Recently, this new “predicted 4th cousin” DNA match appeared among my AncestryDNA matches:
Fortunately, "Ms. Herron" had a small public family tree. It only contained the names of her deceased parents, Richard Herron (born in 1913) and Nunnie Mae Sargent (born in 1929). Both were born in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. It also contained the names of her maternal grandparents. Since she was sharing 49 cM over 4 chromosome segments, I assumed that our MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) may be discoverable. That amount of DNA falls in the range of third to fourth cousins. See ISOGG sharing chart here. However, I was not aware of anyone in my family being in Tallahatchie County.
Have you ever seen or heard a name, and you swear that you have seen or heard that name before? You think hard about where you have encountered the name, but to no avail. Then, out of the blue, your memory is jarred. That happened upon seeing the Herron surname. It looked familiar to me. Where on earth have I seen that name before? I wondered.
Several weeks later, my memory was suddenly sparked when I was not thinking about it. I was looking at the profile of one of my DNA matches, named Ivy, whose connection I was aware of. Ivy shares 15.9 cM over 2 chromosome segments with me. Her great great grandfather, Random Briscoe of Marshall County, Mississippi (born c. 1816), and my mother’s great great grandmother, Margaret “Peggy” Milam of Tate County, Mississippi (born c. 1829), were siblings. She’s my mother’s 4th cousin and my 4th cousin once removed.
Uncle Random and Grandma Peggy’s parents were Adam (born c. 1783) and Sarah (born c. 1798). The family had been previously enslaved by Edward Warren (1775-1842) in Williamson County, Tennessee and Marshall County, Mississippi, before the family was split up in several different directions by 1845. I clicked on “Shared Matches,” and “Ms. Herron” appeared. She also matches Ivy. I suddenly remembered that the Herron surname was connected to Edward Warren. One of his daughters, Nancy Ann Warren (1810-1845), married a man named John Herron (1806-187?).
I quickly retrieved the genealogical information I had collected on Edward Warren’s family, to verify the migration of John & Nancy Herron. Lo and behold, they had migrated to Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. Nancy had died there in 1845. John died there after 1870. Therefore, I started to focus on Ms. Herron’s father’s lineage. However, before I reveal my findings, I feel that I need to recap more about Grandpa Adam and Grandma Sarah and their children to highlight a few significant things first.
After Edward Warren brought them to Marshall County, Mississippi in the 1830s from Tennessee, he fell on hard times. He wrote a bill a sale on August 14, 1839, to sell Adam (age about 55), Sarah (age about 40), and their children, Random (23), Sam (14), Margaret (10), and Caledonia (8), to his cousin, James Warren Briscoe. See below. I don’t know what transpired after the bill of sale, but they were never sold to James. Random was sold to his brother, Notley Warren Briscoe. Read more about that discovery here. My great great great grandmother Margaret (Peggy) and her brother Sam were sold to Joseph Milam of Tate County. My November 2014 blog post, DNA Does It Again – Another Long Lost Sibling Found!, discloses how DNA led me to find Aunt Caledonia in Arkansas.
. . . 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...
After finding this bill of sale, I wondered if Grandpa Adam and Grandma Sarah had more children who were not named in that deed record. Edward Warren’s estate record verified that they were a longtime married couple, although their marriage was never legally recorded due to the unjust laws of the land. Also, I should add that both Grandma Peggy Milam and Aunt Caledonia Ellis named one of their sons Henderson, but Grandma Peggy’s son was mostly called “Hence.” The great great granddaughter of Aunt Caledonia’s son, Henderson Ellis of Camden, Arkansas, shares 51 cM over 4 chromosome segments with my mother and 42 cM over 3 chromosome segments with me. I wondered about the name Henderson.
Now, I will reveal my findings of Ms. Herron’s paternal family tree. Researching census records in ancestry.com, I found her father, Richard Herron, living in a household headed by his father, Eddie Herron, in Tallahatchie County. Eddie was born around 1878 in Mississippi. Therefore, I decided to research the 1880 census to find the name of Eddie’s father. My eyes bucked when I saw 2-year-old Eddie Herron living in the household of his father, Henderson Herron! His age was reported as 65, and his reported birthplace was Tennessee. They were enumerated in the Oakland district of Yalobusha County, Mississippi. The western city limits of the town of Oakland is the Yalobusha/Tallahatchie County line. Eddie’s Social Security application in ancestry.com verified that Henderson was his father. Let’s look at the names of Henderson Herron’s young children, particularly the ones with the red arrows.
Source: 1880 U.S. Census, Oakland, Yalobusha County, Mississippi. Household of Henderson Herron, Line 8-17. Year: 1880; Roll: 669; Family History Film: 1254669; Page: 202A; Enumeration District: 208; Image: 0607. Source: Ancestry.Com.
Henderson Herron named three of his children ADAM, SARAH, and MARGARET! Naming patterns are very often great clues to identifying family members. Many enslaved African Americans named their children after their parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, etc. Historian Herbert Gutman wrote extensively on the topic of naming patterns in his book, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925.
To be sure that John Herron owned “human property” in Tallahatchie County, I researched the 1850 slave schedule. Indeed, twelve (12) African Americans were enslaved by him. His oldest enslaved male was reported as 34 years old. Since the slave schedules do not contain their names, we can only assert with high certainty that the 34-year-old male was most probably Henderson. John Herron died after slavery, so his estate/probate record will not contain “human property.” Fortunately, his son’s picture, grave, and biography were in FindAGrave, which provided the following information:
“From Panola County History, p. 372: William Andrew Herron's paternal grandparents were Thomas Herron (1786-1823) & Mary Herron of Williamson County, TN. They had 8 children. John Herron (1806-?) was the second child. He married Nancy Ann Warren on Dec. 20, 1832, in Williamson County, TN. After Thomas Herron died in 1823, his widow Mary moved in 1836 with her family to the Long Branch community of Yalobusha County, MS. John & Nancy Warren Herron accompanied his mother Mary Herron to MS, and their first child, William Andrew Herron, was born in Hardeman County, TN, en route to MS. Mary and her son John and their families later moved to Tallahatchie County. After Nancy's death, John remarried and moved to Panola County, and his mother, Mary Herron, moved to Ellis County, TX.” (Source)
Based on the evidence presented, as well as the DNA evidence, I theorize with much certainty that Henderson Herron was another son of Adam and Sarah and Grandma Peggy Milam’s older brother. Henderson was Ms. Herron's great grandfather. This would make us to be third cousins twice removed who share 49 cM of DNA over 4 chromosome segments. Perhaps, when Nancy Ann Warren married John Herron in 1832, her father may have "gifted" or sold Uncle Henderson to them. He was around 17 years old. I hope to find a deed of gift, bill of sale, or similar record in the future. I can’t help but wonder if Grandma Peggy ever saw him again. The area in Tallahatchie County where the Herrons resided was about 40 miles south of where Grandma Peggy eventually ended up in Tate County. She became the mother of 13 children. If they didn’t reunite then, they are now reunited, spiritually. Thanks to DNA!
Slave Ancestral Research Tips From this Discovery:
(1) Study the slave-owner’s family tree. Note the names of his daughters and their husbands. Document the migration patterns of the former enslaver’s children. Some of your family members may have been taken to those places.
(2) A genealogical record, such as the enslaver’s will, estate record, deed record, etc., may not always contain all of the children of a particular enslaved woman. Consider the possibility that some children may have been sold or transferred to an enslaver’s son or daughter before he died.
(3) Pay attention to the names that your enslaved ancestors gave to their children. Naming patterns are solid clues.
(4) Google searches can led you to some great information. Do effective “googling”. However, try to verify all found information.