DNA Definites, no. 26.

I couldn’t sleep; I hadn’t adjusted to the night sounds of Guatemala City. So I logged into Ancestry.com, and:

  • T.L., who is a known third cousin. The match is actually with his sibling K.L., who provided a sample in lieu. (Predictably, Ancestry underestimates our match at 11.9 cM — 5th to 8th cousins. He shares 17 cM with G.W. and 47 with K.J., who are his third cousins and my second.) His great-grandmother Emma McNeely Houser, and mine, Carrie McNeely Colvert, were sisters. He’s my first McNeely match who is not also a Colvert, so I’m hoping our common matches will shed light on that line.
  • W.H., my known half-third cousin. His great-grandmother, Lillie Barfield Holmes, and mine, Bessie Henderson, were both daughters of J. Buckner Martin. W.H. matches siblings J.E. (94 cM), L.H. (105 cM) and M.C. (23.6 cM), who are grandchildren of Bessie’s full brother Jack Henderson. (They’re W.H.’s half-second cousins once removed.) These are especially satisfying matches as I have been frustrated and mystified by our failures to register matches with descendants of Aunt Lillie’s brother. W.H. and I aren’t Ancestry matches, but we’ll see what Gedmatch says.
  • I was shocked speechless by a match with F.W., whose tree shows her to be a descendant of Durant Dove. Durant Henderson, alias Dove, was the son of Nancy Henderson Dove, whom I believe to have been the sister of my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Patsey Henderson. But at 32 cM?? That fourth cousin-range number is much higher than I would expect with a fifth cousin second removed. F.W. has a second Henderson-Dove line, but I’m not sure that’s enough to account for the extra.
DNA, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

DNA Definites, no. 23.


Joseph Buckner Martin (1868-1928) is said to have been the father of my great-grandmother Bessie Henderson and her brother Jesse “Jack” Henderson. Does DNA back this up?

Sort of.

One of Bessie’s descendants (me) and three of Jack’s (J.E., L.H. and M.C.) have tested with Ancestry DNA. I match each of them as expected. But whom do we match?

Buck Martin was the son of Lewis H. and Mary Ann “Polly” Price Martin. Though Lewis and Polly had ten children, so far I have not identified matches for any of us with descendants of any of them.

Let’s back up a generation though. Lewis H. Martin was one of 11 children of Waitman G. and Eliza Lewis Martin. My close cousins J.E. and L.H. match G.A., who is descended from Lewis’ brother Henderson N. Martin.

Eliza Lewis Martin (1813-??) was the oldest child of Urban Lewis and Susan Casey Lewis. Her siblings: John Lewis, Fannie Lewis Denmark, Joel Lewis, Bethany Lewis Martin, Susan Marinda Lewis Potts, Patience Lewis Denmark, William Lewis, Elizabeth Lewis, and Mary Ann Lewis Martin. My close cousins and/or I match descendants of at least two of them, John (J.K., K.P.) and Susan (E.P., B.P.). (My father also has matches to Susan’s descendants E.G.P. and B.A.P. at Gedmatch and D.P. at FTDNA.) In addition, J.E. and L.H. match B.T., a descendant of Urban Lewis’ brother Laban Lewis. And over at 23andme, my father’s first cousin J.H. matches A.L., an Urban and Susan Casey Lewis descendant, and K.C.K., a descendant of one of Susan Casey Lewis’ siblings.

Polly Price Martin was the daughter of James and Margaret Herring Price. Polly had  sisters Margaret “Peggy” Price Williams and Susan Price Dail. M.C., J.E. and/or I match a descendant of Susan Dail and five descendants of Peggy’s great-grandson Merle Williams.

So, while we do not have matches with any of Buck’s siblings’ descendants, we do have matches to all four of his grandparents’ line — Martin, Lewis, Price and Herring. This does not exclusively establish Buck Martin as my ancestor, but it goes a long way.

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

The house and the lot on which they now live.

Buck Martin never married. At the end of his life, he and his bachelor brother Alfred lived together in the “home place,” perhaps the house they had grown up in, which Buck owned. Just down the road lived another unmarried brother, Dortch, and their widowed sister, Virginia “Jenny” Martin Herring.

A few months before his death, Buck drew up a will that insured that Alfred would keep a roof over his head and that, more importantly, his younger children and their mother, Sarah Barfield, would not be dispossessed of the house and acre of land upon which they lived. By its terms, the will provided that the Barfields could remain on the property for the duration of their lifetimes and those of their survivors, after which it would revert to his brothers or their heirs. In fact, they did not stay quite so long. Sarah Barfield died in 1942, and the property reverted to Buck’s brother Ira’s children. Lillie Barfield Holmes bought the house from them, but it later burned down.

MARTIN -- Buck Martin Will

[Sidenote: Buck Martin died 18 June 1928 of sarcoma of the right thigh. His brother Ira died of heart failure exactly ten days later.]

North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Finding the Barfields.

Some time in the late 1980s, I learned the name of my great-grandmother Bessie Henderson’s father — Joseph Buckner Martin — and learned that, after the death of Bessie’s mother Loudie, Buck Martin had several children with a woman whose last name was Barfield.  I marinated on that for a few years, then a bit of sleuthing revealed that Sarah Barfield was the woman, and her children were Walter, Amy, Lillie and Daisy Barfield. I found Walter Barfield Jr. in the phone book, cold-called him, and found him to be a gracious and welcoming cousin. His father had passed away not too many years before, but Aunt Lillie was still living, and he was happy to introduce us the next time I came home to North Carolina.

sarah barfield

Sarah Barfield

I met my great-great-aunt in the spring of 1993 at the nursing home in which she lived in Mount Olive. She was a tiny woman with a wizened, apple-cheeked face, her ivory-white hair pulled back in a small bun.


I took  notes:

  • She said she never saw her half-sister Bessie Henderson, but remembers when she died [in 1910].  Her sister Amy went to the funeral and came home and cried and cried.
  • Jack Henderson, her half-brother, used to visit them in the country.  Once when he came, he wanted to meet their father.  She took him there, and Buck received his oldest son in a friendly manner.  He was good to his children.
  • Her sister Amy was in her 30s when she died; Daisy was 18.  They are buried in the Barfield cemetery, between Mount Olive and Dudley, not far from the railroad.
  • Her youngest granddaughter has a photo of Daisy.
  • She has a daughter Gladys and a son Walter Lee Holmes.
  • She bought the house that Buck left her mother from one of Ira Martin’s children, to whom it had reverted after her mother Sarah’s death.
  • Her house burned up with most of her photographs.
  • She knew Buck’s brother Alfred Martin.  He committed suicide.
  • Once on her way to Washington to see her husband, she spent the night in Wilson with Sarah Henderson Jacobs, who told her, “Don’t ever marry an old man.”  Walter Lee was 2 years old at the time. [This would have been about 1922.]
  • She remembered that my grandmother had children by a “barber man.”

The second time I visited Aunt Lillie was at Christmas, and I took my grandmother with me. When we walked in, Aunt Lillie stared wordlessly, then reached out to touch her face.


Lillie Barfield Holmes passed away peacefully on 1 June 2003, just shy of her 100th birthday.


Photographs taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, 1993.

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Eureka, no. 1.

In an old notebook, I found this comment scribbled in 1988:

“Polly Ann Price married Lewis Martin at Calvin Dail’s house. Calvin Dail’s wife was Susan Price. Polly and Susan were near enough in age to be sisters.”

Lewis H. Martin and Polly Ann Price‘s son was Joseph “Buck” Martin, father of my great-grandmother Bessie and her brother Jack Henderson. I have not given them much thought over the years, it is true.  Tapping into the research of others, I have long been able to extend Lewis Martin’s lines back a few generations into Caseys, Lewises, Grants, Utleys and Selfs. Polly Ann’s parentage was a mystery, though, a full stop, and I never got beyond wondering if Susan Dail was a key.

Five minutes on the internet today — searching for Susan Price Dail — and, voila, she and Mary “Polly” Ann were indeed sisters, and their parents were James Price (1805-circa1870) and Margaret Herring (1809-1898). Several Ancestry.com family trees claim the couple, but posit differing — and occasionally impossible — individuals as their parents. I’ll examine the possibilities soon. (And hope a revelation comes in fewer than 25 years!)

North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Loudie’s legacy.

Loudie was the youngest of Lewis and Mag Henderson’s children, the one who never left home, the one who scarcely had time to do so, for she died at 19, but not before making her mark in the form of her children Bessie and Jesse. Loudie died in childbirth and, had circumstances been different, her children’s father might have reared them, but that was not to happen in that place and time.  Their father was a white man, a lifelong bachelor farmer named Joseph Buckner Martin and called Buck.  If his love for his second set of children, also by a colored woman, is any indication, he felt for Loudie and her two, but there was a long way between loving one’s yellow babies and taking them in, and so Lewis and Mag and their daughter Sarah (who would have a child of her own by a white man) reared them.

Jesse Henderson, then called Buddy, followed his aunt Sarah and her husband Jesse Jacobs to Wilson. They and Jesse’s younger children by his first wife settled into a L-shaped, three-roomed bungalow on Elba Street, a block off black Wilson’s best residential address and a few blocks over from the main business drag, East Nash Street.  Jesse found work at Jefferson Farrior’s livery stable on Barnes Street, perhaps through a Dudley connection who worked as Farrior’s maid.  When Big Jesse brought his wife’s nephew Jesse into the livery, Farrior christened the younger man “Jack” to cut down confusion.  (The name stuck so well that some of his children never knew anything different, and a rumor grew that Farrior was Jack’s real daddy.)

Jack I almost knew.  Our lives overlapped, and we could have met, but I was a child when he was a sick old man, and before my sixth birthday, he was gone.  I know his children, and I have his few photographs, and I will have to be content with that. He is below, with open collar and cheroot.


Photograph of Jack Henderson, friend and dog in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.