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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

52 Ancestors: Week 17: Emma Fuller Artis

Emma Fuller Artis and her son, Romie Lee Artis.
This week’s post is about one of my maternal great aunts, Emma Fuller Artis.

I never met Aunt Emma but heard a lot about her through my mother. Emma was my maternal grandfather, Leslie Fuller's sister.  She was born in 1906 in Fremont, North Carolina to Arthur and Hattie Vick Fuller. Arthur was not Emma’s biological father but he raised her and she took the Fuller surname.

Hattie died when Emma was 10 years old. I'm not sure if Emma remained with her step-father and brothers but in 1920 she was living with her Great Aunt Fannie Vick Brooks in Washington, D.C.

1920 Census for Fannie Vick Brooks and Emma Fuller

On December 12, 1922, Emma married Romeo Artis.  She was 16 years old. She gave birth to her only child, Romie Lee on April 26, 1924.  In 1930 Emma and her husband were living in Belleville, New Jersey.

1930 New Jersey Census

Sometime after 1930, Romeo died. My mom said that his death was work related. I could not find a copy of his death certificate but I do know that he worked at the Edison Plant.

By 1940, Emma and 16 year old Romie Lee were still living in Belleville; however, by 1942, Romie Lee enlisted in the Navy but not in New Jersey; he enlisted in Fremont, North Carolina. A Maggie Swinson who was Romie's father first cousin was listed on his registration card as "a person who will always know" his address. 

Draft Registration Card for Romie Artis

Unfortunately for Emma and Romie Lee, they both died of cancer and they both died young. Emma died after 1956 and she was buried in New Jersey. Romie Lee died at the age of 46 of cancer in New Jersey.

One of the unfortunate stories that we do know about Emma was that her husband was abusive. It’s not that her family didn’t come to her rescue but Emma did not want anyone meddling in their affairs. Perhaps, this was a symbol of that time when most women didn't divorce or separate from their husbands even abusive ones.  


1920 Census, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: T625_211; Page: 15A; Enumeration District: 199; Image: 292.
1930 Census, Belleville, Essex, New Jersey; Roll: 1327; Page: 22A; Enumeration District: 0324; Image: 1069.0; FHL microfilm: 2341062.

The National Archives Southeast Region; Atlanta, GA; Records of the Selective Service System, 1926-1975; Record Group: RG 147; Class: RG147, North Carolina World War II Draft Registration Cards; Box Number: 10.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

DNA Don’t Lie; So They Say!

DNA match results from 23andme

Last week, I log onto 23andme and I notice a new batch of relatives. So of course, I contacted some of my new cousins. Mind you, I only contact those relatives who I share at least .20% DNA.  I limit my contacts to .20% because I feel that I have a greater chance in finding our common ancestor.  Not with this match! This match, a female, caught my attention because we shared 1.23% over 5 segments. She even matched my mom with 1.65% and 6 segments.  After we agree to share genomes, I discovered that we share 92cm and my mom shared 121cms.  23andme stated that we should be 2nd – 3rd cousins.  Our hometowns are 12 miles apart; she’s from Goldsboro, NC and I’m from Fremont, NC.  Because of identity theft, I will call my new DNA cousin “Ms. J.”
I asked Ms. J. about her family. I ask for her parents and grandparents names and where they were from.  Ms. J’s parents and grandparents grew up in Snow Hill, NC in Greene County.  My first reaction was perhaps she was related to me via the Taylors, my parental great-grandparents. But since my mom is also related to Ms. J., I said she can’t be a Taylor match. So I concentrated on my mom’s relatives: Bests, Pates and Greens.

I found Ms. J.’s family tree on but there were no surname matches. This marked the beginning of my frustration and confusion, because I notice a few of her relatives were buried at the Taylor Family cemetery in Greene County.  I have a lot of family buried at this cemetery, in fact, I was told that the cemetery started out as my great-great-grandparents family graveyard. 

The only Taylor that Ms. J. has on her tree is a Mary Taylor who would had been one of my great-great-grandparent’s sister.  Later, Ms. J. told me that her great-grandmother lived by herself with her children on the 1910 census. Everyone shared their mother’s surname.  So Ms. J. came to the conclusion that her ancestor didn’t have a husband and noone can tell her who the father was.  I felt that this mystery ancestor may be our common ancestor such as a brother to one of my ancestors. 
I checked some of the children’s death certificates and there is a father and his name is Robert Sheppard.  Well, for me, I needed another document to confirm that Robert was her ancestor’s father because in the past, I’ve found death certificates with incorrect information.

Something else that frustrates me is that my Momma and Daddy were not related!  As my precious old school “Steel African Violet Magnolia” mother likes to say “that’s nasty” or “bad blood.” “Cousins Don’t Marry Cousins.” Ms. J and I are unsure of our connection. 

I posted a query about this on a facebook genealogy page and I got a response that makes me reconsider my analysis.  The response provided two theories. First, just because I share 1.23% and 92cm doesn’t mean that Ms. J is a close match because some 2nd and 3rd cousins share “more cms” and “more segments.” Okay, I didn’t know this.  Her second theory was that we were possibly endogamous people.  I never heard of the term before and was told that it meant that myself and Ms. J. ancestors “inter-marry amongst themselves.” So those matches that I thought would be closely related to on a DNA level may well be DISTANT relatives after all.

Another factor in this matter is our home state, NC.  NC did not start recording birth and date certificates until 1913.  Also, Greene County, NC courthouse burned down in 1876. So we can’t find our mystery ancestor through the usual paper trail if he or she died before 1913, which may be the case. Yet, we both can trace our ancestors back several generations.  I have a few questions. First, this match has taught me to NOT get excited over a “high match.”  Second, if our ancestors were the product of inter-marriage, would we share a high number of “cms?” If anyone reads this post and know the answer would you please contact me? Also, what are some of the avenues that I should explore when dealing with “burned courthouses?” 

They say that “DNA Don’t Lie” but perhaps it gets its cousin prediction wrong with a little help from 23andme.


Monday, April 7, 2014

52 Ancestors #14: She Wanted A Birthday Party!

Mercedes Avatna Artis (April 12, 1948 – August 9, 2013)

Last year around this time, my sister and I was talking and she said that she had wanted to give herself a birthday party because we (the family) didn’t give her a party on her 60th birthday.  Mercy was determined to have that party; she had it all planned but during this time our ex-sister-in-law was in the hospital on life support.  Mercy didn’t feel that it was right for us to be celebrating while our nephew was contemplating life and death decisions about his mother.  She said, “I just can’t do that to him.”
Well the party didn't happen and as fate would have it, we lost Mercy also. So, for her love ones here, we can’t give my sister a party but I feel in my heart that she gets to have a party everyday with her love ones that she’s reunited with in heaven.
Happy Birthday Mercy!
My sister was the second born of my mother and her first husband, Sylvester Artis’ children. Sylvester's parents were Laurina and Absolum Artis.  
She got her name from her god-mother, Mercedes Boggs, who was my mom’s best friend in college.  They both pronounced their name “Mer-cee-deez” not “Mur-say-deez”. I always got a kick out of folks saying “Oh like the car.” and Mercy would sometimes hesitate to correct them but then say “Yeah, like the car.” I always look at her and give her the eye to correct them. But she never did.
After our eldest sister LaVonchia died, Mercy became the oldest child in the family. I came along a few years after LaVonchia’s death. When would we go out together, everyone we meet thought she was my mother and Mercy would ask “Do I look that old?” “No, that’s my little sister.” That was always funny to me but she would roll her eyes.

And just like most siblings, we had our disagreements. Mercy and I were “yin and yang” and we would argue about a lot of "things."  For instance, we both loved men's college basketball, especially the ACC but I only like Duke and N.C. State, while Mercy loved all the teams in the ACC including female college basketball. We also argue about “the Bectons” and “the Artises.”  I miss those arguments because I always won! 

Mercy grew up in a small segregated town in Eastern North Carolina.
That's her in the third row with her hand on her face in high school around 1965.

After graduating from high school, Mercy moved to Washington, DC and later she had her son.

Mercy and our family through the years.

She had a number of health problems but she always bounced back until last year when she passed away from complications from by-pass surgery.  I miss her, the family misses her and our beloved mother misses her very much, especially her phone calls. Mercy would call Mom everyday at 5pm when she got home to say hi and check on Mom but also to let Mom know that she was safely home. Mom would tell Mercy that she didn’t have to call her everyday because Mom knew she was tired when she got home. But Mercy wanted to say hi and let Mom know that she was home. 
Well, Mercy can't call Mom anymore to say hi and let Mom know that she’s home or talk about the day she had at work but now, Mom knows that Mercy’s finally home.

This post was written for Amy Johnson Crow's blogger challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.