Sunday, February 24, 2013

When the Ancestors Just Leap Off the Page!

I received another 2013 Black History Month treat! But this time, the treat did not pertain to my ancestors.  Recently, a colleague mentioned to me how he and his family hardly know anything about his paternal grandfather’s father’s family. Anthony’s grandfather, David Penamon, was born in 1923, and the only piece of information they had was the name of David’s father, Charlie Kendall, and a location, Upson County, Georgia His paternal grandmother, Mabel Penamon, and Charlie Kendall never married, hence the lack of familial connection and knowledge of their Kendall roots.  So I took some time to see what I could find just sitting at my computer and accessing and other online databases.

Well, low and behold, Anthony’s ancestors started leaping off the page!  I was able to even break down the 1870 brick wall – at my computer!  It was amazing. Follow along to see what I was able to find out. I also hope that beginning researchers will learn from this post, and others will be inspired to see what they can uncover about their family history.

The genealogy rule of thumb in census research is to start from the known and proceed to the unknown. That is, start with the latest census available and keep proceeding back in time.  The 1940 census is the latest census which became available to the public in April 2012.  From 1940 to 1930, it was clear that David Penamon was being raised by his maternal grandparents, David Sr. & Mellie Penamon.  In 1920 in Upson County, just 3 years before David was born, the Kendall family was just several doors down from the Penamon family. Charlie Kendall was in the household! Based on experience, I ascertained beforehand that the Kendall surname may be spelled several different ways. I was right. In 1920, the surname was spelled KINDAL.

1920 Upson County, Georgia (Jug District): Charlie Kendall was found in the household of his father, Wesley Kindal, whose wife was Edna, and the children in the house were Robert (27), Jimmie (20), Charlie (18), and son, Willie (17).

I checked, a site containing an increasingly large amount of genealogical data provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and low and behold, the following information from Charlie Kendall’s death certificate was found:

Name: Charlie Kendall
Name of father: Wesley Kendall
Name of mother: Edna Davis
Death date: 28 July 1928
Death place: Yatesville, Upson County, Georgia
Age: 26
Birthdate: 1902
Certificate No: 19653

Charlie Kendall died when his son, David Penamon, was just 5 years old, hence the reason why David’s family knew little about him and his roots. 

Continuing back in time:

1910 Upson County, Georgia (Jug District):  Again, Charlie Kendall was in the household of his parents, Wesley & Edna Kendall, and their children in the house were: John (20), Robert (18), Ella (15), Lewis (14), Jimmie (12), Charlie (10), and Willie (9). Comparing the 1910 and 1920 censuses, the ages are off by a year or two, but age discrepancies in census records are common.

1900 Upson County, Georgia (Jug District): Surprisingly, Charlie Kendall was in Wesley & Edna’s household!  His death certificate reported that he was born in 1902, and the 1920 census reported that he was 18 years old. Therefore, this census revealed that Charlie was actually born Jan. 1896.  Also, in this census, the surname was spelled KENDAL. Wesley (38) and Edna (37) had been married for 14 years.

Most of the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire that occurred in the Commerce Department building in Washington, D.C. on January 10, 1921.

1880 Upson County, Georgia (Jug District): Wesley Kendall, reported age of 17, was living with his grandfather, Harrison Kendall (58)!  This census leapfrogged us up two generations! But, who were Wesley’s parents, and which parent was the child of Harrison Kendall and possibly his wife, Darcus Kendall?

Luckily, Wesley Kendall’s death certificate information was uploaded to  It contained the following data:

Name: John Wesley Kendall
Spouse’s name: Edna Davis
Name of father: (not reported)
Name of mother: Betty Prayter
Death date: 18 October 1926
Death place: Yatesville, Upson County, Georgia
Age: 62
Birthdate: 05 Sept. 1864
Certificate No: 4179369

Now, I asked the question, where was his mother Betty Prayter in 1880?  Was Harrison Kendall the paternal or maternal grandfather of Wesley Kendall (aka John Wesley Kendall)?  Well, the following marriage information was found on, and it opened up more doors:  Bosan Prater to Betty Kendall, married Oct. 30, 1873, Upson County, Georgia.  Betty Kendall Prater was then found in 1880 living with her husband and their children. Apparently, her son, Wesley Kendall, chose to live his maternal grandparents, Harrison & Darcus Kendall, rather than reside with his mother and stepfather.

1880 Upson County, Georgia (Jug District):  Boss (Bosan) Prater (30), wife, Bettie (32), and children, Delia (7), Clara (5), Amos (2), and Paul (5 months).

1870 Upson County, Georgia (Thomaston District): Wesley Kendall was reported in his grandparents Harrison & Darcus “Darkess” Kendall’s household. However, a woman named Bettie Kendall with a 5-year-old John were living nearby. Perhaps, young Wesley (aka John Wesley) was reported twice in the 1870 census?

Also, a woman named Rhoda Chapman, age 60, was living with Harrison & Darcus? Was Rhoda the mother of one of them?  Perhaps, Rhoda would be another generation up Anthony’s family tree, possibly being his great-great-great-great-great-grandmother! 5 greats!

In the 1870 Upson County, GA census, I noticed other African-American Kendall families in the district. Could it be that there was a white Kendall slave-holding family in Upson County before 1865? The answer to that question was YES!  The 1860 Upson County slave schedule revealed one Kendall slave-owner in the county – David Kendall Sr., 61 slaves, 14 slave houses. See the following (the first page of Kendall's listing; only the age, sex, and color of enslaved African Americans were reported in the slave schedules.):

I then decided to google the following: Kendall “Upson County” Georgia.  The search results led me to two great findings:

(1)   A picture and biographical data on Dr. David Lane Kendall Sr. that was uploaded to FindAGrave. He was a physician in the county who built and resided at Bellwood Plantation.  He died in July 1860 in Upson County. The site contained the following picture:

Dr. David Lane Kendall Sr.
1790 – 1860
Posted by Alton Christie

(2)   Dr. David Lane Kendall's daughter, Loula Kendall Rogers, donated the family papers to Emory University here in Atlanta! According to the online finding aid, many of the documents date back during slavery, before 1865. Even some of the photographs date back to slavery, so who knows what may be in there!  
To go from knowing very little to knowing the names of ancestors going back to great-great-great-great-grandparents, a possible fifth-great-grandmother, the name of the slave-owner, and the name of the plantation in which the ancestors were likely enslaved would be a dream come true for many!  It was indeed a treat for me to take some time to uncover this information for Anthony – all at my computer!  When he and his family decide to pursue the Kendall research further, there’s just no telling what else will be uncovered.

Note: Technology and the digitization of pertinent records have greatly aided genealogical quests, but personal research excursions to state, local, and federal archives, courthouses, family history centers, libraries, ancestral cemeteries, and other places are still highly recommended to find more necessary documentation.

THERE'S MORE! Click here to read Part 2 of this research story!


  1. I really like how you include details that allow those who may not be familiar with genealogy to still follow along, like what happened to the 1890 census, or what was reported in slave schedules. Those little things really make a difference! Great Post!

  2. Great research sleuthing! If this was my family, I would be visiting Emory University at the first opportunity.

  3. Excellent work, Melvin!

  4. Melvin I just love your genealogical work! You never cease to inspire all of us. Yours in ancestor and descendant search, Shelda Baldwin Glover...Columbus County, Welches Creek Township, NC Roots

  5. Melvin, another great find and research by you,

    Since my last e-mail to you I discovered "African
    American Cemeteries" and came across a very close match to my paternal grandfather's death date and burial place. It list John Jeter, birth 1852 -Dresden TN - Death April 5, 1910, Martin, Weakley TN. Tennessee, Deaths & Burials Index 1874 -1955
    He died 4 months after my dad was born. My dad was born in Knox, Knoxville TN. I have the death record number and I will be sending for it to hopefully find out the cause of death.

    John Jeter's birth place matches the information that I found in 2011 - Union Township, Union SC.

    I like the site "African American Cemeteries"; each state is listed with all the cemeteries along with the funeral home. I noted this in this post in case others searching death records are not aware of this web-site. Another web-site is "African American Churches Nationwide".

    I am still working on my genealogy; however, I am now teaching Computer Classes twice a week to seniors at our local Senior Center. Introductory to Genealogy is part of the course plan.

    Melvin, keep sharing your interesting finds; they are very encouraging.

    Carol Carroll

  6. right now I'm trying to research the possible slave master of my great great granmother

  7. Stupendous and inspirational! Your write up was engaging and a great guide for those of us on this trek - thank you for the invaluable sharing of these works.

    #Ancestors Speak!

    Regina Calloway
    KANGA -Ancestral Kinship Project
    Congo SQ West Kinship Society
    Oakland, ca usa|

  8. OH my this is how I feel every time I find another if I can see their faces, feel what they felt and what they were thinking. Although, I knew a lot...there are still some questions I need to have answers to. I am glad to read my approach has been the correct aka easy one...begin with what you know then work backwards. At first I was batting into thin air on my paternal side due to a common name. However, a small piece of paper my Mom (before she passed) had given me became the key to the vault. I happened onto although I knew about the wealth of information compiled by the LDS. Technology has aided in reducing my desire to go to Utah. I am in awe at times.....just staring at all of my people on the pages of documents some over 200+ years old.


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