Harling, Ma(t)thews/Mathis, Ouzts, Peterson, Settles, Timmerman, Thurman, Utterback, Yeldell and White – all of whom are the authors’ ancestors. The link between their African American descendants and their white descendants has been confirmed through DNA.

A shattered family tree through 300 years of Matthews family enslavement

Traditional genealogy enabled me to glimpse key moments in Lewis Matthews’ history.

Researching post-Emancipation marriage and death certificates identified thirteen children born to Lewis and the woman he would come to marry once freed, Martha Bottom, also of Blocker, Edgefield, South Carolina. It is worth remembering that prior to Emancipation, the births, deaths and marriages of slaves were rarely recorded. This is one of the most fundamental voids in African American genealogical research.

An additional death record produced another child, a daughter, born to Lewis and a woman only identified as Janie.

Social Security Application records and death records produced a further eight children born to Lewis during the period of his enslavement. The mother, or mothers, of these children were cited as ‘not known’ by the respective informants.  DNA testing through AncestryDNA, along with DNA matching through Gedmatch, strongly suggests he fathered at least a further nine children prior to the end of the Civil War. All of his known and suspected children resided throughout the area formerly known as Ninety-Six.

Numerous conversations with African American Matthews-descended family members in the Old Ninety-Six area boiled down to one hypothesis when it came to the sheer number of children Lewis sired. He was used by his owner-father and owner-half-sister as a breeding stud.  In short, he sired a steady stream of slave children for the benefit of their slave owners either to increase that owner’s workforce or as the human equivalent of a cash crop. A young, healthy, handsome young man with a light complexion, and seemingly potent when it came to impregnating women, Lewis had the perfect attributes to produce a steady stream of children with a fair complexion and robust health – attributes which would have made these children valuable property with a significant dollar value.

While Lewis had what we, in this day and age, would class as a paternal relationship with the children he had with Martha Bottom, he had no involvement with the children he fathered with other enslaved women. Those other children were either formally or informally adopted by the men those other women married when they were freed at the close of the Civil War. To date, until they heard from me, the descendants of those unions had no idea of their Matthews origins. The reason for this is telling. This second group of children took the names of their step fathers, bar two who took the name Mathes, a seemingly deliberate corruption of the original Matthews/Mathis name.

A broken family tree

edgefield-slaves

The arrows in the image above mark entries for my 3x great grandfather, Lewis Matthews. The peculiarities of how male slaves were classed as an adult or ‘boy’ varied widely. Although both entries are for my 3x great grandfather. The asterisks mark confirmed members of Lewis’s enslaved African American family. Sampson, Primus and Matthew were Lewis’s brothers. The stars in the image above note how Primus and Sampson were deeded to other white Matthews family members, who were also their relations. DNA testing will confirm how many others from the same image will prove to be members of Lewis’s immediate and extended family. Click for larger image

As you read Drury Cook Matthews’s Last Will and Testament below, remember that this is my 4x great grandfather discussing the disposal of his property, which included his son, my 3x great grandfather, Lewis Matthews.  I include the disposal of his other enslaved sons, Lewis’s brothers, who were my great uncles. Many of the ‘negroes’ cited in this Will were members of Lewis’s immediate family.  All of the whites who inherited these black human beings were also their blood relations. American slavery was indeed a singularly peculiar institution.

Please click each image below for the larger image version.

drury-matthews-will-1drury-matthews-will-2drury-matthews-will-3drury-matthews-will-4drury-matthews-will-5drury-matthews-will-6

My prevailing question is a fairly simple one. If Drury Matthews didn’t overtly recognize his own bi-racial flesh and blood as a human being, as a man, what impact did that have on Lewis’s sense of self and his sense of worth as a human being? What did this teach him about the duties of a father for his children? For certainly some of the other slaves referenced in this Will were Lewis’s siblings and equally children of Drury Cook Matthews. And how would this dynamic play out and echo down the generations on the African American side of the Matthews/Mathis family?

That Lewis was a loving and dutiful father to the children he raised with Martha Bottom is not in doubt. There are a handful of family stories to testify to this. What of his other thirteen known children? Did their step-fathers make up for Lewis’s absence? And how did Lewis reconcile himself with their existence? My hypothesis is that he learned a fundamental lesson from his father, Drury. Perhaps he compartmentalized his life in a manner many men can relate to. There were his children by Martha who he had a duty of care to provide for. Just like his father-owner did with his white children. And then there were those he merely sired for other’s benefit – much like Drury’s actions towards his mulatto children borne by enslaved women: they were not his concern and, as such, were of no concern.

Magnify the ramifications of this dynamic by working back through time. The story, the legacy, and the history between my mulatto Matthews ancestors and their white owners-family members stretches back in time to my 9th great grandfather, Anthony Matthews (1611-1682), a slave owning immigrant from Kent, England who settled in Isle of Wight, Virginia. Anthony was the founding father, the scion, of a large slave owning family who passed slaves and enslaved family members down its various lines into the Carolinas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.

240 years of one family splitting its slave family apart generation after generation after generation; to the extent that their African American family had no notion of who they were as a people, they had no knowledge of their history, no knowledge of their kin or their kin’s whereabouts. It was the annihilation of their family. My family. It was a form of brutal ethnic cleansing at its most fundamental level.

Only now, through advances in DNA testing, can we, their descendants, begin the task of finding the broken branches from a slavery shattered family tree. Finding these lost branches is the easy part. Determining their rightful and correct place in the family tree is a painstaking process with no guarantee of success. It is a painstaking process. Each familial line has varying degrees of knowledge about their immediate ancestral line. Some can trace their ancestry back only 4 generations while others have traced their line of descent through 5 or more generations. Progress has largely been steered by the tireless efforts of a dozen or so dedicated family genealogists who have made it their life’s work to reunite a family dispersed through, and torn apart by, slavery. Their efforts require a combination of traditional genealogy alongside genetic genealogy and DNA triangulation. The task is herculean.

That is the legacy of slavery. This is the reason why the argument around reparations is a valid one.

In terms of non-Native American peoples who arrived in America, no other people in the history of the continental United States has ever experienced anything remotely like this. Not in scale. Not in duration.

Implications and reparations

Nienstedt makes the argument that “The State itself, then, as a natural extension of the family, mirrors this critical institution”. If the State was the cause of the destruction of enslaved African American families during the slavery epoch, does it not have a duty, a duty of care, to redress the wrongs done to enslaved families through restitution?

If, in Nienstedt’s argument, the progress and welfare of society, or its breakdown, can be traced to the strengths and unity, or the lack of it, in the family – should we not argue that the State has a moral imperative to recompense African Americans for the lack of progress; the lack of physical, mental and spiritual welfare; and the lack of unity wrought upon the descendants of slaves?

Reparations has the capacity to not only acknowledge the impact that slavery has had on the African American descendants of slavery, it can inform how best the State can serve those that slavery harmed. It addresses the legacies of slavery in the aftermath of slavery cemented in the Jim Crow Era, and the forms of socio-economic subjugation used against African Americans which followed the Jim Crow Era up to, and including, the present day. This latter point forms the central part of Ms William’s argument.

The civil unrest that smolders in modern America doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Its roots lay in slavery. Its roots lay in Andrew Johnson’s refusal to provide reparations when the America of Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party was ready to provide it.

Any conversation on the subject of reparations requires a national conversation. However, by the very nature of the subject, it must be directed and led by those most affected by slavery – African Americans. For me, reparations would take a multitude of forms:

  • Financial: A national, minority-owned and managed, banking system with branches in urban areas as well as rural areas with large minority populations. Such a banking network would supply micro loans to support entrepreneurship and innovation, land ownership, and subsidized home ownership (e.g. housing co-ownership); and
  • Education: A national history curriculum would include truthful and accurate teaching about slavery as well as its impact – tracing the effects of the slavery to the presents day. Recent news commentary shows a complete ignorance about America and its history of slavery, as well as its’ aftermath that resonates to the present day[ix]; and
  • Land theft compensation: Where land was stolen from African Americans by coercion, threats of violence or actual violence (as was the case in Edgefield[x] [xi] in the 1920s, of which my own Matthews family was a victim) – there should be financial restitution in line with established precedents with Native American tribes;
  • Remembrance: A day with an official moment of silence in remembrance of the victims of slavery, and its legacy.

Martha Brooks by Donya Williams

The topic of this paper is to give our point of view on why African Americans should receive reparations from slavery. As an African American myself, of course my first initial thought is yes I should receive reparations for what my ancestors endured. I should because it is the only right thing to do. That is the short answer for one who is not fully educated on the topic of slavery.

For example, history didn’t teach me that those who were enslaved had the option to 1) keep the surnames of those that enslaved them after Emancipation; or 2) simply choose another surname if they wanted to. In fact, the only thing that history taught me was that whites enslaved blacks and that it was bad. It wasn’t until I started to research my family that I understood the magnitude of this question which, in turn, allowed me to give a more informed answer.

Martha Brooks was born into slavery in or about 1834 in South Carolina. The 1880 census says her parents were born in Virginia, however, who they were and where they originated from remains unknown. Before I started my research, my uncle researched the family in the 1950s. All that I know of his research is by word of mouth. His research found that we were from Haiti and that we were direct descendants of Alexandre Dumas. I have yet to prove his theories. This prompted me to look at other options for researching and DNA testing was at the top of my list. When I decided to do DNA testing I did so because I was stalled at where I was with regular researching and I felt DNA testing would give me more. I already knew other researchers who had tested and were getting results. Because my mother was the baby of 14 children, and her parents were born in the late 1890s, she was just one generation removed from slavery. This made her a prime person to test even though I wouldn’t be able to get much DNA pertaining to her father.

That is where Autosomal DNA testing stepped in. Autosomal DNA is a term used in genetic genealogy to describe DNA which is inherited from the autosomal chromosomes. An autosome is any of the numbered chromosomes, as opposed to the sex chromosomes. Humans have 22 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes (the X chromosome and the Y chromosome). Autosomes are numbered roughly in relation to their sizes. That is, Chromosome 1 has approximately 2,800 genes, while chromosome 22 has approximately 750 genes.[xii] This meant that taking this test for my mom would get info from her mother and father. DNA taken from my mother has shown that in short she is 86.6% Sub-Saharan African, 11.9% European, .6% East Asian & Native American, .3% Middle Eastern & North African, .1% South Asian and .5% Unassigned. The picture below gives a bigger breakdown:

I uploaded my mother’s raw data to Gedmatch, a company that allows you to compare your DNA with other people who have tested with other companies such as AncestryDNA.com and FTDNA.com, and found there were even larger breakdowns. Those breakdowns connected her to the Mediterranean, North-AmerIndian and several other demographics (see picture below):

donya-dna

This DNA analysis result from Gedmatch is just one of many different DNA analysis tools that can be used to learn one’s DNA breakdown. These analytical tools enable a person to understand how he or she is connected to several different demographics. Testing my mother felt like I had just tested Eve herself. My mother’s DNA was extremely revealing. She was genetically connected to every well-known name in the Edgefield area.

Martha was enslaved by one of the first families of Edgefield, South Carolina. The Brooks family. Like those that take DNA test to prove paternity, or find birth parents, DNA for genealogical research does the same thing. My mother’s results proved she was related to the Brooks family. This family was not just active in the settling of Edgefield; they were also active in the settling of America. Zachariah, Whitfield, and Preston Brooks (respectively Grandfather, Son, and Grandson) were involved in at least two American wars prior to the Civil War.

The American Revolutionary War and the Mexican War both seemed to have family members of the Brooks involved. Zachariah was enlisted in Newberry District, S.C. shortly after the evacuation of Cambridge by Gen. Greene, and served six months as a private in Capt. John Wallace’s Company of S.C. Troops. He fought in several skirmishes against the British. He served in 1781 and 1782 in Capt. Joseph Towles, company, Col. Samuel Hammond’s S.C. regiment, was in a skirmish on the Edisto River, and was stationed about six weeks on the frontier guarding the incursions of the Indians. He was also enlisted as one of a corps called the Life Guard of Pickens, serving a six month’s term of service. He was afterwards appointed Col. of State Calvary, and was always known as Col. Brooks[xiii].  Whitfield and Preston were both lawyers, and involved in both state as well as national politics. Preston fought in the Mexican War with his brother Whitfield, Jr.

Both men were a part of the Palmetto Regiment of the South Carolina Volunteers where Preston served as Captain. Whitfield Brooks, Sr. carried the title of Colonel however, I don’t see what service branch he fought with or what war he fought in. My research shows that he may have been mistaken as his son. However, Both Whitfield and Preston were planters and strong supporters of slavery. Preston Brooks was probably the most outspoken of the three – he is certainly the most well-known – when it came to slavery. It is he who committed the horrendous crime against the abolitionist Charles Sumner; what historians know as ‘the caning’. Simply put, Senator Brooks walked up to Mr. Sumner, who was sitting at his desk on the senate floor, and said “You’ve libeled my state and slandered my white-haired old relative, Senator Butler, and I’ve come to punish you for it.[xiv]  This to Mr. Preston was a legitimate reason to beat a man so badly that it took three years for Senator Sumner to return to some semblance of physical normalcy.

Preston believed, supported, and encouraged the succession of South Carolina. On 1 November 1856, the Meeting of the Secessionists of South Carolina at Ninety-Six held an event to honor Mr. Brooks for what he did to Mr. Sumner. The south supported his choice to brutally beat Mr. Sumner. This event was not the only event held in his honor.  Directly after the beating, Mr. Brooks resigned his position from the Senate. In response to this, his fellow countrymen voted him back into his seat and sent him over 300 canes to show their support. This particular event presented the Honorable Preston S. Brooks with goblets of silver and gold, and replicas of the same cane he used to beat Mr. Charles Sumner.  As a part of his acceptance speech he wrote the following:

I tell you, fellow citizens, from the bottom of my heart, that the only mode, which I think available for meeting it is just to tear the Constitution of the United States, trample it under foot, and form a southern confederacy, every state of which will be a slaveholding State. I believe it, as I stand in the face of my maker—I believe it on my responsibility you as your honored representative that the only available means of making that hope effective is to cut asunder the bonds that tie us together, and take our separate positions in the family of nations. These are my opinions. They have always been my opinions. I have been a disunionist from the time I could think.[xv]

Martha was sold for $1,205 dollars in 1857 when Preston died. This information was found in the Edgefield Archives as well as in the book Slave Records of Edgefield County by Gloria Lucas.[xvi] I found a chart explaining the worth of a slave during 1857, the same year Martha was sold to Lemuel Brooks. This chart compared the cost of a slave in 1857 to what a slave would cost if slavery still existed in 1998:[xvii]

Class Value in Dollars, 1857 Value in Dollars, 1998
Number 1 men 1250-1450 20,800-24,100
Fair/Ordinary Men 1000-1150 16,700-19,200
Best Boys (Age 15-18) 1100-1200 18,300-20,000
Best Boys (Age 10-14) 500-575 8,300-17,900
Number 1 Women 1050-1225 17,500-20,400
Fair/Ordinary Women 1050-1225 14,200-17,100
Best Girls 500-1000 8,300-16,700
Families “Sell in their usual proportions”

Being sold for that amount, and finding the chart above, gave proof that Martha was in fact considered a prime breeding woman. Martha went through every atrocity that was heard of when it came to slavery for black women.

  • miscegenation – The interbreeding of individuals considered to be of different racial backgrounds;
  • fancy trade – Female slaves called “fancy maids” were sold at auction into concubinage or prostitution, which was termed the “fancy trade”; and
  • slave breeding – Slave breeding in the United States was a practice of slave ownership that aimed to encourage the reproduction of slaves in order to increase a slaveholder’s property and wealth.[xviii]

With my mother’s DNA showing that she was related to the Brooks family, I began to get a better understanding of things. I am politically knowledgeable and acutely aware of the things that are still happening to African Americans today. In some moments I can, and have, recited speeches similar to friends and family similar to the one you read above by Mr. Brooks himself. By reading and understanding his stance when it came to slavery, as well as finding the chart above, it was clear to me who I was. My mindset, my attitude and even how I can sometimes be hot-headed. It was like a light bulb was turned on and who I really am became clear to me. I was the product of my family; all of my family white and black and its surroundings. I am an American to the fullest extent of that word.

Defending the Case of Reparations

Genealogy has become very popular and the case of reparation is becoming more and more prevalent. Due to the use of DNA being added to genealogical research, it is becoming known that 151 years later, the descendants of slaves are still looking for their families.

I am a direct descendant of Martha Brooks. This topic raises the question of do I deserve reparations for everything that my 2nd great-grandmother, and her parents before her, went through? Answering honestly, I will say that reparations doesn’t entirely address the history of slavery and its aftermath in the United States.

I believe that I should have reparations on top of the acknowledgment of slavery. I believe that just like those who survived the Holocaust received monetary payments, and the recognition of an act that didn’t even happen on American soil, I should receive the same thing. European Jewry endured the horrific and the unimaginable during a 12-year period. Enslaved Africans, and their enslaved descendants, endured the horrific and the unimaginable for approximately 20 generations; nearly 400 years. In 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act to compensate more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent who were incarcerated in internment camps during World War II. The legislation offered a formal apology and paid out $20,000 in compensation to each surviving victim. The law won congressional approval only after a decade-long campaign by the Japanese-American community.[xix]

David Horowitz makes the claim that those asked to pay reparations have no liability because they didn’t do the enslaving, that their ancestors did. When truth be told, there were several different genocidal crimes committed against African Americans that could be attributed to the suppression of African Americans after slavery:

  • The bombing and burning of “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, Oklahoma 1921;
  • The burning and lynching of Rosewood, FL 1923;
  • Moore’s Ford Bridge Massacre 1947;
  • Church burnings that took place from 1954-2015;
  • Illegal and unconstitutional arrests of Blacks during the Civil Rights movement;
  • Jim Crow laws enacted at the state and local levels and ignored at the federal level;
  • The implications of the CIA linked crack epidemic in Black communities; and
  • Disenfranchised Hurricane Katrina victims living below the poverty line.

I cite these examples to address an argument often used against the American government making reparations to the descendants of enslaved Africans: the people who committed the crimes against the enslaved, and those who immediately survived the crime of slavery, are no longer alive, therefore, money being paid out is unnecessary. Boiled down, it is a statute of limitations argument. At its heart lays the profound denial that the cumulative psychological trauma of slavery had an end date. That the trauma that affected those who were enslaved wasn’t passed down the generations. An inheritance of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. [xx]

A disorder further heightened during the Jim Crow Era and the trauma endured during the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement. It is also said that federally funded programs such as affirmative action, the welfare program, and similar initiatives were ways that reparations have been paid.

To state that the federally funded programs are the way reparations have been paid is a slap in the face. Why? Because not all African Americans have accessed, or utilized, the welfare program. It is a proven fact that more Caucasian Americans have utilized this program than African Americans. According to Statistics Brain, 38.8% of welfare recipients are white, while 39.8% of recipients are black. The remaining 21.4% is a combination of Hispanics, Asians and other nationalities.  But when you look at the percentage of those receiving food stamps, White Americans receive a whopping 40.2% while African Americans are 25.7% the remaining makes up the other nationalities.

The bottom line is, however, the fact that a promise was made 151 years ago to give over 400,000 acres of land stretching from South Carolina to Florida to the freed slaves. This was a promise retracted by the then President of the United States, Andrew Johnson. Honoring this promise should make America at least want to keep its word. National honor should be reason enough.

End Notes

[i] Thomas Aquinas, In Libros Ethicorum Aristotelis Expositio, Lib. I, lect. 1. “Man is by nature a social animal, since he stands in need of many vital things which he cannot come by through his own unaided effort (Avicenna). Hence he is naturally part of a group by which assistance is given him that he may live well. He needs this assistance with a view to life as well as to the good life.”

[ii] Rev. John Nienstedt. “Family as the foundation of culture,” Legatus. 2 September 2013. Last accessed 17 June 2016 via http://legatus.org/family-as-the-foundation-of-culture/#_ftn1.

[iii] A.A. Mohamad. “Address to Symposium Commemorating the International Day of Families,” United Nations, New York, 18 May 2009.

[iv] “Reparations for Slavery”, Constitutional Rights Foundation. Last accessed 21 June 2016 via http://www.crf-usa.org/brown-v-board-50th-anniversary/reparations-for-slavery-reading.html.

[v] Edward E. Baptist. “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” Basic Books, New York. 2014.

[vi] Octavia Victoria Rogers. “The house of bondage, or, Charlotte Brooks and other slaves, original and life like, as they appeared in their old plantation and city slave life: together with pen-pictures of the peculiar institution, with sights and insights into their new relations as freedmen, freemen, and citizens,” Hunt & Eaton, New York. 1890. Last accessed 17 June 2016 via http://digital.cincinnatilibrary.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16998coll17/id/9976.

[vii] “United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner Reports”. Last accessed 17 June 2016 via http://ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/WGAfricanDescent/Pages/CountryVisits.aspx ;

The Freedmen’s Bureau Bank Records via https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1417695 ; and

The Freedmen’s Bureau Office Reports https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/African_American_Freedmen’s_Bureau_Records .

[viii] Dr Donald R. Wright. “Slavery in Africa,” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia. 2000. Last accessed 17 Jun2 2016 via http://autocww.colorado.edu/~toldy3/E64ContentFiles/AfricanHistory/SlaveryInAfrica.html.

[ix] James Wilkinson. “Michigan high schoolers caught on video wanting to bring back slavery,” The Daily Mail. 2 June 2016. Last accessed 21 June 2016 via http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3622080/Appalling-moment-white-Michigan-high-school-students-talk-bringing-slavery-BRANDING-worthless-black-people-2040-presidential-campaign.html.

[x] J. D. Allen-Taylor. “Tracking the ghosts of Edgefield County,” South Carolina Progressive Network. 1996. Last accessed 21 June 2016 via
. http://www.scpronet.com/point/9606/p10.html.

[xi] Todd Lewan, Dolores Barclay and Allen G. Breed. “Land ownership made blacks targets of violence and murder,” Authentic Voice. 2001. Last accessed 21 June 2016 via

http://theauthenticvoice.org/mainstories/tornfromtheland/torn_part2 .

[xii] International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki, Last accessed 26 June 2016 http://isogg.org/wiki/Autosomal_DNA .

[xiii] Rootsweb, Last accessed 26 June 2016 via http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=wgbrooks&id=I6325 .

[xiv] “Canefight! Preston Brooks and Charles Sumner,” U.S. Online History Textbook.  Last accessed 7 August 2013 via http://www.ushistory.org/us/31a.asp.

[xv] Marius R. Robinson. Anti-Slavery Bugle. 1 Nov. 1856 (via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers). Last accessed 25 January 2014 via http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83035487/1856-11-01/ed-1/seq-1/ .

[xvi] Gloria R. Lucas. “Slave Records of Edgefield County, South Carolina. Edgefield County Historical Society, Edgefield County, South Carolina. 2010, p. 55-56.

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Boundless. “Women and Slavery.” Boundless U.S. History. Boundless, 26 May. 2016. Retrieved 21 June 2016 from https://www.boundless.com/u-s-history/textbooks/boundless-u-s-history-textbook/slavery-in-the-antebellum-u-s-1820-1840-16/slavery-in-the-u-s-122/women-and-slavery-657-9221/

 

[xix] NPR, http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/08/09/210138278/japanese-internment-redress last accessed 26 June 2016

[xx] Joy Angela DeGruy.  “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome”, Joy DeGruy Publications, Inc. 2009.

When family history turns into a ‘Game of Thrones’ episode

Game of Thrones Font

I’ve just finished the first phase of an enormous 3-day genealogy project: researching and compiling the family tree for the Scottish Highland Stewart Lairds. I’m related to these Lairds via my mother’s maternal Harlan, Bailey and Matthews lines – and through my father’s maternal West, Shelton and Roane lines.

I have a multitude of American Colonial Era European, mulatto, and black Stuarts (the spelling used by the royal branch of the this Scottish clan to distinguish themselves from their Stewart cousins) and Stewarts in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. They are the reason behind this massive project.

Phase 2 of this project will begin to place my European descended Colonial Stewart and Stuart ancestors and kin into this Scottish family tree. Not all of them will be relations of this family. However, judging by the families they married into on this side of the Pond, a number of them will be.

Phase 3, which will require a substantial amount of DNA testing and triangulation of male Stuart/Stewart descendants in the US, will place my mixed and African-descended Stuart and Stewart relations into the same family tree. If my family tree is any indication, quite a number of Americans of color descend from both sides of this Scottish House through Stewart/Stuart men having children by enslaved women and free women of color. This has come as something of a revelation to more than a few of my Scottish aristocratic mates back in Scotland.

Naturally, in the course of research, ancient Stewart/Stuart family stories came thick and fast. There is one that stands out above all others (so far). I can’t image it’s going to be surpassed. Forget being a scene from the television series Outlander. It’s too outrageous. It’s straight out of Game of Thrones. If you’re familiar with Game of Thrones, think House Lannister. Definitely think Cersei. Perhaps Ramsay Bolton. Or think House Harkonnen from Dune if that’s more you’re cup of tea. Especially the Baron.

The story goes something like this:

17th century Scotland. One ancient cousin, Lady Margaret Drummond-Ernoch (c 1560-1618), married another ancient cousin, Alistair Stewart, 1st Laird of Ardvorlich (c 1560-1618). The Stewarts of Ardvorlich and the Drummond-Ernoch families had a common foe: the MacGregor clan.

Margaret’s brother, John, was in charge of the King’s forest in the region of Scotland where they lived. Part of his duties was to ensure the safety of the King’s hinds (deer) in the forest which he was charged with protecting.The MacGregors were fond of poaching said venison. which led to tensions between Margaret’s brother and the MacGregors. Poaching wasn’t just illegal. It was very illegal. Punishments were harsh, including death. Think of it like cattle rustling in 19th Century America.

John laid a trap to catch the poachers. He caught the perpetrators. And, instead of sending them off with a flea in their ears, he cut their ears off…and then sent the men back home.

The MacGregors clearly felt some kind of way about this. They plotted their revenge.

The MacGregors ambushed Margaret’s brother in the forest he was patrolling, and proceeded to enact a kind of one-upmanship. They had lost their ears. He lost his head. Literally.

The MacGregor men took his head back to their Laird, who offered them protection from their actions. The MacGregor’s revenge didn’t end there. This is where it turns pure Game of Thrones.

The MacGregor men made the journey to Margaret’s home when they knew that her husband, Alistair, would be away.

Ardvorlich House, Loch Earn

Ardvorlich House, Loch Earn, the ancestral home of Alistair Stewart.

Remember, the MacGregors were the sworn enemies of both the Drummond-Ernochs and the Stewarts. The MacGregor men arrived in the middle of the night while a heavily pregnant Margaret sat alone in her dinning hall, eating a simple meal of bread and cheese. Scottish Highland rules of hospitality decreed that hospitality must be extended to foes as well as friends. A noblewoman of her times, she extended the hospitality of her house to these men.

She left the dining hall to arrange for more food and drink to be brought to her unexpected visitors. When she returned, there, placed on a platter in the middle of the table, was her brother’s head. That’s not the worst of it. The MacGregor men had stuffed the remnants of Margaret’s meal into his mouth.

Let that grisly picture sink in for a minute. Your beloved brother’s head. His mouth is filled with the remnants of your meal. There it is right in the middle of your dinning table.  Placed there by the same men who had killed him.

Needless to say she legged it. While accounts differ, they agree one one thing: she fled her home, in the pitch black of night, into the surrounding woodland. Margaret eventually hid herself in the vicinity of a nearby loch, which is now named for her (Lochan na Mna, the Loch of the Woman, on the side of Beinn Domhnuill). It’s here that her husband, Alistair Stewart, found her a few days later. By the time he had found her, she’d gone mad from the shock and horror.

Loch na Mna. Image source: Source From geograph.org.uk (Peter Standing)

Loch na Mna. Image source: Source From geograph.org.uk (Peter Standing). A heavily pregnant Margaret hid herself away in this beautiful, desolate place.

The child she carried when this occurred? That would be Major James Beag Stewart, 2nd Laird of Ardvorlich. He’s affectionately known as “The Mad Major” – a man worthy of his own article. He is one of the great historical figures from the Scottish storytelling pantheon of national figures.

Welcome to the world of medieval Scottish Lairds.

Finding lost branches through obituaries

I’m a pretty active member on a number of family genealogy Facebook groups. These groups continue to be a source of pure gold. Even if I don’t immediately realize it sometimes.

 

The other day, a member of one of these groups shared the obituary on the left, which lead to a pretty exciting discovery. I was able to reconnect a lost branch of my Holloway family to my overall Edgefield County, South Carolina family tree.

 

Sometimes it’s easy and straightforward to peel back the generations to connect a newly found branch to my family tree.  This wasn’t one of those time. It was a pitched battle of wits going back in time, generation by generation. For whatever reason, this branch of the Holloways stubbornly tried to keep its secrets of how, exactly, I was related to this family group. I’m a Holloway in more ways than I care to think about thanks to endogamy. So I was like a dog with a beloved bone…there was no way I was letting this mystery go. I was going to find Willie’s place in my tree.

In this case, for whatever reason, there was a complicated rhythm to unravelling this mystery. I had to use a unique combination of Newspapers.com, Google Books, FindAGrave, FamilySearch, and AncestryDNA.  Umm hmm, I was that determined to crack this!

In broad strokes, these were the steps:

  1. For whatever reason I had to start with a search for an obituary on Newspapers.com. This provided vital information about:
    1. The date of death, an age (which you can estimate, if an exact birth date isn’t provided – e.g. 2010 (death date) – 69 (age at death) = an estimated birth year of 1941);
    2. Children, both living and deceased.  This is especially helpful when it comes to daughters, who usually appear under their married names. Marriages mean records and records will (hopefully!) have information like a mother’s maiden name…which helps you find a marriage certificate for a person’s parents.  It’s always easier if you have the mother’s correct maiden name along with the father’s name. These records will also have information about: A)  birth counties; B) County of Residence at the time of the record; C) names of parents and thier county of residence, etc. These are all vital research clues; and
    3. An ancestor’s siblings, which you can use to find birth, death and marriage certificates…which will also, hopefully, have information about parents.
  2. My next stop was FamilySearch. Armed with specific key ancestry dates, I found the vital records I needed.  I added these to each person’s page on Ancestry.com. This has to do with the database algorithms ancestry and FamilySearch use. Sometimes, it’s far easier for me to find the records I need on FamilySearch in the first instance. Once I enter the information in Ancestry, the same record usually appears afterwards. It is what it is and I have learned to live with this.
  3. Once I had specific vital information, then – and only then – did Ancestry begin to provide the records I needed. There are times, in my experience,  when Ancestry can be very awkward to work with.  This was one of those times. For whatever reasons, Ancestry was suggesting records for everyone and anyone other than the specific person I was initially researching.  It was only when I had exactly, precise information, that I was able to finally locate correct records on the service. This time around, the various Social Security records were the last records Ancestry provided.   I needed to all of the vital information possible in order for the correct social security record to finally appear in order to prove I was indeed making the right connections for the individuals in this family group.
  4. In a handful of instances, I had to surf over to FindAGrave and view the Liberty Springs Baptist Church cemetery records to find one or two additional pieces of information. In one instance, a family history book on Google Books providing the missing key to unlock records on Ancestry.

I knew I was on the right track from the beginning. Willie Thomas Holloway was buried at Liberty Springs Baptist Church Cemetery. This church and this cemetery has a long, long, long association with my Edgefield family. This was clue #1 that Willie was definitely a cousin. There were family names that immediately leapt out from the news clipping: Scott, Gaskin, and Quarles. I was related to these three Edgefield families in a number of ways.

I haven’t been able to connect Willie to my tree via his Holloway line. His grandfather, George Washington Holloway, is a stubborn brick wall. His grandmother, Annie Smith, is also a brick wall.  For now.

However, I was able to find Willie’s place in my tree via his mother, Susie Anna Scott. This was the exciting discovery bit.  It turns out that Susie Anna Scott was the great grand-daughter of my 4th great grand aunt, Anna Peterson.

Annie/Anna Peterson with her siblings and her parents. Click for larger image

Annie/Anna Peterson with her siblings and her parents. I am a direct descendant of her sister, Amanda.  Click for larger image

Anna Peterson has been a mystery and a brick wall for years.  Me, and a hard working core of Edgefield cousins, spent years trying to find Annie in official records. In the end, we gave up.  We simply couldn’t find her. There were simply too many Annie Petersons from Edgefield who were born around the same time as our great aunt Annie. We just couldn’t be 100% certain we’d found the right records for the right Annie Peterson. This was more than a little frustrating as we were able to trace the lines for all of her siblings.  Annie’s line was the only lineage we couldn’t find.  Until now.

Annie Peterson, her husband, Eldred Scott, and their children in Edgefield County, SC.

Annie Peterson, her husband, Eldred Scott, and their children in Edgefield County, SC.

willieholloway4

Reading from right to left: You will see Peter Peterson and his wife Violet on the right hand side of the image. From here, we can see their son, Eldred Scott, with his wife, Susie Reynolds, and their children. Moving to the next generation, You will see Willie Thomas Holloways, parents – Holland Scott and Pinkney Holloway. And everyone you see in the image above? They’re all cousins to each other – and to me. Please click for larger image

In the end, it was a series of marriage records, death certificates and obituaries which finally led back to our Annie.  Think of this like reverse engineering, genealogy style.  Sometimes, you have to take a shot in the dark and work backwards from a latter record in order to scroll back through the generations to get to where you need to be. Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t. And there were times when I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to crack this.

I was fortunate.  Due to location, family names and a family associated church, I knew this wouldn’t be a wasted research exercise.

Now it’s time to return to the drawing board to find Willie’s place in the family tree via his grandfather, George Washington Holloway!

 

The mystery of Henry West (1608-1647)

Genealogy requires rather a substantial amount of critical thinking and deductive reasoning. This is especially true the further back in time you go…when the paper trail becomes sparse. I’m going through this right now with one ancestral cousin, the English immigrant Henry West who settled in the Virginia Colony. He would found an outpost settlement in what is the Richmond, Virginia area (The Origins of Richmondhttp://www.envisionthejames.org/detail/the-origins-of-richmond/evj79769abf7da845298)

He’s a double cousin. He an ancestor that is shared in my father’s Roane family line and my mother’s Matthews family line.

I have two distinct lines of Wests in my family tree. Henry “The Immigrant”‘s is one. The Barons de la Warr are another (the State of Delaware was named for this line). Contemporary records say that Henry was related to the Baronial line of Wests.  He is cited as being a nephew of Thomas West, 2nd Baron de la Warr and the 2nd Governor of the Virginia Colony:

contemporary account of the death of Henry West

Account gathered from contemporary records. Taken from Plantation Homes of the James River by Bruce Roberts, Elizabeth Kedash https://books.google.com/books?id=6S515rAAEpgC&pg=PA6&dq=henry+west+killed+by+indians&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiC4P7G_7bMAhULHD4KHY1BC9gQ6AEIIjAB#v=onepage&q&f=false Click for larger image

Nephew is a pretty cut and dried familial term. So you’d think that Henry’s relationship to either Thomas should be all done and dusted. Far from it.

Thomas West, 2nd Baron de la Warr, 2nd Governor of Virginia.

Thomas West, 2nd Baron de la Warr, 2nd Governor of Virginia.

Thomas West does have one known brother. However, records for that brother are extremely scare. So far, I have only found one son for this brother. His name isn’t Henry. So no nephew Henry’s to be found here. My hunch is that untangling his descendants will require a visit to the British National Archives in London.

On numerous online family trees, I’m finding stories that my Henry’s proper name was William. So it was back to the drawing board to search. It turns out that Thomas West did indeed have nephew named William West:

A few months short of a year after he arrived, [Thomas West, 2nd Baron] De La Warr left Virginia because of illness. A third of the colony’s population was dead, mostly from disease. Miners, brought to Virginia to search for gold, silver, and copper, had planned a mutiny and seen their ringleader hanged. The governor’s nephew, Captain William West, had been killed in battle [with the Powhatan tribe]. From http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/jamestown_settlement_early

This William West, however, was born earlier than Henry “The Immigrant” West – and died much earlier.

So this William isn’t a match either.

It’s the usual genealogy blunder.  Just because two men from the same family died in battles with Native Americans does not make them one in the same person.

So it was back to the drawing board yet again. I’ve had to go back to the first West who was created Baron de la Warr and sketch out his descendants. There are Henry Wests to be sure…none are even close to being a match for my cousin, Henry “The Immigrant” West. They are either born too soon, too late or never travelled from England to the American colonies.

At the moment, I’ve ruled out all of the possibilities for identifying who Henry “The Immigrant” West actually is. That’s not a bad thing. While I know who he isn’t…I know enough about to him to eventually identify who he is in terms of his relationship to the overall West family. If he’s a relation at all. It just requires more research and hunting.

What is interesting is that Henry “The Immigrant” West had land along the James River, near to properties owned by Thomas and Francis West. Henry is also associated with Jamestown, Thomas and Francis West’s base of operations in the Virginia Colony, upon his arrival in the Virginia Colony. Which leads to me to believe that the strongest possibility is that Henry was a cousin to Thomas, rather than a nephew.

Critical thinking and deductive reasoning suggests:

  1. The original account for Henry “The Immigrant” is incorrect. This would mean that somehow, somewhere back in time, Henry “The Immigrant” West was confused with Henry West, son of Thomas West.
  2. My Henry may not be a relation to the Baronial line of Wests at all. He may simply be from an unrelated West family.
  3. My Henry may share a much older common ancestry with the Baronial line of Wests in England; making him a cousin.
  4. A contemporary may have heard the name West and simply assumed he was a relation to Thomas West.
  5. Henry may be his middle name, which he preferred using. Meaning his first name is unknown.
  6. Whatever colonial records that could shed light on Henry’s relationship to Thomas West have either been lost or destroyed in the course of time, skirmishes (e.g. Bacon’s Rebellion) or various wars.

The search for Henry continues…

Calling Edgefield, South Carolina-descended families for one of the biggest American Family reunions

CallingAllBranchesHeader
The 2nd to 4th of September 2016 (Friday to Sunday) will see descendants from over 120 family branches from one family tree gather in Washington DC for a historic genealogy event.

Each branch of this tree represents a different family surname with deep roots in Old Ninety-Six / Edgefield County, South Carolina. 

The ‘Calling All Branches’ family gathering will see kinsmen and women gather in the same place for the first time since the early 1800s.

This multi-ethnic and multi-racial family reunion also promises to be the largest family gathering in the Metro Washington DC area’s history.

The story of our family is the story of America in microcosm. There will be plenty of family stories and history to share!

Below is a working list of surnames from the extended family:

Adams
Abney
Alexander
Allen
Anderson
Andrews
Berry
Bettis
Blalock / Blaylock
Bland
Blocker
Bonham
Borum
Bosket
Bottom(s)
Bowles
Brooks
Brunson
Bugg/Buggs
Briggs
Burris
Burton
Bush
Butler
Carley/Corley
Calhoun
Chappelle
Collier
Collins
Coleman
Cooke/Cook
Cummings
Dansby
Davis
Demery/Dimery
Deveaux
Devore/DeVore/Devoe
Dobey
Donaldson
Dorn
Dozier
Etheridge/Etheredge
Fair
Freeman
Garrett
Gaskins
Gibson
Gilchrist
Glover
Gomillion
Gray/Grey
Griffin
Hammond
Harlan/Harling
Harris
Harrison
Hightower/Hytower/Hightour
Higgins
Hill
Hobbs
Holloway
Holmes
Jackson
Jennings
Jeter
Jones
Kemp
Key
Laborde
Lagroon
Lake
Lanham
Little
Martin
Mat(t)hews/Mathis/Mathes/Mattis
Mays/Mayes
McCollum
McKie
Medlock
Merriweather
Miles
Moss
Oliphant
Ouzts
Palmore
Parker
Peterson
Phillips
Pinckney/Pinkney
Portee
Powell
Price
Quarles
Payne
Reed /Reid/ Ready
Richardson
Robinson
Ryan/Ryans
Sheppard
Scurry
Senior
Settles
Sharpton
Sheffey
Shibley/Shivers
Simkins/Simpkins
Smith
Stephens/Stevens
Sullivan
Swearingen/Swingarn
Talbert/Tolbert
Timmerman
Thurmond
Truesdale
Turner
Walker
Wallace
Ware
Washington
Watson
Weaver/Wever
West
White
Williams
Wise
Wrights
Yeldell
Young

It will be a weekend of fun, family, excursions, and yes, food!

For more information, please visit the reunion website:
http://callingallbranches.wix.com/ourrootsrundeep#!welcome/mainPage

Calling All Branches on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/849084695209183

There’s an early bird event registration discount, which ends on 1st May 2016. 

I hope to see you there!!

 

Descendants of Drury Cook Matthews from Edgefield County, South Carolina

This update has been long, long, long overdue.

Family Tree Key:

This family tree is arranged by generations. The numbers that appear before are name refer to generations.

For instance:

  1. John Smith (The ancestor whose descendants have been documented)
  2. Adam Smith (This is the 1st generation level. He would be John Smith’s child)
  3. Carrie Smith (This is the 3rd generation level.She would be John Smith’s grand daughter)
  4. Robert Smith (This is the 4th generation level. He would be John Smith’s great grandson)
  5. Helen Smith (This is the 5th generation level. She would be John Smith’s 2x great grand daughter)
  6. Randolph Smith (This is the 6th generation level. He would be John Smith’s 3x great grand son)

Privacy Note:

I have made every effort to delete details for living people. I’ve also made every effort to delete details of people who would make it easy to find their living descendants. I may have missed a handful. If I have, please accept my apologies and let me know. I will remove them from this list of descendants.

Descendants of Drury Cook Matthews*

with roots in Edgefield County, South Carolina

* includes Mathis & Mathes 

drury matthews

While I have traced this line back to the Matthews family of Virginia (and beyond), this tree begins in Edgefield, South Carolina.

https://www.scribd.com/doc/52170639/Matthews-Mathis-Family-Tree

Descendants of Peter Peterson of Edgefield County, South Carolina

Updated family tree.

Family Tree Key:

This family tree is arranged by generations. The numbers that appear before are name refer to generations.

For instance:

  1. John Smith (The ancestor whose descendants have been documented)
  2. Adam Smith (This is the 1st generation level. He would be John Smith’s child)
  3. Carrie Smith (This is the 3rd generation level.She would be John Smith’s grand daughter)
  4. Robert Smith (This is the 4th generation level. He would be John Smith’s great grandson)
  5. Helen Smith (This is the 5th generation level. She would be John Smith’s 2x great grand daughter)
  6. Randolph Smith (This is the 6th generation level. He would be John Smith’s 3x great grand son)

Privacy Note:

I have made every effort to delete details for living people. I’ve also made every effort to delete details of people who would make it easy to find their living descendants. I may have missed a handful. If I have, please accept my apologies and let me know. I will remove them from this list of descendants.

Descendants of Peter Peterson

with roots in Edgefield County, South Carolina

peter-peterson

Descendants of Edward “Ned” Holloway of Edgefield County, South Carolina

Updated tree.

Family Tree Key:

This family tree is arranged by generations. The numbers that appear before are name refer to generations.

For instance:

  1. John Smith (The ancestor whose descendants have been documented)
  2. Adam Smith (This is the 1st generation level. He would be John Smith’s child)
  3. Carrie Smith (This is the 3rd generation level.She would be John Smith’s grand daughter)
  4. Robert Smith (This is the 4th generation level. He would be John Smith’s great grandson)
  5. Helen Smith (This is the 5th generation level. She would be John Smith’s 2x great grand daughter)
  6. Randolph Smith (This is the 6th generation level. He would be John Smith’s 3x great grand son)

Privacy Note:

I have made every effort to delete details for living people. I’ve also made every effort to delete details of people who would make it easy to find their living descendants. I may have missed a handful. If I have, please accept my apologies and let me know. I will remove them from this list of descendants.

Descendants of Edward “Ned” Holloway

with roots in Edgefield County, South Carolina

Ned-Holloway

DNA test results shows Ned Holloway as being a descendant of the Cumberland County, Pennsylvania Quaker Holloway family.

The indenture of former slaves in the early Reconstruction Era

I have been blessed to have found a wealth of American and European family history information and documentation online. No doubt the pace in which historical archives have been digitized and made available online has been fueled by the family history and genealogy boon. There’s still a way to go in terms of information that is available. However, the breadth of volume of materials that have been digitized has led to discovery after discovery with regards to my overall family tree.

There will be a time when I have to begin making trips to the areas in the US that are associated with my parents’ ancestors to access materials that haven’t been digitized. The document below is a perfect example why. This document is valuable on a historic as well as a family history level.

The Reconstruction Era.  I know what it is, this period in the American South that followed the end of slavery after the Civil War (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconstruction_Era). I know the that the Reconstruction Act formally established it. And I know that, as a period of time, it lasted until 1877. Overall, the Reconstruction Act was envisioned to bring the southern American states to ‘normalcy’ in terms of their inclusion in the Union. It was also an Act which sought to protect the rights of newly freed African American slaves. So while I am by no means a scholar on reconstruction, I have a broad-strokes grasp of what it was about. The successes and failures of Reconstruction aren’t the focus of this post. I merely cite it as a reference point and as contextual background.

So what did I already know about Reconstruction?

I knew that freed slaves who remained in the south were to be paid for their labor (again, a point that has been debated since the end of Reconstruction). I never really thought about how that newly introduced system worked. I never thought about the intricacies or the semantics of it. I vaguely recalled the term ‘indentured’ being applied to the newly free African American workforce. While I didn’t have a romantic notion of what that meant, I thought it largely similar to the indenture of immigrant peoples arriving in the early American colonies. OK so the history classes at the high school I attended romanticized the lives of European indentured servants, those who were more than likely to go on to become America’s early pioneers. This would be territories like Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas. As a more informed adult, I know the plight of European indentured servants was far from easy.  Many were forced to become pioneers due to socioeconomic and sociopolitical reasons. I guess the cold hard truth of it was deemed too difficult for teenagers to understand 😉

Be that as it may, I knew that the system of European indenture was a very formal and very legal arrangement. It was a system that was rife for abuse by indentured servants’ masters/employers. Just Google the number of lawsuits between indentured servants and their masters and you’ll soon get the gist of the common abuses perpetrated by masters – and the common complaints masters had about their indentured servants. But I digress. It was a formal system of employment. For whatever reason, I thought the system between newly freed slaves and their former slave masters was less formal. Or, indeed, an informal arrangement between former slaves and their new employers too. To be brutally honest, I just didn’t think people would go to the effort of formalizing employment matters with freed slaves. I thought it would be like any other form of manual type labor employment: there’s a job, you could do it, you were hired and then paid. In my mind, I envisioned it confirmed on a handshake.

And then I read the below (which was sent to me courtesy of Bernice, who found this in her local library in Edgefield County, South Carolina – and I’m so grateful that she did!):

Indenture of Eliza and Ellen Cramer to Simpson Matthews - Page 1

Indenture of Eliza and Ellen Cramer to Simpson Matthews – Page 1- click for larger image

Indenture of Eliza and Ellen Cramer to Simpson Matthews - Page 2

Indenture of Eliza and Ellen Cramer to Simpson Matthews – Page 2- click for larger image

Indenture of Eliza and Ellen Cramer to Simpson Matthews - Page 3

Indenture of Eliza and Ellen Cramer to Simpson Matthews – Page 3 – click for larger image

The above is a very formal agreement. Every aspect of Eliza and Ellen Cramer’s service is covered, including their general conduct. Simpson Matthews/Mathis would have been a cousin to my enslaved 3 x great grandfather, Lewis Matthews (If I’ve identified the correct white Matthews gentleman as his father. I need to see another document before I’m ready to disclose the name).

My first reaction upon reading this agreement was that the girls were so young. Eliza was nine years old and her sister Ella only seven at the time this agreement was struck. Then I remembered that it was common practice at the time for young children from poor families from any background to go to work. All around the world. What would Dickens have written about if not this very thing? 🙂

The one line that really struck me was “…Eliza and Ellen shall faithfully serve the said Simpson Mathis, keep his commands and obey in all things everywhere.” This whey would have to do until they reached the age of eighteen. They could not cause damage during the term of this indenture, nor could they waste goods or allow goods to be damaged or wasted by others. Nor could they marry without Simpson Mathis’s consent during the period of their indenture.

On his part, Simpson was bound to train the girls properly on all aspects of house work. He was also bound to teach them to read, write and, specifically, how to spell. Food, lodging and clothing were also part of the agreement.

Now I refer to the terms given above as indenture for a reason. Historically speaking, parents and/or guardians were paid a sum of money for any children or charges placed under an apprenticeship. This payment could either be aid in a lump sum or in smaller amounts annually. Remuneration isn’t mentioned in this agreement, which is a striking omission. I don’t know if the girls were paid, or if what they did receive (a basic education, a trade, clothing, etc) was in lieu of payment. Nor is there any mention of their father Watts Cramer receiving payment or any payment in kind, apart from his daughters gaining a basic education and a trade. I suppose in the larger scheme of things he would have two less children to provide for and some measure of comfort that his daughters would have the means to provide for themselves in the wider world until they married. Perhaps this doesn’t seem like much in our modern age. I have an inkling that this meant a great deal 145 years ago.

I haven’t really researched this period of American history. As a result, I don’t know if this kind of document and agreement is common or rare. Nor can I assess whether the terms and conditions outlined in it were common or rare for the time in which it was written. If it is rare, does a document like this hint at a pre Civil War relationship between Simpson Matthews, Watts Cramer and Watt’s daughters? Was he their former master? Or was Simpson making a point of doing the right thing for the times they lived in? It would be brilliant if US historians specializing in this time period could drop me a line or post a comment and let me know.

Naturally this document has me thinking about what other nuggets of gold are lurking in archives which haven’t been digitized and made available online – documents that not only give a glimpse into my family’s past but also a glimpse into America’s past. So it’s definitely prompting me to make some trips to libraries and document archives in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina to find out more about my ancestors.

For every person who finds a document like this, more light is shed on the experience of newly freed slaves during early days of the Reconstruction Era.

It reminds me of that saying that genealogy / family history is history in microcosm.

An exciting discovery: Lewis Matthews/Mathis (Edgefield, SC)

There are times when the cosmos seems to open wide and drops a family history nugget of gold right into your lap.  You kind of know when this happens.  For starters, there’s the goosebumps. Goosebumps are swiftly followed by the hairs on your arms and the back of your neck standing on end. A delicious little shiver races up the spine. Gravity seems to take a short holiday. And if you’re like me, when the shock wears off, you’re left sitting in front of your PC, MAC, laptop, notebook, tablet or smartphone wearing a huge ole soppy grin.

This was me last Thursday.  And even better, this experience involved one of my direct Matthews ancestors in Edgefield County, SC. This is a family that I know very little about when compared to other branches of my family’s tree. So this was something extra special.

Image Lewis Matthews / Mathis of Edgefield County, S.C.

Lewis Matthews / Mathis of Edgefield County, S.C.

Like any other day, I logged into Ancestry.com on Thursday.  And there they were…quite a few ‘hints’ delivered through Ancestry.com.  For those of you unfamiliar with the service, once you start entering in details for your ancestors in the service, Ancestry.com pings you about possible record matches for the people in your family tree. On this day there were hints for Lewis Matthews (b. abt 1824 in Edgefield County, SC), my 3 x great grandfather, and his wife, Martha Bottom, born around the same time and in the same location. This is the first time I’d ever received hints for either of them.

This was no ordinary hint. The hint pointed to me another Ancestry.com member, Mr. T. Abney, and his family tree.  This was the first person I’d found who shared the same direct Matthews ancestor. The best piece of content he had was a photo of Lewis Matthews.  Not only could I look upon the efface of a gentleman I’d tried to research for the past 3 years to little avail….I could see the strong family resemblance between him and my Matthews grandmother and two of her brothers.

As serendipity would have it, Thursday would turn out to be a red letter day.  Thirty minutes after looking upon the face of Lewis, I found details covering his life in the book I bought last month:

Image for Lucas, Gloria Ramsey (2010), Slave Records of Edgefield County, S.C. Edgefield County Historical Society.

Image for Lucas, Gloria Ramsey (2010), Slave Records of Edgefield County, S.C. Edgefield County Historical Society.

So there he is, right there in the image below. On 19 January 1831, his ownership passed from Drury Matthews, who died, to Drury’s widow, Mourning (Pope) Matthews.

Lewis Matthews, P 251, Slave Records of Edgefield County, S.C.

Lewis Matthews, P 251, Slave Records of Edgefield County, S.C.

Now this is the first time I’ve found one of my ancestors in a slavery record. To say I experienced a range of emotions would be an understatement. I actually had to walk away for a while to gather my thoughts and grappled with conflicting emotions: joy at discovering him.  Joy at discovering who his owner(s) were which would point to specific areas for further research where Lewis was concerned. And other emotions were experienced at seeing any human being reduced to a dollars and cents valuation. It’s inevitable.

In terms of US history, if you’re descended from African slaves, Irish Catholic slaves (yes, Irish Catholics were sold into slavery too in their hundreds of thousands), Spanish slaves or Native American slaves, your first experience with slavery records will be a mixed blessing. That’s just being honest. However, this shouldn’t put you off. That’s part of the family history bargain.  You’re never in control of what you’ll find or what your reaction to that information will be.

Needless to say, with composure regained, I returned to Ms. Lucas’s book. I had the name of Lewis’s new owner.  I was curious to see what happened to him after his sale to Mourning Matthews.  Lo and behold, there he was again on page 252 of the book. On 17 February 1847, his ownership passed from Mourning, upon her death, to her daughter, Susanna Matthews Pope.

Lewis Matthews, P 252, Slave Records of Edgefield County, S.C.

Lewis Matthews, P 252, Slave Records of Edgefield County, S.C.

And here Lewis’s story ends, for the time being. I have yet to find anything relating to Martha Bottom…yet.

Apart from the joy of being able to put a face to a name (and I can’t really begin to do justice to that feeling), I can take some measure of cold comfort in knowing that Lewis and his family remained within the sphere of the Matthews family until the end of slavery.

Judging by his image and by two descriptions of being ‘mulatto’, this naturally raises questions about his paternity. Was Lewis a Matthews by birth or through association? Only time, or perhaps DNA tests, will tell. The adventure continues…