Births Deaths Marriages, Migration, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Virginia

We got strayed apart.

I was thinking about Cousin Tilithia when I was a little girl.  She had a restaurant large enough to work in and serve patrons.  It wasn’t real big, but they were serving patrons, and Mama carried me up there, and we spent the night there.  And whenever she’d come to Wilson she’d stay with us.  

Tilithia Godbold, she lived in Norfolk, and she married this man.  That wasn’t her children’s daddy.  King was her children’s daddy.  Godbold was the man she married later. He lived over in Rocky Mount, and he worked in the roundhouse or something.  I think he fixed the train, but he wasn’t the one on the train.  And Godbold, Tilithia’s husband, he stayed there in Rocky Mount.  ‘Cause Tilithia lived in Norfolk.  Her and her five or six girls or whatever it was, and she was running what they call the Strand Café.  And it was down on the first floor, and they lived up over it.  Go out there, and it was a sleeping compartment.  I was over there one time, and I remember it.  I think I was about seven or eight years old.  Went with Mama over there.  We was just running all over the place.  She had us waiting tables.  I wanted to wait tables. I was wondering, I asked Mama, “Well, why come we couldn’t have a place like that?”  And all that food!  Look like whatever the food was – I didn’t even know what it was ‘cause we ain’t never had none.  It was a whole lot of stuff, look like they had, I didn’t want it, but then I know it looked good, and we ate down there in the café.  

And another time Mama took me over there on the train to see her.  And it was right down in South Philadelphia where we went to their house.  Where they was staying.  And when I moved up here, her sister, she was telling me ‘bout how the children were there in Norfolk, her sister and all them.  I said, well, I could remember some of them, but I don’t remember what –  and I asked where some of the girls was.  Some of them in Norfolk and some of ‘em, one’s dead.  [Inaudible] the family.  We got strayed apart. 

My grandmother reminisced fondly of “Ta-LIE-a-thy” and her cafe, but was not entirely sure how they were related. Not long into my research, I discovered that Tilithia Brewington King Godbold Dabney was born 1878 to Joshua and Amelia Aldridge Brewington. She was, then, the first cousin of my grandmother’s father, J. Thomas Aldridge. Tilithia married Emanuel King in 1898 and, by 1910, the couple and their daughters Juanita, Elizabeth, Amelia, May Bell and Tilithia had settled in Norfolk, Virginia. Tilithia and Emanuel divorced and, by 1920, she was married to railroad fireman Walter Godbold and running her cafe. Her marriage to Godbold did not last, and the 1930 census found him back in Rocky Mount NC (described as divorced) and her still in Norfolk, holding herself out to be a widow while maintaining the little restaurant at 426 Brambleton Avenue.
This was about all I could locate on Cousin Tilithia until 2009, when I met — genealogically speaking — B.J., a descendant of Tilithia’s sister Mattie Brewington Braswell (and my fourth cousin.)  Ours has been a most fecund collaboration, and it was she who discovered Tilithia’s obit and what had become of her daughters. My grandmother would have pleased to know that the branches of our family had found their way back from being “strayed apart.”

Image Virginian Pilot, 22 November 1965.

Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.


13 thoughts on “We got strayed apart.

  1. Hi Lisa! I’ve just come across your blog, and I’m really excited because at first glance, I see that our ancestors have lived in, and traveled similar paths! Just for starters, most of my ancestors hail from Franklin, Warren, and Halifax counties in NC, but many of my maternal folks migrated to Norfolk around the turn of the century. Of those, my grandmother, and her children (including my mom) were members of Jerusalem Baptist Church, and my uncle, Howell Hill is still there, and is a deacon in the church! Certainly, your Tilithia and my grandmother would have known each other. 🙂
    You didn’t give the date of Tilithia’s death, but my grandmother was a faithful member and servant of JBC until her death, in 1984. Her name was Mary Thomas.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog, and perhaps discovering more connections. When you have the time, please check mine out, too! You can visit Into the LIGHT at

    • Hi, Renate! Thanks for reading and taking time to comment, and I’ll definitely check out your blog. I forgot to include the publication date of Cousin Tilithia’s obit, but she died in 1965. I don’t think there’s any question that she knew your family! How long has Jerusalem Baptist been in existence?
      — Lisa

      • Whaaaat?!? Oh, my goodness, that is too much! This certainly is a small world, isn’t it?
        I’ll have to check on the dates for Jerusalem, but I know for sure that my grandmother was there at least as early as the 1930’s, so yes, she would have known your Tilithia, for sure!


      • Is Barnetta McGhee White also your kin? I learned that she’s related to A and W-J when my childhood neighbor, her niece Deborah, sent me a copy of In Search of Kith and Kin.

        We’ve been searching high and low for a photo of Tilithia. I wonder if Jerusalem has an archive?

      • I’ve been wanting to get over to Jerusalem to check to see if they have pictures, etc., but I’m going to have to try to call to make an appointment, because every time I just stop by, no one is there. I’ve asked my uncle, but he doesn’t know. Now that Ihave double the reason, I will try to do this soon!

        No, I’m not related to Barnetta. She’s on their mother’s side, and I’m on their father’s.

        My email address is Feel free to contact me there.

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  3. Lee Hermes says:

    Lisa, while Googling Brewington Y-DNA I ran across your blog and wondered if you know of any direct male descendants Raiford Brewington who have taken the Y-DNA test. I ask because my uncle about 5 men in my Sessions line have matched a Brewington through their Y-DNA. It would be lovely to know if we are Sessions or Brewingtons.

    Thanks for your help,


    • Hi, Lee! My Brewington cousins have no surviving descendants in the male line, but I know some others and will see if I can find anyone. You have a great clue — wish I had Y links for my dad or maternal uncles!


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