Author Archive: Taneya Koonce

A Possible Brick Wall Buster via the Digital Library on American Slavery?

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Lisa Louise Cooke for the Family Tree Magazine monthly podcast! The theme of November’s episode is about busting through brick walls and Lisa interviewed me for a segment covering resources from the magazine’s 101 Best Websites list. Listen to Lisa, myself, and her other guests in the November 2015 episode to learn more about busting brick walls.

One resource I covered was the Digital Library on American Slavery. Covering the database was easy for me. As I stated during the podcast, it is one that is “near and dear to my heart” as it is a project out of UNC-Greensboro. I was raised in Greensboro so the city has a fond place in my heart. When this database first came out, I’d back then, found a record in it for whom I believe to be my family, but didn’t follow-up on obtaining the full petition until Sunday as I prepared for the podcast interview. I’m so happy I did follow-up too!

This image is excerpted from a North Carolina legislative petition (#21284706) addressed in the Jones County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in November 1847. Six white slaveholders, John S. Koonce and wife Susan, Isiah Wood and wife Elizabeth, Benjamin Brown, Asa Brown, Zachius Brown, Mary Brown, Orne Brown, and Isaac Brown (the last five being children in the care of Zachius Brown) appeared to request division of ownership of six slaves – they were requesting 1/8th share each. Obtaining that 1/8th share could have meant selling them and splitting the proceeds. The Digital Library on American Slavery provided the index, but through information on their page on “Obtaining Copies of Petitions,” I was able to get the full petition.

Well, the six slaves at hand here are James, Jonas, Mariah, Allen, Hannah, & Sarah (sometimes called Harriett).  I highlight three of these slaves’ names because they match names found among my own family!.  The reasons being as follows:

  • Independent of this record, I’d traced my Koonce line back to a former slave, James Koonce of Jones County.  From census records, I know James had two partners, Susan and then Isariah (sometimes appearing as Mariah in documents I’ve already located).
  • James’ mother was named Hannah.
  • From oral family history shared by a cousin of mine, Isariah/Mariah was probably just a Koonce by marriage, and may have been the offspring of a white Wood male family member. Given that this petition has both Koonce & Wood family members, it makes this an intriguing possibility for being tied into my family tree 
  • The name “Caff” appears next to Jonas’ name, and MY James’ first wife Susan was a “Craff” in documentation I have in my files. Could Caff/Craff be one and the same name?

I think I have already identified who John S. Koonce is (I’m thinking it is John Speight Koonce) and I found Isaiah & Elizabeth Wood in records as well. This is definitely something I need to research further! Perhaps this clue can lead me to busting my own brick wall! Research in action. :-)

So, thanks to Lisa for the impetus I needed to finally request this record! And for my readers, be sure to check FamilyTree Magazine’s podcast page over the next few days to look for the November 2015 episode and hear the show!

Featured at NEH Meeting

Okay, I wasn’t featured, but one of my projects was! I’ve just written a blog post for the TNGenWeb project describing how one of our Special Projects was included in a presentation at the National Newspaper Digitization Program’s annual meeting.  The NNDP is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and this past week, the Project Coordinator for the Tennessee digitization group, Louisa Trott Moore, shared information on how the digitized historical papers are used for genealogy & family history research, including our Historical News Portal site as an example. 

The TNGenWeb Historical News Portal is a site I developed and now coordinate on behalf of TNGenWeb in our ongoing quest to provide free resources for genealogy & family history. With volunteer help, we transcribe and index articles from old newspaper issues to make the information within them more accessible and easier to find. The site is definitely a work-in-progress, but we all enjoy working on it. The NEH Chairman was even present and heard about our work – I think that is just cool. :-)

This was great exposure for the TNGenWeb project, so I greatly thank Louisa for including us!

Check out the blog post to learn more!


Koonce & Koonce Expedition – Part II

Back in 2009, I wrote about a day of Koonce-hunting in Lincoln County, TN with my buddy John P. Koonce. Yesterday, we were able to continue the adventure and an adventure it was indeed!!!

John was joined by his nephew Dan and the primary purpose of our trip was to look for the Grills-Koonce cemetery in Fayetteville. John has made several trips to look for it with no success.  We had it’s location based on a map produced by the Lincoln County Genealogical Society, but the cemetery is not visible from the road and would require some investigation. As we traveled down to Fayetteville, I looked the cemetery up in Find-A-Grave and was able to find GPS coordinates.  

satellite map


We traveled down Koonce Lane again (we did last time). However, because we had GPS coordinates and now have the great technology of Google Maps, I could see there was a side lane we could travel down in order to try and get closer to the cemetery, Stable Lane. We’d not done this back in 2009. But alas, we went down the lane and fencing creates a barrier to going on the property. Plus, there was so much growth, we couldn’t see much and even try and visually see a cemetery.

view down Stable Lane

And while there was a house at the end of the road, the gate was closed so that was a bummer. So, we turned around and decided to ask some of the neighbors if they knew anything about the cemetery. The first lady we spoke to had not been living on the street for long, but she gave us a recommendation for a family to go speak to. As were were back in the car heading to this family, we saw someone pulling onto Stable Lane – we were so excited! We thought it was perhaps the people who lived in the house.

So, we followed the truck down the lane. They saw us and stopped and upon talking to them, we discovered they were not the owners, but were there to look for the Grills-Koonce Cemetery also. Not only that, they were Grills themselves and had ancestors buried in the cemetery! How funny! A set of Koonces and a set of Grills looking for the Grills-Koonce cemetery at the exact same time! It was too much! 

Well, the homeowner at the end of the lane saw us there and came down. Her family has lived on the property for 70 years and she knew of the cemetery; had seen it herself before. She pointed in the general direction of it, but advised us to go speak to the person who owns the land on which the cemetery is situated, for permission to enter. Fortunately, the cemetery land owner lived down the street. 

going over the map for the cemetery

So, off our caravan went to go knock on the door of the cemetery land owner. Fortunately for us, she was home and even better, she offered to drive us right to the cemetery. And let me tell you, even with her directions for where to drive once we would have entered the land, there was NO WAY we’d have ever found it on our own. The picture below shows the height of the foliage as we drove through to the cemetery. 

the foliage we drove through to reach the cemetery

I approach the cemetery. See how high those plants are!

Once we arrived at the cemetery, we could definitely see how it has been left untended. Many graves were just about completely overgrown, and only a few were above ground enough to read. While we found headstones for Grills family members, we didn’t see any with Koonce, but we know at least two Koonces are buried there – Napoleon Polk Koonce and wife Elizabeth Brown Koonce – exact relationship to John & Dan still unknown. This means we have research to do.

But our new buddies, the Grills, found headstones for their family!

Grills family members

Afterwards, we had to take a group photo. Note – cemetery hunting is hard, sweaty work :-)

Grills & Koonces after visiting the Grills-Koonce cemetery

We were all excited to finally get to this cemetery.  The owner told us that the last time someone asked about it was about 15 years ago, but we have now been there! The Grills plan to come back and do some work to help get it cleared up and hopefully find some of the headstones currently covered. What a great time!

John, Dan and I also stopped at two other cemeteries while in town.  We visited the Kelso-Koonce-McCartney-McGee Cemetery again and Stewarts Cemetery. Lots of pictures were taken of Koonce headstones and I’ll be working on adding them to the Surname Project files. I’ve already added the interments we know about to Find-A-Grave (I tried to post pics to BillionGraves also, but the GPS signal was too weak).

Attending the Kilpatrick Family Reunion

Over the July 4th weekend, one of the activities I did during my vacation was attend part of the 2nd Annual Kilpatrick Family Reunion in Ft. Barnwell, NC. My paternal grandmother, Cora, was the daughter of William Lawhorn and Pearlie Mae “Julie” Kilpatrick. So, the reunion is for Pearlie’s family. 

When I was much younger, we used to go to the Kilpatrick reunions. In fact, I have a few pictures of me as a very young baby at some of them.

Daddy holds me at a 1975 Kilpatrick Family Reunion.

Then, the reunions stopped, but they were started back up again two years ago. I was not able to attend the 1st one, but I was glad to be able to at least go to one event of this 2nd reunion. 

The earliest back we are able to go is to Silas and Mimi (Gooding) Kilpatrick. Silas and Mimi were born around the 1830s and had at least 12 children that we know of: Mary, Caroline, Edward, Susan, Ann, Patsey, Alexander, Abner, Nancy, Lucy, Ada, and Handy. Their son Edward is my direct ancestor – he is my 3rd great-grandfather.

1870 Census – Silas & Mimi and kids in Craven County, NC

Not only did I get to go, but I was asked to share some information about the family history research I’ve been doing on the Kilpatrick Family! So, I put together a short presentation and spoke about how I became interested in genealogy, some of the discoveries I’ve made, and shared my website where I have been documenting the family tree. 

presenting family history

While preparing for the presentation, I made a new discovery too! I was able to find the marriage certificate for my direct ancestor Edward Kilpatrick and his wife Violetta. From census records, I knew they were married around 1880, but the marriage record find reveals they were married November 29, 1882.  Fabulous!

1882 marriage certificate of Edward & Violetta Kilpatrick

The couple were married in neighboring Lenoir County with L.J. Jackson, Lewis Grady, and Adam Singleton were witnesses.  I also learned from the record that Edward’s father, Silas, was still alive. I don’t have a death date for Silas, but knowing that information could potentially help focus searches for his death information in the future. The fact that Violetta’s parents (Stephen & Susan Donald) are still living may also help me with them as well. 

It was also great to have the opportunity to see family members I had not seen in awhile, and to meet family members I’ve not met before. I created a Facebook group to help keep the family connected as we do have another reunion planned in 2017. Many thanks to the Kilpatrick Family Reunion committee for allowing me to share some of this with family and I look forward to seeing you all again next time!

My WordPress Article Published in FGS Forum

Yay! I’ve got another article published in FGS Forum on using WordPress for genealogical society websites. If you are an FGS member or subscribe to the journal, be sure to go check it out! 

In the article, I’ve focused on providing real-life examples of how I’ve used WordPress across the many USGenWeb websites I’ve worked on/with over the years. One example I provide in the article is the use of the TablePress plugin to create indexes.  On my Blount County TNGenWeb site I use this plugin to post an index of more than 28,000 obituaries published in local papers from 1867-1920. 

If you are interested in learning more about WordPress, I also encourage you to sign up for the next FGS Webinar – “WordPress for Societies: No Blogging Required” to be presented by Rory Cathcart.  The webinar will be presented July 22nd at 8pm EDT. Visit the FGS Voice Blog for more details.

Photos with the Ancestors

During the July 4th weekend, I was so fortunate to be able to visit eastern NC again to visit my father’s hometown, Fort Barnwell and my maternal grandmother’s hometown, Plymouth, NC.

My visit to Fort Barnwell was my first time back since my paternal grandmother, Cora Lawhorn Koonce, passed away in 2006. So, I visited the Mitchell Family Cemetery where my Koonce family is buried and visited her graveside for the first time. Since Kaleya was with me, she had to take the requisite pictures with her family. She may not appreciate it now, but it is my hope that when she is older, she will be able to cherish the fact that she has visited the town where her grandfather grew up.

panorama view of Mitchell Cemetery

Kaleya with her 2nd great-grandparents, Josephine Holloway & Barfield Koonce

I also went to the Alum Springs Church cemetery so that I could take pictures of Cora’s side of the family – namely, my 4th great-grandmother’s headstone, Mima Gooding Kilpatrick.

My cemetery visits were short – I had only 30 minutes and then needed to head to the Kilpatrick Family Reunion, but I am so very glad that I had a chance to do this.

Just a couple of days prior, while driving on my way to the Outer Banks, I stopped in Plymouth, the hometown of my grandmother Alice McNair Robinson.  Her parents’ home, the home of Abraham & Mattie (Walker) McNair. The house, at 502 Wilson Street, is in very poor condition, but because it is there, I took Kaleya by and told her that her 2nd great-grandparents lived there.

in front of Abraham & Mattie’s home

I also took her around to the back porch b/c I have a photo of myself as a youngster on the back porch.

at the back porch

We then went over to the McNair Family Cemetery where Abraham & Mattie are buried, as well as our McNair ancestral couple, Rufus Tannahill & Mariah (Wimberly) McNair.

at Abraham & Mattie’s graveside

at the grave of Rufus & Mariah McNair

I told her there would be a quiz later – let’s see how long she remembers the details :-)

Finding A Cohabitation Record

Last month over the Memorial Day weekend, I attended the 45th annual reunion of my McNair family in Plymouth, Washington County, North Carolina. I was honored to be asked to speak to the family during the family church service on that Sunday.  It was such a great experience! I put together a presentation to distribute to family.

As I was preparing, I did additional clean-up on my family tree. Now, over the past several months, I’ve been adding info to FamilySearch Family Tree in my goal to ensure my research lives beyond me. Well, I was so pleased the week prior to the reunion to see an FamilySearch alert for my ancestor, Mariah Wimberly, in a collection of North Carolina marriage records.

So, I click to see the image and lo and behold, her cohabitation record to Rufus Tannahill pops up! I’d known about the existence of the cohabitation record for many years but had not seen the actual image.  In 1995, Dr. Barnetta McGhee White published a 3-volume index of the extant cohabitation records from across the state, and that is where I originally learned of the entry.  But, to actually see the record and be able to read it in it’s entirety is amazing!

It reads: “Before me, E.D. MacNair, Justice of the Peace for said county this 24th day of April AD 1866 appears Rufus Tannahill and Mariah Wimberly the said Rufus and Mariah having been lately slaves but now emancipating and acknowledge that they cohabitate together as man and wife and that such cohabitation commenced on the 11th day of Dec AD, 1859 given under my hand this day and year above written.” — E.D. MacNair (JP)

Rufus’ name in this record is Tannahill, but he would later change it to McNair. The Justice of the Peace is Edmund Duncan McNair Jr. and I suspect his father to have been Rufus’ slaveholder. This is a great record to have found indeed!  If you’re interested in searching for cohabitation records, they are part of the North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979 collection at FamilySearch.

45th Annual McNair Family Reunion

Each Memorial Day Weekend my maternal grandmother’s family comes together for the McNair Family Reunion in Plymouth, North Carolina.  This year, is the 45th year and I’m so pleased to be going again! My first time going was last year. Initially, I’d planned to do a whole series of blog posts about the trip, but that didn’t happen :-)

This year, I’m especially excited because the Reunion Committee has asked me to speak and share the family history! So, I’ve put together a handout to share with everyone and on Sunday morning I’ll give an overview of the family tree and information I’ve gathered in my research. As I was working on the handout, I created a graphic to illustrate the children of the couple from which we are all descendedRufus and Mariah (Wimberly) McNair

I’m sharing this picture on our Family Facebook group and am going to try and tag as many of the family as we can to the child that is their ancestor.

It’s going to be a great weekend and I am looking forward to seeing family again. Happy Memorial Day!

2nd Cousin Connection!

Yeah for 23andMe! Today I had a new connection – a 2nd cousin for Kalonji’s grandmother, Frances.  Frances passed away in August at 89 years old, so we are especially grateful for this new cousin.  Her match wrote back to me today and  told me who her grandmother was and I was quickly able to recognize her grandmother as a sister to Frances’ grandmother, Matilda McGhee Coleman.  The sister of mention here is Fannie, as shown below. 

In the 1880 census, Henry and Matilda were living in Talladega, Alabama with 5 daughters – Fannie, Alice, Matilda, Lou, and Saidee. At present, I have no family information for any of the girls except Matilda, as she is Kalonji’s direct ancestor, but I look forward to now learning more about Fannie. This is a lesson on how important it is to capture relatives of our direct ancestors, for had I not had Fannie in the database, it would have taken me longer to make the connection. 

1880 Talladega County, AL Census

The new cousin shared 3.5% of her DNA with Frances, so falls in line with 23andMe’s predicted relationships for that amount of shared DNA. And, since the connection is already confirmed via the paper trail, I will be able to label their shared DNA specifically to Henry and Martha. Anyone else who has a match at these locations can then be connected to them as well. I am so excited to have connected and am looking forward to learning more about her family!