Talladega Co. (AL)

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!


Rest in Peace Mama Frances

With great sorrow I am sharing the unfortunate news that Kalonji’s grandmother passed away yesterday, August 6, 2014.  Lovingly called “Mama Frances,” she was nothing but the kindest and sweetest person you’d ever want to know. We named our daughter Kaleya after her, giving her the middle name of Frances, so whenever we’d go to Alabama there was “Mama Frances” and “Little Frances.”

This picture of Mama Frances and Kaleya is one of my favorites. It was taken in September 2005 when Mama Frances came to visit us for a week while we were living in the Memphis area. It was so great to have her staying with us! We even traveled to Indiana to visit Kalonji’s mom so they had a chance to see each other again.

Mama Frances was born December 20, 1924 to Champ McClellan and Leola (Coleman) McClellan. She and her twin brother Frank were two of Champ and Leola’s 10 children.  Mama Frances was the last surviving child. Mama Frances was born and raised in Talladega and lived there a majority of her life. She did spend some time up north in Detroit, but Talladega was definitely her home.  She married her husband Curtis Morrow in March of 1951 and he passed away in 1971.

We will miss you tremendously Mama Frances. We were on our way to visit you in just a week from now and are so sorry we were not able to spend that time together in life. But, we will spend it with you anyway as we come down to Talladega for your homegoing service.

Rest in peace, we love you very much. Kaleya carries your name, and now she will carry your spirit.

McClellan DNA Mystery Step 1

In my ongoing mission to seek the paternal lineage of Kalonji’s great-grandfather, Champ McClellan, I am another step closer tonight.  My suspicion is that Champ is descended from a white slaveholder of his family – William Blount McClellan (1798-1881) – I like to call him “WB.” 

Thanks to the generosity of one of WB’s direct-male descendants, I now know WB’s yDNA STR markers and haplogroup.  WB’s descendant tested as part of the FamilyTree DNA McClellan Project.

I don’t have a yDNA sample from the right person in Kalonji’s family yet for comparison, but the DNA testing has yielded some insight into the lineage of WB. Until today, all I knew is that WB was a grandson of Capt. William McClellan of Loundon County, Virginia and I had no other information about the Captain’s parents, but that the family came from Ireland or Scotland.  With the matches to others in the McClellan project, we now have more relatives for WB. 

WB’s markers match in 36 out of 37 locations to 4 other individuals in the project so far:

  • Kit #129602 – descends from John McClellan and his wife Jane Lynch who were both born about 1798 in Ireland and immigrated to New York about 1820.
  • Kit #N72978 – descends from Samuel McClelland who was born about 1806 in Ireland and his wife Margaret.  This family lived in Canada in 1871.
  • Kit #183073 – descended from Archelaus D McLeland who was born about 1799 in SC and relocated to Adams Co, MS by 1818 and then to Simpson Co, MS. His wife was Nancy Pratt and they relocated to LA before 1843 and to TX in the 1850’s.
  • Kit #193494 descends from Samuel McClellan, most likely a brother of ArchelausD McLeland. This kit is a 37/37 marker match for Kit #183073.

Not having known anything else about the Captain’s family lineage, this is interesting as all these matches trace back to Ireland or Scotland at some point.  I found an article that indicates WB’s ancestors came from Scotland, so I’ll have to verify if I can. I have no familiarity with working with Irish records, but if Kalonji’s cousin’s yDNA turns out to match these individuals, I may very quickly gain some experience! More to come in a few more months.



Great Ebenezer Baptist Church

This post continues my posts describing our family vacation from August 1- 7, 2009.

On our last day in Talladega during our family vacation back in August, we also took some time to visit the church of Kalonji’s great-grandfather, Champ McClellan.  Champ was a minister at Ebenezer Baptist Church and his daughter, Kalonji’s grandmother,  is still an active member there.

The church is located one block away from the family homes on the street named after Champ, McClellan Avenue.  I’d originally wanted to go take a few pictures, but we decided to go inside and see if we could look around.  We were met by a lady named Helen who was nice enough to show us around.  How fortunate for us because she knows Kalonji’s grandmother well and had nothing but great things to say about Mama Frances.  🙂

This particular building was not the original from when Champ ministered there, but we went into the main chapel area where the choir was rehearsing – they were preparing for homecoming weekend.

As Helen showed us around, she also pointed out the markers dedicated to Champ.  His name appears in the foyer on a photo montage of church members, upon which is a list of pastors.  Champ is listed as the 2nd pastor, having served in 1919.

I know from census records that in 1920 Champ was a student at Selma University in Selma, Alabama.  Prior to 1919, Champ served as an assistant pastor with one of the Alabama regiments fighting in World War I.  Guess religion was always in his blood!

Champ would continue to be an active member of the church when he returned back home to Talladega.  When he died, his funeral services were conducted there and he was buried in the nearby Knox Cemetery (aka McClellan Cemetery) which I posted about previously.

Cemetery Clearing

This post continues my posts describing our family vacation from August 1- 7, 2009.

Wednesday, August 5th was supposed to be our last day in Talladega for our family vacation last month.  But, we decided on Tuesday that we’d stay another day.  Well, instead of leaving on Thursday, we didn’t leave until Friday. Why? Because we needed to do some cemetery work!

On Wednesday of that week, we took the kids by the family cemetery to visit the gravesites of family members.  On this trip to Talladega, we were ecstatic to learn that a local masonic lodge was now taking care of the cemetery and had even placed a sign at the entrance! This cemetery has often been left neglected so we were very happy that a local group was taking ownership.

We started in the cemetery by going to the tombstone of Mama Frances’ husband, Curtis. He passed away in 1971.

Then, we went over to the see the grave of Mama Frances’  father, mother & sister and guess what? We couldn’t find them! This was highly disappointing to us because three years ago, in November of 2006, Kalonji and I cleared out the thicket of branches that was around their headstones. The area was very overgrown.  We had cleared it out so that you could see the three tombstones quite well and this is what it looked like then.  These are the headstones of Champ McClellan, his mom Fannie McClellan, and his daughter Louise.  Fannie would have been a slave on the McClellan property I posted about previously about our visit to the home.

Well, a lot can grow in three years. When we went back to it during this trip, the area was completely grown over again. This is what it looked like and despite the gaps you see in the picture, there was actually more brush so we couldn’t see anything.

So, we decided to stay another day so that we could get to work clearing it out again. This time, we took out more than just branches. We got an axe and started chopping down small trees. After a few hours of work (including work from the oldest two boys), we were able to do a very effective clearing of the gravesites again. And this is what it looked like when we finished this time.  You can see some of the tree stumps from our use of the axe.

From the work this time around, we realized that there was another grave there that we didn’t know about before, and it was a child grave, unmarked. When we told Mama Frances about this, she said that it was a stillborn that had been born to her mom – so that was an birth previously unknown to me. This is the mess we left behind

Kalonji’s stepmom was going to tell the masonic lodge about out our work and they were going to come clear it out. At least they now know that the graves are there and can continue to keep the area clear. Since we had done so much clearing, we were also able to see further back in the thicket and realize that there were even more graves up in there. It was so sad to see how much this area of the cemetery had overgrown. We couldn’t make it back there ourselves, but I sent Miles in to take pictures of some of them.

This is the headstone of Epluribus U. Lee who lived from 1909-1976. Don’t you just love the name! However, his marker is completely hidden in the thicket. Very sad.


Needless to say, we were all very tired that evening. But, we are so glad that we did this. It is only a start, but hopefully the lodge can get more people involved to do more clearing. This cemetery has many of Kalonji’s family buried there. It is a black cemetery and the only one in the city not maintained by the city and has a lot of history. There are slaves buried there and many family members of the families in this part of town, including those of another, unrelated so far as we know, McClellan family. I think we made our ancestors proud this day.

Another Antebellum House

This blog post continues the recounting of events from our family vacation of August 1-7, 2009. 

In my last post, I described visiting the home of General William Blount McClellan, the residence of my husband’s ancestors down in Talladega, Alabama. 

The next day, after our trip to Birmingham to the Civil Rights Institute and the 16th Street Church, we drove by the home of one of the General’s daughters,  Elizabeth Idora McClellan.  Elizabeth became known as a writer and her papers are inventoried as part of the UNC North Carolina Collection.  

During my visit to the Talladega Public Library a two days earlier, I’d found an architectural description of the home along with a picture. I’d also had a picture that another researcher sent to me.  So, off  we go driving around the area of Talladega in which we knew the home to be located. 

We found the home, it is at 511 East Street and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.   Idora lived in this home with her first husband, Albert Plowman.

No knocking on doors this time to see it; I just wanted to know where it was 🙂 Maybe next time!

The Resemblance Is There

On Wednesday I posted a montage of pictures and asked if anyone could see resemblance among them. I got two comments on the blog, plus I shared the picture with someone else that I know who is very good at looking at people and seeing similarities. Consensus: there are similarities and I’ve confirmed that I’m not making it up just because I want there to be 🙂

The people in the picture are from L to R:

1) General William Blount McClellan
2) Champ McClellan, my husband Kalonji’s great-grandfather
3) Idora McClellan (the General’s daughter)
4) Frances McClellan, Champ’s daughter and Kalonji’s grandmother

I’ve posted before that I have suspicion that one of the General’s sons may have fathered Champ, and there were comments that Champ does favor the General.  My “offline” friend commented that she in particular saw great similarity in the shape of Frances’ face and the General’s face. 

So, more info to add as I work towards getting the DNA test. Unfortunately, we still have not had the kit done just due to trying to balance family expenses, but I have it as part of my 5 year plan to get it done and track down male McClellan descendants in order to see if one of them would be willing. 

I was inspired to do this initial post upon being contacted by a researcher who is doing thesis work on Idora.  She even sent me a picture of the Idlewild Plantation that was the home of the General and his family.  

I wonder if Champ was ever there?

Wordless Wednesday: A Picture Montage

Who looks like who in these pictures? Do you see any resemblences? Let me know if you do.  I’ll post later on why I did this. 

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!

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.