Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Silence must not fall

It is my endeavor to write an updated version of my family history in 2012. To help get started,  I have decided to interview to my mom and her brothers as well as my aunt Hortense and get some of their experiences down in print.

So this morning I started with my mom. I think I may have to polish my interviewing skills some more. My mom was extremely defensive. I tried to explain that if she didn't know the answer it was okay but she seemed to feel I was judging her lack of knowledge. It made the interview very long on excuses and explanations and very short on interesting tidbits. Or is that a tidbit in itself?

My mother doesn't share my curiosity about our ancestors. It may be a generational thing. She was taught not to question her elders and that may also be why she is uncomfortable with me questioning her about our past. That is unfortunate, genealogically speaking. She knows very little about her father's people. She wasn't told much and she didn't ask. That definitely does not describe me. I will keep on digging and asking until I am satisfied no matter how long that takes.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Back to work

I was contacted by two people this week that has stirred me out of my hiatus. One was a relative of Isaac Koonce's ward. And another was one of my cousins with contradictory information on Mosella Koonce Dodson.

It will take a little while to get my research muscles going again but I have a break from real life coming up. I will use that time to give those muscles some exercise.

It was very interesting talking to the descendant of Isaac's ward. She told me that the original farm belonged to President Andrew Jackson. She told me of seeing two beautiful antique quilts made by one of the slaves. Unfortunately she didn't know which slave quilted the piece. I wonder if it was Amy.

Since I have done little research since August, the mystery remains. I did look over my blog where I detailed the different ages and gender of Isaac's slaves. I think in my zeal to find Amy, I committed a genealogy sin. I assumed. I haven't been able to gather any more oral stories but I know they're out there. I just have to look under every rock and tree until I find it.

And I think the info on Mosella is just a little confused. Once it is unraveled it will prove to be as we always believed. She is definitely Solomon's daughter.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

And the digging goes on

I have been silent but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy. The family reunion is fast approaching and I have been working diligently with the committee to make sure the event is successful. I've also been on the phone talking with relatives, following up on the little bit of information I received on my road trip.

The more I look at the evidence, the more I am sure that Amy did not die right after the birth of her son Moses Koonce. According to Solomon's granddaughter Evelyn, she was told by Alfred Claybrook, a husband to one of Solomon's many granddaughters, that Amy had long, straight black hair. Claybrook could not have seen Amy unless she was alive in the 1900's. And if I believe the 1900 census, she was still alive.

I need to go back to Tennessee and search some more.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Things I learned on my road trip

I'm home. My trip was relaxing, fruitful, hot. I'm glad I went but I didn't accomplish as much as I hoped.

We stayed in a very nice hotel in the Brentwood neighborhood of Nashville. We got a very good deal. Tip #1- The research is the priority, even over good hotel deals. Everything else is secondary. Tip #2 - if you can, stay closer to the libraries even if it may cost more. Traffic takes away time you can use in the library. Also, if you're with someone, you don't have to depend on them for transportation. They can leave or you can leave on your own time schedule.

From Nashville we went to Jackson, TN. My ancestors come from this area. At the Crockett County library I found a will for Joshua Nunn for 1831. This Joshua was Francis' brother and David's father. David Nunn was the administrator of Francis estate and the executor of Joshua's. He was also the brother-in-law of Isaac Koonce, the last slave owner of Solomon.

On this will is listed many of the same names of slaves found on the inventory of Francis' estates. Joshua died in North Carolina. In 1830, Francis bought land (over 1000 acres) in a part of Dyer County that became Lauderdale County. I think Francis may have acquired some of Joshua's slaves from his nieces and nephews for his land. One of the slaves name was unique-Britton. That's what made me think this. One of the other slave is named Sall. I think this may be Solomon. It's a leap, I know, but it makes sense to me.

Tip #3 - It sucks when the persons you're looking at have no heirs. Heirs want to know their heritage. Without them the trail goes cold. Isaac Koonce had no heirs. This Francis Nunn had no heirs. It is more difficult to find background information concerning their lives but I trudge on. It also makes me work harder to leave information for future generations.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On the road, finding clues

I got out of my comfy chair and hit the road so I could find more answers to my ancestry. This year I'm concentrating on my maternal line so I headed toward Nashville. First stop, however was St. Louis. My cousin and genie buddy lives there and she is sharing the journey literally and figuratively.

We stopped at the archives bright and early Friday morning. For me, it was slow going but I kept going. The one thing I wanted to learn was what estate Solomon Koonce, my g-g-g grandfather came from before being sold to Isaac Koonce. The receipt said "from the Nunn's estate." I looked for data on the Haywood County book and figured out that the only Nunn it could be was Francis. However, I couldn't find the will.

A librarian showed me a book that had the index to all the wills in Tennessee. I looked for Francis Nunn and found three. One died after Solomon was sold. Two died around the right time but neither were in Haywood County. One was in Williamson county and the other in Lauderdale. I thought I had hit a dead end but I looked up the microfilm any way.

There was no mention of Solomon on the will in Williamson and I think I pulled the wrong microfilm for Lauderdale because I couldn't even find Francis Nunn on it! I was getting frustrated and discouraged but I went back to the Lauderdale microfilm again. This time I found Francis Nunn and, hallelujah, I found Solomon! He was listed among 27 slaves.

I am positive this is my Solomon. There was also the name Ned on the list. According to oral legend, Solomon had a brother named Ned who sold to a family out of the state. There was also a woman named Ann. On the 1870 census. an elderly woman named Ann Nunn is living with Solomon.

It is also possible that Amy, my great great great grandmother is among the 27 slaves but I'm not sure about that one. There were some discrepancies concerning the names. The names are listed in two places-one in the inventory and one in what happened to them during the interim before being sold. Amy is not listed in the inventory but she is listed at the end. I believe she is called Ann in the inventory but Amy in the last list. I also surmise that she is very young because they don't sent her out to hire like some of the others. Instead they use some of the money as expense to take care of her and several other slaves. Solomon was hired out but for a lower amount than some of the others. I think that is also because he is young, around 12 years old, or possibly of a small stature.

Regardless, this alone has made my trip worthwhile. Everything else is gravy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ready for a road trip

I haven't been to Nashville, TN since 2003. A random stranger told me yesterday that it has changed so much and for the better. Nashville is one of the cities I have thought of relocating to.

Most people think of music when they think of Nashville. I think of genealogy. I found the state archives there to be so fruitful. It spoiled me for Mississippi's archive. I found so much more information in the Tennessee archives than the Mississippi archives. I expect another Tennessee bounty now that I am more experienced in genealogy research. I'm getting excited.

Before I go, I will look up what records I will find at the archives that relates to my ancestors. I also plan to watch episodes of "Who Do You Think You Are?" again. The episodes with Lionel Ritchie made me aware that I should also go to Nashville's public library. I didn't watch all of the Tim McGraw episodes but I remember that his ancestors had a similar story to Solomon's slave owner Isaac Koonce. I will also check out Vanessa Williams just to get some helpful hints. Although that show gave me extreme genealogy envy, it also had lots of good information and tips.

The road trip begins after the Fourth. Look out Tennessee.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Time for a Road Trip

This summer I will be traveling to Tennessee to do a little research. A couple of years ago I went to Jackson and McComb, MS to work on my paternal ancestors. It was a big disappointment but I have learned a few things that I hope will make this upcoming trip more fruitful. First, I am going with my cousin Barbara and she has a car and connections in Crockett County. It will be so much more convenient than when I went to MS--no car, no connections that were available.And it will also be nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of.

Also, I plan to go to Nashville to do research at the archives there. I was advised by many wise fellow genealogists that this will save me time and trouble. I can get the information I need that is available there first and save the harder searches for the county courts and local libraries later. And I also hope to finally meet Taneya, my unofficial cousin. She is very learned and all her advice has been very helpful.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Little Detective Work

I didn't make any real resolutions for this year but in my mind I vowed to figure out more of my ancestry. The year is nearly half over and I'm still chipping away at that brick wall.

I'm so glad I have this blog to remind me--to remind me of those silent vows, of promises to keep, of avenues to follow. I was rereading some of my entries and found this from a couple of years back.

"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 don't even remember receiving this information let alone writing about it. This was given to me by a relative of Isaac Koonce along with the receipt of the sale of Solomon. It is possible that this holds important clues to Amy, my great-great-great grandmother. Here is how I break it down.

Isaac Koonce came to Haywood County, Tennessee in 1828 with brother-in-law David Augustus Nunn. Along with David's brother John (Jack) Nunn and uncle Francis (Frank) Nunn, they settled into western Tennessee. All of the North Carolina natives came with slaves. Isaac only had a few. Two of them, George and Hannah, were gifts from his father John Koonce.

On the 1830 Haywood census, Isaac claimed six slaves--three males and three females. The three males were between the ages 10 to 23. Two of the females were of those ages with one being younger than 10. Looking at the information given me, I deduce that the two adult slaves were George and Hannah and that the child was probably their daughter. Also, Elijah was one of the male slaves.

On the 1840 census,Isaac Koonce still has 6 slaves, but only two males. One male is under 24 to 10. I thinks this is Solomon who he just bought in 1839. The other male is between 24 and 35. This is either Elijah or George. I speculate that it is George because he was a gift but I know this is just speculation. Something may have happened to one of the men and that is why he bought Solomon. Of the four female slaves, two are under 10, one is between 10 and 24, and one is between 24 and 35. Isaac bought 12-year old Mariah in 1832. Is she the one between 10 and 24? I deduce that the one between 24 and 35 is Hannah. The two under 10 are possibly her daughters.

Jumping to the 1850 census slave schedule, Isaac now owns eight slaves. One was a male, 23 years old. That would be the right age for Solomon. There was also a 38 year old male (George?), a 40 year old female(Hannah?), a 28 year old female(Mariah?), and an 18 year old female. I think that the 18-year old may be the elusive Amy, mother to Solomon’s first set of children. There were also a twelve, a nine and a two year old female slave. If the 18 year old female is Amy, then she could have been one of the slaves under 10 on the 1840 census. I don't think she is the 28 year old female because Amy's oldest daughter was born around 1849. Twenty-eight is kind of old during this time to bear your first child. The 2 year old female is probably Mosella.

On the 1860 slave schedule, Isaac now has twelve slaves. There is now only one male who has to be Solomon at 35 years old. The 48 year old woman is probably Hannah. Here comes the tricky part. There is a 32 yr. old female and a 22 yr. old female who is designated a mulatto, the only one of the slaves that is so. I know that the ages are usually inaccurate and change from census to census. Amy is definitely there. She has born at least two more children--James, my great great grandfather that correlates with one of the nine year old males on the census, and Solomon Jr. who correlates with the 6 year old male. The 12 year old female has to be Mosella. So which one is Amy? Is Mariah still there? Is she the 32 year old? Is Amy the 22 year old? One oral legend says she is part Cherokee. Could she be called mulatto because of this?

I do plan on going to Tennessee this summer. Haywood County is a must see stop now to see if there are any records that corroborate any of my conclusions.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Another Mystery

I started using the new and improved Family Search. I am having lots of luck especially when it comes to viewing death certificates. Not 100% luck. More like 85 but that's a whole lot better than nothing.

So I'm trying to pin down the spelling of Susan Buck Brasfield Avery's first husband, my great great grandpa. I look up Uncle Howell's death certificate. He's Susan's son and he died in 1922. And what do I find but two death certificates for him. One says he was born in 1878 and died June 7, 1922. The other says he was born in 1872 (the more correct date) and that he died June 18. The first certificate says he was single and died in Maury City. The other says he was divorced and died in Dyersburg. One is witnessed by my great great great grandpa James Koonce and a Dr. Frost who said he attended him from June 4 to June 7. The other was witnessed by a Miss Davis and a Dr. Baird who attended him on June 18th when he died. On the first certificate his occupation is listed as farming. On the second, he is a laborer.

So now I'm scratching my head trying to figure out what is going on. Was my poor uncle a zombie? I'm kidding but what the heck happened? On the first certificate the doctor signed it on July 8, the date of his burial. That's one whole month after Howell supposedly died. The second certificate has him being buried in June. The exact date is scratched off. The only thing both are consistent about is that he is buried in Maury City. The first certificate lists the cemetery-Nunn which became New Cemetery where many of my ancestors are buried.

I doubt I will ever find out what happened but I will try. And after all that dubious info neither one lists his mother or father. And here I was thinking old uncle Howell may have been gay because he was so good looking and still living with his mom in 1920.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I love genealogy. I love the mysteries and the sleuthing. I love the rush I get when I find even the tiniest of thread in the patchwork which is my family tree. To me, it is an example of critical thinking at its best.

So why don't more people love it? To be specific, why don't more of my relatives love it? The reason I am complaining is because it would make my research yield so much more if there were more of my kinfolk researching.

I use ancestry.com as a base for most of my online research. After you find a record of one of your ancestors, there is a link to all the other people researching that particular person. It is so frustrating for me that whenever I click on that link, it rarely leads to anyone. I have found one person--ONE person--that was also researching a shared ancestor. It felt like I had discovered a new planet. In the other cases where there was another person looking for the same ancestor, I either knew more than they did or their information was incorrect.

Sometimes I send out queries to people whom I have deduced may be related to me. They rarely respond. I think some may suspect my motives but mostly I believe they're indifferent.

Maybe that is why it so exciting to me to find out that I have at least one cousin--Barbara-- that shares my love and thirst for knowledge when it comes to genealogy.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

It's Hammer Time

I don't even know what that means but I'm using it to mean time to research at my leisure.

I am taking the summer off once again to do some in depth research into my family. The goal is to go to Tennessee with my cousin Barbara. So I am watching the news with some trepidation. It is horrifying to watch the slow flooding of the area where my ancestors lived and some relatives still live. I am praying for them.

In the meantime, I will continue my armchair research. It's cheaper. I wanted to go to D.C. and look at the records at the archives but it was too pricey for just a couple of days. Instead I will send off for the civil war pension records of a John Alexander and a Sylvester Ames and hope they are my relatives. And I will also travel to Ft. Wayne and look at their records.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Five surnames among four siblings

That is my conundrum. On the 1870 census in Amite County, Mississippi census, Winnie Anderson is living with Oscar Dears and her four children: Hiram, Richard, Napoleon and Elizabeth. I haven't been able to locate anyone on the 1880 census except for Winnie who is now married to Oscar. However, I found an Elizabeth Cotten marrying Sylvester Ames in Amite County.

In 1900, I find my great grandfather Napoleon who is now a Cotten. Down a few lines is his brother Richard who is now a Cain. He is living with his widowed mother Winnie Dears. I still can't figure out where Hiram is but according to the 1900 census, all of Winnie's children are alive. He could be going by the surname Cain, Cotten, Dears or Anderson.

Also living in the neighborhood is Sylvester and Elizabeth Ames giving credence to my theory that Elizabeth is my great aunt.

So I'm checking Cotten, Cain, Anderson, Dears and Ames to get more info about my great grandfather Napoleon.

Friday, March 11, 2011

This week has been one of those where I find things that have been there all along, right under my nose. I have searched the Freedmen's Bureau many times looking for ancestors' surnames. I ran across Brasfield early and wanted to claim it but knew I didn't have enough information to do so.

This week I looked at D. and Sue Brasfield up close on ancestry.com. I was determined to figure out what my ggrandfather's name was. Looking at the census for 1880, I'm still unsure. It looks like Domic which is a name I've never heard of. Could it be short for Dominic? Or could it be misspelled?

Next I looked at the marriages at the Freedmen's Bureau site for Tennessee. There is a D. Brassfield and a Susan Buck. Looking again on ancestry at the original document and I observed the same strange spelling of Brassfield's name. Therefore this must be the marriage of my gggrandparents!"Donic Brasfield of Gibson Co., Tenn and Sousie Buck of Gibson Co., Tenn."

At Quincy, TN the two were united in matrimony on Dec. 22,1865. He was said to be a copper color, she a bright mulatto. No other details are given except neither had previous children.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Following the Trail

Above is a photo of James and Jane Koonce and family.

Real life has been intruding but I'm doing fairly well at not getting off track when it comes to focusing on my research.

I was finally able to talk to a cousin I met during one of the Koonce family reunions. She answered one of my questions about the family oral legend. All of my life I have been told that part of my heritage was Cherokee. I remember looking years ago at a pictorial history of native Americans and noticing one lady looking so much like my grandmother. I thought that blood line was through the illusive Amy. However, I have almost eliminated that possibility due to the fact that the trend toward enslaving native Americans ended before Amy was probably born.

My cousin Barbara told me that my great-great grandmother Mary Jane Roberts Koonce was half Cherokee. Her mother, Judie, according to Barbara, was a full-blooded Cherokee. Here's the thing that surprised me. Mary Jane Roberts was not black at all. According to Barbara, her father, unknown, was white. Barbara says that Judie and Jane arrived in Tennessee in a wagon. They stopped because they were tired. Judie subsequently married Will Roberts who was not Jane's father. She also tells me that Jane's half-siblings were much darker than her.

Barbara didn't seem to know that Jane had an older brother named Joseph and younger sisters Partuna and Willie who were all said to have been born in Alabama. I have found them on the 1870 census in Haywood County, TN. There is also a one-year-old brother Edmond born in Tennessee. The elder Willie is also said to have been born in Alabama. Barbara's story seems to be that Judie and Jane came alone. She had surmised that they may have been part of the "Trail of Tears." After further research I know that this is impossible for Jane. The Trail of Tears for the Cherokee nation took place in 1838. Jane was born in 1861. Judie was born around 1825 so the legend may be about Judie and her mother (unknown). Barbara also recounts that Jane would often take trips to Hot Springs, Arkansas and some place in Oklahoma. She didn't know why but assumed there were relatives there.

This is another example of why you can't believe word for word the oral legends. You must investigate and verify. It is also an example of how when one question is answered another question is formed. I love genealogy!

Friday, January 21, 2011

More on Solomon

This blog is my way of keeping up with my research into my family. It records my first impression of data I find. Instead of keeping a written journal that I may lose, I write here. I don't mind sharing what I find so that it can help others and also so it can help connect me with others. That's just a benefit.

I'm concentrating on going back farther on Solomon Koonce, my great-great-great-grandfather. I am looking into whether he was sold from the estate of Francis Nunn of Williamson, Tennessee. The information should be in the court records according to "Nunns of the South," an old book written about the Nunn family. I'm looking into having those records sent here from the Tennessee state archives through the inter-library program.

While looking up Solomon on ancestry.com, I noticed for the first time that Solomon claimed he was a mulatto. How did I miss that? Of course, I'm not sure what that means. Sometimes Blacks were called mulatto because of the color of their skin. Sometimes because the person was acknowledging that his or her parentage was part white. In the photos, Solomon does not have a light complexion. However, his features are somewhat keen. As one of my cousins noted, the nose the family calls the Koonce nose didn't come from Solomon. His nose was more aquiline. Our family nose actually came from Lizzie Brasfield, Willie Koonce's wife and my great grandmother. So it is really the Brasfield nose.

The mulatto designation is on the 1880 census. Solomon also says he was born in 1828 in South Carolina and that his parents were born in North Carolina. I am seasoned enough to know not to believe everything I see on the census. I know the birth year is probably wrong but are the other things wrong as well?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

On the scent

I guess the family reunion has spurred me on to do more than I have been doing in my research. Thanks for the encouragement, Mavis and Mary.

I am, as we all are, the product of several threads in this genealogy quilt. I have chosen not to concentrate on just one thread but to keep pushing to discover as much as possible about all of them. Sometimes that is daunting, sometimes it is exhilarating.

For the past day I have been looking closer at Solomon, the patriarch of my maternal grandmother's family. I am fortunate to be in the possession of the receipt of his being sold in 1839/40 to Isaac Koonce. I was so enthralled with this relic that I didn't even look at the obvious. Solomon was between 14 to 19, depending upon the source, when he was sold to Isaac from the Nunn's estate. I made some weak attempts to discover Solomon's earlier years but now I am in earnest. I want to go back and possibly find his parents as well as his first mate Amy.

According to the census, Solomon was born in Tennessee, South Carolina or North Carolina. I know that the white Nunns and Koonces came from Lenoir County, North Carolina so I approached the moderator of the North Carolina genweb page, Taneya Koonce (so far no relations. I asked her if any Nunns had died in Lenoir County around 1839. No luck. Then I went to ancestry.com. I looked for Francis Nunn, David Nunn's uncle, who passed away around that time. Instead I found something that may be more promising. In 1816, Francis Nunn IV died in Williamson County, Tennessee. This Francis is not the uncle but is a distant cousin to David. What was more interesting is that Francis Nunn's will was not probated until his widow died. Marcy Nunn died in 1839 and there were slaves. Upon further research I learned she had lived in Gibson County, Tennessee. Parts of Gibson became Crockett County after 1870. Crockett County is where Isaac Koonce and David Nunn lived after 1870. Although I could not find Marcy on the 1830 census, I did find several of her children. Two of them, Sally Nunn Mayfield and Joel Nunn, owned a slave that could have been Solomon.

I think this a strong, possible lead. We shall see.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's a Family Renuion

Every two years the Koonce family hold a family reunion hosted by different individual families. This year it is my mother's family's turn. Of course, I am on the committee and I am very excited about the upcoming event. It is to be held, as is our custom, during the Labor Day weekend. Although I'm excited, I still feel some anxiety and annoyance. I look at envy at those families that are able to attract hundreds of kin to attend their reunions. My family can't seem to get even 100. My grandmother had 11 children. Out of those 11, the family has grown to nearly 100 by itself. Yet, the interest in family has dwindled. My uncle says that we are fragmented and seems to have no optimism about that changing. I don't want to accept that.

I contracted the "genie" bug from an aunt who has since died. Unfortunately, no one else has gotten the addiction. It would make such a difference in my research if I had at least one partner to share it with me. So part of this year I will try harder to infect a few others of my family with my genealogy obsession and figure out how to entice more family members to gather together. (I'm not calling that my resolution but it sure sounds like it.) Any suggestions?