Monday, February 3, 2014

No Longer Forgotten: the Enslaved Laborers of “Brick House,” Union County, South Carolina


Tonight, I was browsing the Union County, South Carolina Inventories, Appraisements, Sales, 1845-1853 microfilm that has been digitized and uploaded to FamilySearch.org by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although I didn’t find what I was looking for in researching more about the Danner slave-owners of that county, I was awestruck by the meticulous way the estate of John Jeffries, Sr. was inventoried on October 31, 1851. The appraisers took the time to record the enslaved people by family groups, names, and ages! As I browsed the names of the enslaved families, I kept saying to myself, “These are many people’s enslaved ancestors!” Rather than being buried and forgotten in that inventory, I decided to give them visibility on my blog, in hopes that a descendant researching for their Jeffries (or another surname) ancestors will one day find them here. This will undoubtedly be a genealogical goldmine!

I desired to see what I could find out about John Jeffries, Sr. from my most immediate source – the Internet.  Google can be your best friend, informationally (is that a word?). According to descendant and researcher Brenda Sparks, John Sr. was born on March 6, 1760 in Camden, South Carolina. Indeed, he is reported as being 90 years old in the 1850 Census of Union County. He died nearly a year later on January 29, 1851. John Sr. was a soldier of the American Revolution (1775 - 1783). He served as a private under his father, Captain Nathaniel Jefferies, South Carolina Troops. He purchased land in Union County from his father and started a plantation that became known as "Brick House." Known as “Brick House John,” he lived there until his death at age 91. Also, according to Sparks, some people had claimed that the bricks were purchased in London and shipped to Charleston, South Carolina. Really?? Nevertheless, she found documentation that proved that the bricks were made by John’s slaves.

The 1850 Census for Union County reported John’s property value at $30,000. Also, the 1850 Union County Slave Schedule reported 137 slaves for him. Unfortunately, no names were recorded in the slave schedules. However, the following images from his estate record revealed their names in family groups, described as Lots. Hopefully, from the following images, you can see their names.




The lots of enslaved families inherited by his heirs were also reported:






John Jeffries, Sr. also wrote a will eight days before his death, on January 21, 1851. The following will transcription was uploaded by Brenda Sparks.

Know all men by these presents that I, John Jefferies, of the State and District aforesaid, being weak in body but of firm and disposing mind, memory, and judgement do ordain and appoint this as and for my Last Will and Testament hereby declaring all former wills to be null and void and of no effect.

Article 1: I will and ordain that all my property both real and personal shall be equally divided among all my legal heirs -- that is my sons John, James and William Jefferies shall each receive one ninth part of my estate. My daughters Ann Smith, Sarah Smith, Ellen Wilkins, and Cynthia Graham shall each receive one ninth part of my estate and that the children of my son Nathaniel Jefferies, deceased, shall receive one ninth part of my estate to be equally divided between them also that the children of my son Samuel Jefferies shall receive one ninth of my estate to be equally divided among them and also that the Lucey and Frances Farr daughters of Ellen Goudelock, decd., shall receive the share to which their mother would have been entitled had she been living to be equally divided between them.

Article 2nd: I will and ordain that five competent persons or a majority of them shall proceed appraise and divide all my Negroes among my Legatees herein before mentioned as equally as may be and if in their judgement the chair allotted to the heirs of Nathaniel Jefferies and Samuel Jefferies, decd., cannot be divided without injury to the parties there and in that case my Executors are hereby empowered to expose the same to public sale for the benefit of said heirs.

Article 3rd: I will and ordain that the above mentioned appraisers shall appraise all my land contained in a recent survey by John Gibbs, Esq. and if in their judgement, it cannot be equally divided among my heirs, herein before mentioned, they shall divide it into suitable tracts and my executor shall sell the same for the benefit of all Legatees aforesaid.

Article 4th: I will and ordain the Executers shall expose to sale all stock of all kinds, plantation tools, wagons, carts and all other effects of which I may be possessed with the exception of my notes, bonds, credits and accounts which they are to collect for the benefit of my heirs aforesaid.

Article 5th: Whereas I have heretofore made considerable advance of property to my children and have taken receipts for the same, I will and ordain that each one shall account to my estate for the value of said receipt without interest in receiving his part of my estate as it is my will that each Legatee as before named shall ultimately receive an equal portion of my estate.

Article 6th: And I hereby appoint my sons, James Jefferies and William Jefferies and my grandsons John Jefferies and William Jefferies sole executors of this my last will and testament.

Given under hand and seal this 21 January 1851. John Jefferies L. S.
Wit: James Farr, M.M. Montgomery, H. Goudelock, Jas. B. Smith, Zachariah Tate

John Jeffries, Sr. had married Rachel Barnett in 1782, and they had the following nine children. The places of death of the children may give a researcher indication where some of the enslaved "Brick House" families were probably taken after 1851. Interestingly, I am aware of a number of Jeffries families of Tate and Marshall County, Mississippi! Some of them lived near my ancestors in Tate County, which is adjacent to Marshall County. Hmmm....

Their nine children were:

     (1) Nathaniel Jeffries, b. 1783, Union County, SC; d. February 28, 1842, Union County, SC
     (2) Ann Jeffries, b. 1785, Union County, SC; d. February 13, 1874, Union County, SC
     (3) Samuel Jeffries, b. 1788, Union County, SC; d. December 08, 1845, Union County, SC
     (4) Sarah Jeffries, b. 1790, Union County, SC; d. December 20, 1873, York County, SC
     (5) John Barnett Jeffries, II, b. 1793, Union County, SC; d. September 08, 1869, Elmore Co., Alabama
     (6) Ellen Jeffries, b. 1795, Union County, SC; d. November 16, 1854, Marshall Co., Mississippi
     (7) Cynthia Jeffries, b. 1798; d. 1881.
     (8) Colonel James Boyd Jeffries, b. 1802, Union County, SC; d. April 29, 1866, Union County, SC
     (9) William Barnett Jeffries, b. 1805, Union County, SC; d. August 05, 1852, Marshall Co., Mississippi


If you read this post and are aware of someone researching for their enslaved Jeffries ancestors from Union County South Carolina, Marshall County Mississippi, or Elmore County Alabama, feel free to share this blog post.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Kissing Cousins: It Happened


Recently, a subscriber to the Our Black Ancestry Facebook group generated a lengthy discussion when she posted the following question, “Is anyone finding cousins marrying cousins in their tree? Or one set of family & another set intermarrying & being connected in other ways?” The lengthy dialogue that followed was definitely an indication that “kissing cousins” occurred much more often than what people think. I thought of ten reasons why this can happen. If you have other reasons, feel free to share in the comment section.

1)     Back in the day, rural communities became populated from couples having large families. After several generations and numerous marriages (or relations) between others in the same community, many people ended up being related, knowingly or unknowingly, as time passed. Many of the following generations even were double related. To me, it seems like it was an unavoidable phenomenon.

2)     Adding to no. 1, travel back then is not like travel today. Therefore, long distance relationships were more difficult then, especially if the family didn’t have a good car (or a healthy horse). This added to the likelihood of consanguineous marriages.

3)     I grew up hearing some people say that if a person is beyond a 3rd cousin, then the blood is not there anymore. That was absolutely false, and DNA technology is proving that. I find it fascinating that DNA can detect if two people are related.  If these marriages between “distant” cousins were occurring often in the area, then I think that it may have become a norm, in a sense. Nonetheless, some people still didn’t play that; they considered it as “incest”. Grandma and/or Grandpa had to meet your date and ask them that famous question, “Who yo people?” That was to ensure that their grandchild wasn’t marrying their cousin. According to a family elder, before my maternal grandmother married my grandfather, she started “courting” a man named Ben Dean of Coldwater, Mississippi. When my great-grandfather got a wind to this burgeoning courtship, he stopped it immediately, informing my grandmother that she and Ben were cousins. I have since figured out that Ben Dean’s maternal grandfather, Sam Milam, and my grandmother’s paternal grandmother, Lucy Milam Davis, were first cousins.

4)     In addition to no. 3, people’s definition of cousinships was often inaccurate. For example, someone who was deemed as a 4th cousin, as far as they knew, may have really been a 2nd cousin-once removed. Therefore, that person may have been considered “safe” to marry without much objection in families where distant-cousin marriages weren’t a big issue. For me, I didn’t start understanding cousinships until I started doing genealogy research. Presently, most people erroneously think that their parent’s first cousin is their second cousin. However, a parent’s first cousin is one’s first cousin-once removed. The term “removed” in cousinships is still largely misunderstood. Also, your child and your first cousin’s child are second cousins to each other. Most people would consider the two to be 3rd cousins. This is a good diagram that further explains cousinships.

5)     Family quarrels and broken relationships among earlier generations could easily result in future generations not even knowing that they are related. A deceased family elder shared how one of my great-great-grandfather’s brothers, Uncle Sampson Davis, changed his religion, angering members of his family who were Baptist. Uncle Sampson decided to move to the next town, where he married and had a large family. Sadly, he severed ties with his angry siblings. Generations later, better transportation evolved, allowing for more frequent interactions between people in both towns. Consequently, several of Uncle Sampson’s descendants married (or had relations with) several of his siblings’ descendants. They did not know that they are related because of religion issues several generations back.

6)     People may have been influenced by the actions of other groups of people, such as the Scotch-Irish, who often married people as close as first cousins to "keep it in the clan."

7)     For African Americans (descendants of enslaved people in America), the chances that we may be distantly related to people we know, whose family roots may hail from different states, are amplified by the fact that many families were permanently separated during slavery. Sadly, many of these broken links will never be traced genealogically. While as a member of the Atlanta chapter of AAHGS (Afro American Historical and Genealogical Society), I interacted with another member that I later discovered through DNA technology is a fairly close maternal relative. For more about that, read An X-chromosome Match Provides Needed Clues.

8)     Not possessing much knowledge about your family history can easily result in the possibility of marrying (or having relations with) a close or distant cousin.

9)    The non-disclosure of the paternity of a family member could result in two people, who are unknowingly related, marrying (or having relations).

10)   Last but not least, some people fell head over heels in love with a “distant” cousin, especially in situations where they didn’t know beforehand that their “ray of sunshine” was a cousin. The attraction and love were so strong, that it overshadowed the fact that they were cousins but not first or second cousins. Cupid hit them hard. Believe it or not, one can’t simply turn off an attraction to someone at the snap of a finger. We can only wish that it was that simple.

If someone starts to research their family tree, and both their mother and father’s families were from the same small community in the South, chances are pretty good that they might figure out that their parents are “distant” cousins (or close cousins). I have seen this numerous times. It happened. There’s nothing to be ashamed about, in my opinion. It makes for an interesting family tree and great conversation. “Great-granddaddy is my 2nd cousin-twice removed” would capture some attention, I imagine.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Blown Away But Not Forgotten

 
Albert Kennedy (1857-1928) and Martha “Sissie” Ealy Kennedy (1865-1895)

While home in Mississippi during the Christmas holiday, I had to make some time to drive out to Lena, Mississippi, my father’s hometown, to find the grave of his grandmother, Martha Ealy Kennedy. An elderly relative recently confirmed for me that she was also known as “Sissie”. Indeed, the FindAGrave website had an entry for her with a picture of her stone that was in Harmony Baptist Church Cemetery, Leake County, Mississippi. I was stunned. I didn’t know it existed.  I had to find it and see it for myself. I have walked Harmony Cemetery many times, but I never saw it. This time, I found it! 

After marrying my great-grandfather Albert Kennedy on December 28, 1881, Grandma Sissie had five children: Dora (1882-1940), Will (1884-1977), Robert "Rob" (1885-1977), Hulen “Newt” (1888-1970), and Wilson Kennedy (1891-1988). However, she died shortly after Uncle Wilson was born. When I was a teenager, my grandma Willie Ealy Collier, my father’s adopted mother who was a double first cousin to his natural father Hulen Kennedy, first told me the story about Grandma Sissie. She was her aunt – her father Paul Ealy’s sister – who blown away by a tornado. I had always ascertained that this sad and tragic day occurred "around 1895". My cousin Mavis here in D.C. remembers her father, Uncle Wilson Kennedy, talk about how his mother was found miles away from home in a ditch. Therefore, I always noted that Grandma Sissie died “around 1895,” because Grandpa Albert had remarried on July 19, 1896, ironically to a lady whose official name was Sissie Walker.  Her gravestone confirmed that 1895 was indeed the tragic year.

I can’t even imagine how my grandfather Hulen, his brothers, and their big sister Dora felt to lose their mother so suddenly and tragically on that stormy day in 1895. I am sure that Grandpa Albert was distraught to have his wife of 14 years taken away forever within minutes.  Then, to find her body miles away from home lying in a ditch must have added more “rubbing alcohol” to the open wounds. Grandma Sissie was laid to rest on top of Harmony Hill, as it was called, in Harmony Cemetery next to the church.  Words can’t express the joy in finding her grave with a nice headstone that withheld the test of time.  I don’t know the exact date in 1895 when that dreadful tornado hit the Lena community. Maybe one day, I will find some type of documentation that confirms it. Nevertheless, Grandma Sissie is being remembered. She is not forgotten.


R.I.P. Grandma Martha “Sissie” Ealy Kennedy
The inscription says, “She was the sunshine of our home.”
Daughter of Robert “Big Bob” Ealy and Jane Parrott Ealy

My grandfather Hulen "Newt" Kennedy - my father had recently placed those beautiful flowers on his grave earlier this year.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The African Americans, Many Rivers to Cross – Episode 4: Gone to Oklahoma

Last night, the fourth episode of The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross aired on PBS.  This episode, entitled Making a Way Out of No Way (1897-1940), highlighted the relocation of more than 6 million African Americans from the rural South to the cities of the North, Midwest, and West from around 1910 to 1970.  This mass relocation became known as the Great Migration. African Americans left the South in droves, removing themselves from the harsh and racist climate of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Texas.  Even in my own family, my maternal grandmother, Minnie Davis Reed, who was the youngest child of nine children born to John Hector Davis and Mary Danner Davis, had six of her own siblings to relocate to Chicago Illinois, Evanston Illinois, and Benton Harbor Michigan. Grandma Minnie and her brother, Uncle Fred Douglas Davis, were the only two to remain in the South. They both opted to live their last years in Memphis, Tennessee, just 35 miles north of their hometown of Como, Mississippi.

Conditions were so volatile in my home state of Mississippi, that from 1910 to 1920, the state experienced the largest migration of its African-American citizens to northern states than any of the ten southern states.  Sources note that of the approximately 473,000 African Americans that left the South in that decade alone, nearly 130,000 were from Mississippi.  From 1940 to 1960, about a million other Mississippians, nearly 75 percent of them African-American, departed the state permanently.  Many of them relocated to Chicago and Detroit, especially.  So many Mississippians had moved to Chicago that I often heard the city being called “New Mississippi.”  Chicago’s African-American population tremendously grew from 40,000 in 1910 to over 230,000 in 1930.

However, little is spoken about a small sector of the migrating African-American population who chose to go west to Oklahoma during the 1889 Land Rush of Oklahoma, occurring about 20 years before the start of the Great Migration.  On March 3, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison announced that the government would open the 1.9 million-acre tract of Indian Territory for settlement at noon on April 22nd. Anyone could join the race for the land, but jumping the gun was not permitted. During those 7 weeks after Harrison’s announcement, over 50,000 land-hungry Americans quickly began to gather around the borders of Oklahoma to take advantage of the new land.  By nightfall on April 22, they had staked thousands of claims either on town lots or quarter section farm plots. The towns of Norman, Oklahoma City, Kingfisher, Guthrie, and others sprung into being almost overnight.  This is considered to be the largest land rush in American history, and within a month after April 22, five banks and six newspapers were established. By 1900, African-American farmers owned about 1.5 million acres of land in the Oklahoma territory. A number of African-American towns in Oklahoma were also established, such as Boley, Langston, Lincoln, Taft, etc.

One of those many land-hungry settlers in 1889 was my great-grandmother’s second oldest brother, Mack Danner (1859-c.1910).  Whether or not Uncle Mack was one of those 50,000+ who setup a tent on the border the night before April 22 is a matter of speculation, but he, his wife Annie, and their children had settled near Guthrie, Oklahoma sometime between 1889 and 1892. This was evident from the 1900 Logan County, Oklahoma census. Their son, Alexander (Alex) Danner, was born in Panola County (Como), Mississippi in Jan. 1889, but their next child, Laura Danner, was born in Oklahoma in May 1892.

1900 Logan County, Oklahoma census
The census-taker erroneously spelled the family’s last name as “McDanna”. Also, it was noted in this census that Uncle Mack Danner owned land.

I have been fortunate to meet and get to know a number of Uncle Mack Danner’s descendants after learning of their existence. The family had settled in Omaha, Nebraska by 1918. One of those descendants is my cousin, the late Dorothy Danner West, a granddaughter of Uncle Mack Danner, who shared the following photos of the family that were taken in Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Uncle Mack Danner (1859-c.1910)
Picture taken before 1910 in Guthrie, Oklahoma

Uncle Mack Danner’s wife Annie McGee Danner and their 10 children
Guthrie, Oklahoma

Two of Uncle Mack Danner’s sons who were killed in Oklahoma by a man who feared for his life from the two brothers

Uncle Mack Danner’s son, Alex Danner, who was the last child born in Mississippi in Jan. 1889 before the family moved to Guthrie, Oklahoma

Uncle Mack Danner’s daughter, Laura Danner Lowe, and her son, Artis Lowe. She was their first child who was born in Oklahoma in May 1892.

Uncle Mack Danner’s in-laws, Mack Henry McGee & Julia Hinkles McGee, who accompanied them to Oklahoma from Panola County, Mississippi

Omaha Sen. Edward R. Danner, youngest son of Mack and Annie Danner, was the lone African-American legislator in the Nebraska Unicameral during the U.S. Civil Rights era of the 1960’s.

Pictures by the late Dorothy Danner West

The African American Blogging Circle is a group of genealogy bloggers who are sharing their family stories, seen through their own personal lens, from the PBS series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.  Click here for a list of the participating bloggers and check out their stories.

Watch Episode 4

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The African Americans, Many Rivers to Cross – Episode 2: The Second Middle Passage

Last night, the second episode of The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross aired on PBS.  This episode, entitled “The Age of Slavery,” chronicled major events and activities that occurred after the American Revolution which greatly affected the lives of free and enslaved African Americans. One of those major activities was the invention of the cotton gin. By April 1793, an inventor named Eli Whitney developed the cotton gin; it was a machine that automated the separation of cottonseed from the short-staple cotton fiber. 

Hence, in 1793, the “Curse of the Cotton Gin” began.  Although it spurned a great economic boom in the South, I call it a “curse” because its invention resulted in the displacement of around 1 million enslaved African Americans in the Upper South to points southward.  Enslaved labor was needed for this booming industry. Thus, the Second Middle Passage began. More family separations occurred. More tears were shed. More blood flowed from feet and toes as a million enslaved people were sold away, transferred, or taken down south to work laboriously in those hot, infamous cotton fields. In many cases, these dreadful journeys were “walking journeys”. Imagine being forced to walk for weeks from Nash County, North Carolina to Leake County, Mississippi. That was the “walking journey” my great-great-grandfather Robert “Big Bob” Ealy had to take.

Once the million tired souls arrived at their Deep South destinations, the following is what many of them had to endure in those hot, infamous cotton fields, especially if they labored on large plantations.  Observing enslaved people in the cotton field on a large plantation near Natchez, Mississippi, Frederick Olmstead provided the following description of this extensive, back-weakening labor:

“We found in the field thirty ploughs, moving together, turning the earth from the cotton plants, and from thirty to forty hoers, the latter mainly women, with a black driver walking about among them with a whip, which he often cracked at them, sometimes allowing the lash to fall lightly upon their shoulders. He was constantly urging them also with his voice. All worked very steadily, and though the presence of a stranger on the plantation must have been a most unusual occurrence, I saw none raise or turn their heads to look at me. Each gang was attended by a "water-toter," that of the hoe-gang being a straight, sprightly, plump little black girl, whose picture, as she stood balancing the bucket upon her head, shading her bright eyes with one hand, and holding out a calabash with the other to maintain her poise, would have been a worthy study for Murillo.” [Frederick Law Olmsted, The Cotton Kingdom (New York: De Capo Press, Inc., 1953), 432.]

Anyone researching Mississippi ancestors will immediately notice much evidence of the Second Middle Passage in their family trees.  In 1870, most of the older former slaves in Mississippi, as well as other Deep South states, were not born in Mississippi.  This is quite evident from the 1870 census.  Let me show you want I mean. 

I took a snapshot of the Lena community of Leake County, Mississippi, where Grandpa “Big Bob” Ealy remained after gaining his freedom. I wanted to see the birthplaces that were reported for many of his neighbors, who were enslaved just five years prior.  Only a few were born in Mississippi.  The following transcription just shows the oldest people in the household. I recorded these African-American households from pages 313-319.

House #
Names
Ages
Birthplace
802
Henson, Jeff
65
Kentucky
807
Henson, David
50
Tennessee
 -------, Mina
45
Virginia
808
Hanson, Stephan
40
Alabama
 ------, Easter
33
Tennessee
809
Henson, Hannah
33
Mississippi
811
Anderson, Charlotte
40
Alabama
815
Ratliff, Samuel
35
Mississippi
 ------, Kitty
35
Mississippi

 ------, Lydia
60
Georgia
816
Cherry, R.S.
75
South Carolina
 ------, Jane
70
Virginia
Harris, Emaline
50
Virginia
817
Dew, Benjamin
50
South Carolina
 ------, Eliza
48
Georgia
823
Simms, Scott
30
Mississippi
 ------, Lucilia
26
Virginia
832
Fickland, William
20
Mississippi
 ------, Jane
17
Alabama
 ------, Ann
60
Virginia
833
Turner, G.W.
50
Alabama
838
Mann, Tony
21
Mississippi
 ------, Hannah
23
Tennessee
839
Harris, Eliza
30
Virginia
Delvin, John W.
25
South Carolina
843
Parrott, John Armstead
32
Virginia
 ------, Jane
26
Mississippi
844
Reid, Rachel
36
North Carolina
845
Pettigrew, Mariah
45
Virginia
857
Wright, Hiram
57
Tennessee
 ------, Judy
55
Tennessee

 ------, Mary
33
Tennessee
859
Ely, Robert    (“Big Bob” Ealy)
51
North Carolina
 ------, Jane
48
Virginia
863
Lindsey, Allen
25
Mississippi
 ------, Jane
27
Virginia
883
Hill, James
65
South Carolina
 -----, Amanda
40
Virginia
Jones, Cutz
65
Virginia
885
Rice, Andrew
23
Mississippi
 -----, Frances
25
Alabama
886
Kennedy, Nancy
45
Alabama
 ------, Malissa
25
Alabama
887
Washington, George
50
Georgia
 ------, Harriett
40
Georgia

 ------, Charles
21
Alabama

 ------, Jacob
19
Alabama

 ------, Daniel
17
Alabama

 ------, Edmond
12
Mississippi
888
Beaman, Jacob
60
North Carolina
 ------, Violet
50
North Carolina
889
Luckett, Calvin
65
Georgia
 ------, Nelly
75
Virginia
Source: 1870 Leake County, Mississippi Census, Pages: 313B – 319A; Image: 118 -129

Just within that small area containing the African-American households that were closest to Grandpa Big Bob’s house, the 1870 census-taker recorded Virginia as the birthplace for most of the older adults.  Alabama was second.  Even Grandpa Big Bob’s wife, Grandma Jane, had come from Virginia.  Her enslaver, William Parrott, had moved to Leake County, Mississippi shortly before 1840, transporting her and the rest of his slaves with him from Lunenburg County, Virginia.  I cannot even begin to fathom how tiresome all of their journeys were.  And for most of them, that journey was undoubtedly a sad one, as many of them left behind parents, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, grandparents, etc. whom they never laid eyes on ever again.  Oh, how far we have come!

The African American Blogging Circle is a group of genealogy bloggers who are sharing their family stories, seen through their own personal lens, from the PBS series, The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.  Click here for a list of the participating bloggers and check out their stories.

Watch Episode 2