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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 “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! 

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, 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, 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, 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.

1870 Census: Nahunta, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1165; Page: 159A.
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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Finding Your Roots! Episode #3 Gifted Storytellers Connecting With the Past

Finding Your Roots!

Episode 3

Someone once said that a storyteller tries to capture and share their most important stories.

Photo from Finding Your Roots website

Anderson Cooper
CNN Investigative Journalist

Anderson Cooper comes from the famous wealthy Vanderbilt family and I had a hard time believing that he did not know anything about his family history. But it wasn't the Vanderbilt side (the side that Anderson said came with baggage) that he was curious about; it was the Cooper side.  The Coopers were his paternal side who were from Mississippi and were poor. These ancestors fought for the confederacy and a few of them owned slaves. In fact, one of Anderson's relative was beaten to death with a garden hoe by his slave.  Unfortunately, all we were told on this segment was that the slave was hanged without a trial.

Professor Gates asked Cooper if he could meet an ancestor who would it be? Anderson wanted to meet his Dad again and find out what he thought of him now.  In the beginning of my research, I would ask myself that very same question and from time to time the answer would change.  Lately, I have one relative that I would like to meet; my maternal great-grandfather, John P. Pate. John P. Pate has always been an enigma because he died when my grandmother was around 3 years old and we have lots of "tales" about him but I have yet to confirm some of these "tales."

Anna Deavere Smith
Playwright, Actress

This segment concentrated on the Maryland native's ancestor Basil Biggs who Anna did not know about.  Biggs was a free Black man who was prosperous before the Civil War and became the wealthiest Black man in Gettysburg, PA.  His wealth came from his veterinarian business and probably his contract work with disinterring the bodies after the Gettysburg battle. Biggs received a contract to disinter the dead bodies from their temporary graves and rebury them. This took Biggs and his crew which was less than 10 men about 5-8 months to complete.  In addition, Biggs home was also a stop on the Underground Railroad.  How Anna did not know about this great man; I don't know.  But I loved it when Smith was told she came from a long line of free Blacks. Ann's response was "Boy, I have no excuse not to make something of myself!  Even if Anna did not descended from a long line of free Blacks, with Basil Biggs as an ancestor, she certainly had no excuse not to be successful.

Sadly a lot of African Americans do not know anything about their ancestor and how their ancestors helped build this country.  If I found a successful ancestor in my tree, I would certainly spread the word among his or her descendants and later contact the local historical society where my ancestor lived because every community needs to know about its "unsung" heros and sheros.

Ken Burns
Documentary Filmmaker

Ken Burns and Anderson Cooper both lost family members at an early age. Ken lost his mom and Anderson lost his father and only brother.  Burns said that someone once told him that he missed his mom and probably want her back because in his work, he wakes up the dead.  Burns agreed that he wanted to do well; "really well" to make his mom proud. I agree that we all want to do well to make our ancestors proud so if they ever wake up they would have to say "well done."

Burns research led him to ancestors on both sides of the American Revolution and a slave owning ancestor.  Through DNA, Burns discovered that he was related to Scottish poet Robert Burns and his hero Abraham Lincoln. It certainly would put me on "Cloud 9" if I was related to my American Idol or favorite entertainer, Prince.

To my disappointment, Mr. Burns was more ashamed of having a Loyalist ancestor who was loyal to England and the King instead of an ancestor who owned slaves.  But in fairness, at least he was honest.  There are a few things that would make me ashamed of my ancestors but I would try to rationalize what my ancestor was facing for him or her to make a choice that perhaps was a necessity.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Finding Your Roots - Ancestry of Champions

In the second episode of the Finding Your Roots series, we get to explore the Ancestry of Sports Champions: Billie Jean King, Rebecca Lobo and Derek Jeter.

Billie Jean King is a legend in the Tennis world. She won 39 Grand Slam Titles including 20 Wimbledon Championship titles (singles, mixed and doubles) and became the first tennis player to be named by Sports Illustrated as Sportsman of the Year. For someone so accomplish, Ms. King did not know much about her family history, specifically, her paternal grandmother.  She knew her grandmother was adopted but that was it and Ms. King also thought she had Seminole Indian heritage.

Through Dr. Gates research, we find the family bible which Ms. King didn't know existed.  The clues in the bible led to her adopted grandmother's birth record which told us that Ms. King grandmother was born in a girls home for unmarried young ladies.  Another surprise was that Ms. King is 100% European and not a drop of Native American blood.  Dr. Gates also found a picture of King's great-grandmother, the mother of her adopted grandmother.

Like Ms. King, there's a large number of African Americans who believe they have Native American ancestors. Sadly, DNA has proven that theory wrong.  For me, my Ancestry DNA results stated that I have 2% Asian ancestry and 1% Melanesia ancestry. In fact, my Mom has the same results. According to 23andme, Mom and I both have 1.4% Asian and Native American ancestry and less than 1% Oceanian ancestry. These results made my Mom "giddy" that she has Native American ancestry but not as much as she had hoped.

Another athletic champion on this episode was Rebecca Lobo.  Ms. Lobo is currently a basketball analyst who has an Olympic gold medal and has won a WNBA championship. When I first heard of Rebecca it was many years ago when she was featured on another series about cancer.  At the time, Lobo's mother was battling breast cancer, sadly her mom lost the fight with this disease and I was hoping that Rebecca's segment was going to talk about her medical history but that wasn't the case.

Dr. Gates provided Rebecca with a copy of her great-grandmother's handwritting.  Rebecca was amazed at seeing her ancestor's handwritting.  I know how that feels. A relative gave me a copy of my paternal great-grandmother, Fannie Sherrod Powell's letter to her mother.  I cherish that letter.

The third athlete featured in this series was baseball legend Derek Jeter.  Derek's mother is Irish American and his father is African American. The researchers trace Derek's father's roots to a former slave name Green W. Jeter who lived in Alabama. On the 1870 census, Green W. Jeter had $250 in personal property. Dr. Gates stated that Green Jeter's wealth suggested that Green's father could had been white and perhaps Green's former owner.  Because Derek is a male and the male DNA doesn't change, Derek's DNA would be the exact DNA as Green Jeter and Green Jeter's father whomever that might had been. Well, Dr. Gates was able to get DNA from a descendant of Green Jeter's owner, James W. Jeter. The DNA results confirm Derek and the descendant shared the same DNA, thus Green Jeter's father was James W. Jeter.

I unfortunately have yet to have a male relative to confirm specific ancestor origin such as my Mom's paternal grandfather who was supposed to be Native American.  Meanwhile, on the 1870 Wayne County, North Carolina census, my great-great grandfather, Charles Becton, was listed as having $200 worth of personal property but no one has ever said that Charles was a a child of his slave owner. I just thought that grandpa Charles got his money through hard work but perhaps some way or somehow he got his money through an inheritance.

As Billie Jean King stated on the show, "Champions adjust!" Well the ancestors featured in this episode are examples of individuals who through struggle were able to adjust. Maybe that's why their descendants are all Champions.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Each Tuesday night beginning on September 23, 2014, PBS will air the series, “Finding Your Roots” hosted by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  This documentary traces entertainers from “all walks of life.” The first episode highlighted three entertainers researching their fathers:

Courtney B. Vance
Gloria Ruben
Stephen King

No, this is not the celebrity version of one of Maury Povich's shows titled "Who's My Daddy" or "Help Me Find My Daddy". Instead, this episode show how these 3 celebrities are just like your everyday person who is researching their family tree, their paternal family tree. For instance, Courtney B. Vance’s father was adopted after Courtney’s 17 year old grandmother gave him up. While Gloria Ruben’s father died when she was young and Stephen King’s father deserted his family when Stephen was very young. In fact, Stephen had never seen a picture of his father until Dr. Gates found a copy; Stephen and his father could had been twins.  Through my research, I have met a lot of “DNA” cousins who are looking for their biological family and some cousins are simply looking for their fathers. 

In Gloria’s segment, we learn that when she was born her father was 73 years old. That was shocker for me!  But my mom reminded me about her grandfather, John Pate who was almost 60 years old when my grandmother Classie, his last child, was born. In fact, in those days it wasn’t unusual for older men to start a second family.  

Dr. Gates' research was able to trace Gloria’s maternal ancestor who was born in Africa. He pointed out that this find was something that not too many researchers are able to achieve. This is possibly true in 95% of cases but not all!  Early this year, I went to one of my paternal grandfather niece’s birthday party and her son James ask me to see what I could find on his grandfather, Walter Williams. I researched Walter’s family and gave James my findings.  I wrote a post about Walter which I used as one of my 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. My post was seen by another researcher whose ancestor own slaves in the same area where James’ great-grandfather was a slave.  This researcher sent me a few documents, including a document which was a list of slaves that the Williams Family brought from Barbados to Greene County, North Carolina from 1812-1834. This slave list was divided into seven sets of what appear to me to be families. None of the slaves were born in America all but two were born in Barbados. The other two were born in Africa. Although this research was for my cousin and it doesn’t appear that I have any direct ancestors with the “Williams” surname; I’m keeping this list for two reasons.  First, it’s a great find for anyone researching in Greene County because the courthouse was burned in 1876; therefore a lot of the records were destroyed. Secondly, a number of my relatives were born or raised in Greene County, so this list may come in handy one day and I can say my ancestor was born in Barbados or Africa. Needless to say, in this genealogy journey, you never know where you will find your Daddy or your ancestors.

This document was provided by Henry A. Williams descendant, Melanie Williams.

Monday, September 22, 2014

And Her Name Is...Anica/Anna Kaye Barnes - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks:Week #38

This post is in response to Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  If you want to know more about this challenge check out her blog at NO STORY TOO SMALL. This week I’m writing about my great-great-great grandmother, Anica/Anarchy/Anna Kaye Barnes who I will call Anna (1822? - 1914).

Over 25 years ago at a Barnes Family Picnic, one of my cousins gave a brief family history about our ancestor. It was the history that her grandmother, Emma Barnes Dickerson, told her before Emma died.  My cousin said that Anna Barnes was the daughter of a Black Creek Indian and a Black man and that Anna was the mother of three children.  Anna's husband or mate was Bob Barnes who was sold off to Durham NC and later sold further down South. 

This post is dedicated to Anna; I don't know what her real name was because I've seen so many different spellings of her name. I also don't know how she became a landowner?  By 1880 Anna owned her own home and when she died she left her land to her 3 children.  Will I ever find out how she got her land? I don't know.

According to the 1870 census in the Holden township of Wayne County, North Carolina, 37 year old Anica Barnes and her children: 18 year old Elijah and Sallie who was 16 years old were living in John Jinkins' house. Besides Anna's family, there was a black man named John Powell living with the Jinkins family. Mr. Jinkins was a carpenter who had $450 of real estate and $500 personal property but why did he have black people living in his household, I don't know why Jinkins who was 39 years old would allow two Black men living in the same home as with his wife and two young daughters, perhaps they were living in separate quarters away from the main home. Maybe one day, I will find the connection between Mr. Jinkins and Anna.

1870 Census for Anna Barnes' Family

Nearby, living in the same county was Anna's daughter Trecinda. Trecinda and her children, Jane and Edwin were living with John and Jane Sauls. Trecinda and John’s wife Jane were described as housekeepers which seems strange that Trecinda was not working, but this may be because of one year old Edwin.  I also don’t understand why Trecinda wasn’t living with her mother.

1870 Census for Trecinda Barnes's Family

In 1880, Aniky (yep, that's how it was spelled.) is 50 years old and she's living in her own home with her two sons, 26 year old Elijah and Eddie who was 10 years old. Elijah’s occupation was listed as a farm laborer and Eddie was attending school, not a farm hand like his brother. Eddie was perhaps Trecinda's son Edwin who may have been visiting his grandmother when the census taker was in town. Meanwhile, Anna has her own home; I wonder how she purchase this home.

1880 Census for Anna Barnes and her sons.

It’s the year 1900 and Anna was still living in the Nahunta area of Wayne County but now, by herself.  She was a 69 year old widow and on this census Anna answered the question about her marriage by saying that she was 25 years of age when she married.  Anna also said that she was the mother of 3 not 4 children which leads me to believe that Eddie was her grandson Edwin. Her occupation was listed as a day laborer. She was described as a literate day laborer and she owned her own home which was not on a farm but in the city.

1900 Census for Anna Barnes

Also in 1900, Anna’s son Elijah lived in Rocky Mount (Nash County) with his family.  He’s 44 years old, instead of 48. He stated that his birth month was June 1856 and that he had been married for 14 years.  He’s a literate porter who worked on the train.  Elijah’s wife was name Janie who was born in 1875 and 25 years old and was the mother of 6 children: 13 year old Nettie, 7 year old Sarah, 6 year old Grandville, 4 year old Edgar, 2 year old Beatrice and 5 month old Katie. Janie needed a break but that’s just my two cents. Elijah had 2 borders who may had been co-workers: Charlie Bowser, a 42 years old described as a Porter and Isaac Richardson who was 35 years old and a machinist.

1900 Census Elijah Barnes and Family

Apparently Elijah stayed with his mom until he got married in 1886. I wonder where did he marry in Wayne or Nash County?  Elijah Barnes was 30 years old when he married his 12 year old child bride, Janie.  He’s not home all the time because of his job, a Porter on the train. I wonder if his borders were his wife’s relatives.  Finally, why did he move so far from his mom. Rocky Mount is 45 minutes via car and longer via mule and buggy. Elijah also had a daughter named Nettie.  This must be a special name in our family that perhaps was passed down from generation to generation.

By 1910, Anna was living beside her daughter Sallie. Both women were widows living in Fremont.

1910 Census for Anna and Sallie Barnes

On March 2, 1914, Anna Barnes died in Fremont, NC. Her death certificate stated that she was 92 years old but if you review the census from 1870 - 1910 her age varied. Her daughter Trecy (Trecinda) Barnes was the informer for the death certificate. Trecy stated that Anna was born in Wilson County but she lived most of her life in Fremont which is in Wayne County.  Perhaps Anna wanted to get away from her former life in Wilson. 

Besides discovering where Anna was born, I discovered her parents names: Robert and Charity Stancil. Charity, another name that runs in our Barnes family, was the Black Creek Indian. I still have not found Anna's connection to Native Americans besides oral history. I seriously would like to find out how did Anna acquire her land because  maybe the two are tied. Was it through her Black Creek heritage because the 5 civilized tribes: Creeks, Cherokees, Chickasaw, Seminoles, Choctaws provided reparations to some of their slaves. 

Anna Barnes Death Certificate

In Anna's Will dated 1906, she left her land to Sallie, Elijah and Treacy. She also left personal property such as a clothes basket, straw bonnet and an iron to her granddaughter Jane Woodward and a trunk to her granddaughter Emma Barnes. The same Emma Barnes who I mentioned earlier in this post. Emma was 16 when Anna died.

Anna's Will  

Trecinda Barnes 5/1849 - 10/15/1929 

According to her death certificate, Trecinda's father was Peter Barnes not Bob Barnes. Interesting enough Trecinda was the mother of 6 children but in her Will dated 10/22/1928, she left all her belongs to her daughter Jane Barnes Woodard. 

Trecinda Barnes Death Certificate

Trecinda Barnes' Will

Elijah Barnes (1854-?) married Janie and possibly a second wife named Julia.

It's not clear if Elijah was twice married because of the clarity of handwriting, but after 1910, I could not find a Elijah on the census. If he died before 1913, then there is no death certificate. By 1920, Elijah's widow and the youngest children are living in Baltimore, MD. He was the father of the following children:

1900 Census for Elijah Barnes and Family

Sallie Barnes (1860 - 7/28/1930) married Isiah Barnes and according to the 1900 census she gave birth to 15 children including the following:

On Sallie's death certificate, her father's name is Peter Barnes. 

Sallie Barnes Death Certificate

My analysis: 

I have lots of questions; such as how did Aunt Emma know that Bob went to Durham and then "down South"?  How did the family keep in touch with him during slavery times? Perhaps, one day Bob's mystery will be solved and then, I will dedicate a post to him. 

Wilson county was formed in 1855 and it was formed from Edgecombe, Johnston, Nash and Wayne Counties. If Anna was born around 1822; she wasn't born in Wilson but perhaps she was born in the area that was originally Edgecombe or Nash county. I say that because her daughter Trecinda settled in Wilson and her son Elijah moved to Rocky Mount which is located in both Nash and Edgecombe counties.  

I believe that Anna's husband name was Peter and not Bob and if I could find Elijah's death certificate it might confirm my assumption since two of the 3 children lists the father's name as Peter.  I don't know what Anna's real name was but I believe it was Anica.  I also wonder if Anna was an only child and if her death certificate was correct. Finally who was Anna's slaveowner...the Barnes or the Stancils?


1870 Census Place: Holden, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1165; Page: 131A; Image: 265; Family History Library Film: 552664.

1870 Census Place: Nahunta, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1165; Page: 171B; Image: 346; Family History Library Film: 552664.

1880 Census Place: Fremont, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: 986; Family History
Film: 1254986; Page: 650D; Enumeration District: 301; Image: 0886.

1900 Census Place: Fremont, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: 1223; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 0108; FHL microfilm: 1241223.

1900 Census Place: Rocky Mount, Nash, North Carolina; Roll: 1208; Page: 26A; Enumeration District: 0064; FHL microfilm: 1241208.

1910 Census Place: Nahunta, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: T624_1137; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0113; FHL microfilm: 1375150.

North Carolina, Death Certificates, 1909-1975 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.

North Carolina State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics. North Carolina Death Certificates. Microfilm S.123. Rolls 19-242, 280, 313-682, 1040-1297. North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.