William J. Koonce Sr. 1920 – 1976

My grandfather, William J.  Koonce Jr, pictured her with my grandmother Cora in the 1970’s, died 31 years ago on January 1, 1976. He died as a result of a car accident on the Major Deegan Expressway in NYC. I’d always known this growing up, and also always known that he had been drinking that night in celebration in New Year’s Eve, but because he always went to work to provide for his family, he then decided to drive himself to work early on the morning of the 1st. Bad decision.

Around 1997, I was talking family history with my grandmother and she gave me a folder of documents that she had. In them, was a hearing transcript “In the Matter of Edmond Alston -and- William Koonce (Dec’d).” Case No. 6-100016 in the State of New York Department of Motor Vehicles. This transcript was of the hearing held against the driver of the other car that my grandfather collided with to determine if there was any cause to revoke his license (which did not happen). What is so important to me about this document however is that Mr. Alston was the only eyewitness to the accident as it was his car that my grandfather hit, and describes it in detail. In the transcript, after he describes the accident, are these words:

  • Q: Did you have any conversation afterward with the other driver?
  • A: Conversation, no, he was unconscious at the time.
  • Q: Was he alone in the vehicle?
  • A: Yes. And they pronounced him, before they took him away, they pronounced him dead or deceased.

When I first read these words, I cried. Here in words in front of me was a description recounting the almost exact moments when my grandfather died. It still brings tears to my eyes now to read it, but I feel fortunate to have it.  My grandfather’s last words to my father was that my father better always treat me right and take care of me as he should. Or, my he (my grandfather) was going to come back from the grave and get him.  :-).   I was only six months old at the time.

I write this post because I have finally gotten around to scanning the transcript as a PDF, adding it to my online files, and filing it away in my print files.  Had my grandmother not had this to give to me, I can’t imagine that I would have ever located it on my own now as I work on the family tree.

Updated Blog Theme

Finally, a blog theme that I like! Since I moved over to WordPress, I have not been all that happy with many of the themes they provide for you to select from for a blog, but I finally took some time this morning to figure out how to customize elements. So, I chose one of my favorite layouts and made some modifications.

I also replaced the image in the banner with some images from the NC PostCard Collection. Given that my roots are in NC, I thought the images appropriate :-) In the banner image from L to R are images of Queen Street in Kinston, Lenoir County, NC; of A&T School in Greensboro; and of the Plymouth, Washington County, NC courthouse.

Rev. Kemp Plummer Battle

One day in December while searching a database I have access to through my job, I came across the following newspaper article from the Chicago Defender. I was doing a search for Dred Wimberly, a black Senator from NC that I suspect is a brother to one of my 3rd great-grandmothers, and this article came up. It came up b/c the Rev. Kemp Plummer Battle was married to one of Dred’s daughters, Annie.

Now, the interesting aspect of this is the Reverend’s name. He’s black. Dred himself was a slave on the Battle Plantation (see previous posts) and it was the WHITE Kemp Plummer Battle that suggested he run for office. The white Kemp Battle was former slavewoner of Dred, and is a former president of my alma mater, the University of NC @ Chapel Hill and Dred was a slave on his family’s plantation. I found it striking that Dred’s daughter would have married a black Kemp Plummer Battle!

Perhaps the Rev. was named after the white Kemp; perhaps the Rev.’s ancestors were too slaves of the Battle plantation. I’ll have to dig deeper and explore this further.

A Graphical Representation

I just spent some time researching some of the white Koonce lineages I’m tracking for possible slaveholder relationships. Tonight, I found maps in Wikipedia of Lenoir, Craven and Jones counties of North Carolina and merged the three together. This helps me have a better visual for determining locations. Locations are important to me as I try and narrow down a possible Koonce slaveowner.

My Koonce ancestors are from the Dover area (Township 3) and Township 9 area of Craven County. In the 1860 slave census, there are only a handful of white Koonce slaveowners and the closest ones are JCB Koonce, Amos Koonce, Calvin Koonce and John S. Koonce — they owned plenty of slaves and were from the Beaver Creek area of Jones County. As you can see on the map, the areas are quite close. So, this was the impetus for me following these particular Koonce’s more closely.

This map will also help me in my indexing project of an area newspaper, the Kinston Free Press. I’m going to love this!

My DNA quest begins!

I have previously posted about my husband’s McClellan ancestry and how I wish to do DNA tests to see if there is any match with the white McClellans.  To this end, today, I finally ordered the DNA kit from FamilyTree DNA and the kit will be shipped by week’s end! I’m so excited. To test the proper male descendancy, we are going to test a cousin of my husband’s. I chose the Y25 marker test as a starter. It wasn’t too expensive (especially with the surname group discounts/coupons) and I figured it was a good starting point for the number of generations I’m looking at.  I’ll post more as my experience continues. Now, I need to really do some bona fide DNA genealogy testing research!

New for 2008 – My Genealogy Activities Synopsis

In the spirit of The Geneaholic, I’ve decided to keep a short list of my genealogy activities. Sometimes, the fruits of my work end up posted to the blog, but more often than not, I’ll find that I spend time working on something and not post about it. Also, I think it would be helpful for me to have a month-by-month breakdown of what I’ve worked on genealogically, in addition to my more in-depth blog posts. So, in that vein, I’m starting a series of posts title Genealogy Activities Synopsis.

New Books!

I’ve got some new books over the past few days to add to my genealogy/history library. As my interest in genealogy has given me a new zeal for history information in general, I love to look for historical books. We are visiting my parents in Greensboro, NC and since I did live here for years growing up as a child, I’m going to also start reading to familiarize myself with some of the history of Greensboro. My new books include:

Time to schedule myself?

The past few days I have been occupying my time by working on several of my genealogy projects. Most notably, I continued to work on the Merry genealogy and then I’ve also added some content to my blog I keep for a newspaper of Plymouth, Washington County, NC. In light of this, I think I may have to brainstorm about how to rotate my time among all my projects so that I “touch” them more frequently and more systematically. Let me start by making a list…

Genealogies

  • My own genealogy
  • Kalonji’s genealogy
  • Waddell genealogy
  • Walden genealogy
  • Clancy genealogy
  • Lee genealogy
  • Walker genealogy
  • Fry (white) genealogy
  • McClellan (white) genealogy
  • Orick genealogy
  • Davis genealogy
  • Roberson genealogy
  • WF’s genealogy
  • MacNair (white) genealogy
  • Wimberly (white) genealogy
  • Koonce (white) genealogy
  • My stepmother’s tree

Projects

  • Blount County TNGenWeb site
  • Roanoke Beacon Index/Blog
  • Kinston Free Press Index/Blog – of Lenoir County, NC
  • Talladega Daily Mountain Home Blog – of Talladega, Alabama
  • Nashville Black History & Genealogy Blog

Now that I list it out like this, it doesn’t seem to bad… however, I feel that some of my projects get neglected. So, here’s to me being more conscience and planning out my time distribution a little more evenly. :-)

This must be the week of the Merrys!

This must really be the week of the Merrys because I had another great find today!  I received a notice in my email today that the Nashville Public Library posted an online index to a listing of more than 19,000 names of people buried in the Old Nashville Cemetery. The listings are drawn from a series of internment books held by the Metro Nashville Archives, 1846-1949. So, I decide to take a look and guess what I find – more Merrys.

It is difficult to be precisely sure of all the exact relationships, but I think it lists another four children of Nelson & his wife Mary, in addition to his mother.  Also, there are some other Merrys that I think may be related as they are buried in Nelson’s plot. I am confused though on precise locations, because, I have been to Nelson’s grave and it is not in the Old Cemetery, but it is listed in this database. I may have to call the Metro Archives or go see the books in person to understand more about locations.  Mt. Ararat, where Nelson is buried, does have an affiliation with the City Cemetery, but I think there is an issue with naming.  But to summarize who is listed in this database…

  • Clancy Cousins – died at age 18, 11 Mar 1850. States that she is free colored female, and sister of Nelson Merry, who is also noted as free. Her cause of death was Fever. It is correct that Nelson was free.
  • Merry, infant boy – died 14 Jan 1851. States that he is the son on “N. Merry” and died of Croope. Now, this could be either Nelson’s son, or a son of his brother, Napoleon.
  • Merry, infant girl – died 6 Oct 1854. States that she is the “daughter of Nelson Merry” who is a free colored man.
  • Merry, infant boy – died 12 Jan 1857. States that he is the son of “Ann Merry” who is a free colored woman. This may or may not be Nelson’s son. His wife Mary’s middle name was Ann, so it could be that her middle name was used in this instance, or the infant’s mother could be a different person all together.
  • Merry, Mrs. Sidney – died 26 Jun 1873. The only note on this one is box paid on Nelson Merry’s lot. This is Nelson’s mother!  From census records, I know that Sidney lived with Nelson in 1870, but she was no longer there in 1880. In the 1870 census, she is listed as being 80 years old, but in the 1850 census she is also listed as being 80. So, given the 1850 census date, I had already estimated her year of birth to be about 1770. This cemetery listing matches that and if she died in 1873, that would make her just around 100 years old! I can’t wait to go search for an obituary.

Now, these dates may be actually burial dates and not dates of death – I need to check that in the source books. But, in addition to these whom I think the relationship is clear, there are others:

  • Two infant children of a Jas. Hoss (or Sloss) that are on the lot paid by “N. Merry”
  • A 100 year old woman named Angeline Thomas that is on the lot paid by “N. Merry.” Her date is 24 Jan 1872.
  • A 29 year old man named William King who is listed with Sidney Merry and is also in “box paid by Nelson G. Merry”
  • An infant boy listed as the son of George Merry, who is listed as free colored man.
  • An infant boy listed as the son of a Francis Merry
  • Merry, Mary – died in 1855. The listing just says “Nelson Merry’s lot.”  She was 10 years old. I’m not sure who she is because in 1850, Nelson & Mary are only listed with one child, John Wesley Merry.

All of this gives me reason to really go back and research other Merrys in I can find them. How intriguing!  Now, the fun is not over. I decided to visit the website of the city cemetery and was happy to see that they are very involved in genealogical causes. They have posted a list of people buried in the cemetery whose descendants have contacted the cemetery, and they have a volunteer looking up obituaries of people buried there and they are providing links to those obits. Very progressive! If only more cemeteries would do this!