Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Row Q.

Less than an hour after we got from the WCGS meeting last night, I received an email from president Joan Howell. I’d mentioned to her that I was trying to locate an unmarked grave at Rest Haven, she’d offered to check her records, and there it was: Nina F. Hardy, Section 3, Lot 20, Q in the street, Space 4.

This is how the morning went:

  • My father and I drove over to Rest Haven, but quickly realized that there was no way to determine where A’nt Nina’s grave was just by looking.
  • We got back in the car and crossed town to Maplewood Cemetery, where the City of Wilson Cemetery Commission is headquartered. The manager provided a chart and a print-out and a good suggestion. “Walk about halfway up Q,” she said. “Then call me and tell me what headstones you see.” [Sidenote: Q was once a track running through Sections 3 and 4 of the cemetery, like P and R to either side of it. Years ago, Q and the other odd-lettered rows were closed off and converted to burial space. The designation “Q in the street” means that A’nt Nina’s grave lies under what was once a pathway.]
  • Back to Rest Haven. A few minutes and a call later, we had the general location of A’nt Nina’s grave between those of Rev. Calvin Harris Boykin and Annie Thompson. I snapped a shot or two, though there is nothing much to see. [Cemetery employees can pinpoint graves, but none were available at the time.]
  • No time like the present, so we headed to our cousin L.H.’s house. His family owns a vault business that does a sideline in gravestones. I ordered a simple flat granite marker to be inscribed with A’nt Nina’s name, birth and death dates; my dad wrote a check (I’d left mine in Georgia, and L.H. doesn’t truck with credit cards); and it was done. I kissed L.H.’s new grandson, and he promised to send me a photo when the marker is installed. [L.H. remembers A’nt Nina. I don’t know why that surprised me. When they arrived in Wilson from Wayne County, Nina and L.H.’s grandfather, Jesse “Jack” Henderson, both lived with Jesse and Sarah Henderson Jacobs on Elba Street.]


My father standing at the approximate location of Nina Hardy’s grave this morning. Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson, North Carolina.

North Carolina, Paternal Kin


April 1998. I’d been a member of Wilson County Genealogical Society perhaps six months. The group’s Colonial Roads Tour felt like something I couldn’t miss, so I made a special trip home to board a bus that would introduce us to Wilson County’s earliest past. The late, great Henry Powell narrated, identifying and illuminating obscure landmark after obscure landmark as Wilson County’s backroads unspooled beneath the bus’ wheels. For the first time, I began to understand Wilson as a palimpsest created not just by time, but by race and class. There were whole layers of culture and memory and history accessible only to those who had inherited the right keys. The keys I had unlocked none of these doors. But they did grant access to the Society.

From the beginning, I was welcomed into the group — encouraged, consulted and listened to. WCGS’ efforts to be inclusive have been organic and sincere, and I have appreciated the opportunity to be a resource for others in and out of the group. Living in Atlanta means that I’ve only attended a handful of the Society’s Tuesday night meetings, but over the years I’ve been able to contribute dozens of articles to its excellent newsletter.

This week I again came home just for a WCGS event. Tonight, at the Society’s invitation, I used my keys to open a door to Wilson County to which few society members have access. My presentation touched on slaves and free people of color and segregation, but was focused on the awesome life of one of Wilson’s “lost” sons, my cousin Dr. Joseph H. Ward. After I set my nerves aside, my talk went well, eliciting thoughtful questions and positive comments at its conclusion.


I thank Wilson County Genealogical Society for the opportunity to give back to a community that has encouraged and supported my research for 17 years. And I thank the little fan club that came out to support me — my parents; Mrs. L and Mr. and Mrs. M, who have been surrogate parents all my long life; and a couple of staunch childhood friends. After the program, I spoke by phone with Cousin Joseph’s great-granddaughter, who is named after his beloved wife. One of the joys of my recent research has been being able to fill in the blanks in her ancestor’s early life, and she and her mother hope to visit his birthplace soon.

DNA, Maternal Kin, Paternal Kin

DNA Definites: Ancestry (under)estimates.

Of my zillions of matches at Ancestry DNA, to date I’ve able to document 13 of them. Four were cousins I already knew; one was a cousin I conjectured, but couldn’t prove; and two others are from family lines I knew, though I did not know the match. I am related to the remaining six — the most distant matches — via late colonial or early antebellum-era white ancestors previously identified but unproven.

The chart below shows Ancestry DNA’s estimates of my kinship to these 13, as well as our actual relationship. Ancestry tends to underestimate relationship slightly in matches closer than five degrees, and I try to keep this in mind when speculating about my mystery matches.

Match Ancestry Estimate Actual Relationship
W.H. 3rd-4th cousin 2nd cousin, once removed
G.J. 4th-6th cousin 2nd cousin, once removed
H.B. 4th-6th cousin 3rd cousin, once removed
S.D. 4th-6th cousin 3rd cousin
G.P. 5th-8th cousin 3rd cousin, 3x removed
E.G. 5th-8th cousin 4th cousin
B.J. 5th-8th cousin 4th cousin
G.L. 5th-8th cousin 5th cousin, once removed
J.W. 5th-8th cousin 5th cousin, once removed
D.M. 5th-8th cousin 5th cousin, once removed
J.B. 5th-8th cousin 5th cousin, twice removed
E.D 5th-8th cousin 6th cousin, twice removed
L.B. 5th-8th cousin 7th cousin
Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina

Archie Weaver departs this life.


Statesville Record, 2 June 1933.

My grandmother, for one, would not have agreed with this glowing assessment of Archie Weaver as hail-fellow-well-met and certainly would have put the lie to “loved by all who knew him.”

I’ll repeat it: Jay’s daddy had TB, and he just gave it to them. To my aunt and Jay. But he lived years and years and years after both of them died. But he give them all this stuff. Oh, I could not stand him. She was my special aunt because she had boys, and she didn’t have any girls. And she just took me over her house, you know, and let me do things that girls did, you know. 

In other words, for her money, Arch Weaver killed her beloved aunt Elethea and favorite cousin, Irving “Jay” McNeely Weaver. Though she was right that Arch survived “years and years and years” — eleven, to be exact — after Elethea, Jay, in fact, outlived his father by five months. No matter. They died, and much too soon for her.

Interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.

North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Dr. Joseph H. Ward

Pretty excited about this:

Wilson County Public Library Local History and Genealogy Blog

Lisa Henderson programOn Tuesday October 28 a local genealogy phenom (although she is now a lawyer in Atlanta) will present her findings on Dr. Joseph H. Ward, an African American doctor who was born in Wilson in 1870.   Although he began his life in Wilson, a place that at the time had few prospects for an African Americans, by the 1890’s he was in Indianapolis practicing medicine as a licensed physician.  Come and listen to Lisa tell how she untangled the complicated history of his life and family.

In the mean time get absorbed in her brilliant blog about the history and genealogy of the free and enslaved persons of color in North Carolina, Scuffalong: Genealogy

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Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Adam’s daughters reconnect.

I spoke by phone almost two hours yesterday with D.J., who reached out to me via Scuffalong. I started this blog for several reasons, an important one being the hope that others interested in the families I’m researching would find useful information and would reach out to collaborate. In just over a year, I’ve connected to several such people and, in addition to sharing my research, have gained access to invaluable leads and angles that I’d never considered. I was particularly happy to “meet” D.J. though, because she is also a cousin. We are descended to the same degree from two of Adam T. Artis‘ daughters — Louvicey and Lillie Beatrice — making us fourth cousins.

Civil War, Maternal Kin, North Carolina

Oath of allegiance.

Though he was of prime soldiering age, I have found no evidence that James Lee Nicholson, father of my great-great-grandmother Harriet Nicholson Tomlin Hart, ever enlisted or fought in the Civil War. He married in 1861, a few weeks after North Carolina seceded, and his wife Martha “Mattie” Colvert Nicholson gave birth to their first son in 1864. Otherwise, I have no idea how he spent the war years. Today, however, I found an oath he signed a couple of months after the Surrender, promising to abide by all laws made concerning the emancipation of slaves, i.e. those related to the newly won freedom of his four year-old daughter and her mother:

JL Nicholson oath



Births Deaths Marriages, Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina

Collateral kin: the Hamptons.

On 30 Jan 1905, in Statesville, North Carolina, my great-great-grandfather John W. Colvert married Adeline Hampton.  The marriage was performed by J.H. Pressley, the same Presbyterian minister who would marry John’s son Lon and Caroline McNeely a year later.  John and Adeline had had four daughters together. Selma Eugenia, Ida Mae, Lillie Mae and Henrietta were born between 1889 and 1893, and I don’t know what kept John and Addie from marrying for so long — or finally induced them to tie the knot. Separate or apart, I’ve found none in the 1900 census.

Addie’s whole family, in fact, is elusive in enumeration records. Her marriage license and death certificate reveal that she was born about 1864 in Wilkes County, North Carolina — northwest of Iredell — to Horace and Myra Hampton. (Other death certificates report Myra’s maiden name as Russell.) In the 1880 census of Wilkes, Addie appears in Wilkesboro township with her parents, younger siblings Vance, Josephine and Henry, and nephews and niece Arthur, Horace and Emma Hampton. Ten years earlier, however, in the 1870 census, Horace and Myra cannot be found, and Addie seems to be living in a household headed by much older siblings.

The 1890 census has perished, but Horace Hampton, “the veteran bridge keeper,” appears in a brief congratulatory article in the Wilkesboro Chronicle on the prosperity and good behavior of the county’s colored people.


Wilkesboro Chronicle, 14 January 1891.

Unfortunately, the family’s next mention is an obituary for Myra Hampton, which reveals a surprising number of siblings for Addie. Most of the children were adults before Emancipation, thus do not appear in census records with their parents. Also, though Myra’s age is given as “about 80,” the 1880 census suggests that she was closer to 70 at the time of her death.


Wilkesboro Chronicle, 3 January 1900.

Just over a year later, the Chronicle mocked Horace Hampton’s efforts to reclaim his position as bridge tender on the Yadkin River.


Wilkesboro Chronicle, 3 April 1901.

In June 1905, less than six months after his next-to-youngest daughter finally married the father of her children, Horace Hampton passed away.


Wilkesboro Chronicle, 14 June 1905.

 Adeline “Addie” Hampton Colvert outlived her husband by almost 20 years. She is buried next to him in Green Street cemetery in Statesville.

Adeline H Colvert death cert

Letters, Maternal Kin, Migration, North Carolina

The notebook in the shed.

The notebook in the shed yielded a number of treasures, some bittersweet.

I found a copy of a letter from my great-aunt Julia Allen Maclin, postmarked 11 May 1982, and another from my aunt, Marion Allen Christian, dated 14 August 1982, that push the date of my earliest genealogical inquiries back three years earlier than I remember. I knew I’d written to Aunt Julia early, but thought for some reason that it had been in the mid-’80s, when I was living in Massachusetts and researching in earnest. Though she opened the letter with a disclaimer — “I don’t think I can be of much help in tracing geneology of the Allen-Holmes family” — she in fact laid the groundwork, revealing her grandparents’ names (except her mother’s mother’s, which she did not recall) and telling me what she knew of her parents’ siblings. “All of my father’s and mother’s family are dead,” she concluded. My aunt followed up with a trip to Charles City County that shed a little more light. A few years later, I made copies of photos from Aunt Julia’s albums — her parents, her siblings as children, even a purported portrait of Joseph R. Holmes. (Which I unwisely gave to Eric Foner to use in Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders During Reconstruction just before I left graduate school in 1991. He misplaced it before the book was even published, and my cousin has not been able to find the original in what remains of Aunt Julia’s scrapbooks. In hindsight though, I believe the portrait was actually Jasper Holmes, as it seems to have dated to a period after Joseph’s death.)

There is also a letter from Ardeanur S. Hart, dated 16 October 1985 — almost exactly 29 years ago. I have no recollection of having written to or heard from her, which makes her note all the more poignant:

“Dear Lisa, It was a surprise, but pleasant one, to have a letter from you. I am sure you know I don’t remember you, were you there when the reunion was in Virginia?” (In 1982. I was not there; we had never met.)

“I will do the best I can to give you the names of the folk I know that live here, thier schools, Jobs etc. I don’t know, so I can only tell you thier names.” (Is this really what I asked her about?!? Did I squander an opportunity to go back in time for information about people still living? What could she have told me about Henry and Martha McNeely?)

“I hope this helps a little I can’t help more, please give my love to your mother & father. I hope I will be able to go to the reunion, if I keep well, I am 83 yr old now, and folk don’t care to be bothered with folk my age –” (Oh, Ardeanur. What I wouldn’t do to be able to bother now.)

” — but I am still singing and enjoying it, in my church chior, and in a choral group of senior’s. Sat Oct 19th I will do solo work at the ‘Hyet Regency’ downtown for the Columbus City widows which I am looking forward to.” (Wonderful!)

“I shall be looking forward to seeing you someday. Meantime write again some time, continue your studies, and take care of your self.” (Did I? Did I write again? And when I saw her the following summer, did I do anything besides take a photo?)

And then, after listing the Ohio McNeelys — basically descendants of her aunt Janie McNeely Taylor Manley — “I am Ardeanur Smith Hart. Daughter of Addie McNeely Smith husband (deceased) no children senior citizen. Alone.” (Emphasis hers. Oh, Ardeanur.)