Sunday, June 16, 2013

Findings That Make You Go “Hmmmmmmm”

The research of my great-great-grandfather John (Jack) Bass’ family roots has been met with the infamous 1870 Brick Wall.  However, there seems to be some clues to possibly tearing down this brick wall.  In genealogy research, theories are often made first based on research findings.  Researchers and genealogists conduct research to prove or disprove theories.  This particular blog post is to solicit your theory based on the information I will present.  Let me warn you, this particular genealogical case involves many different surnames!  You’ve been forewarned.  But, there may be something significant behind each surname?  I will present the findings in a series of exhibits.  Hopefully, you can follow along and develop a theory based on all of the exhibits.  I would LOVE to read what your thoughts or theories about this are!

Exhibit AJohn Bass’ Freedman's Bank Application dated Jan. 16, 1871, Warren County, Mississippi: The following information was provided. See image below.

Where Born: North Carolina
Where Brought Up: Mississippi
Residence: Warren County, Mississippi
Age: 25
Complexion: Black
Occupation: Farmer
Works for: Daniel Canon (I believe this was supposed to be Daniel Cameron and possibly Jack’s last enslaver. He was also born in North Carolina. See sixth and seventh paragraph in this blog post, Boom! The Brick Wall Came Crumbling Down!)
Wife: Francis Ann
Father: Tom Bowdin
Mother: Bedy
Brothers: Oscar Birdsong  (Note: Never found an Oscar Birdsong in the censuses; I found an Oscar Hatcher.)
Sisters: Mimy Hatchel (suppose to be HATCHER), Eliza Newman

Exhibit B – 1870 Hinds County, Mississippi census of the Bass and Newman Households, page 586A:  Prior to finding his bank application, I had found Jack Bass in the censuses. Turns out, the Newman family living adjacent to him in 1870 was his sister and her family.  Notice that his sister Eliza named one of her sons Senaker. In 1880, Eliza’s children’s surname was Potter, so apparently George Newman was the stepfather.

Exhibit C – 1870 Hinds County, Mississippi census, Senaker Hatcher and Jackson Bass, page 772A: These two men were next-door neighbors. However, Senaker’s birthplace was reported as being South Carolina and Jackson’s birthplace was reported as being North Carolina. Are they related to each other?  Are they related to my Jack Bass? Where did the name “Senaker / Seneca” come from? This is the transcription of those two households since the actual census image is very light:

Exhibit D – 1880 Alexander County, Illinois (Cairo) census, Senaca Hatcher: Emiline Bass, who was in Jackson Bass’ household in 1870 and presumably his daughter, was in Senaca’s household in 1880 in Cairo, Illinois. She was noted as his niece. Her parents’ birthplace is noted as South Carolina.  Therefore, were Senaker/Senaca Hatcher and Jackson Bass brothers?  Also, Jack Bass’s sister, Mimy Hatcher, was also in Cairo, Illinois by 1900. Like Jack and his sister Eliza Newman, Mimy/Mima’s birthplace was noted as North Carolina.

Exhibit E – 1880 Richmond County, North Carolina census, Thomas Bowden:  Since there wasn’t a notation on Jack Bass’ bank application that his parents were dead, as I have seen on other applications, I checked to see if I can find someone named “Tom Bowdin,” either in Mississippi or maybe back in North Carolina if Jack had been separated from his father.  This Thomas Bowden in Richmond County was the only one who was of age to possibly be his father.  In the 1870 Richmond County census, I found that his name was reported as Thomas Capel after I couldn’t find a “Thomas Bowden”. 

Exhibit F – The location of Richmond County, North Carolina: Notice in red that it is located on the South Carolina / North Carolina border. The next county just south of Richmond County is Marlboro County, South Carolina.

Exhibit G – Hatchers in Marlboro County, South Carolina: There are many Hatchers in this county, as well as Richmond County, North Carolina. In fact, they are considered the Waccamaw Hatchers of the Waccamaw Indian tribe.  See

Assessing all of the exhibits, what do you theorize about my Jack Bass’ roots? Why did he take the Bass surname?  Yes, this one is a hair-puller. LOL!


  1. Very interesting, and the Freedman Bank records gives you some insight into your family. We my maternal ancestor, I have no Freedman record but in the 1870 census my grgrgrgrandfather is living next to a farmer who is NC and living in Mobile, the same as my ancestor. The Arrington name shows up as a large slave holding family in NC or SC. So I'm pursuing that line of research.

  2. Soon as I read his brother listed as Birdsong the old possibly native American alarm went off in my head!Lol - Perhaps Seneca, Bass and Bowdin are Native names too? Did you try and find the Waccamaw tribal rolls and see if any names look familiar?

    1. There was a large Birdsong slaveholding family in Hinds County, Mississippi. I assume that his brother Oscar may have been sold to that Birdsong and then went back in the name Hatcher when he became free. Also, I never considered the thought that Jack and his siblings were part of the Waccamaw tribe. Hmmmmmm....

  3. Your theory appears to be quite sound, if you could find a marriage certificate for Thomas Bowdin and Leah possibly you may find that Leah was a Bass and therefore, where John (Jack) picked up the surname. The name could have been the name of a guardian who fostered him if he was sold away from his natural parents. There are several probable scenarios. Question, was John (Jack) the other former slave that was named in the will of Jesse Bass who was given to Frances Bass-Eley before she migrated to Mississippi? Two slaves were mentioned Bob and John. Right?

    1. Thanks for taking a shot at it. Some points: (1) Leah was not his mother. Also, I don't know for sure if Thomas Bowden is the same "Tom Bowdin" that Jack reported on his bank application. (2) Jack's mother's name was Bedy. (3) No, this is my other Bass line on my Dad's biological mother's side. The Jesse Bass link out of Nash Co., NC is on my Dad's biological father's side. John "Jack" Bass, who was born around 1845, wouldn't be the "John" listed in Jesse Bass' 1823 will. I have two separate Bass lines.

  4. I have found in my own research that in years subsequent to Emancipation, many of my ancestors continued an employer/employee relationship with their former enslaver. A critical scrutiny of history suggests that for most, there was little choice in the matter.

    Did you find that John Bass’ mother was Betty, rather than “Bedy”? The interchange of names (e.g. Thomas/Tom, Bowden/Capel/Bowdin, Senaker/Senaca, Hatchel/Hatcher, Birdsong/Bass, and Newman) is one of the most perplexing challenges that undoubtedly create those brick walls we all experience. There may be years before a breakthrough, until you figure the familial pattern(s). In addition, you must maintain an awareness of the patterns, schooling (spelling, and handwriting skills), and bias of the census taker. Interpretation of the language articulated by our ancestors, and even race conclusions may be questionable.

    Perhaps Oscar (or someone else) reported his last differently in the census vs. the Freedman’s Bank application. I would look for other clues to substantiate that the two Oscars are actually one individual (E.g., birth, location, occupation, family). How liberating it must have been after Emancipation, to decide for oneself, what name to adopt. On the other hand, perhaps circumstances at particular times/in particular situations did not present a choice. Perhaps some freed people needed time to consider, then reconsider what first and last name to own. There was a distinct pattern of naming among my early ancestors, which helped me to link together generations of kinfolk, unaware of our widespread lineage.

    Exhibit B is of the 1870 census. You state that, in the 1880 report the surname of the children of Eliza changes from Newman to Potter. I am confused how you concluded that George Newman was “apparently…the stepfather”. Did Eliza’s name change, 10 years later? Was she married to someone with the surname, Potter, in 1880? If so, I would conclude that the new husband was stepfather and the children acquired his last name. The elder Newman child on the 1770 report was probably not Eliza’s own. That, or the ages of mother and children are a little off. According to the 1770 report, she would have been 13 at the time of the (presumed) 17-year-old’s birth. I would compare the reported age of that child on various documents, looking for inconsistencies—or not. If not, I would be looking for other angles that support the relationship between the two. Coming out of slavery, extended family and orphans moved into family units with others. Perhaps he was George Newman’s son from another mother.

    In my own research, I find that there is usually continuity with birth locations for individuals. Every now and then, someone’s birthplace is different from expected. Sometimes I attribute that to error by the census taker; other times, I realize I have discovered a new bit of data, incorrectly reported everywhere else. An appraisal of all available information is what I start to focus my attention, to determine fact. Learning the familial unions and migrations of my family’s slave owners has helped in situations like this. Perhaps a member of the slave owners’ family loaned or leased the pregnant mother to someone else for a period. There IS a possibility of reason for a difference in the noted place of birth.

    1. Thanks Lisa for the feedback. To answer your questions: (1) Since Jack named one of his daughters "Beaddie", and my great-aunt called her "Aunt Beaddie", I believe "Bedy" to be/sound like "Beaddie". (2) Yes, all of the children in 1870 were Eliza's. She and George were still found together in 1880, and her children were nearby. Marriage records revealed that her daughters' maiden name was Potter, and also her son, Senaker Potter, was nearby. It was common for 1870 censustaker to list everyone under one surname, and some or all of the children may not have been the head's. Thanks again for all the feedback. After doing this for 20 years, I am aware of all of the wonderful points you've made, which makes genealogy challenging but fun nonetheless! I am working on the theory that the Hatcher connection is via Jack's mother, Beady.

  5. John Bass, b. abt 1845 is the only African American, Bass, listed on the registry of the Hatcher Families Genealogy Association. An early slave relationship with non-African American Hatchers is, so noted on the association’s website. The website is a nice utility!

    Eureka! I place my cursor over the name of John Bass and there appeared the names of his parents, spelled a bit differently, but a match with data found on the Freedman’s Bank application. Born, “abt 1945” corresponds with the age, and John’s nickname is another confirmation of details. My theory: Your, John “Jack” Bass at minimum, is linked to the Bass/Waccamaw Hatchers of the Waccamaw Indian Tribe, by way of, a slave relationship. Acquiring DNA and/or other documents would further determine the actual relationship.

    John Bass, former slave, could write an impressive signature at age, 25, less than a decade out of slavery. The family’s existence seems consistently farming and domestic. Was he able to gain literacy skills before the end of slavery? There was time for him to develop that skill after Emancipation. It would be interesting to know if others in the family could read and write. The census documents should be telling of this.

    My own family has known early migrations across the boundaries of Isle of Wight and Chesapeake City Counties, VA, to Gates, Hertford and other border counties of NC. Additionally , Barnwell, Hampton, Allendale, and Bamberg , SC across the Savannah River to, Effingham, Screven, Burke, and Richmond, GA. Slave-holding Daughtrys and Reeds linked to my kinfolk went into Alabama, Mississippi, New Orleans, Texas, all the way west to California and other destinations. Consequently, we followed.

    1. I have been trying to figure out how Jack Bass was able to get an education! Also, someone in the Hatcher association must have read something I posted and entered Jack's name into their database without confirming with me if I had proven the Hatcher connection. When I looked at the link, it was clearly based on my info.

  6. great searching, I found in my family search ( Jennings/Huff/Kidd of Oglethorpe Georgia)one cousin married another cousin so she's related twice. I asked my mom how did she get the middle name "Effie" her reply; " that was the "white" lady's name that lived down the road" so I sent away for moms birth certificate and it showed that her mother was listed as "white" now the woman that was married to moms father that raised her was "black" no mistaking, Grand Pa moved to Chicago shortly after moms birth (1920 in Georgia of course) and the family followed. In 1930 census in Chisago my mom and her brother were living with cousins and they took on the last name of the head of house. If I didn't know the cousins name I would have lost them for that year. Everyone thought Grand Pa couldn't read or write till one day my mom said she saw him practice signing his name, then he went to cash his Soc. Sec check. so happy searching to everyone its getting to be real interesting, Mom passed last year she was 92 and was the baby of 13 so now its up to me to connect the dots-Found some cousins in Ohio(their G-Granddad and my Granddad were brothers and another side; their Grand Ma and my Mom were 1st cousins)its a tangled web-but fun

    1. Much success with your research, Cheryl!

  7. Melvin, I only have a minute to type a quick reply, but unwanted to mention to you that there were a large number of Birdsongs in Raleigh, NC (Wake Co.). A friend of mine descends from them, an I did a little bit of work on the family for her a few years ago.

    Also, that name, "Senekar" struck home with me because a few years ago, someone ERRONEOUSLY added a correction on to my great-grandfather's profile. I can't do anything to get it off of there, but I'd not heard the name before, so when I saw it, I had to say something!

    Good luck, and great work, as always!



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