Monday, September 22, 2014

I'm Back!!

I'm back in more ways than one. Earlier I "migrated" to another blog site. It was productive, encouraging me to blog on a regular basis. I have decided to return to my original blog, this blog because I have so much history here, literally. So here's to being "found" again.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


I've been blogging off and on here for several years. I wasn't even aware that today is the anniversary of my first blog. There are times I want to stop. Writing has always been very personal for me. It isn't about making money. It's about sharing my experiences and feelings and knowledge and possibly helping others who happen to read my stuff. So I will probably keep writing sporadically because sometimes I feel like it and sometimes I don't.

After many years, I have migrated my blog to another location. If you are interested in keeping tabs on my research, you can find me at Say My Name.

I have a lot of goals for this year. I'm updating my family history which I hope to publish in one form or another. My research will take me to Mississippi again, D.C. again, possibly to Fort Wayne and Virginia. If I am able, I may even go to Tennessee. I'm been blessed with time and lots of helpful relatives. They helped me last year. I hope it continues.

Last year was very fruitful but it was also crowded with so many events, I didn't have time to reflect. I hope to be able to do that this year but some times the doing gets in the way of the reflecting. God willing, it should be another productive year. Happy New Year and happy sleuthing!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Featherstons

From the evidence, Charles and Gene Featherston are my great-great-great-great grandparents on my mother’s paternal line. I know Charles lived because I know he died. I can’t prove when he was born or who his father was. I have suspicions but suspicions are only that. But I do know he died between 1788 and 1790 because I found him on the tax list of 1788 and his will was proved in 1790 in Brunswick County, Virginia. [1]  It has been frustrating when searching for him online. There are so many Charles Featherstons. Many people have linked him to a family in Henrico and Amelia Counties, Virginia. However, I think they are in error.

In 1765 he had been married to Gene Wright for five to ten years  and had fathered at least five children, maybe more, maybe with more than one wife.(1)[2]  According to Virginia courts, Charles and Gene’s kinsman Reuben Wright gave or was commandeered to give property as aid for the Revolutionary War.[3] This is more evidence that he was living in Brunswick County after 1776.
I have not been able to trace Charles back any farther. According to Goodspeed, Charles was born in England. However, evidence for when and where Charles was born eludes me. I am still searching.

Charles' children were Faith or Fathey, Charlotte, Carolus, Hezekiah and Jeremiah. I am uncertain of the birth dates for all except Jeremiah who was born in 1776. He also possibly fathered an older son named William. He is found on marriage records in Brunswick County in 1791. He is also claimed on some family trees. But we all know that doesn't prove anything.

In following up on the children I have found that Faith and Charlotte married two brothers, David and Burwell Grant. David even served and died in the Revolutionary war.  "June Court 1783 (Halifax County Virginia) (Entry at the very bottom of page - last 3 lines) ORDERED that it be Certified that Faith Grant is the Widow of David Grant deceased and that she is the Mother of a Son of the said David both of whom died in Service of the Southern Continental Army."

I don't believe her son was actually a soldier. A John Grant, a civilian,  died at Yorkfield.  In 1781, British general Lord Charles Cornwallis brought his army to Yorktown to establish a naval base. In the siege by American and French forces that followed, much of the town was destroyed. David's will was probated on September 21, 1781. I believe both men died as the result of the siege.

[1] Brunswick Co., Va., Will Book 5, pp. 342-43
[2] The Virginia Genealogist, Vol. 23, No. 1 - Jan/Mar 1979 'Beware of the Charlotte Co., VA Marriage Bonds: The Featherston Family' by Mrs.Margaret T. Macdonald, Chapel Hill, NC.
[3] Virginia Military Records, Brunswick County, 1782.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Q & A from the grave

I'm back from a road trip to Mississippi. Although I didn't get a chance to get to the courthouses, the cemeteries had much to tell me. And visiting with relatives that I only knew through social media offered an insight into my paternal grandparents' life that dusty courthouses could not.

My greatest find was the tombstone of my great great grandmother. It gave a short family tree!

It reads "Winney Dear Born to Mary Cotten Dec. 10, 1824 Mother of Hiram and Richard Cain, Poley and Elizabeth Cotten Died July 10. 1903." 

I never knew my great great great grandmother's name. It gave me the date of Winney's birth and death, and it also let me know which surname Hiram used most of his life.

As is the case in genealogy, when one question is answered, another question appears. I am now trying to pinpoint Mary Cotten on the censuses. I believe Hiram Cain lived in Franklin County. I still don't know why the different surnames.  

I wish I had found my great grandfather's tombstone. It was probably there but many of the markers were undecipherable. I will return to Mississippi, probably next year, God willing. This time I will head to the courthouses and try my luck there.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Same Old, same old

I know I have complained before. It  is not an attractive trait to whine. However. I get so frustrated while researching when I come across information that I know can't be true or has not been verified.

It reminds me of this quote from a new cable docu-comedy, "Family Tree." It's about a man (played by one of my favorite actors, Chris O'Dowd)  who has become obsessed with tracing his family roots. His father doesn't share his interest. He blames the new passion of his son on a romantic break-up. Besides, he says, aside to the camera, "genealogy is like any other 'ology. Best left to the scientists."

In episode 2, the Chris O'Dowd character mistakenly believes his heritage must be Chinese because he is given a photo of his great grandfather that looks to him that he is Chinese. He finds out first that the picture does depicts  a Japanese person, not a  Chinese person. Next he learns that the photo is of his great-grandfather acting in the theater production of The Mikado as Nanki-poo. Even though that information was on the back of the photo, even though his grandfather is clearly Caucasian, O'Dowd still leaped to that erroneous conclusion.

That's the kind of assumptions I keep finding all the time online. And to be honest, I may have made a few of them myself in the beginning. And I may make a few more in the future. I remember speaking to a cousin who tried to tell me that her great grandfather was a Dunnegan and not our shared ancestor, a Warren. I looked at the same census she used as her source and I realized that the census was in error. Her great grandmother, who had divorced our great grandfather, had left her children with her parents. On the census those children were listed as sons and daughters, not grandchildren of Dunnegan. It was an obvious deduction but when looking at the ages and other evidence, it was apparent to me that the census was wrong.

I'm working hard to get my family history updated in time for the family reunion this September and I keep getting sidetracked by contradicting information.'s new Family tree addition to the site is the newest culprit in spreading wrong info. Just like, anyone can add information without sources to back up their data. And many times if they have a source it is from another source that was not verified.


That was my primal scream. I had to vent. Now back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I Seek Dead People

The Warrens circa 1965
(Introduction - Tapestry of Tangled Ties)

It has been over 15 years since I began researching my family roots. I’ve hit my head on the brick wall many times, stopped, stuttered, and began again. Sometimes I wonder what keeps me going when the information has seemed to dry up or when others question my tenacity. It is a combination of many things.

I am just plain nosy as my family will attest. I am passionately curious about my own history. Why I am that way is partly why I continue to research—it’s in my genes. But where I got it from, I’m still not sure. So I keep searching.

And because it’s in my genes, there are others out there who share my curiosity gene and I do this for them. Inquiring minds want to know, as my uncle Johnny used to say, so I want to help them.

When I learn something new it is such a rush. It’s my geeky Achilles heel. I absolutely love it. It is the avocation that fills my time and mind and crowds out all mundane and/or troubling thoughts. 

So I continue. I originally planned on just updating my first book, “Say My Name,” but I kept finding new data and vital statistics kept changing. Therefore, I am writing this new version of my family history with some information from the aforementioned book but also with all the new stuff I’ve learned. I do this knowing that things will still need to be updated. A genealogist’s work is never done. Researching a family tree is the work of many lifetimes.

 The Cottens circa 1986

Friday, April 19, 2013

How Far Back Can I Go?

(Prologue -Tapestry of Tangled Ties)

That is the question everyone interested in genealogy ask. It is my desire to go back as far as Africa. I probably need a genie in a bottle to complete that quest. As a Black American, my ancestry is hidden from me in a way that is not hidden from other Americans. Since my ancestors were slaves, their names were not on the census before 1870. It is not impossible to go back farther if I can identify the slave owners but that is difficult too. Many slaves wanted to distance themselves from their lives as property. They changed their names. They didn’t talk much about that time with their innocent descendants. White descendants of slave owners are also unwilling to share that part of their family history.

However, once the slave owners are identified, it is possible to find records on file because slaves were part of a financial transaction, as heinous as that is. I have the receipt of the purchase of my great-great-great grandfather Solomon Koonce who was sold to Isaac Koonce of Haywood County, Tennessee in January 1840..  I have also deducted that Solomon was owned for a period of time by Francis Nunn who died intestate in Lauderdale County, Tennessee around 1837.

I may be in the minority but I am also interested in my White ancestors. I am the sum of all of my parts. In looking for those ancestors I am learning more about my country’s history and psyche. That is also part of my history—slavery, the Civil War, the American Revolutionary War, the making of a nation. I plan on studying that too, to put my history into the larger context.

I can go back much farther on some of my white ancestors. So far I am able to go back at least 12 generations. I have found the link between me and one of my favorite writers, Jane Austen and even closer, the link between my family and Reba McEntire. This is exciting to me. I am not ashamed at embracing all my of heritage because I do not deny my ancestry regardless of color or nationality.

This is what I attempt to do in updating my family history. The surnames that I will be following are Koonce, Warren, Featherston, Cotten, Alexander, Brassfield,  Tarpley, Elmore, Alexander, Saunders, and Wright. There may be more as I learn more. I will also research the locations where they lived--Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi and maybe others as I learn of them. Hopefully, one of those locations will be somewhere specific on the continent of Africa.