Wednesday, December 31, 2008

International Black Genealogy Summit

I found this while surfing genealogy blogs. It is one of the events I am looking forward to in 2009. The summit will be held October 29-31, 2009 at the Allen County Public Library, in Fort Wayne. This event signifies the first time that all of the black historical and genealogical societies in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean will come together to discuss the challenges and rewards of researching black genealogy.

I have put it on my calendar. Fort Wayne is a two hour drive from where I live so I should have no problems attending. More information can be found by clicking on the title.

Genealogy New Year's Resolutions

Resolutions are such a hackneyed term. Let's used "goals" instead. My goals for the new year including writing more on this blog. I didn't realize it had been over a month since my last blog. And I plan on reading and commenting on other blogs on a regular basis.

I will reprint my first book and begin my second book which will share this blog's title.

I will find money in creative ways to accomplish my goals of traveling, researching and publishing. Cash is king. Credit is in disgrace. I haven't used it in years and now I am proud of that fact. It is inconvenient not to use credit. I believe convenience is what prompted some of the current economic woes. I plan on raising lots of capital in many ways that do not include owing anybody any money.

I will travel this year. Last year I didn't. I will rectify that because my writing and research will be more of a priority this year.

I am confident I will be able to keep these resolutions. They are much easier than eating less and exercising more.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Really Famous Cousins

If you have a paid account on and you have created a personal family tree, you can check to see if you are related to somebody famous. And I mean really famous. You have to go to your family tree, select an individual. On that page, on the right hand side, near the bottom is the link. I have been having trouble loading ancestry today so I'm relaying this from memory.

I am possibly related to even more famous people than the link shows, however, it isn't a coincidence that all the famous people come from my white ancestor line. This is the line that is most documented. All of the cousins below are related to me through Charles Featherston's grandmother Lucy Elmore and mother Sarah Vaughn.

According to, the Fred Warren family is related to First Ladies
Lucy Ware Webb Hayes, Mamie Eisenhower, and Frances F. Cleveland; presidents Woodrow Wilson and Jimmie Carter, writers F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Milton, Alexandre Dumas, Elizabeth Browning, Emily Dickinson, George Eliot, George Orwell, Clement Moore, T. S Eliot, Alfred Tennyson, Robert Penn Warren, Jane Austen, Aldous Huxley, actors Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Audrey(Kathleen Ruston) Hepburn, and royalty, Empress of Russia, Anna and Queen Consort of Scotland Margaret I of Denmark, and one inventor, Eli Whitney, the cotton gin inventor. There were quite a few politicians but they are not as well known.

As you can see there is a preponderance of literary figures in my family. This makes me more excited and proud than being related to royalty and equally as proud as being related to presidents. Is this the reason why I have always wanted to be a writer. Is it in my genes?

Famous People in the Family

I think there is a large percentage of people that start researching their family tree in hopes of finding someone famous or even infamous. I'm no different. However, my rationale is that it is easier to find people who have been documented by other sources.

I am aware of a few relatives that have achieved a little bit of fame. The one that was probably the most well known is related through marriage. My great aunt Maude Alexander married the Reverend Joseph H. Jackson, once president of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. This organization claimed 6 million members at one time. Jackson met with political leaders all over the world due to his position. Martin Luther King, Jr. was Jackson's vice president. Due to intense feuding between Jackson and King over the tactics of civil rights demonstrations, the group splintered off into another group, the Progressive National Baptist Convention. King joined this new group. I used to say that Jackson was my rich uncle even though he didn't know I existed. When his daughter Kenny got married, my father and mother went to the wedding. My parents talked about how fancy the reception was and how Mahalia Jackson, a famous gospel singer of the time, sang at the wedding.

Then there's my uncle Ernest who is actually in the Doo Wop Hall of Fame as part of the original "Spaniels." This group is known as one of the great R & B singing groups of the 50's. They're best known for the song "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight" from the 50's. They are the original singers of that song not the "Sha Na Na." I remember their station wagon with the picture of a Spaniel. The car would be parked in front of my grandparents' home whenever Ernest was in town. I had to google the group to find out that they were on the same tour as the one that ended with the death of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. My uncle left that life behind in 60's and became a preacher and a pastor. He's not proud of that part of his life so he doesn't talk about it much but he still has that sweet tenor voice.

Those are the two relatives I knew about before I found the link on After finding the link, I discovered I'm related to royalty and presidents and writers and actors.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Three things I like about

So I was searching for information about Mosella Dodson, Solomon Koonce's and Amy's oldest daughter. I knew where Mosella lived in 1870 and 1880 because I had found it on the census transcribed on Tennessee's genweb page. That page's webmaster, Natalie Huntley, has done a fabulous job with Dyer and Crockett Counties. For some reasons, however, my great-great-great aunt has never surfaced in any of my searches on even though I narrowed and broadened the search parameters.

This was extremely frustrating but while I was tearing my hair out I discovered a few great tricks on It was a good thing too because I was nearly ready to give up on site.

First of all, let me acknowledge that is great for viewing the original documents--if you can locate your ancestors first, of course. It is easier on the eyes than actually looking at the microfilm.

Lately I have tried a new tact on locating relatives, a sort of sideways search. It has proved very fruitful, at least at finding living relatives. I clicked on the link that leads to other persons researching the same names that I am researching. So far it has yielded two cousins--one I knew and one I didn't. I've emailed them both and they responded. It is a wonderful tool because hopefully the other person may have data that I don't. Plus it is wonderful finding another cousin who is as addicted to genealogy as I am. Two heads better and all that.

The third thing I found on a whim. has a link that will tell you if you are related to somebody famous. I never expected to find anybody but lo and behold and I found several somebodies, the most exciting one being Audrey Hepburn! I have always been a fan of hers. I think she was the epitome of class. And now I find she was my distant cousin. In fact, I found so many famous ancestors that I will have to write about it in a separate blog.

Using these two new links have slowed down my hair-pulling. Both are definitely worth a look see.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


My great aunt turned 102 years old November 4th. She lived to see what many of her generation thought impossible. That implausibility was that America could elect someone president based on his ideals and his message and not the color of his skin. It gives me hope.

Last week I talked with my younger co-workers about the election. They found it exciting because they felt a part of history. It made me think back about how many historical moments I have witnessed in my life. Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog," the invasion of the Beatles, Hippies, Martin Luther King's march on Washington, the civil rights struggle, the assassinations, the wars, 911. And now this.

I have no illusions about Obama's presidency. He has a very harsh world of problems to face. But I do feel as many that this is a transformational moment. Change is not just a noun or verb. It is a movement. And I am alive to experience. Hope and awe.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Newberry Library

Last weekend I finally made the trip to Newberry Library in Chicago. I usually go about once every two years. It is a great research library, houses many rare maps and hosts excellent exhibits. However, I have never been very successful at finding new data there. This trip was no exception. The time passed by fast, of course. I was able to find some data in the Mississippi Soundex for marriages before 1926. It gave me a few leads on possible ancestors on the Cotten side--leads but no answers.

What I did find out through surfing after I visited the library is that Newberry is a Family Research Center. That means I can have microfilm sent there from the Salt Lake City Family History Library. Although there are two centers closer to me -- one in Griffith and another in Valparaiso, Indiana --their hours are very limited and their staff is small. I am thinking of making another sojourn to Newberry sooner rather than later once I designate which records they have that are pertinent to my family.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Blind Spots

This blog is sometimes just me talking to myself, working out problems.

So in that vein . . .

I got an email from Benjamin Cotten, my newfound cousin. He has been so inspirational to me. He sent me information about a Hiram Cain who got a land grant in Mississippi in 1898. He could be the brother to Napoleon Cotten. Following the advice from the convention, I looked up Franklin County, the county of Hiram's land grant. It is next to Amite where I first found Napoleon's family.

I looked at the 1900 census again. This is the one where Napoleon reappears after being missing (to me) since 1870. A few lines down is his mother and brother Richard. I just noticed that Winnie said all her four children are still living. That means somewhere Hiram and Elizabeth is hanging around just waiting to be discovered.

Napoleon is living next door to his in-laws also. These in-laws are also my ancestors, related to me through Mary Saunders, Napoleon's wife, my great-grandmother. Charles and Rose are a few doors away. It got me to thinking that maybe Elizabeth is nearby. There happens to be an Elizabeth who is the right age living next to the Sanders. I know. I know. That means nothing. But it is a splinter of possibility.

I'm trying now to research that possibility on and I am becoming so frustrated with the database. No matter. I am newly inspired and recharged.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A photo of me and a photo of Tony Burroughs at the convention. Not together unfortunately. I wasn't thinking.

Convention Report

The convention in Chicago was so inspiring and informative but it made me even more frustrated. The keynote speaker, Dr. Abbott, spoke on finding a needle in a haystack. That's an analogy for genealogy enthusiasts's efforts in trying to find Black ancestors past the 1870's. She made us see that it wasn't impossible but that it will take a lot of work and a lot of thinking outside the box or sometimes, outside the counties we think our ancestors are located.

I came back all fired up and ready to go. I looked in some of those places that were mentioned at the convention--The Freedmen's Bureau, The Southern Claims Commission, and And still my ancestors remained elusive. I know that it only means I need to dig a little harder and get my hands dirty. I have to go to the places where they lived and not just sit in my pj's surfing on the web for the information.

Still it was good to network with all those people of like minds. I was able to meet Tony Burroughs in person and got his photo. And I also got to see Barack Obama's house. It was down the street from the church where the convention was held. All in all, it was a very good day.

Monday, October 6, 2008

African American Genealogy Conference

This weekend the African American Genealogical and Historical Society of Chicago (AAGHSC) is holding their 2008 Conference at 5200 S. University Avenue in Chicago. The 26th Annual Family History Conference is being hosted by the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) which is located at that address. The theme of the conference is "Starting, Restarting, and Continuing Your Family History."

It's a two-day affair. My genealogy group is going just for the Saturday session. The keynote speaker, Dr. Deborah Abbott, will speak that morning on "Finding a Needle in a Haystack." Dr. Abbott is the president of the African-American Genealogy Society of Cleveland, Ohio.

I'm really looking forward to this conference. Not only will I learn more tips and strategies to help me in my research. I will also be able to network with people of like mind when it comes to genealogy. Plus, with it being at a Mormon church, I'm hoping there is a library where I can do some actual hands on stuff.

If you are interested in attending, you should contact the society. The email address is For more information, their web page is

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Back to the Beginning

When I first started my research, I built it on oral legends and previous research. My aunt was told that Solomon was sold to Isaac Koonce when he was 19 years old. Some places say he was born in 1822 and others say he was born in 1826. According to the 1870 census, his birth year was around 1828. The following census, however, claim 1826. This is important because I'm trying to find him and Amy on the slave census.

I know that he was sold to Isaac Koonce in 1839. On the 1840 slave census for Haywood County, Tennessee, Isaac owns 6 slaves - one male between 10 and 24, one male between 25 and 35, two females under 10, one female between 10 and 25 and one between 25 and 35.

On the 1850 census slave schedule for Haywood County, Isaac Koonce owned eight slaves. One was a male, 23 years old. Is that Solomon? There was also a 38 year old male, a 40 year old female, a 28 year old female, and an 18 year old female. I'm not sure if Amy is the older or younger of the females. There were also a twelve, a nine and two year old female slaves.

On the 1860 slave schedule Isaac owned 12 slaves. There were five adults and seven children. One was designated as a mulatto while the others were listed as black. The ages don’t match the 1850 schedule. There is now a 48 year old female, a 35 year old male, who I believe is Solomon, a 32 year old female who I believe is Amy, a 22 year old female mulatto, and an 18 year old female. The children range in age from one to 12. Three of the children correspond with the ages of Solomon’s oldest children.

I have to remind myself that back in those days, people weren't so concerned with accuracy. It's just another hindrance in finding ancestors.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Back to Work

It's been a while. My computer crashed making it difficult for me to write and research at home. So I took one of those breaks that I need from time to time. But I'm ready to get back to work now.
This has been the perfect week. School has been out for a week due to flooding. No, I don't live in Texas. Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area got more rain than Texas from Hurricane Ike.
So I finally sat down and started searching. Maybe it's because I'm coming back to the research cold but some data popped out at me that hadn't before. I'm still on this search for my great-great-great-great grandmother. We were told her name was Amy and that she was Cherokee. We were also told she birthed Solomon Kooonce's first children.

I have already written about an Amy Nunn living on one side of Mosella Koonce Dodson while Solomon lived on the other side. This is on the 1870 census. Amy is married to Mose Nunn who is 61 on that census. She is 47 making her birth year around 1823.

On the 1880 census, she and her husband have only aged five years making the true birth year questionable. Now it would put her birth year around 1828.

There is an "Ammie" Nunn living with Mosella's family in 1900. Mosella has now passed away. Ammie's status is that of grandmother not mother to Joe Dodson, Mosella's widower. Her birth year is 1819. However, it is stated that Ammie was born in North Carolina just like Amy Nunn of 1823, 1828.

So is this a stretch? What keeps popping out at me is that Amy's first child with Solomon is named Mosella and her last is named Mose. Amy is married to Mose Nunn. It was not uncommon for slaves to be forced to reproduce for the slaveowners regardless of their affections or the lack of them. Could this be the case with Amy and Solomon and why she disappears after emancipation? That she went back to her first love-Mose Nunn?

I wanted so bad to travel this summer to find out more about these theories but lack of money and time hindered me. It's times like these that I miss talking to Adrene about the "what if's" and wish that I had some relative who was just as interested as me in these dusty trails.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cotton/Cotten DNA

I also posted this on my web page at freewebs.

Today I received an email from a Michael Cotten. He is involved in a Cotton/Cotten DNA project. The purpose of the project is to create a database to help identify the various families bearing the Cotton or Cotten surname.

I have been sitting on the fence about DNA projects. On the negative side, the results cannot prove a paper trail. It costs. And it depends on the amount of people in the database. But on the positive side,in the future when the database is more extensive, it may be more conclusive. And of course, if few participate, the database can't grow. Plus, as it states on the Cotten webpage, it can help to back up research, and a negative result can disprove many incorrect assumptions.

According to Michael, the information I have on the origin of the Cotten name is false. He wrote, "You mentioned a Cotten family who was descended from a John de Cotentin. Unfortunately there was no such person. The "De Cotentin" descent was invented by a man named Matlock who drew up an extended fake genealogy."

So it seems like it's back to the drawing board. I found a pedigree for Joseph R. Cotten on but the url for the source is Very suspicious! The person who submitted the source went to a lot of trouble posting information that goes back to the 9th century but of course that doesn't mean he is correct or legit.

Although I don't believe we are related by blood to the Cottens, I am certain that they are the reason my grandfather chose that name. That is the reason why I am interested in the origin and the genealogy of the Joseph R. Cotten family.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Square Pegs in the Family

It's been a while. The weather is warm so I have no excuse except for lack of funds and an abundance of laziness. However, next month I plan to make my pilgrimage to archives and courts and distant relatives.

During my hiatus, I almost lost my focus. Often genealogy is a lonely quest. My nest just became completely empty, so I was wallowing in my aloneness. I assailed myself with how I don't seem to fit in with my family or even my community.

During my wallowing, I remembered something. Many, many years ago I visited my late aunt Pauline Cotten and was surprised to find out that she collected dolls and Lladros figurines. I collected dolls and love Lladros, too. When my cousin Kenny Williams passed away four years ago, I found out she had an extensive collection of dolls. That affinity for collecting dolls and figurines must run in the family.

That is one of the incentives for me to research my family-- to discover how I do fit in. I am not the square peg. Or if I am, I believe there are few of us in this family and we do fit. So this is me, snapping out of it and getting back to work.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Meeting David Wilson

"Meeting David Wilson" is a documentary that follows David Wilson on his mission to discover to find more about his family roots in Caswell, North Carolina. That mission includes David Wilson, the descendant of slaves, meeting David Wilson, the descendant of the owner of those slaves.

I missed the airing on MSNBC last Friday. I surf the television schedule hoping there would be a rerun. Unfortunately, they did not air the show again but luckily they did post it online. However, when I went back to the MSNBC page to find a link for the video, I discovered it was no longer there. Instead they are promoting the DVD.

I am glad I watched it. It was an amazing story that inspired me to visit my ancestor's homes sooner rather than later. It brought out points I hadn't considered in my own research such as trying to envision the hardships of the life they led. David Wilson was able to work in a tobacco field, a feat I will not try to recreate in the cotton fields of Mississippi or Tennessee. I am not that dedicated. But I was impressed with Wilson's dedication. He was also able to find an abandoned slave quarter that could have been lived in by his ancestors. That scene was haunting. He also made the trip to Africa and visited the slave fort that housed two million Africans destined for slavery.

After watching the video, one impression was engraved into my spirit. It wasn't anger as some expressed during the video. It was gratitude that I have "choice." That sentence sounds so inane but the emotion it evokes in me is monumental. I can choose where I live, what I eat, who I marry, where I work. I can keep my children close. No one can come and separate me from them. Tears comes to my eyes even as I write this. This is what the USA was supposed to mean for everyone born on its soil. Now it actually does. Yes, I know America is not perfect and there are still lots of inequities. But think about it. A man is running for president who just happens to be black and he has a good chance of winning especially if we as Americans judge him not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character. It makes me so very proud to be an American right now.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Conversations I wish I could have with dead people

This is not an original thought. I saw this on a blog some weeks ago. And I'm sure every one into genealogy wishes they could sit down with a few dead people and ask some questions.

I wish I could ask my great grandmother Katie Featherston why she named my uncle "Ester." I met my uncle Ester. I remember him as a round, pleasant man with a bright complexion. I was just a child and I never thought anything about him having a girl's name. But I do now. What was Katie thinking? All her other children had nice common names like my grandfather Freddie so I'm thinking there was a purpose to it. Did she want a girl and got my uncle instead?

I wish I could talk to Charles Featherston and find out if he loved Matilda and her children. Did the rest of the family know about them? Was he ostracized because of he was white and she was a former slave or was it accepted?

And of course great-great-great-Amy and Solomon Koonce would be special guests of my interrogation. I would finally find out who she was and what happened to her. And while I had them, I would ask about their parents too and if they were born in America or Africa.

Wouldn't it be great if the television execs could produce "Ghost Whisperers--the Genealogy Edition." It would be a hit. People would be clamoring to be on the show to solve all their genealogy mysteries.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Race, Color, and Nationality

When it comes to certain labels in America, I am confused and I don't think I'm alone. It is not as simple as black and white, pun definitely intended.

The issue came up during our monthly genealogy meeting. I think it started because one of the members was displaying her DNA results. She was happy that her African roots had been identified but she was mystified that there was no trace of Native American DNA. She always believed she was part Indian. It forced her to accept her European ancestry. This led to a lively discussion about our collective identities.

I consider myself a Black American. Others see themselves as African-Americans. My confusion comes because I believe that anyone with ancestry from Africa and citizenship in America can be called African-American. Charlize Theron can be called African-American. And what about African slave descendants that live in the other Americas like Canada or Brazil? To compound my confusion, some people including some of my club members believe that Barack Obama can't be called an African-American or Black because he isn't descended from African slaves. But his father was African and he even knows what part of Africa from where he came unlike the majority of Black Americans. Crazy

When you add Native Americans into the mix it gets even more confusing. There are Black people with Native American genes and Whites who married Indians that are being denied their Indian heritage by the ruling tribal councils. Even though these individuals are descended from people on the Dawes Rolls (the Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes) and have documented proof of their ancestry, they aren't recognized as citizens of their tribes. Those that are disenfranchised are accusing the Indian tribal councils of racism.

There are other divisions in our society and within the sub-cultures. It was pointed out at the meeting that someone knew a lady who was American but whose parents were from Japan so she considered herself Japanese not American. Puerto Ricans consider themselves Puerto Rican, not Black or African-American even if they have ancestors from Africa.

I guess it comes with our melting pot culture. And it is a testament to our democratic society that we all sort of kind of get along even with all the labels and hyphens. But it sure would be less confusing without them.

Friday, April 4, 2008

I remember MLK 4/4--40 years ago

Even though my search is for long ago ancestors , I am cognizant that my own experiences are also important. They should also be recorded. This is not conceit. It is for future curious generations. If only my ancestors had been able to leave more bread crumbs, this research wouldn't be so difficult.

April 4, 1968. I remember exactly what I was doing on that day. That was the day that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It also was the day of my first ever date. It was a double date me, my first boy friend "Pluke," my aunt Adrene, Smitty and Mickey. I guess that is a double and a half date.

My church was holding a state convention in my city. Pluke and Mickey were from South Bend and was there to attend the convention. Smitty was an evangelist and he was holding a revival afterwards. We left church to get something to eat. I suggested Bianchi's, a restaurant that our family usually frequented. When we arrived, the whole restaurant was in a jovial mood. There were nothing but White customers and they were loudly celebrating the death of MLK like it was a new holiday. This freaked Adrene out. She demanded that we leave immediately. So we did.

The next day I read of the violence in other cities. Eventually some of it came to our city. Buildings were burned. Store owners marked their own businesses as "black owned" or the such. It was a very scary, very sad time.

I remember that many people did not like Martin Luther King, Jr. Blacks didn't like him because he wasn't militant enough. Whites didn't like him because he was against the Viet Nam War and wasn't patriotic enough.

Forty years later things have changed a great deal for the better. But this is the 21st century. We should have improved so very much more as human beings and citizens of the world.

I wonder what MLK would say about Obama's candidacy. I think I know what he would say about the Iraq war.

In memory of MLK

These are photos that I shot while in Atlanta and Memphis:
Martin Luther King's childhood home in Atlanta, Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church he and his father pastored, Martin Luther King, Sr., Mason Temple COGIC, the site of his last sermon, (also the headquarters for the Church of God in Christ, my church) and the pulpit from which he delivered it, Lorraine Motel in Memphis where he was murdered, and his memorial in Atlanta.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Missing things

The ground work for all of my research was laid by my aunt Carolyn "Adrene." She started many years ago while she was living in Atlanta. It was easier for her to visit courthouses in Tennessee and interview relatives living nearby.

When I caught the genealogy bug, I would call her with any theory or breakthrough. We would discuss our findings for hours like true "genie" geeks. Sadly, my aunt passed away four years ago. All of her documents, all her photos, all of her findings were passed on to me. And even though I immediately poured over the treasured inheritance, I am finding out that I missed things.

I missed things like the pages torn from the family bible. I didn't realize they were the originals until this year. I missed that my grandmother had another brother, a name I never heard of. He died young and in between censuses. As mentioned before, I missed that my great great great grandmother Amy was supposedly full blooded Cherokee. When I asked Adrene before, she told me it was another of my great grandmothers.

But what I miss most is my aunt Adrene. She was only two years older than me, the youngest of my mother's 11 siblings. We were more like sisters than aunt and niece. When we were growing up she was my confidante and my mentor. We lost touch as our lives went in different directions. Through our love for genealogy, we had connected again until death disconnected us. All I can do now is wonder what Adrene would have said about this or that.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dead Ends

I checked the slave census for Mississippi. According to the censuses, my Cotten family can't have been slaves on any Cain family farm in Amite or Franklin county. So I'm back to square one.

It may be as simple as was the case for many emancipated slaves--Winnie first took the name of her last slave owner, Anderson. The Andersons had very large plantations in Amite and numerous slaves. I will check the Amite records when I visit Mississippi. At least the Amite County court records weren't burned like Pike County's.

The other dead end is the trail of my great-great-great grandmother Amy. After a quick look at the Cherokee history, I found out there is practically no way Amy could have been a full-blooded Cherokee. It is true that there was a large presence of Cherokees in North Carolina and Tennessee where my Koonce relatives lived, so it is possible she could have been part Cherokee. However, enslaving tribal natives proved to be so dangerous that America stopped doing it by the 1820's. There is only a slight chance that Amy was full-blooded Cherokee since she was probably born in the 1820's.

I was wondering if her heritage had anything to do with the absence of her stories in our family's oral legend. This tangent deserves more research. I am finding out that there is a strange relationship between Cherokees and slavery. I wasn't aware of how many slaves were owned by native Americans until I watched the African American Lives 2. The documentary traced actor Don Cheadle's ancestors back to slaves owned by native Americans. It also stated that many black Americans claim to be "part Indian" but actually aren't.

At an early age I was told that I was part Indian and part Irish. Being young, I just accepted it as a fact. Now, as I research my history more, I question the possibilities. It could be true but I need proof.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mysteries to Solve

I haven't been able to make much headway into finding my great-great-great-grandma Amy. I've been rereading a lot of material that I inherited from my aunt. I found something I missed from my first perusal. According to the oral legend, she was supposed to be a full-blooded Cherokee.

I don't know why I feel she abandoned her family. She could have died right after the Civil War. It's the absence of stories about her that makes me think she decided not to stay with Solomon.

I am also trying to find out more about my Cotten line. I want to know why they changed their name from Anderson to Cotten. Knowing why will make it easier to trace the family. I now have a new theory to disprove.

My great-grandfather Napoleon Cotten had a brother who chose the surname Cain. After googling the name Cain in the Mississippi archive, I came up with several families in Amite County, the same county where my family lived in 1870. Here's an excerpt from Cain, a book by Mildred and Margaret Ezell which I found interesting.

"Descendants of Isaiah and Polly (Butler) Cain: 1) Mary B. Cain, b 21 Nov. 1822 Amit. Co., d 8 Sep 1843, bur Zion Hill Cem., Amite Co.; m 5 Mar 1840 (Amite 3-81 by T W Pound J.P., George W. Carmack bondsman) Joseph Robertson Cotten, b 7 July 1818, d 17 Mch 1885, bur Cotten Cem., Fr. Co. MS (S32 T5 R5)."

Joseph and Mary had one daughter. Mary died young and Joseph remarried. Isaiah and Polly (sometimes called Mary too) raised Mary's daughter Mary Cotten, not Joseph. Joseph is also the father of Thomas Cotten by his second wife. This is the very same Thomas that lived next door to Ammon Cotten, Napoleon's son, on the 1900 Pike County census. Both Thomas and Ammon listed their profession as merchants. I found that too much of a coincidence. That was why I first thought Joseph was the slave owner of Winnie and her children. There had to be contact between the two families because of Mary Cotten.

In addition, I found a white Hiram Cain and a white Elizabeth Cain and a white Napoleon Whittington, a Cain cousin all in that family group in Amite County. These were my family's names too. I know that doesn't mean much by itself. These names could have been very popular during this time. But it has made me think about checking in a whole new direction.

What if my gr-gr-gr-grandmother Winnie and her children were originally on the Cain plantation? What if Winnie married someone named Anderson and he was not the father of her children? What if they were befriended by the Cottens after the Civil War? I know these are a lot of "what ifs." Hopefully, by following these "ifs" I will run across more family members and the answers to some of the mysteries.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My Alex Haley Connection

Of course, every genealogy hobbyist knows who Alex Haley was. He inspired many Americans to begin tracing their family tree. He also made it okay for a generation of Black Americans to accept their heritage as slaves.

I have always felt a connection to Haley. We share the same birthday, August 11. In addition, many of his ancestors grew up in the same area of Tennessee as my ancestors. I was curious to see if we shared any relatives as I researched my family. We don't. However, we did end up having a very close connection.

My first love was born in Savannah, Tennessee. I have since found out that Savannah is also the birth place of Haley's father. While talking to my boyfriend's uncle about his own numerous romantic escapades in Savannah, one name kept cropping up--Queenie.

The next time I heard that name was years later. About two years ago, I was talking with a new co-worker, sharing bits and pieces of our lives, I was astounded to find out she was also from Savannah, Tennessee. Not only that but that she knew my boyfriend and his uncle very well and the Queenie I heard so much about was her cousin. That is when I found out that Queenie was one of Haley's cousins and so was my co-worker. Queenie is a family name handed down from Haley's great grandmother. Remember the TV follow up to "Roots," "Queen," starring Halle Berry?

So this is my six degrees of separation from Alex Haley. Actually, it's more like two degrees. Sometimes it amazes me how small the world can be at times.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Maternal difficulties

As already stated, I have a wealth of information about my grandfathers, greats and otherwise. My grandmothers are a lot harder to flesh out but I'm not giving up.

Last week I discovered that my great-grandmother Katie Featherston, the woman on the left in the photo, had even more children than I was previously aware. I happened upon it after looking for information for a cousin by marriage. The cousin is a Wilkins and had heard of Katie. She tried to put two and two together but it didn't add up to four.

Katie married Tom Wilkins in 1881. By 1898 she was married to a Henry Hardy. On the 1900 Dyer County Tennessee census, she listed all her children as Hardy's. Not only that, she stated that she had been married to Henry for 16 years. Not true. She also stated that she gave birth to 11 children but only 6 were living. That math didn't add up either. On the very same census eight children are listed. Obviously the younger 6 were hers from her first marriage. The census taker didn't catch that or didn't care.

Two years later she is married to my great grandfather Ike Warren. By the 1910 census only my grandfather and her youngest child by Wilkins, Joseph, are living with her. She states here that she had three children but only one is living. The census taker didn't correct her again.

These are just some of the discrepancies genealogy geeks have to weed through in our search.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Websites worth a visit

I am always googling for information on African American genealogy and corresponding blogs. These are just a few that I thought worth mentioning.

I happened across this blog a few days ago. The top ten worst ways to begin family history is hilarious. Chris Dunham is the author with the wicked sense of humor.

The Missouri State Archives has created an on-line video for researchers of African Americanc genealogy. Entitled "Putting Together the Pieces of Your Past," the video contains five parts with accompanying links to transcripts. Family History Research Consultant Traci Wilson-Kleekamp is responsible for the information. She provides helpful tips on which Web sites are best for African American genealogy research. She also points out which documents are most useful and how to get the most out of these records.

Two great reference and genealogy news blogs are Everton's Genealogy Blog and Eastmans' Online Genealogy Newsletter. Both are great for news in the genealogy world. The link for Everton is for the African American category but you can find other information by clicking on the home link.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Mutts and Cousins

My local genealogy club met Saturday. It was exciting to see all those people interested in tracing their roots. I don't know what is more intriguing--the people who have been researching for over 20 years or the ones just beginning.

Genealogy can easily become an obsession. All it took for me was finding my grandmother as a little child on a soundex card. I didn't know what I was doing. I had no one guiding me. It was serendipity that I even found her name. But when I saw her name, her age, her grandparents name (she was an orphan), it gave me such a rush. The thrill that I felt when I saw the document where my grandmother Posie's great-grandfather Solomon was sold to the slave owner was no more nor less than that first rush.

Back to the club meeting. I was struck by the various degrees of hostility toward ancestors that are white. My club is all Black and as far as we know, all descendants of slaves. One woman was very proud that she could not trace her line back to whites--so far. Another woman cried at the injustice of bigotry and cruelty that happened to her ancestors centuries ago.

It makes me wonder why I am so far removed emotionally. Could it be because I was told all my life about my mixed heritage? I am not ashamed that my ancestors were slaves. It was not their fault. I am proud that they were able to survive. I don't give a thought to the fact that my great-grandfather was a corporal in the Confederate army. I am guilty, however, of romanticizing his relationship with my great-grandmother even though I know it could not have been easy nor pretty. Mostly I just think that the whole world is full of mutts.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cemeteries in Tennessee

I'm finding little tidbits of information, adding more flesh to the skeletons. Ironically, the information I am finding is from cemeteries which can be a wealth of data.

I found the burial place of Charles R. Featherston, my great-great grandfather. The cemetery is listed on the Dyer County page of the tngenweb site. Charles is buried in Shaw Cemetery in Dyer County. The vital information is also listed there. He was born Aug 6 1824 and died Jan 12 1873. His father, William Featherston, which would be my great-great-great grandfather, is buried there too. He died Jan 21 1870 at age 76. The cemetery is in danger of being abandoned. I can't find where or when Matilda, the mother of Charles' children, died and was buried although by sleuthing on the same website I found out she married Henry Hall in 1883 and was dead by 1900.

There was a sad notation about one of the abandoned cemeteries in Crockett County. According to Jonathan K. Smith, who compiled the cemetery inventory for the county, the African-American Nunn cemetery began as a slave burial ground. There are many graves here, some marked with cedar trees, but only one tombstone. The tombstone is for the daughter of my great-great aunt Mosella Koonce Dodson. It reads:

Fannie L. Dodson
30 Apr 1883 - Nov 11 1885
Daughter of J.D. & M. Dodson.

That means that the unmarked graves could very well be for other relatives of mine and I will never know who they are. It is also another piece of information that connects my family to the Nunns in some way.

My family maintains the New Cemetery (that's its name) in Crockett County. It was formerly known as Nunn Cemetery. This is where Solomon and his wife Cherry Koonce, my great-great grandparents James and Mary Jane Koonce, great-grandparents Willie and Lizzie Koonce are buried as well as several other relatives. I am very proud of the fact that the cemetery is still being used for family. I love the continuity. Mosella, mother of little Fannie is buried here and is the oldest grave. There are also graves as recent as 2005.

I must make a note to speak with my cousins who maintain the cemetery to see if they know anything about the old Nunn cemetery.

Happy Trails

It's been a long, trying week. I caught the bug that has been going around. It made it difficult to get my head above the covers. I wasn't able to do any follow up on my remarkable gift. However, I had quite a few comments which made me feel a little better. Thank you all. You've given me a lot of encouragement and some a few hints of where to look next.

It's a new week. The snow hasn't hit yet and I almost feel normal again. Time to get back to work.

I love genealogy!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Holy Grail

I am so excited! I received an email from someone who had the actual receipt naming my great-great-great grandfather.

Now that may sound strange to someone who is mired in guilt or shame or anger. Slavery is a fact of my history just like the fact that some of my ancestors were slave owners. It happened. I am here. Now I just want to learn as much as I can about all of my ancestors.

I was thrilled to see the actual document. It states:

"Received of Isaac Koonce five hundred and thirty one dollars for boy Solomon purchased from Nunn’s estate & I am to give a bill of sale for ____ boy.

January 6, 18?? Sheppard M. Ashe "

The date is marked over. It looks like it was first written 1839 and then changed to 40. After looking at abstracts from the 1840's, I determined the date to be 1840. This is mostly due to finding Sheppard M. Ashe on these other abstracts and that it fits Solomon's oral history.

I've been pouring over other data online and off. Years ago, a fellow genealogy hobbyist and distant relative of Isaac Koonce gifted me with a family history book named "Nunns of the South." It was written decades ago and is very hard to follow but it does mention Isaac Koonce and David Nunn several times. I was hoping to find the Nunn whose estate Solomon came from. No luck so far.

And in addition to this bill of sale, the wonderful lady also has bills of receipt for other slaves of Isaac. They are:

"Negro boy, Ben, age 14, sold to John Koonce by Abner Green - Jones Co, North Carolina , January 1814

Negro woman, Betty age 20 from George Mitchell to John Koonce - March 1808, North Carolina

Gorge and Hanah from John Koonce to son Isaac Koonce, Jones Co, NC December 1822

Elijah, age 20, sold to Isaac Koonce in Haywood Co TN (not Transcribed) 1829

Mariah, age 12 – to Isaac Koonce from Alfred Kennedy, Haywood Co, TN - August 1832."

I tried very hard to save the document as a gif or jpg so I could upload it but my computer wouldn't let me. As soon as I can (printer issues), I am going to scan the documents and put it on my blog as well as on my family history page, Say My Name.

I received all of this late Friday. Some of my giddiness has died down, but not much. It has inspired me to keep on searching.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Faith Leaping or Conclusion Jumping

It is a cardinal sin for any genealogist to jump to conclusion. Everything must be collaborated and documented. It makes it real, real hard for those of us researching our African-American ancestors. There is very little documentation readily available and much of that is inaccurate. It is so tempting to jump to conclusion.

For example, my cousin Juanita found her grandmother Rosa Nance listed on the Tennessee census as the daughter of Harvey Dunnagin. She immediately claimed that we were not related based on that information. However, it turned out that Dunnagin was Rosa's grandfather. The census was taken during a time when Rosa and her siblings were living with their grandparents. Rosa's mother Malessie was living in Memphis while Rosa's father, my great-grandfather Ike Warren, was living elsewhere. The information was there in black and white but it was wrong.

Right now I'm on the trail for Amy, mother of Solomon's children. I already mentioned my theory in a previous post. After searching the 1900 census, I found an "Emmie Nunn" living with Joe Dodson and his family. She is listed as a widow and "G-mother." I checked other Tennessee censuses and could not find an Emmie Nunn. I want so much to believe that Emmie is mispelled for Amy. Joe's children would be her grandchildren since his wife was Mosella Koonce, Solomon and Amy's oldest living daughter. Mosella had passed away ten years earlier. I want to believe but I have to keep digging for actual proof.

There is also evidence this is not my Amy. First of all the name is wrong. The birthdate is listed as March of 1819. And she had 10 children but none of them are living in 1900. So there is a good chance she isn't who I hope her to be. I plan on taking a trip to Tennessee soon to find out more. No matter what I wish, it has to be verifiable proof.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Whole Truth and Nothing But

It was a rude awakening for me to discover that the information on the census is not necessarily true. The birth date often changes. I don't know if this is due to memory or vanity. Some of my female ancestors do seem to get younger on each census.

The same happens to the location of their birth. It can be different on each census but I am inclined to believe earlier census may be more accurate than later ones.

Some of the mistakes are made by the census takers. For example, on the 1880 census Solomon's birthplace is listed as South Carolina and his wife Cherry as Tennessee. However his children's father's (Solomon) birthplace is listed as South Carolina for the older children and Tennessee for the younger children. The census taker didn't catch the discrepancy.

To make matters more confusing, his birthplace was listed as Tennessee on the 1870 census. This is different from the oral history. Did he misunderstand the census taker's question?

It has made me realize that being factual was not as high a priority in other centuries as is it is now. It makes the genealogist job that much harder.

Monday, February 4, 2008

There are all kinds of love affairs

My love affair with genealogy has been an off and on thing. Not that I ever give up on it. But sometimes I get so exhausted that I have to take a long vacation from it. I was in the middle of a long, long break when a new-found cousin wrote me last year and now the affair is back on.

With some distance from my last stint, I've been going over notes and details with a different perspective. It's exciting because I am seeing things I overlooked before. For example, with my fresh outlook a new theory is evolving about my great-great-great grandmother. We have been trying forever to figure out who she was. All we have to go by is the name Amy and that she may have been related to the Winstons. That's it. She disappears from our story immediately after the Civil War. We assumed she died.

Solomon had at least six children by her. The oldest daughter was Mosella born around 1849. The youngest son was Mose born around 1865. It struck me that both children were obviously named after Mose. Could Mose be a real person and important to the family in some way?

On the 1870 Tennessee census there is a Moses and Amy Nunn living next door to Mosella. Two doors down is Solomon with his wife Cherry and a centenarian named Ann Nunn. Is this just a coincidence?

All ex-slaves did not stay together as a family after emancipation. Some families were forced during slavery, only cohabitating together because the the slave master wanted them to reproduce. Some had two families having been sold away to other farms. Once they were free, some went looking for those family members they had been separated from during slavery. Some went looking for separated loves too. Could this be the case in my family?

Right now, I am surfing message boards to see if anyone knows about Mose or Amy Nunn. I am also going to go back and ask older relatives if they ever heard about the possibility of this. It is during times like this, I wish my aunt Adrene was alive so we could figure this out together.

This will not be a popular theory. It would mean Amy gave up her younger children voluntarily. It will also be a very difficult theory to prove. Ah, a challenge.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Genealogy and the Internet

The internet is a great resource for information but it does not replace the hard work of hands on research. The databases are limited to the information which has been inputted. Also, the passion (obsession) that you have in discovering your family drives you to look past misspelled words, illegible handwriting names and seemingly inconsequential details.

For example, I am constantly disappointed with I have searched unsuccessfully for names in their database which I found on my own at archives and libraries. The handwriting seems to throw the site. Dobson is seen as Dadson. Napoleon becomes Nopson. Warren is recorded as Worn. It is a plus that you can view the actual census pages on but you can't rely on the site to find the names.

To get around that go to It is the free web site of the Family History Library's database, a project of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). The entire 1880 census of the United States is available there. What make this so great is that the names you search don't have to be spelled correctly in order to find them. Once you find an individual, there is a link to a corresponding census page at The only hitch is that you must be a paid subscriber of ancestry. com to view the page.

The most helpful site online for me has been the Tennessee site on the page. The website is free unlike and manned by dedicated volunteers. Unfortunately, all states are not equal. The Tennessee site is so superior to the Mississippi page, the two pages I visit the most. Natalie Huntley has done a superb job for the counties of Dyer, Crockett, Gibson, and Haywood as coordinator even though she lives in Illinois. I recommend the site to anyone looking for data in those counties of Tennessee.

Aside from databases, the most valuable commodity of the internet in genealogy research is the connecting of like-minded individuals. Some of these people have been relatives I would never have met otherwise, distant in miles as well as on my family tree. Finding and communicating with these living cousins has been as exciting as finding obscure ancestors. And it would never have happened without the internet.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Genealogy's Brick Wall

I forget sometimes that not everyone knows about the brick walls Black Americans run into while researching their family tree. I've been doing this for so long that I assume that it is common knowledge that the 1870 census is the first census that list Black Americans by name. Before then, if Black citizens were not free, they were just a number, an age and a gender on the census.

Another brick wall we face is the surname. After emancipation, Black Americans could pick the surname they wanted. Statistically, only 15% kept the name of the slave owner. The other 85% selected names for various reasons. Sometimes names were tried on to see if they fit and then were discarded willy nilly.

Right now I am trying to figure out why my great-great grandfather Napoleon chose the surname Cotten. On the 1870 Mississippi census his family's surname was Anderson. I can't even find him on the 1880 census. On the 1900 census he is now a Cotten. His oldest son is living next door to a White Cotten. They both list their occupation as merchants which I thought had to be more that a coincidence. However, I haven't been able to discern what the importance of them being neighbors is. To make things more curious, Napoleon's brother is using the surname Cain on the 1900 census. Just another mystery to unravel.

I wrote to Sandra Craighead, a Mississippi plantation expert, after a disappointing trip to the Mississippi State Archives. At that time I still thought my ancestors were slaves from a Cotten plantation. Craighead dispelled that notion. With very little oral history to go on, I don't know which documents to look for to tell me what I need to know.

Hitting your head against these brick walls produce lots of frustration and headaches.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

African American Lives 2

Between February 6th and 13th, PBS will air "African American Lives 2," a new four-part series that explores roots, race and identity through the ancestry of a dozen Black celebrities. This is a sequel to the previous series that traced the family lines of such persons as Oprah Winfrey, Chris Tucker, Quincy Jones and Whoopi Goldberg. This time around the celebrities include Chris Rock, Morgan Freeman, Tom Joyner and Tina Turner. It is worth a look.

I must admit to being extremely envious and jealous of this show. I watched some excerpts on and marveled at the extent of the research. The average person does not have the kind of time and money it takes to uncover the manner of documents represented in the show. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who is also the web page Editor-In-Chief and host of the documentary, was able to acquire grants from several sources which definitely made the research possible.

I know most inquisitive people hire genealogists but I want to be the one to find the data. The hunt is as important to me as the discovery of the trail. The tedium does not bother me and believe me, sometimes looking at all the microfilm and searching through library stacks could be very tedious. But when you find that end of a piece of thread that leads to more and more information and the mystery begins to unravel, there is such a thrill. I guess that's why I am hooked on genealogy research. I just need more money and time to feed my habit.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


One of the reasons I chose the caption of this blog is because genealogy is about finding lost relatives. Then I think about the old Flip Wilson joke about Christopher Columbus discovering America. He may have discovered it for himself but there were people living in America that didn't think they needed discovering. They weren't lost.

While surfing the web for information on African-American genealogy, one name kept popping up. When I started searching for information on the Koonce family, this name popped up again. I had to check it out then.

Taneya's Genealogy Blog is full of useful information. She's a librarian so that explains her thoroughness. I don't know if we're actually related. Her father was William Koonce and there is a connection to the Koonces from North Carolina. I'm just glad to find a fellow genealogy hobbyist. We made actual contact and I hope it is the beginning of more communication and discoveries.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Looking for the Paper Trails of Slavery

I went through the material my aunt had gathered during her research. She shared much of the information verbally with me but not the documents. Unfortunately, she passed away four years ago due to complications from diabetes. I claimed her documents since she always promised them to me.

One thing that she never found during all her hard work was a paper trail about Solomon Koonce while he was a slave. There is a lot of oral history. He was supposedly sold at 19 to Isaac Koonce, a farmer in Haywood County, Tennessee. We do have anecdote about Isaac's brother-in-law David Nunn buying or receiving slaves for unpaid debts in North Carolina and transporting them to Tennessee. My aunt Adrene believed that Solomon was one of those slaves.

I am more of the mind that Solomon was inherited or sold after being inherited. Of course, I have no proof. It's just a hunch. We're not sure when he was born. The sources purport his birth to be anywhere from 1822 to 1828. The year 1828 is when Nunn and Isaac came to Tennessee from North Carolina so they probably didn't bring him during the move. If he was born in 1822, he would have been 19 around 1841. Between 1841 and 1842, an aunt of Nunn died. She didn't have any children so her property went to her nieces and nephew. Some of her property were human and she was from North Carolina. I'm going to follow this trail and see if I can find documents with names or at least ages that coincide with Solomon.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Surnames I Am Researching

I am descended from Solomon Koonce who was born around 1822 in North Carolina. He was a slave on a farm in Haywood and Crockett County, Tennessee. I am also descended from Napoleon Cotten. He was born in Mississippi around 1857 and lived in Amite and Pike, County. His mother was Winnie Dear. Napoleon married Mary Saunders of Mississippi. My grandmother Lula Alexander is a descendant of John and Catherine Alexander of Lincoln and Pike County, Mississippi.

I have not been able to go back farther on the Black side. Other names are Warren, Featherston, Brassfield, Roberts in Dyer, Hawyood, Gibson, and Crockett, Tennessee and Wallace of Mississippi.

For more information, you can email me or follow the link below to "Say My Name."

Slaves in the Family

After writing my first family history, "Say My Name," I was exhilarated and exhausted. I edited it, abridged it, added to it, but then put it aside. Lately, I've been wanting to go back to it. For me it's a skeleton. The story needs flesh and blood. I want the ghosts to speak.

For inspiration I went back to a book I bought many years ago. "Slaves in the Family," by Edward Ball was published 1998. I read bits and pieces of it while I was doing my own research. It was a unique perspective of a descendant of slave owners. As I reread the beginning, it struck me. One reason Black Americans are having so much trouble finding more genealogical data is because the research needs to be done in conjunction with our White ancestors. They have the names and the documents, if they still exist.

I have communicated with a relative of Solomon Koonce's slave owner. He was the nicest man and also a genealogy hobbyist. I also emailed a relative of Charles Featherston. She never knew of the family that claimed him as father. Both persons were very receptive. I know all White relatives won't be helpful. I did receive a racist email while I was looking for more information about Winnie Dear.

I have also talked with many Black Americans who deny their White heritage. On a similar vein, I had a discussion recently with a co-worker who thought birth data should be kept secret from adopted children. She believes there are things in the dark that should remain in the dark.

I disagree. The truth may sometimes be ugly but I feel it should be uncovered. The truth is the light. The dark breeds shadows, lies and ugliness. The trick is to stare into the light without flinching. I'm about the light.

Friday, January 25, 2008

In the Beginning

This is the first of many blogs (I hope) about my journey to discover ancestors. I have been on this journey for over ten years. I have travelled all over the country, visiting archives, relatives, libraries, in an effort to learn as much as I can.

I'm just plain nosy. That's what my family think. However, I argue that inquisitiveness is a by-product of critical thinking. I want to know the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the mundane, the extraordinary of all my people. Besides, I truly believe that everybody has a story. To tell the story is to breath life into a memory. It is archaeology on a small but no less important scale.

I have already written my family history but a family history is always a work in progress. There is so much more I want to learn and transcribe.

So what?

The answer to that is perhaps as I learn and write about my family, it may help others who are interested in doing the same. It may shed a tiny glimmer on the human condition because a major portion of my ancestors were slaves and those who slept with slaves.