Author Archive: Taneya Koonce

Great discovery

Over the weekend, I had a great confirmation and discovery! My mother’s paternal grandfather had been quite elusive for us in official records. With the help of a fellow researcher, we did think we found him in the 1900 census living a few doors away from the woman he would eventually marry, my great-grandmother Lucinda. If this was he, then we would finally have his parents names – William & Rebecca. Well, I was waiting to receive his death certificate from the state of NY and it came Saturday. Sure enough, his parents were William & Rebecca! My mother and I are quite thrilled about this! We have now added a new generation.

In other genealogy news, I have picked up a new genealogy book and my mother found two more over the weekend that she is sending to me. I’ll post more on them later. So far, I am learning quite a bit from the reading I have been doing on genealogical research.

My Famous Relative

I finally found him! Growing up, we’d always heard from my maternal grandmother that we were related to Charles Barkley. She would tell me how he would sometimes go to the family reunion too. I’ve never been clear about exactly how we were related until tonight though – but I got it! We share descent from Rufus McNair – my 3G Grandfather and his 2G grandfather. (Charles’ father was named Rufus Barkley). So, that makes me his third cousin once removed. Hey Charles – maybe I’ll see you at a family reunion!

In other genealogy news I have the following updates!

  • While attending my grandmother’s funeral, I was able to take pictures of several of my relatives’ headstones in the cemetery. I hope to go back this fall and take more.
  • With the help of a woman who has been researching her family ancestry for more than twelve years, I may have found my first evidence of an ancestor being sold as a slave. I have been corresponding with her to try and follow her same logic in understanding all the clues, so I expect to post more about that later.
  • My mother and stepfather were visiting family this week (I’m helping him do his family genealogy too) and I received a shipment of pictures today. Including a picture of my mother’s paternal grandmother whom I had no idea what she looked like until today!
  • I am on a quest for the perfect program to create good quality lineage charts! I just purchased RootsMagic and so far I like their charting options a lot. I bought it in combination with GenSmarts to see if that helps me assess different avenues for my research.
  • I am starting the process of really cleaning my online site and standardizing the way I collect data. I’ve been so gung-ho on collecting information that I have just kind of thrown it all up! Well, the librarian in me is starting to bring me to my senses and I must get it all cleaned up.

Happy hunting!

Speaking of….

While I was in Craven County, NC to attend my grandmother’s funeral, I had an opportunity to do gather more information about her side of the family. I have to get it all recorded still! While there I was able to take pictures of my relatives’ headstones at one of the family cemetery. There are around 40+ people buried there and I got at least half of them. I also got a few headstones at the church cemetery (where my grandmother’s services were held and we have a lot of family there), but only about 3 or 4. I have a cousin who will help get the ones I missed.

While there, I also was able to talk to my grandmother’s brother. I only remember him vaguely before now, but he showed me something that absolutely wowed me! I was telling him how I had finally elucidated the accurate name of his grandfather and he said, “Speaking of Samuel Becton Lawhorn…” and pulled out a 16 x 20 picture of his grandfather. So, with this picture, this is now the oldest picture of an ancestor that I have. This man, Samuel Becton Lawhorn was born in 1871 and died in 1916.

Furthermore, at his house, he has a picture of his parents, and while I had pictures of his father, I had no pictures of his mother and didn’t know what she looked like. He explained to me that this picture of them was created as an oil painting based on pictures of the two of them taken independently and at separate times — they were not originally posed together in the picture. Neat isn’t it?

My Grandmother Cora

Last week, I lost another member of my family. My grandmother Cora passed away and her funeral was Sunday. It was a beautiful service. She was 73 years old and had been getting progressively sicker over the past few months after having a stroke. Her funeral service was beautiful and I was so fortunate to be able to see family that I have not seen in years. She grew up in Craven County, NC, so while there I was able to revisit family homes, sites, etc and learn more about my family from relatives. I’ll blog more later, but after being there, I am ever more committed to maintaining/developing relationships with my family and learning more about the family history.

Social Security Administration

Today I got back some information from Social Security. I sent away for my great-grandmother’s SS-5 form. Prior to today, we did not know her parents’ names. We had a suspicion based on census records, but it turned out our suspicion was incorrect. So, we now know their names for certainty! This was very encouraging and I am definitely going to order more SS-5 forms in the future. They are expensive though at $27 a piece, so I’ll have to ration it out.

Over the past few weeks I have continued to receive more death and birth certificates that I wrote away for. Over the past couple of months I have accumulated approximately 100 of them! Each one continues to add new information that I can add to the website. If only all states were as easy as NC though — for example, in AL, you can only request certified copies of them, so the cost is much more than NC’s uncertified copies. Also, Alabama has restrictions on what years can be ordered (no death certificates younger than 25 years and no birth certificates younger than 100 years). That sucks.

Over the next few weeks I plan to start seriously drafting a plan for indexing the newspaper of a county in NC where my maternal grandmother is from. At first, I was all gung-ho and thought I would index the whole paper. But then I realized, it would probably be more beneficial to genealogists if I first did the obituaries, and then went back and did other parts of the paper. My model for this is the online index of Evansville, IN area deaths. I love this site and I found quite a bit of information on my husband’s family by using it.

In Memorium

to my uncle “June” – 1932-2006

My family found out today that we have lost a family member – one of my grandmother’s brothers – Abraham Lincoln McNair, Jr. Uncle June had been out of touch with the family for years. We knew that he was living in the New York area but had not been able to find him. In part inspired by my recent activities in researching the family, my mother began to look for him again in earnest. Well, we found out we were about a month weeks too late. The police department in the area that we had a last known address for him informed us that he died on February 9th.

I have only one memory of Uncle June from when I was about 8 years old or so and we were visiting my grandmother. He was prone to seizures and while we were visiting her, he had a seizure in the living room. My mother was particularly close to Uncle June and has told me many stories about him. We are devastated to think that he died alone in the hospital with no family around, but I understand that is how he lived his life. My grandmother does not know and we probably will not tell her. She has Alzheimer’s and is in a home and this is now her third brother to pass (of four). This is why it is so important to know about family. If we had not continued to search for him, we may have never known what happened.


A few days ago I received pictures of two more of my relatives headstone markers. My great-aunts Lucinda and Ethel. Unfortunately, Ethel’s name is not on the marker with her husband, but she is there. Also, my great-grandmother Lucinda (Ethel & Lucinda’s mother is buried in the same cemetery. However, she does not have a marker of any kind. My mother and I are looking into how we may be able to get one for her now, even after all these years (she passed in 1969).

I hate titles

I really must change this blog template — I hate having to assign titles to my posts…

This weekend I went to the public library to check out their genealogy collection. There was one book in particular that I wanted to look at but the information in it was not as useful as I hoped. However, I do have a sense now of their holdings so I’ll probably plan to go back sometime next month to look at microfilm of census records. While I can access them online, I need to use the actual records b/c there are some family members that I will need to scroll through pages and pages to find as I’m not having any luck in Ancestry. (Ancestry takes a long time to view records page by page).

While at the library I picked up a copy of a genealogy book for African-Americans. Can’t think of the name right now, but though from 1999 it is pretty informative. On the research end, I continue to make progress! I have found someone to take pictures of relative tombstones in NY and also someone to take pictures in North Carolina. I am deeply appreciative when people can help like this! I am doing my best to give back as well.

Over the weekend I worked more on Kalonji’s maternal line — oh my goodness — I found so much information! This part of his family has been in the Evansville, IN area for at least the last 60 years or so. I found a database of obituaries from the Evansville area papers that a funeral director created as a personal project years ago. It was put online in the mid 1990’s and I just couldn’t believe how much information I was able to find out from it. This is exactly the kind of project I’d love to be able to do one day (yeah right! like I ever have time). But, I was very impressed with it. I also learned from Kalonji’s mother that she has an ancestor who was a slave and she heard stories of how this woman had lost toes from the cold and working out in the fields. I too have a maternal ancestor who was a slave and lost toes due to cold. I was surprised to hear this same thing again but from Kalonji’s family.

And, a note about my side of the family — my 3G grandfather Rufus, had 13 children. Between them all, these 13 children had about 70+ children. Can you imagine being one of Rufus’ grandchildren and having like 70 COUSINS!!!! How would you keep up with each other? And, the wild part is that they all had to know each other — they grew up in the same town and lived in close proximity. That is just so crazy to me. I have a total of 8 first cousins. Goes to show how we as a society are having fewer and fewer children these days.

More discoveries

Today’s mail brought another 20 or so birth/death certificates. I am thrilled to say the least. And, among them, I made a very interesting discovery.

My paternal great-grandmother’s name was Josephine. In her funeral program and on her death certficate, it stated that her mother’s name was Priscilla. In searching census records looking for Josephine as a child, the only black Josephine in Craven County, NC at anywhere near the right age was living in a household with a sister named Priscilla and a mother named Polly. So, I began to wonder as to the accuracy of the funeral program and the death certificate. From Josephine’s funeral program, I knew that she had a sister named Dizzer (what a name right?) Well, I received a copy of Dizzer’s delayed birth certificate today. On the birth certificate, her parents are listed at Tom Holloway and Pollie Hood. Furhtermore, one of her items of “evidence” to her birthdate was an affadavit from her older sister “Parcilla”. Looks like my suspicions were right! Priscilla (Parcilla) was not their mother, she was their sister and their mother was indeed Polly (Pollie). I can only surmise that at the time of Josephine’s death, the family must have misremembered her mother’s name. Tonite, I discovered a new generation of ancestors — my great-great grandparents Tom & Polly.

On my maternal side of the family, of significance so far are three death certificates I received. My mother’s mother’s mother (Mattie) had 10 children. Five that lived, five that died. My mother always heard about my grandmother’s siblings that never got a chance to grow up – they died as babies/toddlers. Two girls and one boy that we know of. I also know from one birth certificate that Mattie had a stillborn child. There is still one child unaccounted for, so we will have to ask my grandmother about that. I really cannot imagine what it must be like to lose half of children – -in reading their death certificates, I was just filled with sadness for this loss of life.

  • Abraham Jr was 2 years old. He died of 2nd and 3rd degree burns to his arms and legs. My mother is not quite sure what happened, but she did remember that he somehow got hot water on him and this caused his burns.
  • Daisy was almost two years old when she died. Cause of death appears to be Laryngeal Diptheria (hard to read on the certificate).
  • Martha Jane had just turned one when she died. We can’t read the cause of death, but we know that one child passed away from an overdose of some medicine that people used to give children to sleep while they worked in the fields. Tragic to think that people resorted to this, but maybe this was her cause of death.

So sad. Also, a rather interesting thing I noticed, on each of their death certificates, the date of birth is slightly off from the date of birth on their birth certificates. For record purposes, I am going with the date of birth on their birth certificates since it was closer to the actual event, but I find it again striking how variable people’s birthdays seemed to be years ago. From census records, I have seen ages fluctuating quite widely between the 10 years and this is an interesting phenomenon to me. Were birthdays not as celebrated as they are now? I surmise that with the creation of state record keeping requirements, this has helped establish dates more concretely.

Military Gravesites

Yesterday and today, Calverton National Cemetery emailed me pictures of some of my relative’s gravesites. Several of the men in my family served in the military and at least four that I know of so far are buried in military cemeteries. I attended the funeral of my maternal grandfather Herman so I remember his. Two of Herman’s brothers are also buried in the same cemetery as he. Then, my maternal grandmother has a brother who is also buried in the same cemetery as well. In addition, I have a distant cousin who died in 1959 who is in Long Island National Cemetery. I think their headstone pictures are beautiful. I like knowing exactly where they are and knowing that I will be able to pass that on to the younger generations in the family.

Also, I was able to find a book that has a listing of cemeteries in Washington County, NC where my maternal grandmother is from. There is a library that is sending me the photocopied pages of the book. I am so excited. The librarian informed me that there are three McNair cemeteries in Washington County with a total of around 100 people. One of the cemeteries is named the Rufus McNair cemetery – Hello! Rufus McNair is my 3rd Great Grandfather – this has to be his cemetery!