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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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???

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