New DNA adventure show concept, new TV production conversations

20111019-072_webI’ve spent the past week and a bit in talks with a broadcasting company about a new DNA docu-reality adventure series I’ve been developing. This series, unlike the first one, will primarily be based in the US and Europe. Later series will focus more on other parts of the globe.

The head of programming  who was part of the conversation asked a great question: what were some of the top experience I wanted to share via this series. It’s such a seemingly simple question. However, there’s a real depth to it. The show’s natural high and low points – the drama, in other words – hinges on these experiences.

dnaadventures

It didn’t take me long to answer the question. Smashing long-standing brick walls. The answers to questions I’ve had for years will provide plenty of laughs, dad dancing, high fives – and probably a few tears – along the way.

So what were the top family history and genealogy brick walls I chose to share during the meeting?

On my father’s side of the family tree

Jemimah Sheffey

Born in Virginia around 1770, I am one to two generations away from finding the African ancestors for my 4x great grandmother. Just old enough to remember the American Revolution, Jemimah lived long enough to experience the freedom American Revolutionaries fought for a few short years after her birth. Born into slavery, the Emancipation Proclamation freed her and three generations of her family.

She adopted the name of the man who fathered her children: Sheffey. But what would her maiden name of have been had she not been enslaved? What surname did her siblings (whoever they were) and their descendants take?  Did they identify as Sanders/Saunders? As Whites? As Georges? I have absolutely no idea. I’d love to find out. It’s a gaping void in my father’s side of the family tree.

The early origins of her story is linked to Captain James Lowry White of Staunton, Augusta, Virginia. James was the father of Jemimah’s first child. I suspect James, and his father before him, owned not only Jemimah, but her enslaved ancestors as well.

This naturally brings me to…

James Lowry White

James is interesting to me for a number of reasons. He is a cousin on my mother’s side of the family. He also happened to own a number of my father’s ancestors and kin. It’s one of the many Quaker connections that link my father’s and mother’s families.

James White was one of the richest men in America in his day. Yet, he died intestate (without a will). On the one hand, I find it amazing that such a phenomenally successful business man didn’t leave his house in order before he died. On the other hand, it’s lucky for me that he died without a will. The legal battle over his estate lasted for decades. Where there is a probate legal battle, there is a detailed accounting of an estate. Since slaves were property, there will be plenty of documentation about the slaves he owned and where they were resident (James had farms and plantations in Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama. All of them had slaves.)

Thankfully, the Library of Virginia houses an extensive collection of his family papers, including the probate case.

James holds the key to the origins of Jemimah and her extended family. He also holds the key to my George and White family ancestors.

He is the link that will unite around 25 individual family lines in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama.

Finding the common ancestors for these lone family lines will be huge.

Cornelius White & Ann St. Clair

Cornelius has been as stubborn a brick wall as any I’ve encountered. I simply cannot find any information for him prior to 1870. I have used every tip and trick I can think of to unlock his ancestry. I have zip. Nada. Nothing.

I suspect that Cornelius was my great grandfather’s middle name. If this is correct, the priority will be in discovering what his first name was in order to pick up his life story.

My gut tells me that he and his immediate ancestors were owned by James Lowry White, and later on by James’s children who remained in the Wythe, Smyth and Augusta areas of Virginia. I’m also fairly certain that Cornelius, a mulatto, had a blood connection to the white White family.  Top of my to-do list to determine the blood connection is having one of Cornelius’s direct male descendants taking a YDNA test and comparing the results to a direct male descendant of James White.

I also believe that James White, or his father, owned the ancestors of Ann St Clair, Cornelius’s wife. Born into slavery in Tennessee, I have no idea of when Ann arrived in Wythe County, Virginia. My working hypothesis is that she was part of a White family estate dispersal that made Wythe County her new home before the outbreak of the American Civil War.

Peter Scheffe

Peter Scheffe, my 9x great grandfather, is an enigma wrapped in a riddle surrounded by mystery. My storyteller’s heart is shouting ‘bigtime story!’ where he’s concerned.

He just appears in Germany out of nowhere. His arrival coincides with the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the outcome of which sent many French Protestants fleeing into the religious safety of the German dukedoms, principalities and kingdoms. This man went from being a shoemaker to a mill owner and then mayor within a few decades. Germans tell me that this was an amazing and incredibly rare feat in 17th Century Germany.

Then there’s the question of his coat of arms. Coat of arms aren’t produced for just anybody. And they definitely weren’t given to just anybody in 17th Century Europe. How, when and why did he come by his?

My working hypothesis is that he was a Huguenot with a Franco-Germanic ancestry. He and his descendants married into prominent Huguenot (French Protestant) families who fled to the same Südwestpfalz district, in Rhineland-Palatinate (western Germany), where Peter came to reside.

One spark of a clue has come via Genebase’s fun royal DNA comparison tool. Yep, Genebase has a series of DNA results for famous European royals. I compared the YDNA I Inherited from Peter with YDNA from the English king Richard III and French prince, Louis Joseph of France (son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette). According to the Genebase results, I share a common direct male ancestor with both – an unknown man who lived approximately in 10th Century Europe.

Is this hidden lineage the reasons for Peter’s rise and success in Germany?

Peter’s origins are unknown. Nothing is known of his parents. He has been a mystery since the American Sheffey family began documenting its lineage in the mid 1800’s. Smashing this brick wall is long overdue. And I’m sure his story will be nothing short of pure gold dust.

Scots-Irish Roanes vs English Roanes

The question of whether or not these two Roane family groups are related has plagued family historians and genealogists in the US, Ireland, Scotland and England for over a century.  This is a brick wall that’s begging to be smashed.

On my mother’s side of the family tree

Now this list will appear to be very short compared to the number of brick walls on my father’s side of the family tree. Many of my mother’s white ancestors were Quakers…or the descendants of Quakers. Quakers kept exceptional records most of which have been digitized. It’s been relatively straightforward to trace her ancestry back through her various Quaker ancestral lines.

However, her line does have its brick walls.

A Jewish great grandfather

I know quite a bit about this gentleman, the father of my maternal grandfather. I roughly know when he was born. I know where he lived as an adult. I know his genetic make-up. I know that he was an Ashkenazi Jewish man either from Galicia (an area of Poland and the Ukraine) or with roots in Galicia.

galicia-poland-ukraine1

I don’t know his name.

Uncovering his identity and his story will fill in a major missing piece of my identity. He is, hands down, the biggest mystery on my mother’s side of the family tree.

Finding more of my mother’s white ancestors

I’ve made great strides in identifying the white slave owning men who sired a handful of my mother’s enslaved mulatto ancestors in North and South Carolina. There remains a substantial amount of work to do in identifying the white progenitors of a number of her enslaved mulatto ancestors. I know the families involved. The vast majority are descendants of the Quaker families I’ve spent some time writing about.

The key to unlocking this set of secrets will be in the form of DNA testing. Extensive DNA testing. The end result will be finding the rightful place for around 30 distinct family lines into my overall family tree. These individual family lines run from Virginia and the Carolinas to every slave owning state. This won’t just answer my questions. It will answer the question of how thousands of living descendants are related to one another, both black and white.

Her enslaved ancestors

The brick walls here will be solved through researching probate and tax records as well as family papers. The series would follow the paper trail from the Carolinas back to Virginia – and further back in time to 17th Century Pennsylvania Quaker slave owners.

A seventeenth-century image of English Quaker tobacco planters and enslaved Africans in Barbados.

A seventeenth-century image of English Quaker tobacco planters and enslaved Africans in Barbados. Source: http://www.historiansagainstslavery.org

Research will restore a family tree broken by centuries of enslaved families split apart in two ways: either through being deeded to slave owners’ descendants, who then moved to different parts of the southern states as territory became available, and through being sold.

The executive producer’s interest was certainly piqued (I love hearing that one simple word: “Powerful”). I certainly look forward to an opportunity of rolling my sleeves up and getting stuck in when it comes to busting these walls!

 

Me, Quaker manumissions – and an 1828 voyage to Liberia

This post is a companion piece to my previous post, Quakers & Slavery: 50 shades of gray and then some.  It’s more or less the other side of American Quaker’s history with slavery. The theme of this post is the practice among a growing number of slave owning Quakers who freed their slaves.

What I uncovered had me doing a dad dance…not too unlike Matt Bomer’s smooth moves in the TV series American Horror Story. Yeah, I had a revelation so unexpected, so cool, that, well, I just ‘went there’.

I’ve spent the past month tracking down and reading the Wills of my slave owning Quaker cousins; those who not only sired many of my mother’s Carolinian ancestors, but also owned them. I’ve begun tracing ownership of her more distant African descended ancestors from the Colonial Pennsylvania of the 1600’s to Maryland, Delaware and 18th Century Virginia…down to the Carolinas . And yes, that’s a whole lot of probate to read. I’m still working my way through quite a batch of them.

I won’t re-hash what I wrote in the last post. Suffice to say that there was a growing movement within the Quaker faith to end slavery within its ranks. Quakerism and slavery were no longer compatible. I’ve read around 50 Last Wills and Testaments written by Quaker ancestors who owned slaves and died between 1690 to 1790. 90% of these cousins freed their slaves when they died. No caveats, no indentures. They freed their slaves.

The remaining 10% were split 50/50 along two lines.  Those who moved into Virginia and the Carolinas became ever larger slave owners. Not surprisingly, all either left the Quaker faith or were removed by the Quakers for various reasons.

The other camp were Quaker cousins who had an unusual paragraph that kept appearing in their Wills. This paragraph, phrased in slightly different ways in the Wills it appears in, transferred ownership of their slaves to their local Quaker Meeting House until such a time that it was safe for said slaves to be officially freed. This paragraph is telling. It speaks about the concerns for the safety and security of freed slaves in the American south throughout the 18th and early 19th Centuries. Another variation of this paragraph typically requested that slaves were deeded to a family member who was instructed to keep the slaves together until such a time that it was safe for them to be freed, with further instructions that the slave owner’s heirs should assist these slaves in relocating to other states, notably Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.

Slaves held by either the local Quaker Meeting House or by designated family members were to be paid, with their wages being held for safekeeping to support them once they were freed. Slaves in this scenario were either hired out or had enough say of their own to hire themselves out.

What the Wills don’t clarify, however, is defining what constituted a ‘safe environment’ in which the slaves could be freed. I’m still researching what those qualifiers would have been. The more of these Wills I read the more I get the impression that some Quakers who had slaves were actually shielding their slaves from the criminal acts that could take place in the hands of other less thoughtful owners or the agents of less thoughtful owners.

I’ve found a cousin, Robert Peelle (1709), who was a very politically astute person. He seems to have possessed good knowledge of the then current laws because he could see the ultimate impact that changes like The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Ordinance) would have upon the South. I won’t get into what this Ordinance was. Suffice to say it set forth how new states would be admitted in to the new Republic. The formal slave state vs free state argument was still a ways off, however, the roots of this future argument can be seen in the Ordinance.

In his will dated 21 January 1782, Robert Peele included the following:

Item: It is my will and desire that all my Negroes to wit, James, Pen and Kader, Dinah and her four Children, Viz., Heather, Molly, Ginny and Teressa and all the increase of said Dinah and four children if any, shall have their freedom if ever the Laws of the Land should admit of their having that privilege freely, clearly and absolutely….

Robert wanted all slaves to be free. He wrote his will five years before Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance. I believe that he knew that, once there was a slave-free area established, it would eventually expand into the entire South and that it would not be a quick process.

Now, what got me doing a dad dance? It all has to do with four ancestral cousins – three of them are a father and his two sons – John Jellory Peele and his sons, Edmund and Thomas. The fourth is another cousin, Thomas Outland.  All of these men were resident in Rich Square, Northampton County, North Carolina…a town founded by some very old Quaker families.

John Peele (1729-1804), originally from Nansemond, Virginia, was a Quaker Minister at Rich Square who also owned slaves but felt very strongly about their freedom. John came to own slaves via his wife, a Nansemond, Virginia plantation heiress. By all accounts, slave ownership did not sit easily with her. I don’t have contemporary correspondence or written thoughts from John. His Will, however, speaks, volumes.

He stated the following in his will written 29 January 1799:

Item. I leave all the Negroes that have been or now are under my care (living) in trust altogether of my two sons Edmund and Thomas Peelle, for them to take care of and place as they may think most proper, as also to direct as they may from time to time find necessary, until the Laws of the Land will admit of their freedom and that they may then enjoy it fully, and all necessary expenses accruing there from to be paid out of my Estate.

It’s what came next that made me giddy.

So what happened to the many slaves that John Peele owned and passed to his sons Edmund and Thomas?

The Quaker Monthly Meeting House in Rich Square, Northampton County, North Carolina

The Quaker Monthly Meeting House in Rich Square, Northampton County, North Carolina

The Peeles, along with cousin Thomas Outland, being legally authorized and empowered by trustees of the yearly meeting of the Society of Friends of North Carolina, conveyed 58 freed slaves to the states of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, to areas deemed safe for them as they were to be settled in areas of these states largely peopled by Quakers. The Quakers, would keep these freed slaves safe.

Edmund Peele, a prominent Friend of Rich Square, liberated a further 125 slaves in 1827. However, he didn’t just free them. He arranged for their safe passage to Liberia, Africa. At his own expense. He also gave each $25 with which to start their new lives. That’s approximately $650 per freed slave in today’s money (https://books.google.com/books?id=MWFHAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA64&dq=edmund+peele+slaves&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj0s72yzITLAhVCWT4KHaklBMsQ6AEIOzAE#v=onepage&q=edmund%20peele%20slaves&f=false). I’ve read hundreds of Wills from ancestors who owned slaves. This is a first. I have never come across anything remotely like this.

Illustrative image of African Americans arriving in Liberia. This is not a picture of the Nautilus.

Illustrative image of African Americans arriving in Liberia. This is not a picture of the Nautilus.

Liberia. Now that’s a thing I’ve never considered in my many genealogy adventures. My curiosity piqued, I had to know the names of the freed men, women, and children who made that journey. It took plenty of perseverance…but I finally found their names.

I needed to find the name of the ship these souls sailed aboard. I Googled all manner of search strings based on North Carolina slaves, 1827 & 1828 and Liberia. Nothing much turned up. And then I struck gold: the US Brig Nautilus, which set sail from Hamtpon Roads, Virginia and arrived in Liberia on 19 February 1828. The voyage had lasted 54 days:

Now that I had a date, and the name of the ship, I could start searching for passenger manifests. Two family groups immediately leapt out at me: the Outlands and the Peeles. These freed slaves who had journeyed to Monrovia Liberia were my cousins on my mother’s side of the family tree.

All of the individuals below, highlighted in red, are my ancestral cousins (apologies for any formatting glitches. WordPress doesn’t make it easy to create tables):

Names
Age
State or place from which they emigrated
Free born or otherwise
Emancipated in view of emigrating to Liberia and by whom
Where located on their arrial in the colony
Extent of education
Profession
Date of death
Cause of death
Removed to what place
Removal date
Lucretia Outland
70
North Carolina
Unknown
Millsburg
1830
Old age
 
 
Bryan Outland
20
do
do
do
1837
Pleurisy
 
 
Joseph Outland
40
do
do
do
1838
Consumption
 
 
Jane Outland
30
do
do
do
1838
Consumption
 
 
Annet Outland
15
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
Kader Outland
13
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Allen Outland
12
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Byas Outland
9
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gatsy Outland
7
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Owen Outland
5
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Zachariah Outland
3
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Dorothy Outland
42
do
do
do
1843
Decline
 
 
Isabella Outland
12
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Penina Outland
10
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Rufus Outland
8
do
do
do
1829
Pleurisy
Olin Outland
6
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Harry Davis
45
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Darcus Davis
45
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Tabitha Davis
14
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Cherry Davis
12
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Joseph Davis
10
do
do
do
Stephen Davis
9
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Mary Davis
7
do
do
do
Marinda Davis
5
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Council Davis
3
do
do
do
Penina Davis
2
do
do
do
Rhody Outland
18
do
do
do
1829
Unknown
 
 
Jane Outland, infant
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Rosetta Outland
22
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reddick Outland
8
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Tobias Outland
6
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
Maria Outland
4
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Garcy Outland
1
do
do
do
1837
Pleurisy
 
 
Phoebe Outland
16
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Erone Outland, infant
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
Luke Kennedy
32
do
do
do
Jesse Kennedy
38
do
do
do
C. Kennedy, twin
12
do
do
do
B. Kennedy, twin
12
do
do
do
Asbury Kennedy
10
do
do
do
1836
Anasarca
William Kennedy
8
do
do
do
Shedrick Kennedy
6
do
do
do
Wiley Kennedy
1
do
do
do
1840
Unknown
Christian Outland
17
do
do
do
Farmer
 
 
 
 
Hilliard Outland
1
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Delila Outland
20
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
Zaney Overman
1
do
do
do
Joseph Peele
37
do
Mr. Peele
do
1840
Consumption
 
 
Chany Peele
23
do
do
do
1840
Consumption
 
 
Mary Peele
5
do
do
do
S. Leone
1837
Parthena Peele
4
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
William Peele
1
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Catharine Peele
56
do
do
do
1839
Consumption
 
 
Isaac Peele
15
do
do
do
1839
Anasarca
 
 
Wiley Peele
12
do
do
do
1840
Anasarca
 
 
William Peele
19
North Carolina
Mr. Peele
Millsburg
U. S.
1828
Venus Peele
30
do
do
do
1833
Anasarca
 
 
Abraham Peele
7
do
do
do
1840
Pleurisy
 
 
Peter Peele
5
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lydia Peele
3
do
do
do
1836
Pleurisy
 
 
Catharine Peele
1
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Bridget Peele
30
do
do
do
1837
Diseased lungs
 
 
Winney Peele
14
do
do
do
1838
Diseased lungs
 
 
Charles Peele
10
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Judith Peele
7
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Rachel Peele
38
do
do
do
1843
Consumption
 
 
Penina Peele
5
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
Harriet Peele
3
do
do
do
1828
Fever
 
 
Edmund Peele
1
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ceily Peele
57
do
do
do
1829
Decline
 
 
Loretta Peele
14
do
do
Monrovia do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Chaney Peele
63
do
do
do
1829
Decline
 
Edith Peele
35
do
do
do
1836
Decline
 
 
Peggy Peele
41
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Edney Peele
14
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Anaka Peele
12
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Edward Peele
10
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sylvia Peele
1
do
do
do
 
1828
Fever
 
Ceily Peele
61
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nancy Peele
14
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Olive Peele
11
do
do
do
 
1837
Pleurisy
 
 
Rachel Peele
9
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Willis Peele
17
do
do
Millsburg
 
Farmer
1839
Casualty
 
 
Sarah Peele
21
do
do
do
 
1836
Pleurisy
 
Elizabeth Peele
5
do
do
do
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Allen Peele
18
do
do
do
 
Farmer
1828
Fever
 
 
Mary Peele
16
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reuben Peele
29
do
do
do
 
Farmer
 
 
 
 
Abraham Peele
20
do
do
do
 
Farmer
 
 
Patience Peele
25
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Richard Peele
8
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Charity Peele
16
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
Benjamin Lawrence
26
do
Unknown
Caldwell
Farmer
1838
Diseased lungs
Adeline Lawrence
1
do
do
do
Judith Lawrence
46
do
do
do
1839
Diseased lungs
Isaac Outland
16
do
do
do
 
Farmer
 
 
 
 
Edward Outland
48
do
do
do
 
Farmer
1839
Diseased lungs
 
 
Hester Outland
30
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jeremiah Outland
15
do
do
do
 
S. Leone
1837
Elizabeth Outland
13
do
do
do
 
1836
Unknown
 
 
Penina Outland
12
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Henry Outland
5
do
do
do
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Dempy Outland
27
do
do
do
 
Farmer
 
 
 
 
Winney Outland
23
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Samuel White
48
do
do
do
 
Farmer
 
 
 
 
Axem White
22
do
do
do
 
do
1829
Diseased brain
 
 
Hester White
15
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Penina White
13
do
do
do
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Lucinda White
11
do
do
do
 
1828
Fever
 
 
John White
1
do
do
do
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Margaret White
17
do
do
do
 
 
 
Morning Toms
27
do
do
Monrovia
1843
Decline
Jacob Toms
1
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Cambridge Toms
77
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Francis Toms
56
do
do
do
Farmer
1828
Fever
Charlotte Toms
15
do
do
do
1830
Decline
Marinda Toms
12
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Dempsy Toms
9
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Mary A. Toms
5
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Emily White
15
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
Chancy Fletcher
30
do
Mr. Fletcher
do
1833
Anasarca
Lydia Fletcher
12
do
do
do
C. Palmas
Matthew Fletcher
5
do
do
do
Mary Fletcher
3
North Carolina
Mr. Fletcher
Monrovia
Ann Fletcher, infant
do
Unknown
Caldwell
1828
Fever
Rhody Jordan
27
do
do
do
 
 
1832
Consumption
 
 
Chancy Jordan
8
do
do
do
 
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Nixon Jordan
6
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lusanna Jordan
4
do
do
do
 
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Miley Jordan
2
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Solomon Jordan, inf.
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
Ruth Trublood
12
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Hannah Trublood
10
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Diver Fletcher
22
do
Mr. Fletcher
do
Thomas Fletcher
20
do
do
do
1840
Drowning
Jesse White
21
do
do
do
Gilley Toms
18
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Ceiley Fletcher
30
do
do
do
1840
Consumption
Annis Fletcher
25
do
do
do
1840
Consumption
Calvin Fletcher
7
do
do
do
Clarissa Fletcher
3
do
do
do
Dempsy Fletcher
51
do
do
do
1832
Decline
Cave Jones
55
Virginia
Unknown
do
 
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Winney Jones
65
do
do
do
 
 
1834
Decline
 
John Brisbane
29
do
do
do
1830
Consumption
Jane Brisbane
27
do
do
do
1833
Consumption
John Brisbane, jr.
5
do
do
do
Catharine Brisbane
3
do
do
do
1838
Consumption
Francis Brisbane
1
do
do
do
1828
Fever
Wiley Reynolds
24
do
do
do
U. S.
1828
Remus Harvey
30
Maryland
Free born
do
 
 
1836
Diseased lungs
 
 
Malvina Harvey*
25
do
do
 
 
1838
Decline
 
 
Rebecca Harvey
6
do
Free born
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
Susan Harvey
3
do
do
do
 
 
1828
Fever
 
 
Elizabeth Harvey
1
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
 
John Stansbury
19
do
do
do
Maria Stansbury
22
do
do
do
1833
Consumption
Jane Bryant
4
do
do
do
 
 
 
 
 
Jane Bladen
30
do
do
do
1828
Unknown
Richard Prout*
45
do
do
1828
Fever
Susan Prout
12
do
do
do
William Prout*
8
do
do
do
C. Palmas
1834
John Brown
37
do
do
do
do
1836

Source: Christine’s Genealogy Website – Emigrants to Liberia – Ship Lists
http://www.ccharity.com/contents/roll-emigrants-have-been-sent-colony-liberia-western-africa/emigrants-to-liberia-ship-lists

This document is illuminating for a few reasons. There seems to be a high mortality rate amongst those who arrived in Liberia via the 1828 trip. The illnesses which they died from pretty much speak for themselves.

The other reason this discovery is so profound for me, yet equally simple: There were enormous holes, dead ends and brick walls in my genealogy research for many of my Rich Square black ancestral lines. Hundreds of people simply vanished from all of the usual American records just before 1830. Now I know why. These people were no longer living in America. They were living in Liberia. Now I can update the information I have for them in my family tree. And, hopefully, connect with some of their descendants in Liberia.

Next will be researching the freed families who quit Rich Square for Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. And, of course, reading up on what it was like in Liberia when these Americans arrived.

For now? It’s dad dance time. And I’m fine with that.

Quakers & Slavery: 50 shades of grey and then some

Researching my earliest African-descended ancestors and family in America has taken a decidedly left-field turn. Once again a foray into genealogy research has made me revise my knowledge of another aspect of American history. The subject matter? Quakers and slavery in the Colonial period and pre Civil war period.

I’m fairly certain that my high school history lessons mirrored those taught in any American high school in the 1980’s. We were given facts. Those facts were presented as facts without an invitation for critical thinking. The facts, in and of themselves, were never presented as right or wrong, good or bad. There was rarely any context. And there certainly weren’t any grey areas. History is a human affair. It’s not the pristine and sanitized subject that can be found in any classroom. It’s human, which is as nice a way as I can say that history is a dirty and messy affair.

If I’ve learned anything from studying the historical context of my ancestors, I know that history is rife with grey areas – a notion that sits uncomfortably with the American psyche. Since my return to these shores, I have re-learned that my fellow countrymen and women like things to be simple and straightforward. Black and white. Right or wrong. History is anything but. In this I hold an unapologetically non-American world view. Other regions around the globe thrive on tackling grey areas. It is the stuff of proper debates, whether political, in pubs, working men’s clubs or around the dinner table. And yes, I miss it.

There are at least 50 shades of grey when it comes to the history of slavery in America. It’s part and parcel of why Americans doggedly refuse to discuss it. There’s no established framework for having these conversations. Slavery only happened in the southern states? Wrong. The New England and Mid-Atlantic States abolished slavery after winning the American Revolutionary War? You might think that, but would actually be wrong (slavery in some of these states didn’t entirely cease until 1848). Free people of color had an easy time of it in the north before the Civil War? Wrong! Quakers didn’t own slaves and they were all abolitionists? Nul points there, my friend.

It turns out that understanding real American history, the unvarnished stuff, can provide new access routes to making genealogy discoveries. I’ll explain.

My link to the Quakers

A number of my mother’s enslaved ancestors in North Carolina and South Carolina were owned by – and the children of  – practising Quakers, or those who, while no longer practising Quakers, came from very old English Quaker families. Understanding the history and American origins of these enslaved ancestors requires an understanding of the histories of the families who sired them…and owned them.

For instance, in Edgefield County, South Carolina (including Old Ninety-Six, Abbeville and Greenwood Counties, which were created from parts of Edgefield), my ancestors were sired and owned by a few families with Quaker roots: Brooks, Edwards, Harling (originally, Harlan before moving to South Carolina), Holloway, Hollingsworth, Scott, and Stewart.

In Northampton and Halifax Counties in North Carolina, the Quaker families whose history is intertwined my enslaved ancestors, include: Bailey, Edwards (again), Harlan (again), Jones, Mendenhall, Moore, Peel(le), Pool(e), Price, Scott (again), Starr, Stewart (again), and Webb.

Many of my Quaker ancestors fled England and settled in Quaker communities in the English-controlled northern Irish provinces (i.e. Ulster and Antrim). From there, they settled in the following Pennsylvania counties when they arrived in the American colonies in the early 18th Century: Bucks, Chester, Cumberland and New Castle (now in Delaware).

Out of sheer curiosity, I Googled the phrase ‘slavery in Cumberland County, PA’ and a chapter of American history in Pennsylvania revealed itself. So much history, in fact, that I’m still working through a staggering reading list.

It’s a chapter of American history that puts my Quaker ancestors front and centre in the debate around slavery.

A little bit of historical context

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) was the first corporate body in Britain and North America to fully condemn slavery as both ethically and religiously wrong in all circumstances. That’s what most of the history books tell us.

While admirable, this leaves out a nugget of overlooked history and back story. The Quakers were among the most prominent slave traders during the early days of the Pennsylvania colony. They bought slaves from British-controlled Barbados and Jamaica.  While the Quakers were also among the first denominations to protest slavery, their internal battle over slavery took over a century to resolve. The fight began in Pennsylvania. There, in April 1688, four Dutch Quakers sent a short petition “against the traffick of men-body” to their meeting in Germantown, PA:

image of the 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery

The two sides of the The 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery. It was written in iron gall ink and has substantially faded. The document was the first public protest against the institution of slavery, and represents the first written public declaration of universal human rights. Image courtesy of The Germantown Quakers – Photos taken by conservators of the original document for Germantown Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends.

When the Quakers arrived in what’s now Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland in 1684, they arrived in a territory previously controlled by the Dutch (New Netherlands) and the Swedes (New Sweden). The Dutch and Swedes had an established practice of enslaving those of African descent for use in fur trapping. Yeah, I didn’t know that either. It’s all the more interesting for another reason. My mother’s mtDNA is approximately 20% Swedish. She has a direct Swedish female ancestor who was alive somewhere between 7 to 9 generations ago. Old Quaker bloodlines make up a substantial part of her family’s history in the Carolinas. While I have no idea of who this woman was, 7 to 9 generations ago fits this time period perfectly – when English Quakers met Swedes in the Colonial Mid-Atlantic states.

One form of punishment for European women who had children by black and mulatto men was the indenture of their children until the age of 28 (early Colonial period) or the enslavement of their children (later Colonial period). Did one of my Quaker ancestors purchase a female child from such a union? It’s certainly a line of inquiry to investigate. Critical Thinking would suggest this is the most likely explanation.

The 1688 petition had little traction or impact. For the next 50 years, similar scattered protests against slavery were published and spoken of to an indifferent or actively hostile North American public. Early opponents of slavery often paid a high price for their outspokenness. They were disowned by family and fellow congregants, and faced public ostracization.

William Penn flooded his “Holy Experiment” with Quakers whose descendants would later find their faith incompatible with slaveholding. The original Quakers, however,  had no qualms about it. Penn himself owned a dozen slaves, and used them to work his estate, Pennsbury. He wrote that he preferred them to white indentured servants, “for then a man has them while they live.” Benjamin Franklin too owned slaves (no, I didn’t know that either). In Penn’s new city of Philadelphia, African slaves were at work by 1684, and in rural Chester County by 1687. Between 1729 and 1758, Chester County had 104 slaves on 58 farms, with 70 percent of the slave owners likely Quakers. By 1693, Africans were so numerous in the colony’s capital that the Philadelphia Council complained of “the tumultuous gatherings of the Negroes in the town of Philadelphia.”

The Harlans: A Quaker family divided by slavery

My Harlan ancestors don’t appear to have owned slaves while they were in Pennsylvania.  Those who remained in Pennsylvania became outspoken abolitionists. Their cousins in North Carolina, South Carolina and Kentucky, on the other hand, who were no longer practising Quakers, did become slave holders. Alongside Quaker Harlan relations in Virginia and Maryland.  This one family shows 2 sides of the then contemporary slavery issue in America.

First up is my ancestral cousin, James Harlan (26 Aug 1820 – 5 Oct 1899) who was an attorney and a US Senator (1855-1865), (1867-1873) and a U.S. Cabinet Secretary at the United States Department of Interior (1865-1866) under President Andrew Johnson. He was as outspoken an opponent to slavery as one can find: https://archive.org/stream/legaltitletoprop00harl#page/n3/mode/2up .

Image for 'Legal title to property in slaves'

Image for ‘Legal title to property in slaves’: the speech of Hon. James Harlan, of Iowa, on the amendment to the constitution. Delivered in the Senate of the United States, April 6, 1864. The full speech can be accessed via: https://archive.org/details/legaltitletoprop00harl

John Marshall Harlan, Supreme Court collection,

John Marshall Harlan, Supreme Court collection, photograph by Handy Studios

For the opposing view, another ancestral cousin, John Marshall Harlan (1 Jun 1833 – 14 Oct 1911) who was a lawyer and politician from Kentucky who served as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. He was Secretary of State of Kentucky (1840–1844) and state legislator (1845–1851).

John is a study in contradictions. When the American Civil War broke out, he strongly supported the Union, yet vociferously opposed the Emancipation Proclamation and supported slavery. However, after the election of Ulysses S. Grant as President in 1868, he reversed his views and became a strong supporter of civil rights. His close relationship with his formerly enslaved, beloved mulatto half-brother, Robert James Harlan, might be credited for this change in his views. He is best known for his role as the lone dissenter in the Civil Rights Cases (1883, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Rights_Cases), and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plessy_v._Ferguson), which, respectively, struck down as unconstitutional federal anti-discrimination legislation and upheld southern segregation statutes. These dissents, among others, led to his nickname of “The Great Dissenter”.

John is an interesting study in contradictions when it came to race relations in America. He was also something of a poster boy for the conflicting attitudes of the slave owners of the day. The journal article Plessy v. Ferguson: Harlan’s Great Dissent provides an excellent insight into these contradictory beliefs: https://louisville.edu/law/library/special-collections/the-john-marshall-harlan-collection/harlans-great-dissent

This is just one glimpse into how the issue of slavery impacted one of my ancestral families in the Civil War Era. It’s worth remembering that both of these men were contemporaries and were cousins from the same Quaker family. Meanwhile, in the south, they had numerous slave owning Harlan and Harling cousins fighting to preserve the Confederacy. In terms of family relations, it was a hot mess. A red hot mess. The kind of hot mess that isn’t covered in history classes.

So… what does this have to do with my genealogy research?

Plenty, as it turns out. I’ve stumbled across records that show some of my Quaker ancestors owned slaves in Colonial Pennsylvania. This could – or probably does – mean that they owned members of my mother’s family for far longer than I ever could have imagined. The roots for some of my mother’s African-descended lines probably stretch back to Pennsylvania in the 1660s onwards. That’s the first genealogy revelation I’m wrapping my head around.

an image for Negro Servant Returns, 1788-1821, Cumberland County, PA

Negro Servant Returns, 1788-1821, Chester County, PA. This is one page from this return, which lists owners and slaves. This page shows my slave owning Moore cousins, as well as the slaves they owned. I’m very interested in Silas (Moore, possibly) and Casia (Jones, possibly), two names that appear in my Northampton County, North Carolina genealogy research. The full return can be accessed via: http://www.chesco.org/1724/Negro-Servant-Returns-1788-1821

Slave Manumissions in Cumberland county, PA.

Slave Manumissions in Cumberland county, PA. Records of slaves manumitted (set free) by their masters that were filed with the Recorder of Deed’s Office. Staying with my Moore cousins, I’ve highlighted the slaves that were freed by the same family. The full record can be accessed via http://www.chesco.org/1725/Slave-Manumissions

The second point is that this earlier group of enslaved ancestors most likely came from, or had roots in, Bermuda or Jamaica or both – and not directly from Africa. A few may even have been present in the US long before the arrival of the Quakers, purchased by the Dutch and Swedish colonists who were in the region long before Britain claimed the territory as its own. That’s quite another thing to try and wrap my head around. It’s another layer of research complexity.

The third is that not all of my African American DNA matches will share common ancestors with me in the southern states. There are a handful of African American DNA cousins who are biologically connected to the same Quaker families as I am. However, they live in areas of Pennsylvania and Delaware settled by Quakers. They have no direction connection with southern states. Our common ancestors won’t be found south of the old Mason-Dixon line. Our connection will be with people who never left those old Quaker communities in the north. It helps us narrow the genealogy research field to find our common ancestors. It also gives us a more specific time frame to investigate within. Instead of looking over 250 years of family ancestry, we can cut this down to a 100 year window. I’ll take a time window of 100 years over one that’s 250 years any day of the week!

This history of my mother’s African-descended ancestors is largely entwined with the history of the Quaker families who owned them. Without individual histories of their own, I will only be able to trace them through various Quaker records and Last Wills and Testaments. This means following the trail from Pennsylvania to Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas – to the places where the descendants of these families settled and owned slaves. Added to this are the number of slaves freed by my Quaker relations over a 150 year period before the outbreak of the Civil War. These freed slaves received financial aid enough to relocate to Ohio, Illinois and Liberia – which is another subject for another post.

I’ve had my Quaker-related genealogy research epiphany. I don’t underestimate the time and effort it will take to follow the trail of documents back to Pennsylvania, or from Pennsylvania to the other states. I hope that by tackling the trail from both ends (from the beginning to the end, and vice versa) I can connect both trails in the middle to build an unbroken line of slaves owned by my Quaker ancestors.

The end of slavery in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s break with slavery was not a straightforward process. It didn’t end on a certain date. By 1790, the number of slaves in the state had fallen to 3,760. By 1810, it had fallen to 795. Slavery withered more rapidly in Philadelphia than in surrounding areas, in part because slaves did not live as long, nor have as many children, as they did on farms. In 1810, 94 percent of the slaves in Pennsylvania were in seven rural counties.

In 1779, Pennsylvania passed the first abolition law in America (http://slavenorth.com/penna.htm). The measure was praised for embodying the spirit of enlightenment at the time, but its gradual terms were far from being a godsend.

The law did not emancipate a single slave. Not. One. Anyone who was a slave the last day before it went into effect on 1 March 1780, remained a slave until death; unless freed by his or her owner. All children born of slaves after the law took effect could be kept enslaved until age 28. So it would have been possible for a slave girl, born on the last day of February 1780, to live out her life in slavery. And for her children, theoretically born as late as 1820, to remain slaves until 1848.

Total abolition didn’t come to Pennsylvania until 1847.

Here are some online resources for researching Pennsylvania slaves:

  1. Chester County, PA Slave Records (Negro Servant Returns, Indentured Servants, Runaway Slaves and Slave Manumissions): http://www.chesco.org/1724/Negro-Servant-Returns-1788-1821
  2. Cumberland County, PA:

    3.The Slaves of Bucks County, PA:
    http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=mead

    4. Slavery in Delaware (for New Castle County):
    http://archives.delaware.gov/exhibits/document/slavery/toc.shtml

Sources

  1. Gary B. Nash & Jean R. Soderlund, Freedom by Degrees: Emancipation in Pennsylvania and its Aftermath, Oxford Univ. Press, 1991.
  2. Edgar J. McManus, Black Bondage in the North, Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse Univ. Press, 1973.
  3. John F. Watson, Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania in the Olden Time, Philadelphia, 1850.

 

Descendants of David K Harling (Harlan) of Edgefield County, South Carolina

Updating the various family trees I posted a few years ago has been a long overdue task. These trees have grown so large, that a nice graphical representation is impossible. So…back to using the traditional generational list format.

Family Tree Key:

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

For instance:

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

Privacy Note:

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

Descendants of David K Harling (Harlan)

with roots in Edgefield County, South Carolina

david-harling

David Harling is a descendant of the old English-north Irish-Pennsylvania Quaker Harlan family. His family changed the name from Harlan to Harling upon their  arrival in Edgefield, South Carolina.

The one about me & Abraham Lincoln…

So I was reading The Story of Honest Abe’s Family Tree on the website Today I Found Out (http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2015/09/the-story-of-honest-abes-family-tree ). I mean, if anyone was going to read up on a US President’s family tree it was bound to be me.

image of Mary Eunice Harlan

Mary Eunice Harlan

Reading through the article, I had a genuine ‘wait, what?’ moment. It all had to do with one surname: Harlan. It turns out that Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd, married my 6th Cousin (4x removed), Mary Eunice Harlan.

The common ancestors Mary and I share are George Harlan(d) and Elizabeth Duck; English Quakers who fled to Antrim in northern Ireland – and eventually settled in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Naturally, I did a quick work up of Abraham Lincoln’s family tree and soon found a surname of interest: Flower(s). It turns out that wife of Abraham’s paternal great-grandfather was one Rebecca Flowers, a daughter of a very old Quaker family in Antrim and Pennsylvania. I too am a direct descendant of the Flowers clan (yeah, I know, that sounds like a 70s hippie folk act).

However, the many branches of the Flower/Flowers family is notoriously difficult to connect. So, at this stage, I have no idea how Rebecca Flowers and her family are related to the dozens of Flower(s) I already have in my tree.  Time will tell.

Yesterday I had no idea I shared a connection to Abraham. Today, I know of one indirect route through his son’s marriage. It may well turn out there is a direct route through the Flowers family.

Yet another reason why I love genealogy. The surprises just keep coming. What an adventure.

Ancestry DNA’s genetic genealogy tools are failing to deliver

Ancestry.com’s DNA Circles. Like many others, I’m still grappling with this one. Boiled down, a DNA Circle on Ancestry is like a collaborative family research group. Only this group is created through shared ancestry from a common shared ancestor. Only genealogical research can determine how individuals within a Circle are related. The Circle, generated by DNA results and family trees, can only indicate shared genetics.

Now, I have an extensive family tree with over 26,000 individuals. Now no, size doesn’t matter, however, in this instance, it raises questions with regards to my DNA Circle results. You see, the fact of the matter is, I’m a member of zero circles. Yep, that’s right.

Not. A. Single. One.

Have a gander at the image below:

cropped screengrab of my Ancestry DNA landing page

click for larger image

Anything strike you as odd about the distinct lack of circles? Even after Ancestry’s ‘improvement’ to its DNA matching algorithm – which saw the number of my genetic matches decimated – I’m still left with 75 individuals who are identified as 1st to 4th Cousins. There’s probably another 100 or so who are identified as 5th – 8th cousins.

So I have  roughly 175 genetic matches. I have 7 shared family hints. At first I thought this had to do with the number of people who either don’t have family trees, or family trees with less than 50 or so people. This characterizes approximately 75% of my Ancestry DNA matches.

And, of course, locked trees present research issues as well.

Harlan DNA matchesDNA matches just for the Harlan name.

DNA matches just for the Harlan name. User names have been obscured for privacy reasons. Click for larger image.

And then I began researching my Quaker Harling-Harlan family. By that, I mean tracing all of its branches from the 1500s onwards; including the female lines. As I’ve recently mentioned…this is one huge family. And it’s a family that connects with both my maternal and paternal lines.

So I started to search my DNA matches for specific Harlan-Harling related names: Blackburn, Bailey, Hollingsworth, Peele, Cooke, Pike, Leonard, White, Heald and Calvert – just to name a few.

And there they were in a number of family trees. Over and over again there appeared the names of great-grandparents, grand uncles and aunts and cousins. Shared ancestors, in other words.

The tree below is a perfect example:

screen grab of George Harlan's family tree in Ancestry DNA

A Harlan family group form one of my DNA match’s family trees. click for larger image

Using the tree above:

  • Elizabeth Harlan is my 5th cousin 5x removed
  • George Harlan is my 2nd cousin 8x removed
  • James Harlan is my 4th cousin 6x removed
  • Samuel Harlan is my 3rd cousin 7x removed

Here’s the same group of Harlan cousins in my family tree:

Screengrab of Harlan cousins in my family tree

click for larger image

I’ve located other trees with the same individuals. Yet, I have no shared family tree hints with any of them. And it’s not a ‘me’ thing either. Others with these family members also don’t have any Harlan related circles. Most don’t have any Harlan-related shared family tree hints either. We’ve had to work out how we’re related by looking at each other’s tree.  Which isn’t a bad thing. It’s always great making contact with newly found cousins. However, this is something that Ancestry DNA advertizes that its service can do…with all the usual caveats, of course.

I think part of the problem is the complicated genealogy for the Harlan family. Like a number of Quaker families, one Harlan family feature is 3th or 4th cousins marrying other 3rd and 4th cousins since the 1540s. So you can have a woman who is both a [however-many-times] grand aunt and a cousin. It’s a pickle. It’s a pickle I think Ancestry should be able to figure out, especially in light of its DNA service and DNA tools like Circles.

So I think I have a partial answer where the Harlans are concerned.

I know I have Matthews family DNA matches. The Matthews lineage is pretty simple and straightforward. Again, no DNA circles and no shared family tree matches. So I kind of have to ask myself what’s up with these two aspects of Ancestry DNA. I’m hoping the much-publicized pending upgrade to these tools will address this. I’m managing my expectations.

Ancestry DNA’s genetic genealogy tools remain promising. For me, at the moment, this aspect of the service fails to deliver.

When ancestral documentation trumps belief: The Harling-Harlan-Harland family

This post could almost be a companion piece to my post When the genealogy mistakes of others leads you astray: Elizabeth Bartellot https://genealogyadventures.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/when-the-genealogy-mistakes-of-others-leads-you-astray-elizabeth-bartellot/ Almost. I’ve learned quite a bit about family history research since then.

I’ve been intensively researching my Edgefield County, SC Harling family roots. I kept butting up against a brick wall that I had noticed in many other South Carolina-based Harling family trees online. The ancestral trail always went cold with my 7x great grandparents, Ezekiel Harling (1707-1754) and Hannah Oborn (born about 1707). The trees of their South Carolina descendants cite Germany as the place of birth for both.

Ancestry.com had provided plenty of hints for an Ezekiel Harlan and Hannah Oborn. The problem was, Ancestry’s hints were all for an English couple. So I temporarily ignored these hints in pursuit of any German ancestry records I could find. I was quite inventive. I used every form of the Harling name I could think of, including making it more Germanic by using the spelling Härling. I did find people with the variant spellings of the name. None, however, were the couple I was seeking.

I gave it a week.

Then I started accessing the records that Ancestry was offering for this couple. What a goldmine of information this turned out to be.

Ezekiel Harling and Hannah Oborn 1

Source: Ancestry.com. U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Swarthmore, Quaker Meeting Records. Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Description: This collection of Quaker meeting and vital records is one of the first of its kind. These records from monthly meetings have been brought together to form the most extensive searchable online database

Synopsis of the above record:

Name: Ezekiel Harlin Jr
Marriage Date: 23 Dec 1724
Marriage Date on Image: 23 Tenth 1724
Marriage Place: Delaware, Pennsylvania
Spouse: Hannah Oborn
Event Type: Marriage
Monthly Meeting: Concord Monthly Meeting
Yearly Meeting: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Title: Births and Marriages, 1693-1808
Meeting State: Pennsylvania
Meeting County: Delaware (part of the Pennsylvania colony at this time)

The above record sent me on a journey of family history discovery spanning 200+ years.

Ezekiel Harling and Hannah Oborn 2

Source: Ancestry.com. U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.

Synopsis of the above record:

Name: Ezekiel Harlin
Marriage Date: 7 Dec 1724
Marriage Place: Delaware, Pennsylvania
Residence Date on Image: 07 Tenth 1724
Spouse: Hannah Obourn
Event Type: Marriage Intention (Marriage)
Monthly Meeting: Concord Monthly Meeting
Yearly Meeting: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Title: Women’s Minutes, 1715-1751
Meeting State: Pennsylvania
Meeting County: Delaware

 Ezekiel Harling was actually born with the name Ezekiel Harlan (sometimes spelled ‘Harlin’). He, and his wife Hannah Oborn, came from a long, long line of English Quakers. I’m going to go ahead and say they were English, and not Irish although both were clearly born in northern Ireland. Their parents and grandparents were English. I’d hate to muddy the genealogical waters by giving them an Anglo-Irish identity that a series of marriage, birth and death records just aren’t showing.

And what an amazing thing that turned out to be. Quakers thoroughly documented every aspect of their lives: their weekly meetings, marriages, births, deaths, excommunications, the travel of members from one Quaker community to another – everything. This enormous body of documentary evidence still exists. And it has been digitized (in America, at any rate).

Through these primary source records, I followed the Harling-Harlan trail back to 16th Century Harland family of County Durham in England. Along the way, I uncovered parts of history I’ve never known.

I’m not a Quaker scholar. I know very little about the religion. However, I do remember being taught that after facing persecution from the Church of England, many English Quakers left for the Netherlands, and from there to establish a colony in Pennsylvania. Or they went straight from England and Scotland to Pennsylvania.  I never knew that quite a number of English and Scottish Quakers went to Ulster and County Antrim in the northern part of Ireland. At least two generations of my Harlan ancestors were born in Antrim and Ulster before moving to Lancaster and Chester Counties in Pennsylvania, along with what looks like the majority of their local and regional religious community.

The Quaker bit explains why cousins within this family married members of their extended family generation after generation. They married members of their own faith. Existing in relative isolation, that also meant marrying someone from their own community or neighbouring communities.

Which explains why family names like Bailey, Breed(e), Gregg, Heald, Hollingsworth, Hoopes, Mendenhall, Pearce and Webb – and many others – appear with regular frequency. You’ll see these names in the records provided above. Over a few generations, this became one, enormous, extended family.

Naturally, I’m curious about how the Harlan name came to be changed to Harling when Ezekiel Harlan came to reside in Edgefield County, SC. I have some educated guesses.

My Virginia-based German-American Sheffey family became part of the English-descended elite that dominated southwest Virginia. They fashioned themselves after the dominant culture in this region of Virginia. The early 19th Century Sheffeys in Tennessee became part of the Scots-Irish community there. The Scheffe/Sheffeys of Pennsylvania and Frederick County, Virginia remained part of the German communities they lived amongst and maintained a strong German identity.

I’m guessing Ezekiel Harlan or his children did the same thing. They fashioned themselves after the leading, and genuinely German, families that dominated their community: families like Ouzts, Dorn and Timmerman. These are the families Ezekiel and Hannah’s descendants married into. ‘Harling’ does have a Germanic ring to it. Or perhaps the next generation of the family wanted to erase their Quaker connections. Or a mixture of both? I think they were partly successful in this. For 150 years, this line was ‘lost’ to the Harlan family. It’s only within the past few decades that it was re-discovered by members of the Harlan family.

The re-discovery thing is kind of interesting. A handful of their Harlan cousins left Pennsylvania for Union County, South Carolina a few decades after Ezekiel had left Pennsylvania. I’ve just located another Harlan branch that came to reside in Edgefield as well. I can only assume this wasn’t happenstance. And by that, I mean Ezekiel must have corresponded with his family back in Pennsylvania.

The records do seem to indicate, however, that connections with the family’s Pennsylvania roots were either lost through time or permanently severed.

It’s a shame. Reading through the Quaker records reveals an interesting and fascinating family history. I, for one, am thankful that the Quakers had one heck of an impressive administrative system – and such discipline when it came to the practice of documentation.

So what’s my takeaway point? Never fear to question established dogma when it comes to family history. If you keep coming up empty handed in your search, and if you keep coming across records that suggest an alternative answer to questions about an ancestor’s lineage…check those records out. Those records could prove a goldmine of information.

If you are researching your Harling-Harlan-Harlin-Harland family roots in America, I can definitely recommend the book below. It has been digitized and is available for free to read online. So far, i have found it to be incredibly accurate in the information it provides. in other words, the digitized records online supports the information provided in this old book. By the way, I’m a descendant of the George Harlan mentioned in the book’s title.

Harlan, Alpheus H., History and Genealogy of the Harlan Family, and particularly of the line of descendants of George and Michael Harlan who settled in Chester County, PA., 1687. 1914. http://www.archive.org/stream/historygenealogy00harl/#page/n5/mode/2up