Tuesday, July 16, 2013

African Americans and West Indians: The Ties That Bind


Back in May, my cousin’s wife Raquel Tomlinson expressed to me that she seems to match a lot of African Americans whose roots hailed from North Carolina. What is interesting about her claim is that she is from Jamaica. Several members of the Our Black Ancestry page on Facebook have expressed that their DNA is matching people in the West Indies, too. Most of them have North Carolina roots. 

Well, three weeks ago, a new cousin appeared in my database.  His name is Troy G, who is 27 years old and from North Miami Beach, FL. Mr. Gayles indicated on his profile that both of his parents are from Montego Bay, Jamaica!  Most interestingly, 23andMe predicts our relationship to be 4th cousins; we share 16 cM (0.21%) of DNA across 1 chromosome segment. Troy ranks 64th in my Relative Finder database, which now has 481 people total to date. It increases monthly as more people get tested. In my opinion, this is closely-related considering that his family is from Jamaica, and I have no knowledge whatsoever of anyone within the first several generations of my family being from the West Indies. With us being “predicted 4th cousins,” apparently our common ancestor(s) is somebody that’s not-so-far down in the family tree, possibly within 6 generations. Fourth cousins share the same great-great-great-grandparent(s). To make things even more fascinating about our DNA match, I personally see a slight resemblance between us, especially when I was his age, which was just a few years ago. J (Note: 7/19/2013 - Troy decided after all that he doesn't want his photo revealed; therefore, it has been removed. Take my word for it. There was a resemblance.)

Incredibly, I discovered that Troy is not the only person of Jamaican descent with whom I share DNA. Currently another person in my RF database, whose profile is currently set to anonymous, answered that all four of his/her grandparents were born in Jamaica. I share 8 cM (.10%) of DNA with this unknown person. But because of these matches, 23andMe predicts that I have ancestry from Jamaica. Troy and I aren’t so distantly related, in my opinion; therefore, it raised several questions. Who? What circumstances? When? Where? How? 


I began to think about Raquel’s observation. Even during our phone conversation, she expressed, “I have a lot of relatives from North Carolina.”  Perhaps, my connection to Troy and this unknown person is via an ancestor who was born in North Carolina? Perhaps, a parent or grandparent of that ancestor may have been brought to North Carolina from the West Indies? I have only one maternal ancestor who was born somewhere in North Carolina – my great-great-grandmother Polly Partee, who was born there around 1825. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to trace back further than her to date. Somehow, she became enslaved on Squire Boone Partee’s plantation near Como, Mississippi before 1851. I have several Mississippi ancestors who were originally from North Carolina on my father’s side. Was there a definitive link between the West Indies and North Carolina? (Update - 9/20/2013: my father's 23andMe results are in, and Troy matches my father, too. He also shares 16 cM (0.21%) with my father.)

According to a number of sources, North Carolina played a very small role in the transatlantic slave trade because of its geography. The string of islands that make up the Outer Banks created dangerous conditions for slave ships to land on most of coastal North Carolina.  Consequently, most slave ships opted to dock in ports to the north or south of the state. One exception was Wilmington, which is located on the Cape Fear River.  Wilmington became a slave port because of its accessibility. Other accessible North Carolina ports that saw some slave importation activity were Brunswick, Edenton, Beaufort, and New Bern.  Therefore, slave trading in North Carolina has largely gone unstudied. Fortunately, I found some slave trading data that provided a snapshot of slave trading activity in the state.  Interestingly, it shows a strong link between the West Indies and North Carolina. (Source: The Seaborne Slave Trade of North Carolina by Walter E. Minchinton)


According to historian Walter E. Minchinton, this record of the number of enslaved people imported into North Carolina is still incomplete. However, this snapshot reveals a small yet steady flow of trade into the state during the 18th century. Enslaved people arrived almost every year between 1720 and 1775, except the periods of war in the 1740s and 1757-1761. After the American Revolution, the trade revived and continued until 1790. Enslaved people were brought into North Carolina from both other mainland colonies and the West Indies, with the largest percentage (48%) coming from the West Indies. Much fewer came directly from West Africa.  This pattern was different for South Carolina, which played the largest role in the transatlantic slave trade. The majority of enslaved people transported into Charleston were directly from West Africa. Historian James Rawley estimated that of the 83,825 enslaved persons imported into South Carolina from 1700 to 1775, approximately 67,269 (80%) were brought directly from Africa. (Brawley, James A., The Transatlantic Slave Trade, 332-33). 

I thought of my great-great-grandmother Polly Partee when I read the following Minchinton’s notation about one of the recorded North Carolina imports. Coincidence??  The notation stated: The sloop Polly (104 tons) of Montego Bay, Jamaica brought Negroes from thence in 1787 and twice in 1788. Hmmmmm…..

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lost and Found: Grandpa Tom is Found!

In 1871, my great-great-grandfather John (Jack) Bass stated that his father’s name was Tom Bowdin, which was recorded on his 1871 Freedman’s Bank application that was filled out at the Vicksburg, Mississippi field office. After learning his name, I have been searching for my long lost Grandpa Tom. What happened to him?  Since Jack opted to not take his surname, I speculated that Grandpa Tom was probably left back in North Carolina when Jack, his siblings, and their mother Beady Bass were transported to Jackson, Mississippi.  I also speculated that Grandpa Tom was likely enslaved by a neighbor to the family who ‘owned’ Jack and his mother. Upon learning about Grandpa Tom way back in 2001, I searched the censuses and had found two men named Thomas Bowden in North Carolina who were old enough to be Jack’s father.  One lived in Bertie County, and the other one lived in Richmond County. Which one was my Grandpa Tom?

Well, my discovery at the State Archives of North Carolina recently, told in my blog post “The Ancestors Spoke: Another Longtime Brick Wall Crumbles!”, pinpointed Northampton County as where Jack, his mother, and siblings had come from. Grandma Beady had been enslaved by Council Bass of that county up until his death in 1830.  Council Bass wrote in his will, “I convey all of my land on the south side of the road leading from Bryans T Road to Rich Square including my dwelling house with the following Negroes that is to say, Harry, Beady, Hezekiah, Jackson, and Willie unto Bryant Randolph in trust for the benefit of my daughter Elizabeth Bass during her life and after her death I give . . .” 

In 1830, at the time he wrote his will, Council Bass had three married daughters who eventually left North Carolina with their husbands. Approximately 19 years later, his daughter Elizabeth Bass, who had married her second cousin Jesse Bass Jr. of Nash County and migrated to Hinds County, Mississippi, summoned a lawyer in 1849 to go to Northampton County, N.C. to retrieve her “legacy”.  Therefore, for almost 20 years, Grandma Beady was hired out to Council Bass’ neighbor, the Randolphs. During her time on the Randolph farm was when she gave birth to Jack around 1845 and more children. (Note: the 1830 census was used to determine that the Bass and Randolph families lived near each other.)

Well, Bryant Randolph died eight years later around 1838. His widow Martha Jones Randolph was listed as the head of household in the 1840 census, Northampton County.  Lo and behold, listed two names above her name was a man named Lemuel Bowden. He owned 26 slaves in 1840. This serves as evidence that the Bowdens and Randolphs were neighbors.  If only the censuses had reported the names of the slaves who were counted, this would have helped our research tremendously. Nonetheless, I have little doubt that Grandpa Tom was on Lemuel Bowden’s farm, especially since Lemuel was the only Bowden in Northampton County.  To add, Martha Randolph was reported with 21 slaves in 1840. 

1840 census, Lemuel Bowden and Martha Randolph, Northampton County, N.C.

By 1850, Lemuel Bowden’s slave-holdings had increased to 37 slaves. Perhaps one of the adult males who were between 30 – 42 years old was Grandpa Tom. Lemuel Bowden’s oldest male slave in 1850 was reported as being 42 years old.  Whichever one was Grandpa Tom in 1850, this time frame when this census was taken was likely rough for him emotionally. Grandma Beady and her children, including his young son Jack, had recently been taken away to Mississippi.  He likely had little hope of ever seeing them again.  Thankfully, Jack remembered his name to report it on his 1871 Freedman’s Bank application. 

1850 Slave Schedule, Lemuel Bowden, Northampton County, N.C. (first page)

Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate Lemuel Bowden in the 1860 census and slave schedule for Northampton County.  I searched for one of his neighbors, Matthias Bryant, in the 1860 slave schedule to see if I find him.  I didn’t find Lemuel, but I found this notation: Thos. I. Shoullars, hired from L. Bowden’s Estate. Apparently, a 15-year-old male from Lemuel Bowden's estate was hired out to Thomas Shoullars.  Therefore, it appears that Lemuel Bowden had died sometime in the 1850s, before the 1860 census was taken. Future research will be to locate Lemuel Bowden’s court records.

Notation “hired from L. Bowden’s Estate” found in this 1860 slave schedule, Northampton County

As mentioned earlier, I had found two men named Thomas Bowden after slavery; one in Bertie County and the other one in Richmond County.  The first Thomas Bowden lived in the Roxodel Township of Bertie County in 1870.  I checked a map and found that Roxobel was right across the county line in Bertie County and not far from the area where the Basses, Bowdens, and Randolphs resided in Northampton County. Council Bass’ 1830 will had helped me to determine that his farm was located on a road “leading from Bryans T Road to Rich Square”.  On the map below, the first red arrow marks a spot between Bryantown and Rich Square. The second red arrow marks the town of Roxobel. Therefore, due to the close proximity, I am claiming Thomas Bowden of Bertie County as likely being my long, lost great-great-great-grandfather!

The red arrows point to the areas where the Basses, Bowdens, and Randolphs lived in Northampton County and where Grandpa Tom Bowden was found with his new family in 1870 in Bertie County, North Carolina

After Grandma Beady, Jack, and the rest of her children were taken away to Mississippi around 1849, Grandpa Tom went on with his life the best way he knew how. Like so many other enslaved husbands and fathers, he suffered the pain of losing his first family and never seeing them again. However, he was able to remarry a woman named Hasty, with whom he had more children. His children included John Thomas Sr., Junius, Jane, Nicholas, Cherry (Charity), Thomas Jr., and Collins Bowden, born from 1850 to 1866. Hasty Bowden died at an old age on May 7, 1918 in an asylum in Goldsboro, North Carolina. She was committed there in January 1895 (Source).
  


1870 census, Thomas Bowden & Family, Bertie County, North Carolina
(Note: Junius was not in the household in 1870 but was found in the 1880 census.)

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Ancestors Spoke: Another Longtime Brick Wall Crumbles!

 
State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, N.C.

I often tell people that when conducting genealogy research, you have to be patient yet determined.  I often say, “A major clue will often fall into your lap in due time. Don’t lose hope.”  I am thrilled to back my words up again with another major finding.  The ancestors know exactly when to send down a major clue and in a grand way. I have no doubt in my mind that the following events this past weekend were the works of the ancestors. 

In 1994, I easily traced one of my father’s family branches back to my great-great-grandfather, John (Jack) Bass, in the 1870 and 1880 censuses. He was in Hinds County (Jackson), Mississippi in 1870 and then in Warren County (Bovina), Mississippi in 1880.  According to the census, Grandpa Jack was born around 1845 somewhere in North Carolina.  My previous blog post, “Findings That Make You Go Hmmmm,” highlights the brick wall I encountered with Grandpa Jack, and how I hoped that the multiple surnames in his family will one day help me to unravel the mystery of his family roots and origins in North Carolina.

As a recap, I had found Grandpa Jack Bass’ Freedman’s Bank application back in February 2001, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) of Salt Lake City, Utah released the Freedman’s Bank Records compact disc. (A copy of his application is in that previous post, “Findings That Make You Go Hmmmm.”)  On the application, Grandpa Jack named the following family members: father, Tom Bowden; mother, Bedy; one brother, Oscar Birdsong (a.k.a. Oscar Hatcher), and two sisters, Mimy Hatcher and Eliza Newman. Later censuses listed their birthplace as North Carolina, too. Who brought them to Mississippi? Under what circumstances? Interestingly, in 1870, two older men, who were next-door neighbors, lived near Grandpa Jack in/near Jackson: Senaker Hatcher and Jackson Bass. Senaker and Jackson were born in the mid 1810’s in North or South Carolina. Aunt Eliza Newman gave the name “Senaker” to her son.  So for over 12 years, the multiple surnames did not break down the “1870 Brick Wall,” despite the fact that a major clue was right there all along. But I chose to ignore it. Bad mistake. Let me briefly explain.

Back in 2001, I had researched the 1850 and 1860 slave schedules and censuses to see if any slave-owners with those surnames resided in Hinds and/or Warren County, Mississippi.  I had found several Basses and only one Hatcher in Hinds County. His name was Rhesa (Reese) Hatcher, who was the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi in 1869 and again from 1871-1872. I had discounted him as the possible slave-owner for two reasons: (1) He had migrated to Mississippi from Burke County, Georgia (not North Carolina), and (2) his wife Eliza’s maiden name was Coggins (not Bass, Bowden, or Birdsong), although she was also born in North Carolina. Discounting them turned out to be a mistake!

Well, I guess the ancestors knew that they had to provide more Visine eye drops, so to speak, to make me see the answer more clearly.  On Grandpa Jack’s 1871 bank application, he stated that his employer was Daniel Canon, whom I had speculated was Daniel Cameron since I did not find a “Daniel Canon” in the censuses. Daniel Cameron was born somewhere in North Carolina; therefore, my interest turned to him, even though he didn’t carry one of the surnames I had been looking for.  Was he truly the enslaver who brought Grandpa Jack, Uncle Oscar, Aunt Eliza, and Aunt Mimy to Mississippi?  The answer is a resounding NO!

Just two weeks ago, on Tuesday morning, June 18, while on break at work, the ancestors decided to nudge me. I had just written the post “Findings That Make You Go Hmmmm” two days earlier, and Grandpa Jack was still fresh on my mind. I got this sudden urge to google the name “Rhesa Hatcher,” whom I had discounted over 12 years ago.  Low and behold, the following deed transcriptions were found on the Hatcher Family Association’s webpage that was transcribed from the North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal (Volume VI, Number 1, February 1980). It was a huge eye opener!

BASS, Elizabeth of Hinds Co., Mississippi, 1 Aug 1849, appoints David A. Barnes of Northampton County, NC, attorney, to recover "a certain negro man slave for life named Henry aged about forty years which Counsel Bass late of the county of Northampton aforesaid deceased.." bequeathed to said Elizabeth for her "natural life with the remainder to my children, to wit -- Eliza J. P. Hatcher (formerly E. J. P. Coggins) [present husband of Eliza Hatcher is R. Hatcher], Mary H. Smith (formerly Mary C. Bass) and Elizabeth C. Bass.

HATCHER, Reese and his wife, Eliza J. P. (formerly Eliza J. P. Coggins, daughter of Elizabeth Bass), both of Hinds Co., Mississippi, 27 Dec 1847, appoints Elizabeth Bass of said Hinds Co., attorney, "to go to the County of Northampton in the State of North Carolina" to receive "the legacy bequeathed by Council Bass first to Elizabeth Bass during her natural life, and to the heirs of her body after her death..."

Did Elizabeth Bass’ legacy (or inheritance) include slaves to be brought to Hinds County, Mississippi in 1849?  I soon googled the name “Council Bass” and found the following excerpt in Google Books from Paul Heinegg’s book, “Free African Americans of North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina from the Colonial Period to about 1820” – “Will of Council Bass of Northampton County, N.C., Sept. 2, 1830. Probated Dec. 1830. Legacy to daughters, Martha Mayo, Elizabeth Bass, Charlotte Holloman, and granddaughter Susan Mary Ann Crisp, trustee Bryan Randolph; left 22 slaves to his heirs [Will Book 4:74].”

Well, who were the 22 slaves named in Council Bass’ 1830 will?  The answer to that question would be at the State Archives of North Carolina in Raleigh, North Carolina.  The timing couldn’t be any more perfect, thanks to the ancestors!  Last year, Eddie & Laurie Pratcher of Memphis, TN asked me to speak at the Pratcher Family Reunion, which was held this past weekend in Raleigh-Durham. Since I would be in town for the reunion, I decided to go early to find the answer to my question at the Archives.  Was it a coincidence that the Pratcher Family descends from a free Black man named Aaron Pratcher, who was born c. 1788 in the same county – Northampton County?!  I doubt it! You will see. It was the Pratcher Family’s first reunion in North Carolina, held over 170 years after Aaron Pratcher’s enslaved sons were taken away from North Carolina around 1840. One son Joseph was taken to Hale County, Alabama, another son David was taken to Panola County, Mississippi (Eddie’s branch), and another son Allen was taken to Lafayette Parish, Louisiana. 

I arrived at the State Archives of North Carolina on the morning of Friday, June 28. I had very high hopes. The archivist pulled a box of will records for Northampton County. They were the original papers. I retrieved the folder labeled “Council Bass, 1830”.  After 12 years, my brick wall had finally crumbled! Grandpa Jack’s mother Bedy and other names I recognized were quoted in Council Bass’ will!  I wanted to turn flips inside the Archives! On September 2, 1830, Council Bass wrote the following:

In the name of God Amen, I Council Bass being of sound mind and memory this the 2nd day of September in the year of our Lord 1830 do make and publish this my last will and Testament, as follows:

Item 1st: I give and bequeath unto my daughter Martha Mayo all my land on the north side of the Road leading from Bryans T Road to Rich Square to her and her heirs forever. I also lend unto her during her natural life the following negroes that is to say: Rose, Mima, Archie, Nancy, Alfred, Isaac, and Goodson and after her death I give and bequeath the above named Negroes to her surviving children to be equally divided amongst them to them and their heirs forever.

Item 2nd: I convey all of my land on the South side of the Road leading from Bryans T Road to Rich Square including my dwelling house with the following Negroes that is to say, Harry, Beady, Hezekiah, Jackson, and Willie unto Bryan Randolph in trust for the benefit of my daughter Elizabeth Bass during her life and after her death I give . . . the negroes Harry, Beady, Hezekiah, Jackson, and Willie unto her surviving children to be equally divided amongst them. . . . It is my will that the trustee Bryan Randolph pay unto my daughter Elizabeth Bass annually the amount of the rent of said land and hire of said Negroes after reserving what may be necessary for the support of the three old Negroes, Sharper, Rose, and Peggy which I wish to be maintained on the plantation as long as they live unto my daughter Elizabeth for her own use and benefit and the same be not subject to the order or use of her husband in any way whatever.

Item 3rd: I give and bequeath unto my granddaughter Susan Mary Ann Crisp negroes, Zina, Mary Jane, and Andrew to her and her heirs forever also one bed and furniture.

Item 4th: I give and bequeath unto my granddaughter Ann Eliza J.P. Coggins negroe Senica to her and her heirs forever, also one bed and furniture.

Item 5th: I give and bequeath unto Charlotte Holloman my daughter two negroe girls named Barsilla and Brittania to her and her heirs forever.

Item 6th: I leave all the balance of my estate that is not all ready given away to be sold by my executor for the payment of my just debts and it is my will and desire that all my Negroes remain in the care of my executor for the payment of my debts on year from the first day of January after my death, them to be delivered as heretofore mentioned after the payment of all of my just debts. It is my will and desire that the residue should there be any, in hands of my executor be equally divided between my daughters Martha Mayo, Elizabeth Bass, and my granddaughter Ann Eliza J.P. Coggins.

Original copy of Council Bass’ will, probated Dec. 1830, Northampton County, North Carolina

Making my mouth drop even wider, I also found the following petition among the estate papers of Council Bass’ father, Jethro Bass. Jethro had died in 1795 in Northampton County.  This 1795 petition was summoning Council Bass to appear before the court in regards to the estate of his late father.  The county clerk who signed the petition was a man named Eaton Haynes.  Why is Eaton important?  Eaton Haynes was the first enslaver of Aaron Pratcher’s wife Fannie and their sons.  I sat there in my seat frozen.  The ancestors had truly spoken!

Bass petition signed by Eaton Haynes, Sept. 7, 1795, Northampton County, North Carolina

Stay tuned for more posts. The Bass Family’s wills, estate papers, and other records revealed more as I reconstruct Grandpa Jack’s family tree!