Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Oral History

Carrie, formally.

Me: Well, I wonder where she got her name from?

My grandmother: Who?

Me: Your mama. Your mother. Caroline Mary Martha –

My grandmother: Yeah.  Who ever heard tell of such as that?

Me: Fisher Valentine McNeely.  Well, I know where the Martha came from, ‘cause that was her mother’s name.

My grandmother: Yeah.

Actually, it was Caroline MARTHA MARY Fisher Valentine McNeely. And “Caroline” was the name of her aunt, Caroline McConnaughey, Martha Miller McNeely’s sister. But Mary and Fisher and Valentine?


Interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.


Epiphany, no. 1.

Fairly early in the game, I noticed that in some feminine names, I’s that are now pronounced IH or EE were once pronounced EYE. For example, Cousin Nina Aldridge Hardy was NYE-na.  Cousin Tilithia Brewington Godbold was Ta-LYE-thi-a.  Cousin Beathina Henderson Hargrove was Be-THY-na.  I also noticed — or so I thought — that sometimes the names Eliza and Louisa were interchanged in records and assumed that this was because “Louisa” was once pronounced “Lou-EYE-za,” which, maybe, could have been misheard as “Eliza.”  Example: Louisa/Eliza Hagans Seaberry.

But then: today while looking at Louisa Seaberry’s entry in the 1850 census of Wayne County way enlarged, I noticed that … there was no loop in the first vowel. I looked up and down the page. The censustaker’s other O’s all featured a distinct loop. This, now that I was really looking at it, seemed to be an  E. And the U rather like V. So, not Louisa, but LEVISA? But what about definite references in the 1870 census and deeds to “Eliza”? A mispronunciation? A middle name? In 1865, her daughter Frances Seaberry Artis named her twin daughters Louvicey … and Eliza. Were they both named after their grandmother? Frances’ daughter Georgianna Artis Reid also named a daughter Levicy. I’m onto something….