Pages

My Blog List

Sunday, April 19, 2015

52 Ancestors 2015 Edition - Week #16:100 years and Counting

My Aunties: Ethel Becton Artis and Leona Reed Becton

This week’s theme is based on those relatives who lived a long life aka Centenarians. Well I am happy to say that I had two female relatives who were Centenarians. In addition to living to the ripe old age of 102; they were both my father’s aunts: Ethel Artis and Leona Becton.  Something else they had in common was that they were the first born in their families and they outlived their siblings. A lot of times, it’s the youngest child who outlives everyone else in their families but these two ladies defy the odds.

Ethel Pearl Becton Artis
While these weekly posts are supposed to be dedicated to one ancestor, I could not see myself not including Aunt Ethel. Aunt Ethel was born in 1892 and she was my paternal grandmother’s (Minnie Becton Powell Coley) oldest sister who happened to be the first born of William and Phoebe Taylor Becton’s nine children.  Aunt Ethel married June Scott Artis in 1912; they had 3 children Amanda, James and Edgar Artis when she died she had 15 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren and 15 great-great-grandchildren. Aunt Ethel lived all her life in North Carolina until she passed in 1994.  


Leona Becton
Leona Reed Becton married Ethel’s brother, George Becton (April 25, 1910 – August 8, 1987) on November 18, 1945; their union lasted 42 years.  Aunt Leona was born on July 30, 1908 in Marion County, South Carolina to Session and Mary Johnson Reed. She had two brothers, McKinley and Allen, and one sister, Liza Reed Dickson. 


Aunt Leona was the only one of her siblings who had children and to this day no one knows what became of her son James Ward whom she had by her first husband. There were two stories that I heard about James. The first was that he visited his mother in the late 1960s but no one knows what happened and why he never returned.  Another story was told by Aunt Leona to her caretaker, Ann. Ann asked her why she never had children and she told Ann; “I had a son and his name was James.” She said that when she moved to Washington that she left James in South Carolina with her sister but her sister could not “handle” James; so James came to live with Aunt Leona and Uncle George.  One day James told Aunt Leona that he was going out to meet some friends but he never returned home.  I believe that James suffered a terrible fate or he would had contacted his mother.


When Aunt Leona turned 100 her health began to decline.  Her last years were spent in a nursing facility where almost every weekend my mom and I would visit her.  Aunt Leona never wanted us to leave however, we always told her that we would return. Sadly, she always told us that “you just got here.” Once when she was hospitalized, she told me that she “Loved Her Bectons.” I told her that “we loved her too.” She died 8 days before her 103rd birthday; it was the date that she was buried on.


I believe that nobody wants to die but most of us don’t want to be the last to go. When you’re the last of your family or your generation or your friends, your lonely and that’s how I felt with Aunt Leona. She once mention that she did not know why she lived so long.  

Aunt Leona in 2010




Tuesday, April 7, 2015

52 Ancestors Week 14: My Favorite Photo - Courtesy of Classie Virginia Pate Fuller



Classie Virginina Pate Fuller
Do not use photo without my expressed permission.

This is my latest post for the 2015 edition of the 52 Ancestors Blogging Challenge. If you’re not familiar with Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge, check out her Blog at “No Story to Small.”
Like last year, the blogging challenge was about dedicating a post each week to a specific ancestor but a twist has been added to this year’s challenge: themes.  The theme for this week is “favorite photo” and my favorite photo is a picture of my maternal grandmother, Classie Virginia Pate Fuller (8/21/1901-9/2/1969).  

My grandmother was born to John (1843-1903) and Sarah McCall Pate (1872-1909) in North Carolina. She was the youngest of 12 children.  She lived all her life in Wayne County, North Carolina. On November 16, 1920, she married Leslie Fuller and in 1925 she gave birth to her only child. Mafull (the name she was called by her grandchildren) departed this life in 1969.
Two thoughts comes to mind when I look at this picture. First, I always thought that this picture was taken when she was a teenager but her family doesn’t know what year it was taken or how old she was, nor do we know where it was taken or for what event. What I do know is that Mafull had this serious expression, in fact, an 8 ½ x 10 copy of this photo is kept in my mom’s bedroom and when my little nieces look at the photo; they say “she looks mean.” I told them that she looks serious!  
Because she was not smiling, the second thing that comes to mind is that Mafull was sad or lonely. I believe that this picture was taken after her mother died.  Mafull lost her parents at a very young age. Her father died when she was 3 or 4 and her mother died when she was 9 or 10. Unfortunately, North Carolina did not begin recording death certificates until 1913 so there is no record of when her parents died. I just know when her mother died; she went to live with her brother, Roscoe and his wife.
Someone once told me that people back then didn’t like taking pictures because the camera might take away their soul. Maybe someone told Mafull this same story and she was afraid to smile. But perhaps someone told her that she had to take a picture and because she was young and obedient; she took this unemotional picture.
But the most interesting aspect of this photo is her beauty. Okay, I will admit that I’m biased and she is my grandmother but to me; she is pretty in this picture.  Her complexion appears fair but my family said that she was “reddish” looking. Seriously, I don’t know what that means except that her complexion wasn’t real light nor real dark. My mom, her only child, inherited her tiny noise and her small lips; however no one in the family inherited her green eyes. In the picture, you can’t tell that the color of her eyes are green or as my brothers say they were hazel (sometimes light brown and sometimes green). My brothers once said that Mafull’s eyes would light up the room at night.  Recently we reconnected with a long lost cousin who said that MaFull had the prettiest blue eyes. But if you ask my mom, she will argue that her “momma had grey eyes.”
Mafull once told my mom that she, Mafull, look like her mother, Sarah who was biracial; it’s possible that Sarah passed her eye color to her daughter. Sarah’s father was from County Clare Ireland so I can only assumed that is how Mafull inherited her beautiful eyes.
Her clothing tells me that perhaps its fall or wintertime when she posed for this picture. The black overcoat and white cap that’s pull down her head gives me the impression that it was cold and almost all of her hair is neatly tuck in the cap, except for the wisp of a bang which is why I also think that she’s a preteen in this picture. Mafull appears so innocent.
Recently, I was looking through a family album and I found 4 faded “tintype” photos. Included in this set of photos is another picture of Mafull but younger. In the “tintype”, Mafull is similarly dressed like the picture above. She’s wearing a gray color coat, a white cap and that same sad expression on her face however, this time she’s sitting down in a chair surrounded by 3 shadowy figures who appears to be females. Currently the photo is being restored.  Oh, how I wish these pictures were taken in color!
Well, my favorite picture sits on my mom’s dresser. I guess that’s a cool thing to see when you wake up in the morning; is your mother looking at you.  It’s funny how time changes our perceptions. I don’t know about my mom but when I was growing up; I had celebrities (Prince, R&B music group Switch and NY Yankees baseball legend Reggie Jackson) on my bedroom wall and they were who I wanted to see when I went to sleep and when I woke up in the morning.  But now that I’m older, I don’t mind seeing pictures of Mafull and other departed loves ones who I miss when I wake up in the morning.



Pictures of Mafull through the years.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015

52 Ancestors #1 - A Fresh Start

1870 Census for Renah Daniels


Happy New Year!

I’m happy to say that Amy Johnson Crow has decided to continue the 52 Ancestor Challenge. Last year, I only created 16 posts for this challenge. This year I hope to have 26 posts dedicated to the challenge. If you don’t know about it, Amy Johnson Crow’s blog, “No Story Too Small”, offered a challenge to genealogists to write a post once a week about one particular ancestor. Well, the challenge continues in 2015 with a twist or as Amy wrote, “a prompt.” The first week’s prompt is dedicated to “A Fresh Start.” For instance, which ancestor was given “A Fresh Start” or which ancestor you need to research over again. You know a “re-boot.”  This post is dedicated to those brick walls that I’m determined to break-through this year.

For instance, what happened to those Pate brothers, John, Robert and Wyatt. They were my maternal grandmother’s older brothers who were adults by the time my grandmother was born in 1901 but no living family member can explain what became of them. Did they marry and have children? Or did they suffer a horrible demise? Where did they lived after they left Wayne and Greene Counties, North Carolina?

Another mystery is whatever became of Grandma Mary Vick; actually she was my maternal Great-Great-Grandmother who left home when her daughter was a toddler and never returned.  What woman leaves her small child and never returns home?

How can I forget those family members who I find only on one census, for example, my maternal grandfather’s Great-Great-Great-Grandmother, Renah Daniels. My DNA cousin who goes by the username of “DabofSugar”contacted me on Ancestry.com and told me to look for Renah on the 1870 census and behold...there she is. Renah and her family was found on a page just before her daughter’s family, Olivia/Silvia Roundtree Newsome. Renah’s age is listed as 35 but if you look at the actual page its 55 and her name is spelled Rena. Sadly, I can’t find Rena/Renah or her children after this census. They all disappeared. I’m hoping that later on this year, I can provide an update on a few of my break walls.

I want to thank Amy again for this challenge because if it wasn’t for her; I would still be wondering “what am I going to do with all this information that I’ve collected on the ancestors.” 

Source: Year: 1870 Census: Black Creek, Wilson, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1166; Page: 451B.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Finding Your Roots! Season Finale!

Decoding the Past Through DNA 



Photo from the Finding Your Roots Website


It’s the final episode of Season 2 Finding Your Roots Series. Now folks can call me between the hours of 8pm and 9pm on Tuesday nights and I'll answer the phone. 


This episode focuses on DNA testing, Governor Deval Patrick, Actress Jessica Alba and Dr. Gates. I find it interesting that the final episode aired about a week after Ancestry.com “re-vamp” their DNA testing which has put all its users, at least the African Americans, in a teasy; however, not this user.  Basically what Ancestry did was improved its DNA algorithm to determine our matches. I’m glad they did. Because first of all, I had 50 pages (2,663 DNA cousins) of matches and now I had 19 pages.  This was too many cousins and a greater possibility of many false positive relatives. Second, my mom was described as a close relative; while her aunt was listed as my 1st-2nd cousin. Now, my mom is described as my parent but her aunt is still described as my 1st-2nd cousin, not perfect but better.  My matches are now described as “extremely high,” “very high,” to “moderately confident.” I’m thrilled because I feel that I might can knock down a few "break-walls" and find some ancestors.

Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts
Governor Patrick is a Chicago native whose father was a Black Nationalist who left the family when Deval was 4 years old.  The Governor was raised by his mother who later sent her son to Massachusetts where the state made a major impact on her son who would one day become the state’s first African American Governor.  Well the Governor’s DNA is just as interesting. We see a document related to the Governor Patrick’s ancestor, Emily Wintersmith.  Emily received land from her former slave owner, Dr. Harvey Slaughter, “for little to no money.”  Dr. Gates and his team felt that Deval’s ancestor might be blood related to Dr. Slaughter.  So genetic genealogist CeCe Moore compared DNA from Deval to descendants of Dr. Slaughter to see if they were genetically related and they were.  It was concluded that Emily’s child was fathered by Dr. Slaughter.  We also find out that both the Governor’s M-DNA and Y-DNA were traced back to Europe which meant his original paternal and maternal ancestors came from Europe, not Africa. The Governor’s DNA includes 38.9% European and 58.9% sub-Saharan African.  I couldn’t help but smile when the Governor look at his family tree he said “It makes you feel small and big at this same time.”

Actress Jessica Alba
Jessica says that she identifies more with her father side of the family, the Mexican American side and not her mother’s European side. However, her DNA is more than just Mexican American, in fact, her DNA analysis included: 33.5% British, 5.1% French German, 3.9% Scandinavian, 17.3% Ilberian and 1.4% Italian. Jessica said that her paternal side which is her Mexican side, experience racial prejudice living in America.  For example, her paternal grandmother’s family was half dark and half light so those who were light complexion went to the white schools and those who were dark complexion went to the Mexican schools. This is ironic because her father was also tested and it was discovered that his family was descended from Native Americans. So apparently, Jessica’s ancestors were not immigrants or outsiders as they were treated but natives and had been living in North America for centuries.

Dr. Skip Gates           
CeCe Moore told Dr. Gates one particular surname kept coming up amongst his DNA matches and that surname was trace to a man named Wilmore Mayle who was possibly Dr. Gates ancestor.  We’re introduce to Alexandra Finley who is a direct descendant of Wilmore and through DNA testing, Alexandra and Dr. Gates are confirmed as cousins. Alexandra provided Dr. Gates with one of those remarkable discoveries. It was a Virginia record dated in 1826 where Wilmore freed a female slave named Nancy and in the record Wilmore states that Nancy is his wife. This was 141 years before the Loving v. Virginia landmark decision that invalidated prohibition of interracial marriages.  How did Wilmore survive this great proclamation? Well, Wilmore whose baptismal record confirmed that he was white, straddled the “color-line.”  Alexandra found some records where Wilmore was listed as black and other records where he’s described as white but she also found records where he was listed as a mulatto. It appears that Wilmore was willing to do whatever he could to remain married to Nancy. The Tammy Terrell and Marvin Gayle song comes to my mind when I think about their love: “Aint No Mountain High Enough to Keep Me from You.” In fact the couple with their six children move to the mountains of West Virginia which was where Dr. Gates trace his ancestors to Chestnut Ridge, West Virginia and to a community of mulattoes. Dr. Gates found the Mayle cemetery and a mulatto community who found safety amongst themselves where they inter-marry. Their descendants return to the community every year to celebrate what they call “Heritage Day.”  It was never confirmed that Dr. Gates was a direct descendant of Wilmore Mayle but we do know that he was related to Wilmore.   

I have met a lot of DNA relatives through Ancestry DNA, 23andme and FTDNA. But finding that common ancestor hasn’t been easy, almost impossible. I wish I had for each of my lines an older relative who I could get tested. Sadly, I don’t but I can work with what I got.  For instance, the largest percentage of my African roots come from Cameroon/Congo with 22%,  however, I also have 18% DNA from the  Ivory Coast/Ghana.

My Ancestry DNA Results

My 23andme DNA Results


Another fascination about DNA research is that DNA can fill in the missing pieces. For example, if all of my DNA matches had family trees that were open to the public and each tree covered at least 5 to 6 generations, then perhaps I could have a “breakthrough.” But until then, I will keep banging on that "brick-wall." Because my 23andme test results tells me that my Native American DNA is located on chromosomes 3 and 17 and if I could find a match located on the exact segments of these two chromosomes; then it’s possible that we could be descendants of the same ancestor who may be full or part Native American. Or if I found a match whose four grandparents were Native Americans, then I would know which tribe or area my Native American ancestor originated from.

The episodes in this season has been entertaining and educational. I congratulate Dr. Gates and his staff  with so much thought provoking information.  Dr. Gates said that it wasn’t until the 1800s that scientists group people into 3 great races: Negroids, Mongoloids and Caucasions. Some would say that DNA science has blurred those classifications; I say that man has blurred those classifications. But like it was said in this episode, DNA does show that there is no PURITY OF BLOOD!



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #45 Robert Lee Becton

(Another entry in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge)

This week on November 11th, Americans will honor our Veterans. Meanwhile on November 10th, I will honor a special Veteran, my Dad, on his birthday. Happy 95th Birthday in Heaven Daddy.


My Daddy was born Robert Lee Powell in Stantonsburg, North Carolina in 1919 to Joseph Sylvester and Minnie Becton Powell.  He was their first and only child that they had together.  Unfortunately, I don't know when they separated and divorce but it was shortly after he was born. So Daddy was raised by his maternal grandparents, Will and Phoebe Taylor Becton. I was told that Will was an intimidating man which is probably why Daddy decide to adopt the Becton surname instead of Powell.  My mom even told me that Daddy called Will and Phoebe, mother and father and he called his mother by her name, Minnie.


Daddy's birth certificate

Daddy's father had 5 children by his second wife and grandma Minnie had two additional sons with her second husband.  But because he was raised by his grandparents, Daddy grew up with his maternal aunts and uncles which caused people to think that Daddy was their little brother.

After school, Daddy joined the Army on October 22, 1942 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina as a private. I always found it funny that my Daddy would tell me that he went to "Nam" (Vietnam) and his brothers didn't. But when I was with his brother Hugh, Uncle Hugh said that he was the one that went to "Nam" likewise, I got the same story from Uncle Russell. Perhaps one day I will discover who really went to "Nam."

Daddy's Registration Card


My Dad lived most of his life in Washington, D.C. where he worked at the Pentagon. Daddy's home was located at 10th and K Streets NE; it was the house that my Grandmother Minnie bought when she left North Carolina.




In 1964, Daddy married my mother in Rockville, Maryland. Sadly history finds a way of repeating itself, my parents separated two years after I was born.

Mom and Daddy on their wedding day in Rockville, Maryland

My Dad's nickname was "Dude" and most folks called him Dude Becton. I don't know when or how he got his nickname but it was probably because he was acting "slick" or "dapper." But that was him and he was my Dad. I miss him and I hope he's proud of me. Daddy died on February 27, 1983 in North Carolina from complications of diabetes. He is buried at the Becton Family Cemetery in Eureka, North Carolina.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Finding Your Roots #6 - Tracing Your Slave Ancestors

To Trace an African American Family Back into Slavery Use to be Impossible but Today it’s Possible!


Photo from the Finding Your Roots Website

So far this season, this had to be my favorite episode and it’s probably because all three celebrities have North Carolina Roots. Let’s hear it for my home state! 

Nas,
Rapper, Social Activist and Proud Native New Yorker

Nas’ mother, Fannie Ann Little, was born in Richmond County, North Carolina and he spent two weeks every summer at his grandparent’s home in North Carolina. His grandparents were Mack and Nannie Little who were perhaps related because Dr. Gates researchers discovered that his mother’s family tree was filled with men and women who shared the same last name, Little. In fact, they were able to trace back 5 generations of Nas relatives to the small community where his mother grew up. His family was traced back to 1824 to Calvin Little who married Pocahontas Little.

The researchers discovered that Nas’ great-grandmother lived next door to a White Little widow who married into the family that owned Nas' family.  By researching this neighbor’s family tree, it was discovered that her father-in-law, Thomas Little, owned many generations of Nas’ family.  This was one of many discoveries presented to Nas.  For instance, Dr. Gates showed Nas another document which was an 1854 ledger describing the total number of cotton picked per slave each day.  This ledger told us how much cotton Calvin Little picked and Nas seem astonished with the list and even made a joke that on the days his ancestor had low totals or no record at all that Calvin told his master “to screw themselves.”  Sorry Nas but on most plantations, you couldn’t call in sick or tell the "master" what they could do with their cotton.

Later on Nas is given a receipt dated 1859 for the bill of sale of Pocahontas who was his great-great-grandmother and she was worth $830.00. The rapper said that he had more than that in his pocket. Well I want even discuss my feelings about him walking around with that amount of money.  Let’s just say that I certainly wasn’t expecting him to say I got more than $830.00 in my pocket. That’s nice Nas and if that’s how you can relate then good for you but I just wasn’t expecting that kind of response.  Nas did redeem himself when he said that he wanted to buy the land that his ancestors slaved on. That’s what I’m talking about!  When Dr. Gates show Nas a picture of the one of the slave owners, the rapper stared and said that he was looking at the face that his ancestors saw every day. “I’m looking into their world…”

Angela Bassett
Actress and director

Angela grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her father’s family was from Princeville, North Carolina. Oh my, Edgecombe county is next door to Nash county, one of my ancestral counties.  Like Nas, Angela's family lived next door to the daughter-in-law (Elizabeth Ingram) of the family that owned Angela’s ancestors.  My ancestors in Nash county on the 1870 and 1880 census lived next door/farm to the same White Powell family. Hmmm, I'm seeing a pattern here.  

In 1870, Elizabeth Ingram lived next door or next farm to George and Jinny Ingram who were the parents of Angela’s great-grandfather, William Henry Bassett.  Elizabeth Ingram’s father-in-law, James Ingram, owned George and Jinny.  William Henry was sold away when he was child to the Bassett family but his parents remained with the Ingrams. When he was emancipated, he kept the Bassett name while his parents use the Ingram name.  This has happen to a lot of families. For instance my great-great-grandfather, Jack Sherrod kept his owner’s last name while his mother's name was Tempie Davis and Jack’s father was Denis Barnes but Jack chose the Sherrod name. Another maternal great-grandfather was John Pate. John’s father name was Dave Smith and his mother’s name was Hannah Best.  These are just a few of my ancestors who choose not to use their parent’s surname. Perhaps they knew I would be searching for them and they wanted me to sharpen my detective skills.   

Valerie Jarrett
Illinois native, Political Activist and Sr. Advisor to the President of the United States

Valerie’s grandfather, Robert Robinson Taylor was the first Black person to graduate from MIT.  Her great-grandfather, Robert’s father, Henry Taylor was born in Cumberland County, North Carolina. Henry’s father was Angus Taylor, his slave owner who cared deeply for his son because by 1870, Henry had $5,000 worth of real estate.  

Valerie’s maternal great-great-grandfather was Victor Rochon who was from Louisiana and a free Black. Valerie’s ancestors were free as far back as early 1800. This was the result of a slave owner who had a relationship with his slave. The slave owner was Pierre Rochon of Mobile, Alabama and the slave, Mary Ann.  Pierre freed Mary Ann and their 6 children in 1700, a year before he died.  Another interesting discovery was that Valerie’s DNA results were 49% European, 46% Sub-Saharan, 5% Native American.

I commend Dr. Gates for researching rapper and activist Nas. I hope he will continue to include young entertainers in his research. In fact, he might as well research the ancestors of greatest rapper whoever lived…Tupac Shakur and since Tupac is no longer alive; Dr. Gates should do a segment on Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur.  Of course, I prefer that the segment concentrate on Afeni’s father side which would break down one of MY GENEALOGY WALLS! Afeni’s paternal grandmother, Lena Powell Williams and my paternal grandfather, Sylvester Powell were siblings and I would happily share my research and theories with Dr. Gates staff. So Dr. Gates please continue to research young people: Black, White, Latino, etc. I’m curious to see their response. We need to see and hear, excuse me, young people need to see and hear how entertainers who they revered see their family histories and if you decide to research Tupac and Afeni; don’t hesitate to reach out; just HOLLA!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Finding Your Roots - Episode #5 - America's Melting Pot

Photo from the Finding Your Roots Website
"It’s been said that America's tastes has been shaped by its immigrants"
TOM COLICCHIO
Tom Colicchio, Italien Restaurant Business Superstar, who is the star of Top Chef.  Tom’s career and life was molded by his time spent with his relatives in the kitchen and at the dinner table.  In fact, he has been working in restaurants since he was 14 years old. Colicchio’s great-grandfather came to United States in 1901 with just $27.  His ancestor would go back and forth between America and Europe at least three times until 1947 when he brought his family to America. Dr. Gates’ research team traced the Colicchio family back 6 generations just in Vallata, Italy, a place where Tom knew nothing about.  Dr. Gates said that some immigrants would make the passage back and forth a dozen times. Colicchio said that it was a sacrifice to leave your family and it was a sacrifice to return. This is perhaps what the current immigrant community experience today; going back and forth to the homeland, all the while sacrificing for the future.


MING TSAI
Ming Tsai, a son of Chinese immigrants who grew up in Dayton, Ohio. Ming’s show is called “Simply Ming.”  While growing up, Ming recalls that every Friday night was dinner night at Ming's grandparent’s home and the food was all homemade.  Ming's grandparents didn't talk about their life in China because of the Cultural Revolution which killed millions of Chinese. He said that more people were killed during the Cultural Revolution than the Jewish Holocust. I’ve never heard of the Cultural Revolution when you were killed for thinking differently.  When Ming's grandfather finally left China, he brought with him a book that held his genealogy. The book went back to 891 A.D. and it traced Ming’s ancestors back to Ming’s 36th grandfather. The research team eventually confirmed Ming’s grandfather’s book and traced Ming’s family tree back 90 generations which connected him to the Father of the Chinese language, Huang Di.  Huang lived around the 27th Century B.C. and was Ming's 116th great-grandfather.  I do believe that the Chinese were and are the best record keepers.


AARON SANCHEZ 
Aaron, the host of Heat Seekers, is a Mexican American who grew up in El Paso, Texas.  Aaron got his cooking skills from his mother who opened a Mexican restaurant in Manhattan, New York. Aaron's mom and grandfather were from Sonora, Mexico. Rafael Gabilando, his grandfather, was one of the wealthiest cattle ranchers in Sonora but when the 1910 Mexican Revolution started; Rafael abandoned his ranch for the Unite States. Amazingly, in 1914 Rafael got his land back and in 1931 Rafael bought a new ranch in Mexico. Other surprises for Aaron included discovering a 3rd great-grandfather who fled Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Gates researchers traced Aaron's ancestry to his 6th generation Spanish grandfather back to 1713. Gates also gave Aaron a letter that his team found that was written by one of Aaron’s ancestors. Finally, we get to see Aaron's DNA results which included 66.4% European, 24.6% Native American, 3.7% Sub-Saharan African and 1.6% North African. Dr. Gates told Aaron the 24.6% confirmed that he had at least one grandparent who was "full blooded" Native American. This was a prediction that Aaron correctly called. 


Two years ago, a relative gave me a copy of a letter that my paternal Great-Grandmother, Fannie Sherrod Powell wrote. I can’t help but smile when I think about the letter, especially when she writes about “the baby being frisky like a cat.” I laugh because she's writing about her baby boy, my great uncle Ernest and describes him as a cat seems funny and strange but that was the “mindset” back then. 


Dr. Gates asked one of the cooks if you could cook dinner for one person who would it be?  I would cook for my sister, Mercedes aka Mercy Artis who loved to cook and eat. If she was living, she would had watch this episode because she was always watching the cooking shows. I have never heard of any of the guests on this episode until it aired but I bet my sister could tell me a lot about them.  I once shocked Mercy when I made a spaghetti salad dish. She said "himmm this is good! How did you learn how to make this?" I told her that I got the receipe from a classmate and all it required was chopping lots of veggies and boiling water for the spaghetti. Mercy laugh when she said that I found a dish that I could cook. 


Besides Mercy, I would had loved to cook for my maternal grandmother, Classie Pate Fuller. Grandma Classie died when I was 4 years old so I didn't get to spend enough time with her. My brothers describe Grandma Classie as being 4 feet tall and probably 200 lbs because she loved to cook and eat just like Mercy. My mom said that Grandma Classie told her that "my mother (Grandma Classie's mom) was short and fat and I'm supposed to be short and fat." Well I would also make the spaghetti salad for Grandma Classie just to show her that if she had cook this way; she probably would had lived longer and we would had gotten to know each other.

Finding Your Roots! Episode #4 Social Activists

Episode 4 - Lives Shaped by the Revolutionary War and the Civil War



Photo from the Finding Your Roots Website

Ben Affleck, the accomplish actor and director, gets his social activism from his parents, especially is mom, in fact, Ben's mother was committed to working in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer in 1964. But Ben had another activist in his family tree, his 3rd great-grandfather: Almond Bruce French. Almond Bruce was a lawyer in Ohio who believed he could speak to the dead, in fact, he went around comforting widows after the civil war by using his skills to communicate with their departed loved ones.  Dr. Gates' staff was able to research Ben's paternal line back to 1604 and another amazing discovery was a surprised 10th cousin, Ben's longtime pal, Matt Damon. Dr. Gates surprised Ben by introducing him to another ancestor named Jesse Stanley who fought in the American Revolution by fighting for the Patriot side. This made the proud New England Patriot fan beam.

Khandi Alexander, dancer and acclaimed actress.

To escape the racism in Florida, Khandi parents moved to New York and sadly, her parents did not talk about life in Florida. One possible reason for their silence was that Khandi's maternal grandfather was murdered at the young age of 25, in fact, she had never seen a picture of her maternal grandfather Joshua Masters.  

I've never seen a picture of my paternal grandfather and I've always been told that my dad looked just like his father. Ironically, I look like my dad, so I can't help but wondered if I look like my grandfather, Sylvester Powell.

After his death, Khandi's grandmother left Florida to distance her children from the Masters side of the family. Khandi's family was silent like they were ashamed when it was the murders who should had been ashamed. Dr. Gates stated that her family focused on the future instead of the past and that can led a person or persons to have no clue about their family's success and failures. We all need to know our successes and failures so we can learn how not to repeat them. I always wondered about my relatives who left North Carolina and their families, especially, my maternal great-great-grandmother, Mary Vick who left her family including her toddler daughter. I wonder if Mary witnessed or was affected by a tragedy that caused her to leave and never return again?

Dr. Gates presented two pictures of Khandi's slave ancestors and he said that it was a miracle that they were able to find an actual photo of former slave ancestor.  This is not always true because I have pictures of two of my slave ancestors (Jack Sherrod and Easter Exum Vick) and there are other researchers who have pictures of their slave ancestors. Khandi said that because her ancestors were slaves she believes "that no matter what they do to me I can get up and keep going because if they did it; I can to."

Ben Jealous is the former President of the NAACP and a social activists since college.  

Peter G. Morgan was Ben Jealous' 3rd great-grandfather who was a former slave who Ben grew up revering because he fought for former slave rights. Peter G. is also the ancestor that Ben would had like to had met because Ben said that Peter was "born with a fire to be free." Peter G. Morgan was manumitted aka freed in 1857 at 45 years old. Peter purchased his owned freedom by using his trade; his was a shoemaker. We don't know how much his freedom cost but whatever a 45 year old slave with shoemaker skills cost; Peter worked and saved enough money to buy his freedom. That had to be a lot of shoes; even Imelda Marcos would had been jealous! Ironically in 1860, Peter owned 4 slaves; his wife and his 3 daughters but by 1864, Peter freed his family. Jealous became very emotional when reading the slave schedule; he probably was placing himself in his ancestors shoes and thinking that he would had done the same for his family. I recall the time when I first got emotional when I discover my slave ancestor. It was when I found John Pate and his family on the 1870 census, I said to myself, "I found you Kunta Kinte." I had been searching the wrong county so when I found the family I was overjoyed.

Ben's father is white and his mother is black and Ben's DNA results was 80.9% white. Gates asked Ben if he ever tried to pass for white. He said no.  Because Ben's mother was black his white side disconnected from his father, so Ben didn't know anything about his paternal ancestors. He soon discovered that he had 8 ancestors who served in the Revolutionary war. Dr, Gates stated that the Revolutionary war was a noble fight for freedom but not freedom for all. Many of these patriots owned slaves because these patriots did not see their slaves as equal.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 42: Charles Becton

This is another post for the 52 Ancestor Challenge which was put out by Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small. This is my first post dedicated to my Becton Ancestors.

Charles Becton 1823 - 10/4/1889

My paternal great-great-grandfather, Charles Becton was born around 1823.  I don't know a lot about Charles except for what I've found on paper. Sadly, noone alive recalls anyone talking about him and yet, Charles accomplished a lot as a former slave.  Like a lot of my of ancestors, I have more questions than answers regarding Charles.  First, I still do not know which white Becton owned Charles. Likewise, I don't know if Charles had any brothers, sisters or who his parents were.  I also don't know where he was born. When Charles died on October 4th, 1889, he had 57 acres of land. I can't help but wonder how this former slave gain his wealth.


In 1870, 51 year old Charles, a former slave, lived with his family in the small township of Nahunta in Wayne County, North Carolina. He was described as a "black farm laborer" who could not read or write but had personal property valuing at $200. The other members in Charles house was his 33 year old wife, Hannah; his sons: 18 year old Charles Jr., 16 year old Moses, 12 year old Willy, 9 year old Zanger; his daughters: 15 year old Rachel and 14 year old Pennie. Also residing in the home was a man named Laban Ruffin. Mr. Ruffin was described as a "black 60 year old dicher" who had $100 worth of real estate.

1870 Census for Charles Becton and Family

History has society thinking that former slaves such as Charles, Hannah and Mr. Ruffin were sharecroppers or beggers who lived off of peoples charity. Charles and his family were one of those exceptions to the rule.  As I review this census, plenty of questions come to mind.  For instance, Charles is 18 years older than Hannah. Had he been previously married? If so, what became of Charles' first wife? Was she sold away during slavery? Did they have children? If Hannah is Charles Jr's mother then she had him around 15 years old.  Indeed a 33 year old man and 15 year old girl having a baby together back in the 1850s was probably not strange.  Besides the age differences, I also wondered how Charles got $200.  It's 1870; 4 years after freedom and my Charles was described as "black" not mulatto so it might be safe to say that he wasn't half black or a child of his former slaveowner.  But where did the $200 come from? $200 in 1870 currently equals $3,631.60 today and $100 that Laban Ruffin owned would be $1,815.80.

And who is Laban Ruffin? Why was he living with the family? Was he related to Charles or Hannah? Since I don't know Hannah's maiden name, maybe Laban's her brother.  I checked the North Carolina death records for Laban but he didn't live to be 103 years old and that would had been his age in 1913.  (It was 1913 when North Carolina began recording birth and death records.)  If Laban fathered any children, I did not find any reference to his name in the North Carolina death certificates.

On the 1880 census, Charles is 57 years old and not 61 while Hannah is 48, not 43.  Leave it to the census takers and their excellent math skills.  Charles and Hannah's adult children, Willie, Rachel and Zanger are still living at home and Rachel's children: Mary, Bob and Mollie are also staying in the home.

1880 Census for Charles Becton and Family

This census provides each person's birth year and if that is true, then Charles is only 9 years older than Hannah.  Laban was still living with the family and this to me, means he is someone special to the family. But I don't know how special.  I may never know.

I reviewed Charles and Hannah's' children death certificates. His son Zanger's death certificate stated that Charles and Hannah were both born in Greene County, North Carolina and Hannah's maiden name was listed as Ruffin. On William's death certificate, Charles and Hannah Ruffin were listed as being born in Wayne County, North Carolina. Charles Jr. died in 1880 before death certificates were recorded.  Rachel's death certificate state that her parents were born in Wayne county and her mother's maiden name was Ruffin. Unfortunately, I have not found Pennie and Moses death certificates. Something else interesting was that Zanger was buried at the Becton Cemetery in Wayne County. I would like to know where this cemetery is located because perhaps, Charles and Hannah are also buried there.

Charles Becton died in 1889. He left all his belongings to his family including 57 acres of land and $500 worth of personal property. According to the Inflation Calculator, $500 in 1889 would equal to $12,770.42 today; that's not "chump change," well done Charles! Amongst the papers in Charles estate was a document where the probate court listed his wife and his children: Moses, Rachel, Willie, Peny and Zanger as reciepients of his estate. But the Court also listed James, John and Eddie Becton as reciepients. I do not know who these men are. Could they be his brothers or his nephews? These men must be special for Charles to include them in his Will.

See Will at  NC. Wayne County Courthouse. Will Book 1. pp. 484-485.

On the 1900 census, Hannah is living with her son William and his family in Wayne County. Also living with William is his nephew, Charlie Becton who is 13 years old. I believe this is Charles Jr.'s son.  In fact, by 1910 Hannah is living with the same Charlie and his family, unfortunately, Hannah and Charlie III all seem to disappear after 1910.

1900 Census for William Becton and Family



If anyone who reads this post can answer any of my questions, please feel free to contact me. Thanks for stopping by.


Sources:
1870 Census: Nahunta, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1165; Page: 159A. 
http://www.westegg.com/inflation/infl.cgi.
1880 Census: Nahunta, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: 986; Page: 655B; Enumeration District: 301.
1900 Census: Nahunta, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: 1223; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0107.