Free People of Color, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

A reunion.

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And with that introductory email began my fruitful and thoroughly enjoyable correspondence with B.H., my third cousin, twice removed. Our common ancestor was Levisa (or Eliza) Hagans Seaberry, mother of Napoleon Hagans (B.H.’s great-grandfather) and Frances Seaberry Artis (my great-great-great-grandmother). In the spring of 2010, B.H. and I entered into a mutually beneficial exchange of information about our shared family. I had little information about Napoleon beyond what I’d found in census records and deeds, I’d lost track of his sons Henry and William, and I was completely unaware of his son, the accomplished Dr. Joseph H. Ward. He cued me into William S. Hagans‘ post-migration life in Philadelphia, shared amazing photographs and documents, and lead me to “discover” Joseph Ward’s early years. In turn, I introduced B.H. to Wayne and Wilson Counties and the lives of the Haganses, Wards and Burnetts before they recreated themselves up North.

This past weekend, I traveled to Detroit for — astonishingly — the first time ever. Our primary purpose was to take in the city’s rich street art culture, but I added an item to the top of the agenda — meeting B.H. Friday night, he and his wife treated us to dinner at an old and storied restaurant near the city’s Eastern Market, and Levisa’s children came full circle.

me and Bill

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Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Migration, Photographs

Jay’s brothers.

My grandmother: I had another cousin that died. A man named Jay. He was Aunt Elethea’s boy. She died when I was about 12 years old, I think. Anyway, she died, and she had three sons.

Me: That was Jay and Charles and William.

Another time:

My grandmother, looking at a photo: Now, who is that?

Me: That’s William, isn’t it? Elethea’s son?

My grandmother: Ah, yeah. Yeah. Bill.

Me: Bill.

My grandmother: No — that’s Charles. Boy, they were crazy about us. I mean, no man bed’ not even look at us. Bed’ not even look at us. You know how men can say things about women when they walk by? Child, they bed’ not say one thing about us. …

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In 1942, Charles Edward McNeely filed for a delayed birth certificate in Iredell County. The document issued by the Register of Deeds reported that he was born 15 Jun 1904 to Eleather B. McNeely. No father is named. I have not found a birth certificate for Charles’ brother William “Bill” McNeely.

In the 1910 census of Statesville, Iredell County, on Salisbury, three little boys surnamed McNeeley were listed in the household of their grandparents, Sam and Mary Steelman. William was five, James was three, and Charlie was two. I once was pretty sure that these were Elethea’s boys, but I’m pulling back. Charles and Bill appear nowhere else in the census, but the ages of these boys are off. And who is James? (He’s not Jay/J.T. — Irving McNeely Weaver — whose father was Archie Weaver and who was not born until 1911 or 1912.)

I’ve found none of Elethea’s sons in the 1920 census, though they were probably living in their grandmother Martha McNeely‘s house in Statesville with their mother and aunts Minnie and Janie McNeely:

MM1920

On 23 May 1926, Charles Edward McNeely, 22, married Willie Ann Davidson, 18, before witnesses Mary Louise Colvert, Levi Moss and Bertha Mae Hart. Louise, my grandmother’s older sister, was his first cousin. Bertha was the half-sister of my grandmother’s father. Charles listed his parents as Ed Stockton (living) and Letha McNeely (dead.) John Edward Stockton (1881-1955) was born in Iredell County to Alfred and Caroline Kerr Stockton. He was working as a bellhop at the Hotel Iredell at the time of Charles’ birth. I don’t know whether he was also Bill McNeely’s father.

CE McNeely Mrr

Charles and Willie Ann’s marriage apparently did not take. In the 1930 census of Manhattan, New York County, New York, Charles M. McNeely, 26, and Willy M. McNeely, 22, were listed as boarders in household headed by Lucy R. Reid.  Both were North Carolina-born and reported being married, though their wives were not enumerated with them. Charles worked as a machine operator in a mayonnaise factory and Willy as an elevator operator in a private house.

In 1940, Charles McNeely was still in Manhattan, but I lose sight of Bill.  Thirty-six year-old Charles lived at 308 W. 127th Street, a lodging house run by Lillie Collins. He gave his occupation as steamship laborer.

On 29 September 1950, William and Charles McNeely are listed as nephews in the death notice of Edward McNeely of 454 Avenue C on September 28, 1950.  Other survivors included wife Delphine (nee Peterson), sisters Emma Hauser [sic], Carrie Taylor and Minnie McNeely, nieces Ardeanur S. Hart and Lonnie [sic] Mae Jones, and nephews Henry and Erving Hauser [sic].

Charles McNeely, resident of north Harlem, died 1 Apr 1968.  Four and a half months later, on 15 August, Bloomfield, New Jersey, resident William M. McNeely passed away. This William, however, was not Bill, but a son of William E. and Sarah L. McNeely. I have no evidence that either Charles or Bill had children.

McNEELY -- Charles McNeely

“No — that’s Charles.”

Interviews of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; photographs in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

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

Anna J. Henderson Simmons.

Something brings me back to Anna J. Henderson Simmons. At no more than 20 years old, she left all the family she knew to follow her new husband 800 miles to Canada, where his Wayne County family had settled decades earlier.   It is hard to get a sense of Anna’s life. Her husband Montreville Simmons achieved a measure of success as a farmer in central Indiana, but evidence suggests that he was a difficult man to live with. Did she ever see her birth family again? Probably not, and evidence suggests that her children had an uncertain grasp on the facts of her early years.

Here’s what I know of my great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson‘s sister:

In the 1860 census of Westbrooks, Sampson County, North Carolina, appear James Henderson, mulatto carpenter; wife Eliza; and four children, Anna J., Susan, Hepsie, and Alexander. Eliza (or Louisa) Armwood, daughter of John and Susan Armwood, was James’ second wife.

Ten years later, the family had moved about 20 miles east-southeast and appear in the 1870 census of Faisons, Duplin County: James Henderson, 52, mulatto farmer; wife Eliza; and children Ann, 17, Susan, 16, Hepsey, 14, Aleck, 13, John H., 11, Nancy, 6, and Betty, 3, plus James’ son James, 27, and boarders James Ammons and Thomas Cox. (Were the latter two relatives of either James or, more likely, Eliza/Louisa?)

The following spring, on 3 March 1871, Anna Henderson married Montraville Simmons, 19, son of Calvin and Hepsie Whitley Simmons, in Duplin County. The license lists Anna’s parents as James Henderson and Louisa Armwood. Montraville had been born in Wayne or Duplin County and migrated to Chatham, Kent County, Ontario, Canada with his family in the 1850s. After the death of his first wife, Victoria Brown, whom he married in Chatham in 1865, Montraville returned to North Carolina for a new spouse. (There’s a suspicious marriage on 16 April 1848 in Oakland, Michigan, between 23 year-old Montreville Simmons of North Carolina and Harriet Lucas of Richmond, Ohio. Was this yet another early marriage for Anna’s Montraville?)

Henderson Simmons

Duplin County, North Carolina, Marriage Register.

The family was captured in the 1881 census of Chatham, Kent County, Ontario, Canada: Montreville Simmons, 40, farmer; wife Annie, 29; and children Elizabeth, 8, Doctor T., 7, Susan M., 4, and Montreville, 2. All were born in the United States except Doctor and Montreville jr., who were born in Ontario, and all were Baptist. [Where in the U.S. was Susan born? Had Anna gone back to North Carolina? Or had the family lived some short period across the nearby border?]

Sometime in the next twenty years, the Simmonses cast their lot permanently as Americans. For reasons unknown, they settled near Logansport, Indiana, in rural Cass County north of Indianapolis. In the 1900 census of Eel township, on Park Avenue in Logansport, the census taker recorded farmer “Montville” Simmons, born April 1850, wife Anna, born March 1861, and sons James R., December 1879, Montville, June 1882, and Dock, December 1879. Montville and Anna were recorded as born in North Carolina; their sons in Canada. Montraville and Anna had been married 28 years and reported five of five children living. The family was described as black. [The evidence concerning the Simmons children is confusing. Census records name Elizabeth (born circa 1872), Doctor/Dock (born circa 1874), Susan M. (born circa 1877), James R. (born circa 1879), Montraville Jr. (born circa 1880) and Edward (born 1881.) However, records in Indiana indicate another daughter, Moncy, who died in 1942.]

Montraville Simmons was a successful farmer, but a life of material (if heavily mortgaged) comfort did not necessarily spell ease for Anna. Montraville’s name peppered the local paper regularly, as Pharos-Tribune reporters gleefully chronicled his clashes with neighbors and his personal peccadilloes.

Anna herself managed to stay out of print until 1905, when the ailing woman parachuted into a spat between her husband and his creditors. Headlines blared her surprising intervention, and it’s hard not to see Montraville’s hand as a puppet master in this 11th hour shenanigan.

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Logansport Pharos Tribune, 22 December 1905. 

Sadly (she was only about 50 years old) but perhaps mercifully, within six months, Anna Henderson Simmons was dead. Her death certificate, which contains some curious errors, reported that Annie Simmons, married, died 16 Jun 1906 in Cass County, of Basedow’s disease [now known as Graves’, a disease of the thyroid]. She was born 2 February 1856 in North Carolina and was buried at Free Union Baptist in Irvin township, Howard County, Indiana, by Kroeger & Strain, funeral directors. The informant for the certificate was Montraville Simmons. The father or the son? I don’t know, but it’s hard to believe that either reported Anna as white, though that’s what the certificate notes. It’s less hard to believe that Montraville Jr. might have misreported his mother’s parents as James Harrison and Eliza Henderson. He, after all, had surely never met them. (And when he married Jessie Winslow in Cass County in 1903, he cited his mother’s maiden name as Anna Harrison.)

On 18 June, the Pharos Tribune ran a brief obituary:

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——

Who were Anna Henderson Simmons’ legacies? Is there a lost branch of Hendersons in middle Indiana?

  • Elizabeth Simmons (circa 1872-??) probably died before adulthood. Or she is the same person as Moncy Simmons.
  • Moncy A. Simmons (1872-1942) married first Daniel Bassett, then Newton Palmer; no known children.
  • Doctor R. Simmons (27 November 1874-after 1951) married Fannie Gibson; no children.
  • Susan M. Simmons (circa 1877-1937) married Britton Bassett; two children, who died in infancy. She helped rear her brother Montraville’s son Harold.
  • James R. Simmons (circa 1879-aft. 1900) probably did in young adulthood; no children. Or, he is the same person as Edward Simmons.
  • Montraville Simmons Jr. (circa 1880-31 March 1910) married Jessie Winslow in 1903. His son Harold Simmons was born about 1904. On 7 October 1911, Jessie gave birth to Helen Elizabeth Simmons in Chicago and listed Montraville on Helen’s birth certificate, but he could not have been the child’s father. Similarly, in the 1920 census, Jessie Winslow Simmons, remarried to Earnest W. Griggs, attributes by inference two additional children to Montraville Jr., Frances (born 1913) and Alma (born 1916). Neither were his. Harold is mentioned in his aunt Moncy’s obituary, but does not regularly appear in census records.
  • Edward Simmons (24 November 1883-1936) married only after his parents’ deaths, but married four times in 20 years. He had no children.

In other words, improbable as it seems, Anna’s seven children produced a single grandchild, and he seems not to have any children. There are not, it seems, any Kokomo cousins.

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Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Case continued ….

Ummmm….

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I have so, so many questions about this little blurb from the 1 April 1890 edition of the Raleigh State Chronicle.

Number one: were these men the David, Robert Jr., and Joseph Aldridgeborn 1858, 1866 and 1869, who were the younger sons of Robert and Mary Eliza Balkcum Aldridge? (One and a half: if not, who were they?)

Two: Croatan Indians? (This is the name by which today’s Coharie Indians were known at the end of the nineteenth century.) The Aldridges?

Three: Voodooism?!?!! (For that matter, tramping and vagrancy? What were these Wayne County farmers doing in Wake County?)

Four: Can I find out what happened? I’ll need to get into Wake Superior Court records at the North Carolina State Archives.

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DNA, Maternal Kin, Virginia

DNA Definites, no. 21: Randolph.

I came back from vacation to find a nice new match at Ancestry.com. R.M. and I are double eighth cousins, as I am descended from two children of Isham and Jane Rogers RandolphThomas I. Randolph (1722-1788), who married Jane Cary (1751-1774), and Susannah Randolph, who married Carter Henry Harrison (1736-1793). (Thomas Randolph, Susannah Randolph Harrison, and Bettie Randolph Railey’s sister Jane Randolph married Peter Jefferson and gave birth to Thomas Jefferson.)

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Ancestry estimates our relationship as 5th-8th cousins and rates the match as “Good,” meaning that we share 6-12 cM. (Which is quite high for 8th cousins, but is attributable to (1) our double lineage and (2) luck.) That’s lower than I’d ordinarily pursue, but I’ll take it.

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Business, Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Mound City Medical Forum gets ready.

Speaking of Tom Aldridge

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Pittsburgh Courier, 14 August 1937.

This is the earliest photograph I have seen of my great-grandfather, and he was 51 years old here. His hair, fallen over his forehead, seems thicker than in later studio portraits. Otherwise, disappointingly little detail can be seen. Twenty-four years later, he would be elected president of the National Medical Association.

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Military, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Pvt. Aldrich.

On 28 May 1917, James Thomas Aldridge appeared before a registrar in Brooklyn, New York. I imagine Tom dragging his feet, and his reluctance to serve shows through his notably exaggerated response to Question 9 — “Have no father (dead) Mother and three sisters to help to support” — and the basis for his claim for an exemption — “Dependents and poor health.” Tom described himself as a “student (medical),” and evidence demonstrates that he had entered medical school in the fall of 1916. (He may have done his first year at Leonard Medical School, then transferred to Meharry, from which he graduated in 1920. But what was he doing in Brooklyn? He wasn’t a resident, as demonstrated by the home address and precinct listed on the card.) Tom also gave his birth date as 14 May 1895, which would have made him 22. His age, however, is listed as 27. Neither is correct. He was born in 1886, and was 31 in 1917, but always fudged heavily on his age, possibly to disguise the long years that passed between finishing eighth grade in Dudley’s local school and entering high school at Shaw. Either way, he was called up.

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Until a couple of days ago, my knowledge of my great-grandfather’s World War I service was limited to brief mentions in his obits that he had been in the Medical Corps. While looking for something else, though, I ran across an Ancestry.com database, “New York Abstracts of World War I Military Service 1917-1919.” And there, under his preferred spelling — more about that later — was James T. Aldrich.

Serial number 2,546,996. White.

Huh? How ever did Tom pull that off?

In any case, there it is — his World War I record. Service did not take him far from his home in East Harlem. (Maybe his health was poorish, after all?) Enlistment in the Medical Reserve Corps on Broadway in January 1918. Then about nine months at the Army base that Governors Island once was. (On 8 October 1918, just before leaving Governors Island, he married Athalia Freeman.) Then on to Camp Alexander in Newport News, Virginia, for six months until his discharge in May 1919. Camp Alexander, established in 1918, served as an embarkation and debarkation camp for African-American troops.

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Maternal Kin, Military, Other Documents

Draft card revelations: McNeely.

Most of my grandmother’s male McNeely first cousins were too old to have served in World War II. They were required to register nonetheless, and the draft cards I’ve found offer interesting little snapshots of their lives:                                  RHMcNeely WW1

RHMcNeely reverse

The scars on Robert Henry “Jinx” McNeely‘s head were external evidence of the skull fracture he received when his bicycle collided with an automobile in 1937. His aunt, Mary Bell Woods McNeely Frink, was his mother Margaret Woods McNeely’s sister, but she was also his stepmother, having married (and divorced) his father Luther McNeely after Margaret’s death. She is an interesting choice for “person who will always know your address,” as, as far as I know, Jinx’ wife Katie Woodsides McNeely was living at the time. Jinx started working as a drugstore porter, making customer deliveries and running errands on a bicycle, in his teens.

QE McNeely

QE McNeely reverse

Though he was close to her age, my grandmother never knew her uncle Edward McNeely‘s son Quincy. Ed and his wife, Lucille Tomlin McNeely, divorced early, and by 1920 she and their son had moved 100 miles west to Asheville, North Carolina. Quincy married Addie Sims in 1930, then Elizabeth [last name unknown] by 1935. He does not appear to have fathered children, and he died in Detroit in 1966.

JG McNeely

JG McNeely rev

I’ve written of James “Red” McNeely alias Smith here. He was the cousin closest in age to my grandmother, but I heard her mention him only once. After their mother Addie McNeely Smith‘s death, aunt Minnie McNeely reared James and his older sister Ardeanur. He moved to High Point, perhaps in his early 20s, and may have been briefly married to a woman named Mildred.  (They appear together in the 1930 census of High Point, but I haven’t found a license or anything else about her.) It did not last, and he had no children. Red was a pool room operator and died in 1960.

CGTaylor

CG Taylor rev

This really wrecks my notions about when the Columbus, Ohio, branch of my McNeely family really put down roots in that city. The card shows that in 1942, 19 year-old Carl Taylor was living in Statesville — in the household of his first cousin, Louise Colvert Renwick — but his mother Janie McNeely (not Taylor?) was living in Columbus and working at a Children’s Home.  My inability to find Janie’s family in the 1940 census makes it difficult to pinpoint when she migrated north. In any case, she apparently moved back and forth between North Carolina and Ohio during the 1930s before settling permanently in Columbus, perhaps during the War.

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