1845 Will of Col. William Bolling (1777-1845), Goochland County, Virginia

Fellow genealogists will understand the pain of trying to find a critical document in order to push genealogical research forward. Colonel William Bolling’s 1845 Last Will and Testament, and the accompanying 1845 Estate Inventory, was a missing crucial document for me.

The need for these documents is simple. In order to further research some of the enslave people (EPs) held by him on Bolling Island and Bolling Hall, I needed to know how he had distributed his EPs amongst his children. Knowing this would give me the best indication possible on where they, or their children and grandchildren, were living by the time of the 1870 US Federal Census. Chances were high that more than a few of these EPs, and their descendants, would be living on Bolling land in 1870. I could also do highly focused research using a myriad of Freedmen Bureau Records (i.e. Bank account records, freedmen marriages, work contracts, lawsuits/complaints, etc).

I searched high and low for William’s last Will. I threw everything at solving this problem – to no avail. Oh sure, I found plenty of references to his 1845 Will in numerous books and databases. However, the actual Will remained elusive. The kind of fear that only a genealogist or historian can feel began to creep in. Perhaps William’s Will had been lost; burned along with so many other Goochland County, Virginia documents…collateral casualties of war.

My last roll of the dice struck paydirt. I posted the following in the Virginia Genealogy Network group on Facebook:

Group member Debbie P-R came up with the goods. His 1845 Will formed part of a Virginia Chancery court case involving the estate settlement of William’s son, William Albert Bolling. This case is accessible via the Virginia Memory website via http://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/case_detail.asp?CFN=075-1871-001

I had to laugh. I’d already used the Virginia Memory site, where I had found a Bolling family court case involving Col. William Bolling’s daughter (and William Albert’s sister), Jane Rolfe Bolling-Skipwith’s Estate. Col. William Bolling’s name hadn’t appeared in my Bolling search string results, which explains why I missed it. So many thanks to Debbie for pointing me to this second Bolling family court case.

This Will is a goldmine of EP research! It was absolutely worth the effort in tracking it down. Col. William Bolling’s 1845 Will follows below.
Apologies for not transcribing it in full. Time and current deep research keeps my transcribing time short.

Image 413 from the Virginia Memory Chancery Court case file

EPs cited in the image above:

[Item 3]: I bequeath to my son Thomas Bolling in trust for my son William Albert [Bolling] in absolute property the following slaves, namely Henry, his wife Mary Ann [Whiting], their son Jack, called Jack Nicholas, their daughter Angelina and all their children younger than Angelina, and Elvira…

One of the main puzzle pieces this gave me was a new surname to research: Nicholas. Did any of Henry and Mary’s other use the surname Nicholas? Was this Henry’s surname? Time, and further research, will tell.

This family group currently looks like this in my family tree:

Staying with the same image:

[Item 4]: I bequeath to my son Thomas Bolling in trust for my daughter Mary Bolling [wife of Charles Duncan McIndoe] for and during her life the following slaves, namely William called William Tillar [his surname is difficult to read, so I am trying to confirm it], young Andy, Amey and her brother and sisters, and [the names of the following EPs on the next page of the Will – which you will see if the next image below. For continuity, I’m adding the text from the next page here] and Virginia (the daughter of Billar) with remainder at her death to my son William Albert.

Image 414 from the Virginia Memory Chancery Court case file

[Item 6]: I bequeath to my wife Mary [Randolph] Bolling in absolute property the following slaves, namely Old Polly, her sons Riton and George, and daughters Polly, Bellar, her daughter Zipphora, Dick my blacksmith [and] his wife Maria [and] their son Robert, and Elsey, and I bequeath to my daughter Jane Rolfe Bolling…absolute property the following slaves, namely my blacksmith Daniel, called Daniel Fleming, his wife Diana, called Diana Britton, and all their children except Levi, given some years ago to my son Thomas, Aggy, called Aggy Skinner, Arianna, Jacob, Matilda, Ellen, John, called John Strong, his wife Becca, and their children, Daniel, called Daniel Orange, his wife Betsey, and their child Virginia.
The rest of the image above deals with land property matters as well as non-EP related matters.

Item 6 provided the proof that I needed that Daniel Fleming was the father of Diana Britton’s children. That was a key proof to find. The other key piece of information confirmed what I also strongly suspected: that Old Polly was Polly the younger’s mother. This information enabled me to update my tree as follows:

Group 1 from the above image:

I am still trawling through Col. William Bolling’s list of EPs to identify the correct Dick, Maria, Robert, and Elsey referred to in the image above.

The next group:

Aggy gained a maiden name – Skinner. Which, if course, begs the question of how she is related to the other Skinners held by Col. William Bolling.

One of Col. William Bolling’s John’s also has a new surname – Strong. I believe I have picked up his trail in Richmond, Virginia in 1870…a location quite a few of Col. William Bolling’s EP s had relocated to by 1870.

The image below covers the dispersal of non-EP related real estate, shares, etc:

Image 415 from the Virginia Memory Chancery Court case file

If there was ever a textbook example of why an enslaver’s probate records are critically important in African American genealogical research…This 1845 Will is it.

I will leave with one last observation. I’m sketching out an article that will examine this in more detail: surnames used by EPs. Like so many other parts of my enslaved ancestry – these EPs knew who they were. They knew which white families they were biologically connected to. Unable to read or write, they claimed their ancestry in the most basic of ways: surnames that did not change from one generation to the next, nor change when they went from one enslaving family to the next. Liking or not liking an enslaving family seems to have had very little bearing on what many of my enslaved ancestors called themselves. Blood ties, however, did.

The pieces of the puzzle are slowly but steadily falling into place with Col. William Bolling’s EPs. And, of course, I can’t wait to make more discoveries about this group of EPs. Every new discovery inches me closer to finding the common ancestors I share with so many of Col. William Bolling’s EPs. Somewhere in the ancestry of a few of these EPs while be a white Randolph, Skipwith, Carey, Rolfe, Carter, Nicholas, and Bolling. At least that’s what DNA is strongly suggesting.

This article follows on from the article Me, Virginia Historical Society’s ‘Unknown No Longer’ website…and a question answered via https://genealogyadventures.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/me-virginia-historical-societys-unknown-no-longer-website-and-a-question-answered/

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Me, Virginia Historical Society’s ‘Unknown No Longer’ website…and a question answered

There is a growing wealth of information regarding enslaved people (EPs) in America for genealogists who identify as black, African American, or people of colour. The trick is knowing how to use records such as slave inventories, deeds, slave ensurance policies (yes, some enslavers took out insurance policies on EPs. It was quite the lucrative business for some American insurance companies), and similar slavery-based documents to:

  • Solve mysteries / answer questions;
  • Find missing family members for an enslaved ancestor;
  • Push the story of EP s in your family back further into earlier generations;
  • Retrace an EP’s life journey as s/he was passed from one generation to the next within the same enslaving family; or from one family to another via a sale – which includes movement from one town, county, or state to someplace new; and
  • Triangulate DNA results to see if the enslaving family who held an ancestor in bondage was also a blood relation.

There are more discoveries than these which you can make when working with American chattel slavery records. The above are the ones that immediately spring to mind.

I made an unexpected discovery when working with my enslaving Bolling ancestors in Goochland County, Virginia. While looking at my AncestryDNA cousin matches with the name ‘Bolling’ in their tree, a group of a dozen or so melinated Bollings appeared. Looking at the other surnames in their trees, there were other surnames that were significant in terms of my ancestry. However, at this stage, I was curious to see if there was a shared connection via white Bollings (spoiler alert: there was a connection, but more on that at another time).

In and amongst these dozen or so melinated Bollings with roots in Goochland County, an additional name kept popping out which piqued my curosity: Orange. Now Orange is a name I have never seen in my research. Yet, I matched 9 people – black, white, and mixed – who had Orange as a significant name in their tree; meaning they had a minimum of 10 or more individuals in their respective trees with that surname.

I was on to something. I couldn’t have told you what. I just ‘felt’ it. Sometimes that gut feeling is all a genealogist has to go on. So…it was record hunting time. It was also time to see where the records would take me.

Using critical thinking, I surmised the best place to start was by doing further research on my white enslaving Bollings who lived between 1690 and 1800. This meant tracking every last Will, probate record, slave insurance record, Bolling family court case involving EPs, and slave deed I could find.

I began with a general, open, Google search string “Bolling family +slaves.” I hit paydirt immediately in the form of the Virginia Historical Society’s Unknown No Longer website (https://unknownnolonger.virginiahistory.org).

It immediately led me to this:

It was only when I began to click on some of the individuals that my mouth kind of fell open:

Cousin Col. William Bolling had noted intra-family relations, dates of birth and death (or at the very least, years of birth and death), and new enslaver details. Not for everyone, mind, but he did so for the vast majority of EPs. This is genealogical gold dust for melinated genealogists researching Virginia EPs on their family tree.
I had to stop for a few moments to let a myriad of thoughts and emotions settle. Then…It was time for a game plan. The task ahead was going to be formidable.
Looking at an incredibly long list of names wasn’t going to yield the information I needed. I was catching significant glimpses. However, clicking through so many individuals, it was easily to lose the threads of any insights I was gaining. There was only one thing to do: turn these EPs into a new section of the Genealogy Adventures research tree on Ancestry.
Three days of slow, methodical work turned the above list of names into this:

Once everyone was in the tree, then – and only then – could I begin the task of researching these EPs. It’s worth noting that as I added each individual, and his/her respective family groups, I discovered duplicates. Not duplicate records per se. Different records for the same person, whose name appeared more than once in that long list of names. For instance, while it appears there were numerous Sukeys, it looks as though there were only 3 or 4 of them. I suspect these women were also related: mother, daughter, granddaughter, and neice.

Working with records in this manner also revealed naming patterns within the different EP family groups – a simple clue that’s oftentimes overlooked in genealogical research (S01 E06 Genealogy Adventures Live: Ancestral Naming Conventions & Smashing Genealogy Brick Walls (Video)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9YLRoMAnd0&feature=youtu.be)

After 3 days of inputting these EPs in my tree, I was itching to get to work researching the different family groups. To-date, I have traced one-third of the EPs listed in the first image set above down to the 1940 U.S. Federal Census. This gives me something that looks like:

The image below continues on from the Nellie (Nelly) above:

This isn’t to say Nelly is biologically connected to Col. William Bolling. In our research tree, William is given the relationship status of “foster parent”. Ancestry doesn’t give the option of ‘enslaver’, so this is the best we can do to add EPs enslaved by him without making a biological connection to him.

After all of that work, did I answer my initial research question? Do I know how I connect to the Orange family members enslaved by William Bolling and his father?

Yes!

It turns out that an Orange listed among William’s EPs married an enslaved mulatto Bolling who was enslaved on the same plantation: “Yellow Sukey” to be precise. Well, to be even more precise, “Yellow Sukey Bolling.” Sukey, it appears, was most likely William Bolling’s half-sister. Which makes her my 3rd cousin. Which is on par with my new shared Orange family DNA matches.

One thing that has made it fairly straightforward to research some of these EP family groups. That would be location, location, and location. There were two main residential hot spots for these EPs in Goochland: Licking Hole and Byrd. Dover township also comes into play…but nowhere near as often as Licking Hole and Byrd townships. Narrowing a field of focus down to a town level makes this kind of research a relatively easier process. I was finding the EPs, or their descendants, in the 1870 Federal Census exactly where I expected to: in Bolling family land. By 1880, quite a few of the families formerly enslaved by William Bolling had moved to Richmond, Virginia. Not only that, they were living in close proximity to one another in the Richmond of 1880. Again, knowing where enslaved family groups collectively moved to makes it an easier process to find other EP family groups who were enslaved on the same farm or plantation.

I discovered more than this, however.

I was able to link some of the oldest of William’s EPs back to his father…where I found a mix of their parents and/or some of their siblings.

While researching some of the other EPs in that staggering list, certain surnames jumped out at me:

  • Archer
  • Britton/Brittain
  • Burwell
  • Carter
  • Dandridge
  • Eppes
  • Page
  • Skipwith
  • Spencer
  • Spotswood

These names are significant in my white enslaver history. They are all kin on the white side of my ancestry. Not that it surprises me to see EPs, or descendants of EPs, with these surnames. The Bollings married into most, if not all, of these families; who already had a century or more worth of complex family inter-relations (yep, endogamy!). Given the movement of dowry EPs (EPs a woman brought with her when she married), and relocation via inheritence, if any were mulattos and relations to their enslavers, they brought the DNA from the above listed families into the Bolling gene pool. They had children with the Bolling EPs, some of whom were William’s kin. It will take a while to prove this theory. In all honesty, I’m still working on researching William’s EPs from that Unknown No Longer list before I cycle off to trace this history of the EPs who weren’t biologically Bollings.are

I already known two surnames are key to unlocking the connection between the EPs I have cited in that bullet list of names: my white Carter and Randolph ancestors. They are the common denominator that links every single surname in this article.

For now? I’m just appreciating accomplishing my initial research goal.

Playing genealogical hide and go seek with Col. Thomas Pettus (abt. 1598-1663)

Few of my ancestors’ genealogies are as contentious as my 10x great-grandfather, Colonel Thomas Pettus, born abt 1598 in England (either London or the County of Norfolk). His lineage has sparked fierce debates among American genealogists for two centuries. One of the problems is the sheer volumes of Thomases in the Pettus family. It is incredibly easy to get them confused.

Then there is the debate about whether he married Ko Oke “Jane” Powhatan, a daughter of Matoake (better known as Pocahontas) and her first husband, Kocoum. While there is a European-descended researcher group who have challenged the marriage between Ko Oke and Thomas Pettus, 3 different Virginian Native American tribes have not only claimed this lineage down the ages, it verges on the sacred among them. I’m going to admit bias towards the Native Americans’ claim. For who would have better knowledge of Native American history than Native Americans? This too has been supported by researchers William Strachey, historian at Jamestown, and Bill Deyo, the tribal historian of the Patawomeck tribe. These are two men who know the early colonial history of Virginia.

Putting that contentious issue to one side, the next question that surrounds Thomas Pettus is straightforward: who were his parents?

One camp claim his parents were William Pettus, Mayor of Norwich, England) and his wife, Mary Gleane. A second camp claims his parents were Thomas Pettus, another Mayor of Norwich, and his wife, Christian Dethick. Neither, I’m afraid, are correct.

So let’s start from the beginning.

When it comes to tracing my ancestors back in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, I use a handful of trusted and reliable sources:

These resources have stood the test of time. They have been poured over, argued over, vetted and reviewed since their respective publication dates. Just as with native American history and ancestry, who is going to know their own historic lineages and pedigrees better than the English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish?

Pettus Pedigree

Pettus Pedigree2

Source: The visitacion [i.e., visitation] of Norfolk, made and taken by William Hervey, Clarencieux King of Arms, anno 1563, enlarged with another visitacion [sic] made by Clarenceux Cook : with many other descents, and also the vissitation [sic] made by Rye, Walter, 1843-1927; Hervey, William; Cooke, Clarenceux; Raven, John via https://archive.org/details/visitacionievisi32ryew. with much gratitude to Google Books for making this book a free download. Please click on the upper and lower images for a larger image view.

As you can see from the pedigree above, this debate has occurred among British genealogists. You can see where the name John has been scratched out, and Thomas added. There still discussion around whether this man was a John or a Thomas. The majority view is that his name was Thomas.

A quick glance at this tree can see why the name Thomas can easily cause confusion. There’s a number of them. And, of course, there are few dates referenced in this pedigree. Years of birth have to be estimated and then cross-referenced with additional heraldic, county-level, or British Parliamentary records.

john-pettus_portrait

Portrait of Sir John Pettus, Norwich Museum & art Gallery

I needed to know who was born around 1598 in the pedigree above. Sir Augustine Pettus became my anchor. His life is well document. He was born around 1582. His father, Sir John, whose life is also well documented, was born around 1550. With these two estimated years of birth established, my 10x great-grandfather Thomas Pettus would have been a generational contemporary of Sir Augustine Pettus.

Augustine did indeed have a brother named Thomas, known as “Thomas of Lincoln’s Inn” in London. This Thomas was quickly ruled out:

Thomas Pettus of Lincoln's inn 2

Source: Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students, Graduates and Holders of Office at the University of Cambridge, from the Earliest Times to 1900, Volume 1, p.353. Via https://books.google.com/books?id=yIwSb9UO–cC&lpg=PA353&dq=thomas%20pettus%20of%20lincoln’s%20inn&pg=PA353#v=onepage&q=thomas%20pettus%20of%20lincoln’s%20inn&f=false

There are additional college and Lincoln’s Inn records. However, that seems like a bit of overkill. Suffice to say that my 10x great-grandfather Thomas Pettus is not the same man as the son of Sir John Pettus – whose son never left England.

So if my Thomas wasn’t the son of Sir John, who were his parents?

I can easily rule out the Thomas Pettus who was the Mayor of Norwich and his wife, Christian. If anything, this couple might be my Thomas’s grandparents. It’s impossible for them to be his parents. Mayor Thomas and Christian did have a son named Thomas. Very little is known about him. This man is of interest for the sole reason that he was born at the right generational level and time-frame to possibly be the father of my 10x great grandfather’s father. Possibly. This would make Mayor Thomas my ancestor’s uncle, and Sir Augustine wold be his first cousin.

The Thomas born to Mayor Thomas Pettus and Christian Dethick remains out strongest lead. This branch of the Norwich family married into the Rolfe, King, and Dabney families in Norfolk, England…just like Col. Thomas Pettus and Ka Oke Jane Powhatan’s descendants did in Virginia. Why break with a family tradition of marrying cousins?

There is also the names Col Thomas Pettus and Ka Oke named some of their children:

Thomas Pettus Ancestry Page

Please click for larger image

Three names leap out: Christian, Augustine, and Cecily…three traditional and long-standing names used within the Pettus family. Specifically speaking, these are names regularly used within this family. I’m discounting the name of their son Thomas for now. You would expect at least one of their sons to carry this name.

There is one wrinkle in confirming that my Thomas is the same man as the son of the Thomas who was the son of Mayor Thomas Pettus and Christian Dethick. There is another Thomas born around the same time and living in the same place who is a contender for the Thomas born to Mayor Thomas and Christine. Until I can distinguish between these two conflicting Thomases, I wont know for certain.

What I believe is that Col. Thomas Pettus does have a connection to this family group in some way, shape or form.

I’ve mentioned so many Thomases, I am really reluctant to mention any others. However, there is one more. Mayor Thomas and Christian had a son named William, who married a Mary Gleane. They too had a son named Thomas, born in 1610. This Thomas is fairly well documented. He arrived in the colony of Virginia around the same time as Col Thomas Pettus. However, Willliam and Mary’s son settled in a different part of Virginia. Looking at colonial records, you can see both men at the same time. My Colonel Thomas eventually settled in Littletown, James City, Virginia. The son of William Pettus and Mary settled in New Kent, Virginia. Simply put, they are not the same man.

lol and if tall of these Thomases are giving you a headache? Be me. I have to keep them all straight in my head. And, hopefully, you can see why this lineage has caused all manner of conflict and confusion. It’s a puzzle I will solve.

Naturally, towards the end of this phase of research, i found a site whose findings echoes what I have found independently. While I haven’t verified all of the information it contains, so far, our research is in tandem. With the usual caveats, it’s an interesting site to review: The Pettus-Pocahontas Connection via “Southern-Style
A Downhome Perspective on All Things Southern”: http://www.southern-style.com/Pettus.htm

There is also: Misinformation on the Pettus Family via https://pettusheritage.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/misinformation-on-the-pettus-family/

William Holloway, Martha Branson & Phebe Crispin: A genealogical game of hide and seek

My maternal Quaker Holloway family has begun to rival my maternal Quaker Harlan/Harling family, my paternal and maternal Quaker White family, and my paternal and maternal Ulster Scots and Scottish Stuart/Stewart family in terms of size and importance. These four families are enormous. Together, they connect me to a mind-blowing number of Americans from all walks of life.  The sheer number of DNA cousins I have through these four families makes my head spin at times.

The Moses Williams Project (https://genealogyadventures.wordpress.com/2017/05/16/the-moses-williams-family-tree-project-update-1) has brought my Holloway line back into sharp relief. I think I have identified a Holloway granddaughter of Moses Williams, Sr  in Edgefield County, South Carolina. The sticking point is this woman’s mulatto father, Harry Holloway, born around 1797 in Edgefield. I know there is a blood connection between this Harry and my mulatto 4x great grandfather, Edward “Ned” Holloway. They are either brothers or first cousins. Additional DNA triangulation work needs to be done to nail down the relationship between these two men.

holloway-crest

Holloway family crest

Harry is of particular interest for another reason. His descendants are matching descendants of Moses Williams through the Williams line. Initial DNA segmentation work is showing cMs in the 3.2 to 3.5 region.  Along with other DNA variables too complicated to outline here, the common ancestor is looking like Moses.  Specifically speaking, that common ancestor is beginning to look like one of Moses’s unknown 40 daughters, five of whom have already been identified. Finding a sixth daughter would be awesome. Not to mention that if Harry and Ned are indeed brothers, this would mean that Ned Holloway would also be a descendant of Moses through this same daughter. You can see why sorting through the DNA triangulation process to understand this match is so important.

However, in order to solve the mystery of identifying another unknown daughter of Moses, we must begin to solve the question of Harry Holloway’s paternity. Which means returning back to my Quaker Holloway research. DNA triangulation has already identified the white Holloway man who fathered Ned Holloway. While Ned’s father, William Holloway (1765–1838) wasn’t a Quaker himself, he is a descendant of the Quaker Holloway family. So it’s once more into the breach where Holloway genealogy research is concerned.

dvm_GenMono004177-00001-0
The image above is from a book myself and the Genealogy Adventures research team have found to be invaluable. So far, we’ve worked our way through two-thirds of the lineages outlined in the book. As it so happens, I accidentally opened the book to a section the team had already worked through. It’s a section that has a family group filled with brick walls.  These brick walls all had to do with the children of William Holloway and his two wives: Martha Branson and Phebe Crispin.

To begin, I always find it impressive, no, awe-inspiring, that antiquarian researchers could compile lineage research with none of the modern research tools we take for granted today. Olin Holloway, for instance, relied on sending countless letters to Holloway family members.  This formed the backbone of his research.  Added to which, he visited various repositories to search through records, compiled data from numerous Holloway family bibles from the various branches of the family, and interviewed kin when and where he could. While there are wee errors here and there in the book, or differences in name spellings, the work he compiled is very accurate.  Digitized records have proven it. So my hat is off to this cousin for this important work on the Holloway family.

However, like the main Harlan family book, The Genealogy of the Harlan Family, by Alpheus Harlan, there are some 18th and early 19th Century family lines who ceased to be Quakers…and seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth. For those of you who are not familiar with Quaker records, the Quakers kept meticulous and thorough records. These records largely have to do with Quaker Monthly Meetings. Think of these meetings as community administrative records.

Such records include details about:

  • Births, deaths, and marriages within the community;
  • Genealogical information: names of parents, siblings, children, and spouses;
  • Information about where a member of the community was living, and when they lived there;
  • Removals to other Quaker communities: A member, and his or her family, required a certificate from the leaders of their old community when they were planning to remove themselves to a new community.  Think of this as a kind of letter of introduction. These certificates are invaluable. They provide dates, names, and locations; and
  • Removals from the Quaker faith. This gives the date an ancestor or kinsman or woman was removed from their Quaker community. Broadly speaking, this could be from bad behaviour, lapse in attending the monthly meetings, marrying outside the faith without permission, or being married by a non-Quaker minister.

These records are a goldmine of family history and genealogical information.

dvm_GenMono004177-00020-0
The first time the research team came across William Holloway, Martha Branson, and Phebe Crispin, we added the information above into the family tree and moved on. At the time, we felt that if Olin Holloway couldn’t pick up their trail, the chances were high that we wouldn’t be able to either. When I accidentally opened up the book to this page, it was kind of providential.  This time around, I wanted to see what I could find.

This seemed like a providential moment for a few reasons. One reason I am going to share is pretty straightforward.  Having worked our way through two-thirds of this book, the research team and I knew where other family groups at a similar generational level had initially moved to:  Ohio. Columbiana County and Mahoning County, Ohio to be precise. So it made sense to look in these two counties to pick up William’s trail.

And I found him.

However,  I found him in a completely different part of Ohio from his Holloway cousins. I found him and his family in Clark and Guernsey Counties, Ohio. His journey goes something like this:

1820

William-Hollooway-01

William and Phebe with children in 1820. Source: 1820 U S Census; Census Place: Madison, Clark, Ohio; Page: 8; NARA Roll: M33_88; Image: 23

1830

William-Hollooway-02

William and Phebe with children in 1830. Source: 1830; Census Place: Madison, Clark, Ohio; Series: M19; Roll: 128; Page: 92; Family History Library Film: 0337939

1840

William-Hollooway-03

William and Phebe with children in 1840. Source: 1840; Census Place: Madison, Clark, Ohio; Roll: 383; Page: 54; Family History Library Film: 0020161

Finding Additional Records

While the census returns were an exciting discovery, they by no means proved that the William Holloway living in Clark County, Ohio was one in the same as the William Holloway who married Martha Branson and Phebe Crispin; the man who was outlined in Olin’s lineage book. However, I knew where to look to seal the deal now that I was researching in Clark County, Ohio. This lead to the first of a series of marriage and death records that provided additional proof: marriage and death records.

William-Hollooway-04

This marriage certificate proved that William had moved to Ohio, the place where he and Phebe had married.  Source: Ancestry.com. Ohio, County Marriages, 1774-1993 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.

Locating his Will and probate records was another key find:

005430723_00274

This 1839 Will, filed in Clark County, Ohio, clinched that this was indeed the correct William Holloway outlined in Olin’s book. Source: Record of Wills, 1819-1902; Probate Place: Clark, Ohio. Please click for larger image

This 1839 Will raised as many questions as it answered.  Isn’t that always the way when it comes to genealogy?

The children cited in this Will were by his second wife, Phebe Crispin.  I was able to pick up the trail for most of the children he had with Phebe. I have been able to trace these children’s descendants to the present day.

None of his children by his first wife, Martha, were mentioned. Not only that, neither I nor the research team, can find any definitive trace of the children William had with Martha. Where were they?  It was back to the Quaker records for William:

William-Hollooway-05

William’s birth as recorded at the Shrewsbury Monthly Meting in Monmouth County, NJ. Source: Swarthmore College; Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; Record of Marriage Certificates; Collection: Quaker Meeting Records; Call Number: MR Ph:584

Not that we had any doubts, this record confirmed the names of William’s parents, his date of birth, and his place of birth.

William-Hollooway-06

William’s removal record. Source: Swarthmore College; Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; Certificates of Removal (Issued), 1783-1927; Collection: Quaker Meeting Records; Call Number: MR Ph:584

Transcription of the removal record:

Springfield Monthly Meeting –

From the Monthly Meeting of Friends at Upper Springfield in New Jersey held the 9th of the Seventh Month 1788 to the Monthly Meeting of Friends of Crooked Run, Virginia. dear Friends, application being made to us for a Certificate on behalf of Elizabeth Holloway, wife of George Holloway, and their children who have removed to live within the (undecipherable) of your Meeting there may certify that on inquiry it appears she was a good degree of a sober life, conversation and sometimes attended our religious meetings.  The children (to whit) William, Mary, Sarah, George & Thomas being in their minority, have a right of membership with us; as such we recommend them to your christian care and oversight & subscribe ourselves, your friends, brethren, and sisters (undecipherable) in on behalf of said Meeting. Signed

So what does this tell us? As of 1788, a young William left Monmouth County, New Jersey for Crooked Run Meeting House in Virginia with his mother and siblings. Crooked Run was a vital clue.  Numerous Holloway cousins of William had left Pennsylvania and New Jersey for the same place.

Thanks to Olin’s lineage book, I knew the 3 places associated with the Crooked Run Meeting House where William’s cousins were living.  It didn’t take long to pick up his trail in Lynchburg, Virginia.

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William’s 1812 petition to the Crooked Run Meeting to remove himself and his family to the Fairfield Meeting House in Ohio. Source: Swarthmore College; Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; Minutes, 1788-1789;Collection: Baltimore Yearly Meeting Minutes; Call Number: RG2/B/C761 1.4 Please click for larger image

So, William and Phebe (Martha had died by 1808) were still very much Quakers in 1812. This record confirms it, as well as where they moved to from Virginia.

A few things still remain unclear. We have yet to find a marriage document for William and his first wife, Martha. Nor have we discovered a death record for her.  Both are unusual for Quaker records. However, we know that both events occurred in Virginia. And we roughly know where in Virginia. So we have some good parameters to work with to locate these records.

The children William had with Martha are playing a good game of hide and seek. These kids are stubbornly remaining hidden.  However, we have three solid places to seek them out in Virginia:  Lynchburg, Warren, and Frederick, Virginia. The problem is there are many Holloways with the same names born around the same time as these children living in the same three places. It is a slow, methodical, and meticulous task of ruling out those we know aren’t matches to the children we are seeking in order to focus on the candidates we believe will ultimately be these missing children. Did they remain in Virginia?  Or did they move to Ohio as their father, half-siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins did? And did they remain Quakers? And why was there no mention of these children, or their children, in William’s Will? This strikes me as unusual.  Was there a falling out within this family?

There is a last question regarding William and Phebe.  It appears that they ceased to be Quakers. We have yet to find any Quaker Meeting records for them, or their children, in Fairfield County, Ohio, which is where they moved to in 1812.  Thus far, it doesn’t appear that their children remained Quakers. William and Phebe’s children have every kind of record you would expect to document their existence – every kind of record save Quaker records. What happened?  That too remains a mystery.

For now, we’re happy to have broken through some brick walls for this family group…and add to Olin Holloway’s amazing research.

When black and white DNA cousins meet online: A tale of two very different experiences

Genealogy is an adventure. There is no two ways about it. The adventure was something I mentally and spiritually prepared myself for prior to diving in at the deep end. I’ll explain.

Approaching genealogy like it’s a Norman Rockwell painting is never a good idea.

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Credit: Freedom from Want | Norman Rockwell | Oil on canvas | 1943 Story Illustration for the Saturday Evening Post | SEPS Norman Rockwell Museum Collection

It isn’t. Picture perfect genealogy doesn’t exist. Our ancestors and ancestral kin were real people. They lived. They breathed. They flourished…and they made mistakes. They had their strengths. They equally had their faults and shortcomings. They were human and, as such, they were subject to the same foibles, pressures, life events, choices and decisions, and predilections as any other human being.

I knew before I began this journey that I was going to have a multitude of white relations who would be utterly unknown to me. How? From my complexion, my freckles, my hair, and just about every other external aspect of my being…there was more than enough evidence of it. If I had any doubts, all I need do is to look at the wide circle of my immediate family. The evidence of numerous cross-ethnic unions down the generations abound.

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Credit: from The Genetic Genealogist via Visualizing Data From the Shared cM Project, https://thegeneticgenealogist.com/2015/05/29/visualizing-data-from-the-shared-cm-project/

So I was prepped and ready. While I didn’t have a name for a single white ancestor in my direct line before I began my journey, I knew that DNA testing would eventually uncover the identities of my unknown white forebearers. And it has, more than I could have ever imagined, much less anticipated.

On the whole, it has been a positive and affirming experience. It’s certainly underscored various family quirks. I will also admit that I was exceedingly spoiled when it came to meeting my first groups of white DNA cousins on the Sheffey and Roane sides of my father’s family, both online and in person. The words ‘warm’ and ‘welcoming’ don’t adequately describe how I was greeted. They will do for the time being. Were those initial exchanges awkward in the beginning? Yes, in all honesty, but only for a hot minute. The author of that initial feeling will always centre around the how’s and why’s of how we’re related: slavery. Yet, we immediately found common ground. And in the intervening years since we first met? We have a genuine fondness for one another. We are family. So I kind of relaxed into a mood that other white DNA cousins would be equally receptive and welcoming. However, America being America, that halcyon experience didn’t last for long.

When it came to white family members I shared deep roots with in Virginia, North Carolina, and the Quaker communities that dotted the US Eastern seaboard, my experience in meeting cousins from a different ethnic group was truly pleasant. However, cousins who came from states to the south of North Carolina, that experience was split between it being 40% positive, and 60% negative. Those numbers haven’t changed much over the past few years. Given the current zeitgeist in America around the subject or race and race identity/politics, the negative responses have verged on the outright hostile.

I’ll always remember my first negative reaction from a white DNA cousin in South Carolina. She was adamant that she wasn’t related to black people. She even went as far as to suggest that AncestryDNA had swapped my DNA test with someone else. I was far from being the first person this individual said this to. While she wasn’t directly hostile, it was clear she just wasn’t having it. I found this curious at the time. If you know you come from a long line of American chattel slavery enslavers, you ought to be prepared – especially if you do DNA testing – to discover relations who are people of color. Truly, that shouldn’t come as a scud missile to your reality. Nor should a person act like that this is the worst news they have ever heard in the entirety of their lives. As someone who has experienced four miscarriages with a partner, two of them being late term, discovering you have relations who are people of color doesn’t even register on the pain stakes. An awkward experience? Perhaps. I’ll give you that. The worst experience ever? No. Far from it.

I can’t speak from the other side of the coin. For my own part, I have always been open and receptive to white DNA cousins who introduce themselves. That’s just me. I can’t speak about negative reactions from people of color towards newly found white DNA cousins. I don’t doubt that this happens. It’s merely a situation I haven’t come across within my own family.

Let’s fast forward to the past four weeks. I have had two starkly different reactions from white Holloway DNA cousins. The first ran along the lines of my Sheffey, Price, and Roane cousins. She wasn’t fazed in the least. So much so that she felt comfortable enough to send a Facebook invite, which I accepted. I’m certainly looking forward to chatting more in depth about our mutual Holloways. That’s the way it ought to go.

Then there was my second experience with a Holloway family descendant from a different Holloway family line. Ms K sent a fairly passive-aggressive message to me in Ancestry. I can only guess that she felt the message she sent me was perfectly normal and acceptable. You can decide for yourself. Her request was absolutely unambiguous: “Please remove all details of my family’s line from your tree. I don’t want anyone to know I’m related to black people.” I had to re-write my response a few times before I sent it. My first reaction veered towards the “Hell no” variety of response. I was offended and outraged. This was my family too. Thorough research on the Holloways will enable me and the GA team to do some overdue DNA segmenting analysis in order to break through some very stubborn Holloway family brick walls. The more lines you have to work with, the better able you are to do the genetic work needed to tackle this monumental task.

Instead, I counted to ten, took a few deep breaths, and merely responded with: “Sorry, love, but this is my family too. I can’t help how you feel about having black relations. You’re just going to have to wrap your head around it.”

If I could be bothered to do so, I’d try to wrap my head around what the fear factor is with this brand of knee-jerk reaction. I am not looking to be added to Christmas card lists. I don’t expect birthday presents. Nor am I going to hit anyone up about paying my student loan. There is nothing that Ms K, nor those like her, has that I want or need…apart from information. Information is the only thing of value that individuals like Ms K might have. Items like slavery-era probate records that a family member might still have. Or slave deeds. Or old family pictures with black household members who might be my ancestors, or ancestral kin, who were enslaved by their family during slavery, or worked for them after Emancipation. Or information about members of the enslaved families held by their ancestors. You know, fairly basic things that would make my genealogical research a far easier process. That’s pretty much it.

Even better is finding out about family quirks and characteristics. For instance, I can say beyond a shadow of doubt that I get my sense of determination, entrepreneurialism, pioneering spirit, drive to succeed, and hard graft from my Quaker ancestors. I’d say the same thing for my sister and a whole host of first cousins I’ve known all of my life. I probably inherited my sense of humanitarianism from my Quaker ancestors too. My political views are absolutely Sheffey in nature. I’m going to embarrass them, but my Sheffeys re-affirm my belief in decency and basic goodness. I also couldn’t imagine life without my cousin Bill Sheffey. There isn’t a day that he doesn’t crack me up with laughter online. I simply couldn’t imagine life without them.

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I would have never imagined myself chatting on the phone with an elderly Roane cousin from Tennessee who describes himself as a mountain man redneck. I look forward to our monthly chats on the phone. He too is an endless source of good-natured humor and running commentary on day-to-day affairs in the US.

Where did I get my eye for finely made things and my sociability? That’s pure and undiluted Roane. My belief in humanism? That probably comes from so many of the American founding fathers I am either directly descended from or related to (and yes, I openly acknowledge the cognitive dissonance between those founding fathers who were enslavers and their belief in humanism during The Enlightenment). Where did my quick-fire temper come from? Ohh, that’s definitely and undeniably Edgefield County, South Carolina…which I’m guessing sits next to my Scottish and Irish side. That last one has actually spawned a new saying: ‘Don’t make me go Edgefield. You won’t like me if I go Edgefield’. If you don’t know what that means, do a little reading on my ancestor Representative Preston Brooks (D, SC).

I can’t neglect my African-descended ancestors. From those I have researched, studied, and come to know, I inherited an endless resilience, mental fortitude and strength, as well as a dedication towards striving for a better future. You don’t survive 245 years of chattel slavery without these characteristics.

Learning about, and understanding, the various traits I’ve inherited enables me to better understand myself. That’s always a cool thing.

Perhaps, just perhaps, acknowledging you have relations from an ethnicity other than yours will be one way America can demolish a seemingly insurmountable wall of difference and “othering”.

It all begins by conversing.

Will the real parents of Reuben Holloway (1740-1806) please stand up?

I have a gentleman in my family’s ancestry who is causing myself, and the whole Genealogy Adventures team, one enormous headache. He is my 6x great grandfather, Reuben Holloway. He falls on my mother’s maternal side of the family tree. His story is typical. While we know quite a bit about his life in Edgefield, we know little about his life before he arrived in that county. We know nothing about his childhood.

The problem with Reuben has everything to do with correctly identifying his parents.

Years and years ago, when I first discovered I was a direct descendant of Reuben and his wife, Peninah Jordan, I came across a Holloway family lineage book which claimed that Reuben was the son of a David Holloway (1664-1732) and Elizabeth Frances Matthews (1671-1736).

David Holloway

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David and Elizabeth were born and died in Charles River, York County, Virginia. Like any genealogy newbie, I was naïve. I figured every lineage book had been vetted and was correct. And, yes, that dozens upon dozens of family trees couldn’t possibly be wrong. So I duly added David and Elizabeth as Reuben’s parents and didn’t think anything more about it.

Then I took an autosomal DNA test. Yep, Pandora’s box got opened!

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Reuben was one of the first people I wanted to check to see if I shared DNA matches with his other descendants. I did. Around two dozen of his descendants appeared as distant DNA cousins. With cMs in the 3.5 to 3.9 range, the match, in terms of generational time, these DNA cousin matches lined up perfectly. Triangulating DNA segments with some of these descendants who were kind enough to let the team work with their DNA results, as well as my own results, sealed the deal. However, all of these DNA matches ended with Reuben and Peninah. I had zero matches for descendants of David Holloway. I did, however, share DNA with David’s descendants through his wife, France Elizabeth Matthews. The reason was simple. Elizabeth Frances was an ancestral cousin via my mother’s Matthews/Mathis family. The lack of matches via David really made the whole team scratch its head. There were questions after questions after questions.

Further DNA work, which required us to drop matching cMs down to 3.0 cMs, revealed that David was indeed a cousin. However, the matching cMs were small with regards to his Holloway descendants. Tiny, actually – ranging from 3.0 to 3.3 cMs. Dropping cMs this low is contentious; and rightfully so. When you drop cMs this low, you run a very high risk of getting false positive DNA match results. However, when you are looking at common ancestors who lived in the early-to-mid 1600’s, you have to work with small DNA segments. Nevertheless, you really need to understand what you are looking at in terms of tiny DNA segments in order to gauge if that small matching segment is correct and/or relevant. This is what I (heavily) rely on my genetic genealogists to determine.

The common ancestral link between myself and David goes back at least another two generations. One thing became immediately apparent: David and Elizabeth Frances couldn’t be the parents of Reuben. Instead, David Holloway would have been Reuben Holloway’s cousin. In all probability, they were second cousins. That is where things seem to stand at the moment

So…once we ruled David and Elizabeth Frances out as the parents of Reuben, there was one question left. Who were the actual parents of Reuben?

In the course of doing deep research on Reuben’s origins, we stumbled across an old Holloway lineage book Genealogy of the Holloway Families written by Dr Olin E Holloway which was published in 1927. This book is available for research via Ancestry.com. Naturally, we eagerly dove into the book in the hopes of finding Reuben. We found plenty of Reubens…but not my 6x great grandfather. However, what we did find was highly illuminating. With regards to the Holloways detailed in this book, Reuben was far from being an uncommon name for this Holloway family group. Which was telling. It was telling for a simple reason: there weren’t known Reubens in the David and Elizabeth Frances Holloway line.

I have a quick caveat. While there are small errors in the book regarding the spellings of some names, and other small errors, the lineages covered in this book are correct. At least so far – and we’re two-thirds of the way working through this book. Countless records support the information Dr Olin Holloway uncovered in the course of his research.

A few things became clear. The Holloways in the book arrived in the American colonies as Quakers, which is what we expected. So that was some good information to confirm. These Holloways married into the same Quaker families who figure so largely in my family’s ancestry, families such as: Heald, Harlan, Ewing, Poole, Hollingsworth, Hoopes, and Mendenhall. While this was good to confirm, the genetic genealogists groaned. This line too had centuries of heavy endogamy, or generations of cousin marriages within the Quaker community stretching all the way back to northern Ireland, and then further back in the western shires of England and Wales. With all of this shared DNA going back centuries, DNA segment work was going to be far, far, far from easy. To give you an idea, I match one descendant of Reuben and Peninah on 11 different chromosomes. This means we share more than one set of common ancestors. Most, if not all, of these matches will be the Quaker families we share in common. Applying ancestral family names to each match segment is going to require a herculean amount of painstaking work.

The other thing that became instantly clear was the first names used by the Holloways in this book. Certain names leapt out. I had seen them widely and commonly used in my own Edgefield Holloway family on both the black and white sides of the family. The work began in earnest to uncover who Reuben’s parents might be.

While the rest of the team tackled reading through the lineage book, I began to dig into my Holloway matches on AncestryDNA, Genebase, Gedmatch, and FamilyTreeDNA. One gentleman continued to surface among many of my confirmed Holloway DNA matches: George Holloway I, who was born in Burlington County, New Jersey at some time around 1710, and who died in Brunswick, York, Virginia in 1778. Now for the tricky bit. There are as many George Holloways who were born around 1710 living in Virginia as there are grains of sand on the beach. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. However, there are times where that’s exactly how the team feels. This makes it a hard name to research.

George Holloway

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The second issue we have faced is the wife of this George Holloway, Ruth Woods, who was also born around 1710 in Little Compton, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, and died in 1776 in Burlington, New Jersey. The problem with Ruth is straightforward. Some of my DNA matches, including my sister, have DNA cousin matches with Ruth’s Woods family. Others do not. At present, it’s 50/50 between those who match her descendants and extended family, and those who do not. I fall into the category of those who do not show any matches with her family. It’s the ole autosomal DNA inheritance lottery. Which is why you should test as many family members as possible. At the moment, I’m hoping my maternal aunt’s DNA results (which I am impatiently waiting for) will seal the deal. Just a note: everyone matches Ruth’s husband, George.

So, while we await the results of my aunt’s DNA test, the team is also investigating George’s brothers as the possible father of Reuben…just to be thorough. There should be a classic genealogy hashtag, something like #NoStoneUnturned!

At the moment, we know we are looking at the correct family group where Reuben is concerned. There are two misgivings. The first is that Reuben is never mentioned in any of the probate records found to-date for Ruth or George. The second? We can’t find a baptism record for him in York or Brunswick Counties in Virginia. Basic things like these always makes me uneasy.

Let’s back up for a minute. We know that Reuben arrived in Edgefield County, South Carolina from Virginia. We know he married Peninah Jordan in Brunswick County, Virginia in 1764 via their marriage records. Their three eldest children were born in Virginia, which we confirmed through baptismal records. They were in Edgefield County by 1773, where their daughter, Keziah, was born.

Reuben didn’t arrive in Edgefield alone. He removed himself from Virginia with a whole host of Holloway cousins from Virginia just before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. If George and Peninah are truly his parents, Reuben would have also arrived in Edgefield with some of his siblings. Again, this all initially points to this specific group of Holloways as being Reuben’s immediate and close kin.

On the up-side, my sister and I, as well as other DNA cousins, are matching descendants of George Holloway’s parents (John Holloway and Mary Pharo), as well as John Holloway’s parents (Thomas Holloway and Anne Gartery), and Mary Pharo’s parents ( James Farra/Pharo and Mary Ann Murfin). As we dig more deeply into this branch, another picture is coming into focus. As much as this family group married into known and confirmed ancestral Quaker families – it also married into Quaker families neither I nor my researchers have ever come across before in the course of our research. Tracing these new Quaker family lines back anywhere from 5 to 8 generations show no known connection with the Quaker families my Harlans and Holloways married. In short, these new Quaker lines are stand-alone lines with no known links to any other families in my tree. We hope these stand-alone ancestral lines will help in the DNA segment matching work that needs to be done.

While we have answered some questions where George is concerned, much remains to be done. Hence the caveats we have put in George’s Ancestry.com profile.

Reben comments

The Genealogy Adventures team puts alerts like **See Comment** in profiles where a person’s ancestry is subject of speculation, or requires additional research. It really is best practice. It alerts other researchers that there is either an issue, or that more work needs to be done. People will still blindly copy what we have in our tree. However, we do all we can to place such alerts on the Genealogy Adventures public tree.

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The above is an example of the information we provide for other researchers to let them know the conclusions we have drawn, why/how we have drawn them, and to open up dialogue from other people researching the same families. Doing this – and being 100% transparent – has led to remarkable finds, clarification, and missing documentation being discovered.

This is a practice I wish more online genealogy service users would do. Yes, others will blindly add people with question marks into their tree. However, as genealogists, all we can do is be transparent and state that there are questions around a person’s parentage.

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 https://genealogyadventures.wordpress.com/2017/08/04/visiting-monticello )  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 https://genealogyadventures.wordpress.com/2017/01/28/pleasant-roane-rowan-and-the-road-to-manumision-in-lynchburg):

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Exterior shot of the Hemmings cabin

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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.

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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.

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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.

Genealogy challenge: Researching the 43 enslaved children of Moses Williams (Old Ninety-Six, SC)

My cousin and research business partner, Donya, hit me me with a small newspaper clipping packed with some major family history implications for our Edgefield County/Old Ninety-Six County, South Carolina family:

Edgefieldians already know we’re connecting to one another in a myriad of ways from 1800 onwards. Whether our Old Ninety-Six  ancestors were white, Native American, or black…everyone in the Old Ninety-Six region is related. With a long history of cousin marriages,  most of us are related to one another at least three or four ways.

My 4x great-grandfather Moses, and his 43 children, connects many of us at a much earlier date than any of us could have imagined. This one man pushes our combined ancestry back to around 1769, the year Moses was born. We reckon this one man is going to connect around two-thirds of the black and mulatto residents of 19th Century Edgefield/Old Ninety-Six.

Two. Thirds. I’m still wrapping my noggin ’round that one.

This journey of discovery will be far from straightforward.  Honestly, though? It has the makings of a brilliant documentary.

The first challenge is the fact that Moses, his children, and their respective mothers, were enslaved. So it’s not going to be a matter of diving into census records between 1790 and 1870. Moses and his descendants won’t appear in their own right until the 1870 census. If we’re lucky, some of them may appear in the Freedmen Bank Records between 1865 and 1870…if we’re lucky. Most of our formerly enslaved ancestors from Old Ninety-Six didn’t open Freedmen Bank accounts unless they lived near to a city or large town.

At this stage of our research, we have identified the family who held them in slavery. Not unsurprisingly, this was the Welsh – descended Williams family of Hanover County, Virginia; Caswell, Granville, and Pasquotank Counties in North Carolina; and Laurens, Newberry, and Old Ninety-Six /Edgefield Counties in South Carolina.

The relationship between Moses and the Welsh – American Williams family wasn’t just one based on enslavement. DNA is already giving us an insight into which Williams family member fathered Moses. However, that reveal is planned for a forthcoming book.

In the meantime, I thought this would be an opportunity to outline the various stages we’re preparing to tackle this behemoth of a genealogical conundrum.

First up is creating a family tree for the Welsh-descended Williamses:

I’ve adapted our Ancestry.com tree to an old school pen and paper format, concentrating on the specific line of Williams who held Moses and his children in bondage. Millennials will be horrified. However, sometimes, the pen and paper approach is necessary. This step came after a week of reading countless Williams family Wills, estate probate records, tax records, and deeds of sale and/ or deeds of transfer.

The next step was literally sketching out the enslavement of our ancestors within this family, one generation at a time. The image above gives an overview of our ancestors enslavement within the second generation of the Williams family.

The next step was mapping out enslavement based on Wills and Deeds. In the image above, I’ve made a special note regarding the date and location of the Deed. In a way, I’m treating Deeds like they were a census. We know exactly where these ancestors were in 1795 based on this record.We also know exactly where they were going at this date.

While this deed doesn’t offer clues about the family relationships between these people, it does tell us these souls left Pasquotank, NC for Newberry, SC at this date in one large group. We know who went to South Carolina, and who remained behind in North Carolina.

The image above explores our kinsmen and women’s fate within the third generation of the Williams family.

These series of Deeds have been an invaluable information gold mine. Almost all of them gave our enslaved ancestors and kin’s ages (all of those numbers in parentheses). In other words, we could extrapolate birth years. I can’t begin to convey how rare this information is when it comes to enslaved people’s history.

The superscript numbers are tracking numbers that allow us to follow a person through a series of inter-family deed transactions and transfers through subsequent Wills.

The images marked ‘4’ and ‘5’ mark what I refer to as ‘outlier deeds’ within the Williams family. At this stage, were not entirely certain who the enslaved individuals are, or how they fit into the overall history or narrative of our Old Ninety-Six family. It’s my practice to always record, and make notes, even if the information – or its impact – is unknown. You never, ever know if you can re-find such information. From my experience, I know nothing is ever wasted. There will come a point and time in the research process where I will be mighty pleased I took the time to record this information.

The above is a pretty straightforward representation of the dispersal of our enslaved kin by their owner-relative. I’ll admit my heart went out to poor Rose. Her life was spent going back and forth between various Williams family members.

So, at this point, we’re still tracking down Wills, estate inventories, land records, tax records, and deeds for a handful of Williams family members…as well as sketching out more Generation 3 transfers. Then, it will be time to sketch an outline of the same for Generation 4.

Once Generation 4 is complete,  that will bring us to the 1870 Census. Then? Well, we’ll know where our newly freed kin were from the last set of Wills and deeds. We can map their known last location from such Wills and Deeds, along with ages, to individuals and family groups in South Carolina in the 1870 Census for the Old Ninety-Six region.

And then start the whole process over again for our kin who remained in North Carolina from 1795 onwards.

Yep. This is an enormous undertaking. Which, in its own way, is historic.

If researching an enslaved man and his 43 children wasn’t challenging enough, good ole 4x grandad Moses has provided us with even more challenges:

  • We’re seeking Moses, his 2 wives, and 43 children in at least 6 different known counties in two states;
  • There’s an even earlier generation of this family. Their story begins in Hanover County, Virginia;
  • Born about 1769, we know Moses had at least one child named Moses, Jr by 1791. We estimate Moses, Sr began having children from 1784 onwards;
  • The birth of 43 children covers quite a span of time. If our Edgefield family trait of 1 child every 18 months holds true for Moses, were talking nearly an 80 year time period. This means no one white Williams held all of them. These children would have gone to various members of the Williams family over a few generations. And could have been relocated as far afield as Texas, Arkansas,  and Missouri;
  • 40 girls means 40 different surnames, if each one married. Their daughters would also go on to have different last names due to marriage…and their daughters. You get the general idea;
  • Moses, Sr was definitely fathering children when he was a grandfather. We have reason to believe he was also having children when he was a great-grandfather. In other words, some of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be older than his youngest children. Yeah, I’ll let that one sink in for a moment. Heck, the man lived to the august age of 115 after all! Basically? We have to be extra careful when looking at the birth years on census returns; and
  • This is a big swathe of time to cover for 1 person.

So please bear with me. There are going to be quiet spells in terms of my publishing. Our Twitter feed and Facebook page are always busy. You’re always free to keep in touch with us via those routes.

In the meantime, please do wish us well. We can certainly use the positivity.

Namaste

UPDATE Monday, 19 June 2017

The time has come for us to hit the road and begin to research undigitized documents in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina that are related to this project. Part of this project’s output will be making these newly digitized documents publicly available…and buy around 200 or so DNA test kits. Towards that end, we’ve set up a Go Fund Me campaign to the raise the $10,000 we need: Stronger Together:  The Moses Williams Family Project https://www.gofundme.com/stronger-together-dna-project

All donations will be gratefully received. And your support, no matter what form it takes (likes and shares on social media), will mean so much to the team.

Perry Sheffey: snippets of a life played out in the early years of Reconstruction

The Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records (1865-1872) has come up trumps again.  Okay, so I was looking for records for a Perry Commodore Sheffey in Wythe County, Virginia. And, of course, came across story snippets for a Perry Benjamin Sheffey in neighboring Augusta County, Virginia. Yes, both were cousin. Genealogy works that way sometimes. You want to focus on one person in particular…and another person jumps to the front of the queue. I’ve learned to roll with it.

A brief bit of Sheffey genealogy background context

My early Sheffey ancestors in Virginia have been relatively easy to research and trace. First, there were so few Sheffeys to research. Second, my Virginia Sheffey ancestors primarily resided in one place: southwestern Virginia.

On the less-melanated side of the family tree, there were 3 brothers who were the children of German immigrants: Congressman Daniel Henry Sheffey, Maj. Henry Lawrence Sheffey, and John Adam Sheffey. Only two of these brothers – Daniel and Henry – would go on to have enslaved people. This made researching my melanated Sheffeys a more straightforward task. I knew where to look for them.

Genealogy always has exceptions. My 4x great grandfather, John Adam Sheffey, is one. Typically, my melanated ancestors who were enslaved were the results of European descended slave owners fathering children with African-descended women.  My Sheffey ancestry is an exception.  John Adam Sheffey never had slaves.  Yet, of the three brothers, he is the one who had children with an enslaved woman, Jemima. Indications suggest Jemima was part of his brother Henry Sheffey’s household. While I continue to search for records to verify this, I believe she entered Henry’s household with his bride, who was Jemima’s mistress. John eventually left Wythe County, Virginia for Greene County, Tennessee.  Jemima and their children remained enslaved in Wythe.

Having only three Sheffey brothers to work with, and understanding which of them owned slaves – and knowing where they were resident between 1790 and 1840 – made my research far easier than other families I’ve researched.

Map of Augusta County

To the left is a standard map of Virginia. Staunton and Augusta County are just beneath the blue arrow. To the right is an enlarged image featuring Staunton, marked with key places where Sheffeys lived within Augusta County.

Daniel Sheffey, the eldest brother, established himself in Staunton, Virginia (see ‘A’ in the above map). Henry, the middle brother, established himself in Wythe County and neighboring Smyth County.

The geographic location for Daniel and Henry made it easier to understand why African-descended Sheffeys lived in specific parts of southwest Virginia. For instance, African descended Sheffeys in Staunton, and the surrounding area, were strongly associated with Congressman Daniel Sheffey. Those in Wythe and Smyth Counties were associated with Major Henry Sheffey. Henry, whose wife pre-deceased him, died prematurely young himself in 1824. His own children were parceled out among his family. His enslaved nieces and nephews, who are part of my direct Sheffey line, were also parceled out among the wider family. However, without a Will, I have no idea to whom they went, nor the provisions he made for them. This remains a stubborn and frustrating mystery I would dearly love to solve.

The only fly in the ointment has been a distinct lack of probate records for either Daniel or Henry. If either of these men made Wills, they haven’t been digitized, and remain in some dusty and unexplored corner…or they were lost/destroyed. Finding these Wills, and related probate records, will answer a multitude of questions.  An important genealogical question is how their African descended kin became dispersed among the European-descended Sheffey descendants and allied families in Wythe, Smyth, Staunton, and Augusta Counties between 1815 and 1850.

Back to Perry Sheffey

Perry Benjamin Sheffey was born in 1837 in Mint Spring, Augusta, Virginia (see ‘D’ in the map above) to Robert Sheffey and Esther Bates (possibly Harper – her children cited different maiden names for her on their marriage certificates). I call his family group the Mint Spring Sheffeys. They were the only Sheffeys to reside in this part of Augusta County. And, given where they lived, I presume their story began with Congressman Daniel Sheffey.

My first port of call was the 1865 Cohabitation Register for Augusta County. I found Perry, who was living on his own.  This still strikes me as strange.  He had 2 children by this point. His children and wife’s whereabouts in 1865 remain unknown. I also found his parents along with his siblings. However, unlike the cohabitation registers for Wythe and Smyth Counties, no last owner was cited for Perry or his parents. There are no further clues to be gleaned from this source.

My other go-to resource, the Freedmen’s Bank Records, also had nothing for this family.

So, as you can see, there remains quite a bit of work to do on Perry Sheffey and his family.

Freedmen’s Office Records

Perry’s story really picks up in the early days of Reconstruction in Virginia. The Freedmen’s Bureau Archives has three records for him. Each record is insightful, providing a glimpse into everyday life for freedmen and women played out against the backdrop of Reconstruction

The first record is dated 7 June 1866:

silver watch cropped

Transcript: Patrick Corbin (F) vs. Wyatt Smith (F) claims $10 is due him for which friend of Smith’s, Perry Sheffey (F), wishes to leave as security a silver watch to be forfeited if the debt is not paid in ten days from June 7, 1866 – Rec’d the watch [CB] 63323-7 (incident/Claim number).
June 19 – Watch delivered to Pat Carter – Witness O. Morris

Perry strikes me as a likable chap. He’s just the kind of mate you’d like to have if you’re in a tight spot. Here he is putting up a presumably prized possession as collateral for a friend’s debt. It’s not important whether or not the watch was expensive. Nor is it really important whether or not it held sentimental or practical value to Perry.  At the end of the day, it was his watch.

Naturally, I was curious about historical backdrop this small event played itself out against. A short article, Staunton a mixed bag of progress, problems in 1865 (http://www.newsleader.com/story/news/history/2015/12/04/staunton-mixed-bag-progress-problems/76801420/ ), provides an excellent overview of Staunton, Virginia in 1865. Suffice to say Staunton, and Augusta County, were in a bad way in 1865. Swathes of Augusta County had been destroyed during the Civil War. Economic hardship was keenly felt. And, according to the article, there was a degree of lawlessness that made me think of the old Wild West. These were challenging times – and few were immune from deprevation.

$10 was quite a bit of money in 1865.  Adjusting this for 2017, $10 in 1865 would be worth around $140.00 in 2017. That puts the debt of Perry’s friend, and the value of Perry’s watch, into perspective. While it cost him in the end, Perry went out of his way to help a mate. I have to wonder how he felt about Wyatt Smith afterwards.

The second record is dated 25 April 1867:

Land complaint cropped

“Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DRQG-R4?cc=1596147&wc=9LMK-923%3A1078522902%2C1078525001 : 25 June 2014), Staunton (assistant subassistant commissioner) > image 58 of 195; citing NARA microfilm publication M1913 (College Park, Maryland: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Transcript:  Perry Sheffey (c) lives at Stuart’s Drift, Augusta Co., complains that he rented by verbal agreement from Zachariah McChenney, a house and about 25 acres  of land then occupied by Thomas Parnell at an annual rent of $25 at 1/3 of the part possession of house to be given in March 1867 at the latest. That Parnell has not removed and says he shall not move out until the coming Fall and that meantime Perry Sheffey has been compelled at great inconvenience and loss to live in a room in Z McCherney . [Signed by McChenney] 

Note at the bottom: Directed Sheffey to notify McChenney that he required place vacated by Parnell and to report all of this office result.

I was curious about who this Parnell was. Why was he causing Perry a bit of a headache? A search in the 1860 and 1870 Census didn’t place a Parnell in Stuart’s Drift, or Augusta County. He remains a mystery.

I can appreciate Perry’s frustration.  You are freed from the bondage of slavery. You have a family you want to provide for. And, you want your slice of the American Dream – a slice you never thought you would live to see. He was free…and he planned on making the most of it. Whatever the situation was between Zachariah McChenney and Parnell, it had nothing to do with Perry. Putting myself in his shoes, I would have felt pretty salty about the situation.

It appears that Perry and McChenney knew each other very well. McChenney’s name appears in more than one of these accounts about Perry.

There is something that isn’t very obvious in this account. Yet, it’s important.  Zachariah McChenney filed this complaint on the behalf of Perry. There’s an easy answer why. Virginia’s Black Codesof 1705 and 1866 forbade people of color from filing complaints or law suits against European-descended people (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Codes_(United_States ). You were free…but with some fundamental limitations.

Freedmen Bureau records meticulously recorded racial designations. An ‘F’ appearing next to a person’s name designated them as a Freedman or Freedwoman (i.e. a formerly enslaved person). In other words, they were black/mulatto. So too the letter ‘C’ next to someone’s name to designate ‘colored’ – which also included free people of color. An absence of any letter, or the letter ‘W’ designated someone who was white. From my experience, ‘white’ was a default setting, hence it not appearing very often. Using the record above, the absence of any code letter indicates that Parnell and McChenney were both white. While Perry has a ‘C’ for colored.

Perry was a fighter. Farming was his livelihood and he didn’t seem inclined to just let things work out for themselves.  I was liking him already. I don’t know how this matter was resolved.  However, I do know that Perry can be found in South River Township in Augusta County in the 1870 Census. He’s listed as a farm laborer. That census told me a little bit more about Perry. He couldn’t read or write.

Perry Sheffey in 1870

Perry Sheffey’s household in 1870

By 1880, Perry is still a farm laborer.  However, by this Census, he can read and write.

Perry Sheffey in 1880

Perry Sheffey’s household in 1880

I have to admire his tenacity. Somehow, some way, after a day of physically grueling work, he learned how to read and write. I picture him rising before sunset to face a day of farming and all that entailed. Anyone familiar with farming knows it’s a long and grueling work day. I know I, for one, would be inclined to go home, eat, and put my feet up. Not Perry.  Bit by bit, hour by hour, he became literate. That determination is something I admire.

It’s the last Freedmen’s Bureau record that I found for him, dated 9 June 1866, that had me laughing out loud:

Perry Sheffey complaint

“Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FPGR-7WY : 24 December 2014), Perry Sheffy, ; citing NARA microfilm publication M1913 (College Park, Maryland: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 2,414,653.

Transcript: Elick Johnson (F) vs. Perry Sheffey (F) lives near Bardy Brook – complains that Sheffey has two wives and one is a white woman, the other is in the County – is a public nuisance as they often live together – Mr Adam McChenney told him to mention the case.

Oh to have been a fly on the wall while this conversation was happening. It’s the writer in me. I can just imagine the hushed, scandalized, urgent tone of the person’s voice relaying this complaint to the Union officer.

Perry, it seems, was going to live his life the way he wanted to without apology. In fairness to him, the basis of this wasn’t exactly unheard of. The 1850, 1860, and 1870 Censuses for the area show quite a few households headed by women of color with multi-racial children. These were the second, “hidden” families of the European descended men in the area. I can only surmises that Perry thought if it was good enough for them, then it was good enough for him. At least he was open and honest about it. If they were all living together, as the complaint states, then it was probably a harmonious arrangement. I get it though.  It was not the done thing. And it certainly wasn’t the done thing for a man of color. Still, the cheekiness of it makes me smile.

Three tiny snippets of bureaucratic record keeping provided some depth to someone who was previously just a name among many names. Story snippets like these are worth their weight I gold precisely for that reason.