Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Just curious

I have a question. Have you ever reached out to or been contacted by a DNA match who is connected to you because of slavery? This came up on a Facebook forum. One African descendant contacted her match who was of  European descendant and was rebuffed.

Through the years I have contacted a few genealogy hobbyists who were related to me and/or related to the slave holder of my ancestor. I have seldom had any issues from the contact. But I am not quick to reach out to those descendants who just may have clues to the lives of my ancestors held in captivity. It's a personal choice.

I also wonder how those European descendants feel when they find that they have relatives whose DNA is mostly sub Saharan African. Most of my DNA matches are not the same color as I am. Even though I am 71%  African, the majority of my matches come from my 26% Irish/Great Britain relatives. They have not reached out to me either. I assume it's because I have little to add to their search. I have been heartened, though, by some who have included my family on their data base.

I understand from what I see on genealogy television shows that many are appalled to find out that their ancestors were slave holders. I think the more egregious fact is that we are related because of institutional rape. That is a far worse thing to get your head around. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

New Year, New Discoveries

I was not very good at keeping up this blog in 2017. Instead I spent much of  last year updating my family history and finally self-publishing it. I have distributed copies to several family members. This was to make sure all my hard work was not in vain and that written information is out there for those who are interested. It is a pet peeve of mine that so many family historians do the hard work of investigating their family but never write it down for others to see.

I had plans to go back to Mississippi. Unfortunately I did not make it. However, I did correspond with a Mississippi cousin who I discovered through AncestryDNA. She is one of the few ancestors I have discovered who is related to me through Winnie Dear, my grandfather Stanley's grandmother. I knew more about our history than she did and I shared that info. One important fact she shared with me was that one of her uncles, which would have been my grandfather's uncle, was lynched in Mississippi. She's not sure of the name because two uncles disappeared from the records. Their last name was Ames. She also told me that one of the other uncles migrated to Chicago because of the lynching. This could have also been a reason for my grandfather moving up north. The other interesting fact was that this particular uncle was a communist, something my grandfather was accused of being because he was a strong union man.

One more thing. The most exciting things I discovered were the photos of my grandfather's maternal grandparents. Photos are priceless. I found these on ancestry.com on a tree of another DNA cousin. These are the parents of Mary Sanders. I wish I had a photo of Mary and Napoleon but I will take what I can get. And who knows, maybe someday those photos will surface too. As an extra added attraction I also found the photo of James, the brother of Mary.
Charles Saunders

Rosa Thomas? Saunders

their son James Saunders

I will try to do better this year. I never stop searching even if I don't blog about it. Happy New Year! Happy New discoveries!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What I learned Part Two

AnestryDna  has been the gift that keeps on giving. It has helped me verify certain identified ancestors and provided clues to other potential ones. Last December it solved a mystery that had tantalized me for years.

Back in 2014, when I first received my DNA results, I noticed one of my matches had an ancestor, Ivory Lucinda Woods, who was born in Crockett County, Tennessee. This is where my maternal grandmother's people lived and some still reside. None of the other names on the tree looked familiar and only this one person was born in Crockett County. Ivie Woods is on the 1900 census living next door to my great-great grandmother Janie Koonce's sister.

I emailed my DNA cousin asking for more information but never heard back from him.  Until two years later, this past December!! He just saw the message. Although he didn't know how we were related, it piqued my curiosity enough to make me look at the connection again.

On my cousin's tree Ivory's father is listed as William Woods but her mother is listed as private. And my cousin never emailed me the mother's name. I had to search for Ivory born August 23, 1895, died 1970, in another family tree. Luckily, I found her and her mother. Her mother's name was Florence. Next I found Florence's death certificate. Her parents names were listed as William Roberts and Judy Clay. Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner. Judy is my great great great grandmother and William is the step-father of my great great grandmother Jane Roberts Koonce. I am on the right trail!

Now here comes the mystery. On the 1880 census, James and Jane list a daughter, Jenie Koonce. Jenie was born in 1871 but Jane was born around 1862 and married James in 1876. Mystery number one. Mystery number two--I could never find Jenie Koonce again in any documents online but I did find a Jenie Roberts that married William Woods in 1892. However, on the 1900 census, William Woods, the same William that is Ivie's father and who is living next door to Jane's sister, is married to Florence and had been married to Florence for eight years. Florence is Jenie!

After further searching, I found out that Florence married Albert P. Yancy after William died. She married Albert Sr. in December of the same year, 1905, that William died. Their tombstones are in New Cemetery, Crockett County, Tennessee, the cemetery of my Koonce and Roberts ancestors.

So I solved the mystery of Jenie Koonce and naturally, another mystery is born. Who was her father? Her mother, Jane, was not married to James when she had her and she also was only around 12 years old. I think this is a secret that was taken to the graves of many of my relatives but DNA has a way of bringing the truth back to life. Maybe I will be able to solve that mystery too in the future

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What I learned in 2016 Part One

Welcome 2017! Hope you're better than 2016.

Last year wasn't completely without merit. I learned many new things about my family history and also about myself. After attending the International Black Genealogy Summit in early September, I learned that I am an intermediate researcher and I need more challenging and informative conferences at that level. Of course, it is always a plus to mingle with like-minded people and to meet some of the experts in this field. Meeting and talking with Hari Jones and Kenyatta Berry was the highlight of the conference for me. Jones  is a writer, lecturer, historian, curator and motivational speaker. For twelve years, he was the assistant director and curator at the African American Civil War Freedom Foundation and Museum in Washington, DC. Berry, pictured below, is one of the genealogists featured on Genealogy Roadshow.

I learned the hard way how difficult it is to hold a family reunion. The Warrens and the Wilkins on my family tree met in late August. It was a labor of love for me. However, I'm afraid the result of this labor will be a "one of."

I took a trip back to Mississippi, hoping to uncover more information from the family cemetery in Summit. That was a big disappointment. I couldn't even find the tombstones I located on my trip three years ago or so I thought. After looking at the photos I took, I realized one of them was that of my great aunt Elizabeth Cotten Ames' tombstone, one I had discovered on the first trip. It seemed to have deteriorated faster than I would have expected.

Surprisingly, several new information surfaced in the last month of the year. Much of it came about because of the results from my DNA test, a gift that keeps on giving. More on that later.

I made no new resolution this year. The second edition of my family history is finished. There may or may not be a Koonce family reunion this year. I'm not even planning any trips for this year. If I had a resolution it would be to take it one day at a time and thank God for each day.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Time Keeps on Slipping

It has been a while since blogging here. My research continues but it is slow. It has me somewhat discouraged so I don;t post.

In late August, early September I attended the 3rd International Black Genealogy Summit. The workshops were more geared toward beginners. I am now an intermediate researcher, not an expert yet so I'm eager to learn more. But it is becoming harder to find those avenues that are geared toward researchers like me.

Last week I finally made my way back to Mississippi. It was a long over due trip. I have been wanting to attend church services at Rocky Point Baptist Church in Summit so that I could ask if anyone remembered my family. The church has the cemetery where I found my gr-gr-grandmother's tombstone. I got dressed in my Sunday best and made my way to the church in the woods. No one was there. I was dumbfounded. I assumed the church would be open but found out that due to a dwindling, aging congregation, they now hold services every other Sunday. This Sunday was not the Sunday.

Not letting that deter me from my other quest, that of finding more tombstones of my family, I trudged my way up the road to the cemetery. I was met with the barking of a very large dog near by. It had been three years since my last visit during a sweltering summer. The heat was gone and so was my memory of where the tombstones stood. With no one to ask for help, I wandered around the cemetery, taking a few photos, looking for any familiar names. The barking dog discouraged me from staying too long and so I left, extremely discouraged. I hadn't found my ancestors, not even the ones I found before. Or so I thought.

My mission was a failure. Even worse, the photos I took years before had been lost during a external hard drive crash. The only ones I had were those posted to Facebook and ancestry.com.

Yesterday I looked at the recent photos trying to decipher the inscriptions by zooming in on the tombstones. One in particular was hard to read until it was zoomed to reveal that it was one I had photographed before. It belonged to my gr-grandfather's sister, Elizabeth. It had faded so much in three years, I hadn't recognized it. I thought someone had removed the tombstones. Did I just walk past them because they were so hard to read?

Too late I researched how to read faded tombstones. Armed with the discovery that thin aluminum foil can make inscriptions come back to life, I am now encouraged to go back. Taking the foil hand a better camera, I will return sooner rather than later this time. I am driven by the notion that my ancestors are fading away into nothingness. I have to do my best to stop that from happening.
Tombstone of Elizabeth Cotton wife of S.C.Ames, photo taken 2013
Same tombstone taken 2016


best guess Lucy wife of James Love

Rocky Point Baptist Church, Summit, Mississippi

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Solomon Koonce was born a slave around 1826 and died in 1928.  Yesterday, his granddaughter Alma Koonce's funeral was held in St. Louis. That is not a typo. I found this astounding and remarkable.

Alma was the granddaughter of the oldest ancestor I can document on my maternal grandmother's side. Her father was Mose Koonce born in 1865 to Solomon and Amy, my great great great grandmother. Alma was 100 years old. I got to meet her and talk with her at the family reunions. She continued her grandfather's legacy of love for his family. She will be missed.

Dog Day Afternoons

It is sweltering outside but inside it is cool. This is the perfect time to do some armchair sleuthing. Wintertime is perfect too. Hey, if you are addicted to genealogy, like I am, any time is perfect.

Although I've been remiss in posting, I am continuously searching online. I hope to make a few road trips soon to follow up on my internet work.

Earlier I mentioned the find of a possible ancestor. There is little doubt in my mind that Josiah Pridgen fathered my great great grandmother Mary Jane Roberts. He keeps turning up in my DNA matches on ancestry.com. All I need is some kind of paper trail. That, however, may be difficult since we're talking about slavery records. Pridgen did not have a large farm and several farm hands. He only had one adult who I think was Judie Spence, my great great great grandmother, and her children. Still I will keep looking for a definable source.

I confess. I was paranoid when it came to having my DNA tested for genealogical purposes. And I still don't want to look to closely at the fact that my DNA is now on file. But it has been helpful. Is it disingenuous to wish that others, preferably my unidentified third cousins would take the ancestry.dna test too? I have only three close connections so far at this time and all three of them I knew of before they took the test. Then again, my uncle has two close matches but one has a tree that is private and the other has a tree with few names. No help, at all.

Yet, after learning of the surname Spence through DNA evidence and ancestral records, I am on the trail to find those elusive ancestors. The name Nathan Spence and Adaline DeLoach keeps coming up in my DNA matches. Hmmm. The game's afoot!