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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In Search of John Pate

Welcome to my Inaugural Blog!

In Amy Johnson Crow’s recent blog, she challenged other researchers to write or blog about an ancestor each week for 52 weeks. The Challenge is  called 52 Ancestors. I’ll accept that challenge but it might turn out to be an ancestor per month or bi-weekly but I’ll do my best because I certainly have 52 ancestors who have a story tell.

 First up for me is John Pate, my great-grandfather.

My journey started with researching John Pate, my maternal great-grandfather. My mom’s first cousin, Clara Pate McClain, told her that John Pate was from India, not Africa. I told mom, “you guys are confused,” but the more they talked about John who died before either one was born, the more I became fascinated. So that’s how my quest began, at the foot of my elders trying to make sense out of the stories that have been passed down to me. You see my mom, Mary Verneace Fuller Artis Becton, raised me in the old fashion way, “children are seen and not heard and sometimes not seen.” So I listened while she and her family and friends talked about the old days.
According to the 1870 census, John Pate was born in 1843 in North Carolina. Hmmm, don’t sound like India too me. He was 27 years old living in the Nahunta section of Wayne County, North Carolina with his first wife Vinnie/Viny Pate who was 25 years old, their 5 year old son Daniel, 2 year old Rufus and their 8 month old baby named John.

 1870 Census Place: Nahunta, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1165; Page: 169B; Image: 342; Family History Library Film: 552664.

Ten years later, John and his family are living in the Bull Head section of Green County, North Carolina. John is listed as 40 years old not 37 and his occupation is a farmer.  Viney is 39 years old, Daniel is 15, Rufus is 13, John is 10, Robert is 5, Wyatt is 3, and Lou (probably Liza) is 8 months old.  There is another person listed with the family, Caldoia who is 8 years old but there is no description of her relationship with the family. I've never heard of Caldoia, perhaps she was a relative or neighbor's child who was visiting the family.

1880 Census Place: Bull Head, Greene, North Carolina; Roll: 965; Family History Film: 1254965; Pages: 2D; Enumeration District: 062; Image: 0258.

By 1895, Viney is deceased and on April 2, 1895 John Pate marries Sarah Burt (perhaps Best) in Wayne County, North Carolina.  On their marriage license, John is listed as a 51 year old colored man (not Indian) who was the son of Dave Smith and Hannah Best. His new wife, Sarah is listed as a 26 year old colored female whose father was named Mike Wood. Her mother’s name is not provided.

On the 1900 census, 54 year old John and 29 year old Sarah are living in the Nahunta section of Wayne County, NC. The children listed are 15 year old Smithy, 13 year old Hannah, 10 year old Oscar, 3 year old John (This John or Johnnie was cousin Clara’s father.) and 10 month old Moses. Everyone in the house is listed as being born in North Carolina, not India.  John and Sarah stated that they were married for 5 years and Sarah was the mother of 3 children with 2 living.  This is confusing because Sarah is the mother of the three youngest children. On this particular census everyone provides their birth month and year. John was born in 1846 and Sarah born in 1870. The son listed as Oscar on this census has always been called him Roscoe. The two older girls were Viney’s daughters. This is the last census that John and Sarah appear on because they are both dead by 1903 and 1909 respectively. John and Sarah had one more child who was born in 1901, Classie Virginia Pate; she was my grandmother.

1900 Census Place: Nahunta, Wayne, North Carolina; Roll: 1223; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0107; FHL microfilm: 1241223.

Unfortunately, North Carolina did not record birth and deaths until 1913 and therefore, vital information is lost. But I like this census for many reasons: first, it provides the birth years; second, it stated that John had a middle name that began with the letter “P”; next, the census tells you how many children a female has had and how many of those children are alive. You also find out how many times the adults have been married.

Besides family history, we don’t have much information on John P. Pate. He wasn’t a soldier, he didn’t own land and unfortunately, he lived in Greene County, NC whose courthouse burned down in the late 1800s; therefore, I could not find a cohabitation record for John and Vinnie.  Family history said that John’s family name was Bhess and that he came from a village in India. Well his mother’s name is listed on his marriage license to Sarah as “Hannah Best,” so that’s where the “Bhess” name came from.  Oral history also said that John was a house slave, perhaps he was but what we do know is that John’s sons by Viney: John (the first son named John), Robert and Wyatt left NC before 1901 and never returned. No one knows what became of them, although family history said that they moved out West and returned for their father’s funeral in 1903.

My quest is to find out John P. Pate’s ethnicity. Was he half Native American, full Native American or half white? I also want to know where did his folks come from. I know that John is buried in the Union Grove cemetery located in Eureka, North Carolina. I also want to know what became of his sons, John, Robert and Wyatt? Did they have children?

What’s my plan for this blog? To share stories that I find and ancestors that I meet. I also plan on using this blog as a sounding board for my research analysis.

Happy Hunting!

"United States Census, 1870," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 Jan 2014), John Pate, North Carolina, United States; citing p. , family 210, NARA microfilm publication M593, FHL microfilm 000552664.

"United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 Jan 2014), John Pate, Bull Head, Greene, North Carolina, United States; citing sheet 2D, family 0, NARA microfilm publication T9-0965

"United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 21 Jan 2014), John Pate in household of John P Pate, Nahunta Township (part of) Eureka town, Wayne, North Carolina, United States; citing sheet , family 38, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1241223. 


  1. Minnie, you did a great job documenting your research and telling John's story. I look forward to following you on your journey. Great job on your first post. Welcome to the blogging world!

    1. Thank you Bernita for all your assistance in helping me get this online. I should had acknowledge you in my post on OBA. Sorry about that.

  2. Great first post! I look forward to learning more about your family in future posts.

  3. WELCOME AND WOW!! I love all the documentation that you used to tell the story. I admire your organization and attention to detail that is so necessary in our research. Looking forward to reading more from your new blog!

  4. Wow! What a great start! Welcome to the world of blogging. I can't wait to read more!

    Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey

  5. I have a couple of Vinney/Vinie/Viney I think they are a derivitive of Virginia....Glad you joined US! Your Ancestors are gonna have you writing for days now. They are Glad you Listened to Them. Look forward to hearing more on your FAMILY! be Proud you gave them a HOME now. Now it's all #AncestorWork

  6. Thank you True. Your a confidence builder. Lol.

  7. Oh great story can't wait to read more. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Great post! I look forward to reading more about your family? Have you looked into DNA testing to see if you carry an Native American DNA?

    2. Thanks Andrea. Yes, mom and I both test and have Asian and Native American DNA. But both are small.