Author Archive: Taneya Koonce
In my last post about my uncle’s wedding, towards the end I mentioned that his wife’s uncle, Moses Wright was part of a very tragic event. That event was the abduction of Emmett Till.
Emmett Till, which if you are not aware of the history you can read the details on Wikipedia, was taken from the home of Moses and his family. Moses was Emmett’s great-uncle and from what I have been able to tell so far in my research, most likely the nephew of Moses’ wife. I will need to go back to my family to clarify exactly how.
I first learned of this a couple of years ago as I began to get more into the family genealogy. My great-uncle’s daughter shared this with me. A few months ago, Kalonji & I watched the documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Till, which was an extremely heartwrenching story to watch. The strength that Emmett’s mother had to persevere through such a hardship is amazing to me.
Moses died in 1966, just four years after giving my great-aunt away at the wedding. This picture was one I took of a picture she had of him when I was in Chicago last weekend. A couple of Moses’ sons were at my great-uncle’s funeral last weekend – including those that had been in the room with Emmett when Bryant & Milam came to take him away. Moses faced a tough situation as a black man testifying against two white men in deep south Mississippi in 1955 and for it he had to leave Mississippi for Chicago. I cannot imagine what life must have been like for the whole family during this horrific ordeal. My familial connection with Moses, with Emmett, certainly makes history a living, breathing entity.
I’m back from my very quick trip to Chicago, but it was a very worthwhile trip. On my last post, I blogged about the death of my great-uncle. Fred was my maternal grandmother’s youngest and last surviving brother. On Saturday, I was able to spend some time with the family whom I’d never met. It was great. I learned more about his life things he had accomplished. For example, I did not know that he was an electrician by trade and the reason he moved to Chicago in the first place was b/c of a trade school he attended there. It was in Chicago that he met his wife and they have lived there ever since – some 46 years.
His wife, Priscilla, is my kind of person – she had tons of pictures! It was cool going through them and really getting to know some of the history of the family through the pictures. I took pictures of some of them, namely, their wedding pictures. What struck me most about looking through the family pictures is how different Fred looked at different stages in his life – really looking like a completely different person!
Here they are from one of the wedding pictures.
And, here is Priscilla going down the aisle. She was given away by her uncle, Moses Wright.
It was a very enjoyable experience. I really look forward to visiting with them again.
Now, Priscilla’s uncle, Moses, is affiliated with a very tragic event in the past. More on that in the next post.
On Monday, May 12th, my maternal grandmother’s youngest brother, Fred Louis McNair passed away. This is a picture of him from the 70s I believe, though it could be from the 80s.
Fred was born in January 1934 to Abraham Lincoln McNair Sr. and Martha “Mattie” Jane Walker.
Just like my grandmother, there is some discrepancy of his birth day. According to his daughter, he used to celebrate his birthday on January 18th, but changed it to the celebrating it on January 22nd like his birth certificate said. He has two birthdays! 🙂
I never knew Fred, but in the course of doing the family tree, have corresponded regularly with his daughter. Fred was a preacher at a church in Chicago and my mother has all kinds of stories about him. He was very much like my grandmother in approach to living – very straightforward and proper 🙂
His funeral is being held tomorrow in Chicago. Coincidentally enough, I am flying into Chicago tomorrow for a business trip, so while I will not be able to attend the funeral, I will get to spend some time with the family tomorrow evening.
My grandmother is now the last of the set of kids. She grew up with four brothers, Curtis who died in 1997, Lorenza who died in 2005, Abraham Jr. who died in 2006 and now Fred. Her parents did have five other children that all died as infants/toddlers. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s and does not know that she has no more siblings alive. She knows of Curtis’ death since that happened before the Alzheimer’s, but not of the others. We are hoping to keep it that way.
Rest in peace uncle Fred.
Since I first learned about FootNote a couple of years ago, I have been excited about the possibility of the site’s Genealogy 2.0 potential. However, I have found that for me personally, it has not been as useful as it ideally could be. Perhaps this is due to my lack of understanding the structure and content of the types of records they provide? Admittedly, I’m not very familiar with the NARA resources and some of the others they’ve added and I have not yet found much in the site that have provided a beneficial return on investment of my time and my money. However, that may soon change.
A recent blog post from Eastman about FootNote’s latest collection has intrigued me. He posted their announcement of an interactive 1860 census. Knowing the capabilities FootNote offers, I had to go look right away. This may be the point that gets me subscribing to FootNote’s content! Why? Because by adding census records, this may address a feature I only wish was available in Ancestry.
Consider this – wouldn’t it be cool to know what other researchers/family members may be associated with a specific person /familyin the census? You could look at the census record and see who had established themselves in some way to be “connected” with that particular family? From my limited experience thus far, there are a couple of ways that I know this can be done:
- Ancestry — allows you to add comments to a particular person’s index entry for the census. However, when there are comments, it seems the only way to know this is to click on the “Comments and Corrections” link and then see if there is a link to “View Comments.” Thus, you do not know before you take action, if there is indeed a comment on a particular person’s record. Then, from there you can connect to the person that made the comment, and see their profile, but I find the ways to connect to be a bit removed from the overall interface of the site. Also, comments are not displayed right away when you make them.
- Lost Cousins — allows you to indicate that person in the census is your ancestor. From my few trial runs of the site, I am rather put off by the fact that you have to go over to use the FamilySearch site to get the person’s info and then come back to Lost Cousins. This is too cumbersome for me personally. Then, when it’s time for me to mark my connection to that person in the census, you have to specify a specific relationship. Well, what if you are not related? What if you are just researching this person, have information about them, and others could benefit from knowing that? Their new features for Upstairs/Downstairs, and Neighbors offers some expansion, but I’m still not convinced.
So, I’ve just spent some time playing around in Footnote and like what I see so far. While not all of the 1860 census is there, I was able to play around with the site some and I like what I see so far.
- I can browse to specific locations to find the person of interest, then I can contribute to the record once I find them – add images, notes, details, etc. Can also search by name. This is much better than having to input specific microfilm information like Lost Cousins requires.
- I can connect to the person who made the comment, and the connection process is more integrated than at Ancestry.
- Anything added to a record is easily displayed on the right side of the screen, so you know right away whether people have touched this record and made contributions
- When I do add contributions, I get featured briefly on the front page as a recent contributor
- cannot do annotations at this point – it looks like FootNote does not yet have these turned on
- cannot attach a note to a family cluster -that would be cool
- user profiles do not have as many fields as Ancestry – but, it is easy to see the history of that person’s contributions and the images, etc. they have
- Would be even cooler to have feeds to track favorite users so you can keep an eye on what they are doing – think Facebook!
I will continue to play around with the site and see what I find. So much more transparent for this sort of activity than other sites I’m familiar with. But, perhaps I am missing other key resources. If you think I am, please let me know! Hmm.. I’ve just found something suitable for my Black Nashville History & Genealogy Blog. Will update again later! Here’s a link to my FootNote profile.
Update: I found something very moving on FootNote. You can read it here.
Over the past several days, I’ve not been online quite as much to work on genealogy. My sister graduated college this weekend from the University of Florida (see my main blog), so that obviously kept me offline. 🙂 In addition, I began a course on research ethics and now I’ve got plenty of reading to keep me busy at night for the next month. But, I sneak in a little genealogy here and there.
I have just sent off an article that will be published in a Alabama genealogy newsletter. More details to come once that is published. I’m quite excited about it! Then, last week I received an email from Nita, one of my original blogging inspirations, about her Koonce ancestry. She has an offhand feeling she may have connections to North Carolina where my Koonce’s are from, so we will see what happens there. It would be so cool to have another connection with a geneablogger as I do with Jennifer.
Last night, I had about 45 minutes to play around with a new Ancestry database. I read over on Craig’s blog about the Tennessee State Marriages, 1765-2002 database. I was glad to see this for two reasons:
- one of the genealogies I work on is that of a friend of mine who has deep roots in east Tennessee. I found many marriage certificate/bonds for people on her tree, including her parent’s marriage certificate. That was cool. Also, by the information on the marriage detail, I was able to find the maiden name of one of her 2nd great-grandmothers, a Cordelia Fellers who married Henry V. Bolinger on January 18, 1898 in Campbell County, TN. Then, by working through census records, I was able to find her grandfather even and I think I have a suspicion of his father! Ooh the joy!
- as county coordinator for Blount County, TN, I can now add this to marriage information resources.
Interestingly enough, Kalonji and I were married here in Davidson County in 2001 but we are not in the database. The Davidson county records only go up to 1860 consistently, then after that, coverage is very sporadic. Would have been cool to see me in there…
One of the family trees I occasionally work on is that of my stepmother’s. Her family has a family reunion every two years and at the last reunion, I talked at length with a cousin of hers who also has a strong interest in the family tree. After the reunion, I also began helping him with the side of his tree that is not related to my stepmother (his maternal tree) and have been emailing him back and forth for a few months. Back in Feburary, he emailed me with a question.
So far, on his maternal line, one of the branches he has goes back to a Charles & Ellen McRae Townsend. Both born around 1845, they were former slaves in the Richmond County, NC area. Charles & Ellen had 4 children that we know of – Jennie, Adam, Mary & Tillman. Adam is said cousin’s (we will call him W) grandfather. A few months ago, W informed me that his aunt had told him that through one of Adam’s sisters, they were related to James McBride, author of the book, The Color of Water: a Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother. I was somewhat familiar with this book too – when I was in college, shortly after it came out, I worked at the reserve desk at my campus library and I remember this book being on reserve for one of the courses. I’ve never read it though.
So, W’s question to me was to see if I could help trace the connection. In the book apparently, the author’s paternal ancestry is stated back to his paternal grandmother, Etta McBride. She and husband Nash had one son, Andrew Dennis McBride, who is James’ father.
Adam Townsend as stated earlier had two sisters, Jennie & Mary. Up to this point, I had Jennie identified in the 1870, 1880, and 1900 census. None of her children were named Etta according to the enumeration. But, I had no data for sister Mary, so we thought she may have been Etta’s mother. After some searching, I was able to find out when Etta died – she died 2 Jan 1962 in Guilford County, North Carolina. Fortunately, NC vital records are considered public records, so I was able to order an uncertified copy for $1. That certificate arrived yesterday and you know who her mother was? Jennie Townsend!
This puzzled me because as mentioned earlier, Jennie’s children’s names in the 1910 census did not show an Etta (who would have been 15), but upon re-examination, the oldest child shown in the census is a 15 year old girl, but the name is very hard to discern and I had written it as Dollie. Given what I learned, I figured this Dollie had to be Etta. So, for now, that is who we will say it is. The search for more documentation about Etta is still ongoing. I would love next to search for an obituary. But at least now we know that James McBride is indeed part of his family tree!
The descendants of Charles Townsend as I currently have it is available here.
The oldest obituary that I have in my files is for one of my 2nd great-grandfathers, Randolph Kilpatrick. He lived from 1885 – 1966. The obituary was given to me by my grandmother many years ago. I’d always marveled over the fact that she had manged to hold onto the obituary for so many years – she was about 34 years old when he died.
Tonight, I learned that he may have been a founding member of the church that my family is associated with – Alum Springs Church of Christ in Craven County, North Carolina. I learned this from a picture that a lady who lives in the area took from a visit to the church to take pictures for me at the cemetery. His name is listed on the name plate! I also see that the church was established in 1950. This is also helpful as I can now look for any newspaper accounts of the beginnings of the church.
There is also an Eddie Cox listed that I think may be the nephew of my 2nd great-grandmother, Cora Cox Lawhorn. I’ll have to check on that. Some of the other surnames on the list are recognizable from the area family names.
I am grateful for people that contribute to FindAGrave! This same lady who took this pictures and others in the cemetery, also took pictures at the cemetery where most of my Koonce ancestors are buried – Mitchell Cemetery.
Update: I realized that many of the tombstones in the church graveyard are much older than 1950. Is it possible that the current building is not the original? Or, perhaps the church was built after the graveyard? I need to find out!
Cold calls. Can be stimulating & nerve-wrecking at the same time. This is what I spent time on Saturday doing as I was in search for information about my Lennon ancestry.
In my last post, I shared how I had been contacted by a woman researching the family of a Rufus McNair and how I was trying to link him to my family ancestor, Rufus McNair. Inspired by her recounting of making cold phone calls to some of my McNair relatives, I thought I should again pursue my Lennon ancestry. In search of information, I called five Lennons that I think are my distant cousins. While I did not get any answers to what I was looking for, they were able to provide me with some details that I can further research as I look for clues. We will continue to stay in contact and this week I’ll be sending all of them some of the data I’ve collected on their/our ancestry.
So, what was I seeking? Well, one of my not so strong connections in my Lennon line has been trying to determine who Lucinda’s maternal grandparents are. Lucinda was my great-grandmother. Unfortunately, all seven of her kids have died we have no one in the family left who knows anything about her ancestors.
When I started the tree, I did not know who her parents were. I was able to ascertain that:
- Her death certificate lists an Etta Lennon & a John Lennon. Lucinda was born in Abbotsburg, Bladen County, North Carolina around 1887.
- Her SSA lists a Louis Lennon & a Mary Lennon.
- Searching the 1900 census for her I was finally able to locate only on Lucinda of right age in Columbus or Bladen county. This Lucinda is indicated as being born in Oct 1887 and lives only a few households away from her soon-to-be husband, Lewis Robinson. The census record lists her mother as Ann J. Lennon.
While there is a discrepancy between the SSA application information and her death certificate information, I truly feel that I have the right Lucinda in 1900. Hmm.. you may be thinking, “but her mom’s name was Ann J.” in the census record? Apparently, Lucinda’s mom went by several variations on a name. While I have not seen it written out as whole like this, I think her full name may have been Annette and she would sometimes go by Ann, Annie or Etta.
Now on to verifying who Ann J. was? Ann J. would have been born around 1862.
- The cohabitation records of Columbus County, TN have a listing for the marriage of a John Lennon & and Annie J. Lennon. I could find no marriage info for a Louis & Mary Lennon. According to the marriage register, Annie J.’s parents were Council & Abi Lennon. John and Annie J. were married in 1882, thus if this were my Etta, she would have been about 20 years old.
- In 1910, I find her enumerated as Etta and she has married a man named Isaac Robinson. From the census record alone, I was fairly certain this Etta was the same as the mother, Ann. J of Lucinda in 1900. Really because two sons, John A. Lennon and John H. Lennon that were exactly the right age older than the two sons John Lucinda has as brothers in 1900. Interestingly enough, Lucinda would name a son John and a son Isaac.
- The marriage record of Etta Lennon and Isaac Robinson indicates that her father was Counsel Lennon who was still alive and her mother (no name given) was deceased. Hmm.. same name for father as found in her first marriage record.
Very compelling evidence here that the Ann. J of 1900 is the same as the Etta of 1910. Both have the same name listed for father, Council Lennon. Who is this Council Lennon?
Since I had information that her parents were Council & Abigail, I go off to look for them. Lo and behold, I find them!
- In 1870, Council and Abigail are married with four children. Only one is a girl and she is a nine-year old girl named “Aetta” – right age to be my Etta!
- In 1880, Council & Abigail have seven kids with them now and the girl who had been enumerated as “Aetta” before, is now enumerated as Ann E. J. So, this tells me she had variations on her name.
- I find Council in 1900 living with a new wife now and a younger set of kids and in 1910 he is living with a son. This means that he was indeed alive in 1905 when his daughter Etta remarried and that indeed his first wife (Etta’s mother), was no longer around. This matches the info on Etta’s 2nd marriage certificate.
So, with all these clues, I am certain that Lucinda’s mom is indeed the daughter of said Council & Abigail Lennon. Now, the thing is, Counsel had 13 other kids.
The first descendants I spoke to are descendants of Council’s youngest child, William Dewey Lennon. One was his daughter, and the other was one of his grandsons. I also spoke to the ex-wife of one of another of William Dewey Lennon’s grandsons. The other two descendants that I spoke with were grandsons of Council’s son Grant Lennon (a whole brother to Lucinda). They were all pleasant to talk to, were glad that I had contacted them , and were looking forward to getting some information from me this week. I should learn not to be so nervous – this could potentially unlock some important clues!
Tonight was an interesting night. I received an email yesterday through Ancestry from someone seeking more information about my 3rd great-grandfather, Rufus Tannahill McNair. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with her and she has a collateral relative that married a Rufus McNair and is trying to figure out who her Rufus McNair may be. I think I may have some ideas and in researching with her tonight I’ve been looking more closely at my McNair roots.
In the 1880 census for Lees Mills, Washington County, North Carolina, there is the following household :
Harvey, Tamer – age 53, B, F, widowed
McNair, Rufus – age 21, B, M, son
McNair, Jane – age 21, B, F, daughter
The family lives next door to the following household :
Thorp, Tom – age 20, black male
Thorp, Adeline – age 20, black female, wife
McNair, Christopher – age 21, black male, brother
Jane, wife of Rufus, was born Jane Harvey and Tamer is her mother. The lady I spoke to (we’ll call her G) knows this for certainty. So, her dilemma is trying to figure out who this Rufus is and she found my family information in her searches.
Prior to hearing from her, I had seen this Rufus & Jane as I reviewed census records but was not able to connect him to my family tree. My Rufus Tannahill McNair did have a son named Rufus, but my Rufus Jr. was too young to be this married Rufus. Besides, I can account for my Rufus and his family in 1880 – they were living in neighboring Edgcombe County. Intrigued, I then began looking for her Rufus in 1870.
As I’ve been working on my McNair line for a couple of years now, I know that the McNairAfrican-American name came from the white slaveholding MacNair family in Edgecombe County. The only Rufus McNairs (or variations thereof) that I could locate in 1870 were in Edgecombe County. There were 4 of them and two of them are “mine” that I just mentioned. So, that leaves two to look at:
#1 – this Rufus McNair is 12 years old in 1870, thus about the right age, and is a servant in the household of the white Colin McNair, brother to the man I’m targeting as possible slaveholder of my Rufus Tannahill McNair. Interestingly enough, five households away from Colin is a 52 year-old black man named Anthony McNair married to Penny, with three kids – Isabella, Jane and Luke. 
#2 – this 12 year old Rufus McNair is the son of a 38 year-old black man named Christopher McNair. Christopher is married to a woman named Isabella and in addition to Rufus has kids Flora, Joseph, Sophy Ann & Martha. Next to Christopher is a 53 year-old black man named David McNair married to a woman named Martha.
So, of these two, which one is G’s Rufus? Of course, it could be the case that neither one of them is, but I believe that one of them is and furthermore, I have a suspicion it is #2. This is why I think this:
- the father of Rufus #2 is only 8 years younger than my Rufus Tannahill McNair and is thus a good candidate to be related, possibly a brother? Could of course be just another former slave that took on the same surname, but keep reading.
- My Rufus Tannahill McNair had a son named Christopher as I just mentioned. He also had a daughter named Sophie. Rufus #2 had a father named Christopher and a sister named Sophy. names reappearing!
- Rufus #2 lives next door to a David who is 8 years older than my Rufus Tannahill McNair. Well, Rufus Tannahill McNair also had a son named David. Could David be another brother? David’s wife’s name is Martha and Christopher has a daughter named Martha. Given the proximity to similar aged Christopher, I bet he and Christopher are brothers and given the name similarities between Christopher and my Rufus Tannahill, I am beginning to think this is the case — the three could be brothers – Rufus, Christopher & David
- In 1880 G’s Rufus lives next door to a Christopher McNair that is the exact same age as the Christopher that I know to the be the son of my Rufus Tannahill McNair. In fact, I already had attached this census record to my tree at least a year ago. Can’t be certain, but he was the only Christopher McNair in the area that was even close to being a possibility.
- Father of #2 in 1880 lives two households away from Dred Wimberly, whom I believe to be my Rufus Tannahill McNair’s brother-in-law.
- In 1900, Rufus #2’s family were living over in Lees Mills where Rufus had been at in 1880.
- When Jane & Rufus were married in 1880, their witnesses included a Christopher McNair. Can’t say for sure if this is the possible father Christopher or the possible cousin Christopher? But the fact that Rufus #2 was associated with a Christopher puts more likelihood in him for me.
The next step from here is to begin researching the descendants of Rufus & Jane as we can track them. G did speak to some McNairs in the Plymouth area (including some of my relatives!) but did not get much new info, other than being told there are at least two McNair families running through that area that as far as they know, are not related. Is that true? It seems that there is a possibility. That Anthony McNair is still unsure to me, so maybe he is a different family? There is also a Wiley McNair running around that I am not sure of either. Maybe time will help us connect the dots.
 1880; Census Place: Lees Mills, Washington, North Carolina; Roll: T9_986; Family History Film: 1254986; Page: 244.2000; Enumeration District: 136; Image: 0063. [Link to Ancestry image]
 1870; Census Place: Tarboro, Edgecombe, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1136; Page: 216; Image: 433. [Link to Ancestry image]
 1870; Census Place: Tarboro, Edgecombe, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1136; Page: 219; Image: 438. [Link to Ancestry image].