Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Tikar People of Cameroon

 

African Ancestry, Inc. found that the DNA sequence in my father's mitochondrial DNA is a 100% match to the Tikar people of Cameroon.  My father's direct matri-lineage has been traced back to his maternal grandmother’s maternal grandmother, his great-great-grandmother Caroline Morris of Warren County, Mississippi.  Further slave ancestral research uncovered that she was likely born in Greensville County, Virginia c. 1815; her enslaver John Hebron transported her and others to Mississippi around 1834. That research discovery is further explained here. Interestingly, Quincy Jones' maternal ancestors also lived in the same vicinity of Warren County; his mtDNA sequence matched the Tikar as well.  Africans from the Bight of Biafra region (Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon) comprised of the largest group (40%) forcibly transported to Virginia ports during the transatlantic slave trade. Recent research by Dr. Lisa Aubrey and her team uncovered 166 slave ships from Cameroon. More info about that discovery can be read here.

Tikar History

A special thanks to Dr. John Q. Williams, who received this information from members of the Tikar ethnic group of Cameroon about their history. A special thanks to HAMADJAM Raphaël Athanase Elisée of Douala, Cameroon for sharing the pictures below with me.

According to the oral and documented history of the Tikar people, they originated in present-day Sudan. It is believed that when they inhabited Sudan, they lived adjacent to two groups. The first group comprised of iron-makers/blacksmiths and carpenters in the Meroe Kindgom; this group (ancestors of the Mende people) later left the Sudan and moved west towards Lake Chad. They eventually traveled to the Mali Empire, and along with the town Fulani and Mande, founded the Kingdom of Mani. The second group - ancestors of the Fulani - arrived in the Sudan from Egypt and Ethiopia. These cattle and goat herders moved west to Lake Chad near present-day Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria before traveling across West Africa. It is believed that when the ancestors of the Tikar were in the Sudan, they lived along the Nile River. There, they developed their cattle grazing, iron-making, horse riding, and fighting skills.

At some point in time, the ancestors of the Tikar moved from the Sudan to the Adamawa Northern Region of present-day Cameroon. They settled in a village they named Ngambe (present-day Bankim District) where they intermarried with selected grassland farmers and animal herders.

During the mixing with selected grassland residents, a powerful chief and eventually king came to power. With the skills brought from the Sudan, the Tikar king was able to rule most of northern and central Cameroon. After the death of the king, his oldest son inherited the throne. Soon afterwards, his second son, Share-Yen, and his followers moved to present-day Mfounbam district and started the Mbamound Clan. Ngouo-Nso, a sister, and her followers moved to present-day Koumbo District and created the Koumbo Clan in the present-day state of Mbanso near Mbamenda. The youngest brother moved further south and created the Mbafia Clan in the present-day Mbam state.

The Tikar Empire had strong political traditions.  At the height of the Tikar Empire, fifteen kingdoms or clans existed; the Ngambe was the largest. Future kings and the ruling class always came from this clan and all clan were headed by a Fon who supervised nobles, large farm producers, military leaders, merchants, and town leaders. With superior weapons and fighting on horseback, Tikar soldiers protected the empire, maintained domestic peace, and collected taxes. A caste system existed, but the standard of living for the Tikar was above those from other ethnic groups. The Tikar people was known for their sophistication in government, war, and the arts - including a bronze casting process for making masks.

While the Tikar lived in Cameroon, most of the people with Tikar ancestry lived the "good life". Vocational training was the norm for Tikar boys, and teachers taught various forms of craft-making, woodcarving, mask carving, and making bronze sculptures. The Tikar people also developed a process for using hot wax to make masks and bronze sculptures. During the height of the Tikar Empire, many Tikar people were also gifted in music, dancing, acting, and writing.

The Tikar people had control over the trade routes between the Fulani and Hausa merchants to the north of the Tikar Empire and coastal ports. Due to the Tikar's advanced ceramic techniques and architecture/iron smelting kilns, products were exported north to the Hausa people and south to coastal ports.

For three centuries, the Tikar ruled present-day Cameroon and Central Africa with sophistication, but with a iron fist and heavy tax burdens on people from other ethnic groups. It was also reported that because of their high standard of living, there were more than one million people with Tikar ancestry by 1800.  However, trouble came.  Research revealed that by 1800, several African ethnic groups had joined the Europeans to fight the Tikar people, who were known for their quick ability to learn and their sophistication and for being hated by surrounding Africans.  The Tikar were unable to obtain modern weapons; they were never able to take control over the coast. So, they were caught in the middle between the coast and the north.

As the Tikar people attempted to abandon their traditional grassy savannahs and the plains where they were easy slave trade targets with no natural protection, they were forced to leave their villages with slave traders on one side and four hostile tribes on the other side seeking revenge. One of the strategies they applied to fight off the enemy was to dig moats around villages; these still exist in at least five kingdoms. However, this strategy failed and the survivors found refuge in the forest.

The transatlantic slave trade drained their brightest and most physically fit young people.  Having been greatly weakened by war and the slave trade, they became vulnerable to neighboring groups who had been subjected by the Tikar for several centuries. During the Middle Passage, most of the Tikar adults and boys killed themselves rather than be sold as slaves.  Still, it has been reported that most of the Tikar captives who arrived in the United States were females.

When slavery ended, there were between 60,000 - 75,000 Tikars in Cameroon, and most of them were hiding in forests from slave traders. Today, less than 100,000 Tikars live in Cameroon. They live as small and scattered related groups in the northwestern highlands near the Nigerian border. Much of the Tikar area lies in Cameroon's Adamawa plateau and the western highlands.

The Tikar are among the most industrious people in Cameroon. Urban Tikar boys score the highest marks on math examinations. Most Tikar children earn the highest grades in school.  Urban Tikar students are reported to be the most gifted in arts and crafts, music, writing, and math.

Popular evening Tikar meals include: (1) chicken and tomatoes served on top of rice, (2) thick soups with hot spicy seasonings served on chicken, and (3) a form of fufu. Thick soups served on yams are often eaten in the morning.

Tikar Chiefs


GAH II Ibrahim, the chief of Bankim, the history capital of the Tikar people. 
There are many Tikar villages - Ngambe, Magba, Ntem, Bandam - but the main Tikar village is Bankim.


GAH II Ibrahim, the actual Chief of Bankim, standing near the crowned lake named "SEM SEM".


Left is the Chief of Ina (Tikar village) and right is the actual Chief of Ngambe (Honore MBGAROUMA).


This is a picture of the late chief of Ngambe. Ngambe is one of the Tikar villages. Around his neck is an ivory collar made of elephant tusks. He carries it only once per year, during the time of the festival called "Sweety". It is a traditional Tikar festival during which one calls upon the spirits of the ancestors and asks them to bless the community.


Copyright © 2014 Melvin J. Collier. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Can’t Find Out; Was Bought From a Slave Trader

 
The death certificate of Nancy Cole, who died in 1914 at age 83 in Tate County, Mississippi
Notation for parents’ names: Can’t find out, was bought from a slave trader in 1845 aged 14 years

Yesterday was Grandparents’ Day, and as I was viewing the many death certificates I have found over the years, I stopped at this one of an elderly grandmother who died in 1914 in Tate County, Mississippi. It is rare to see notes like this on death certificates. Typically, if the informant didn’t know the names of the deceased's parents, the words “don’t know” or “unknown” were written, or the space would be left blank. However, when Nancy Cole’s son was asked who his mother’s parents were, his reply was detailed, sad, and stunning. It was also the reality of many formerly enslaved African Americans. I envision him saying something like this: “Momma came from Tennessee, but I don’t know who her parents were, and I can’t find out, either. She was bought by a slave trader at age 14 in 1845. That's what she told us.” I imagine that the pain of being sold away from her family was so great for Nancy, that she didn’t talk much about her childhood.

For years, I have tried to figure out how my great-great-grandmother, Lucy Milam Davis, was related to Nancy and her children. Many family members, including my mother and her siblings, knew Nancy Cole’s children and grandchildren – the Coles and Freemans of Tate County, Mississippi – as their cousins. No one has ever been able to tell me exactly how they were our cousins. Even my go-to elderly cousin, the late Sammie Lee Davis Hayes (1920-2007), could only say, “All I know is that they were close kin to Grandma Lucy.” Cousin Sammie Lee was my maternal grandmother's first cousin who loved talking about family history; she would tell me anything that she remembered. But, she too didn’t know how her grandmother Lucy was related to Nancy’s descendants.

 
My great-great-grandmother, Lucy Milam Davis (1846-1927), of Panola County (Como), Mississippi
Daughter of Wade Milam and Margaret “Peggy” Milam

What I do know is that Grandma Lucy was the daughter of Wade Milam, who was born c. 1820 in Alabama, and Peggy Milam, who was born c. 1829 in Williamson County, Tennessee. Initially, I had theorized that perhaps Nancy and Peggy were sisters. Further research into Peggy’s history revealed that her enslaved parents, Adam and Sarah, also had children named Random, Caledonia, and Sam. They all had been enslaved by Edward Warren, who brought them to Marshall County, Mississippi in the 1830s from Williamson County (Franklin), Tennessee. The family was named in an 1839 bill of sale. Peggy and her brother Sam were eventually sold to Joseph Milam of present-day Tate County by 1845. This blog post further explains that research discovery. Even my researching cousin Henrietta, a descendant of Sam Milam, was told by her elders that Nancy Cole’s children were their cousins, too. Maybe Nancy was actually Caledonia? Their ages match perfectly. Caledonia was reported as being 8 years old in that 1839 bill of sale. That possibility is very real; it was not uncommon for some people to be known by different names. Of course, those scenarios make genealogy research extra nerve-wrecking. Unfortunately, a lot of unknowns are not revealed through documentation.

To add, Nancy was married to a man named George Cole, with whom she had at least eight children. According to the 1870 and 1900 censuses, he was born around 1830 in Mississippi. His race/color was consistently reported as “mulatto.” This color designation is presumably accurate; family elders recalled that George and Nancy’s children were “light-skinned.” Since George Cole also fathered one of Peggy’s children, that left me to wonder if maybe the connection could be through my great-great-great-grandfather, Wade Milam, who was always noted as “Black”. But Wade was from Alabama. Could they still have been half-brothers? Right now, I don’t know. 

Maybe one day Nancy Cole will send down more definitive clues. I’ve had that death certificate for over 15 years. I’ve read that rare notation many many times. I remain confident that the pieces of the puzzle will come together.

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)