Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My “Maury Povich Moment” with DNA

 
Three of 11 children of Bill & Sarah Partee Reed: Jimmy, John Ella, and Pleas Reed
Tate County, Mississippi

To date, June 2015 will go down in genealogy history as the month that I had the most discoveries, all within 30 days. I won’t go into details about all of them in this blog post. However, I will reveal my first one, which has still left me in utter shock. Not only that, this discovery has led to other mouth-dropping discoveries that I will present. Therefore, in an effort not to write an extremely long blog post and for better flow of information, I will present this discovery in four parts. Part 1 is what led to it all.

Part 1: Who’s the Daddy?

The father of my mother’s paternal grandmother, Sarah Partee Reed (1852-1923), has been a mystery for me for over 20 years! For years, I speculated that a man named James Partee, born c. 1825 in Virginia, may have been her father, although Grandma Sarah (or someone) reported to the census-takers that her father was born in Tennessee. I even wrote this August 30, 2013 blog post about my speculation of James Partee. In my mind, I had always pictured that her father was another person enslaved on Squire B. Partee’s plantation near Como, Mississippi. I was wrong as two left shoes!

Little did I know, family elders provided great clues all along, but I failed to see the answer. Let me briefly take you back to July 1994, the day I met the late Cousin Isaac “Ike” Deberry Sr., my mother’s eldest paternal first cousin, at the Reed & Puryear Family Reunion in Senatobia, Mississippi. At the time, he was 80 years old, and I was a college youngster deeply interested in my family roots. Cousin Ike was practically raised by his maternal grandparents, Bill & Sarah Reed. That day, during my conversation with him, he claimed that Grandpa Bill Reed (1846-1937) had two sisters named Louvenia Hunter and Hattie Whiting who came with him to Mississippi from South Carolina right after slavery. I soon learned that Grandpa Bill arrived in northern Mississippi from Abbeville, South Carolina in 1866. I was very excited because I now had more clues to take my research further.

During my next trip to the Mississippi Department of Archives & History in Jackson, I searched for those alleged sisters in the census records. My findings didn’t completely jive with what Cousin Isaac Deberry had told me initially. He was partially correct, which is the nature of oral history. In a nutshell, I realized that Louvenia Hunter was Grandpa Bill Reed's niece, his sister's daughter, and not his sister. Prior to marrying Allen Hunter, Louvenia was in the household of her parents, Dave & Mary Pratt, who were both from South Carolina. My Mom remembers the Hunters (Louvenia's children) as being her cousins. So the dots connected with Louvenia.

But what about Aunt Hattie Whiting? When I found Aunt Hattie in the censuses and marriage records, I became even more confused! I discovered that her maiden name was Edwards and that she was born in 1866 in Mississippi. I found her in her parents' household in 1880, before she married Sam Whiting in 1885. Her parents were Prince & Leanna Edwards. No one was from South Carolina. If someone is to be Grandpa Bill's sister, she had to have been born in South Carolina, too.

To make things even more confusing, other family elders corroborated what Cousin Ike said. One family elder recalled that Sam & Hattie Edwards Whiting's two children, Admira & Prince Whiting, were first cousins to my grandfather Simpson Reed and his siblings. What? How could that be? It could not be on Grandpa Bill's side. Hattie's siblings, Jeff, Bly, and Miles Edwards, were also considered to be "close family," according to Cousin Ike. So I began to speculate that the connection was truly on Grandma Sarah's side. Aunt Hattie's mother, Leanna Edwards, was born in Maryland, according to the 1880 census. No one in my family came from Maryland. North Carolina was consistently reported as the birthplace of Grandma Sarah's mother, Polly Partee (born c. 1832). So that left Aunt Hattie’s father, Prince Edwards.

In the 1880 Panola County census, Prince Edwards’ age was reported as 40 years old. Grandma Sarah was around 27 or 28 years old then. What is the connection? I wondered this for over 20 years. It didn’t dawn on me then that perhaps Prince Edwards may have been closer to 50, rather than 40. A rule in genealogy, especially African-American genealogy, is to never consider the reported ages in the census records as the absolute truth. Many formerly enslaved African Americans did not know their exact birthdates.

Part 2: My “Maury Povich Moment”

Now, let’s fast forward 21 years later, to June 25, 2015. DNA technology has entered the scene, and millions of people have utilized DNA technology via 23andMe, Family Tree DNA, AncestryDNA, and other DNA companies to tell them something about their ancestry. One of those persons is Kemberly Edwards-Morris, Ph.D of Atlanta. Her family is from Oklahoma. She is a new DNA match in my mother, aunt, and uncle’s GEDmatch databases. My uncle John Reed is presently her highest DNA match, at 87.1 cM across 4 segments (76.3 cM when performing an one-to-one comparison), with an estimated MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) of 3.7 generations back. Not only that, their paternal first cousin’s granddaughter Caronde Puryear is Kemberly’s third highest DNA match in GEDmatch, sharing 59.5 cM across 3 segments. Therefore, our connection to Kemberly is via my grandfather, Simpson Reed.


I sent an e-mail to Kemberly introducing myself. I also explained that she is related to my maternal grandfather. She responded excitingly within an hour and included a link to her family tree on ancestry.com. In her response, she explained that her only link to Mississippi was via her paternal Edwards family, who left Panola County, Mississippi and eventually migrated to Oklahoma. My heart started pounding! Then, I clicked on her family tree. My heart skipped a beat when I noticed that her great-great-great-grandfather was Peter Edwards!

Why is Peter Edwards so important?  In the 1870 census, Prince Edwards' two oldest children, Harriett and Prince Jr., were in Peter's household. Perhaps Peter and his wife were babysitting when the census-taker came by in 1870, and the census-taker recorded them in Peter's household. In 1880, Harriet and Prince Jr. were in the household of their parents, Prince & Leanna Edwards, as well as other younger siblings. Harriet was Aunt Hattie Edwards Whiting. Prince and Peter appeared to have been brothers. Then, as I thought about it more and re-analyzed everything, a light bulb went off. In my mind I heard Maury Povich’s voice saying, “In the case of baby Sarah Partee, Prince Edwards, DNA says that you ARE the father!” lol Everything began to make sense after 20 years! Hattie and Grandma Sarah were half-sisters! That’s why Cousin Ike had claimed her as a “sister,” but he was apparently confused about whose sister she was. So indeed, Hattie’s children, Admira & Prince Whiting, would have been my grandfather’s first cousins, like the elders had claimed. They were right all along!

Part 3: Cousins Everywhere, Even in Alberta, Canada!


My excited newfound cousin Kemberly further communicated more about the history of her Edwards Family branch. Peter Edwards, his second wife Catherine, and his 12 children (Isaac, Patrick, John, Jeff, Peter, Katie, Henry, Lucy, Jerry, Paul, Silas, and Moses) left the Como and Sardis area of Panola County after 1880 and spent some time in Quitman County, in the Mississippi Delta, near the towns of Sledge and Maston. Even Uncle Prince Edwards, Jr. followed them to Quitman County, where I found him in the 1900 census with his wife and children.  Around 1907, scores of Edwards then left Mississippi and settled in Lincoln County, Oklahoma, in the communities of Wellston, Wewoka, and Lima. Cousin Kemberly further shared that the Edwards Family Reunion, which is held every two years, generates an attendance of 200-500 people! They are preparing for their 2015 reunion in Chicago this month. This is their website: http://edwardsfamreunion.com/.

Kemberly also relayed that there are a lot of black Edwards in Alberta, Canada. I then discovered through Internet sites that Peter’s grandson, Jefferson Edwards, spurned a migration of about 200 African Americans from Lincoln County, Oklahoma to an area outside of Edmonton, Canada in 1910-1911. From Edmonton, Jefferson walked a hundred miles north and staked a homestead east of Athabasca (source). He soon married his sweetheart, Martha Murphy, and the couple were two of the first settlers in the black settlement known as "Amber Valley". He was only 21 years old. They had settled in Amber Valley because Oklahoma Black farmers had been denied the same rights as others. They found the laws in Oklahoma to be more restrictive regarding Black rights (source)

This was another mental "light bulb flashing” moment because the following new DNA match from Canada appeared in my Mom, aunt, and uncle’s relative database in 23andMe over a month ago! She lists Edwards as one of her surnames! She shares the most DNA with my aunt at 62 cM (0.83%) across 2 segments, with a predicted relationship of 3rd cousins. That’s fairly close kin, in my opinion!



Is Sandra a descendant of Jefferson Edwards? Presently, that question remains unanswered, as I wait for her to respond to my message. Based on my and others’ experiences, the wait could be days, months, unfortunately several years, or never. Hopefully, she will eventually respond. Nonetheless, I learned that Jefferson and Martha had 10 children, seven boys and three girls. He died in 1979, at the age of 90. He is remembered as a proud Canadian citizen who exemplified the strong spirit of the Black pioneers who settled the Canadian West. More about the Alberta, Canada Edwards Family can be read in this Alberta Council on Aging newsletter, ACA News Winter 2014.

Update (7/2/15): Sandra saw this post and confirmed that Jefferson Edwards is her paternal grandfather! Yeah! Her father also took the 23andMe test and shares 89 cM (1.20%) across 4 segments!

Part 4: Is Ogba(r) my “Kunte Kinte”??

Another reason why all of this is so shocking for me is because I have been aware of the Edwards Family of Panola County for a long time. My maternal grandmother’s oldest sister, Mae Ella Davis (1899-1975), married Johnny Edwards; they and their children left Como, Mississippi and moved to Benton Harbor, Michigan. Mom and her siblings have fond memories of visiting Uncle Johnny & Aunt Mae Ella Edwards. Uncle Johnny’s paternal grandfather, Jerry Edwards, is believed to be a brother to Prince and Peter Edwards!

In 2011, I learned a lot about the Edwards Family History from my cousin, Dr. Jeffrey O. Green Ogbar, never knowing until now that this is my family, too. Cousin Jeffrey explained to me why he changed his surname to Ogbar. You see, he had started researching the Edwards Family History some years ago. He was very fortunate to gain some invaluable oral history notes from his great-uncle, who had interviewed elderly relatives back in the 1970s. According to those elders, the father of Jeffrey’s great-great-grandfather Jerry Edwards was an African who was given the name Luke. He told his family that his real name was Ogba(r) Ogumba (or Agba Akumba). Cousin Jeffrey changed his surname to reflect his African roots. According to Cousin Jeffrey, geneticist Dr. Rick Kittles' analysis linked a male Edwards' Y-DNA to the Akan people of Ghana. The oral history also posits that the slave-owner, William Edwards Sr., purchased Luke off a slave ship in Virginia and transported him to Mississippi. Census records show that they were in Tennessee for at least two decades before coming to Panola County, Mississippi around 1837. Also, according to the oral history that Cousin Jeffrey was able to garner, Luke's wife was named Reedia (or Rita), with whom he had at least six sons.

We are trying to figure out who all of those sons were. Naming patterns strongly suggest that there may have been at least 8 sons: Jerry, Peter, Prince, York, Monroe, Jeffrey/Jeff/Jefferson, Jack, and Luke. Panola County census records show that there was indeed someone named Luke Edwards living in the vicinity up until after 1900. He was born around 1815/1817 in Tennessee. My theory is that this Luke was probably Luke Junior. The 1850 Panola County slave schedule shows that William Edwards’ oldest male slave in 1850 was a 60-year-old black male (born c. 1790). Of course, his age was estimated. We wonder if this elder male was Luke Senior [a.k.a. Ogba(r) Ogumba]? Is he truly my great-great-great-grandfather?!? I believe so! However, we have so much to figure out! Documents to prove our theories are currently being sought. Also, I think that further DNA testing will help solve the case as well. Nonetheless, all of this has been overwhelming but in a great way!

Last week, I was able to confirm that William Edwards Sr. was indeed the slave-owner. He died on Oct. 2, 1855, in Panola County, at the age of 75. Interestingly, his plantation wasn’t far from Squire B. Partee’s plantation, and he and Squire Partee are both buried at Fredonia Church Cemetery, eight miles east of Como. I was fortunate to find his estate file on FamilySearch.org, and the names of those 8 Edwards men were inventoried, including my Prince! Yes, it was another “Carlton Banks” dance moment for me. lol


The Slave Inventory of William Edwards’ Estate
December 15, 1855, Panola County, Mississippi (Source)


William Edwards’ gravestone at Fredonia Church Cemetery, Panola County, Mississippi
(Source: Find A Grave)


Me and Cousin Dr. Jeffrey O. Green Ogbar; Taken at the Tupac Amaru Shakur Collection Conference
Robert W. Woodruff Library – Atlanta University Center, Sept. 2012


UPDATE: Also, check out “Who’s the Daddy? (Part 2)” posted on July 7, 2015.

17 comments:

  1. This is awesome Melvin! I am sooo glad that we connected. I hope that you will be able to attend one of our reunions. I look forward to learning more about our ancestry.

    Peace, love and blessings,

    Kem

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    1. Good afternoon, after reading the history and lineage of the Edwards... I'm honored to learn a ton from Cousin Mel, now the following responses are incredibly thrilling to learn about everyone in our family.

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    2. Good afternoon, after reading the history and lineage of the Edwards... I'm honored to learn a ton from Cousin Mel, now the following responses are incredibly thrilling to learn about everyone in our family.

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  2. Wow! So WHEN is the next book coming out, cuz? ;)

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  3. A great story. Thanks for sharing your detailed research and life's journey. It is very encouraging. indicating that no matter how far back family stories goes we can keep putting the pieces together until additional relatives surface. May the Most High Creator YAH continue to guide and bless you in your research and its productivity.

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  4. Hi Melvin! I am the Sandra whose DNA matches your aunt's. I am indeed a descendant of Jefferson Edwards - my dad, Elmer Edwards is the youngest son of Jefferson. Please send me another message via 23andme. I would love to learn more!

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    1. Hey Cousin Sandra!!!! Thanks for confirming! This is too cool!!

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  5. Your stories inspire me to keep digging. Thanks

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  6. I am most interested in the Ogba/Akumba name. It clearly sounds like a West African name. In the early 1800's, more African Americans would have known the African names of their ancestors. Years ago, I visited Africatown in Pritchard, Alabama. The descendants of the Africans from the slave ship Clothilde which arrived in Mobile in 1858 still lived there. The ship came from an area near Ghana and the great grandchildren of the ships passengers were my age. I had many conversations with them; they retained the African names of places and people. I applaud Jeffrey Ogbar for formalizing this retention for posterity. Today, West African language resources are all over the internet, so I'm trying to upgrade my basic Twi, Wolof and Yoruba. This week I got to speak Yoruba at a school event for my son and Wolof at the Dollar Tree!. As more West Africans are tested, I predict there will be a Ogbar family reunion in the next few years! My son is related to that line, so I hope he can go. As always, thanks for sharing this key information to understand our past/future.

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  7. So happy for you on the latest finds. Has instilled in me the desire to get back to my own research

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  8. I am amazed...and hopeful that I can have the same success...to pass on to the young ones in my family....Congratulations Melvin!! and family...

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  9. A very informative blog. I was particular drawn to the picture of Jimmy Partee Reed. He bares a striking resemblances to my brother. My family is from Simpson, Hinds, Copiah and Lawrence counties in Mississippi.

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  10. This information is very awesome, I'm certain some updates are soon to come. Many blessings.

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  11. This information is very awesome, I'm certain some updates are soon to come. Many blessings.

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