North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Get to know your people.


Effenus Henderson (left) is an internationally known human resources and diversity thought leader. Wade Henderson (right) is president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. About 5 years ago, the two met at National Urban League conference. “You’re from North Carolina?,” asked Wade, “My father was from Wilson.” “You need to talk to Lisa,” said Effenus. Wade did. And last week there we all were, in Dudley, North Carolina — birthplace of our grandparents — at the Henderson Family Reunion.

DNA, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Religion

Ain’t you glad?

My great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson has no known patrilineal descendants, but his brothers James Henry and John do. About a year ago, I reached out to my cousin C., who is in the James Henry line, to ask if he would test with 23andme. After some hesitation, he agreed.

C.’s results returned in a few weeks, and I called him to share the details. “So, am I a Henderson?,” he blurted. I laughed: “Of course you are, crazy!” C. is the spitting image of his father, but — his parents had not married. Hearing that Hendersons (including my father and K.H.) were among his top matches and that he shared the same haplogroup as other patrilineal Hendersons had vanquished lingering uncertainties that I had not even known C. harbored.

The core of the Henderson family is deeply religious, and our reunions feature a farewell prayer breakfast at the host hotel. C., who is an ordained Baptist minister, rose to deliver a mini-sermon to those gathered. “Blood done sign my name,” he said. “Blood … done sign my name.” You may know this traditional gospel song, whose lyrics speak to the belief in the redemption of sinners through the blood that Jesus Christ shed on Calvary. C. preached on salvation Sunday morning, but he also invoked this metaphor in a different way. With a simple DNA test, C. was free from doubt and able confidently to claim his place among the Hendersons. Blood had signed his name on the roll books of our family.

Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Photographs

The reunion.

Reunion 1978 01My grandmother and her children: the first reunion.

It was in July. I’m sure of that, but not the actual date. The first Colvert-McNeely family reunion. We gathered in Statesville, of course, where my grandmother Margaret and her sisters Louise and Launie Mae were born and grew up. The reunion called not only their descendants, but those of their older half-sisters, Mattie and Golar, and their maternal McNeely kin. I was 14 that summer and not much interested in anyone more than three or four years older than I. Nor had I been seized with the unquenchable genealogical fervor that would light me up a decade later . So I lounged around the hotel pool and wasted opportunities that year, and subsequent, to winnow every broad hint and slender clue from the ever-waning recollections of my elders. My great-aunt Louise, who lived in Statesville all her life and probably knew the most. My great-great-aunt Min, last of the McNeely siblings. The “other” Colverts, cousins and children of my great-grandfather’s half-sisters — were they even there? I’d been surprised to learn later that some were living in 1978. (They were not much spoken of. Was there a rift?) Who was in Statesville that summer? Whom did I miss?

CM Reunion 1978

The last day. Or maybe the first. My uncle John’s wife Gladys, my mother, my grandmother (in curlers — she would not approve of this post), my uncle John, an unknown man (a Colvert? a McNeely? who?), my mother’s first cousin Donald, my aunt Lynne, my father. Statesville, 1978.


Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina

Nicholson reunion.

These were Harriet Nicholson Hart‘s people, though I can guarantee you she was not there:

Nich Reunion 1 8 17 22

nich reunion 2 8 17 22

Statesville Landmark, 17 August 1922.

Nich Reunion 8 9 1923

Statesville Landmark, 9 August 1923.

Nich Reunion 8 12 1926

Statesville Landmark, 12 August 1926.

The North Carolina branch of the Nicholson Family descended from Revolutionary War veteran John Stockton Nicholson, born 1757 in Princeton, New Jersey, and his wives, Mary McComb Nicholson (1760- 1783) and Catherine Anne “Caty” Stevenson Nicholson (1766-1843).  The Nicholsons and Stevensons arrived in America from England in the mid-17th century.  The McCombs were perhaps Irish.  John and Mary had one child, James Nicholson (1783-1850). John and Caty had a passel: John Stockton Nicholson Jr. (1787-1868), Mary Nicholson Walker (1788-??), Elizabeth Nicholson Beeson (1790-??), Rebecca Nicholson Clampett (1793-1880), George Nicholson (1796-1802), Moses Pinckney Nicholson (1799-1844), Anderson Nicholson (1801-1879), Catherine Nicholson Clampitt (1804-1841), Phoebe Nicholson Barron (1806-1882), and Hannah Nicholson Idol (1811-1877).

Harriet was descended from both of John S. Nicholson’s wives. Mary’s son James married Mary Allison (1792-1857), daughter of Theophilus and Elizabeth Knox Allison, in 1815. They had two children, Thomas Allison Nicholson (1816-1886) and John McComb Nicholson (1820-??). Thomas married his first cousin, Rebecca Clampett Nicholson (1817-1903), daughter of Caty’s son John S. Nicholson Jr. and Mary Fultz.  Thomas and Rebecca’s children were: James Lee Nicholson (1841-1871), John Wesley Nicholson (1843-1913), Mary Jane Nicholson Smith (1846-1922), George Watson Nicholson (1848-1913) and Rebecca Ann (or Annie Rebecca) Nicholson Barnard (1860-1925). As detailed here, J. Lee Nicholson was Harriet’s father.

Nearly all of the reunion attendees mentioned by namein these articles were descended from Thomas A. Nicholson’s children Lee, George and Annie. Rev. W.L. and W.T. Nicholson, for example, were Lee’s sons, and the Barnards were Annie’s children and grandchildren. Dr. J.P. Nicholson, however, was Rebecca C. Nicholson Nicholson’s brother and Dr. W.G. Nicholson, her nephew. I’m not sure who the octogenarian John N. Nicholson was.