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

Widow? Or daughter?

Who is this Eliza Henderson?


Sixty years old, living in Brogden township (i.e. Dudley) in 1900?

Joseph Artis I readily find. He was born circa 1830 to Absalom and Clarky Artis in northwest Wayne County. He married Mary Ann (last name unknown), and they and their children appear together in the 1860, 1870 censuses of Buck Swamp, then Brogden, townships. I don’t find him at all in 1900.

Nor Eliza Henderson. My great-great-great-great-grandfather James Henderson‘s second wife was Eliza (or Louisa) Armwood Henderson. He died sometime between 1880 and 1900. Was this his widow remarrying? Only if the age given for this bride is off by five or ten years.

There’s another possibility, though it seems remote. James Henderson had four children with his first wife (or partner) in Onslow County. When he migrated to Sampson County in the 1850s, sons Lewis and James Henry came with him. Daughters Mary and Eliza seem not to have. Eliza was born about 1842. Is this her?

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin

Mollie heads west. (And a legacy takes root.)

It never occurred to me to wonder “Why Greensboro?” We grew up regularly rolling 125 miles into the North Carolina Piedmont to visit my grandmother’s sister and the four nieces who lived nearby. Beyond my first cousins, their children were the closest kin we had in age, and we were always excited about a trip to see “Aint” Mamie Henderson Holt. It was not until I began interviewing Mother Dear in the 1990s that I learned that Aunt Mamie had not been the first Henderson to settle in Greensboro.

That pioneer had been Julia “Mollie” Henderson Hall Holt, daughter of James and Louisa Armwood Henderson, half-sister of Lewis Henderson, aunt of “Mama” Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver.

An introduction: Aint Mollie didn’t have long hair, but it was nice. And curly. And it was thin. And she had that, she wasn’t real light-complected, she was kind of olive-colored. But she was a small-sized woman. She was tall, not like Mama. She wasn’t fat. And she seemed to be real nice.

Mollie was born about 1872 and appears (as “Julia”) in the 1880 census of Wayne County, North Carolina in her parents’ household. Only two years older than Sarah, they were more like sisters or cousins than aunt/niece. In 1889, Mollie married Alex Hall in Wayne County. The couples’ two daughters, Lula and Sadie, were born about 1891 and 1895, respectively, but I have found none of them in the 1900 census. At some point in those decades, Mollie left southern Wayne County, headed west. Before 1902 — and with or without Alex —  she was in Guilford County. There (or somewhere near there) on 24 June 1902, she met and married Walter Holt, born about 1875 in Alamance County to William and Margaret Isley Holt. (Julian, North Carolina, by the way, lies a couple of hundred feet inside southeast Guilford County from the Randolph County line. Traveling to Asheboro to marry was probably easier and more convenient than going to Greensboro. How and why Mollie went from rural Wayne County to this equally rural location remains a mystery.)


By 1910, Walter and Mollie and her daughters (known henceforth as Holts) were in Greensboro, living in the Wilmington Street home that my grandmother knew.

1910 HOlt
Here’s what my grandmother said:

And Bazel’s – Mamie’s Bazel, his uncle Walter Holt married Aint Mollie.   They didn’t never have no children, but she had two girls before they got married – Sadie and Julia [sic, Lula.] Yeah, them was the girls. Two girls. Sadie died. Julia, too, I believe. I think both of ‘ems dead. Sadie didn’t have no children of her own, but she raised a child. She took somebody’s child and raised. She had a husband, too. What was his name? I remember seeing him once or twice. I don’t believe Julia ever got married, I don’t think. At least she didn’t say nothing ‘bout it. They were older than me. And I think Mama said that Mollie was older than she was, but I reckon they was ‘long there together. Nancy was older than both of them, and A’nt Ella was the youngest one. She and Mama always were together, ‘cause they all played “sisters.” But Sarah was really Mollie and Nancy and Ella’s neice. Their brother Lewis’ child.

Another time:

She had two daughters, Sadie and Julia. I think that’s what it was. Sadie’s the one stayed in the house on the corner from where we were staying, right there on Wilmington Street. The other one – where’d the other one stay? She was married and stayed in Virginia somewhere. Yeah, Julia. Sadie’s sister. Cousin Mollie, A’nt Molly’s daughter Julia. She had a daughter. Julia was light-complected, but she wasn’t real fair. She had a light complexion. And I didn’t know her husband. I don’t know if I ever seen him. But this child that she took and raised, I want to say took and raised up, she was real dark. They all left and come up to Virginia, I believe it was, Norfolk or somewhere. I know Sadie died in Greensboro, but…. A’nt Mollie, she died there, and I think her husband, I think he left. At least, he was running – he was a fireman on the train, that was his job. He was running between Winston-Salem and somewhere in, I don’t know…. Some part of Virginia or something. He was a tall, brown-skinned man. He was a nice-looking man.

Here is Sadie’s first marriage license. She married Ashley Whitfield of Johnston County in Greensboro a few months after the census above was taken. She used the maiden name Holt and noted that her birth father, Alex Hall, was dead. Her stepfather Walter Holt signed the license as a witness to the ceremony.


In the 1920 census, Walter Holt, age 38, foreman for Southern Rail Road, headed a household that included wife Mollie, 39; nephews Bazel, 23, and William, 20; niece Novella, 18; a boarded named Mildred Smith; and “step daughter” Sadie Holt, who described herself as a widow. I have not found a death certificate for Ashley Whitfield. I did find this though:

Gboro Patriot May 1918 Whitfield divorce

Greensboro Patriot, 16 May 1918.

Just over ten years after her first marriage — but having only aged four years — Sadie married Henry Farrow of Pittsboro. Again, she acknowledged her father Alex Hall, but used the surname Holt. (Never mind Whitfield.) Sister Lula Holt and a Jack Ross applied for the license, and Lula signed her name with an X, just as her mother had done. (Why hadn’t she gone to school?)


Some time in the fall or winter of 1922, Mama Sarah left Jesse Jacobs. She and her girls Mamie and Hattie took a train from Wilson to Greensboro to live with Aint Mollie until they got settled. While Sarah worked in a small restaurant, my 12 year-old grandmother enrolled in a Greensboro elementary school. (It was the last stretch of formal education she would have.) In early February 1923, they finally got their own place. But Papa Jesse soon arrived in Greensboro to beg Mama back and, ill and struggling financially, she agreed to go. Aunt Mamie, however, had different plans.

Again, in my grandmother’s words:

We moved in this house, and we hadn’t been in there but ‘bout a week, and Mamie wouldn’t come. She stayed over there with Aint Mollie. And Sadie. And so when she come over one day, and Mama didn’t feel like going to the restaurant where she had over there, and so I sat there looking out the window, and I said, “Mama, here come Mamie with a suitcase.” And I’d went over to the house that day, too. And I thought it was, they played cards then. [Inaudible.] So I went over there to Sadie’s house, and so I said to ‘em, I said, “What, y’all having a party tonight?” And didn’t know Mamie was getting married that night. Mamie didn’t even tell me. And so they said, “Yeah, yeah. Yeah, we gon play some cards.” And they wanted to get rid of me. Because they hadn’t told us nothing ‘bout it. Sadie went with Mamie to the courthouse to get the license and everything, and so Mamie didn’t want to come back to Wilson ‘cause Papa wasn’t good to her.

And again:

So they all got married that night and that’s when Mamie come, the next day, with a suitcase. And I told Mama, “Hmm. Is that a suitcase?” And I believe Sadie was with her. Yeah. And so she come to get her clothes. And Mama told her that, “If you don’t go back, I’ll put the law on you and make you go back ‘cause you underage.” And that’s how come Mamie didn’t let her know nothing ‘bout nothing. And, now, she’d just met Bazel, and he told her, “Well, we’ll get married if you want to stay here. We’ll get married.” And so he married her. That night. But I didn’t know they was getting married that night, and so I fussed her out and, “How come you didn’t let me know where I could have stayed to the wedding? I wanted to see you get married.” “Well, it wont no wedding – we was just getting married! Getting that old piece of paper.”

And another time:

But Mamie was up to Sadie’s house, Aint Mollie’s daughter. She stayed up there, ‘cause they all stayed up there and played cards. And she hadn’t seen Bazel but two weeks before they got married. So I went over there that evening after something from the café where Mama was, and I told her that Mama wanted her to come home. So she said, “Well, I’ll be over there tomorrow.” And so the house was all clean, Sadie’s house was all cleaned up, and tables sitting all around the room. Well, they played cards all the time, so I didn’t think nothing ‘bout it, and so they had to wait ‘til I left so Mamie and Bazel could get married. Went and got the license and everything. And didn’t tell me a word about it. And they were getting married that night. So I come on home. I run all the way from over there to Bragg Street. And come home. Didn’t think nothing about it. And so Mama, she didn’t go to the café, the people she had working in there, they was gon open up the café. ‘Cause it wasn’t nowhere but right down the street there, from ‘round the corner. So I stayed there with Mama fixing some breakfast. And so she said she wasn’t hungry, but I said she need to eat something. Well, anyway, she ate a little bit. And I looked out the window, and Mamie was coming with a suitcase. And I said to Mama, “Mamie’s coming up, and she’s got a suitcase! I wonder where she’s going.” Didn’t know she was coming to get her clothes. So she came on in, and she told Mama that she had got married last night and was coming to get her clothes. And Mama told her she ought not to let her have them. “You didn’t tell me nothing ‘bout it. If you was gon get married, and you’d a told me, [you could have] got married and had a little social or something.” And Mama was mad with her because she got married. So Mamie just got her clothes. Some of ‘em. And crammed ‘em in a suitcase and went back over …. 

Here’s the license. And, look, sure enough, the marriage took place at Henry (and Sadie) Farrow’s house. And even Aunt Mollie was there, for she is listed an an official witness. Mamie was not 19. She was 15 and, indeed, underage. And Jesse and Sarah Jacobs were not, of course, Mamie’s parents, but her great-aunt and -uncle. (When she reported her mother dead, was Aunt Mamie thinking of Bessie, or convincing the register of deeds that she was free to marry of her own volition?)


Mother Dear returned to Wilson with Sarah and Jesse Jacobs, and Aunt Mamie remained in Greensboro with her new husband, who was Mollie Holt’s nephew by marriage. And that’s how she got there — and stayed.

My last sighting of Mollie Henderson Hall Holt is in the 1928 Greensboro city directory. (The “c” is for “colored.”):

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 10.22.24 PM

The following year, Sadie Hall Holt Whitfield Farrow died of tuberculosis. She was 38 years old. (Not 29.) Walter Holt was the informant on her death certificate and named himself as her father. Otherwise, he correctly identified her birthplace as Mount Olive (in Wayne County), her mother’s maiden name as Henderson, and her mother’s birthplace as Clinton (or, in any case, Sampson County.) I strongly suspect that Mollie was dead by then, but I have not found evidence.

Sadie DC

By 1929, Aunt Mamie’s three oldest children had been born. The Holt branch of the Henderson family had taken root in Greensboro.  It still flourishes there, but also in New Jersey and New York and Pennsylvania and Georgia and Texas.

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

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

Doctor slain.

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March 1968. I was not quite four. I had a baby sister who’d just come through a terrible bout with meningitis. My world was 1400 and 1401 Carolina Street and kindergarten and, at the outer edges, my grandmothers’ houses in Newport News and Philadelphia. In six months, I’d be gazing adoringly at “beautiful singer-actress” Diahann Carroll on a black and white small-screen. Right then, though, if you’d said, “Your great-grandfather died,” I would have looked at you blankly. If you’d said, “Mother Dear’s daddy died,” I might have creased my forehead, sad for her. But I didn’t know my great-grandfather. Didn’t know I had one. And had I picked up this Jet, which was delivered to our house, and been able to read — which I couldn’t just then — this would not have resonated either:

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.17.20 PM

James Thomas Aldrich (born Aldridge) was killed 10 February 1968. After a funeral service in Saint Louis, his body was returned to North Carolina for a second service and burial in Dudley in the family cemetery he established.

DNA, Maternal Kin, Virginia

L1c1a1a1b legacy.

Thanks to my cousin M.D., we now know that Mary Agnes Holmes Allen and her mother Matilda belonged to haplogroup L1c1a1a1b.

M.D.’s mother, Nita Lourine Allen Meyers Wilkerson, was my grandfather John C. Allen Jr.‘s youngest sister. She was born 20 March 1913 in Newport News, graduated from Huntington High School, then received a nursing degree from Hampton Institute. Here’s Aunt Nita sitting on the front porch of her parents’ house on Marshall Avenue, circa 1916.

Nita Allen ca1914

And her high school diploma:


In 1939, she married Marcellus W. Meyers, a native of Washington, DC, with Beaufort, South Carolina, roots. The couple moved to DC, where their only child was born. Aunt Nita retired from nursing in 1975, returned to Newport News, and immediately pursued a passion for Democratic politics. She served and supported local and state campaigns for nearly twenty years until moving to Maryland shortly before her death in 1996.

Nita Allen Meyers 001

Nita in evening gown in the front hall of my great-grandparents’ house at 2107 Marshall Avenue, Newport News.

Matilda Holmes passed mtDNA haplogroup L1c1a1a1b to all her children, but only her daughter Mary Agnes Holmes Allen carried it further. In turn, of Mary Agnes’ children, only daughter Nita passed the haplogroup on. Today, as far I know, only M.D. and her son D.D. carry Matilda’s legacy.

Mary Allen holding Marita (1943) 001

Mary Agnes H. Allen holding baby M., circa 1943.

Photos courtesy of Julia A. Maclin and M.D.

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, North Carolina

John McNeely vs. John McNeely.

Okay, now I am genuinely perplexed. A couple of months ago, I wrote about finding my great-great-uncle John McNeely’s first wife, whom he married in 1899. I had just found a marriage license for John Alexander McNeely, colored, son of Henry and Martha McNeely of Iredell County, and Carry Armstrong. Prior to this, I had only known wife Laura Nesbit, whom he married in Statesville in 1912.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 6.48.30 AM

I have not found John and Laura McNeely in the 1920 census, but in 1930 they and Laura’s daughter Marie shared a house with John’s sister and brother-in-law, Emma and Irving Houser, in Bayonne, New Jersey. In 1940, John and Laura and Marie and her husband James Watkins were living on West 19th Street in Bayonne. And when John died in 1947, his obituary noted that he was the beloved husband of Laura (Nesbitt.)

So yesterday when I found yet another marriage for John A. McNeely, son of Henry and Martha McNeely of Iredell County, I was flummoxed.


Did John marry Laura, divorce (or otherwise leave) her, marry Jane Nichols, divorce her, then remarry Laura Nesbit? If so, where is the second marriage license for Laura? If not, who is this John McNeely? And who are the other Henry and Martha McNeely?

The only Henry and Martha McNeely in the 1900 census of North Carolina are my John’s parents, living in Statesville township. In 1880, they’re in Rowan County, and still the only couple with those names in the state. Henry died in 1906, before death certificates were kept, and Martha died in New Jersey. I have not found death certificates for any other Henry or Martha McNeely in Iredell.

As for John: John and Jane McNeely appear in the 1900 census of Statesville, my John McNeely does not. In the first decade of the century, a John McNeely pops up in the pages of the local paper for various misdeeds — shooting at a rival, having smallpox, fighting, slicing a man with a knife, shooting at a dog. I’d like to think that this is not my John, but there’s no clear way to know. And there’s no John McNeely at all in Iredell County in the 1910 census.

I’ll have to leave it here for now. I don’t have enough to know for certain whether John McNeely and John Alexander McNeely were the same man.

UPDATE, 19 June 2015: Is this a clue to the identity of John A. McNeely?

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 8.36.03 AM

This Henry McNeely is not my great-great-grandfather Henry McNeely. He’s his nephew. Henry’s father John Rufus McNeely was, I believe, the half-brother of my Henry. Unfortunately, this Henry was born about 1863, and John A. McNeely was born about 1870. I don’t believe this Henry and Martha were the couple named on John A. McNeely’s marriage licenses.

UPDATE, 21 June 2015: Then there’s this.

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 4.37.00 PM

This is from the marriage license of my John McNeely’s brother, William Luther McNeely, who married Mary Belle Woods in 1906 at Statesville’s Associate Reform Presbyterian Church. My great-grandparents Lon and Carrie McNeely Colvert wed there the same year. Is it just coincidence that John Alexander McNeely was also married by Rev. J.H. Pressly in this church?

North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs, Vocation

Leaves post.

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.19.22 PM

Jet magazine, 28 September 1961.

 Jet magazine was founded in 1951. In 1955, its graphic coverage of Emmett Till’s murder catapulted its readership, and the magazine became known for chronicling the Civil Rights Movement. All this came swaddled in heavy layers of Negro firsts, Negro Hollywood,  and general Negro bougie news. I’m sure my grandmother was reading Jet — and probably subscribing to it — by 1961. What did she think when she saw her father, whom she only met once, lauded in its pages?

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

Nuptials discovered. (And a little Misinformation Monday, no. 11.)

My grandmother’s birthday was Saturday, June 6. It would have been her 105th. My cousin D.D., her sister’s great-granddaughter, sent me a photo of a photo via text message — Mother Dear and her husband, Jonah Ricks, my step-grandfather. I’d never seen this particular image, but I recognized it as having been taken in Greensboro, North Carolina, at her niece L.’s wedding in 1963.


… Or was it?

I found their marriage license today. So, first, I had to pick my jaw up. I knew they’d wed in August 1958, but had never been able to find a record in Wilson. Because they married in Guilford County. In Greensboro. I immediately thought about this little snapshot. This wasn’t taken in 1963! Mother Dear and Granddaddy Ricks had traveled to her sister’s for the ceremony, and this photo was taken on their wedding day. Why hadn’t I registered the boutonniere, the corsage, the beringed left hand held high?

Then I got around to looking at the rest of the license.

Ricks Henderson

First, there’s the matter of my grandmother’s name. In that era, legal names were somewhat fluid, and changing them did not necessarily involve legal drama. Bessie Henderson bore my grandmother before North Carolina required birth certificates. Bessie named the baby Hattie Mae and gave her her last name. Bessie died less than a year later, and little Hattie went to live with her great-aunt and Uncle, Sarah and Jesse Jacobs. She called them Mama and Papa and became known as Hattie Jacobs. Only after Sarah’s death in 1938 did my grandmother learn that she had never been formally adopted. (And as a consequence, she was forced out of the house on Elba Street by Jesse Jacobs’ children.) She immediately changed her name to Hattie Mae Henderson. I was surprised then to see her name listed as “Hattie Jacobs Henderson” some 20 years after she dropped the appellation.

Mother Dear also listed Jesse and Sarah Jacobs as her parents on the license. Here is an example of the way documents may reflect social and familial realities, rather than legal or genetic ones. Curiously, though, there is a hint to Mother Dear’s paternity in the license, though inexplicably placed. Mama Sarah was born Sarah Daisy Henderson. Her first husband was Jesse Jacobs and her second Joseph Silver. She was not an Aldridge. But my grandmother’s birth father was. Why did my grandmother report Sarah’s name this way? Maybe Mr. Ricks gave the information and got his facts twisted?

Last, the witnesses. I recognize James Beasley — he married my cousin Doris Holt — but who were the others? Friends of my great-aunt Mamie Henderson Holt, perhaps?

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Daniel’s wife.

Who was Daniel Artis‘ wife? Or, in any case, the mother(s) of his children Clara Artis Edwards, Henry Artis, Loderick Artis, Prior Ann Artis Sauls Thompson and Mariah Artis Swinson?

That Daniel appears in the 1850 and 1860 censuses without family suggests that he was married to an enslaved woman who lived apart from him with their children, but identifying evidence is scanty:

  • I have found no records for Clara Artis Edwards that indicate her mother’s name.
  • When Henry Artis married Lena Edmundson in Greene County in 1903, he listed his parents as Daniel Artis and Eliza Artis. Henry Edwards (Clara Artis’ husband) and Marcellus Artis (Lodrick Artis’ son) were witnesses. Though his age is off by about ten years, this appears to be the right Henry. Daniel Artis registered his two-year marriage to Eliza Faircloth in 1866. Was Eliza really Henry’s mother? Or his step-mother?
  • Ditto for Loderick Artis, except: in Baalam Speight’s pension file, there is an affidavit from Lewis Harper. Harper asserted that he was Loderick Artis’ brother.
  • Nothing for Prior Ann.
  • When Mariah Artis married Jesse Swinson in Greene County in 1879, she listed Ruthy Edmundson as her mother and noted that she was living. (Is this the Ruth Edmundson, age 59, wife of Samuel Edmundson, listed in the 1880 census of Bull Head, Greene County?) Mariah’s death certificate lists her mother as unknown.
  • In the 1880 census of Bull Head, Greene County, Mariah Sauls, age 60, is listed as either Mariah Sauls Edwards or her husband Timothy Edwards’ grandmother. As Mariah Edwards was Prior Ann’s daughter, was Mariah Sauls Prior Ann’s mother?
DNA, Paternal Kin

DNAnigma, no. 17: Aldridge-Balkcum?

Ohhh, a thing is brewing with my Aldridge-Balkcums. A couple of days ago I got a message from a woman who administers her uncle’s 23andme account. J. told me that her uncle, M.R., matches me and R.L. on chromosome 20. R.L. is a known cousin who’s descended from Robert and Mary Eliza Balkcum via their daughter Amelia Aldridge Brewington. She and my father (who’s descended from son John W. Aldridge) are third cousins. I was mystified at first, as I didn’t see any other matches to dozen-plus other Aldridge-Balkcums at 23andme. Then, R.L.’s daughter B.J. steered me over to GEDmatch. There, in small doses, M.R. and his son J.R. match (and triangulate with) me; my father; his half-first cousin J.H.; R.L.; and A.S., who’s descended from Amanda Aldridge Artis.

M.R.’s roots are primarily in Ohio, but he has a few western North Carolina Piedmont and Virginia lines. What in the world is the connection???

at matrix