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

“That’s your wife.”; or, finding the Perrys.


Wilson News, 21 September 1899.

(Ignore the snark, which was par for the course for newspapers covering African-American social and cultural events.)

I came across this article using my great-grandfather’s name as a search term. Mike Taylor was an usher at this wedding and, look, so was his brother-in-law Edward Barnes. Mike’s daughter Maggie Taylor, my grandfather’s sister, then about 13, was a maid of honor, and his daughter Bertha Taylor, 7, was a flower girl. The bride and groom were Henry Perry and Centha Barnes. Were either of them related to the Taylors?

“Perry” rang a little bell. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County, living along the A.C.L. Railroad: 42 year-old railroad laborer Pierce Barnes, wife Mary, 34, adopted son Robert Perry, 8, and Mary’s father Willis Barnes, 72.  Mary was my great-grandmother Rachel Barnes Taylor‘s sister. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County, at 114 Lee Street: Mike H. Taylor, cook at cafe, wife Rachel and their son Tom Perry, 12.

Then there was this death certificate:


So Tom Perry was the son of the couple that married above. But what was Tom’s relationship to Robert Perry, who was adopted by Mary Barnes Barnes and served as informant for Tom’s death certificate? And how were the Perrys related to Mike Taylor or his wife Rachel Barnes Taylor?

I found Henry and Centha Barnes Perry’s 1899 marriage license. Henry was 24; Centha, 18. Both Henry’s parents were listed, but only her father, Willis Barnes, was.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County, Willis Barnes appears with his wife Cherry, six of their children (the youngest aged about 4) and a niece. By 1900, and probably long before, Cherry Battle Barnes was dead. Had she had one last child, Lucinda, called “Centha,” in 1881?

Let’s say Cherry died in or shortly after childbirth. Her oldest daughter Rachel, who married Mike Taylor in 1882, likely would have reared her baby sister with her own children. (The oldest, my grandfather, was born in 1883.) The 1890 census might have captured this family together, but those records were destroyed by fire. By 1900, Centha (“Sindie”) and her new husband Henry S. Perry were living together in Wilson, as yet childless. Ten years later, however, Henry was listed as a single man boarding at the New Briggs Hotel, where he worked as a bellboy.

What happened in those ten years? The best guess is that Cintha, having given birth to at least two sons, Robert (1903) and Thomas (1908), died. Her children went to live with her mother’s relatives, just as she had done. The family, however, never quite recovered. Henry eventually remarried, but died in 1927 when his second set of children were still young. Tom, who worked as a boot black in a barbershop (perhaps the one in which my grandfather cut hair), was shot in the leg in the spring of 1931, then seems to have died of tuberculosis less than a year later. (Cause of death: “problematically T.B. caused by gun shot wound”? Wha?) Robert Perry worked as a grocery delivery boy for a while, then as a janitor for Carolina Telephone & Telegraph Company, but in 1930 was listed as a convict living at the Wilson County Stockade. He married a woman named Pauline, but it is not clear whether they had children. In 1942, he registered for the World War II draft:

TAYLOR -- RL Perry WW2 Draft Card

The back of the card notes that Robert Lee Perry was 5’11”, 155 lbs., had a scar under his left eye, and had brown eyes, black hair and a dark brown complexion. “Mike Taylor,” the person who would always know his address, was not the Mike Taylor who had been an usher at his parents’ wedding. Rather, he was that Mike’s son, Roderick “Mike” Taylor, Robert’s first cousin and my grandfather. Robert Perry died 15 May 1977. His death certificate lists no parents.

Land, North Carolina, Oral History, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Where we lived: 114 West Lee Street.

My parents were skeptical.

Me: Well, what about where, up, like, Lee Street.  There were some black people that lived up that way.

My father: Where?

Me: On the other side of the tracks.  Lee Street.

My mother: There were?

My father: I don’t know.

Me: Uh-huh. That’s where your grandparents lived. That’s where their house was.

Him: Lee Street?

Me: Mm-hmm. Right. Like if you come up – what was the name of that restaurant that everybody used to talk about? Golden Leaf? The Golden something –

Him: Okay.

Me: If you take that street, and you cross over the track, and you go left, and then you can — you know how it kind of splits or something?

Him: Yeah. Wont no black folk in there.

Me: Yeah, it was.

Him: Where?

Me: That’s where the Taylors lived. There was a little section.

Him: Oh, that was when — you talking ‘bout way back in the day.


Back in the day, indeed. On 11 February 1896, for $550, George D. Green and his wife Ella sold Mike Taylor a lot in the town of Wilson. Situated on a corner, the parcel fronted 143 feet on Pine Street and 83 feet on Lee. In the 1900 census of the town of Wilson, Wilson County, neither streets nor house numbers are listed, but it’s reasonable to assume that the Taylors — Mike, a drayman; his wife Rachel, who did washing; and their children “Rodgrick,” Maggie, Mattie, Maddie, Bertha E., and Hennie G. — were living there, and the 1908-1909 Wilson city directory lists Taylor, a driver, at 114 West Lee.

The 1910 census of Wilson paints a clearer picture of the little enclave in which the Taylors lived. Though he did not note house numbers, the censustaker inked “Lee St” along the edge of Sheet 27A of his survey of Enumeration District 116. The page records 50 residents, of whom 30, living in five consecutive households, were black. With the Taylors were the families of Jim and Annie Parrott, John and Cora Norfleet, John and Pattie Lassiter, Sam and Maggie “Ennicks” [Ennis], and Frank and Lizzie Bullock. The men worked a variety of jobs: a blacksmith, two odd jobs laborers, a gardener, a drayman. The women were cooks or laundresses.

The censustaker’s path is not clear. The Taylors were on the corner at 114 West Lee. According to the 1908-09 directory, the Bullocks were in the next block at 202 West Lee. The Ennises — Maggie was Mike and Rachel’s daughter — lived in the small house built on the back of the Taylor lot at 409 North Pine. In the 1912-13 city directory, Pattie Lassiter is listed at 200 West Lee, but John Norfleet was at 306 E. Barnes, on the other side of downtown. The Parrotts are found in neither directory. In any case, it is clear that these families formed a tiny cluster, and this cluster was unique in its surroundings. On the enumeration sheets before and after that listing the Taylors and their neighbors, the residents are overwhelmingly white.

For most of the 20th century, Wilson maintained a well-defined residential segregation pattern, with black neighborhoods confined to the east side of the Atlantic Coast Line (later Seaboard Coast Line, now CSX) railroad. Daniel Hill, a mile or so west of downtown, was the notable exception. For first quarter of the century, however, African-Americans claimed another tiny toehold, now forgotten, just west of the tracks at Pine and Lee.


Sanborn map of Wilson NC, September 1913.

The 1913 Sanborn map, the earliest detailing the neighborhood, reveals a relatively large one-story frame house with an L-shaped porch wrapping around its west front corner. By time the 1922 Sanborn map was drawn, the city’s street numbering system had changed, and the address was now 108 West Lee.  The Taylors had also added a small porch to the back of the house.

Rachel and Mike Taylor remained at 108 West Lee until their deaths in 1925 and 1927. The address is now a vacant lot.

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin


On 7 Aug 1897, “Michiel” Taylor witnessed the marriage of Jordan Taylor Jr. and Eliza Taylor in Wilson NC.  Was one or the other Taylor related to Mike?

After I typed this today, I did quick searches on Jordan and Eliza – and thereby put the lie to “The Disappearing Taylors.”

There. Eliza Taylor Taylor’s death certificate. She died 25 May 1934 in Rose Hill, Duplin County. She was described as 47 years old (in fact, she was at least 10 years older), married to Jordan Taylor, and born in Wilson County to Green Taylor and Kenzie Taylor, both of Wilson County. Kenzie Taylor, Mike Taylor’s older sister, as Eliza’s mother does not give pause, but Green Taylor as her father? Green was Kenzie’s father. Was this a simple mistake (I’ve seen similar ones before) or a frank acknowledgment of incest (which seems improbable)?

Eliza was either the 8 year-old Lizzie or the 5 year-old Louisa listed in Green Taylor’s household in 1880 Wilson township, Wilson County. Her mother Kinsey was there, too.

In 1900, in Wilson township: Jordan Taylor (born March 1876), wife Eliza (August 1874) and son Greemond (June 1897) shared a household with Sallie Taylor (July 1872) and her son Rufus Taylor (Sept 1895). (This is surely Mike and Mckenzie Taylor’s sister.) Next door: Jordan’s father Jordan Taylor (May 1850) and his wife of 5 years, Matilda (January 1860).

In 1910, in Wilson township: odd jobs laborer Jordan Taylor Jr., 31, wife Eliza, 30, laundress, and son Greeman, 12, with Mary Parker, 69, widow, whose relationship to Jordan was described as “proctor.”

Jordan Taylor registered for the World War I draft on 12 September 1917. He reported his address as RFD#6, Wilson, and his birthday as 15 December 1875. He worked as a ditcher for Sid Clark, his nearest relative was Eliza Taylor, and he signed his card with an X.

In 1920, at 304 Stantonsburg Street in Wilson, Jordan Taylor, 48, wife Eliza, 37, son Greeman, 22, and son Dave, 13. (Where did Dave come from?) Jordan worked as a warehouse tobacco worker, Eliza as a tobacco factory worker, and Greeman as a street boot black.

On 24 March 1922, Greeman Taylor of Stantonsburg Street, Wilson, died of consumption. He was born 2 June 1898 in Wilson to Jordan and Eliza Taylor. He was single.

I have not found the family in the 1930 census.

Jordan Taylor, widower, died 29 April 1957 near Dunn in Johnston County. His informant Ethel Sander reported his birthday as 15 March 1874, and his parents as Jordan Taylor and Frances Smith. He was buried in Wilson.

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Battle? Barnes?

Rachel Taylor was born about 1863 in Wilson County, most likely between the town of Wilson and what is now Elm City. Records consistently name her mother as Cherry Battle, or Barnes, but a single entry renders her father’s identity is more ambiguous.

In 1866, Willis Barnes and Cherry Battle legalized their relationship by registering their cohabitation in Wilson County. They informed the registrar that they had been married six years. In the first post-Civil War census of 1870, Rachel Barnes is the oldest child, at 6, in their household.  Three younger children follow: West, Jesse and Ned.

However, in the 1880 census, the family appears as: Willis Barnes, wife Cherey, stepdaughter Rachel Battle, children Wesley, Jesse, Ned, Eddie, and Mary Barnes, niece Ellen Battle, and son Willey Barnes.  “Stepdaughter”?  Rachel appears to have been born after her parents’ marriage in 1860, and this is the only reference I have found that assigns her the surname “Battle.” She married in 1882 as “Rachel Barnes” and is listed as Rachel Barnes on several records related to her children. When she died in 1925, a month after suffering a stroke, her son named Willis Barnes as her father.  Was the 1880 censustaker merely mistaken? Misinformed?

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

DNAnigma, no. 7: Locus, Eatmon, et al.

ImageMartin John Locus (1843-1926) and Delphia Taylor Locus (1850-1923). Martin was the son of Martin Locus and Eliza Brantley Locus of southeastern Nash and later western Wilson County. Delphia was the daughter of Dempsey Taylor and Eliza Pace Taylor of northern Nash County.


I knew Locuses (and Lucases, their later variant) growing up. There were a few who actually lived in Wilson, but most were from the western part of the county and Nash County.  There is no tradition of Locus ancestry in my family history, and nothing I’ve documented suggests it. However, DNA testing has revealed too many matches with descendants of the Locuses (and related families, like Brantley and Eatman) to ignore.  So far:

  • R.B.W. is my father’s estimated 2nd-4th cousin. They match on chromosomes 5, 18, 20, 21 and 22, and she lists Blackwell, Eatman, Hawkins and Lucas among her surnames.
  • M.F. is my father’s estimated 3rd to 5th cousin. She lists Locus/Lucas, Eatman, Brantley and Howard among her surnames.
  • E.F. is author of Free in a Slave Society:The Locus/Lucas Family of Virginia and North Carolina, Tri-Racial, Black-Identified, over 250 Years of History, a compendium of research notes, charts and photographs chronicling one of the largest free colored families in the antebellum United States. He notes that the Locus/Lucases intermarried with several free colored families, including Deans, Wiggins, Pulley, Taylor, Wells, Blackwell, Colston, Richardson, Brantley, Howard, High, Williams, Hagans, Evans, Tayborne, Eatman, Vaughn, Strickland, Jones, Pridgen and Allen. E.F. matches my father on a tiny stretch of chromosome 19 (which I did not inherit); 23andme estimates that they are 3rd to distant cousins.
  • my estimated 4th-6th cousin per Ancestry DNA. Her father was born in Wilson County and is descended from Locus/Lucases and Evanses (another free family of color).
  • T.J. is an adoptee whose birth mother is believed to be a Jones and Locus. She is an estimated 3rd to distant cousin to my father.

What’s the link? I know it’s on my father’s side. Common sense tells me that the most likely connections are:

  • Leasy Hagans. Leasy Hagans appears in a Nash County census and may have originally lived north and west of where she settled in Wayne. It is not clear whether Hagans is her maiden or married name.  Nor is the father of her children known. Was she, or he, a Locus? An Eatman? A Brantley?
  • Tony Eatman. Willis Barnes‘ death certificate lists his parents as Tony Eatman and Annie Eatmon. Tony was born free about 1795 and is listed as a farmer in the household of white Theophilus Eatman in the 1850 census of Nash County. (He also is listed as the groom’s father on the marriage license of Jack Williamson and Hester Williamson in 1868.) One potential problem with Tony as my Locus link, though, was explained here. If Willis Barnes were Rachel Taylor’s stepfather, I am not descended from Tony Eatman at all.
  • Green or Fereby Taylor. Delphia Taylor Locus was the daughter of Eliza Pace and Dempsey Taylor, a free man of color born circa 1820 in northern Nash County. His relationship to another Dempsey Taylor in the area is assumed, but has not been proven. One white Dempsey (there were several) was the son of Reuben Taylor and the brother of Kinchen Taylor, Green and Fereby’s owner. There is no tradition of white ancestry among the Taylors, but their Y-DNA haplogroup appears to be J2b1, which is European. Was Green — or Fereby, for that matter — descended from Kinchen Taylor or one of his relatives?

Photo courtesy of Europe Ahmad Farmer.

Enslaved People, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

The disappearing Taylors.

TAYLOR -- Green Taylor 1870 census

Sometime between the dissolution of their former master’s estate in 1856 and the arrival of the census taker in the early summer of 1870, Green and Fereby Taylor found their way to Lower Town Creek township (now the Pinetops area), Edgecombe County.  In that year, their household included four children – Dallas, 19; Christiana, 14; Mckenzie, 13; Mike, 9; and Sally Taylor, 1. There is no sign of the older children – Peter and Henrietta – who had been listed with Fereby in the division of Kinchen Taylor’s slaves.  Ten years later, Dallas and Mike had left, but Christiana, Kinsey and Sarah, as well grandchildren Nannie, 5, Carrie, 1, Lizzie, 8, Louisa, 5, and Isaiah Taylor, 2, remained at home.  Of all these folk, only Mike Taylor has been found post-1880.

[Update: see this.]

Enslaved People, Land, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

A thousand acres between creek and swamp.

Kinchen Taylor’s estate papers include two plats. One laid off his widow Mary Blount Taylor’s dower. The second divided his remaining land into two large parcels:

ImageIn some ways, Taylor’s old lands have not changed dramatically. Pine forest and tilled fields still predominate the landscape; far northern Nash County remains rural. Nonetheless, Taylor and enslaved workers like Green and Fereby, who walked and worked it intimately, might be pressed to recognize his property.


I-95 — a far cry from the path shown in the plat — roars with traffic just west of Taylor’s acreage, hauling truckers and tourists from Maine to Florida. If you tilt your head sharply to the right, you’ll see that Fishing Creek, crawling across the top of the screen, still follows the same general course. Beaver Dam Swamp, however, has been dammed just below its confluence with the creek, forming a small body called Gum Lake. The watercourse of the swamp, probably largely drained, is barely detectable as an undulating line of taller vegetation angling southwest from the pond. Lost somewhere in its tangle of canes and catbrier is the Old Mill shown on the plat.

On the other side of Beaver Dam swamp, to the far right of the Google Map view, is an industrial hog farm, identifiable by the white structures with adjacent dark lozenges — barns holding up to 2500 hogs a piece and the lagoons that capture the stupendous quantities of waste they produce. This perhaps would have startled Kinchen Taylor most, as his hogs would have been free-range until time for fattening. (And it should startle you, too, as this is huge, nasty business.)

The file of Kinchen Taylor (1853), Nash County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979,, original, North Carolina State Archives;

Enslaved People, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Kinchen Taylor’s inventory.



Nash County, North Carolina, 1856. An inventory of the slaves of Kinchen Taylor, deceased. Number 32 is Green. Number 88 is his wife Ferribee; and 89, 90 and 91, their oldest children. Most of Kinchen Taylor’s slaves were divided among his children, but two lots of slaves were sold. Green and Ferribee and their children were included in one of those lots, and it is not clear to whom they went, or if they went together. However, in 1870, in the first post-Emancipation census, they are listed in southern Edgecombe county as an intact family: Green Taylor, 52, his wife Phebe, 55, and children and grandchildren Dallas, 19, Christiana, 15, Mckenzie, 13, Mike, 9, and Sally Taylor, 1. Henry Michael “Mike” Taylor was my great-grandfather.

The file of Kinchen Taylor (1853), Nash County, North Carolina Estate Files 1663-1979,, original, North Carolina State Archives.