Births Deaths Marriages, Uncategorized

1976? Or 2000?

When Effie Mae Smith was born in Goldsboro on 6 October 1905 (or perhaps 1904), the state of North Carolina did not require birth certificates. Years later, however, she found she needed one, applied, and her so-called “delayed” certificate was filed with the Wayne County register of deeds.

On 16 November 1921, Effie May Smith married Frank W. Stanfield in Greensboro, North Carolina. Their marriage license clearly names her parents, Isham Smith and Nancy Henderson Smith Diggs.

42091_333095-00969 (1)

Frank was a World War I veteran. He died in 1935 and is buried in a Cypress Hill National Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.  Beside his stone is one that reads: EFFIE M., HIS WIFE Oct 6 1904 Dec 27 1978. This certainly appears to be Effie Mae Smith Stanfield.

Effie Stanfield marker

Further, the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) lists Effie M. Stanfield, Social Security number xxx-xx-8462, born 10/6/1905, died 12/27/1976, last address in Brooklyn, zip code.


There’s this: a Social Security application — Effie Mae Bridges (applied in 1952 as Effie Mae Smith), xxx-xx-9518, born 10/6/1904 in Goldsboro, North Carolina, to Isaam Smith and Nancy Henderson, died 2/15/2000. And it’s backed up by a SSDI entry for Effie M. Bridges, same birth and death dates, last address in Brooklyn 11233. What is going on here? Identity theft? If not, who in the world is buried next to Frank Stanfield???

Photo courtesy of

Births Deaths Marriages, Paternal Kin, Uncategorized

Cousin Nancy’s descendants, found.

While I was away in Mauritius, I received a thrilling message in my Ancestry mailbox. “I am still recovering from the shock of finding info on Nancy Smith,” it began.  The amazement was mutual. “Wow,” I responded. “God bless the Internet.”  The writer’s partner is the son of Bessie Lee Smith, daughter of Nancy Henderson Smith of Goldsboro, North Carolina. She promises to provide what additional information she can about this branch of my Hendersons, whose descendants have long proved elusive. I’m looking forward to the collaboration. My grandmother spoke often of her Smith cousins; how I wish she could have lived long enough to learn what had become of them.

Births Deaths Marriages

The Goldsboro Smiths.

As mentioned, Nancy Henderson Smith was my great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson‘s half-sister, but she was closer in age to his children. She and her sisters Mollie Henderson Hall Holt and Louella Henderson King Wilson Best Laws were particularly close to Lewis’ daughter Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver, who reared my grandmother (her sister Loudie‘s grandchild) after she was effectively orphaned.

In 1881, Nancy married Isham Smith. They settled in the Harrell Town section of Goldsboro, where Isham worked as a wagon driver, occasional blacksmith, and then an undertaker. Their children were: Annie Smith Guess (1883-1953), Oscar Smith (1884), Furney Smith (1886), Ernest Smith (1888-1918), Elouise Marie Smith (1890), Johnnie Smith (1891), Mary E. Smith Southerland (1894), James Smith (1896), Willie Smith (1899-1912), Effie May Smith Stanfield (1904), and possibly Bessie Lee Smith (1911). (Was Bessie really a daughter? Nancy was born about 1864! A granddaughter maybe?) Isham died in 1914, and Nancy married Patrick Diggs four years later. After Patrick’s death, Nancy restored her first husband’s surname. She died in Goldsboro in 1944.

Here’s what marriage licenses reveal about this family:


  • Another example of official laziness — though both Annie’s parents were living, only one is named.
  • What Methodist church in Goldsboro? A Google doesn’t turn up much, but revealed that a Rev. J.J. McIntire was an African Methodist Episcopal minister in the South Wilmington (North Carolina) circuit in 1916.
  • James Guess was a multi-faceted businessman, to say the least, with interests in barber shops, pool halls, real estate and a flourishing undertaking operation. He died in 1957 at a hospital in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  • Annie and James had two children, Elma (1905) and James Jr. (1923-1950). (That is interesting spacing, definitely.)
  • Annie Smith Guess died of heart disease 8 August 1953 at her home in Goldsboro.


  • This was a short-lived marriage. In 1910, the census of Goldsboro showed Carrie Smith living at home with her parents, Furney and Clara Wooten, her siblings, and her not quite two-year-old daughter Pauline Smith.  In the 1920 census, Carrie Smith is described as a widow, and she and Pauline remain in Clara Wooten’s home.


  • And again, Isham is named, Nancy is not, though both were living.
  • This time, the Methodist Episcopal church. A search for John H. Isham doesn’t yield anything.
  • Alberta Paschall was soon to be the wife of Johnnie’s brother Ernest Smith, see below.
  • Elma Guess was the 12-year-old daughter of James and Annie Smith Guess. (Or was there another Elma Guess? Twelve seems awfully young to be an official witness.)
  • Five months after he married, Johnnie registered for the World War I draft. His draft card stated that he resided at 100 Smith Street in Goldsboro (his parents’ house); was 22 years old; worked as a laborer for Isaac Cohnes of Goldsboro; was married; and was of short height and medium build with brown eyes and black hair.
  • Sylvia Kornegay Smith gave birth to a stillborn son in 1920, then to a son Herbert in September 1922 who died at age six moths.  Son Russell Smith was born in 1925 and appears to have been Johnnie’s only living child. The family appears together in the 1930 census of Goldsboro, at which time Johnnie worked as a carpenter and Sylvia as a laundress. They split before long, however, as the 1940 census of Goldsboro showed Johnnie and his siblings Bessie and Jimmy living with their mother Nancy Smith. I have not found Johnnie’s death certificate.
  • As late as 1959, Johnny Smith is listed in the Goldsboro city directory living at the Smith “home house,” 309 Smith Street. However, I have not found his death certificate.


  • Nancy, as here, was sometimes called “Nannie.”
  • A Missionary Baptist minister performed this ceremony. Alberta’s church, perhaps?
  • Ernest’s sisters Effie Mae and Annie were witnesses.
  • Ernest and Alberta had had a child together, a stillborn girl, born 1914 in Goldsboro, Wayne County. They had no others.
  • Ernest, a barber, died 5 October 1918 of lobar pneumonia in Goldsboro — five months after he married.


  • Nancy’s second marriage, which ended with Patrick Diggs’s death before 1930.
  • The family appears in the 1920 census, Goldsboro, Wayne County: on Smith Street, Patrick Diggs, tinned at W.A. Works; wife Nancy; stepdaughter Bessie Lee Smith; and widowed “stepdaughter-in-law” Alberta Smith, a cook.


  • Surprise, surprise. My great-aunt Mamie was not the only relative to follow Mollie Henderson Holt to Greensboro.
  • Nancy is listed with her second husband’s name.
  • This is my last sighting of Effie Mae. I have not found death certificates for her or her husband, but neither seems to appear in subsequent census records. And in the 1930 census, their seven-year-old daughter Vivian Stanfield was living with her grandmother “Nannie” in Goldsboro.

nannie smith 1930

And what of Nancy’s remaining children?

  • Furney Smith is elusive. He appears in exactly one census record with his parents (1900) and seemingly none on his own. Perhaps because:

F SMith

Goldsboro News Argus, 27 January 1906.


Goldsboro News Argus, 23 February 1907.

  • Elouise Marie Smith is listed as “Alerwese” Smith in the 1900 census in her parents’ household. I have no trace of her after. A “Mrs. E. Hall” of the home, 309 Smith Street, was the informant on Nancy Smith’s death certificate. Was that Elouise? (Or maybe Effie?)
  • Mary E. Smith Southerland is listed as an informant on the delayed birth certificate of her sister Effie Mae Smith. I have not found a record of her marriage to a Southerland.
  • James “Jimmy” Smith was born 18 April 1896. When he registered for the World War I draft in 1917, he reported that he resided at 100 Smith Street in Goldsboro NC; that he was born in Goldsboro; that he worked as a bottler as a bottling company; that was single; that he was of medium height and weight; and that he had black eyes and hair. He likely was not the James Smith that married Lou Pearl Moses on 15 November 1916 in Goldsboro. He is last seen in his mother’s household in the 1940 census of Goldsboro.
  • Twelve year-old Willie Smith died of kidney disease (“nephritis”) on 29 June 1912.
  • Bessie Lee was born about 1911. If Nancy were her mother, she’d have been in her late 40s when Bessie was born. Not impossible, but perhaps unlikely. Still, she is consistently referred to as daughter, rather than granddaughter, so I’ll leave it there for now. I have no record of any marriage for her, and she and two brothers appear in their mother’s household in the 1940 census.
Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Migration, North Carolina


Speaking of Ardeanur … Here’s what I know about her.

Ardeanur R. Smith was born 8 February 1903 in Statesville, North Carolina, to Daniel and Addie Lucinda McNeely Smith. Her brother James Garfield Smith was born four years later. I have not found the family in the 1910 federal population schedule, and the family had fallen apart before the census taker next came round. As revealed in the estate file of Ardeanur’s great-uncle Julius McNeely, Addie McNeely Smith died in early 1917. Her mother’s family, and in particular, her younger sister Minnie B. McNeely, took responsibility for the children.

McNEELY -- Bert_Minnie_Ardeanur 001

A Murphy, Bertha Hart, Alonzo Lord, Minnie McNeely, Ardeanur Smith, Statesville, mid-1920s.

But not for long. By 1920, Ardeanur had struck out on her own. She appears as “Ardenia” Smith in the 1920 census in Salisbury, 25 miles west of Statesville in Rowan County, her mother’s birthplace. At 17, she is the youngest of eight young African-Americans, men and women, occupying a boarding house at 319 South Lee Street. She reported no occupation, though it seems likely that she was engaged in domestic work. How long she remained in Salisbury is not clear, and on 13 February 1923, she stood as a witness at the marriage of her aunt Janie Caroline McNeely, 24, to James Martin Taylor, 21, by Reverend Zander A. Dockery, a Presbyterian minister. (The other witness was Archie Weaver, husband of Elethea McNeely.)

Whether in Salisbury or Statesville, Ardeanur did not have much longer for small town North Carolina. Sometime mid-decade, she joined the tide of black Southerners flowing North, setting her bags ashore in Bayonne, New Jersey. Though many McNeelys would follow, at that time only her aunt Emma McNeely Houser was there, and it is likely that Ardeanur lived initially with her family. She joined the Housers’ church, Wallace Temple A.M.E. Zion, and began to develop her gifts. By June 1928, she was taking elocution lessons in New York City and in 1929 sang in a program in honor of United States Congressman Oscar DePriest.

Even as she dreamed, though, Ardeanur had to make a living. In 1928, she lived at 115 Davis Avenue in the West New Brighton neighborhood of Staten Island, just across the Kill Van Kull from Bayonne. She undoubtedly worked as a live-in servant to William G. Willcox, a Tuskegee Institute board member whose wife Mary Gay Willcox was descended from a prominent abolitionist family. (In fact, the Gay house at 115 Davis is believed to have been an important station on the Underground Railroad.) By 1930, when the census taker came around, Ardeanur Smith, 25, shared a $50/month  apartment with Mary Snowden at at 2014 Seventh Avenue (now Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard) in Harlem. Both worked as housemaids for private families, and both were reported as South Carolina-born. Ardeanur seems still to have been living in New York three years later when she, her aunt Minnie and first cousin Charles McNeely accompanied the body of Charles’ brother Irving McNeely Weaver to Iredell County for burial.

I’m not sure where Ardeanur was in 1940. Her name does not appear in enumerations of New Jersey or New York. Ninety miles south, however, a census taker in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, recorded North Carolina-born “Ardinia” Smith, age 40, living in a boarding house at 1710 West Fontain (just west of Temple University) and performing domestic work. Was this Ardeanur?

Sometime, probably in the early 1940s, Ardeanur Smith married. I have not found a marriage license for her, and no one I know knows her husband’s full name, much less where he was from. He was a Hart, a common name in Iredell County, but a common enough name everywhere that he is not necessarily someone she knew from “home.”** I only know for certain that the wedding took place before 2 October 1947, when the Bayonne Times printed an obituary for John McNeely that listed niece Ardeanur Hart among his survivors. (Three years later, when the Times ran the obit of Edward McNeely, another uncle, she was Ardeanur S. Hart.)

When James G. Smith died in 1960 in High Point, North Carolina, Ardeanur, living in Jersey City, New Jersey, provided personal information for his death certificate. We get another glimpse of her in May 1961, when a brief entry in the church calendar feature of the Jersey Journal noted a recital at Lafayette Presbyterian Church, Summit Avenue and Ivy Place in Jersey City, featuring Mrs. Ardeanur Hart, soprano, and Mrs. James Spaights, pianist.

I have no record of any job Ardeanur held other than domestic, though such her style and bearing do not square with my naive (and classist) vision of what service workers look like. In the 1970s or so, she moved out to Columbus, Ohio, to live with and look after the last of her aunts, Minnie McNeely Hargrove.

IMG_5133 copy

Cousin Ardeanur, Newport News, Virginia, July 1986.  She was 83 at the time. (I cannot begin to tell you why I used to cut out photos before mounting them in those terrible adhesive photo albums.)

Ardeanur Smith Hart died 14 January 1996 in Columbus.

**30 August 2015: Mystery no more: Ardeanur married Frank Wellington Hart of Jamaica.

Maternal Kin, Migration, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Vocation

Ardeanur, elocutionist.


Pittsburgh Courier, 2 June 1928.

This brief blurb intrigues me any number of ways:

(1) Ardeanur R. Smith? This is the first I’ve seen of a middle initial for Cousin Ardeanur.

(2) Smith? My grandmother said Ardeanur married somebody she ran off with when she was a teenager. However, every mention of her I’ve found dating before 1947 — and she is elusive in official records — names her as Smith, her maiden name. In her uncle John McNeely’s 1947 obituary, she’s a Hart for the first time. I have no idea what Mr. Hart’s first name was, where they married, or how long they stayed that way.

(3) Elocution? This may absolutely be a function of me failing to ask the right questions, but, as much as I heard about Wardenur playing the organ on the radio, I never heard my grandmother speak of Ardeanur’s singing or speaking career.

(4) And who was Ardeanur’s publicist that he or she managed to get her name and photo in the Pittsburgh Courier? And not for the last time.

(5) Staten Island?

(6) “Where a balcony fell at the closing session”?!?!?

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Other Documents

Cousin Red McNeely … or Smith.

So, was he James Garfield Smith or James Garfield McNeely?

Addie Lucinda McNeely married Daniel Smith in Statesville NC on 2 October 1902. Their daughter Ardeanur Smith was born the following February and son James Garfield Smith on 11 April 1906. I have never found the family in the 1910 census and do not know how long Addie and Daniel remained together. When her uncle Julius McNeely’s estate opened, Addie Smith with her siblings was listed as one of the heirs. Unlike her married sisters, however, her husband’s name does not appear alongside hers. In 1917, mid-proceedings, Addie died — I’ve never found her death certificate either — and her name was struck through and was replaced by that of her children, “Ardenia” and James Smith.

I have not located James again with any certainty before 1942. (There’s a “James McNeelly” of the right age listed in the 1930 census of High Point NC, but he had a wife, which my James allegedly never had.) When he registered for the World War II draft, James gave his name as “James Garfield McNeely.” Why the shift from “Smith,” which he apparently never used as an adult? Though his birth year appears to be off by one year, this is clearly our man. He was born in Statesville, and Janie McNeely, his mother’s youngest sister, is named as his contact. (The neighborhood in which he lived and worked is now part of the Washington Street Historic District, and Club Carolina merited a brief mention in the application for historic status.)

James G McNeely

Cousin James disappears from the record again until his death certificate was filed. He was working at a pool room and living at the Kilby Hotel when he died. Ardeanur Hart of Jersey City NJ was informant and gave her brother’s name as James Garfield McNeely.

James G McNeely Death Cert

Here’s his obituary:

James G McNeely 21 October 1960 HP Enterprise

High Point Enterprise, 21 October 1960.

And a note of acknowledgment from his family. (Who in the world were the Martins and Griffins?):

JG McNeely HP Enterprise 11 13 1960

High Point Enterprise, 13 November 1960.

[Sidenote: The physician who signed James’ death certificate? Dr. O.E. Tillman? His son and I met in high school and became good friends in college. He married A.B., my roommate and closest college friend, and I was in their wedding. Dr. Tillman is now retired, but remains active in High Point civic affairs.]



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

Keeping it in the family.

James N. Guess operated a funeral home that served Goldsboro, North Carolina’s black community for at least 40 years. (He also ran a barbershop for a half-century and, in the early years, a billiards and pool hall.) Guess’s father Matthew Guess, father-in-law Isham Smith, nephew Kennon Guess and son James N. Guess Jr. worked for or with him to build his business.

ImageGoldsboro City Directory, 1916-17. 

Image Hill’s Directory of Goldsboro, NC, 1950-51.

Not surprisingly, Guess provided services to members of the extended family of his wife, Annie Smith Guess, daughter of Isham and Nancy Henderson Smith. Among those he buried were:

Baby Wooten 2

James N. Guess was born 2 May 1882 in Goldsboro to Matthew and Martha Guess. He died 28 November 1957 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, after a lengthy illness.

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin

Two sisters.

We would visit A’nt Nancy in Goldsboro.  Her oldest daughter married the undertaker, Jim Guess.  And her youngest daughter, me and her was the same age.  Bessie Lee.  And Mama used to go over there to see A’nt Ella. And A’nt Ella stayed up there on that other little street back there, but her and Nancy were sisters.  Two sisters.  So, I said,  ‘I’m going over there, and they all never come and see me or nothing.’  So I stopped going, and after Mama died, I just forgot about it.  ‘Cause they ain’t never bothered nothing about it.  And then too, they seemed like they were cool.  They wasn’t friendly enough.  Like to say, if you’re family and have something to talk about, or go talk about anything, just make up something to say.  Act like you like ‘em whether you did or not, while they was around.  So I stopped going over there.  ‘Cause Bessie Lee ….  Let’s see, the last time I was over there, she had gone some place and so I didn’t get to see her that time.  So I said, she didn’t never want to come to Wilson to see me, and I had always asked her ‘bout coming to Wilson, and she said she was coming over there sometime, but she never did.  So I just stopped going to Goldsboro, too.  I don’t know what happened to them.

Nancy, born about 1865, and Louella Henderson, born about 1876, were daughters of James and Louisa Armwood Henderson.  In 1881, Nancy married Isham Smith, freeborn son of Milly Smith and her enslaved husband Peter Ward. They settled in the Harrell Town section of Goldsboro, where Isham worked as a wagon driver and then an undertaker. Their children were: Annie Smith Guess (1883), Oscar Smith (1884), Furney Smith (1886), Ernest Smith (1888), Elouise Marie Smith (1890), Johnnie Smith (1891), Mary E. Smith Southerland (1894), James Smith (1896), Willie Smith (1899), Effie May Smith Stanfield (1904), and Bessie Lee Smith (1911). (Was Bessie really a daughter? Or a granddaughter?) Isham died in 1914, and Nancy married Patrick Diggs four years later.  After Patrick’s death, Nancy restored her first husband’s surname.  She died in Goldsboro in 1944 after suffering a fractured pelvis from a fall from her bed.

Louella Henderson is more difficult to trace. My grandmother recalled that Ella was married twice, the first time to a King, and moved from Goldsboro to a city in the North Carolina Piedmont, perhaps Gastonia. Wayne County census records reveal an Adam and Ella King, but their marriage license lists Ella’s maiden name as Herring. An Ella Wilson witnessed Nancy Henderson Smith’s second marriage, but the Ella Wilson (wife of Ed) listed in the 1930 census is much too young. Though she must have lived into the 1920s at least, I can find no certain trace of Ella after the 1880 census. [Update here.]

[P.S. The continuing connection between Nancy Henderson Smith and her siblings’ families is evidenced by the frequency with which her son-in-law James Guess was called upon to handle their funerals. Nonetheless, knowledge of the connection seems to have dropped off sharply after her death. I have met only one person — my grandmother — who knew that undertaker James Guess (whom people had heard of) had married into the family or that any Smiths in Goldsboro were their kin. And I’ve been unable to locate any Smith descendants.]

Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.