Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation - Maternal and Paternal Ancestors in Same Church: Who Knew?

Six Degrees of Separation
You know what they say about "six degrees of separation," right? According to Wikipedia.org, it's the idea that all people are six (or fewer) social connections away from one another.  Well, this belief has proven true, over and over again, in my research; and today's finding is no exception.

Family Origins
My father's family is mostly from Louisburg, Franklin County, NC. My mother's maternal side is originally from Littleton, NC (Halifax and Warren Counties at different times), but her line migrated to Norfolk, VA around the beginning of the 1900s. I have researched both sides, thoroughly, and that research is ongoing. Today, I was looking for information about one of my father's paternal aunts, Quinea/Queenie YARBOROUGH, and her husband, Rev. Joel W. KING. both of whom were originally from Louisburg. I'd discovered, some time ago, that Joel died in Norfolk, which intrigued me, so I was using my access to ProQuest's Historical Newspapers: Black Newspapers Collection to see if I could find mention of him (or Quinea) in the Norfolk Journal and Guide.

My initial search was a little frustrating, because most of the results were for another Rev. Joel King, the brother of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However, once I added the middle initial, "W", and removed the "Rev." from my search, I ended up with one very eye-opening result. It was an article with the following headline: "Minister, Sister Will Receive Double Funeral." Whaaat? I went on to read the article and learned that it was, indeed, about the correct Joel King and that, sadly, he and his sister, who also lived in Norfolk, had passed just a day apart, both after "a long illness." The two were to be funeralized, together, on June 25, 1966, the same day this article ran.

So, what does this have to do with the "six degrees" rule? Keep reading to find out!

Jerusalem Baptist Church
Jerusalem Baptist Church, in Norfolk, VA, has been home to my mother's family since at least the 1930s. My grandmother, Mary Davis, began attending there, with her children sometime during that decade, and remained a faithful member until her death in 1986. My uncle, the late Howell Hill, Sr. was head of the Deacon Board (among other leadership roles) and was one of the church's most faithful and dedicated members for his entire life. Just last year, in May 2019, our family attended a beautiful recognition ceremony, held in his honor, at Jerusalem. My mother, though we lived across the bay, in Hampton, always maintained her connection to Jerusalem, and attended, from time to time, for special services. She also was invited to speak there on more than one occasion. All my life, I've known of my maternal family's tie to Jerusalem, and I remember, dearly, their pastor during my childhood years, Reverend T.M. Venable.

Here I am with my first cousins in May 2019, in the Fellowship Hall at Jerusalem. 
Our family showed up for  the service to honor my uncle, Howell Hill (seated center) for his lifetime of service at Jerusalem, in May 2019. Less than two weeks later, he went to heaven. 

What I didn't know about my family's connection to Jerusalem is that it also extended to my paternal side! Yes, in reading the article about the double funeral, I learned that my paternal ancestor, Quinea/Queenie YARBOROUGH King, along with her husband Joel, and his sister, Mrs. Louisiana Cooke, were all also members of Jerusalem, and thus, would have, without a doubt, known and interacted with my maternal family! This is amazing to me, and I can't help but wonder if any of my family members knew this!  After all, my mother and father met sometime around 1956-57. However, there is no evidence that my father ever attended services at Jerusalem with my mother, since she was living and working in Hampton by the time they met. They married in 1958 and my mom quickly joined my father in Bremerhaven, Germany, where he was stationed at the time. From there, they moved to Cleveland, OH and then to Hampton, VA, and I believe chances are slim that they would have "crossed the water" with their four children to go to church at Jerusalem.

Who Knew?
I have to believe that, although my parents didn't have their ceremony at Jerusalem, their union certainly would have been announced to the church. If Quinea and Joel were active church members, certainly their antennae would have been raised upon hearing that my mother married someone named YARBOROUGH, from Louisburg, and most assuredly she would have inquired of my grandmother about it, so I believe this connection must have been a known one, and just another of the many tidbits of information that no one ever bothered to share with me about our family. Quinea was, after all, my father's aunt. She was his (deceased) father's older sister. Oh, and not only did these two sides of my family share a church family, but they are also buried in the same cemetery - Calvary Cemetery, in Norfolk. The next time I go to visit my Norfolk ancestors' graves, I will definitely be visiting my native Louisburg family, also!

It's amazing to me, just to to think of this. Two parts of my very disjointed family, worshipping and serving in the same space at the same time - and no one, at least to my knowledge, seemed to have thought to mention this to me in all the interviews (inquisitions, really, lol) I conducted of my elder family members who might have known. It's another family history mystery, for me; but I'm so glad I uncovered it, today!

And the research continues....



Wikipedia contributors. (2020, February 15). Six degrees of separation. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:56, March 10, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Six_degrees_of_separation&oldid=940887573

Minister, sister will receive double funeral. (1966, Jun 25). New Journal and Guide (1916-2003) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.virginiamemory.com/docview/568893686?accountid=44788


  1. I love finding these kinds of connections among various branches of my family! They never thought you would be interested in that LOL

  2. Apparently not! I wish I could find some proof that they knew. My father was four years old when his father died (1929) and his family didn't stay very connected to my grandmother, so he didn't really know many of them. Maybe one day the Ancestors will send me something... :)

    Thanks for always, commenting on the blog, Kristin!