Best Mother’s Day Present Ever – A Family Reunion Trip!

My husband is giving me the BEST Mother’s Day present ever this year — he is sending me to Plymouth, NC so I can attend a family reunion that I’ve been wanting to attend for many years now.

Plymouth, located in Washington County, NC – is the hometown of my late maternal grandmother, Alice McNair Robinson. Her McNair family is pretty large, and this year marks their 44th Annual Reunion. In my genealogy journey these past 9 years, I’ve very much felt my interest in family history came in large part from Alice as she ALWAYS connected with her family wherever she went. I’ve been fortunate to connect with so many of my McNair relatives over the years that I am very much looking forward to meeting more in person.

My sister has a 1990 McNair Family Reunion t-shirt; maybe now I’ll get my own. :-)

I now have to start actively planning where I want to visit while I am in town. I want to make sure I see areas around town where my grandmother would have experienced, and also visit a couple neighboring towns. The reunion is held over Memorial Day Weekend and I should have at least one extra day to visit around.  I also want to make solid plans for capturing as much family history as I can from everyone attending.

Let the planning begin!!

 

New Cousin Connection x 2!

I love it when I have cousin connections! My most recent one has come via Facebook.  Earlier this week, I received a Facebook friend request from (whom I’ll call JS).  I looked at his profile and noticed we had three mutual friends in common.  Two of the mutual friends were cousins of my father.  The 3rd mutual cousin was a cousin of my mothers.

So, I friended JS and sent a message inquiring how he knew my father’s cousins. He replied that his wife was related to them – thus, his wife was my cousin.  Of course I was happy about that. But then, he asked me how I knew our 3rd mutual friend and told me that she was his cousin. Wait? His cousin was my mom’s cousin? After further discussion, I learned that indeed, we were both cousins to each other!

Therefore, I gained two cousins for the price of one! I am related to him AND his wife. Crazy right?  Our relationship is as follows:

  • JS’s great-grandfather, David Elijah Walker, was a brother to my mother’s grandmother, Martha Jane (Walker) McNair.
  • JS’s wife’s grandfather, Samuel Valentine Lawhorn, was a brother to my father’s grandfather, William Lahworn.

And today, JS started sending me family pictures. I’m so tickled. :-)

Hattie Godrey Walker, on far right, was married to my great-grandmother’s sister-in-law. Hattie was married to Mattie’s brother David.

Cousins, Cousins Everywhere

I have had the most fabulous few days in that I have had several cousin connections! I can’t even begin to go in-depth on all of them, but in brief:

  • a third cousin of mine, Nafeesah, emailed me after searching online for more information about her family and finding my family genealogy site.  She and I share Anthony & Martha Jane (Baker) Walker of Washington County, NC as our 2nd great-grandparents. I spoke to Nafeesah tonight and had a great conversation. I cannot wait to speak to her sister tomorrow.
  • via the 23andMe account of a cousin Devon, we found another cousin — Katrina. Katrina, like Devon,  is also a descendant of Thomas & Phillis Holloway of Craven County, NC.   Katrina is my 3rd cousin once removed.   I was excited to learn that her grandparents live about an 90 minutes away from me and her grandfather went to high school with my grandfather. I am now making plans to go visit her grandfather as soon as I can.  She matches me at a different segment than she matches Devon – so, I now have two separate DNA segments that I can trace back to our common ancestral couple.
  • via 23andMe, I made contact with a genetic cousin, Eric but we do not yet know how we are related.  Such a small world though because Eric is an active member of the African-American Genealogical Society of North California – the same group which my hubby’s genetic cousin, Nicka Smith, is involved.  Eric has been doing genealogy for well over 30 years and I was the first person he’s chosen to connect with on 23andMe – he said he could tell I was serious about my business.   Eric and I share .76% of our DNA and 23andMe predicts us to be 3rd-5th cousins.  That may not sound like a lot, but here is the order of percentage shared from largest to smallest at the top of my Relative Finder list – my mother (49.6%), my sister (54.5%), my uncle (25.2%), my 3rd cousin Devon mentioned above (.80%), and Eric! I spoke with Eric Friday night and we are both excited about the potential to find our connection.

In addition to these wonderful connections, my uncle and my stepfather’s DNA results came back from 23andMe on Friday so now I get to sort through their relative matches.  I hope I get more relatives from my uncle’s results!

 

Rest in Peace Grandma

Sadly,  yesterday morning, Mother’s Day, my maternal grandmother, Alice Elizabeth McNair Robinson, passed away. She was 86 years old.   Affected by Alzheimers these past several years, she fell ill a few weeks ago from an infection and never fully recovered.  She was the last one of all her parent’s children and my last biological grandparent.

Alice is truly the inspiration for my family research.  While the grave of my father’s grandfather Barfield was my initial hook into wanting to know my family; Alice was very much my line and sinker. :-).  Alice always knew what was going on with her many family members and always kept in touch with everyone.  I was fortunate enough to have learned many details from her one day when I was in college from an oral interview I conducted and when I picked up genealogy in 2006,  my notes from that interview were the basis of my family tree.   From there, I began to actively seek out additional sources, information, and family members.

I have to share an amazing story though.  My mother often said that Grandma would find a cousin wherever she went. She was naturally outgoing, so would talk to people all the time and invariably find some connection.   Grandma passed away at 5am EST, but I had a Grandma “moment” yesterday afternoon that I undoubtedly know was her doing.

I am in DC right now on a business trip. The hotel agent who checked me in had excellent customer service skills.  I was impressed by it,  so planned on letting management know and I wanted to be sure I had her name.  I did a double-take when I saw that her last name was McNair, same as my grandmother’s maiden name!  It’s hard for me to pass up the opportunity to ask about a surname I know, so I asked her about it and it turns out her husband’s family is also from NC; as my own McNair ancestors and cousins. We spoke for awhile and she indicated that his family was related to football player Steve McNair.  I’ve heard from extended cousins that we are also, though right now I don’t know exactly how.  If true, I came all the way to DC and found a cousin – a total Grandma moment indeed.

Rest in peace Grandma. We love you and miss you and I will do my best to fill your family history shoes.

Our House on Wilson Street

I’ve learned a new vocabulary term this week – “heir house.” Never heard of it before, but this has been my opportunity to learn. Let me explain.

Yesterday I learned from my mother that her grandparents house at 502 Wilson Street in Plymouth (Washington County), NC is up for consideration to be turned over to the city of Plymouth. Our cousin who used to maintain it is really not able to anymore and he approached the city to see if they would be interested in it. The house sits on property right next to a ball park and they could use the land. We are not yet sure how things will develop, but we will continue to work through it. The house is in such bad shape that I think the best thing would be to turn it over to the city.

My great-grandparents bought the house March 14, 1945 for $400 from a family in nearby Martin County. This is an early view of the home:

My great-grandmother Martha in front of it in 1959

My cousin Lawrence McNair on the front porch just recently

And, a picture of the house. You can see how rundown it is

Seeing the pictures of the house has me feeling so nostalgic in a sense. I’ve only ever been to Plymouth once (at 9 months old), but Plymouth has a special place in my heart.  :-)  I really need to plan a trip out there…

I have a copy of their original deed somewhere and could not find it – however, the lawyer handling this process sent me a copy so I now have another one.

502 Wilson Street Deed

Ronald E. McNair A Cousin?

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Challenger Explosion, and upon that shuttle was astronaut Ronald Erwin McNair.

Ronald E. McNair - 1971 Senior Yearbook Photo - A&T University, North Carolina

Family lore has that he is related to us — my maternal grandmother is a McNair from Washington County, North Carolina.  As yet I’ve not further explored this potential connection.  On my ever-increasing to-do list is to further explore and find out if this is true.  R.I.P. Ronald.

Vacation Day 2 – Nashville Public Library

The genealogy vacation extravaganza continues! Today I spent my time at the Nashville Public Library in their Nashville Room.  I came to realized I’d seriously underappreciated the resources in the Nashville Room for I learned today much more about their holdings.  As with yesterday, everything I gathered today will eventually go to the TNGenWeb & NCGenWeb projects to aid others doing family history research.

The reason I went to NPL was to capture digital images off of a couple of microfilm rolls I ordered years ago from the NC State Library & Archives.   In the past I’d paid to have two rolls scanned by a professional microfilm company, but I keep trying out different ways to do it myself.  Our public library has two microfilm machines hooked up to computers and this makes scanning quite easy to do.

I captured key information from:

  • Roanoke Beacon of Plymouth, NC from April – June of 1890.  This is a weekly paper.
  • Kinston Free Press of Kinston, NC from a couple of weeks in January 1910 and a couple of weeks in Aug/Sep 1910.  This is a daily paper.

One of my recreational blogs is Black Nashville History & Genealogy.  Most of the info for the site comes from the Nashville Globe, an African-American newspaper that ran in the early-mid 1900s.   Today, I captured:

  • Nashville Globe-Independent — death notices & obituaries from Jan – Jun 1960.

Then, I discovered that the public library has quite a number of yearbooks.  I’ve been in yearbook deluge lately so I had to continue and look at those.  I even had to take a picture.

yearbooks at the Nashville Public Library

Today I captured the senior class listings for:

  • Vanderbilt University – 1896, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905,
  • Ward Seminary for Young Women -  a girl’s high school.  I got the names of the 1902 seniors.
  • University of Tennessee – 1897, 1914, 1915 – these are all online already having been digitized by the University of Tennessee, but I took a few pictures anyway
  • Hume Fogg High School – 1919, 1921

I also learned that the Nashville Metro Archives has a large yearbook collection so I will need to plan a visit there one day to look at them.  Another very productive day! Unfortunately, tomorrow I need to run errands so no genealogy for me, but these past couple of days have been stellar.  I now need to start my genealogy project Works-In-Progress List so I can keep track of my status with each of these.

Ward Seminary For Young Women - 1902

Rufus McNair Cemetery

Thanks to the generosity of another researcher with family ties to Washington County, NC, I now have pictures of one of the most important cemeteries in my family research.  The cemetery is the Rufus McNair Cemetery of Plymouth, North Carolina.  I first learned of this cemetery in 2006 and was thrilled then to know of it.   Rufus Tannahill McNair is my 3rd great-grandfather and I’ve posted about him several times.

I received the pictures this evening after getting home and I cried.  I cried because I’ve been looking at the names of those buried here on a piece of paper for 4 years (the local gen society county cemetery transcription book).  From that record, I knew that almost everyone in the cemetery is related to me.  But, it was a moving experience to now see their headstones.

Rufus McNair & Mariah Wimberly McNair monument

While I was happy to see the headstone for my ancestor, Rufus & Mariah,  the one that made me cry the most was that of John Lee Boone.  He is a cousin of mine who passed away in January and I do regret that I was not able to meet him before he passed.  I did have an at-length phone conversation with him once about the McNair family history.  He was the last of the five McNair family members who started the annual McNair Family Reunion that is held during Memorial Day Weekend.

This year is the 40th year of the reunion, dedicated to John Lee’s memory,  and I am planning to attend.  I’ve been to Plymouth one time, I was 9 months old, and a visit to my grandmother’s hometown is long overdue.  Especially after getting these photos; I need to physically visit these grounds.  And, I’m eager to meet my extended McNair Family.

You can view all the cemetery photos in the NCGenWeb Cemetery Gallery.

Great Finding!

This is why I stay up until 1 in the morning! Tonight while doing some newspaper transcription, I had a great discovery.

For the past couple of years, I have been transcribing old issues of  The Roanoke Beacon. This is the newspaper of Plymouth (Washington County), North Carolina.  My maternal grandmother and practically all of her family and ancestors are from Plymouth and neighboring Tarboro, so I’d always hoped that I’d find something relevant for my family.   I didn’t expect to find much until early to mid 1900s, but tonight I found the death notice of one of my 3rd great-grandfathers, Prince Walker.

The notice from the February 24th, 1899 issue states that he died near his home and was about 90 years old. This is fairly close to what I’d estimated his birth to be from census records.  He is also described as a ” ‘fore the war darky,” which I take to mean he went along with social norms of the day on how blacks were to behave with whites.  According to the article, Prince died Febrary 22nd, 1899.

Prince was born in North Carolina and was married to Lovie Boston.  They had at least 8 children, their son Anthony W. Walker being my ancestor.  Anthony and wife Martha Jane Baker were the parents of Martha Jane Walker.  Martha Jane Walker was the mother of my maternal grandmother, Alice.  This Walker line is one that I know I have several gaps to fill, but I’ve not made concerted effort to get in contact with many Walker relatives.  There are a few that I know I can share this with, but maybe this will inspire me to work harder.  I am too thrilled!

Last night I had another discovery that I think may be relevant to my husband’s aunt, but I’ll save that for another blogging day.