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Listen to Episode 1: “With Great Blackness, Comes Great Responsibility”
Have you imagined trying to find a family member, without knowing their name where they live or whether they are still living? How do people removed from their parents through separation and adoption find their family members? DNA and Genealogy can provide the answers to these questions. Here’s the story of how I helped one man reunite with his father after 30 years.
On April 14, 2016, I started a Facebook thread for about a dozen other people of color who shared a common 3rd great grandfather, a former slave from rural South Carolina. One member of the group, ViElla explained that she could not fathom her connection to this antebellum ancestor, because she was missing one detail-she did not know her biological parents.
ViElla was born in Florida, and as per their closed adoption policy, she was told scant details by the agency: she was born to a young woman in Alachua County with the maiden name Walker who was 17 or 18 years old at the time of her birth, and later married to a man named Davis. A quick search of the marriage record database at Ancestry.com revealed that there was only one such couple who married in Alachua County. Within hours, the adoption agency confirmed, and ViElla reunited with her biological mother’s family through social media.
That’s when she sent me this message:
“My closest DNA match, a second cousin needs your help. He is on Facebook and a graduate of Rutgers…Lamar Carter”
Okay, so I’ll be honest…I’ve always been a fan of Bow Wow. One of the first albums I ever owned was his 2001 EP “Doggy Bag,” which I would have on repeat in my CD-player in Middle School (along with Ludacris’ “Word of Mouf” and Usher’s classic, “8701”). Since he is only 3 years older than I am, I felt a sort of kinship; as much as you can admire the plight of celebrity through a TV camera.
|Shad Moss with his daughter Shai. Source: http://d236bkdxj385sg.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/bow-wow-1.jpg|
Then reality set in. Not as painful as the day I first saw Dr. Ben Carson on FOX NEWS, but as cringe-worthy as that time Raven Symoné told Oprah that she was not African American.
This week, Bow Wow, now identifiable by his government name, Shad Moss posted this on twitter:
|Source: Twitter.com (@smoss account) via. http://hiphopwired.com/2016/07/28/bow-wow-posts-pic-of-his-estranged-dad-to-prove-hes-mixed/|
“Man i believe what the eyes see. I’m mixed. I don’t know what my ancestors was doing…I’m saying my Moss side of family is NOT BLACK. Heritage Different”
Moss, in response to his feelings on Civil liberties and the Black Lives Matter Movement claimed that he did not feel a complete connection to the struggle of people of color because his Moss family in Particular was “NOT BLACK”. He went on to post this picture of his father Alfonso Preston Moss, highlighting his “Cuban” and “Native” looking features.
As a genealogist, I had to investigate this claim further. I decided to tackle his father’s lineage, and discover the origin of Shad Moss’s surname.
Shad Gregory Moss was born on March 9, 1987 in Columbus Ohio. His father, Alfonso Preston Moss was born in Ohio in the 1960’s as per public records. Although probably incorrectly identified by some websites as Moss’s paternal grandparents, his paternal great-grandparents are likely Frank Pierce Moss (1909-1972) and Ernestine Coggins Moss (1909-2007) both of his birthplace, Columbus, Ohio. I connected the dots after finding names of family members in Ernestine’s obituary.
Moss’s own family history is just the reason why he should be able to appreciate the efforts of of our modern Black activists and embrace his African Heritage.
Please turn your attention to:
Exhibit A: Shad Moss’s Great Grandparents were a part of the Great Migration from the segregated South.
Frank (aka Pierce) and Ernestine were definitely people of color. We can find them together in the City Directories as early as 1945 while Frank worked as laborer in Columbus.
|Columbus, Ohio City Directory (1945); Source: Ancestry.com|
Frank’s movement from his native Georgia to Ohio was a cry for civil liberties, itself. While African Americans left the South in droves in the mid 1900’s to find better working conditions, quite a few of them left to escape the confines of de jure segregation. Frank’s family was from Hancock County, GA. This was a county that did not legally end school segregation until 1965, and in which White citizens created their own private school just to avoid having to follow the law once it was passed. In essence, Shad Moss’s very birth in Columbus is a direct result of Civil resistance.
Exhibit B: Shad Moss’s 2nd great grandfather could neither read or write
Tracing Frank Pierce’s family back to Georgia was tough with the available records online, but given the naming patterns in the family, I am fairly certain that he is the son of Jack Moss and Annie Moss of Hancock and neighboring Morgan county, GA. Here is the census record for 1920 listing “Pierce” with his siblings and parents.
|1920 Census: District 0098, Fairplay, Morgan County, GA|
Moss, Jack (40)
Eddie Mae (3)
Lucy Mae (1 yr, 6 mos)
You will notice the last two columns across from Jack’s name, which are labeled “Can Read” and “Can Write” are both marked “No.” This proves that Jack, even well into the 1920’s had not yet learned to read or write. Before the Civil War, it was illegal for people of color to do either due to their enslaved status, and even 60 years later, the children of those formerly enslaved often did not attend formal schooling to do such.
Exhibit C: Shad Moss’s 2nd great grandmother was buried by the “Colored Undertaker,” after her untimely death.
One of the complications of Black genealogy in the South is dealing with historically segregated communities. People of color had their own churches, schools and even cemeteries. Yes, even in death, Jim Crow pushed to keep communities separate and unequal. When Annie Moss died in 1922, her body was put under the oversight of the “colored undertaker.”
|Annie Moss Death (1922, GA). Source: GA State Archives, Virtual Vault|
Annie Moss passed away as a tenant farmer: a sharecropper. Her cause of death? “Pellagra”: and old school term for a vitamin deficiency that was purported to be the underlying cause of “mental confusion” The secondary contribution was listed as “insanity.” It’s hard to say whether Annie, who was no more than 40 years old at this point, had developed a mental illness contributory to her death. Unfortunately the plague of racism had also seeped into medicine and Science as well. In the antebellum era, Doctors would sometimes use Black women for medical experimentation because of their easy access to their bodies. Other’s held deep set notions about people of color that they were somewhat “inferior because of a difference in biology. We soon discovered that none of this was true. Although more information is needed about Annie’s case, we can assume that some in her case may not have received the best treatment.
Exhibit E: Possibly Born as Slaves, Shad Moss’s 3rd Great Grandparents were in the first generation to be married legally
As listed in her death certificate, Annie’s surname was Moss as well. Her parents were Crawford “Croff’ Moss and his wife, Susie Reynolds. Crawford and Susie were married just 14 years after the Civil War. Only the 14th year in this country that Black people could legally be betrothed. Both of them could have likely been born enslaved, themselves.
|Crawford Moss + Susie Reynolds Marriage (1879); Source: Ancestry.com|
After finding Crawford and Susie’s marriage certificate in Hancock County, GA, I traced the Moss name back one more generation to Shad Moss’s 4th great grandparents Crawford Moss and Fannie Moss. Here they are in the 1870 census, the first enumeration of African Americans after Emancipation.
|1870 Census: Mayfield, District 111-112, Hancock County, GA|
Moss Crawford (45)
Louisa (2) (Not Shown)
Exhibit F: Were Shad Moss’s “NOT BLACK” ancestors former slaves?
There may be some burgeoning proof that at least Fannie Moss may have been enslaved by the local Moss family. When Crawford Moss Jr. died in 1937, his death certificate listed birthplaces for his parents. Although the origin of Crawford is not know, Fannie is reported as being born in Hancock County.
|Crawford Moss Death (1931), Source: GA State Archives via Ancestry.com|
When looking around Hancock county, there are two slave-holders reported with the Moss surname. One in particular was William R. Moss. William died in the late 1850’s, leaving a reasonable lot of enslaved men and women to his nieces and nephews.
|Except from Will of William Moss (Hancock County, GA Wills and Administration Records, Book R, pg. 642)|
“I give and bequeath to Mary Whaley, my niece, the following negroes: Ellick, Ebenezer, Little Claiborne, Francis and Child, and Patsy”
Could “Francis” and her child be Fannie Moss, the mother of Crawford? It’s possible, although further research must be done for a more confident confirmation.
William Moss’s farm is also one of the few to be chronicled in the slave narratives, a project of Frederick D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, set up into interview survivors of slavery.
One such interviewee was Claiborne Moss.
|Claiborne Moss WPA Interview (1938) (81 Years Old, Resident of Little Rock, AK)|
Claiborne described how he was the youngest of 5 children, and that most of his family was split up at the time of Moss’s death. His parents lived on different plantations. Although Bill Moss is described as “good master,” there are still elements of subjugation and power evident in Claiborne’s story.
“Moss sold out and went to Texas and all his slaves went walking while he was on the train.”
He also describes how in Moss’s migration, he left both of Claiborne’s parents with Mr. Beck just to “keep the family together.”
….A family that he owned….
So I get it…
We are nearly 150 years removed from the horrors of slavery, and half a century gone from the days of legal segregation. I understand growing up in a position of privilege, where you wanted for little. Yet, those sacrifices cannot go unacknowledged, and saying that your family is indeed NOT BLACK is a slap in the face to your ancestors Mr. Moss, who are the embodiment of the a true Black American story.
Afterthoughts: I wrote this article in response to an event, and used the genealogical and historical sources, and public records available to me at the time. I invite other researchers and those with additional information to challenge any of the aforementioned points presented on its clarity, verification of facts, or to provide additional commentary.
If it is true that Stephen (b. 1800) is my ancestor, then here is my line of Stephen May’s going back in time from my grandfather to my 4th great grandfather.
For a lot of families with enslaved ancestors, finding your ancestors in the 1870 can be a daunting task. A few years ago, I found an article written in Heritage Quest by genealogist Tony Burroughs describing a phenomenon in African American genealogy that would help me do just that.
What advice did I get from this article? Don’t get too hung up on the surname.
Let me give an example from my own research, that my have revealed my first documented ancestor with ties directly to the African continent.
In a previous post, I introduced you to my 3rd great grandmother, Eliza Cade Hubbard. Her husband, my 3rd great grandfather was Richard Hubbard (1856-1936) of Noxubee County, Mississippi. In the 1880 Census, Richard lived with his wife, next door to a man, Albert Hubbard, only two years his senior.
Hubert (Hubbard), Albert (26)
Louisa (21) (Wife)
Louisa (5 mos.)
Hubert (Hubbard), Richard (24)
Ivy (Ivory) (4)
I assumed it possible that Richard and Albert Hubbard could have been brothers. They lived basically in the same household in 1880 and both shared the same surname. I attempted to find Richard and Albert in the 1870 census with no luck. Then I noticed something peculiar.
Albert’s son Arthur James Hubbard (1887-1942) died in Memphis, Tennessee in 1942. On his death certificate, his wife Katie gave his parent’s names as Albert Hubbard and Louise Stranum. With a maiden name for Albert’s wife, Louise, I then went to the marriage records for Noxubee County, Mississippi.
|My Ethnicity Breakdown (Courtesy of Ancestry.com)|
|Women working in A cotton field in Mississippi|
I named my blog Afriroots for this reason. Every day, I seek to find common ancestors through DNA, and want to use that information to link us back to local plantations, and back to Africa and Europe where most of my people hail from.
|George Page (Courtesy of Cousin D. Dickerson)|
|George Page Death Certificate (1953); Source Mississippi Dept. of Archives and History|
|Shared 4th Cousin Match
(Note: The name of this cousin is kept anonymous, but the important details for connection are included)
After going through the matches family tree, I determined that they were the grandchild of Robert “Bobby” Isaiah Collier (1938-1999) from Starkville, Mississippi. Starkville is just north of Macon in adjacent Oktibbeha County. I found an abstract from his application for a social security card that listed his parents.
|Abstract: Bobby I Collier Social Security Application (1953)|
Bobby’s parents were Tommie Collier (1913-1976) and Rose Page (1916-2006). Finally we had found the name that we were already linked to through DNA. Further investigation showed that Rose Page was a daughter of George Page!
|1920 Census: Starkville, Oktibbeha, MS; Family of George Page with daughter Rosa (age 3 and 5 mos)|
This proved without a shadow of doubt that George Page was indeed the son of my 4th great grandmother Patsy! This matched the prediction of 4th cousin, as my mother shares with them a set of 3rd great grandparents (Joshua and Pasty Page). George was a brother to my 3rd great grandfather Lawrence!
Its amazing what you can find out with just a little bit of saliva…
|2nd Great-Grandfather David Page at his general store in Macon, Mississippi|
|“Serenity to Accept Things I Cant Change”: Morning Compass, Columbus, MS (1980)|
A man of 89 years old at the time, David Page was continuing a hobby he had learned almost a century ago during his childhood.
|David Page with one of his baskets|
|David Pages Home c. 1980; Labelled affectionately by family as “The House that Papa Built”|
Not only was my 3rd great grandfather known for his work with his hands, he was also pragmatic member of the African American community in Macon. He was not impervious to the pressures of the the Jim Crow South that surrounded him. As the story was relayed to me by some family members, one day, a friend of David had a disagreement with a White man in town. A mob of White men showed up at his church, and threatened to lynch him. Armed with his pistol in one breast pocket and Bible in the other, David stood his ground in the face of danger, and was able to diffuse the situation, without harm.
|David Page Obituary (1983, Macon MS)|
“Rev. K. D. Page was born on August 10, 1891 to the late Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Page….He leaves to mourn his passing…three (3) brothers, Mr. Thomas Page, Ohio, Mr. Johnnie Page, MS and Mr. Joe Page, MO”
David’s obituary gave me the name of his father Lawrence Page of Macon, MS, and his brothers, Thomas, Johnnie and Joe.
I took to the census records and found David living with his family in 1900.
|1900 Census, Beat 4, Noxubee County, MS|
Page, Lillie (24)
I found David living with his mother my 3rd great grandmother Lillie Page, and two of the siblings from the obituary Johnnie Page and Thomas Page. Lillie was listed as a widow, so at the time I assumed that David’s father Lawrence had died at this point.
Then I noticed something interesting. At the same time of the 1900 census, in the same county a few miles down the road was Lawrence Page.
|1900 Census, Prairie Point, Noxubee County, MS|
Page, Lawrence (36)
Mattie (3 mos.)
Lawrence Page had a completely different family and a different wife, Dolly. Lawrence was not in fact widowed but started a new family a few miles down the road from his old one. I confirmed this later after speaking with family members and noticing that Joe Page from David’s obituary was actually a child of Lawrence and Dolly, who I found living with them 10 years later. I also learned from this record that Lawrence was skilled as a Carpenter, a trade he likely passed on to his son, David.
|1910 Census; Columbus Ward 3, Lowndes County, MS|
Page, Lawrence (45)
Willie M. (6)
Richard L. (5/12)
Altogether Lawrence had 15 children, three of whom lived to be over 90 years old (Johnnie, David and Thomas). Lawrence himself lived to be 92.
Now that I had a solid birth date for Lawrence, and knowing he was born during the Civil War, I wanted to find him in the 1870 census. On December 16, 2012, I received an email from my 4th cousin and fellow genealogist, James Sanders on Ancestry.com. James is the 2nd great grandson of uncle Johnnie Page. James had already been researching the family for years at that point and had interviewed Mary Bell “Maydonna” Page-Powell, his great-grandmother’s sister, Johnnie’s youngest daughter about her family.
James pointed me to the 1870 census in Noxubee County, where Lawrence was living with his parents Joshua and Patsy Page.
|1870 Census: Township 14, Noxubee County, MS|
Page, Joshua (40)
There was Lawrence at age 7, with a group of brothers and sisters that shared the names of some of his children! Furthermore, there was 65 year old woman living in the household, old enough to be the mother of Joshua or Patsy. We likely found our 5th great grandmother, Delphia Page!
Note from the Author:
I want to thank everyone who has stuck with me so far! In the next post I will explain how DNA testing has helped us to connect the Page family, in ways that would not be possible before. The next post will be my 10th and last for the month of February, Black History Month. But don’t worry, there’s more to come! In my blog so far, I have only focused on my maternal side from Maryland and Mississippi. I have a lot of research that I continue every day on my father’s lines in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, and my mother’s family in North Carolina, and Virginia. Please stay tuned, and don’t forget to follow the page by email or through Google Plus. You can also send any questions/comments/corrections/information to my email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank You Again,
In my previous posts The Un-shackle-able Louisa Cade and Walkers, Brakett’s and Cades, Oh My! I traced the line of my 3rd great grandmother Eliza Cade Hubbard (1852-) back to her mother Louisa Cade (1832-). Once the name of her mother was revealed to me, I began asking the next logical question: Who was Eliza’s father?
I was given a clue in the past, when reviewing the maiden name of Eliza, given by her daughter, my 2nd great grandmother Pearl Lee. Both her Bible records and Social Security application reflected a different name from all other records…Walker.
|Application for Social Security Account Number, Pearl Lee Hubbard Page (1943)|
I knew that somehow Eliza had to be connected to the Walker family for Pearl Lee to be adamant about writing this name. In 2013, I searched on the message boards on Ancestry.com and found a post by Kevin Walker. Kevin was a direct descendant of a wealthy Noxubee County, MS planter, Lawrence Whitsett Walker Sr. and his wife Sophia Cade. Sophia was the sister of Jefferson Daniel Cade, who I later discovered was the last owner of my ancestors Eliza and Louisa.
I surmised that finding out more about this Walker family would help me uncover more about Eliza’s origins.
In the years preceding, Kevin and his wife Gail amassed a great amount of research on the Walker line in Noxubee County, Mississippi, that helped set the groundwork for for a lot of my research. They went through existing documents on the Walker family, looking for any mention of my family members names. In the fall of 2013, Kevin sent me an interesting document.
|(Caroline P. Walker vs. L.W. Walker Jr Divorce (Noxubee County Chancery Court Records, 1860)|
Lawrence and Sophia’s son, Lawrence W. Walker Jr. divorced from his wife Caroline “Carrie” P. May-Walker in 1860. It was Carrie who brought up the lawsuit: she claimed that Lawrence had been unfaithful to her and had committed adultery multiple times with different women. Because the burden of proof fell on Carrie in this case, she called a number of witnesses to vouch for his infidelity.
The witnesses were very thorough in their testimonies. And two of them in particular talked about in somewhat graphic detail Lawrence Jr.’s relationships with slave women.
Cicero Walker, the overseer on Lawrence’s plantation was called to the stand. He stated
“The Defendant had a Mulatto girl Maria. I have seen the defendant Walker go to a pine thicket about two hundred and fifty or three hundred yards from his house, and he said to me that he was going there to meet this girl…”
After more questioning Walker continued his story:
“About this 20th of March, 1860 the complainant Mrs. Walker (Carrie), then being at the house of Mr. J.D. Burks, the defendant (Lawrence) left home between sun down and dark and was absent until about 8 O’clock shortly before he came into the house, the girl Maria came in. Walker stated that he had made his boy blow a horn and that he had gone to Mr. Burk’s garden near the house and met the girl Maria and brought her home. He took the girl to his bedroom and they were in there when I went to bed. About 12 or 1 o’cock at night the girl woke me up and said her master wanted to see me. Shortly thereafter he left with the Negro girl to his father’s house (LW Senior). The defendant stated to me several times that he had sexual intercourse with the Negro girl Mariah at various times.”
|Excerpt from Carrie P. Walker vs. LW Walker Jr.; Noxubee County Chancery Court (1860)|
This was only the first of Lawrence’s documented infidelities. The second is also described by Cicero:
“Sometime during the past winter, I went with defendant Walker to Mr. John Reat’s negro quarters. He sent a negro boy in who brought out a negro girl to him and the defendant (LW Walker) and girl went into a cotton house together. This was in the night…”
Also called to testify was Rufus Barnhill, he also mentions Walkers relationship with a “Mulatto girl,” which can be reasonably assumed to be Mariah again.
“After the last of January or first of February of the present year, I was passing from my house in this county to Mashulaville. I had some business with the defendant and in passing his house, I called and inquired if [he] was at home…I was informed he had walked off in the direction of Mashulaville about one hundred and fifty yards from [his] house. I saw him, the defendant come walking out of a little patch of willows. he was buttoning up his pantaloons and I saw a mulatto girl, the defendants house girl, I do not know her name, come walking out of the same patch. Walker came up to me and I asked him what he was doing down there, and he said he had been to where his dogs had tread; that he had been running a cat since before day, some two or three hours. Then I remarked to him, when he was coming over the way again. He stated that he had sexual intercourse with this Mulatto woman in the branch.”
Hmmm…”Running a cat since before day…” I couldn’t think of a better lie than that in 1860.
There seems to be a common theme. Lawrence and Mariah had a “thing” going. I will not speculate on whether they had a “loving” relationship, especially considering that Lawrence was in a position of power (she referred to him as “Master,” and was literally his house slave), but there was definitely a sustained relationship between them.
I have not found any confirmatory documentation of where Mariah went after this incident. Interestingly, there is a 30 year old woman named Mariah who worked on the same plantation as my 4th great grandmother, Louisa Cade in 1865. Could this be the same Mariah, Lawrence Walker’s former house servant?
|J.D. Cade Labor Contract, Noxubee County, MS (1865)|
I began to wonder if maybe my 4th great grandmother Louisa Cade had a similar relationship? I know from census records that she had quite a few children, but was not listed with a husband in the 1870 census. I have considered due to my DNA admixture and the phenomenon of fair skin on that side of my family that Eliza Cade Hubbard’s father may have been a white man. My theory has been for a while that it could be a White man named Walker. I have no tangible evidence to connect Lawrence as her father, but I do consider it is a possibility. Lawrence was JD Cade’s nephew, so it could have been a stop on his number of escapades with enslaved women. I hoping that results from DNA testing will help me determine that in the near future.
PS: I want to acknowledge Kevin and Gail Walker who have laid the groundwork for a lot of the research I have done on my Walker/Cade/Brackett family from Noxubee County, Mississippi. Kevin passed away about a year ago, and I will forever be thankful for the time and dedication he has put into researching this family. His memorial page can be found at this site.
My family was not left unscathed…
|Arlene Brownridge (Age 4, 1942 in Mississippi)|
|Ollie Brownridge + Ruth Page Marriage (1937, MS)|
|Ollie Brownridge c. Early 1940’s|
|1940 Census, Macon, District 3, Noxubee, Missisippi|
|Ollie Brownridge Death (1943); TN State Library and Archives|