Tuesday, November 2, 2021

"We Were Supposed to be Neals"


 Wow. What a weekend!

The first thing: Meeting my Neals

As many of my readers know, I've been researching my YARBOROUGH line for almost 25 years. The targeted ancestor for this line has been my great-grandfather, Calvin Yarborough, who was born in or around 1840 and died between 1910-1913. Calvin lived in Louisburg, North Carolina. He and my great-grandmother, Precilla, were both enslaved. Together, they had 11 (known) children. To read more about Calvin, click here.

For over 4 years, I have been giving a presentation called, "Finding Calvin: Following My Enslaved Ancestor Through Multiple Owners." In this talk, which is actually a case study, I demonstrate how I determined that Calvin was, indeed, enslaved and I share the process and methodology used to uncover his ties to four different enslavers. And, though I hadn't been able to find records leading me to Calvin's family of origin, which I was sure he'd been separated from, I had one tiny tidbit of family lore, shared with me by my father's sister, the only close Yarborough relative still living at the time I began this work. What my Aunt Sue told me was this: "We were supposed to be Neals, not Yarboroughs."

Susie Yarborough Hawkins

Since discovering my great-grandfather's four enslavers, I've continued the work of researching each of them, as well as their family members, looking for any information relevant to Calvin - anything that might lead me to the names of his parents and/or any siblings. Unfortunately, I came across no revealing records in which family relationships were noted. So, in the Spring of 2020, bored at home in isolation because of a global pandemic, I made the decision to plunge more deeply into working with some of my DNA matches to see if I might be able to figure out how we are connected. I'd been spending hours and hours in webinars and reading blog posts about strategies for working with DNA matches, so it was time to up my game and put some (more) of what I’d been learning into practice.

My first goal was to try to determine the family line of a set of matches that were matching each other but were not connecting to any known relatives of mine. The main reason for this was that these matches were on Ancestry DNA, where the fewest of my relatives had tested, being that I had obtained most of their samples before 2012, when Ancestry began implementing autosomal testing. Even for the couple of years after that, I still mostly used 23&Me and FTDNA for my testing needs, not knowing that Ancestry would become the “popular choice” and gain such a large database of testees so quickly. Because of this, though all of my lines are represented on at least two of the other main sites (to include MyHeritage and Gedmatch, which allow uploads from the other companies), I am not able to immediately identify all of my matches on Ancestry by using the Shared Matches feature on their site. And, since many of these matches have been unresponsive to messaging and/or unwilling to upload to other sites, I’ve been left with few other options but to do the work of researching their lines and building out trees for them, myself. And, so I began, in the Spring of 2020 – and in so doing, I began to see a common thread in the first few trees I successfully built out; each of these matches had a NEAL line!

Sanders, Renate Yarborough. “We Were Supposed to be NEALS: Reconstructing an Enslaved Family Using DNA,” Slide No. 31: Accessed 11/1/2021)

As you can see, I was able to work the trees of these five matches to three Neal ancestors, Wiley Perry, Lee Ernest, and Louis Napoleon Neal. Thanks to the one person who had a tree, I learned that the parents of all of these men were James NEAL and Angeline Jackson. With this revelation, and excited by what it may have meant, I fervently began reaching out to these matches – and also to many of the others for whom I’d not yet been able to fully build out a tree. Some responded, some didn’t. But, regardless, I was able to move forward because of the tree work I’d done and the research bounty that resulted from it. My initial thought, that perhaps James Neal was Calvin’s father, was quickly squashed when I learned that James was born in 1846 – six years after Calvin. Because of the range in the amount of DNA I was sharing with the 15-20 matches in this group (at that time), it became clear to me that James was more likely a sibling of Calvin’s. Realizing that, my next goal became to find out who James’ parents were – presuming that either one or both of them would be Calvin’s parents, too.

And so the work continued. I did find James’ parents – Lewis and Mary Neal – my presumed great-great-grandparents. I do suspect, though, that perhaps Mary was not Calvin’s mother, because records are confirming my long-held suspicion that Calvin was separated from his parents and most immediate family. I will write more about that in a future post. Nevertheless, until I find differently, I will count both Lewis and Mary as Calvin’s parents. I’ve also found several other children of Lewis and Mary Neal – the siblings (half or whole) that were all together with their parents with their enslaver, John Neal, Jr., son of Calvin’s first owner, Chloe Crudup Perry Neal, as evidenced by an 1862 inventory, found in John Neal, Jr.’s estate papers. As a result of this research, I’ve been able to connect with some of the descendants of Lewis and Mary Neal, and have been in conversation with one, in particular, my cousin Willard Neal, of Bear Creek, North Carolina. And, thanks to Cousin Willard, descendants of Lewis and Mary’s once separated offspring – Calvin and James – were together this past Friday, for the first time, meeting at the home of Willard’s sister, Jackie, in Pittsboro, NC. That’s right, folks, I met some of my Neal family, for the very first time! This loving reunion was made even more special because I was accompanied by my daughter, Natalia, and granddaughter, Teigan. In all, we represented 4 generations of the descendants of Lewis and Mary Neal! (And I am the furthest generation back of all of us!)

NEAL descendants - Reunited and it feels so good!
(Cousin Willard is standing front, right - with the plaid shirt.)

This is just a light summary of the work I did to recover Calvin's family. I tell the entire story, share my research process, and discuss my hypotheses and theories in my new presentation, “We Were Supposed to be NEALS; Reconstructing an Enslaved Family Using DNA,” which debuted this past weekend at the North Carolina Genealogical Society’s Fall Conference, in Raleigh. That brings me to…

… The second thing: My first in-person presentation, since February 2020, due to the Covid 19 Global Pandemic!

Here I am, about to speak, at the NCGS Fall Conference 2021.
Photo Credit: Connie Knox

Yes, the NCGS Fall Conference was a hybrid affair, with a cap of 50 people attending in person, joined by approximately 150 online. I was one of the in-person speakers and I have to give KUDOS to the NCGS team for a perfect setup – and for going over and beyond the requirements for social distancing. Every effort seems to have been made to make both the participants and the speakers comfortable with the situation. From the spaced out seating, adherence to the mask policies, and even the individually wrapped snacks on the refreshment table – everything was just right. I think this was about building trust in the organization to do the right thing and, in my opinion, they totally did. So, thank you to NCGS, an organization that I’m a proud member of, for helping me to take the first step towards and into “getting back out there” in-person, to speak.

View of the room from the podium. No one was anywhere near me.

Like I said at the outset, “What a weekend!” There is so much more to tell. Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!

Permalink to this post: https://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2021/11/we-were-supposed-to-be-neals.html

Thursday, February 11, 2021

MY Black History #2 - My Daddy, Arthur P. Yarborough

The majority of this post is going to be an update to a previous post, which was written on October 4, 2016, which was 19 years to the day that I'd lost my father. Please click on the links to read more about my dad, from previous posts I've written. Thanks!

Arthur P. Yarborough
June 21, 1924 - October 4, 1997

Introducing... Arthur P.
My father, Arthur Person Yarborough, was born June 24, 1924 to parents Anna Beatrice Green and Calvin Yarborough, Jr., in Louisburg, North Carolina. He was the couple's third (and last) child, together, and was named for his father's employer, Arthur Person. Arthur lost his father at the age of 4, to tuberculosis. He spent his early years in the Franklin County School System, but was sent to live with his uncle, during his teen years, and graduated from the Nash County Training School, in 1942.

Nash County Training School, Class of 1942
That's my dad at the top with the open-mouthed smile. :)

"Arthur P.," as he was usually referred to, married a hometown girl, Novella Alston, in 1947. They married in Florence, SC, which I believe must have been where my father was stationed at the time. Most of the details of this marriage are unknown to me, but I'm told that Novella deserted the marriage sometime after my dad adopted my brother, Henry, when they were in Okinawa, Japan. (Or, maybe it was right after they got back to the States.) They were formally divorced in 1958. Sometime in the mid-50's, when my father was in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, he met a beautiful young divorcee and single mother at the Officers' Club at Fort Story. They quickly fell in love and were soon married, after which Arthur's new bride left her teaching job and home in Virginia to join him in Bremerhaven, Germany. That young lady was my mother, Mary Anne Yarborough, who you can read about, here. Their (eventually tumultuous) marriage lasted 20 years and produced two children, to make a total of four little Yarboroughs. 

My dad with his two boys, Edgar and Henry, shortly after marrying my mom.

And then there were six...

23 Years Without My Dad
My father has been gone since October 4, 1997 - exactly 23 years, 4 months, and 6 days. I love and miss him, immensely. Before his death in 1997, I’d dibbled and dabbled a bit in genealogy, however, it was when faced with the task of writing my dad’s obituary that I realized how little I knew about him and his life “pre-Renate”, and I certainly didn’t know anything of his family history. And, so it was with his death, and the need to write his obituary, that I consider my real beginning as a genealogy researcher. I started my quest to learn as much as possible about my father , and subsequently my YARBOROUGH ancestry, which was soon followed by all of my other family lines.

That's me with my dad on his 65th birthday.

I Didn't Know...
There was so much I didn’t know about my father before I became a researcher. I didn’t know that about his distinguished military career – about all of the honors and recognitions he’d received, as he worked his way to the rank of Army Major, before he retired in 1964; nor was I aware of the racism he faced while on that journey. I didn’t know anything about the Montford Point Marines, or of the two-plus years my father spent as one of the first to integrate the US Marine Corps, at the beginning of his military service. I'm proud to have received the Congressional Gold Medal, on my father's behalf (posthumously), under the authority of President Barack Obama, in 2015.

Dad, the military man. Date unknown, but early in his career.

I don't know what's going on here, but what I do know is that everyone's attention is on my Daddy!

 I didn't know that, before he joined the military, my father spent a year as a student at NC A&T; nor did I know that he continued to complete college coursework while in the Army, excelling in all of his classes, and stopping just short of earning his degree. He also earned a certificate as an Army Surgical Technician!          

I think the pic on the left is Marines and I know the one on the right is Army. 
The bottom shows the medal again, with his Marine and Army dogtags.
I didn't know what a fantastic writer my father was, until I happened upon love letters he'd written to my mother before they were married, and editorials he'd written to an Ohio newspaper, when he was stationed outside of Cleveland (where I was born).                                               
I didn't know that my father had 2 half-sisters and a half-brother, all of whom were deceased before I was born, and that I had a first cousin, born the same year as my dad, who lived in the Bronx and just passed a few years ago. I didn’t know that my father played basketball in high school, and was the quarterback of his football team at Nash County Training School. I didn’t know that the reason my father had to move to Nash County to live with his uncle (the principal of Nash County Training School) was because he was acting up in school, and his mother (widowed since my dad was 4) needed some help with him!
That's my daddy - #10! Where are his kneepads?
These are just a few things I didn't know about my father, but my quest to learn more about him, led to my now 23+ year journey as a genealogist. So, on this day, I choose to remember my father, not with tears, but with a smile. Thank you, Daddy, for inspiring me to do this work. I only wish you were here so I could CELEBRATE all of your magnificent achievements with you, and so that I could ask you the questions I didn't know to ask, and hear some of the stories you probably didn't want to tell when you were here.
This is the house my dad where my dad grew up, in Louisburg, NC, known (affectionately) to me as "Grandma's House." The house, which is still in the family, was built by my grandfather, Calvin Yarborough, Jr. and his brother, Samuel Yarborough, in 1911

These are the only pictures I've ever seen of my father as a boy. To the left, you can partially see one of his first cousins, George R. Greene, whose family my dad lived with, during his teenaged years. To the right, there he is will all three of his cousins - George, John, and Rolland Greene. Because of my father living with them, their relationship with him was like a brother, not a cousin. They are all in heaven, now.
My father absolutely loved being a "Grandpa."
Here, he's with my oldest daughter, Natasha, who was born on his 58th birthday!
He had at total of 8 grandchildren, and he loved them all; and he now has 5 great-grandchildren, and one on the way!

My dad LOVED family (just as I do). Though he never returned to Louisburg to live, he (we) always went back to visit his beloved family. Sadly, I don't seem to have any photos of my dad with his mother, but here is a photo of him with his siblings on one of his (many) visits home.

The Yarborough siblings - they were so close. 
Arthur, Susie, and Calvin III

This photo shows my dad on a visit to Louisburg, with some of his favorite family members. In front are my two daughters. L-R, his sister, Susie, my dad, me, his cousin, John Greene, John's wife, Nellie, my dad's first cousin, Geral Yarboro Sargent, and his brother, Calvin III.

My dad with his cousin Geral and an
unknown relative
Dad with my Aunt Ruby,
my Uncle George's wife
At the first of only two (ever) Yarborough Family Reunions 1993 in Baltimore.
Seated: Cousin Geral and Cousin Madie
Standing: My dad (Arthur), Cousin Ralph, and Uncle Calvin (my dad's brother)

I gave this shirt to my dad for Father's Day, one year, and he LOVED it. The pictures are of my two daughters. I think it said, "We love you, Grandpa!"

I love and miss you, Daddy!

Thanks for reading!

Permalink to this posthttps://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2021/02/my-black-history-2-my-daddy-arthur-p.html

*All photos are the property of the author of this blog, and should not be used, saved, or copied without my explicit permission. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

MY Black History! Mary Anne Hill Hoggard Yarborough

The month of February is recognized in the United States as "Black History Month." For me, every month is Black History Month, but, in alignment with the February theme, I've decided to share a little bit about my own family - my BLACK family - to be added to history's annals. When possible, I'll be using obituaries and/or other already-published media, because my time isn't what it needs to be for me to write all there is to say about each person, at this time.

I'll begin this venture by telling you about my mother, Mary Anne Hill Hoggard Yarborough

Age 10 - 1944

My mom was born in 1934 in Norfolk, Virginia, to parents Mary Davis and Daniel Webster Hill. She grew up in a still-established neighborhood, called Lambert's Point. Her father abandoned the family when she was four years old - never to return. She didn't know or remember him, at all, and she lived with the shadow of his abandonment, all her life. It wasn't until just a few years before she passed that I discovered, while researching my grandfather, that he'd actually died in 1940 - less than two years after he left his family. My mother had lived her entire life feeling that her father had simply never come back - never cared enough to contact them - when actually, he'd met his demise when she was just 6 years old. Although I have a photo that I believe might be of my grandfather, my mother had never seen a picture and had no memory of what her father even looked like, so she was unable to verify that it was or wasn't him.

 As a child, Mary Anne learned to play piano and became very accomplished, playing for several churches in the area, when she was just a young teen. My mom was very smart. She was an honor student at Booker T. Washington High School, from which she graduated in 1951, already a young mother and wife to her first husband, Edgar "Red" Hoggard.
Booker T. Washington 1951

My mom went on to further her education, first at the branch of Virginia State College which became Norfolk State, and then at Hampton Institute (now University), where she was a member of the band and the choir, and from which she matriculated with a degree in Education (with a minor in Music), in 1956. A young divorcee, she remained in Hampton to begin her teaching career, at her beloved Aberdeen Elementary School, but, during that time, met the military man (my dad) who would sweep her off her feet and get her to leave what she had started, to join him in Bremerhaven, Germany, as his new bride. My mother became Mrs. Arthur P. Yarborough.

Mom in Germany with sons, Henry and Edgar. 

My mom secured employment in a DoD school in Germany, while adjusting to being a new wife, as well as mother to her son, Edgar, and stepson (though we never used that term), Henry, who had been adopted by my father and his first wife. Her life as the wife of an Army officer, mother, teacher, and homemaker left never a dull moment!

Before leaving Germany, my parents welcomed a son - their first child together - Arthur, Jr. Soon thereafter, the family of four would return to the States, and settle just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, where their next blessing would arrive. A GIRL! Just what they'd wanted the first time around - the German name was waiting for the baby's arrival. "Renate" was here!

                              Mom with baby Arthur in Germany
                            Mom with baby Renate in Ohio

Mom with Arthur and me on church steps

 In 1964, Mary Anne and her family returned to her beloved Hampton, Virginia - her "home by the sea," and set up residence in the historic Aberdeen section of the city - first in "East Aberdeen," on Jordan Drive, and then to the home they'd waited for, in the newly built Granger Court East. She was able to return to teaching at Aberdeen Elementary, the school where her teaching career had started. In 1971, after many years as a 6th grade teacher, Mary Anne, secured her Master's of Education degree, and was granted a position as Assistant Principal. She spent a few years in that role, before finally getting the principalship of Tucker Capps Elementary School - a magnet school program with a fundamental theme that she was able to design, implement, and secure as a model for schools locally and statewide. As they say, though, "all good things..." (you know the rest) - and as is custom in our local school systems, Mary Anne was eventually transferred to what would be her last school, Burbank Elementary. Though she was saddened to leave Tucker Capps - having led there for 10+ years - she took her brand of excellence to the new building, and retired from there in 1990, having left a positive impact. Throughout her profession, Mary Anne demonstrated (and demanded) excellence; and she was rewarded for it with many professional recognitions and accolades, often appearing in the local newspaper for her accomplishments.

Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia  - 23 Jul 1987
Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia) · 25 Feb 1993, Thu · Page 59

Mary Anne and Arthur built a good life together for their family of six, although the marriage was tumultuous, at times. Though their relationship became a struggle, they made a decision to stay together until the last child graduated from high school. So, in June 1979, just a few days after my graduation, the marriage was over. 
The Yarborough Family

Mary Anne was very involved in her community. She continued to keep her hand in education, after her retirement, by supervising student teachers at Christopher Newport University. She was deeply involved in her church - Queen Street Baptist - on the Board of Christian Education, as a Sunday School and Vacation Bible School Teacher, as head of the Educational Outreach Program, and as the much-loved Director and Pianist for the Millie Patrick Children's Choir. She also worked with the Boy Scouts and the Pastoral Search Committee. She was a member of the Delta Kappa Gamma International Sorority for Women Educators and she always maintained a supportive and loving relationship with the church of her youth, Jerusalem Baptist, in Norfolk.

This photo shows Mary Anne wearing her Delta Kappa Gamma pin.She was always known as a "sharp dresser," a trait her daughter, Renate, didn't inherit. (She was always perfectly "put together" - hair, makeup, and clothing were always on point! .

Mary Anne Yarborough fought a battle for the last years of her life with a movement disorder that was never fully diagnosed. It was first said to be Parkinson's Disease, but didn't follow the patterns, so that was ruled out, as was Lou Gehrig's and many other suggested disorders. Though she lost the ability to care for herself, and her voice weakened to where it was difficult to hear or understand her, Mary Anne remained lucid and clear of mind until just before her death. Early on Christmas morning, of 2013, after spending Christmas Eve with her daughter and granddaughters, God invited my mother to her heavenly home, and she joined Him as she was sleeping. Though her last years were not what she'd dreamed of or hoped for, I thank God for the years He gave my mother. I know that she is rejoicing in heaven with her mother, brother, and especially with her son, my brother, Arthur. May she rest in heavenly peace.

To read my mother's obituary, click here.

                                  Mary Anne (on right) with her brother, Howell (on left) and two unknown children.                                     They are standing in front of their house, in Norfolk.

Mary Anne with her mother (center) and grandmother (Minervia Davis)

Mary Anne in NYC in the 50s

Mary Anne with granddaughters, Natasha and Natalia

Mary Anne enjoying her favorite thing: a "Coke-a-Cola"

                 Siblings, Mary Anne, Howell, and Jane with
                     their mother, Mary Davis Hill Thomas

I love you, MOM! :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Renate on the Web - #2

 Hello! I hope this finds every reader doing well in these interesting times. Back in April, in the early days of this COVID-19 Pandemic we've all been living through, I wrote a post titled, "Renate on the Web." Because of the lockdowns that had been put in place, most of previously planned, in person events had been canceled, and I'd found myself suddenly enjoying a greater web presence than usual. Thinking it would be temporary, I decided it would be a good idea to compile and document all of my doings in one place, hoping to create a record for the future as well as an easy way for anyone interested in my work to find some offerings in one spot. Little did I know, at that time, that this was just the beginning of what was about to become the norm for most of us - living our lives (and our livelihoods) on the Internet. 

For a while now, I've been meaning to do another iteration of "Renate on the Web," as I've been busier than ever before with webinars, conference workshops, guest appearances on genealogy shows, and even creating a show of my own on YouTube! All of that, along with continued client work - with one big case being preparation for a Finding Your Roots type of "reveal" on our local public radio station - and writing newsletter articles and a guest blog post (coming soon), I have been very, very busy! In this post, and one to follow, I’d like to share a bit of what I’ve been doing.

Let’s Talk North Carolina Genealogy!

For quite some time, I’d been brewing an idea for a web show that would focus solely on highlighting the particulars of North Carolina genealogy research for the purpose of supporting and informing those working in this area. I also longed to bring together a community of North Carolina researchers, who would hence connect with and support one another, in our research journeys. The problem was, due to my own personal idiosyncrasies, I just didn’t have the confidence to get this started. That was until it occurred to me, one day, to invite a partner to join me in the endeavor – and that perfect partner was the incredible Taneya Koonce! One day, I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, and I came upon a post from Taneya, whom I’ve known for about 10 years. As soon as I saw her picture, it hit me – “I should see if she’d want to do the NC show with me!” So, I reached out to Taneya, pitched my idea, and the rest is history!

Together, Taneya and I created a plan for our show, which was to be a summer series, with episodes on the first and third Saturdays of each month. With more people home and digging into research during the pandemic, we thought this series might provide the perfect boost for researchers who may be either just starting or trying to get to that "next level" in their pursuit of family history. The show would stay tightly focused on topics related to genealogy research in the Tar Heel state, with Taneya and I doing the presentations. ๐Ÿ˜‚Well, shortly into our planning, we changed that! We decided to open our platform, inviting nationally known speakers who had experience in North Carolina research to be our featured presenters, with Taneya and I opening each episode with shorter, introductory presentations on each topic. With this format, we were able to highlight many of our gen-friends as “experts” on particular topics, thus giving our growing community of North Carolina researchers quality information and immediate links to connect them with proven resources that would aid in their work.

And, so, on June 6, 2020, the first episode of Let’s Talk North Carolina Genealogy aired! The show has been a big hit and has turned out to be even better than imagined. Despite some technical glitches here and there (which we choose to just laugh about), all of the episodes have been well received, and the feedback has been amazing! The entire purpose of this venture was to help others with their research, and that goal has been (and continues to be) met – not just for North Carolina researchers, but for others who are doing this work, everywhere! We had six LIVE summer episodes, and one very special, registration-only, Q&A episode, which has not been aired, publicly. Our viewers have indicated that they’d like the show to continue or to at least come back next summer, but the jury is still out on that. For now, we’ve added a special Fall episode, and will likely do one for each upcoming season… until summer comes, again. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Please visit our NC Summer Series channel on YouTube to view all of the previous episodes. In addition to a special THANK YOU to my amazing co-host, Taneya, I’d like to express eternal gratitude to our guest presenters, who helped to make this vision a reality. Kudos to:

*Diane Acey Richard (Episode 1: NC Birth Records)

*Drusilla Pair (Episode 2: NC Marriage Records)

*Lisa Lisson (Episode 3: NC Death Records)

Ari Wilkins (Episode 4: NC Manuscript Collections)

*Doug Brown (Episode 5: Research at the State Archives of NC)

*Shannon Christmas (Episode 6: DNA)


Judy Russell (Special Fall Episode: Law in the Tar Heel State)

And thanks to all with asterisks above, plus Michael McCormick, Connie Knox, and Craig Scott for participating as panelists on our very successful, registration-only Q&A episode! To stay up to date with our progress, please like and follow our Let's Talk North Carolina Genealogy Facebook page to join our community and get notifications about future events.

Legacy Family Tree Webinars – “Finding Calvin”

Also, in June, I was invited by Geoff Rasmussen and Marian Pierre-Louis to do my very first presentation for Legacy Family Tree Webinars, the ultimate web site for genealogy education! Their request was for my very popular talk, Finding Calvin: Following My Enslaved Ancestor Through Multiple Owners.”

This presentation is an overview, in a (loose) case study format, of the methodology I used to document my great-grandfather, Calvin Yarborough’s, 25 years of enslavement under several different owners. The invitation was to participate in Legacy’s inaugural “Free Webinar Weekends in June – African American Track.”  I had a great time recording the webinar with Geoff and then listening to it, when presented by Marion on the appointed date. If you’re a Legacy subscriber or would like to become one, I’d love for you to check out Finding Calvin!

Zoom, Baby!

Like just about everyone, I’ve been spending a LOT of time on Zoom calls, for all kinds of meetings and events. I can’t begin to recall everything I’ve done on Zoom, during this pandemic, but one of the most memorable was cohosting a family reunion meetup, for the very first time. Yes, in collaboration with two of my cousins, Willa-Jo Green (of Maryland) and Jamila Taylor (of Washington State), the first-ever Hawkins-Green Descendants Virtual Family Reunion Meetup was held. I’m so glad we did that when we did, because, since then, we’ve lost our 101-year-old family matriarch, my cousin, Florine Green Edgerton. May she rest in peace.

I actually blogged about this event, so just click here to read all about it!

Well, that’s it for this update. I’ll be back, soon, with another post about Renate on the Web! ๐Ÿ˜Š

Thanks for reading!


Saturday, August 22, 2020

Yes, Philadelphia Dunstons - We ARE Related!

 I need to vent.

I am a DUNSTON descendant. This is not a line I knew anything about, before I started my research in the 1990s. My grandmother, Anna Green, was the daughter of Susan Georgiana DUNSTON, who married John Wesley Green. That is where my Dunston line begins.

(As is the case with most of my lines, I have no photo to show of my great-grandmother, so I will just use this clipping from Ancestry to represent her.)

Researching the DUNSTONS
My Dunston line has been tricky to research, but I've done so with extreme care for over 20 years, now. What makes it trickiest is the fact that so many of the names are used over and over, sometimes within the same generation, and many of those names are common ones, like James, John, Anna/Annie and Laura. Because of this, I've been extremely careful about who actually gets a spot on the tree. I must be able to prove, with documents, that I have the right people in the right place - at least to the best of my ability. Anyone I'm unsure about either has a research note added to their profile on my tree, or they don't make it onto the tree, at all, but instead earn a place in my Ancestry "Shoebox," until such time that I can find definitive evidence that they actually belong to me.

Over the years, I've communicated with many Dunston descendants, all of whom have an ancestral connection to the area of North Carolina where my Dunstons are from: Franklin County. For some, the connection to this county is immediate, and for others it takes a few generations into their ancestry to get back there. Branches have conglomerated in nearby Wake (Raleigh) and Vance (Henderson) Counties, as well as a very large contingent, which migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the early part of the 20th century. And, quite a few of the Dunstons remained in Franklin County, mostly in the town of Franklinton, but with a few families in the county seat, Louisburg. (The Pennsylvania group originated in Franklinton.)

Through my research and also as a result of interactions with others in the genealogy community, I've met numerous Dunston descendants, who hail from various of the above-mentioned locations. Most of us were told, once upon a time, that all of the Dunstons from Franklin County were related. But, proving that has been a challenge, as we've worked collegially to try to explore how we might be - must be connected. In some cases, we've been successful, but the MRCA (most recent common ancestor) is so many generations back that we are not sharing any DNA to prove it. Therefore, we must rely on our carefully constructed family trees for documentation of our connections. And, in a few cases, we are not seeing any matchups on our trees, so we continue to wait, hoping one day a relationship may show us to be connected, but, if it doesn't, we continue to support each other's research and say that we are "cousins" anyway. :)

My Dunston Line
My own DUNSTON line goes back 9 generations (yes, NINE!) to my sixth great-grandmother, Patience Dunston, who was born in 1734. I first learned of Patience through the work of Paul Heinegg, the award-winning author of Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware. My direct line (below) is well documented from Patience, all the way down to me. I continuously search for, find, and add additional sources that support my findings - or, if they don't, changes are made. 

Troubled Waters
There is one line of my Dunston family that refuses to acknowledge their connection to me, simply because "they don't have those names." This is the branch that moved to Philadelphia, which is a line that descends from my third great-grandfather, Wilson Dunston (Sr.). This line, which descends from Wilson's son, James "Jim" Wilson Dunston, is documented on my tree and has come up as the connector between several of my DNA matches and me, as well as for people whose trees reflect that connection, just as mine does. There is just one problem though: it seems that the Philadelphia line, which boasts of having at least 3 family historians, has only been documented up to the generation that includes James "Jim" Dunston.  Because they are unaware (apparently) of James' parentage or deeper ancestry, they choose to denounce it or to even acknowledge and/or learn about his familial origins. So... Houston, we have a problem.

This photo was shared with me by the one Philadelphia Dunston cousin who believed and allowed me to share my research findings - the late Karen Serene Dunston. May she rest in peace. 
On the left is James Wilson Dunston, who was the son of my third great-grandfather, Wilson Dunston. He was the great-grandfather of the cousin denoted by the green dot, above. 
On the right is his wife, Harriet Ellen Fields.

This chart, created using my tree on Ancestry dot com, shows the relationship of one of the Philadelphia-born Dunston cousins and myself. (Said cousin is represented by the green dot.) The relationship, based on the sourced and documented work I've done on my tree, is undeniable. However, because this family has never heard of our common ancestor, Wilson Dunston, he, to them, does not exist; and therefore, we are not related. This stance has been taken by three different members of this particular family, over the course of a few years. I'm not going into the particulars about the difficult attempts I've made to communicate with them - even, most recently, as a result of this cousin reaching out to me - not vice versa. I understand that not everyone understands this work that we're doing; but I'm not in this to be mistreated, talked down to, dismissed and/or disrespected. I simply want to find and learn about my Ancestors, and sometimes that means encountering people who are unexpectedly (and unabashedly) ____________. (You fill in the blank.)

Concluding with Gratitude
I'm very thankful that what I've experienced in dealing with this family line has not been the norm during my 23 years of formally researching my ancestry. I've met so many relatives, on several different lines, and these are the only ones that have behaved in this way and not wanted to know or discuss anything about our shared ancestry. This Dunston line, for whatever their reasons, chooses to stay in the dark about their own pedigree. That has nothing to do with me. I thank God for the Hills, the RossesYarboroughs, Davenports, the Tredwell/Littlejohn descendants, and several other cousin connections I've made over the years - some due to the blessing of good solid traditional research, and others thanks to irrefutable DNA evidence (which doesn't lie).
I was told that this is my second great-grandmother, Laura Dunston, who was a Dunston already before she and Wilson "Wils" Dunston married. This is the only known photo I have of one of my direct Dunston ancestors. 

Walk in the Light - Beautiful Light!
Today was a slap in the face; but it will take more than this to stop me from my quest to find my ancestors and to connect with those who share them. I started this journey to find out who I am and what I'm made of. Like Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for President of the United States said in his nomination acceptance speech, as he quoted my (Ross descended) cousin, Ella Josephine Baker: "Give people light and they will find a way." And, like Joe, and like Ella, I choose to follow the light. Why? Because, just as Joe said, "Light is more powerful than darkness." 

If any of my Philadelphia Dunstons happen to read this, know that I love you, because you are my family. If you want to reach out to me, I'll be ready to share and move forward; and, just as I've told the three that I've spoken to, if you have evidence that is contrary to what my research has shown, I am open and willing to hear and consider it.

I needed to vent. 

Thanks for reading.


                                      (I do not own the rights to this music.)

Permalink to this post: https://justthinking130.blogspot.com/2020/08/yes-philadelphia-dunstons-we-are-related.html