Sunday, April 15, 2012

Grandma Was Right!

My father and my Grandma, Willie Ealy Collier
Taken in 1941, Lena, Mississippi

       Growing up, I was very fortunate to have a very close relationship with my Dad’s parents, George C. Collier & Willie Ealy Collier.  My childhood days were filled with fishing trips with them and driving them to church, to family and church functions in Leake County, Mississippi, to grocery and retail stores in Canton, Jackson, and Carthage to shop, and I even spent numerous days at their house just "chillin" or working in their garden with them.  Although they lived within the town of Canton, Grandma and Granddaddy still maintained a very large garden in their back yard – an extension of their rural upbringing.  I would not take a billion dollars for the close bond I had with them; that special bond helped to shape who I am today.  During the eighteen years I was blessed to have them in my life, Grandma would often observe me and would say to me, “Buster, you sure do have plenty of my blood in you.”    
       One may say, “Of course you do. She was your grandmother. That’s like one-fourth (25%) of your DNA.”  But, Grandma was not my biological grandmother – she and Granddaddy were Dad’s adoptive parents.  It was not a secret.  I have always known this every since I can remember.  The tall (6’3”), slender, and caring man who was biologically responsible for my father’s existence was Grandma’s double first cousin, Hulen Kennedy.  Everyone mostly called him “Newt”.  He was also responsible for making sure that my father was raised in Leake County among his side of the family and in a loving and stable household that contained two school teachers – my wonderful grandparents.  “Newt” Kennedy was adamant that no child of his would be raised in the Mississippi Delta, a place he considered “neo-slavery,” so to speak.  Grandma would often explain her “double kinship” to him by saying something like “brothers and sisters married brothers and sisters.”  As a young teenager, this didn’t sound quite right to me. Almost sounded kind of incestuous, but it was not.  Nevertheless, I didn’t ask her to go into details to explain what she meant.  I was more interested in going outside and riding my red Honda Elite motor scooter that she and Granddaddy purchased for my 15th birthday. Yes, they spoiled me. LOL

 Willie Ealy Collier (1904 - 1990) and Hulen "Newt" Kennedy (1888 - 1970)
Double First Cousins

       Born in 1888 near Lena in Leake County, Hulen “Newt” Kennedy was the fourth of five children born to Albert Kennedy and Martha (Sissie) Ealy Kennedy.  I vividly recall Grandma relaying to me how her father’s sister (Hulen's mother) was blown away in a storm – I’m assuming a tornado – that struck southern Leake County, Mississippi when her five kids (Dora, William, Robert, Hulen, and Wilson) were rather young.  This happened around 1895.  She never called her aunt’s name because this tragic event occurred before she was born.  Still, that “double kinship” between her and Hulen didn’t become very clear to me until I started researching my family history two and a half years after Grandma had passed away.  It didn’t take long to figure out why she would say “brothers and sisters married brothers and sisters.”  To better understand this, here’s a diagram: 

       However, finding the marriage records for these three “siblings marriages” made Grandma’s statement very clear.  Indeed, siblings had married siblings.  Also, my grandfather Hulen’s 1940 social security application, one of many genealogical sources to learn the names of parents, also revealed his parents’ names. You can click here to access the Social Security Death Index. 

 Hulen Kennedy's Social Security application, Nov. 4, 1940

        On Sunday night, March 26, 2012, over 20 years later, this double kinship was confirmed by DNA analysis that was conducted by 23andMe.  Three weeks prior, a new male relative appeared in my Relative Finder database, and our predicted relationship was second cousins. I was excited. This was close kin!  Who could this person be?  Names are not shown until an invitation to connect is approved, so I immediately sent an introduction in order to find out this male relative's identity and to determine how we could be second cousins.  After three weeks of anxiously waiting, he finally accepted my invitation that Sunday night, and his name became visible.  I was lucky because many people have reported that their invitations are not being answered.  He was Lenro Morgan of Seattle, Washington. Although Lenro and I have never met in person, I knew exactly who he was and how we're related.  We had been Facebook friends for several months, but I didn't know that he had also taken 23andMe's DNA test.  Lenro is the grandson of Bobbie Ann Ealy Morgan, the daughter of couple no. 3 in the diagram above – Robert Ealy Jr. & Mattie Kennedy.  Bobbie Ann, Grandma, and my grandfather Hulen were all double first cousins; therefore, we were actually double third cousins, not second cousins. 

       Geneticists have calculated that third cousins share an average of 0.781% DNA.  Click here to see a complete DNA sharing chart. Therefore, the average for double third cousins will then be 1.562%.  23andMe determined that Lenro and I share 2.07% DNA across 7 chromosome segments (155 cM), which is greater than the average and enough to be classified as second cousins.  When I compared our numbers to the average and saw how much DNA that we share, I could hear Grandma’s words loud and clear, “You have plenty of my blood in you.”  Grandma was right!

(Update: My father's DNA results are in, and he and Lenro share 3.68% across 14 segments [274 cM]. My father also shares 2.30% across 6 segments [171 cM] with Violet Jones, the great-granddaughter of couple no. 1 in the diagram above - Paul Ealy and Adaline Kennedy.)

 Couple no. 1 – Paul Ealy & Adaline Kennedy Ealy (Grandma's parents)
Paul's picture was shared by Lynda Rowe-Campbell. Adaline's picture was shared by Helen Crump.

 Couple no. 2 – Albert Kennedy & Martha (Sissie) Ealy Kennedy (Hulen's parents)

Couple no. 3 - Robert Ealy Jr. & Mattie Kennedy Ealy (Bobbie Ann's parents)

Click HERE to read the full history of the Ealy Family of Leake County, Mississippi.


  1. I have some cousins who's children are double cousins, but not in the same way you are. I'd have to sit down and write it out!

  2. I'm seeing stars! LOL... Just kidding! I am going to share this post with one of my friends (who is NOT into genealogy), who I tease all the time because her mother and aunt married brothers, and then, to make it worse, two of her cousins married two of her husband's cousins! I playfully tease her about her family being "incestuous", even though I know they're not. She should get a kick out of reading this post. :)


    1. Maybe this post may get her interested in genealogy! LOL

  3. Looking at their noses and brow bones,facial shape (each couples) I'd venture a guess that there might have been an unknown relationship between them, too. Couple No 2 look like siblings almost.

    1. Lawd, I hope not, then we would have a collapse in DNA. LOL! Anyway, these pictures are paintings, I believe, and don't show their true physical features. Because from what Grandma told me, the Ealys (her father and his siblings) were rather dark-skinned and the Kennedys (her mother and her siblings) could have passed for white if they wanted to. In fact, I was told that my great-grandfather Albert looked like a white man, and he used to "pass" when he rode the train to Louisiana to visit his sister so that he could sit in the front. I believe that's why three of the Kennedys married three of the Ealys to "darken" up the generations.

  4. I am delighted to learn the Ealy connection. My grandfather was first cousin to the Ealy family in Walnut Grove. We explored the Tate side when we spoke, last year in Atlanta. I look forward to your posts about the area my mother was born in.


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