Monday, May 26, 2014

What Do I Think About These DNA Results?

Several months ago, I received the above test results from AncestryDNA. What this seems to be telling me is that over half of my African ancestors may have come from within the Bight of Biafra region (Nigeria). A whopping 48% (of my 92% African composition) from one area is indeed a lot compared to the percentages of many other people of African descent who have taken this DNA test. As DNA technology continues to advance, I first questioned the validity of AncestryDNA’s results. I continue to have some questions about how they determined this, as most researchers do. So what do I truly think about these DNA results?

One of my dreams since I was a teenager was to find my “Kunte Kinte” ancestor. Just like the story told in “Roots,” I wanted to find an African ancestor, his/her African name, a specific West African village, the name of the slave ship that brought my ancestor to this side of the Atlantic Ocean, the confirmed slave port, and more. Even when I started researching my family tree in 1993, I had a number of elderly relatives living with whom I had long, revealing conversations about our roots. In picking their brains, I often asked them if they had heard an elder grandparent or another family elder during their young days talk about Africa. And always, the answer was “No.” Like the majority of African-American researchers, I was not fortunate to gain any oral history about a specific ancestor who was brought over from a specific place in Africa.

Nevertheless, several roads seem to indeed point to Nigeria and DNA was paving the way. In the early 2000s, DNA technology started rapidly emerging and a DNA company called African Ancestry was started in Feb. 2003. They utilized DNA technology to tell people of African descent where their direct paternal or direct maternal ancestry may have originated and the African ethnic groups. When I say “direct paternal,” I mean father-to-father-to-father-to-father-and-so-one since their PatriClan test examines the Y-chromosome in men, which is passed down unchanged from father to son. Also, when I say “direct maternal,” I mean mother-to-mother-to-mother-to-mother-and-so-on since their MatriClan test examines a person’s mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is passed down unchanged from mother to child.

Before I could even order the MatriClan test, my first cousin – Mom’s sister’s daughter Charlotte – informed me that she and her husband Kwame had just ordered kits. Since Charlotte and I have the same mtDNA, which came from our maternal grandmother, Minnie Davis Reed – who got it from her mother Mary Danner Davis, who got it from her mother Louisa Bobo Danner, who got it from her mother Clarissa Bobo, who got it from her mother Matilda Boyce, who got it from her mother Jenny (born c. 1765), and so on – that meant that I didn’t have to order the kit. I waited for Charlotte’s results and was just as excited as, or more than, she was. Her test results revealed that our mtDNA matches the Fulani (a.k.a. Fulbe) people who live in northern Cameroon today. Based on the sources I’ve read, the Fulani people in that part of Cameroon had not long migrated into that area from northern Nigeria, where they had been for hundreds of years. They consider the Fulani in northern Nigeria as their cousins. Therefore, it’s plausible that our 5th-great-grandmother Jenny’s maternal ancestor, maybe her mother or her maternal grandmother, was living somewhere in northern Nigeria at the time of capture during the transatlantic slave trade.

Another DNA test pointed to Nigeria as well. As part of my family’s 150th Year Commemorative Reunion of the Descendants of Lewis & Fanny Barr in 2009, the planning committee and I thought it would be a great idea to get some African origin information about Lewis and Fanny from DNA technology and announce it at the banquet. Since my uncle John W. Reed had already taken the PatriClan test, we knew that Grandpa Lewis Barr’s Y-chromosome, which was passed down unchanged to my maternal uncles and numerous other Reed males, matches the Mbundu people of Angola. A 100% match. What about Grandma Fanny Barr, my great-great-great-grandmother? She was born around 1790 somewhere in Virginia, sold down south to Rev. William H. Barr of Abbeville, S.C. by 1810, and later taken to Pontotoc County, Mississippi in 1859 by William Barr, Jr. We found a cousin who carries Grandma Fanny’s mtDNA via Fanny’s daughter, Sue Barr Beckley. To our delight, African Ancestry found that Grandma Fanny’s mtDNA matches the Fulani and Yoruba peoples of Nigeria.

Also, for years, I have always wondered if one of my maternal grandmother’s grandparents, Hector Davis & Lucy Milam Davis, had Igbo ancestry. They had at least one set of twins, Uncle Sam Davis (1873-?) and Aunt Alice Davis Wilson (1873-1956). I have wondered this ever since I read an article about the high rate of twin births in Nigeria and among the Igbo people of Nigeria. This article stated that Nigeria has the highest rate of twins in the world. I lose count of all of the twin births in my maternal grandmother’s family.

 With my first cousin’s twins, Tony & Tonisha

But those three potential roads to Nigeria is a very small part of the big picture. I plausibly asserted that after nine generations back, I hit the time frames in my family tree when many of my African ancestors were living in Africa; many in that 9th generation endured the horrific Middle Passage, while few in that 9th generation were probably among the first to be born on American soil to African parents.  The 9th generation would be my 7th-great-grandparents. For many African Americans, it could be from the 7th generation and upwards.  It will vary. Back to the 9th generation, one has a total of 512 7th-great-grandparents. Based on my results from both 23andMe and AncestryDNA, my ancestry composition is approximately 90% African. Therefore, I'll make an educated guess that about 455 of them were African, about 50 of them were European, and a couple of them were Native Americans. And what AncestryDNA seems to be telling me is that over half of those 455 strong African ancestors were from the Nigeria area. Wow!

Now this gets me back to my question. What do I think about the AncestryDNA results? Because it appears that “Ground Zero” in America for many of my lineages were mainly Virginia and South Carolina, I feel that the results seem historically reasonable. Why? Virginia ranked second among the areas where slave traders imported at least 30% of all Africans who were transported into North America. South Carolina ranked first; historians estimate that over 40% of all Africans who were imported into North America were disembarked in South Carolina. One of the African “hotspots” where Virginia slave traders obtained most of their human cargo was indeed the Bight of Biafra region (38%), followed by the Angola-Congo region (16%), the Gold Coast region (Ghana) (16%), and the Senegambia region (modern Senegal & the Gambia) (15%) [Source: Philip D. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969), 157.].

Do I think AncestryDNA’s analysis is the exact true picture of my African roots? No. There will always be a margin of error. Could it be close to the true picture? Yes, in my opinion. DNA technology, as far as African ethnicities are concerned, is still advancing. Geneticists are still researching to gather more data as we speak, and I have a lot more to learn. However, since the dark events of American history, namely American chattel slavery, yielded a lot of unknown factors about our African roots, I don’t think it will ever be possible for anyone to gain the exact true picture. Besides, how will we even know if it’s the entire true picture? I just simply use these DNA results as good tools as I attempt to continuously draw the bigger picture of my African origins as best as the known factors will allow.

Map of Nigeria

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I’m A Parrott – Not the Bird

Yep, I’m a Parrott. Death certificates and oral history identified Parrott as the maiden name of my great-great-grandmother, Jane Ealy (born c. 1829), of Leake County, Mississippi. I quickly ascertained that she had likely been enslaved by William Parrott, who was a neighbor to William W. Eley, the last enslaver of her husband, Robert “Big Bob” Ealy, my great-great-grandfather. William Parrott was the only white Parrott slave-owner in the county.

Outside of identifying the names of potential slave-owners, many researchers feel that the 1850 and 1860 slave schedules are fundamentally useless. Why? When slave schedules were added to the U.S. federal census in 1850 and 1860, census enumerators were not required to list each slave by name.  The name of the slave-owner was reported with only a scanty description of each slave – age, sex, and color. Enslaved African Americans age 100 and over were supposed to be named in the 1860 slave schedules, but only some of them had their names recorded. Despite this inhumane act of not reporting our enslaved ancestors’ names, the slave schedules have provided a plethora of clues throughout my research. William Parrott’s 1850 slave report is one example.

1850 Slave Schedule, William Parrott, Leake County, Mississippi

When I saw how his slaves were reported, the first question that popped into my mind was, “Is this one family?” The second question was, “Is the first enslaved female (age 38) my great-great-great-grandmother – the mother of Jane and the others?” Well, I can identify 5 of the 13. They were the following:

Name – Estimated Birth Year Based on Census – Reported Birthplace in Censuses
(1) Jane Parrott Ealy – c. 1829 – Virginia
(2) John Armstead Parrott – c. 1832 – Virginia
(3) James “Jim” Parrott – c. 1835 – Virginia. Some of his descendants migrated to Holmes and Humphreys County, Mississippi. (UPDATE: I am a DNA match to his great-great-granddaughter.)
(4) George W. Parrott – c. 1841 – Mississippi. Reported birth state of parents is Virginia. Some of his descendants migrated to the Sharon and Camden area of neighboring Madison County, Mississippi.
(5) John Ealy – c. 1846 – Mississippi. Uncle John Ealy was Grandma Jane's first-born son, who was one of the two 3-year-old males above.

When conducting genealogy research, it’s imperative to collect key facts for further research. Here are some of the key facts:

(1) William Parrott arrived in Leake County, Mississippi from Lunenburg County, Virginia shortly before 1840 with slaves. He died shortly after 1860 at around 72 years old without leaving a will. Unfortunately, no estate records have been found. An interesting note about him from his granddaughter, Sally Parrott, who stated, "He was a Methodist preacher who rode horseback. In those days they called them circuit rider preachers." (Quote provided by Nicole Parrott Norris)
(2) William Parrott was reported in the 1840 Leake County, Mississippi census with 12 slaves.
(3) William Parrott was reported in the 1830 Lunenburg County, Virginia census with 8 slaves.
(4) From 23andMe, the DNA of my Dad, three Ealy cousins, and I (all descendants of Jane Parrott Ealy) match Charles Bonner (who is white) on the same spot on chromosome 19. Our chromosome 19 is mostly European. We all share 12 to 13 cM (0.17%) with Charles, with a predicted relationship of 5th cousin. We also match in Gedmatch.

(5) One of Charles' maternal 4th-great-grandfathers was John W. Parrott, who was born in Rockingham County, North Carolina in 1821. He migrated to Gordon County, Georgia by 1850. John’s father has not been identified by his descendants; this is their brick wall.
(6) Parrott researchers identified Rockingham County, North Carolina as the birthplace of William Parrott. He was born c. 1788. He moved to Lunenburg County, VA by 1819 because there’s a marriage record for him marrying Elizabeth Johnson, Dec. 15, 1819, Lunenburg County. William’s birthplace was reported in the censuses as North Carolina, and his children were born in Virginia.
(7) Repeated names within the families of Grandma Jane, John Armstead, James, and George W. Parrott include: Sylvester, Coleman, Benjamin, Jessie, Martha, George, and William. Naming patterns often suggest kinship.

Developing educated theories are a part of conducting genealogy research. Educated theories are often the basis of further research to hopefully find documentation to prove or disprove sound assumptions. DNA technology can also play a big role. With these key facts, I have theorized the following:

(1) The slaves of William Parrott appeared to have been one family, with the 38-year-old female in 1850 as possibly being the mother. Perhaps the father may have been William Parrott's one male slave in the "24 to under 36" age category in the 1840 census, and he may have died shortly before 1850? Perhaps, he was "mulatto"? See No. 3.
(2) Grandma Jane, John A., and James Parrott were likely born in Lunenburg County, Virginia.
(3) Grandma Jane herself was not reported as "mulatto" in the censuses and was never known to be of mixed parentage, although one of her sons (Paul Ealy) was said to have green eyes. However, based on the amount of DNA the five of us share with Charles, one of her parents may have been fathered by a white Parrott from Rockingham County, N.C. The father may have been William Parrott or maybe one of his brothers, Benjamin, Joseph, Abner Jr., or Riland Parrott. It's quite possible that Grandma Jane's "massa" might have been her white grandfather.
(4) The DNA match with a white Parrott descendant seems to suggest that Grandma Jane’s family may have been enslaved by the Parrotts for several generations. William's father, Abner Parrott (born c. 1750) died in 1797 in N.C. having owned over 20 slaves. The 1790 census of Rockingham County reported him as owning 21 slaves.

Hopefully, a current or future Parrott researcher will read this post and provide further information to prove (or disprove) any of these theories. Additionally, perhaps the information expounded in this post can assist a current or future Parrott researcher.

 Grandma Jane’s 2nd youngest daughter, Martha “Sissie” Ealy Kennedy (1865-1895), my great-grandmother

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Mother’s Gift: Delivering the Next Generation With Her Bare Hands

For Mother’s Day, I want to dedicate this special story to all of the American mothers of African descent. This story is your story; the experiences are universal. We can’t forget the incredible strength and resiliency of our enslaved foremothers. It is upon their shoulders that we stand.

Louisa “Lue” Bobo Danner
Jan. 21, 1842 – July 5, 1921

On June 16, 1898, sitting in a lawyer’s office in Batesville, Mississippi, with her son Alfred by her side, my great-great-grandmother, Lue Bobo Danner, gave the following testimony as she persevered to get a Civil War widow’s pension from the federal government. Rejected two times, this once enslaved, strong-willed, "mulatto" woman, who worked in the "big house," who was my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandmother, was determined to get what she felt was entitled to her.

Grandma Lue stated confidently, “I claim pension as the widow of Edward Danner who served as a soldier in Company I 59 U.S. Volunteer Infantry . . . He died on a Saturday between midnight and morning about the 15th of September twenty one yrs ago last September.  It will be twenty-two yrs. this coming Sept . . . I have had eight children by said Edward Danner, all of them are living . . . They have had all the ages of my children set down in the Bible but it got destroyed and the little Bible I have now  got some of the ages in it.  I had no doctor when they were born.  My mother Clarissa Bobo was the midwife and is dead.

After reading that last sentence, my first emotion was that of sheer excitement. Grandma Lue’s deposition identified my great-great-great-grandmother – my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother. My second emotion was of me feeling hugely blessed to find out through documentation that she was a midwife who delivered her grandchildren, including my great-grandmother, Mary Danner Davis (1867-1932). Grandma Clarissa had delivered the next generation with her bare hands.

Born into slavery c. 1823 in Laurens County, South Carolina on David Boyce’s farm, Grandma Clarissa became the midwife on the Bobo farm. African-American midwifery was deeply rooted in West Africa; African women transplanted their extensive knowledge of birthing, as well as medicinal botanical roots, into American society.  In many African cultures, one woman is commonly known as the midwife of the village. Perhaps Grandma Clarissa learned her techniques from her mother, Matilda, or her maternal grandmother Jenny, who was of Fulani ancestry maternally and was born around 1765 in Virginia. Grandma Jenny was also enslaved on David Boyce’s farm. Interestingly, Fulani girls throughout West Africa are taught at an early age that it is shameful to show any fear of childbirth (source). Clarissa took her unique skills with her when David Boyce gave her and others to his son-in-law and daughter, Dr. William & Margaret Boyce Bobo, who settled in nearby Cross Keys in Union County.

With a multitude of other unearthed historical facts, I closed my eyes and imagined what could have occurred on that sunny Saturday on May 15, 1858, the day 16-year-old Grandma Lue, who had long, black hair that reached the floor, gave birth to her first child.

This is that mental picture.

As Grandma Lue walks slowly towards the dinner table to serve Dr. Bobo and his Saturday guests, she drops the contents in her hand on the floor, without caring at all that the broken dishes may anger Ms. Margaret. A contraction hit her like a bolt of lightning.

“Oh my! I think my baby is coming!” Grandma Lue expresses, holding her stomach and feeling water trickling down her legs.

Hearing the sounds of breaking dishes crashing against the floor, Margaret Bobo rushes in and shouts loudly, “Gal, did you just break my expensive dishes we had imported in from Europe?”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Margaret. I believe my baby is coming! My water just broke,” exclaims Grandma Lue.

Margaret responds uncaringly, “Well, Hannah can clean this up. Go on over to your Momma’s cabin. Hannah and Sallie can finish serving our hungry guests.”

One of the Saturday guests, Elijah Wilbourn, quietly observes from the dinner table. He owned and operated a small plantation nearby. However, quick stops to Grandma Clarissa’s cabin on his friend Dr. Bobo's plantation, away from his wife, resulted in the conception of her first two children, Grandma Lue and her brother, Eli. Not surprising, his nonchalance displayed his non-recognition of his arriving grandchild.

Pacing in pain towards her mother’s cabin, Grandma Lue prays incessantly, “Lawd, please don’t let me lose my first-born child! Please don’t let me lose my baby!”

Her mother sees her, runs to her aid and grabs her arm hard, and helps her back to her cabin. Uncle Eli and their brother Uncle Giles rush over to assist Grandma Lue over to their mother’s birthing sanctuary in her cabin, a hard wooden table.

“Jenny, run and go get your Aunt Caroline,” Grandma Clarissa instructs her daughter. Aunt Caroline is Clarissa’s sister.

She continues to yell additional orders, “Eli, take your sisters and brothers outta here now and make sure you feed Palina! George, go tell Massa to send word over to Mack that his baby is coming. Make haste now!” George is Clarissa’s husband.

Mack Ray is a 24-year-old farmhand enslaved on the plantation of Rev. Thomas Ray, a Baptist clergyman and Dr. William Bobo’s neighbor. Mack and Grandma Lue had been allowed to jump the broom months earlier, a marriage custom often associated with a Ghana, West Africa tradition of waving broom sticks above the heads of newlyweds and their parents. Rev. Ray permitted Mack’s many visits to his young, strong-willed wife.

With her sister Caroline’s assistance, 35-year-old Grandma Clarissa proceeds to do what she does so well – deliver babies. However, this birth was special – very special. She was delivering her first grandchild.

After several hours of labor, a baby boy enters the world, as Mack Ray sits outside the cabin door waiting patiently for the birth of his first child. The infant boy was named James Robert, who was called Jim.

Ten months later near Como, Mississippi, Grandma Lue’s water breaks for a second time on Tuesday morning, March 29, 1859. Her second baby is coming. They had recently arrived in Mississippi six months ago. Dr. William Bobo decided to sell his South Carolina farm and move to Panola County to be near other family who had been in Mississippi for several years.

Grandma Clarissa delivers her second grandchild into the world, another healthy infant boy.

Exhausted and wet with sweat from the delivery, Grandma Lue says, barely audible, “Let me hold my baby.”

She further expresses, with tears flowing down her face, “He is so beautiful. My heart breaks so bad that Mack ain’t here to see him. We gotta endure so many hardships as slaves. Breaking up families ain’t right and just plain mean! Oh, Mack!”

Grandma Clarissa nods affirmatively, as her eyes begin to water. She manages to respond lovingly, “I know, baby. I know. But we can’t let it break us. We was built to last. Freedom is a comin’. I sho believe dat!”

A brief silence follows. Then, Grandma Clarissa asks, “Whatcha gonna name this beautiful boy?”

“Imma name him Mack. He will neva lay eyes on his Daddy but at least he will have his name,” says Grandma Lue, smiling down at her new baby boy.

Mack Danner (1859-c.1910)
(Picture courtesy of the late Dorothy Danner West) 

Unfortunately, before Dr. Bobo, his family, and slaves packed up and left South Carolina, Rev. Thomas Ray, who considered himself a Christian, didn’t feel it was necessary to sell one of his valuable young male slaves so that a family would not be separated. Grandma Lue never saw Mack Ray again.

However, little did she know at the time that Dr. William Bobo would go back to Cross Keys, South Carolina later that year to handle some business and return to Mississippi with a 27-year-old, dark-skinned, regal-looking, 5 ft. 8 in. tall, brave man named Edward he purchased from Nancy Bates Danner, the widow of Thomas Danner Jr., before she and her adult sons moved to Grant County, Arkansas.

Edward and Lue fell in love. Dr. Bobo permitted a jump-the-broom marriage ceremony in front of the big house for them on Christmas Day, 1860. The slave minister on the plantation, named Squire Bobo, married them. Edward also claimed fatherless Jim and Mack as his own, and they took his surname. He and Grandma Lue together would have eight more children. Grandma Clarissa was there front and center for every birth.

On Wednesday, August 26, 1863, third child, Alfred Danner, was born.

On Thursday, June 15, 1865, fourth child, Alexander K. Danner, was born.

On Tuesday, November 12, 1867, fifth child, Mary Danner, was born. Mary was my great-grandmother and Grandma Clarissa’s first granddaughter. Mary was also the first to be born free.

On Friday, May 14, 1869, sixth child, Frances Danner, was born.

On Saturday, June 10, 1871, seventh child, Laura Danner, was born.

On Tuesday, May 13, 1873, eighth child, Martha “Mattie” Ella Danner, was born.

On Friday, July 16, 1875, ninth child, Phillip Isaiah Moseley Danner, was born. He was named after a Como, Mississippi school teacher.

On Wednesday, November 15, 1876, tenth and last child, Edward Danner Jr., was born. His father had recently died on September 15, 1876, exactly two months before his birth, from stomach ailments he contracted from fighting with the Union Army in the Civil War.

The Danner Daughters: Mary, Frances, Laura, and Mattie

As a man, I can’t even begin to imagine how painful natural childbirth must be, yet Grandma Lue endured it ten times, with Grandma Clarissa at the foot of the birthing table. Infant mortality rates among enslaved women were very high, but Grandma Lue didn’t lose a single child. I’d like to think that her mother, having the power of being the midwife, played a major role in that. All of Grandma Lue’s ten children lived to adulthood, married, and had families of their own, giving her 67 grandchildren, including my maternal grandmother Minnie, before she passed away at the age of 79 on July 5, 1921. What a mighty great gift Grandma Clarissa Bobo gave to her daughter! Happy Mother’s Day!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Finding Weird Stuff in Slave Ancestral Research

Two years ago, I hit the jackpot. I found a bill of sale at the Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History that showed Edward Warren of Marshall County, Mississippi selling his six slaves to his cousin, James Warren Briscoe, on August 14, 1839. One of the six enslaved people was a 10-year-old girl named Margaret. A preponderance of evidence has led me to strongly believe with a high degree of certainty that this young girl was my great-great-great-grandmother, Margaret (Peggy) Milam of nearby Tate County, Mississippi. I wrote this April 2012 blog post about that discovery: “Name Discrepancies Can Often Lead to More.”

However, last week I discovered something rather peculiar. Those six people were still counted as Ed Warren’s slaves in the 1840 census. How do I know that for sure when the 1840 census doesn’t report the names of enslaved African Americans? Well, check this out.

Ed Warren fell on hard times and decided to sell his slaves to pay off some debt. This is that 1839 bill of sale:

. . . the party of the first part (Edward Warren) do hereby bargain sell and confirm to the party of the second part (James W. Briscoe) all the following described property to wit: six negroes viz; Adam aged about 55 years, Sarah aged about 40 years, Sam aged about 14 years, MARGARET aged about 10 years, Calidonia aged about 8 years, Random aged about 23 years and one half of the growing crop of cotton in cultivation by the party of the first party, also three heads of horses, 6 head of cattle, fifty head of sheep, 46 hogs, also all one bureau with all the household and kitchen furniture to have and to hold all the before mentioned property . . .

Several months later in 1840, Ed Warren was counted with six slaves who closely matched the six in the 1839 bill of sale (except for Calidonia but close).  

I learned that Ed Warren died two years later in 1842. He died intestate (without having made a will), but I fortunately found his estate record on last week. Documents in his estate record confirmed that Ed was still in possession of those six people in 1840 because his estate record included four of them in 1842 – Adam, Sarah (also recorded as San), who was identified as Adam’s wife, Random, and Calidonia. Adam and Sarah were later sold from the estate in 1846.

Inventory of Edward Warren’s estate, Nov. 3, 1842
Negro girl Caladonia, $350”, “Negro man Random, $500”, “Adam & his wife San, $200”.

The following transaction recorded in Edward Warren’s estate on June 18, 1846: “Amt of sales of slaves Adam and Sarah . . . $120.50”

However, check this out; there’s more. Eighteen years later, Random was recorded in the will and the estate inventory of James Warren Briscoe’s brother, Notley Warren Briscoe. The inventory was taken on January 4, 1861, Marshall County, Mississippi. Notley had died in 1860. By that time, Random had a family who were identified in Notley’s will as the following among the 27 slaves appraised in the inventory: wife, Mariah (with infant boy), and their children, Sarah Ann, Bill, Caladonia, Parmeous, Parthenia, and Rufus. I found the family in the 1870 Marshall County census; they retained the Briscoe surname.

Inventory of Notley W. Briscoe’s estate; Random & his family were the first nine slaves recorded in the appraisement of 27 slaves, Jan. 4, 1861, Marshall County, Mississippi
Negro man slave, Random, $600
woman, Maria and infant boy, $800
girl, Sarah Ann, $1000
boy, Bill, $1000
girl, Caladonia, $800
boy, Parmeous, $700
girl, Parthenia, $350
boy, Rufus, $250

Margaret and Sam were sold to Joseph Milam, whose farm was about ten miles away in present-day Tate County (then DeSoto), Mississippi. I have yet to find a bill of sale showing this slave purchase. However, Grandma Margaret had 11 children, born from 1846 to 1869 on the Milam farm. Like Random, she too named one of her daughters Sarah Ann. Sam Milam also had a family, and elderly relatives identified his descendants as cousins to Margaret’s descendants. About 10 years ago, my maternal grandmother’s first cousin relayed a funny story to me. Cousin Sammie Lee Hayes jovially shared how Ben Dean, a grandson of Sam Milam, had started courting my grandmother. This was some years before she married my grandfather Simpson Reed. When my great-grandfather John Hector Davis found out that they were courting, he put a stop to it. Quick! He educated them about their kinship and didn’t approve of “kissing cousins”. All of these pieces of the puzzle added to the preponderance of evidence that those six enslaved people in that 1839 deed were my family.

But now I wonder. Did Ed Warren decide to keep them after that 1839 bill of sale was written? Perhaps he later decided to only sell Grandma Margaret and Uncle Sam to help pay off his debts before he died in 1842?  If you know of other possible scenarios, feel free to comment. This just shows how “hair-pulling” slave ancestral research can be. Nonetheless, it is always a welcomed challenge accompanied by extreme happiness when discoveries are made.