Ghosts in the DNA: The lost diversity of early colonial Virginia

Source: Charles Cittie, AKA: City Point, Hopewell by Carol Tyrer via https://www.flickr.com/photos/22616393@N04/6770731109C

Nestled along the James River, Varina is a remote and quiet part of Virginia. Its vast tracts of rich farmland provide no indication that this region was once the epicenter of early colonial Virginia. Nor are there any hints that three cultures – British, Native American, and African – did more than play out parts of a deeply troubled history. They merged. That these cultures met and mixed is not in question. History books are filled with accounts of skirmishes between British immigrants and the Native American tribes who called this land home. History books also tell us of the 20-and-odd Africans who were brought to this area in 1619.

History has been, and remains, silent about how these three cultures mixed in the primordial Virginia colony of the early 1600s. This part of their shared history has yet to be told.

Genealogy Adventures aims to correct that omission.

A little bit of history first

Varina was named for Varina Farms, a plantation John Rolfe, the husband of my 12x great grandmother Pocahontas, established on the James River. It sits approximately an hour’s drive north from the settlement of Jamestown. It sits across the river from the settlement known as the Cittie of Henricus, which was wiped out by a Native American attack.

Varina had the distinction of being the county seat of Henrico in 1634 when the area was formed as one of the eight original shires of Virginia. It held that distinction until a courthouse was built in Richmond in 1752.

Richmond would emerge as a major community and port by the 1750s. An investment in land transportation in and around Richmond enabled it to eclipse Varina as a colonial epicenter. The isolated and rural Varina slipped primarily into agriculture use.

My link to Varina

A number of men in my family achieved great and notable things. Patriots, entrepreneurs, inventors, explorers, businessmen, legal geniuses, and politicians – they excelled in those things the world of men hold dear. However, it has consistently been the women in my family tree who have delivered the most genuinely jaw-dropping, totally unexpected, surprises. May I have a shout out to the ladies in our trees please!?

What I am about to relay is perhaps the most jaw-dropping moment in a pantheon of jaw-dropping moments from my family’s ancestry.

From left to right: my paternal grandmother, Susan Julia Roane Thomas Sheffey, and her parents, Julia Ella Bates and Leonard Wilson Roane, Sr

My connection to Varina is via my paternal grandmother, Susan Julia Thomas Roane. Both of her parents were born in Varina.

Granny Susie had already provided a huge reveal many years ago when DNA testing proved she was the 4x great grand-daughter of Patrick Henry. Yes, that one.

The Roane line is the oldest part of my tree. It was one of the earliest lines I research many years ago. It was a fairly straightforward line to research. Julia Bates’ line, however, was far from straightforward. I hit an impasse…and then my mother’s Old Ninety-Six, South Carolina ancestry took over, leaving Julia’s line, on my dad’s side of the tree, to languish – until a week or so ago. That was a good thing.

I had met a group of amazing South Carolina researchers who were my cousins. It was, and remains, a thrill to work as part of an active genealogy research group. And trust me, when it comes to the area formerly known as the Ninety-Six District of South Carolina, you need a group of seasoned genealogists to work with. It’s a place that throws every kind of research difficulty at you:

  1. Endogamy (excessive cousin marriages down the generations) on steroids;
  2. A handful of commonly used first names that were used over and over again in many lines within an extensive, inter-connected family;
  3. Family spread over a vast region of a state;
  4. Family that spans race and/or ethnicity;
  5. One name ancestors;
  6. Ancestors who seem to disappear from the face of the earth;
  7. Unbelievable numbers of surname spelling variations;
  8. A thorough understanding of how to research enslaved people;
  9. Incredibly complicated and complex inter-relationships between every family in the region;
  10. Knowing how to utilize a vast array of records to do the research work on enslaved ancestors – and where/how to access and find those records;
  11. An intermediate (at the very least) understanding of genetic genealogy; and
  12. Finely honed critical thinking skills.

South Carolina made me the genealogist and researcher I am today. I couldn’t even begin to think about tackling Varina without that experience and expertise. All of the above-listed points would come into play.

Susie Roane Thomas Sheffey’s roots run deep within Henrico, Charles City, Goochland, Chesterfield, and Powhatan Counties in Virginia due to complicated, multi-layered inter-connections within her white and black ancestry in this area, collectively referred to as the Northern Neck of Virginia.

Source: County borders of Goochland County, Virginia, USA, on a map of Virginia. via https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/File:Vagoochland.jpg

When everything seems connected

Old Ninety-Six is a demanding mistress when it comes to genealogical research. After five steady years focused in this one place, I needed a break. So I decided to delve into my white Bolling ancestry in Goochland County, Virginia. Prior to removing themselves to Goochland, this line of Bollings, descended from Pocahontas and John Rolfe, were located in…Varina.

Truthfully? I was called to them.

I came across a series of Bolling lawsuits, referred to as Chancery suits in Virginia law, involving my Bolling ancestors and/or Bolling relations. The suits had to do with the disposals of various Bolling estates as part of their probate. These suits were a treasure trove of names for those my Bollings had enslaved.

It took me weeks to add the names of literally hundreds of enslaved people on my family tree in order to research them. To-date, I have traced roughly a tenth of some 500+ enslaved people down to the 1940 U.S. Federal Census. Certain surnames from the various enslaved mulatto family groups immediately lept out at me: Bolling (For obvious reasons. They were bound to be related to their white enslaving Bolling family), Pleasants, Harris, Page, Cocke, and Woodson. These surnames were threaded throughout my grandmother’s family in Varina, as well as her family in nearby Charles City County, Virginia. I asked myself an obvious question: what were the chances that these enslaved families were part of Julia Bate’s and Leonard Roane’s families?

You see, Julia’s father’s place of birth was in Goochland County…right where my Bollings were. Did they go back to Varina? Time and further research will tell.

Her mother’s people, however, had deep, deep roots in Varina. As did Susan Price, my grandmother’s father’s mother. In short, my grandmother had a double dose of Varina. Her two ancestral mulatto connections to Varina ran deep. Indeed, it looks like the Bateses and the Prices had roots in Varina for as long as there has been a Varina.

My inner bloodhound catches an exciting scent

I had one thing left to finish before I could swing my full attention to Varina. That involved researching the enslaved people freed by John Pleasants III (1698-1772), and his son Robert Pleasants, as well as looking at enslaved people freed by other members of the Pleasants family in the middish 1700s. In all, there were over 500 enslaved people who were set free by the Quaker Pleasants family, which included the Quaker Jordan family.

It took weeks to add all of the freed individuals to my family tree before I could begin to research them properly. Again, like the Bollings, certain surnames just lept out at me, particularly for those described as mulattos: Pleasants (for obvious reasons again), Woodson, and Fleming. However, this time, there were new surnames that were of interest: Crump (I had seen this name among some of the families enslaved by the Bollings), Ligon (a noted free family of colour), and Goins/Gowen/Goings (another noted free family of colour). Ligon and Goins were also names threaded throughout my grandmother’s ancestry.

These individuals are a mere fraction of the enslaved people who were to be freed by John Pleasant III’s Will. Note some of the surnames.

All of these families were living near each other from the time they were freed. This can be seen in late 18th Century tax lists in Henrico and Charles City Counties. Julia Bates’ enslaved ancestors were right there among them, and marrying them, by the time of the 1870 U.S.Federal Census.

I actually had chills. The hairs on my arms and the back of my neck literally stood up. And yes, I had goosebumps too. I was on to something. I had actually caught a whiff of something exciting.

It was Varina or bust.

Genealogy CSI Cold Case style

Something pulled me back to the Woodson family. The reason why took less than a day to materialize. I found a Dr. John “The Immigrant” Woodson who arrived in Jamestown around 1622. John and his wife, Sarah, would first reside at Flowerdew Hundred on the James River. After surviving an attack by neighboring Native Americans, who attacked after men from Flowerdew Hundred tried to steal their corn supplies, John and Sarah would go on to build a house known as Curles Neck further up the James.

In 1623, John and Sarah were documented as having six unnamed Africans in their household.

Six Africans in 1623. Why is that significant? The first Africans to arrive in Virginia, 20+ of them, arrived in 1619. There are no other known Africans arriving in Virginia between 1619 and 1623. Hence academics believing that six of the twenty-and-odd Africans were in John Woodson’s household. Others were with John Rolfe, the Piersey family, the Yeardly family, and the West family.

DNA, enter stage right

I apologize that has taken some time to get to this point. I had to step you through the various stages, from the beginning to this point, in order for what follows to even begin to be credible or plausible…much less believable.

My next step was to dig around in and amongst my DNA matches.

Due to extreme endogamy on the white side of my tree, I am already connected to the Pleasants, Woodson, Yeardly, Rolfe, Piersey, West, and Ligon families. If I had any doubts, DNA matches with descendants of two more families – Farrar and Michaux – sealed the deal. Those last two additional families are closely allied with my Pleasant and Woodson lines.

Very short snippets of shared DNA suggest that neither the Michaux or Farrar lines were among my direct ancestral lines. These two families were cousin lines. I share less DNA with them than I do with all the others listed. Nor do I share DNA with all Michaux or Farrar descendants. So far, I only share DNA with descendants of those who married Woodsons, Pleasants, and the families these two families married into.

To kick things off, I poked around my AncestryDNA matches. I had a set criteria list of what I was looking for:

  1. People with at least the Pleasants AND the Woodson surnames in their tree;
  2. Multiple people with each of these surnames in their direct ancestry (1, 2, or 3 people in their tree with these surnames wasn’t going to cut it);
  3. Direct ancestors from these two lines who were in and around Varina during the time period in question;
  4. People who were direct descendants of Dr John Woods and John “The Immigrant” Pleasants;
  5. Well researched trees: everyone on these lines had to be thoroughly documented as per established best practice; and
  6. Had no African DNA showing in their results (this last one was harder than I thought. It turned out that around 20% of my matches who met the first five criteria had trace amounts of sub-Saharan DNA).

I had 14 matches who met all 6 criteria. My Dad? He had 23!

Here is one of my matches:

In terms of my tree to-date, the Woodson and Pleasants families should also be cousin lines. I have no known direct ancestors from either family. One approach to investigating this was analyzing centiMorgans (cMs) with people who identify as white and were descendants of both families. cMs denote the size of matching DNA segments in autosomal DNA tests. Segments which share a large number of cMs in common are more likely to be of significance and to indicate a common ancestor within a genealogical timeframe.

Based on the length of centiMorgans (cMs), DNA strongly suggests a shared common ancestor between me and a group of people who were kind enough to share their DNA information with me. Caveat alert: I used the very unscientific Gedmatch.com to do an initial analysis. What I am suggesting requires a full scientific study in order to disprove or prove what I have initially found.

On average, excluding Farrar and Michaux descendants, the others and I share between 2.0 to 3.3 cMs on an average of 7 chromosomes. Yes, those are small shared DNA lengths. Some may very well be false positives (something you have to be mindful of when working with small lengths like these). Interestingly, while small, our shared DNA overlap in the same chromosomes within the comparison group of people. I am the only one showing African DNA, the others come up as European. For the real DNA eggheads out there, our SNPs run between 234 and 640. Again, this is small, but not easily dismissible. The amount of shared DNA aligns with a timeframe between 1630 and 1690, which suggest either children and/or grandchildren who carried both African and European DNA from this community.

There are any number of reasons why I might have these matches. Too many to go into here. Whatever you can think of to ask, trust me, I have pondered it and asked both myself and others. In the end, it boils down to the most straightforward answer: while we may never know all of the names of the Africans who arrived in Virginia in 1619 – we can begin to identify their DNA. That, in and of itself, would be awesome.

So what am I left with?

At this stage, there is nothing definitive that I can say. This requires a robust and controlled scientific study.

But I am not surprised at what I think my DNA is pointing to. There were 20+ Africans who were either indentured servants, enslaved, or a combination of the two – meaning not all 20+ Africans were one thing or another.

Note: Colonial Virginia plantations along the James River. Julia Bates’ family has connections with the majority of them, all up and down the river.

Their story and fates were tied to those of the white families they were held by, either temporarily or permanently. Like the white households they were a part of, they went up and down the James River during this early period of colonial Virginia’s history. Which means the DNA of these Africans also went up and down the James River. And mixed with that of the British who held them…And the Native Americans who were also enslaved by the British during this time period.

Everything in my being is saying to me that the mulatto Pleasants, Woodsons, Wests, Flemings, Harrises, Pages, Cockeses, and Ligons in this part of Virginia are a mixture of some of the Africans who arrived here in 1619, the white families who settled this regions, and some of the Native Americans who were also enslaved by the same families.

A whole lot of Americans will be genetically linked to this mix of people, this ghosted chapter in our collective history.

Now all I need to do is intrigue the right scientists out there to undertake the mother of all American genetic studies. Little old Varina is hiding one heck of a bombshell when it comes to amazing historic discoveries.

The Genealogy Adventures team has always believed in one fundamental idea: that as a society increases its understanding of its collective history, it might be able to get past the constructs of race, ethnicity, culture, and so on – all of the man-made constructs that divide us – and begin to realize that through our innumerable life stories and shared experiences/histories…that we we just might have more in common than we think.

GA Live S01 E10: Why Changing State & County Boundary Lines Matter

In this episide, co-hosts Brian Sheffey and Donya Williams – and special guest Loretta Bellamy – chat about how shifting state and county lines can affect your genealogy research

Not knowing how the boundaries of colonial territories, states, and counties radically shifted over time can seriously trip you up when it comes to researching your ancestry.

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking about one of my ancestors who seemed to bounce between two states and three counties. Not a bit of it. He occupied the same parcel of land for the entirety of his life. So what was up? Shifting state and county lines.

Join Genealogy Adventures Live every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month @ 4pm EST via https://www.facebook.com/genealogyadventuresusa

GA Live S01 E09: Pushing beyond the 1870 Census to find your enslaved ancestors

You’ve made it to the 1870 U.S. Federal Census…and now you have no idea of what to do or where to go to research your enslaved ancestors. “What do I do now?” is a question we continually see in countless Facebook African-American centric genealogy groups on Facebook, or letters to The Root.

We’re doing this broadcast with you in mind.

Join host Brian Sheffey and Donya Williams – with our special guest, librarian Sharon Rowe – as we share the tips, tricks, and research resources we’ve used to smash through slavery era brick walls.

Join Genealogy Adventures Live every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month @ 4pm EST via https://www.facebook.com/genealogyadventuresusa

GA Live S01 E08: Sheila Hightower-Allen DNA Memorial Fund & Howard University

Check out our recent broadcast about our groundbreaking project with Howard University’s Biology & Genomics Dept.

We chatted with our Sheila Hightower-Allen DNA Memorial Fund Project partners – Director of Biology, Dr. Fatima Jackson, and Geneticist, Jennifer Caldwell – about the intersection of science + technology + genetics + genetic genealogy + health screening + anthropology.

The show aired on June 17th.

Please share so we can get the word out about this special and historic project.

Join Genealogy Adventures Live every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month @ 4pm EST via https://www.facebook.com/genealogyadventuresusa

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/

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.

GA Live S01 E07: Critical Thinking & Genealogy Research

Genealogical research is filled with mysteries, conundrums, conflicting information, and dubious claims…which needs solving in some way shape or form to reach a resolution and the truth. Critical thinking is an essential tool/skill every serious genealogist and family historian ought to use in the course of his or her research.

So what is critical thinking?

Criticalthinking.org says that critical thinking is:

“…that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it [thinking about how you think]. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism [not making everything about us or our viewpoint] and sociocentrism [a tendency to assume the superiority or rightness of one’s own social group].”

A well-cultivated critical thinker:

  • Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
  • Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively;
  • Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • Thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as needs be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems

Join Donya and Brian as they chat about how critical thinking is embedded in their genealogical research…And the amazing successes they’ve had piecing lost branches of their family via this essential skill.

Join Genealogy Adventures Live every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month @ 4pm EST via https://www.facebook.com/genealogyadventuresusa

Genealogy Adventures Live S01 E07: Critical Thinking (Sunday, 3 June 2018 @4pm EST)

Genealogical research is filled with mysteries, conundrums, conflicting information, and dubious claims…which needs solving in some way shape or form to reach a resolution and the truth. Critical thinking is an essential tool/skill every serious genealogist and family historian ought to use in the course of his or her research.

So what is critical thinking?

Criticalthinking.org says that critical thinking is:

“…that mode of thinking — about any subject, content, or problem — in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing, and reconstructing it [thinking about how you think]. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It entails effective communication and problem-solving abilities, as well as a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism [not making everything about us or our viewpoint] and sociocentrism [a tendency to assume the superiority or rightness of one’s own social group].”

A well-cultivated critical thinker:

  • Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely
  • Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively
  • Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards
  • Thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as needs be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences
  • Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems

Join Donya and Brian as they chat about how critical thinking is embedded in their genealogical research…And the amazing successes they’ve had piecing lost branches of their family via this essential skill.

I have already written about how important critical thinking is in genealogical research. Its a good article to read before the show:

Critical Thinking: An important skill in genealogy research: https://genealogyadventures.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/critical-thinking-an-important-skill-in-genealogy-research/

See you Sunday, 3 Jun 2018 at 4pm EST for Genealogy Adventures Live!

Show url: https://www.facebook.com/genealogyadventuresusa

GA Live S01 E06: Ancestral Naming Conventions & Smashing Genealogy Brick Walls

There are times when we only have an ancestor’s name to work with in the coyrse of our family research; especially if your ancestral history is filled with one name ancestors (e.g. enslaved ancestors).

Understanding your family’s naming conventions – among your different ancestral lines – can give you major clues to work with when it comes to pushing your family’s story back further.

For enslaved African-descended people in America, who were forbidden from reading and writing, the names they chose for their children were ladden with their family’s history…and clues you can work with.

Have you ever wondered how a person got their name? How about why there are so many Augustus, Carrie, Janie, and Alphonso in one family? With women in particular, if you only have a first name to go by, her first name can be a vital clue to her family connection.

Join Genealogy Adventures Live every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month @ 4pm EST via https://www.facebook.com/genealogyadventuresusa

Genealogy Adventures’s Youtube channel wins “YouTube Top 25 Channel” Award

Genealogy Youtube Channels

Feedspot (https://wwe.feedspot.com), is one of the best online tech services that enables you to read all of your favorite website updates in one place (and discover new good ones!). Well, they just sent us some love. Yep, they named our YouTube channel as ‘one of the Top 25 genealogy YouTube channels to watch in 2018’.

A big thank you to all of you who have supported us through the years. You made this award possible in a very real and tangible way.

You can see the other 24 YouTube genealogy channels who also won this award by surfing off to:

https://blog.feedspot.coml/genealogy_youtube_channels