Monday, September 1, 2014

This Genealogy Stuff is Driving Me Crazy!

 

For a while, I had concluded that my great-great-grandfather, Robert “Big Bob” Ealy of Leake County, Mississippi, was born in Nash County, North Carolina. Research and oral history identified his last enslaver as a man named William “Billy” Eley, who brought him to Mississippi and used him as a breeder. Further research found that Grandpa Big Bob was an inheritance to Billy Eley’s wife, Frances Bass, from her father, Jesse Bass of Nash County. In 1822, young Bob was bequeathed to young Frances. That’s why I had placed Grandpa Big Bob’s birthplace as Nash County.

However, after uncovering more in July, as I explained in “I Found the Last Slave-owner’s Will, Now What?”, I realized that Grandpa Big Bob may have been born in either Nash County or neighboring Halifax County in North Carolina. The birthplace can be determined when I know exactly when he was born. As many are aware, the word “exactly” with African-American genealogy research is especially speculative in many cases when it comes to birth years and birthplaces. Most enslaved African Americans did not know their exact age. They often based it on how old they approximated themselves to be when an event in history happened during their early years. For example, my maternal great-grandfather Bill Reed told my late cousin Isaac Deberry Sr. (1914-2009) that he was a young teenager when the Civil War started. Cousin Ike had recounted to me the story that Grandpa Bill told him of how he helped his last enslaver Lemuel Reid bury his gold on top of a hill near Abbeville, South Carolina to keep the Union soldiers from taking it. According to the censuses, Grandpa Bill Reed was born in 1846, so he indeed was around 15 years old when the Civil War started.

Well, Grandpa Big Bob Ealy’s ages were reported in four censuses. One can easily deduce that he was born sometime between 1814 and 1820 in North Carolina. However, nearer to what year? The answer to that question, if I can find it, is pivotal in determining exactly where he was born. Shortly, you will see what I mean with this unique situation. The following ages for Grandpa Big Bob were reported in the censuses:

1860 Leake County Slave Schedule: 42 years old --- around 1818
1870 Leake County Census: 51 years old ---- around 1819
1880 Leake County Census: 63 years old ---- around 1817
1900 Scott County Census: 86 years old ---- reported birth month and year were March 1814

Would taking the average of these four approximated years (1814, 1817, 1818, 1819) be considered the “best guess”? Can mathematics and statistics be applied to genealogy when the events of history are based on exact times? However, just for information purposes, the average (mean) of those years is 1817. The median of those four years is 1817.5. Was Grandpa Big Bob born in mid-1817? Probably. Considering the unique situation at hand, I need more than “probably.”

In a nutshell, in July, I had discovered that Grandpa Big Bob’s mother was an enslaved woman named Ann (Annie). Like him, she too was an inheritance to her enslaver’s wife. Grandma Ann was first enslaved by Benjamin Pearce of Halifax County, North Carolina. Benjamin willed her and slaves named Ned and Augustine to his daughter, Frances Pearce, in 1810. Eight years later, on May 20, 1818, Frances married Jesse Bass, who lived in adjacent Nash County. Therefore, one can reasonably surmise that either on May 20th or shortly thereafter, the new bride Frances packed up all of her belongings and moved over into Nash County to live with her new husband and his 11 children from his previous two marriages. She certainly took on a lot, and her property, including Ned, Augustine, and Grandma Ann, became Jesse Bass’ "property." However, the questions in my head are:

(1) Was Grandpa Big Bob an infant when his mother was moved to Nash County? Remember, the mean and median say that his birth year was 1817, if that counts for anything.
(2) Was Grandma Ann pregnant with Grandpa Big Bob when she was moved to Nash County?
(3) Or was Grandpa Big Bob conceived after his mother Ann was moved to Nash County?

How in the world will I find my answer! If family members and I wanted to visit the vicinity of his birthplace, where would we go? Wish me luck with that one!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Looking to DNA to Solve Mystery

 
Descendants of Bill & Sarah Partee Reed

One of the great things about having a blog or having some family tree information online is the potential for long lost relatives, you never knew existed, to find you. Often, collaboration with “new kin” can lead to the discovery of more ancestors and more family history. Last week, I received an e-mail from someone of Atlanta, Georgia. For privacy purposes, I'll call her "Miss Tee." Of course, the very first thing I noticed is that her last name is my mother’s paternal grandmother’s maiden name – PARTEE. I couldn’t click the e-mail fast enough to read her message!

My mother’s paternal grandmother was Sarah Partee Reed of Tate County (Senatobia), Mississippi. She was born into slavery around 1852 on Squire B. Partee’s plantation near Como, Mississippi in neighboring Panola County to Polly Partee (born c. 1830). Although Sarah died in 1923, long before my mother was born, Mom always referred to her as “Momma Sarah,” as if she had known her well. In Miss Tee’s message, she shared how she was searching for more information on her Partee Family. Her paternal grandfather, Lucious Partee, was the son of a man named Dock Partee of DeSoto County, Mississippi. Per the 1900 Census, Dock lived in the small village of Eudora, west of Hernando, Mississippi.

Well, my eyes bucked when I saw the name “Dock Partee.” You see, I had found him in the census records over 10 years ago. Since that time, I have always wondered if he was connected to Momma Sarah; perhaps he may have been her brother because she named her third oldest son DOCK – my mother’s paternal uncle, Dock Reed, Sr. As many researchers have experienced, same names among families often indicate kinship. Naming children after aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents, etc. was our ancestors’ ingenious way of preserving history. Born around 1850, Dock Partee was in Tate County in 1880 and had relocated up to DeSoto County by 1900. Other than the name Dock, I had no other clues or documentation to connect him to Momma Sarah.

Doctor Rogers “Dock” Reed, Sr. (1878-1958) and his wife, Mary Frances Reed

Well, after several e-mail exchanges with Miss Tee and her second cousin, who had done research on their family, more clues surfaced. Are they compelling? Miss Tee and her family had also speculated for years that Dock Partee may have been a son of Polly Partee. These four main clues surfaced:

1. As mentioned earlier, Momma Sarah named one of her sons Dock.

2. Miss Tee's cousin had heard oral history that Dock's mother (name unknown to them) was the “cook in the big house” on Squire B. Partee’s plantation. Grandma Polly Partee was said to be the cook (or one of the cooks) for the white Partees. My late Cousin Isaac Deberry Sr. (1914-2009) had stated to me some years ago, “Momma (Sarah’s daughter Martha Reed Deberry) told me that Polly was the cook on the ole Partee place during slavery times and after. She was such a good cook that she made the food you didn’t like taste delicious.”

 3. There were two people named Lucious in my Partee Family. Miss Tee's grandfather's name was Lucious Partee (son of Dock).

 4. Momma Sarah was said to have Native American ancestry. My and mom's DNA results proved it. For further explanation, see DNA Found Native Americans Resting in Family Tree. Miss Tee and her family had also heard that Dock Partee had Native American ancestry.

Even more interesting, I discovered that my cousin, Dr. Leroy Frazier (great-great-grandson of Sarah Partee Reed), is a longtime friend of a great-granddaughter of Dock Partee. Their friendship has spanned over 50 years, and they could be blood cousins. Miss Tee is planning to have several members of her family to take the DNA test to learn more. We are looking to DNA to solve this mystery for us. We hope my Mom and I will be a close DNA match to prove that Dock Partee was also a child of Grandma Polly. If Dock and Sarah were siblings, Mom and Miss Tee’s father are 2nd cousins. Stay tuned for an update!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Part 2: I Found the Slave-owner’s Will, Now What?

What happened to Grandma Annie and her children?

Fortunately for a researcher, family drama over an estate can create a lot of documentation.  Add in the fact that an estate involved the deceased’s widow, his children from a former wife, his children by the widow, and the widow’s new husband. Whew! My cousin Ruth in Memphis, who is a successful realtor, expressed to me recently that when someone dies and there’s an estate, unfortunately there will be drama most of the times. Although she referenced her opinion and professional experiences to modern times, I realized that this type of drama always occurred, even in the 1820s in North Carolina.

In Part 1, I presented how a preponderance of evidence led me to determine that the mother of my great-great-grandfather, Robert “Big Bob” Ealy of Leake County, Mississippi, was likely a woman named Annie (aka Ann or Anna). Click here to read Part 1. They had been previously enslaved by Jesse Bass of Nash County, North Carolina. In his 1822 will, Jesse bequeathed Grandma Annie and an enslaved man named Ned back to his wife, Francis Pearce Bass, who had inherited them from her father, Benjamin Pearce of Halifax County, North Carolina, in 1810. They became Jesse’s legal property when he married Francis in 1818. Recently, I found Francis Pearce Bass’ estate record on familysearch.org. She had died in Nash County in the 1830s. Oh boy! Her estate record revealed a lot of family drama and the possible sad fate of Grandma Annie.

I discovered from her estate record that shortly after Jesse Bass’ death in 1822, Francis remarried to a man named William Hunt on September 25, 1823. Oddly, her two young children by Jesse, namely Francis Bass Eley and Coffield Bass, had been placed under the guardianship of their older half-brother, Isaac Bass. Her estate record also revealed that this marriage seemed to have caused a lot of drama between William, Francis, and her former stepchildren – Jesse Bass’ children by his previous wife. Interestingly, it disclosed that a day prior to her marriage to William Hunt, she got a deed of gift that basically stated that all of her property, including Ned, Grandma Annie, and Lazarus (who I believe is Grandma Annie’s new son born after 1822) go to her two children, Francis Jr. and Coffield, after her death. Was this slick or what? Francis was likely aware that once she said “I Do” to Hunt, all of her property became his legal property due to the laws of the time. This is that deed:

Excerpt: “ . . . . do give and grant unto the said Francis Bass and Coffield Bass all and singular my property and goods of every description as followeth: Three Negroes Ned, Anny, and Lazarous, my stock of cattle hogs sheep and two horses . . . .” Witness, Isaac Bass. Click image for larger view.

Nearly a year later, William Hunt learned of this deed that Francis had kept a secret. Oh, he was livid! So much so, that he filed a formal complaint on Sept. 4, 1824 in the Nash County Court for the deed of gift to be annulled. He claimed that she was “combining and confederating with some wicked and evil dispersed person…for the purpose of deceiving, imposing on defrauding him out of his then intended marital rights . . .” He also argued that he inherited his wife’s debts that were incurred during her marriage to Jesse Bass. He basically wanted legal rights to the property in order to sell and settle their debts. Things in their household were not pleasant. This estate document disclosed this drama (page 1):

Excerpt: “ . . . . Your orator further represents unto your honour that on the 24th day of September 1823, the day previous to his marriage with the said Mrs. Francis Bass she combining and confederating with some wicked and evil dispersed person to your orator unknown and for the purpose of deceiving, imposing on defrauding him out of his then intended marital rights – made a deed of gift of all of her chattel estate of every description to her two children Francis Bass (Junr.) and Coffield Bass each of which had been before will provided for by their father Jesse Bass, the first husband of the wife of your orator – since which time Isaac Bass has by the County Court of Nash been appointed their guardian . . . .” Click image for larger view.

Well, there’s more. In 1822, Jesse Bass had bequeathed Esther and Gustus, who I strongly believe were also Grandma Annie’s children, to his and Francis’ young son, Coffield Bass. I discovered that Coffield died shortly in 1825 at a young age. What happened to Aunt Esther and Uncle Gus? Well, his estate record, which I also found recently on familysearch.org, revealed that they were sold for $803 to Ira Jackson on December 31, 1825, on a credit of 12 months by the estate administrator, William Hunt. This is that estate document:

Account of Sale of Slaves, Dec. 31, 1825, Estate of Coffield Bass, Nash County, N.C.

However, something became rather confusing amongst the drama. According to an account of sale in Francis’ estate record, dated March 15, 1828, Esther and Gus (aka Gustus or Augustin) were part of her estate in 1828. However, the 1825 account of sale above shows them being sold to Ira Jackson from Coffield’s estate. What happened? Was the sale rescinded? Did Ira Jackson fail to pay the full amount and thus Aunt Esther and Uncle Gus were repossessed? I have yet to uncover the answer to those questions.

Nevertheless, the following 1828 account of sale document also shows that William Hunt’s “slave property,” namely Ned, Grandma Annie, and her child (probably Lazarus), were all sold to Moses R. Moore by Francis’ step-son, Edwin Bass, for $77.75. The 1830 census revealed that Moore also resided in Nash County, North Carolina. This account of sale also shows that Aunt Esther was sold (or resold) to Jesse’ son, Edmond Bass, and Uncle Gus was sold (or resold) to Jesse’ son, Isaac Bass, who both migrated to Madison County, Mississippi around 1835. Apparently, William Hunt won his case, and Ned, Grandma Annie, and child Lazarus were considered his legal property. Also, a Negro woman named Fariby was sold to William Savage for only $4.50. I speculate that Fariby (aka Phebe or Ferriby) may have been Grandma Annie’s mother (future blog post after more research) who had also come from Benjamin Pearce’s 1810 estate.

Account of Sale of Slaves, March 15, 1828, Estate of Francis Pearce Bass Hunt, Nash County, N.C.

But when William Hunt gained the legal rights to the property Francis wanted to leave for her two children, this seemed to have separated Grandma Annie from most of her children forever. Grandpa Big Bob Ealy was taken to Mississippi when Jesse Bass’ children, Isaac, Edwin, Edmond, Elizabeth, Gideon, Council, Francis Jr., and her husband Billy Eley, decided to leave Nash County, North Carolina around 1835. They all settled in Madison County, Mississippi, and the Eleys soon moved over into Leake County, Mississippi by 1840. Council Bass established a plantation in Washington County, Mississippi. Grandma Annie’s children, John, Esther, and Gus, may have been taken to Mississippi, too, while she and her youngest child, probably Lazarus, may have remained in North Carolina and enslaved by Moses R. Moore.  More research will be done to uncover more facts. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I Found the Slave-owner’s Will, Now What?

I asked that question when I found the will of Jesse Bass of Nash County, North Carolina nearly 10 years ago. He wrote it on May 6, 1822 and died shortly thereafter. He bequeathed my great-great-grandfather, Robert “Big Bob” Ealy of Leake County, Mississippi, and a slave named John to his youngest daughter, Frances Bass. She later married William "Billy" Eley, and they moved to Mississippi circa 1835. The following is a snippet from his will. He bequeathed a total of 32 enslaved people to his wife, also named Frances, and his 13 children. I'm glad that I pursued the answer to that question because it has essentially led me to more!


Item: I also give my beloved wife FRANCES two negroes namely NED and ANN and two feather beds and furniture, one that came by her, one bureau that came by her, two head of horses . .

Item: I give to my beloved daughter FRANCES BASS, two negroes JOHN and BOB.

Item: I give to my beloved son COFFIELD, two negroes namely GUSTUS & ESTHER.

After finding a slave-owner’s will, I try to locate that enslaver’s estate record to hopefully garner more information, especially if the will doesn’t give me any indication of who among the named enslaved people were my ancestor’s family members. Estate slave inventories can be goldmines if enslaved people are inventoried in family groups or lots or just by observing if young children are valued with their mother or individually right after an adult female in the order of decreasing value. Since Jesse Bass’ will didn’t indicate who Grandpa Big Bob’s mother may have been, I had high hopes of learning more from his estate record when I visited the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh last summer. To my dismay, a slave inventory was not found in his estate file.

This week, I reread Jesse Bass’ will again. I became more curious about his last wife after reading the phrase “one that came by her”. These five words got me to thinking. Did she come into the marriage with property of her own – slaves and furniture, perhaps? I wondered. I don’t know why it took me this long to investigate the wife when I often instruct researchers to investigate the slave ownership of the enslaver’s wife’s family. Luckily, Internet sources identified her as Frances Pearce; she was Jesse Bass’ third wife he married in 1818 in Halifax County, North Carolina. Jesse’ youngest children, Frances and Coffield, were by this third wife. Luckily again, Internet sources also identified her as being the daughter of Benjamin "Berry" Pearce (c.1750-1810) of Halifax County, North Carolina.

My next step was to see if familysearch.org have digitized estate records online for Halifax County, North Carolina. I hit pay dirt! I found Benjamin's will online and read what his daughter Frances Pearce was bequeathed on March 1, 1810.


I give unto my daughter Frances one bed and furniture, the citizen filley, Negroes, Ned, Augustin, and Anne to her and her heirs forever.

Upon reading his will, I soon discovered that Ned and Ann, who were named in Jesse Bass’ 1822 will, had come from his father-in-law, Benjamin Pearce. Slave ancestral research entails a lot of thinking and analyzing, and I deduced the following five points:

Point No. 1When Jesse Bass wrote his will in 1822, Ned and Ann had been his legal property since 1818, when he married Frances Pearce, who had been the legal owner of them as set forth by her father Benjamin Pearce’s 1810 will. Looks like Jesse decided to transfer ownership back to his wife since they were her legal property before their marriage. Maybe he wanted to do right by her?

Special Note by historian David Patterson: It was customary [not mandatory] among slave owners who appreciated their wives and who had a sense of propriety and fairness (other than to the slaves, of course) that they would will back to wife the property she had brought into the marriage, and in the case of slaves any "increase" (children) borne by the women since coming into his possession. So it makes sense that the people devised by Bass to his wife in the will, who have the same names as the people she received from her father, are most likely the same people or their descendants on the female side.

Point No. 2 – If Ann had given birth to children, those children "belonged to" his wife Frances up until she married Jesse in 1818. Afterwards, Ann's children became his legal property. Again, maybe he wanted to do right by his wife by bequeathing Ann's children to their two children, Coffield and Frances Bass?

Special Note by historian David Patterson: Although Frances' father had willed the people to her and her heirs forever, when she married, under common law doctrine of "coverture" as developed by William Blackstone, her property became her husband's -- unless she had (1) received the property under a deed of trust protecting it for her own use apart from any husband, (2) had established such a trust for her own benefit before marrying, or (3) executed a pre-nuptial agreement reserving ownership to herself of any property she brought to the marriage. Her father's will apparently sets up no trust and the fact that her husband treats the people as his own property in the will indicates that neither of the other options happened. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coverture.

Point No. 3 – In 1822, Coffield and Frances were under 5 years old. Therefore, one can plausibly assert that any slaves their father left to them would also be young. It didn’t make sense to bequeath much older slaves to young children; they would be of low or little value once those children reached adulthood. Grandpa Big Bob was under 10 years old in 1822.

Point No. 4 – Ann was the only enslaved female who Frances Pearce Bass had inherited from her father. One can plausibly assert that if Ann had children, they would be bequeathed to either Frances or her children, Coffield and Frances Bass. Perhaps, John, Bob, Gustus, and Esther were Ann’s children?

Last Point and Observation – Grandpa Big Bob Ealy named one of his daughters Annie and two of his sons John and Gus. Naming patterns are often very good clues. Did I just identify my great-great-great-grandmother, the mother of Big Bob Ealy?  Chances are pretty good that Ann is mine! The preponderance of evidence says that I should call her "Grandma Annie." 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Can DNA Point to One Ancestor?

This is an open-ended blog post with questions. However, this scenario shows how X-chromosome matches in 23andMe can possibly pinpoint one ancestor as being the connection to a DNA match.

Lisa, a new DNA match in 23andMe, shares DNA with me, my father, and five Ealy-Kennedy cousins. The range is from 16 to 39 cM. She is a predicted 4th cousin to my father and me, with whom she shares 18 cM across 1 segment. Lisa also shares DNA across two segments with three of us. All seven of us are direct descendants of my great-great-grandparents, Bob & Jane Ealy and Lucy Kennedy (and the white father of Lucy's childrenof Leake County, Mississippi. Three children of Bob & Jane Ealy married three of Lucy Kennedy’s children, and we all descend from one of those three Ealy-Kennedy couples.

What makes this match to Lisa even more interesting is because she also shares segments on the X chromosome with two of us. Lisa shares 18.8 cM on the X with my cousin Violet and 39.1 cM on the X with my cousin Christopher, an adoptee. We know that Christopher descends from one of the three Ealy-Kennedy couples via his unknown maternal grandfather, but we don’t know how, yet. (See "Help Us Find Christopher's Birth Mother.") Christopher also shares X-DNA with Violet and our cousin Nenise. See the following comparisons:


Utilizing the female X inheritance chart, I was able to deduce that Lisa is related through either of the following two ancestors:

Jane Parrott Ealy, who contributed up to 25% to Violet’s X-DNA, or
Lucy Kennedy, who contributed up to 12.5% to Violet’s X-DNA.

I checked the chromosome view in 23andMe, and both of Lisa's two X-chromosomes are 100% West African. Therefore, Lisa’s matching segment on the X with Violet came from ancestors of African descent. Lucy Kennedy was “mulatto,” born to an enslaved African-American mother (Jennie) and an unknown white father. A deceased family elder recalled family members saying how she "looked like a white woman." She inherited her X-chromosomes from her Black mother (50%) and from her white father (50%).

Therefore, my questions are the following:

Since Lucy Kennedy was “mulatto,” does that lessen the chance that the matching X-DNA segment came from her?

Does the amount of Lisa’s X-DNA sharing with Violet and Christopher (18.8 & 39.1 cM) negate Lucy because she possibly contributed so little (0 to 6.125%) African DNA to Violet’s X-DNA?

Does this DNA analysis point to Jane? Your feedback is greatly welcomed.

Presently, Lisa doesn’t know of anyone in her family being from Leake County, Mississippi. Her paternal roots are from Rapides, Avoyelles, and Allen Parishes, Louisiana. Her maternal roots, of which she knows very little, hailed from Oktibbeha, Winston, Holmes, and Sunflower Counties, Mississippi. Coincidentally (or not), Jim Parrott (born c. 1834), who I strongly believe was Jane’s brother, moved to Holmes County before 1900 with his wife and large family. Hopefully, she and I can figure out the connection soon.

Lessons that I am learning from feedback of this post:

(1) Even though one female is mulatto, she could have passed her predominantly African segment down to a child in its entirety or she may have passed down a mixed mostly African X, that when recombined in the next generation, became a wholly African X. Also, 39 cM only comes out to about 0.57%, so it is definitely possible for that amount to have come from someone from whom you can inherit up to 6%. (Lisa Landrum)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Father's Day Tribute: Three Granddaddies

Dad & Grandmomma on his graduation from elementary school and at around age 4

I often tell my father that although he was raised by loving adoptive parents, George Clifton Collier & Willie Ealy Collier, he was very fortunate to have known and been around his biological father, Hulen “Newt” Kennedy, since infancy up until Grandpa Newt’s passing in 1970. Many adopted children don’t figure out until later in life who their biological parents are/were. Although Newt didn’t raise him, he made sure that my father was being raised properly. Born to Albert Kennedy & Martha “Sissie” Ealy Kennedy, he and my Grandmomma Willie were double first cousins. She was the youngest daughter of Paul Ealy & Adeline Kennedy Ealy. Get it? (LOL) So when he visited his “Cut’n Willie” and her siblings often, he had a watchful eye on the upbringing of my father. Known as a tall, loving man, Grandpa Newt was adamant about wanting my father growing up in Leake County (Lena) among his people and not in the Mississippi Delta, where conditions were essentially neo-slavery for African Americans. Dad soon learned the truth when he was a young boy and realized that Grandpa Newt’s actions allowed him to have a much better life, away from working in the hot, flat cotton fields of Clarksdale, Mississippi, where his birth mother had chosen to live for a while with relatives. She had no qualms about allowing her infant boy to go back to Lena with his father. Having two fathers was indeed a blessing.

 George C. Collier (1899-1990), Dad, and Hulen “Newt” Kennedy (1888-1970)

Therefore, for this Father’s Day, I pay homage to my paternal roots – my father and both of my paternal grandfathers, giving me "Three Granddaddies". George C. Collier, who I affectionately call “Granddaddy,” was a very cool, mild-mannered, and loving grandfather. He was the only grandfather I knew. My mother's father Simpson Reed, whom she and her siblings greatly esteemed, died when she was 16. (You can read more about him in 150 Years Later.) I adored my paternal grandparents. Growing up, if I wasn’t at home, I was "chillin" at my grandparents’ house. Granddaddy taught me how to fish with a fishing reel, and I spent many of my childhood days along a pond near Pickens, Mississippi, on the Ross Barnett Reservoir in Rankin County, or on one of Mr. Swayze’s catfish ponds in Yazoo County with them and one of their fishing buddies. They didn’t play with their fishing, and they drove their Impala to where the fishes bite! That would be the only time I was happy to wake up at 5:30 in the morning. I can just hear their car horn honking now when she and Granddaddy arrived at my parents’ house before sunrise to pick me up to go fishing.

Granddaddy in 1916, Rankin County, Mississippi, 17 years old

Born near Pelahatchie (Rankin County), Mississippi, Granddaddy was born to Rev. Billy W. Collier, a Methodist preacher, a teacher of 29 years, and a house carpenter, and his first of three wives, Ella Butler Collier. Most people knew Granddaddy as “Fess” or "Fessor Collier," which was short for professor, because he was an admired principal and teacher at several schools in Leake, Rankin, and Scott County for many years. He also had been a Pullman porter, and he often shared how he had traveled through all of the 48 contiguous states. I was fascinated by this. Granddaddy and Grandmomma were both educators and graduates of Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi. Being around his presence all throughout my childhood, I knew that he was very happy with my choice to pack up and leave home to attend college. He wished me much success on that day and even handed me some cash.

As I write this, I am just now realizing that Granddaddy was sort of a genealogist, too, in his own way. I vividly recall that he would talk about his maternal grandparents Surrey & Harriet Butler often. He had a very close relationship with them. Also, I won’t ever forget the day he asked me to write their names in his Bible, as well as that of other family members, as I filled out the family tree section while he called out the names of his parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I was around 15 years old at the time, and I recalled being quite fascinated. This was one of the early signs that I would become addicted to genealogy research. Therapy not wanted. Ever. 

Several years later when I started to research, imagine my surprise when I found Harriet Butler in Granddaddy’s household in the 1920 census. She was reported as being 90 years old. Born circa 1832 near Mt. Hebron (Greene County), Alabama, she and her husband Surrey had been enslaved by David Butler. After his death in 1852, his widow "inherited" Surrey, and one of their daughters, Martha E. Butler Jordan, "inherited" Harriet and her two young children. Six years later, in 1858, Martha Jordan and her husband James F. Jordan left Alabama and moved to Rankin County, Mississippi, taking their enslaved laborers with them. Her mother joined them, and this allowed Surrey, Harriet, and their children to stay together as a family. Grandma Harriet passed away four months after that 1920 census was taken, on May 28, 1920, being under the care of her 21-year-old grandson, my Granddaddy. Grandpa Surrey had passed away three years earlier, on July 18, 1917, at around 92 years of age.

 1920 census, Rankin County, Mississippi; Granddaddy (20 years old)
as the head of household with his grandmother Harriet in the house.

Granddaddy's fascinating memory of his maternal grandparents enabled me to trace his maternal roots before 1870 with the following estate documents:


Estate division of David Butler’s slaves, Dec. 29, 1852, Greene County, Alabama – the lot of slaves allocated to daughter, Martha E. Butler, which included Granddaddy’s maternal grandmother Harriet
 and her two children, George and Joe, all valued at $967. Granddaddy was named after his mother’s brother.

 Granddaddy’s maternal grandfather Surrey was the first appraised in
David Butler’s estate inventory, 1852, Greene County, Alabama


1870 Rankin County, Mississippi census  Surrey & Harriet Butler and Family

Another thing I truly admired about Granddaddy was the way he treated Grandmomma. She was his queen. He called her “Sugar” and literally worshiped the ground she walked on. When Grandmomma passed away on October 4, 1990, I listened to him say repeatedly during her funeral, “I’m coming soon, Sugar,” as tears rolled down his face. They had been together for nearly 60 years. Being without her was just too unbearable. So two months later, I received that memorable phone call at school from my Mom before I went to class. She informed me that Granddaddy had quietly passed away. He had suffered a stroke several days prior, and he didn’t try to fight for his life. I was hurt, but I wasn’t surprised. He kept his promise to his "Sugar" who was waiting. He was 91.

So for this Father’s Day, I pay homage to my paternal roots, to my father and my "Three Granddaddies," as well as to all of the fathers, father figures, and grandfathers who were and are among the ranks of wonderful fathers who loved, supported, and cherished their families. Thanks for your devotion to your family. Happy Father’s Day.

Paternal great-grandfathers: Rev. Billy W. Collier (1866-1951) and Albert Kennedy (1856-1928)

Mom and Dad, 1970s


Granddaddy, Grandmomma's niece June, and Grandmomma, 1980s
(Thanks Cousin Jennifer Smith for this picture.)

R.I.P. Granddaddy and Grandmomma
Harmony Baptist Church Cemetery, Lena, Mississippi

R.I.P. Grandpa Newt
Harmony Baptist Church Cemetery, Lena, Mississippi

R.I.P. Grandpa Simpson
Beulah Baptist Church Cemetery, Como, Mississippi
My cousins, Gabriel and John Reed, and me - grandsons of Simpson Reed


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Got Roots in Madagascar?


I tell ya! DNA never ceases to amaze me! Both my mother and father’s X-DNA analyses have been rather revealing, indicating other ancestral ethnicities in my DNA. I wrote this blog post back in October 2013 about my mother’s X-chromosome. Could it be that I had ancestors from Southeast Africa (Mozambique/Madagascar) on my father’s side? 

Several years ago, I read a post on the AfriGeneas African-Native American Genealogy Forum board of someone seeking information on the “Matagascan/Malagascan/Matogascan Creek Indians” because family lore claimed that her great-great-grandmother was from this “Indian” tribe. Another poster commented, “My mother's father always described his mother as being a full blooded Malagaskan Indian woman with long black hair down her back.” I even found a slave narrative of a man who also claimed this heritage. James Brittain of Mississippi relayed the following in his slave narrative about his grandmother:

"My grandma came from Virginia . . . When my grandma died she was one hundred and ten years old. She said she was a Molly Gasca negro. That was the race she belonged to. She sure did look different from any the rest of us. Her hair it was fine as silk and hung down below her waist. The folks said Old Miss was jealous of her and Old Master. I don't know how that was." (Source)

Immediately, I began to associate the name “Malagascan” and “Molly Gasca” with Madagascar, an island located 250 miles off the southeastern African coast of Mozambique in the Indian Ocean. Being one of the largest islands in the world, Madagascar is roughly the size of Texas. The sounds of the names were almost phonetically identical. Shortly afterwards, I coincidentally conversed with another researcher at an event in Atlanta who told me that she has oral history of an ancestor being brought to America from Madagascar. To add, another poster in the AfriGeneas African-Native American Genealogy Forum soon wrote, “He (an elderly cousin) told the story of my ggg-grandfather who was from a royal family of Madagascar Africa that was taken as a slave out of Madagascar Africa on a slave ship.” A third poster also recounted oral history of her ancestor being brought to Virginia from Madagascar. A fourth researcher named Monifaa also communicated the following, “My mom's oldest brother has alleged to me that my ggg-grandmother was captured by slavers from the island of Madagascar and sold to cotton plantation owners in North Carolina.” Researcher Tracey Hughes discusses the discovery of her Madagascar ancestor in her blog post. It became evident that some African Americans had personal knowledge of Madagascar ancestry.

In Exchanging Our Country Mark, Michael Gomez wrote about the connection between "Madagascar Negroes" to Virginia; a small number of them were imported into Virginia during the early years of the transatlantic slave trade (p. 41). Gomez also describes how those particular Africans were "yellowish" in complexion and had hair like a "Madagascar's." Madagascar’s inhabitants are called the Malagasy people, and they speak a language by that name. Sources note that many of the Malagasy people possessed light skin and facial features very akin to people in Southeast Asia and Indonesia. Many others possessed darker skin and curly hair. Geneticists have determined that all of the Malagasy people descend from ancestors from Africa, as well as from Asia, specifically Borneo (Source). Then, it made clear sense to me that as time passed in America, Africans from Madagascar were believed to be “Indians” or “Black Indians”.

My interest further peaked in learning how Africans from Madagascar were transported to this side of the Atlantic Ocean. I had thought that the African ancestors of African-Americans were primarily from West and West-Central Africa, an Atlantic coastal region stretching from Senegal to Angola. Do I too have roots from Madagascar? Based on transatlantic slave trade statistics, the chances seemed small but possible; less than 5 percent of enslaved Africans imported into North America were from Madagascar.

Historians discovered more specific numbers, albeit small in number. Enslaved Malagasy Africans first arrived into the West Indies, Massachusetts, and New York, beginning in the 1670’s. The trade was stopped in 1698 by action of Parliament but resumed in 1716. From 1719 to 1725, only more than 1,000 enslaved Malagasy Africans were disembarked into Virginia through the Rappahannock and York River ports. More specifically, the Madagascar human imports into Virginia included the following:

     May 18 1719; Vessel - Prince Eugene; 340 Africans; Port of Entry – York River
     May 17, 1720; Vessel - Mercury; 466 Africans; Port of Entry – Rappahannock River
     May 21, 1721; Vessel - Gascoigne; 133 Africans; Port of Entry – York River
     June 21, 1721; Vessel - Prince Eugene; 103 Africans: Port of Entry – York River
     June 26, 1721; Vessel - Snow Rebecca; 59 Africans; Port of Entry – York River
     June 27, 1727; Vessel - Henrietta; 130 Africans; Port of Entry – York River
        (Source: Virginia Slave-Trade Statistics 1698-1775 by Minchinton, King, and Waite)


Recently, 23andMe started providing their customers with more details about their ancestry composition. As I studied my father’s results, I realized that his ancestry composition was updated to include 0.8% East African. Initially, I didn’t think much of it since the percentage was low. However, I noticed two things of great significance: (1) Very few people with African ancestry had East African ancestry in their 23andMe ancestry composition, and (2) all of my father’s 0.8% East African ancestry fell on his X-chromosome; it comprises about a whopping third of his X-chromosome! See below. 23andMe describes East African ancestry as follows:


Since my father’s DNA indicates East African ancestry, in conjunction with Southeast Asian ancestry, I revisited the question: Do I too have roots from Madagascar?  It appears so, when I learned more about the dynamics of the transatlantic slave trade, and especially since most of my father’s enslaved ancestors in Mississippi were born in Virginia and North Carolina. After viewing my father’s results, Teresa Vega, a researcher of Madagascar genetic genealogy, explained, “The Southeast Asian component, along with East Africa and South Africa, practically confirms it. Plus, Madagascar slaves were imported into Virginia. So, the chances are pretty high.”



Since all of my father’s East African ancestry are on his X-chromosome, this ancestry comes from his birth mother, Gertrude Belton, who was born near Vicksburg, Mississippi. Males inherit their X-chromosome from their mothers. X-DNA matches and segments are great because the X-chromosome can only be passed down certain ancestral lines.  Therefore, ancestral lines where the connection would not be found can be eliminated. I utilized the X-chromosome inheritance charts located here to narrow it down in the 5th generation to only my father’s great-great-grandparents who may have contributed to his X-DNA and the maximum amount they may have contributed. Those ancestors were the following:

Frederick “Fred” Miller – born c. 1827 in Warren Co., Mississippi (parents born in VA) (25%)
Hannah Miller – born c. 1835 in Alabama (parents born in VA) (25%)
Beady Bass – born c. 1810 in Northampton Co., North Carolina (which borders Virginia) (25%)
Caroline Morris – born c. 1815 in Greensville Co., Virginia (12.5%) (haplogroup is L0a1b)
[Unknown Father] Morris – born in Virginia (12.5%)

Each ancestor whose box is colored may have contributed X-DNA segments
to the focus person (my father). 
(Source of chart)

One of them most probably had an ancestor(s) from Madagascar. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to determine the names of their parents. Nevertheless, DNA technology is definitely suggesting that my father and I may have Malagasy blood, and it came from one of their lineages. This makes me wonder if my late great-aunt Pearlie’s long, black hair was an East African trait rather than Native American.

SPECIAL NOTE: After further dialogue with DNA enthusiasts, it has been brought to my attention that the sample populations (Massai, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea) that 23andMe used to establish the East African segment might not be genetically tied to Madagascar, although 23andMe included Madagascar in their definition for East African. Therefore, the East African segment alone should NOT be used to try to prove Malagasy ancestry. However, if other components are present, such as Southeast Asian ancestry, strong Virginia and New England colonial roots, etc., then the possibility remains that Malagasy ancestry may exist. A maternal haplogroup that is prevalent among the Malagasy (R9, M23, M7c1c, M32c, B4a1a1, F3b) or a Malagasy paternal haplogroup (O1a, O2a*) will be a strong indicator of Malagasy ancestry. The African portion of Malagasy will be West African in 23andMe’s ancestry composition because that is how 23andMe classifies Bantu tribes. (Special thanks to T.L. Dixon)

Children of the Malagasy People
(Source; public domain)

I found this nice slideshow of images from Madagascar.