Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents, Photographs

Aunt Golar makes fashion history.

I’m not sure how it is that I didn’t write this months ago. When I went home for Christmas, there was a manila envelope on my dresser, postmarked U.K. I was puzzled. Who would be sending something from England to my parents’ house? I ripped it open, and a slender paperback slid into my hand, a scholarly journal — Fashion, Style & Popular Culture, volume 2, number 1.


I scanned the contents and suddenly remembered. Some years ago, I contributed photographs of my people to Min-Ha T. Pham’s Tumblr, Of Another Fashion. In the journal article, “Archival intimacies: Participatory media and the fashion histories of US women of colour,” Pham discusses “the critical and curatorial aims, materials and methods that underpin a digital fashion archive devoted to the histories of US women of colour ….” arguing for “the utility of participatory media in efforts to create not only new historical records of minoritized fashion histories but also new systems of record-keeping.” Among the photos illustrating the piece is one of my grandmother’s aunt, Golar Colvert Bradshaw.


Births Deaths Marriages, DNA, Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, Virginia

DNA Definites, no. 20: Harrison.

Edward Cunningham Harrison … was John C. Allen Sr.’s biological father.

A recap: my great-grandfather’s mother, Mary Brown, married Graham Allen in 1876 in Charles City County, Virginia, during her pregnancy. Except that he was a white man, we knew nothing of John’s birth father’s identity, and I didn’t really expect ever to.

However, a few months ago, I got an estimated 3rd cousin DNA match at Ancestry DNA. I was intrigued. I have only six matches at that level. Three are with known paternal cousins, and all are African-American. Except this one. A.B. is all Great Britain and Ireland and Scandinavia and Europe West.

I sent A.B. a message, and then a follow-up. She responded, and we briefly explored a dead-end or two. I examined A.B.’s family tree more closely. Two of her great-grandfathers were from Richmond, Virginia, which is just up the road from a couple of the counties in which my maternal grandfather’s forebears lived. One of A.B.’s great-grandfathers was Edward C. Harrison; the other, John S. Ellett. I inquired about both men, and she told me that her Harrisons had lived in Charles City County. We were getting warm. I asked A.B. to upload her raw data to Gedmatch, where I quickly determined that she is a solid second cousin match to my mother and maternal uncle. I told her that I believed that we were related through my great-grandfather and that Edward C. Harrison was the right age and in the right place at the right time to have been his father. A.B. immediately asked what she could do to help figure out the connection. I asked if she would test with 23andme, and she readily agreed. So did her sister.

A couple of weeks ago, their results posted. My mother, my uncle, my sister and all six of my first cousins have tested with 23andme. All of us match A.B. and her sister M.H. The closeness of the DNA matches confirm a recent common ancestor, and all signs pointed toward Harrison. I needed to eliminate Ellett though.


A.B. and my mother, 267 cM total match.

In reviewing my matches, I noticed that T.N., a long-time and fairly close match, also listed Harrison among his surnames.


From my mother’s 23andme matches — sisters M.H and A.B., T.N.’s mother, and T.N.

I also found that T.N. matches A.B. and her sister and, most importantly, they all share matching segments of the same chromosomes with my Allens. This “triangulation” proves that all of us descend from a common ancestor.


Partial screenshot of comparisons of chromosome matches of T.N. to my mother, A.B., M.H., and my uncle. (That Chromosome 7 segment gave me life. It’s the stuff of dreams.)

I sent T.N. a message and mentioned that, based on chromosome share, I thought that our common ancestor was William Mortimer Harrison, father of Edward C. Harrison.  T.N. responded, forwarding an old email from his uncle that detailed his family’s history. T.N., in fact, is descended from Edward C. Harrison’s sister Caroline and thus from William M. Harrison, as I’d guessed. He is a third cousin to A.B. and to my mother, and he has no Ellett ancestry. Thus, Edward C. Harrison is confirmed as A.B. and my mother’s direct ancestor. (T.N. is descended from a separate Harrison line through Caroline’s husband James P. Harrison, her distant cousin. Relative chromosome shares between A.B. and my line, however, eliminate James as our common ancestor.)

Through Edward, we are descended from or related to the oldest colonial families of Virginia — Harrisons, Randolphs, and Carters, among others. A signer of the Declaration of Independence. Two presidents. Pocahontas. (Yes.) These families were also owners of several of the large plantation houses still standing in Charles City County, including Westover and Berkeley. (At this time, however, I don’t think that any of my forebears were enslaved in the area.) I’m not sure how John Allen’s mother Mary Brown met Edward C. Harrison or what the nature of their relationship was. She was from Amelia County, and there was a Harrison branch there, but I don’t know if she knew them.

A.B. is ecstatic to learn that her grandfather had a half-brother. So is her sister M. My family, too, is amazed. I’m hoping that, with their help and some deep sleuthing, I will learn more about the circumstances of John Allen’s birth. And I may meet A.B. when she comes to Georgia next month.

The truth will out. DNA tells the tale.

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Other Documents

Aunt Ida May revisited.’s North Carolina Marriages data collection is not through demystifying my kin. A previously unknown marriage license clarified a question I had my great-great-aunt Ida’s life. If Eugene Stockton were her husband, I wondered here, why was she a Stockton in the 1910 and 1920 censuses, but referred to as his sister-in-law? In gaining an answer, I also uncovered a terrible tragedy.

Ida May Colvert‘s first marriage license was so hard to find because she married under her mother’s maiden name, as Ida May Hampton. The license lists her parents as John and Adline Colvert, but they did not marry until 1905, just over a month after Ida married Dillard Stockton on 27 December 1904. (Ida’s age is listed as 21 on the license, which is almost surely too high. Her birth year as recorded in various documents varies widely, but averages about 1885.) Dillard’s parents were listed as Henry and Frances Stockton, which seems to indicate that Dillard and Ida’s second husband Eugene shared a father and were half-brothers. (Eugene’s mother was Alice Allison [or maybe McKee] Stockton.)


Ida was a Stockton Stockton then. But what happened to her first husband, Dillard? A quick search turned up the awful story:


Statesville Record & Landmark, 12 March 1907.

A little over two years after they married, Dillard Stockton and five other African-American men were crushed by a cascade of soil and scaffolding in a Statesville ditch. [Surely my grandmother knew this story?]

Race STreet

The stretch of Race Street in which the cave-in occurred.

For all the breathless detail of the initial report of the tragedy, greater Statesville soon moved on. As reported in the local paper, within two months, the city had settled four of the deaths with payments of $750 (roughly $19,000 today) and were close to settling with the remaining survivors, including Ida May Colvert.


Dillard Stockton is buried in Statesville’s Green Street/Union Grove cemetery. I snagged this photo from I don’t recall seeing it during my recent visit and don’t know if it’s near the Colvert graves.


A horrifying post script:


Winston-Salem Union Republican, 12 May 1912.

Agriculture, Business, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

“They call me Tom Pig.”

The eighth in an occasional series excerpting testimony from the transcript of the trial in J.F. Coley v. Tom Artis, Wayne County Superior Court, November 1908.

Defendant introduces TOM ARTIS, who being duly sworn, testifies:

My name is Tom Artis. They call me Tom Pig. I own some land, 30 acres. (Plaintiff objects.) I have been living on the 30 acre tract of land 25 years, except one year. I mortgaged this land to Mr. Exum. (Plaintiff objects.) I don’t know about how long it was. About 25 or 30 years. (Plaintiff objects.) I don’t know what became of that mortgage. I got Hagans to take it up. (Plaintiff objects.) I don’t know who was present when I got Hagans to take it up. When Hagans agreed to take it up, Mrs. Exum, Hagans and myself were present. I own the 30 acre tract and lived on the the tract adjoining. After Hagans took up the papers, he told me that I could build on that place, or on the 24 acre piece. He said he thought it best for me to build on mine, he might die sometime, and there might be some trouble about me holding the house. I did so. He furnished the lumber, and I did the work. I decided to build on his side. After I built there I had been paying the 800 lb. of lint cotton year in and year out. (Plaintiff objects to each and every statement of the foregoing evidence.) The 800 lb. of cotton was to keep up the taxes and the interest of the money. (Plaintiff objects.) I have been paying this 800 lb. of cotton all the time. (Plaintiff objects.) I left that place one year. I left because my house got in such a bad fix, and I couldn’t stay there, and run my business like I wanted to, and I went over to Mr. Jones’. I rented the land. I rented it to Simon Exum. He gave me 950 lb. for the 30 acre place. I rented the Calv Place and the Adam Artis place. I moved back after one year at Mr. Jones’ place. I built on the Hagans place. Since then I built the piaza and shed room, to my own expense. Borrowed money from Hagans. I paid him back. He didn’t pay for the repairing of it. He furnished some shingles. Got 1/4 covered. I never asked W.S. Hagans to sell the 30 acre tract of land. I never said to Hagans in the presence of Reid or anybody else that I wanted im to sell it. I never asked anybody to buy the 30 acre tract of Hagans. Not the 30 acre tract. I had a conversation with Mr. Coley with reference to buying that land. I was talking about the Calv place. My land wasn’t brought in. The Calv place is the place I rented and lived on. That’s the land I spoke to Mr. Coley about buying from Hagans. He said if Mr. Cook and Hagans didn’t trade to send him a note. I told Hagans, he said tell him Coley, if his hands were not tied. I remember going over to Mr. Coley’s mill with Hagans. I didn’t hear any conversation bwteen Hagans and Coley with reference to buying this tract of land. They were off from me. I didn’t know what they were talking about. I heard them say when they came back to the buggy, Hagans said that he would see him again shortly. I don’t know if he said what day. Next I heard after that was that Hagans had sold it all to Mr. Coley, mine and all. I never rented the 30 acre tract of land. I know Jno. Rountree. I never asked him to go to Will Hagans and ask him to give me an opportunity of buying the 30 acre piece of land. I never said to Will Hgans, Jno. Rountree or Henry Reid, or anybody that I wanted Hagans to give me the opportunity of seeing my boys in Norfolk, so I could buy the 30 acrea piece. I asked Hagans what he would take for the acre back of my huose, of the Calv place. I told him I would buy that. His answer was, “Can you find a buyer for the other part of the Calv place.” I told him I didn’t know. He walked about his buggy house door. He said, “Uncle Tom” I can’t take what that mortgage calls for for your land, land is so much more valuable now than it was when yours was given. It passed off at that. Next I heard he had sold it to Coley.

To be continued.


N.B. Calvin “Calv Pig” Artis was Tom Pig Artis’ brother. He sold the Calv Pig place to Napoleon Hagans in 1879. (Tom and Calvin apparently derived their nicknames from their father Simon Pig Artis, who had been an enslaved man.)

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina

In memoriam: William S. Powell.

Renowned North Carolina historian William S. Powell died last week. He was 95.

I came into my deep interest in history late in my undergraduate career, and I never took a class in the history department at the University of North Carolina. I did have an encounter with Dr. Powell, though.

I had just encountered Walker Colvert on microfilm for the first time. The 1900 federal census of Iredell County, North Carolina, listed the 74 year-old former slave as Virginia-born, and I wondered how I might ever determine where he might have come from. Afloat in naivete, I called Dr. Powell’s office and asked for an appointment. I wanted to understand migration patterns into North Carolina’s western Piedmont, and I thought “who better to ask?” Dr. Powell was welcoming and patient and betrayed no sign that he did not entertain curious English majors everyday. I came away from my brief visit with a strong suggested-reading list and even a personal tip that he knew of Colverts from the Staunton, Virginia, area. Three years later, I was enrolled in the graduate program in American History at Columbia University.

Births Deaths Marriages, Land, Maternal Kin, Photographs, Virginia

Family cemeteries, no. 16: Holmes-Clark.

No one knows where Joseph R. Holmes is buried. It stands to reason, though, that it might be here.

I owe this entire post to the inestimable Kathy Liston, a Charlotte County archaeologist who has immersed herself in the history of the area’s African-American families. She tracked down the location of Joseph’s small acreage near Antioch Church on Old Kings Highway near Keysville, Charlotte County,Virginia. And there, at edge of a clearing, now completely overgrown, is a small cemetery. Only four stones stand, but a number of unmarked or fieldstone-marked graves are visible:

Rev. Whitfield Clarke / Born July 15, 1840 / Died Aug. 21, 1916

In Memory of Our Beloved Son / Thomas C.C. Clark/ Born Sept 2, 1882 / Died Aug 27, 1907

William Jasper Almond / Virginia / Mess Attendant / 3 Class / USNRF / A[illegible] 2, 1934

Mary J. Barrett / May 16, 1903 / May 2, 1942 / Her Memory is Blessed

These folks are not Joseph’s family, per se. They are his wife’s and are evidence of the life she built after his assassination.

Joseph Holmes married Mary Clark toward the end of the Civil War. Their four children were Payton (1865), Louisa (1866), William (1867) and Joseph (1868). Mary was the daughter of Simon and Jina Clark, and Whitfield Clark was her brother. As detailed here, Joseph R. Holmes was shot down in front of the Charlotte County Courthouse on 3 May 1869.

When the censustaker arrived the following spring, Joseph and Mary’s children were listed in the household of a couple I believe to have been Joseph’s mother and stepfather: Wat Carter, 70, wife Nancy, 70, and children Mary, 23, Liza, 17, and Wat, 16; plus Payton, 4, Louisa, 3, and Joseph Homes, 2, and Fannie Clark, 60. (That Mary is possibly Mary Clark Holmes, but may also have been Mary Carter.)

On 3 January 1872, 24 year-old widow Mary Holmes married John Almond, a 35 year-old widower. In the 1880 census of Walton, Charlotte County, carpenter John Almond’s household includes wife Mary, 31, and children Payton, 14, Wirt H., 12, Ella M., 10, and Lemon Almond, 8. Payton, it appears, was in fact Joseph’s son Payton Holmes; Wirt and Ella were John’s children by his first wife; and Lemon was John and Mary’s son together. The family remained on the land that had been Joseph Holmes’.

The oldest marked grave in the little cemetery dates to 1907. It stands to reason, though, that Mary Holmes would have had her husband buried here, where she could watch over his grave and perhaps protect it from any who sought to punish him further. Who were the four whose stones still reveal their resting places? Thomas C.C. Clark was the son of Whitfield Clark and his second wife, Amanda. He appears in the 1900 census as a student at Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia. I’ve written a bit about Reverend Whitfield Clark here. William Jasper Almond (known as Jasper, which is interesting because that was the name of Joseph Holmes’ brother, my great-great-grandfather), born in 1896, was the son of Lemon Almond and his first wife, Rosa W. Fowlkes.  Mary J. Almond Barrett was Jasper’s half-sister, daughter of Lemon and Mary B. Scott Almond.


Joseph R. Holmes’ land, near Keysville, Charlotte County, Virginia.




Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2012. 

Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

The case for Vicey, Sylvania and Daniel Artis as siblings.

I thought I’d posted this earlier, but apparently not. Here is my case for Vicey Artis Williams, Sylvania Artis Lane and Daniel Artis as siblings.

  • Vicey Artis was born circa 1810; Sylvania Artis, circa 1820; and Daniel Artis, circa 1820.
  • None were listed in census records prior to 1850.
  • In the 1850 census, Vicey and her younger children were listed in a household between Silas Bryant and John Lane in Bull Head, Greene County.
  • In 1850, Sylvania and her younger children were listed in a household on the other side of John Lane in Bull Head.
  • In 1850, Daniel was not listed.
  • In 1853, Daniel Artis bought 125 acres of land from Silas Bryant adjacent to Bryant and John Lane.
  • In 1860, Vicey and Sylvania were listed next door to one another in Davis district, Wayne County. Six of Sylvania’s children were listed in the household of John Lane in Bull Head, Greene County, less than five miles away.
  • In 1860, Daniel was listed in the household of John Lane in Bull Head.
  • On 28 August 1866, Vicey Artis and Solomon Williams, Sylvania Artis and Guy Lane, and Daniel Artis and Eliza Faircloth registered their cohabitations before justice of the peace Henry J. Sauls, probably near present-day Eureka (then Sauls Crossroads.)
  • Vicey’s children include a daughter Jane.
  • Sylvania’s children include Jane, Daniel, and Mariah.
  • Daniel’s children include a daughter Mariah.
  • Sylvania’s oldest son Morrison Artis, born about 1837, married Vicey’s daughter Jane Artis, born about 1833, on 27 November 1862. Their children included a son Daniel.
Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents


I knew Rebecca Colvert was my great-great-grandfather John W. Colvert‘s stepmother. Until now, though, I’d seen his mother Elvira Gray‘s name listed only on his death certificate.

On 30 January 1905, six days before his father Walker‘s death, John married Adeline Hampton, mother of his four daughters. I’d seen the marriage register entry for their union, but not the actual license. Here it is, and there is the second reference to Walker’s first wife.


Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

28 August 1866.

I’ve seen these cohabitation registrations many times, but I just noticed today that Vicey Artis, Sylvania Artis and Daniel Artis, whom I believe to be siblings, and their spouses all registered their marriages on the same day before the same justice of the peace, Henry J. Sauls.

williams cohab

lane cohab

dartis cohab

Did the six travel to Sauls’ home together, walking or, perhaps, in a wagon? August 28 was a Tuesday during the relative lull before fall harvesting began. Did the families celebrate?

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

Uncle John’s first wife?

I am clearly getting my whole life in these marriage records, but I have to wonder. What in the world have I been doing? Why have I missed so many of these records? Have I just assumed that what was on the shelf or on-line was all that was available? Fie.

Here’s another.


Lots about this license says it relates to a previously unknown first marriage for my grandmother’s uncle, John McNeely. First, the parents are named correctly, and they were the only Henry and Martha McNeely in Iredell County at the time. Second, the church is right, as the McNeelys were Presbyterians. (Except when they were being Episcopalians.) Third, that middle name, Alexander — the first I’ve heard of one for John! — is a family name, borne first by Alexander “Sandy” McNeely, son of Henry McNeely’s sister Alice. In fact, the only thing that throws me is John’s age. Uncle John was 27 in 1899, not 21. That’s a curious error, but not critical enough to trump the other details. I’ll update my tree to include John’s middle name and his first wife.

McNEELY -- John McNeely young w cigarette

John A. McNeely as a young man. (I think. Even as I post this, something is worrying me about the timeframe of this photo….)