Monday, October 27, 2014

Genealogical bread crumbs

I'm trying to see if DNA can chip away my brick walls. I was a little disappointed that I wasn't able to come up with anything new after the inspirational conference I had attended. So today I decided to concentrate on my Cotten family mysteries.

To recap, my great grandfather is Napoleon Cotten. His mother is Winnie Deer. It took me years to find them on the 1870 census mainly because I was looking for Cottens. Then on one of my searches I used only the first names and the state, Mississippi. Heritage Quest rewarded me with success. I found the whole family in 1870 in Amite County. The reason I couldn't find them before was because I wasn't looking for Andersons, the surname they were using in 1870.

I then tried to find them on various Amite county farms owned by Andersons. Moses Gordon Anderson became a person of interest in my mystery. He lived near Winnie in 1870. In 1860, he owned 40 slaves including a 100 year old woman named Sophia. On the slave schedule, following the tip I learned at the conference, I noticed a family group that corresponded to the ages of Winnie's family. There were discrepancies. There was a one year old male. On Winnie's tombstone and on the 1900 census, she is recorded with only three sons and a daughter. If this is Winnie, she is recorded on this slave schedule with four sons. Also the ages of the sons were a little off except for Napoleon's.

I then looked at the 1850 slave schedule. M. G. Anderson owns 23 slaves.  They are separated into two groups. On the smaller group, there is a 15 year old female, the right age for Winnie,  and possibly her oldest son Hiram at one year old.

I went back to 1840 and found Anderson with a new wife and seven slaves. I checked out his bride. Her name was Cynthia Carolyn Causey, daughter of Capt. William Causey and Susanna Jackson. The Captain had died in 1828 and left a will. He had sired many children. He also possessed many slaves. He willed only one, "negro girl named Mary" to his daughter Cynthia. Now I know Mary is a very common name and it means very little but it still gave me a glimmer of hope that this was Winnie's mother, Mary. And when I checked the 1840 census, Anderson owned only two female slaves-a child under 10 and a woman between 24 and 35 years old. Could this be Mary and Winnie?

I continued searching family trees for the Causeys on I came across a familiar name. The woman who owned one of the Causey family trees was also a match to me through DNA!!!

I still have much to do to determine who was the shared ancestor. Her family tree had a surname that was also on my family tree-- Cain. We may be connected that way. Cynthia  Causey's brother had married Lucretia Cain, a daughter of Isaiah Cain and sister to Mary Cain Cotten. These same surnames keep coming up. That is why I am holding out hope that this bread crumb trail will finally lead me to the ancestors of Winnie and Napoleon and knock down that brick wall.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Genealogy Detectives

I attended a wonderful genealogy conference in Chicago this past weekend. Sponsored by the Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society of Chicago (AAGHSC), the featured speakers were Melvin Collier and Michael N. Henderson. Both men have written books about their breakthroughs in discovering ancestors. I have already purchased "Mississippi to Africa," by Collier and plan on buying Henderson's "Got Proof" soon.

These men have inspired me not to give up on my search no matter how difficult it may seem. They did it against incredible odds. It was all a matter of following the clues, little bread crumbs left by the ancestors.

Sometimes I feel like my ancestors don't want to be found. I keep encountering burned down courthouses, lost records, constant surname changes and just seemingly complete anonymity. The elders that are left claim they have little to share. But I will persevere.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A little faith. A lot of looking up

Since taking the DNA test, I have become completely hooked in using it to find my ancestors. sent back hundreds of matches., a wonderful utility site, has given me dozens of matches. And still I am no closer to discovering my roots. However, it is giving me hope.

I look at the matches. I look at their family trees, at least, the ones that have submitted trees, and most of them have names I don't recognize. I have deduced, since so many on the trees were born in Virginia or North Carolina, that these matches were made in slavery. Therein lies my dilemma. Slaves had no surnames. I only know three slave owner names for sure and they are definitely not my progenitors.  I am not including Charles Featherston in that group. The dna results have proved he is my great great grandfather and he was not a slave owner.

But there is a silver lining. I am closer to learning some of my ancestors' surnames. I just have to go through every family tree, find the names that are mentioned the most and contact the tree owners. Of course, that will be tedious and many tree owners have that annoying habit of not replying to my emails. But if it was easy, would I be so obsessed?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fun with DNA

I have been skeptical and more than a little paranoid about DNA testing. I wasn't willing to give up my spit if the answers from the database were skewed by too small a sampling. Then out of the blue my maternal uncle took the test. I didn't even know he was that interested. My aunt said  he was trying to keep up with me. Well, he one upped me when he got his DNA tested.

His results fascinated me. His DNA was 68% African, 30% European. The breakdown is as follows:
Cameroon/Congo 21%                                                                      
Benin/Togo 17%                                                                                 
Mali 9%                                                                                                 
Ivory Coast/Ghana 8%                                                                       
Senegal 4%                                                                                           
Nigeria 2%                                                                                            
Africa North 1%
Africa Southeastern Bantu 5% and a little Africa South-Central Hunter-Gatherers
        Ireland 17%
       Great Britain 5%
       European trace regions 8% including Scandinavian and Iberian penisula
       Amerindian  less than 1%
       Asia Central less than 1%
Okay. Now I'm curious. What do we share? So I took the Ancestry DNA test. My results were similar but different. My DNA was 71% African and 27% European. The breakdown for me is as follows:
        Cameroon/Congo  5%
        Benin/Togo 10%
        Mali 3%
        Ivory Coast/Ghana 10%
        Africa Southeastern Bantu 14%
        Senegal 5%
        Nigeria  26%
        Africa South-Central Hunter-Gatherers   1%
        Ireland 19%
        Great Britain 6%
        West Europe 2%
        Amerindian  less than 1%
        Asia Central 1%

Lots of numbers and regions but what do they mean and how can they help me figure out my ancestors? Now "the game's afoot." This has renewed my enthusiasm. I want to know more. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

I'm Back!!

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

Saturday, January 25, 2014


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

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

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

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