Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Migration, Other Documents

Frank, found.

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My first question: why have I just found this 1940 census entry today?

My second: Cousin Ardeanur married a Jamaican????

Her age is way off — Ardeanur was 37, not 47 — but this is definitely my great-great-aunt Minnie McNeely, my grandmother’s first cousin Ardeanur Smith Hart, and Ardeanur’s mysterious husband Frank living right in Jersey City, the city next door to Bayonne (where Martha Miller McNeely and most of her children lived for greater or lesser stretches of time.) The address was 359 Pacific Avenue. A family of McKoys rented one apartment in the building, and the Harts, Aunt Minnie, and a William Macklin shared another, splitting the $30/month rent. Frank Hart, a naturalized citizen, worked as a butler in a private home and reported earning $500 in 1939. Ardeanur and Minnie were housekeepers in private homes earning $400 and $360 respectively. Macklin, an insurance agent, earned more than everybody else in the flat combined — $1700.

I still don’t know when Ardeanur married Frank Hart, but they reported that they’d been living at the same address five years before. This suggests they were married before 1935.

I don’t see Frank in earlier census records, but is this his arrival in the U.S. in 1922?

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If so, did he leave his first wife back in Jamaica, or maybe Cuba?

This World War II draft registration card is definitely Ardeanur’s Frank:

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The back of the card, dated 27 April 1942, described him as Negro, 5’8″ and 165 lbs., with a light brown complexion, brown eyes and black hair. It’s the last record I’ve found for Frank W. Hart.

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359 Pacific Avenue, Jersey City, as seen from Google Street View. Per Zillow, the building was built in 1901.

DNA, Maternal Kin

DNAnigma, no. 19: sorting sides.

Until my mother’s first cousins tested at 23andme, I had no way to distinguish her maternal and paternal matches. Though her thousand-plus hits are still mostly an anonymous mass, I have gained some small insights. Here are two examples:

Madame XX

I sent this woman a share request on 13 June 2012, just two months after I got my initial 23andme results. It’s been crickets ever since. She is either dead or does not give one damn about genealogy. And it kills me because she is estimated as my mother and uncle’s second cousin, sharing 280 cM, (3.76%) across 9 segments with her and 273 cM (3.67%) across 11 segments with him. This mystery woman also shares 2.16%, 7 segments, and 1.98 %, 6 segments, with my deceased aunt’s daughter and son. This is high. Per ISOGG, known second cousins share on average 3.125% and 212.5 cM.

Madame XX does not match either of my mother’s paternal first cousins, M.D. and J.A. Though it’s not an absolute certainty, it’s likely, then, that she is a match on my maternal grandmother’s side. (Without knowing who the Madame is, I can’t unequivocally declare her my mother’s second cousin, but I can say that the numbers are very low for half-first or first, once removed. However, see my Harrisons, where my mother shares 267 cM with her half-second cousin, for what’s possible.)

A second cousin is the child of one’s parents’ first cousins. My grandmother had relatively few full first cousins. In fact, she had exactly none on her father’s side. On her mother’s, there were lots of McNeely aunts and uncles, but relatively few children: Luther‘s son R. Henry McNeely (1903); Emma‘s children Wardenur (1913-1941), Henry (1915-1955), and Irving Houser Jr. (1920-2001); Addie‘s children Ardeanur (1903-1996) and James Smith (1906-1960); Elethea‘s sons William (1903-??), Charles (1904-1968), James (1906-bef. 1920?) and Irving McNeely (1911-1933); Edward‘s son Quincy McNeely (1910-1966); and Janie‘s children Sarah (1911-1937), Frances (1916-??), Willa (1918-) and William McNeely (1925-1965), and Carl Taylor (1923-1988).

We can eliminate all the aunts’ children off the bat. Madame XX’s maternal haplogroup is L0a1a2. My great-grandmother and her sisters were L2d1a and passed that mtDNA down to their children. As the haplogroups don’t match, the mystery lady is not a child of a McNeely daughter. That leaves the offspring of the McNeely sons. As far as I know, neither Henry McNeely, James Smith, William McNeely, Charles McNeely, James McNeely, Irving McNeely Weaver, nor Quincy McNeely had children. (Nor Wardenur Houser Jones, Ardeanur Smith Hart, Sarah McNeely Green, Frances McNeely Williams, and Willa McNeely Sims. Now that I write this out, it sounds crazy. How is it that so few of Henry and Martha McNeely‘s grandchildren had children?) That leaves Henry, Irving Houser, William McNeely or Carl Taylor as the parents of Madame XX. (Unless, of course, my grandmother had first cousins that she did not know of.)

As far as I know, Henry Houser had three sons, only one of whom is living. Irving Houser had one daughter, whom I need to contact independently. William McNeely had one son that I know of. Carl Taylor also had sons. Right now, then, Madame XX is either Irving’s daughter or the daughter of a completely unknown cousin.


L.W., on the other hand, matches my mother, her brother and both their paternal first cousins, making him a solid bet for her father’s side. He’s considerably more distant than Madame XX, but a good match. At 23andme, he’s estimated at 3rd to 5th cousins (.44% shared across 3 segments) with my mother and uncle, and 3rd-6th cousin (.29% across 2 segments) to cousin M.D. Cousin J.A. does not show as L.W.’s match at 23andme, but does show a 13.4 cM match at Gedmatch.

L.W.’s mtDNA haplogroup is L3d1-5, and his Y is E1b1a. I can eliminate him then as a direct patrilineal descendant of my great-great-grandfather Edward C. Harrison or my great-great-grandmother Matilda Holmes. I don’t recognize any of the surnames he lists in his profile. And the states he lists — Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, North Carolina — suggest that his ancestors moved out of Virginia (assuming that point of common origin) before Emancipation. Unfortunately, my knowledge of my own ancestors beyond the great-great-grandparent level on this side raises serious barriers to identification of our link to L.W. I know the names of the parents of Mary Brown Allen, born 1849 in Amelia County, Virginia, but little else. Jasper Holmes‘ parents were likely Peyton and Nancy Holmes, and they were probably from Charlotte County, as he was. I don’t even know his wife Matilda‘s maiden name though.

Education, Maternal Kin, Other Documents, Virginia

To get up a school in the county.

On 19 August 1868, Thomas Leahey, Assistant Sub Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen & Abandoned Lands (better known as the Freedmen’s Bureau), took pen in hand:

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Leahey’s brief letter suggests deep familiarity with Joseph R. Holmes, my great-great-grandfather Jasper Holmes‘ brother. He is telling Holmes that he has moved his office from Farmville to Charlotte Court House and wants Holmes to notify his “people” — the community he represented — where they can find Leahey. Leahey’s invitation to meet at any time implies previous visits, though to date I’ve found no evidence of them in Freedmen’s Bureau records. Leahey’s inquires “whether there is a School for colored Children at Keysville, and if there is not what are the prospects of getting up one.”

Just three days later, in a clear hand and with fairly sound grammar speaking to years of practiced literacy — though he was only three years out of slavery — Holmes replied. He advised that a small for-pay school operated in the Keysville area and expressed pleasure at Leahey’s interest in education. He apologized for not having been to see Leahey sooner — “I have been so busey” — and mentioned that he was headed to Richmond the following day. (Who was “Lut. Grayham” A lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s First Military District?) If “life last,” he promised, he would see Leahey on the next court day.


Apparently, Holmes and Leahey did meet, then and perhaps on other occasions. The next bit of correspondence found between them is dated 24 November 1868, when Leahey sent Holmes a voucher for school rent. Whether this is the private school Holmes referred to in his August letter or a school established by the Freedmen’s Bureau is not clear. Leahey asks that “Mrs. Jenkins” sign the rent voucher as well as triplicate leases for the school. (I haven’t found copies of either to date.)

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Who was Mrs. Jenkins? Below is a short stretch of the 1870 census of Walton township, Charlotte County, Virginia. It shows part of Joseph Holmes’ former neighborhood, just west of the town of Keysville. “Former,” because Holmes had been shot dead on the steps of Charlotte Court House in May 1869, as detailed here. There are his children, Payton, Louisa and Joseph Holmes, living with the family of Wat and Nancy Carter, whom I believe to be Holmes’ mother and stepfather. Two households away is 30 year-old presumed widow Lucy Jenkins, white, “teaching school.” Jenkins, born in Virginia, was no Yankee schoolmarm; I’m searching for more about her. Her commitment to the little school at Keysville, even after Holmes’ assassination, evinces some mettle.

1880 Lucy Jenkins

Records from “Virginia, Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872,” database with images,, citing microfilm publication M1913, National Archives and Records Administration.

Education, Maternal Kin, Virginia

Pirate pride.

My uncle sent this text:


Hampton University‘s women’s soccer team played its first match ever Friday evening. My niece scored the first and only goal. A New Jersey high school soccer phenom, she’s elected to run track in college. When she got to campus though, she walked onto the fledgling team. And immediately upped their game.

I don’t know how many fans cheered on the Pirates Friday. They’re new. They played a ways off campus. Classes haven’t even started yet. I do know, however, that there was a contingent of at least seven beaming and screaming and high-fiving — my father, my mother, my aunt, my uncles, my sister and my brother-in-law. They’d all have been super-proud of Sydney anyway, but those last six? They’re Hampton graduates. All five of my grandparents’ children went to Hampton. And my grandparents themselves? They met while students on campus. As did my sister and her husband. (Sydney’s dad and his twin are graduates.) My grandfather’s sister went to Hampton. So did her granddaughter. And two of my first cousins. And that’s just on my mother’s side. My father’s sister and her daughter have Hampton degrees, too. And more cousins, besides.

So forgive us if our chests are still puffed. I didn’t even go to the school, and I’m delirious with pride. This fourth-generation Hamptonian is not only carrying on a family legacy, but is making her own mark. And I’ve no doubt that she’ll tally equal success in the classroom.

Before my grandmother passed in February 2010 at age 101, she was the oldest living Hampton graduate. If only she could have been in the stands Friday.

Margaret Allen_Steps

My grandmother on Hampton’s campus, circa 1928.

North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Betty and Edward Henderson.

How have I missed this??? Betty and Edward Henderson were two of great-great-great-great-grandfather James Henderson‘s younger children. Each appeared in a single census record — Betty as a three year-old in 1870, and Eddie as a six year-old in 1880.

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1870 federal population schedule, Faison, Duplin County, North Carolina.

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1880 federal population schedule, Faison, Duplin County, North Carolina.

I have just noticed that both were described, in the unfortunate parlance of the day, as “idiotic.” The word did not mean then, as it connotes today, “stupid” or “foolish.” Rather, it was a medical term designating a person with severe intellectual disabilities. What condition affected these children? A congenital defect? An environmental deficiency?

It is impossible to know. Neither Betty nor Edward seems to have lived to adulthood, and I honor their brief lives here.

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

Memorial page.

In 1915, forty-five years after her husband Lewis Henderson helped found Dudley’s Congregational Church, Margaret Balkcum Henderson was buried in its graveyard. She was the last member of my direct Henderson line on the church rolls. To this day, however, my kin can be found in Congregational on Sunday mornings, worshipping, singing, ushering, fellowshipping.

In 1970, the church published a photo-filled anniversary booklet commemorating its centennial. A Memorial Page lists more than 150 members who had gone on to their reward before the church marked its hundredth birthday. At least a third of those memorialized are my direct or collateral kin.

Memorial Page

  1. The Aldridges were my grandmother’s father James Thomas Aldridge‘s family. Frances Aldridge [Newsome] (1883-1961) was Tom’s elder sister. John J. Aldridge (1885-1964) and Ora Bell Mozingo Aldridge were his brother and sister-in-law, and Fitzgerald Aldridge (1917-1962) was their son. John W. Aldridge (1853-1910) and Louvicey Artis Aldridge (1865-1927) were Tom’s parents (and my great-great-grandparents), and Lula Aldridge (1882-1917) another sister.
  2. Joshua Brewington married John W. Aldridge’s sister Amelia Aldridge Brewington (1855-1895).
  3. Richard Boseman married Lillie Aldridge (1871-1944), daughter of William Aldridge and Cornelia Simmons. William’s father was John Matthew Aldridge (ca. 1810-ca. 1868), brother of my great-great-great-grandfather Robert Aldridge (1819-1899.) Estelle and James were Richard and Lillie’s children. Arlander Boseman, their cousin, married Flora E. Manuel, daughter of Shafter and Mamie Cobb Manuel, below.
  4. I’ve written of the Carters here. Marshall Carter married Frances Jacobs, sister of “Papa” Jesse A. Jacobs Jr. Ammie, Willoughby, Freddie, Granger, Johnnie, and Littman Carter were Marshall and Frances’ sons. Hersey Carter was a grandson. And Florence Carter Camp was their only daughter. Florence’s son William Homer Camp married Onra Henderson, daughter of Henry L. Henderson and Nora Aldridge Henderson. Ammie Carter is listed as Nora Aldridge Henderson’s cousin on her delated birth certificate. Johnnie Carter was my great-great-great-uncle James Lucian Henderson‘s caretaker and sole heir. And their brother Milford E. Carter married my great-grandfather Tom’s sister, Beulah M. Aldridge (1893-1986).
  5. Mack D. Coley, grandson of Winnie Coley, married Hattie Wynn (1873-??), daughter of Charles Wynn and Frances Aldridge Wynn (1853-??). Frances was a daughter of J. Matthew Aldridge and Catherine Boseman Aldridge. Roosevelt Coley (1905-1977) was Mack and Hattie’s youngest child.
  6. Mittie Boseman Flanagan (1896-??) was another daughter of Richard and Lillie Aldridge Boseman.
  7. Archie Barfield Grantham’s father, also named Archie Barfield Grantham, married Carrie Henderson Boseman, sister of my great-great-grandmother Loudie Henderson (1874-1893), in 1899. Carrie died within the next five years.
  8. John H. Henderson (1861-1924) was half-brother of my great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson (1836-1912), father of Carrie and Loudie and others. John married Sarah Simmons. Their son Henry L. Henderson (1901-1942) married Nora Aldridge (1902-1961), another daughter of John and Vicey Aldridge. Aaron “Jabbo” Henderson (1922-1944) was John and Vicey’s son, and Katie Lee Henderson, wife of Horace B. Henderson, was their daughter-in-law. (My Henderson line: Lewis and Mag Henderson’s daughters Ann Elizabeth, Carrie, Loudie, Mary Susan and Sarah Henderson were members of Congregational Church.  And probably sons Lucian and Caswell, too, in their youth. Ann Elizabeth and Loudie’s children were baptized in the church in the 1890s. By 1910, however, only, Lewis and Mag remained. He died in 1912, and she, in 1915.)
  9. Elizabeth Syrona Simmons Hill (1925-1965) was the daughter of George Gideon Simmons and Luella Solice. George G. Simmons (1895-1962) was the son of Samuel M. Simmons and Elizabeth Wynn Simmons (1876-1930), whose parents were Edward J. and Susan Henderson Wynn. Susan (1854-1907) was the sister of John and Lewis Henderson.
  10. Solomon Jacobs was the brother of “Papa” Jesse A. Jacobs Jr.
  11. William Shafter Manuel (1898-1966) was the son of Alonzo Manuel and Sallie Wynn Manuel (1877-1967). His mother’s parents were Edward and Susan Henderson Wynn.
  12. Blonnie Coley Flowers Matthews (1898-1948) was the daughter of Mack and Hattie Wynn Coley.
  13. Yancy Musgrave (1892-1961), son of Alfred and Polly Ann King Musgrave, married Annie C. “Dolly” Simmons (1898-1934), daughter of Hillary B. Simmons and Ann Elizabeth Henderson Simmons (1862-1900). Ann Elizabeth was the sister of my great-great-grandmother Loudie Henderson.
  14. Amanda Aldridge Newsome (1892-1919) was a daughter of John and Vicey Artis Aldridge.
  15. Hillary B. Simmons (1855-1941), son of George W. and Axie Jane Manuel Simmons, married Ann E. Henderson in 1879.
  16. Frances Aldridge Speight was possibly the daughter of William and Cornelia Simmons Aldridge.
  17. Charles Sykes (1920-2004) was the son of William O. and Gertrude Wynn Sykes (1885-1954). Gertrude’s parents were Charles and Frances Aldridge Wynn. [Why was Charles included in a memorial in 1970? Was there another Charles Sykes?]
  18. Blanche Coley Williams (1900-??) was another daughter of Mack and Hattie Wynn Coley.
  19. Charles Wynn married Frances Aldridge, daughter of Matthew and Catherine Boseman Aldridge.
  20. Eddie Wynn (1886-1965), son of Edward J. and Susan Henderson Wynn, married Fronnie Greenfield.
  21. Israel H. Wynn (1892-1967) was the son of W. Frank and Hepsey Henderson Wynn (1856-circa 1894) (who were the brother and sister, respectively of Edward and Susan Henderson Wynn). Israel married his first cousin Frances “Frankie” Henderson (1891-1985), daughter of John and Sarah S. Henderson.
  22. Levi Wynn … well, there were lots of Levi Wynns in Dudley. (Levi was one of the “five Wynn brothers” who headed a large and prosperous free family of color in southern Wayne County and northern Duplin County in the antebellum era. I use quotation marks because (1) there were more than five male Wynn heads of household in the period; (2) there is evidence that, though surely very closely related, they were not all brothers; (3) there were women who appear to have been Wynn sisters heading families.) This may have been the Levi Wynn (1883-??) who was a son of Charles and Frances Aldridge Wynn.
Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Photographs

The things you overcome and master.


Statesville Record & Landmark, 17 April 1944.

John Walker Stockton was the oldest son of Eugene and Ida May Colvert Stockton, who named him for his grandfather, John Walker Colvert. Born in February 1910, he was just over a year younger than my grandmother and just ten months older than her sister Launie Mae — his first cousins. However, though they lived blocks apart, the families were not close. My grandmother never mentioned him in her recollections and, if he or any of the Stocktons were invited to reunions, they did not come. I was stunned to learn, then, that John Stockton lived until 2000. And he was in Statesville that whole time.

In the 1930 census of Statesville, Iredell County, at 214 Garfield Street (owned and valued at $4000), the census taker found  brick mason Eugene Stockton, 57, wife Ida M., 45, and children John, Lili M., Sara, Alonzo, Winifred, and Eugene Jr. Ten years later, John was working as a hospital orderly and living at 429 Harrison Street with “Lilly” Colvert, 48, and her son George, 23. Though John was described as Lillie Mae’s cousin, he was in fact her nephew. (Ida May named her daughter Lillie Mae Stockton after her sister Lillie Mae Colvert.) Lillie, who worked as a maid, indicated that she had had two years of high school, and George, a hotel bellhop, four. John, to my surprise, had had a year of college. (Where? Johnson C. Smith — where his younger brothers Alonzo and Eugene matriculated? Nearby Livingston? Why did he leave?)

Later that year, John registered for the World War II draft. He was 30 years old; I don’t believe he ever served.


The back of the card noted that he had brown eyes and black hair and a mole on his nose, that he had a dark brown complexion, and that he stood 5’8 1/2″, 157 lbs. (Slighter than I thought. The Colverts were not big people, but I somehow envisioned him taller.) Davis, the hospital at which he worked, is still in operation, but in a different location. The original building, now a moldering wreck, attracts urban explorers and mystery seekers who believe it haunted.

On 1 April 1945, almost exactly a year after “Hero or Heel” was anthologized, John Stockton married Nera Clemons Sharpe, daughter of Hobart and Mary James Sharpe. The couple had no children, but were married 54 years before John’s death and are buried together at Iredell Memorial Gardens.


John Walker Stockton. (I love everything about this photograph.)

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

The baby boy, found. (Sort of.)

When you’re not looking for something, there it is.

The story I’d heard was that Adam T. Artis‘ youngest child, Pinkney Alphonso Artis, had run away to Baltimore as a young man (or maybe even teenager) and refused to return. I believed it; I certainly had not been able to find much trace of him. He was listed as a child with his parents in the 1910 census, then disappeared from that set of records. I found his Social Security application, filed in Washington DC on 29 May 1939, which told me that “Alfonso Artis” lived at 70 Eye Street, SW; was married to Essie Moore; was employed by WPA; and had been born 16 Apr 1903, Goldsboro, North Carolina, to Adam Artis and Katie Pettiford.

AP Artis SSN App

Just over a year later, in June 1940, his mother died, and “Pinkney Artis” of Washington DC was listed as the informant on her death certificate. And that was it. That was all I knew about Pinkney.

Until the other day, when I stumbled upon this, hidden in plain sight:

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The 1940 census, Nahunta township, Wayne County: Adam’s notorious last wife, the remarried Katie A. “Cain” (her death certificate says “King”), son “Pinkny” A. Artis and daughter-in-law Ester Artis. Pinkney reported that he had been living in the same place five years earlier. (His wife had been in DC in 1935. What a transition that must have been.) They were surrounded on all sides by Artises. At #28, Richard Baker, his wife Odessa (daughter of Pinkney’s half-brother Henry J.B. Artis) and their daughter Daisy; at #29, Simon Exum (son of Simon Exum and Pinkney’s aunt Delilah Williams Exum) and his family; and at #31, J.B. Artis himself with wife Laurina and two children.

So, then, not only have I found no trace of Pinkney in Baltimore in his early years, but there is evidence that he was in Wayne County during at least the mid-1930s. He did come home. But where was he all that time?

I still have not found Pinkney in the 1920 or 1920 censuses, but here he is in the 1932 city directory of Richmond, Virginia:

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Did he and Essie marry in Richmond? In DC? I don’t know. How long did they live there? I don’t know that either. But these finds add some texture and definition to Pinkney’s life, and I’ll continue to search.

Education, Migration, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Back to school.

Atlanta has begun its new school year, and my Facebook timeline feed is dotted with pictures of beaming children. Just about a hundred years ago, my grandmothers started school for the first time. I have no photos of my father’s mother at that age, but she spoke to me of her anxious first days at an elementary school in New York City. She’d gone there with her great-aunt and adoptive mother, Sarah Henderson Jacobs, who occasionally traveled North for short stints of domestic work:

The first day I ever went to school, Frances [Aldridge Newsome, her paternal aunt] took me and her son Edward to school. And the building – I don’t remember what the building looked like inside – but I know we went in, and they had little benches, at least it was built around in the room. And you could stand there by it and mark on your paper if you wanted to or whatever. I didn’t see no seats in there. You sit on the same thing you were writing on.   It’s in that, it seem like, from what I remember, it was down in the basement. You had to go down there, and the benches was all the way ‘round the room. And the teacher’s desk — and she had a desk in there. And the children sat on the desk, or you stand there by it, or kneel down if you want to mark on it. First grade, you ain’t know nothing ‘bout no writing no how. And I went in, and I just looked. I just, I didn’t do nothing. I just sit there on top of the desk. And I was crying. I went back to Frances’ house, and then after they come picked us up, I said, well, “Frances, I want to go home.” Go where Mama was. So Frances said, “We’ll go tomorrow.” I said, “How come we can’t go today?”   She said, “Well, it’s too far to go now.” I said, “Well, can you call her?” And she said, “I don’t know the phone number, and I don’t know the name it’s in.” And so that kind of threw me; I finally went on to bed. But anyway before long they all took me back over to Brooklyn.

My mother’s mother also spoke of her early school days:

I never shall forget, we went to Golar’s school when there was a flu epidemic at home, and the schools were closed for months, you know. I don’t know how or why they closed them like that, but anyway, they were closed. And the county schools were open. And Papa used to take us down there to [her sister] Golar’s school. She had a school down there below Belmont. It wasn’t called Belmont. What’s the other one called? She had a little school in Williams Grove. And taught me so much more than them city schools. Girl, I’m telling you, I was in second grade, I never shall forget, she taught me how to crochet. She taught me how to crochet. She taught me how to do divisions. She taught me how to do fractions.

Morningside School 2

Margaret Colvert Allen, seated far right, third row. Circa 1915, Statesville.

Morningside School 3

Margaret C. Allen, second from right, second row from top. Her sister Launie Mae Colvert Jones, at left, first row of middle section. Circa 1916, Statesville.

Interviews of Hattie Henderson Ricks and Margaret Colvert Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.

Education, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Signature Saturday, no. 6: James Henry’s Hendersons.

For decades, men (and the rare women) who apprenticed free children of color in North Carolina were required to teach them to read and do basic math. However, in the crackdown on free colored people that followed the Nat Turner Rebellion, this mandate was first ignored and then done away with altogether. It is not a surprise then that census records generally report that my great-great-great-great-uncle James Henry Henderson was illiterate.


James H. Henderson (1838-1920).

What of his children though? Was he able to send them to school long enough to gain at least the rudiments of literacy? His first five children were daughters. I have not found Mary Ella, Elizabeth or Nancy Henderson in census records as adults, but Amelia Henderson Braswell‘s entries indicate that she could neither read nor write. The evidence is mixed for James’ “outside” daughter Carrie M. Faison Solice, whose mother was Keziah “Kizzie” Faison. The 1900 and 1930 censuses say no, she could not; the 1910 and 1920 say yes, she could. As for James’ sons and youngest daughter and some of their offspring, here’s what I’ve found:

Elias Lewis Henderson (1880-1953) was James and Frances Sauls Henderson’s oldest son. He was a farmer and founder of Saint Mark Church of Christ, near Fremont, Wayne County. I am fairly certain that he could read, but have found no sample of his handwriting.

Elias L Henderson Text

David John Henderson (1901-1960) was E.L. and Ella Moore Henderson’s oldest son.

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Their second son was James Henry Henderson (1906-1947).

James Henry Henderson Sig

And Ira Junior Henderson (1911-1984) was their third.

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Jazell Westly Henderson (1924-2004) was Elias’ son with his second wife, Sarah Edmundson Henderson.

Jazell W Henderson Sig

James Ira Henderson (1881-1946) was James and Frances Henderson’s second son. He signed his World War I draft card with an X.

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Here’s the signature of Ira’s son, William Henry Henderson (1902-1974).

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James’ son Lewis Henderson (1885-1932) was named after his uncle, my great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson (1836-1912).

Lewis Henderson Sig

Lewis had ten daughters and one son, James Ivory Henderson (1922-1986).

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Georgetta Henderson Elliot (1889-1972), called Etta, was James and Frances Henderson’s youngest daughter. This signature appears on her daughter Mackie Bee‘s marriage license, but there is a possibility that it was inscribed by the officiating minister, rather than Etta herself.

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Georgetta Henderson 001 Text