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

And just like that….

… the elusive Aunt Ella.

Back before I completely fell off the 52 Ancestors Challenge, I wrote a piece about my great-great-grandmother Loudie Henderson‘s sister Louella. The gist of it was that, other than the 1880 census and my grandmother’s recollections, there were no sure sightings of this woman. But Ancestry’s new North Carolina Marriages collection is paying off for me in a big way, and the first cha-ching was Aunt Ella’s license for her marriage to William James Laws in 1931. The collection is indexed by parents, as well as bride and groom, and a search for James Henderson picked the record up. I’m elated, but thrown. The last husband my grandmother remembered was Wilson, but he clearly was not the end of the line for Ella. (And 40? Please. By 1931, she was pushing 55.) The witnesses: is that “Mary” Smith? Or “Nany” Smith, i.e. Nancy “Nannie” Henderson Smith Diggs, Ella’s sister. Nancy’s second marriage, to Patrick Diggs, was short-lived, and in the 1930 census, she had reverted to Smith. And which A.M.E. Zion church?


Just when I thought I’d gotten tangled up in enough questions, I found this:


Rastus Best?!?! Aunt Ella was married yet another time? And where are the licenses for the husbands — King and Wilson — I thought I knew? And Disciple Church?

So. Louella Henderson King Wilson Best Laws moves to the top of my “get to the bottom of this” list. A quick search for a Laws death certificate turned up nothing, but I’m hot on her trail.

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

North Carolina Marriage Records. recently launched North Carolina County Marriage Records, a date collection that includes images of marriage bonds, licenses, certificates and registers from 87 counties. (Including all of mine!) I’ve already stumbled across two previously unseen records for distant cousins, aunts or uncles, and I anticipate filling in gaps with many more that I managed to overlook over the years.

As a sample of the value of these records, here’s a single page from one Wayne County marriage register:

Wayne Marriage

1. James Aldridge, 70, married Eliza Thompson. Just about every “colored” Aldridge in 19th century Wayne County is a member of my extended family, but this one doesn’t seem to be one of mine. I can’t place a James born circa 1832. Perhaps this man came into the county from Lenoir or Duplin, which had slave-holding Aldridge families.

2. Adam T. Artis, 68, to Katie Pettiway, 20. This was my great-great-great-grandfather’s last marriage. He was actually 71, rather than 68, so Katie was more than 50 years his junior. (And her maiden name was actually Pettiford.) I’ve written about their family here. (By the way, more about their officiant, Rev. Clarence Dillard (5) here.

3. Robert Artis, 20, to Christiana Simmons, 18. Robert Artis was a son of Adam and Amanda Aldridge Artis. His witnesses may have been his cousin Jesse Anthony Artis, son of Jesse Artis, and uncle William Artis.

4. Robert Aldridge, 37, to Rancy Pearsall, 31. My great-great-grandfather John W. Aldridge‘s second youngest brother Robert finally married in 1903. He and Rancy (or Rannie) adopted a son, Bennie, born in 1908, and she died before 1916, when Robert remarried.


They’re not exactly brick walls, but this one data collection has revealed this and this and this and this… 

DNA, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

DNAnigma, no. 6.

I recognized his name immediately and shot off a message to his inbox. … And then another message. … And then another one. … And still, crickets. In the meantime, I had an email from his first cousin, and I shared news of the match with her. She was excited and said she’d prod him.  Apparently, he is prod-proof.

In any case, this is another match between descendants of Adam T. Artis, with an Aldridge twist. H.B.’s great-grandfather was Henry J.B. Artis, son of Adam by his fourth wife, Amanda Aldridge, who was a daughter of Robert and Eliza Balkcum Aldridge. H.B. and I are roughly 4th cousins, which Ancestry correctly predicted.