Author Archive: Taneya Koonce

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!

NYPL Digital Images

In my blog reading this evening, I re-read a post describing the New York Public Library’s Digital Images database. Wonderful site! I just did a few random searches and located some cool pictures.This is a picture of Dr. Robert F. Boyd. In a visit to a cemetery in the area a few months ago, I’d taken a picture of his tombstone and recognized the name from some of my Nashville Globe newspaper reading. In finding this photo however, I am just now realizing that he was a professor at Meharry Medical College. This is a very nice picture of him and was published in the book

Gibson, J. W., and W. H. Crogman. Progress of a Race; Or, The Remarkable Advancement of the American Negro; from the Bondage of Slavery, Ignorance, and Poverty, to the Freedom of Citizenship, Intelligence, Affluence, Honor, and Trust. Miami, Fla: Mnemosyne Pub. Inc, 1969.

Dr. R. F. Boyd, Professor in M... Digital ID: 1223159. New York Public Library

Even cooler however, is that I found this photo of Mrs. Rev. Nelson G. Merry, the first black preacher in the state of Tennessee. I was ecstatic to find this!! I have been researching the Merry family for a friend who is a descendant of Nelson’s brother, Liverpool Napoleon Merry. And, the above-mentioned visit to the cemetery was because I wanted to search for her husband’s grave! My other blog posts about the Merrys can be found here.

From my own personal research, I know that she was born Mary Ann Jones and she was born abt. 12 Jan 1828 to Edmond Jones in Kentucky. She and her husband likely married around 1850 when they first appear in census records together as a 25 year old and 23 year old couple. Though I have not found her in all census’ that she would have lived through, I do know that she and her husband had at least 7 children. Her 77th birthday notice was published in the Nashville Globe 18 Jan 1907.

The wife of the Rev. N. G. Mer... Digital ID: 1232639. New York Public Library

Her picture was published in the book — Buck, D. D. The Progression of the Race in the United States and Canada Treating of the Great Advancement of the Colored Race. Chicago: Atwell Printing and Binding Co, 1907.

Amazing. I can’t wait to see what else I uncover!

Browning Genealogy Database

Today on her blog, Arlene posted a nice review of the Browning Genealogy Database provided through the Evansville Public Library. I was very happy to see this as this database has been one of my best resources! Kalonji’s family is from Evansville, and when I discovered it last year, I had so much fun looking up his family members.

Between the death information and the local history information, I was able to locate so many news items on his family and extended family members. Including, this picture of his mom’s high school graduation picture from Central High School in 1963. The information from the paper tells us that she was in the Future Nurses club, a member of Y-Teens and on the Student Council. Kitty does in fact have the real picture that is represented in the paper, but I did not know of her club memberships until finding this card in the Browning Database.

This database is amazing and I cannot speak well enough about it.

New Membership to WorldVitalRecords.com

Whippee!! I went to WorldVitalRecords today to remind myself how much the membership was and noticed that they had an option that I did not remember seeing before – a monthly payment option – only $5.95/month. I am ecstatic! I’ve had my eye on WVR for a few months and have been wanting to subscribe, but did not want to shell out the whole fee at once. So, I’m quite happy they now offer this and I just signed up! I’ll post any interesting finds I come across.

McClellans of Alabama & Arkansas

Over the past several weeks I’ve been in touch with the coordinator of the McClellan Family Tree DNA Project about our interest in testing some of Kalonji’s DNA lineage. During the course of our exchanges, I learned that he had the McClellan’s of Alabama and Arkansas book done by Bobbie Jones McLane, who is a great-grandchild of William Blount McClellan.

This book is absolutely wonderful! It is full of the research she compiled from family documents, records, etc. and I can’t wait to really delve into it.  She put it together in 1962. On the front cover is a picture of the Idlewilde Plantation in Talladega. I still need to find out where this was located. So.. I’ve got enough McClellan information to keep me  busy for the next year!

In Memorium: Cora Cox Lawhorn

Cora Cox Lawhorn, my great-great grandmother was born approximately March 3, 1876 and died November 23, 1949. As yesterday was the anniversary of her death, I thought I would write a post about her.

I do not know any personal details about Cora in regards to her personality, however, my paternal grandmother, and a first cousin of my grandmother’s, were both named after their grandmother Cora.

Cora was born in North Carolina, likely right in Craven County where she lived, to Robert and Amanda Cox. From census records, I know that she had at least 4 siblings – Moses, Robert Jr., Joseph, and Edward. Cora’s first husband was Samuel Becton Lawhorn whom I am guessing she married around May 28, 1899. Their marriage date is listed in the Lawhorn Family Bible as the last sunday in May of 1899 and that was the date of the last Sunday. Furthermore, this matches very closely to their number of years married in the 1910 census.

Cora and Samuel would have five children that I know of – Samuel Jr., Ida, William, Phelton and George. Family information states that Samuel sr. died around 1916 and in the 1920 census, Cora is in fact widowed. Living next door to her is a man named Will Morton, whom she would eventually go on to marry on December 24, 1924. Cora outlived two of her children (Sam Jr. & Phelton) and upon her death would have known about 13 or so of her grandchildren.

Cora is buried in the family church cemetery, Alum Springs Church, in Dover, Craven County, North Carolina.

As I write this post and review my records, I see that I have not yet located Cora & Sam in the 1900 census, so off I go to look for that.

ChicagoAncestors.org

I read on Eastman’s blog today that the Newberry Library announced a new website, ChicagoAncestors.org. I went to take a look and I am very excited by this new site!  Do I have any families I’m working on from Chicago? No. So, why am I so psyched?

The reason I like this site so much is because of the integration of a map with family history, genealogy and historical information. You can look at the map and see where relevant items are based on geographic location. I think this is excellent! While not all sources would lend themselves to such discreet mapping (i.e. specific street location), I think this idea has great potential. If you haven’t taken a look at the site, I highly suggest it.

That’s what I get for going unprepared

I write this blog post from the Talladega College Library. This was not my intention. We came to Talladega this weekend to visit Kalonji’s grandmother and I thought, great! I can go to the public library when we get to town and do some genealogy research on the McClellans! However, upon getting to the library, I saw that they were closed for the holiday weekend. Should have known.

So, I came down the road to Talladega College, a historically black college here in town, and ventured into their library. Luckily, they are open and allow public visitors. Unfortunately, all of their Talladega specific history information is in the Archives, which is closed on the weekends.

So, I’m in the computer lab and since I have a couple of hours to kill, I will do some random genealogy tasks. I wish I had thought to double check, but oh well, at least I can get a few things accomplished over the internet. Change of plans — the cemetery where some of the white McClellans are buried is only about a mile away. I am going to go walk the cemetery. Perhaps I can get some pictures of tombstones that may not already be online and potentially help someone out.

Update @ 10pm — This afternoon turned out well after all! I made my way to the cemetery. Oak Hill Cemetery, in Talladega, Alabama is a HUGE cemetery! I asked a couple of people where I may find out who had a burial plot location and of course being a Saturday, City Hall was not open. I even tried a local funeral home, but could find no one present. So, I decided to park near the section of the cemetery that looked like the oldest part and walk around.

After walking around for about 30 minutes, I found most of the graves I was looking for – the Willam Blount McClellan family section and the Plowman family section. Go back to a few of my recent posts and you’ll see who William Blount McClellan is and why I’m interested in him. Since my digital camera is currently out of commission (a little three year old I know inserted something into the slot where the memory card goes and thus I cannot put a memory card in it) so I bought a few throwaway cameras and had the pictures developed on CD. They came out for the most part okay, but there were some where I was not close enough to the tombstone to read the transcription in the photo.

Here is a picture of the McClellan family plot. Buried here are William Blount McClellan, his wife Martha T. Roby McClellan, sons Francis McClellan and W.W. McClellan, and a few others – maybe 2 infant graves, and then 2 other tombstones that I can’t remember and can’t make out in my pictures. I’m definitely going back with my digital camera next time we are here.

This is the family plot of Thomas Scales Plowman. His wife was a daughter of William Blount McClellan, Magnolia Vinton McClellan. Thomas was a congressman.

And, there were so many interesting headstones, like this one in the McMillan plot.

And, I took some other random photos, so I’ll be uploading images to FindaGrave pretty soon.

Can Kalonji get his Sons of Confederacy Membership? Maybe DNA can help!

I’ve never participated in a Carnival of Genealogy before, but I could not pass up the topic of this next round because it was extremely apropos.

The question: Do you have a family mystery that might be solved by DNA

The answer: yes, i think so! but, I’m not sure. I have some theories to test.

My husband want his Sons of the Confederacy membership. He is a McClellan from Talladega, Alabama. Here are the facts:

The Black McClellans

  • There is an oral history that his black McClellan family bears resemblance to the white McClellan families in the area. I need to double-check this with his paternal grandmother Frances, but that is what he tells me.
  • His great-grandfather is named Champ McClellan and was born about 1887 or so in Talladega, Alabama. Champ is Frances’ father.
  • Champ’s mother’s name was Fannie McClellan. Though the 1930 census says she is widowed, her death certificate shows that her mother’s name was Rebecca McClellan. Fannie married later in life after having two children, but the last names of both her children, Champ and his brother, was also McClellan, so this leads me to believe she either married an unknown McClellan, or she had her children out of wed-lock.
  • Champ was very light-skinned and his death certificate does not list his father. Census records list him as mulatto. Mama Frances says he was “bright” and very near white. She said her older sisters, his first two children, were also very “bright.” She said he never talked about his father, but she too wondered if his father was white.
  • I cannot say CONCLUSIVELY that I’ve found Fannie in any census prior to 1900, but my best guess based on Champ’s age is that she was born somewhere around 1860-1865. Her death certificate when she passed in 1953 says she was 77, but that would make her only 11 years older than Champ (who’s age is more accounted for than hers).
  • I did find a Fanny McClellan in the 1870 census, mulatto, listed as being 25 years old, thus born around 1855. Her age is not quite on par with what I think is Champ’s mother age, but I can’t rule her out either.
  • I have not found a Rebecca McClellan that even looks like a close match to be Champ’s grandmother.  Update on 11/3 – see the last bullet point in the White McClellan’s section.

The White McClellans

  • The white McClellan family in the area are the family and descendants of General William Blount McClellan.
  • General McClellan was a large slaveholder – in 1860 he had 15 slave houses and real estate value of $15,000.
  • General McClellan served during the Civil War and was a Confederate soldier.
  • General William Blount McClellan had sixteen children, including a son named Augustus R. McClellan, born in 1842, did in 1875.
  • Augustus R. McClellan lives next to the above mentioned Fanny from the 1870 census – she lives right next door.
  • Augusts McClellan’s census record for 1870 shows a 2 year old son named Champness (thus born about 1868). I have so far found no further information about Champness McClellan.
  • With the assistance of a lady whose husband is also a McClellan descendant, she pointed me towards this 1880 census of the General William B. McClellan household in which there is a 45 year old black woman named Rebecca with a 14 year old daughter named  Fanny. Also, in the house is an 8 year old black boy named Chap (could be a mistake for Champ).  Could this be Kalonji’s Fanny & Rebecca? Is that Chap a brother of Fanny’s?

All this combined really leads me to believe that I have a plausible theory, that Kalonji’s great-grandfather Champ was fathered by one of these white McClellan men.  Kalonji occasionally grows red hairs (as does his father) and the white McClellan’s are of Scottish descent. Of course, this may not be the case, but our first set of DNA tests that we will do will be to try and solve this.

With help from above-mentioned researcher, I am constructing the white McClellan family tree.  If I can find a son of a son of a son, etc. on down the line to test (or two), it would help me either way. If a yDNA lineage test shows a match, then we know it to be true! If the test does not show a match, at this point, my next plausible suspect is a member of the Plowman family.   Three of Willam B.’s daughters married three Plowman brothers – so with Plowman’s in the household…  Of course, that may not yield a match either. But, we are certainly going to try!

I’m confident I can track down someone, the challenge will be to see if any of them have done a yDNA test or would be willing to do one. Some may not be willing to do it as they may not want the association, but really – we know this kind of situation happened all the time! I hope I can find someone who is willing.So, that is my objective. I look forward to taking this on over the next year and seeing what we can find out!