My New Koonce Surname Study Site

A couple of weeks ago I shared that I’d joined the Guild of One-Name Studies. This is Week 6 of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series and how apropos that this week’s prompt is “Favorite Name.”  Guess what name I choose? KOONCE! A perfectly timed prompt for launching my new site dedicated to the Koonce surname. My interest in my Koonce surname is, after all, what sparked my curiosity of those that came before me.  Thus, it is my favorite name.

I am very pleased with my new site.  The design is Template 15 of the TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Site-building software and I like the segmentation of the page. I have a link to my Mailchimp email distribution for updates I share with other Koonce researchers and family members.

The database has about 4,000 individuals and I’ve created sections for both white and black Koonce lineages along with indications to their regional areas. The Koonce to Koonce newsletters, published by my buddy John P. Koonce, are featured on the front page and I could not help but put a picture of myself browsing the newsletters as my “contact” picture.

My next step for the new site is to start re-attaching media files. I made a conscious decision not to transfer them in batch because I needed to do some cleanup. But the sources are all there so at least others will be able to see those.

I love working on my surname study. I enjoy connecting with other Koonces and researching Koonce families.  If you are a Koonce descendant, I’d love to hear from you!



In the Census: I’m Ready for 1950

A view of my presentation

Yesterday, I was delighted to present a session on Researching African American Family History & Genealogy on behalf of the Nashville Chapter of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society. This is our fourth year partnering with Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage to conduct part of their Black History Month programming and it went well! We had a turnout of more than 60 people and during our post-presentation consultation sessions, had a chance to interact individually to help answer research questions.

This week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series prompt is “In the Census.” Well, a standard part of my presentations on getting started in your research is that the first set of records to go to are the US Census records. It never ceases to amaze me just how much information can be gleaned when working backward consecutively through the years. During the presentation, I explained how the 1950 census will be released in 2022 and I thought to myself – wow- we are so close!  I did quite a bit of transcription for the 1940 census and I am looking forward to hopefully being able to do the same for 1950.

I am already beginning to think about who I’ll search for first in the 1950 census and it will definitely be my grandparents:

  • maternal grandmother: Alice McNair – in April 1950, my grandmother had given birth to my uncle Stanley. He was born in Brooklyn, NY so I expect to find her and him there; he was only 6 weeks old on census enumeration day. The address on his birth certificate is 44 MacDonough Street in Brooklyn, so I expect to find them there.
  • maternal grandfather: Herman Robinson – my grandfather discharged from the US Navy in 1946 and would marry my grandmother in September 1950. I expect he will be in New York somewhere, but I do not know where. I wonder if he will be near his own mother, Lucinda Lennon Robinson – she would be living on Harlem River Drive in Manhattan.
  • paternal grandmother: Cora Mae Lawhorn –  she married my grandfather in 1951, so I expect to find her still living at home with her parents in Craven County, NC.
  • paternal grandfather: William Koonce Sr. – I also expect to find him still living at home with his parents – also in Craven County, NC.

I will then search for my great-grandparents as 7 of the 8 were still alive in 1950. Until the 1950 census is transcribed, we will need to navigate them by knowing the enumeration districts, so check Steve Morse’s One-Step site for those details.

1950 Craven County, NC Enumeration Districts

And so that I don’t forget my plan, this blog entry is going into my calendar for the first week of April 2022. Are you prepared?





I’ve Joined the Guild of One-Name Studies

This weekend I joined the Guild of One-Name Studies and I am ecstatic! I’ve had my eye on the Guild for a few years because I do research on families with my Koonce surname – whether related to me or not. I have a research database full of Koonce families and I actively use FamilySearch Family Tree and Ancestry Member Trees to document the work. Many Koonce descendants have contacted me over the years and I enjoy every interaction.

A few months ago, I learned that the Guild offers members the opportunity to host our research sites on their servers. They offer to do this in several formats, including WordPress sites and through the use of TNG: The Next Generation of Genealogy Site-Building. With that, I was hooked because I am a WordPress fangal and ardent user and supporter of TNG; I’ve been using TNG for about 11 years and personally find it unparalleled as a genealogy software platform.

As a Guild member, I anticipate being able to take my research to the next step. I plan to move my project from my personal web server over to the Guild’s. The Koonce surname is now part of the registry and I know that even after I am gone, the research will live on as a legacy site for others to leverage for years to come. Members’ research files can also be submitted to FamilySearch as part of their “Genealogies” collection. The Guild has committed to maintaining members’ sites for the long-term; a move I find visionary and only wish more national/international societies would employ.

P.S. – I’ve been participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog series and for Week 4, I blogged on the Koonce site, rather than here on my genealogy blog. Go check it out!

And Yes, They Were Sold

Today I give a hat tip to my cousin Marissa who followed up on a blog post of mine from last year.  Back in November 2015 I blogged about a petition from Jones County, NC in 1847 that may have included slaves associated with my own family ancestry.  In the petition, six white slaveholders, John S. Koonce and wife Susan, Isiah Wood and wife Elizabeth, Benjamin Brown, Asa Brown, Zachius Brown, Mary Brown, Orne Brown, and Isaac Brown requested division of ownership of six slaves – likely, selling them and splitting the proceeds. The six slaves were named as James, Jonas, Mariah, Allen, Hannah, & Susan (sometimes called Harriett).

The names in bold are names that belong to former slaves in my own family history with the surname Koonce, so that led to my interest in this record. Well, thanks to Marissa, I now know that they were indeed sold at public auction.

On January 1, 1848 they were sold as follows:

  • Jonas, Mariah, and a slave named Chaney were all sold to Joseph Brock (total $1250.25)
  • Allen and Sarah were sold to Benjamin Brock for $300 and $297 respectively
  • Susan (or Harriet) was sold to Franklin Thompson for $180
  • James was sold to Stephanie Humphrey for $718

The documentation for this sale appears in the estate file records of William Brown (Elizabeth Wood’s 1st husband).

public auction of slaves – see file at FamilySearch.org

The documentation notes that the sale was advertised first, so an interesting follow-up would be to search for newspaper announcements.


Seeing Josephine

Thanks to my cousin Marissa, I have my first pictures of my father’s paternal grandmother, Josephine Holloway Koonce.  We believe the pictures to be from around 1940s. Here is one of them:

My great-grandmother, Josephine (Holloway) Koonce

Josephine passed away before I was born but I know that she had many of her grandchildren living her, including my aunts, as her own children moved to New York in search of better job opportunities. 

Until now, I had only seen one picture of Josephine and it is a casket picture. So, I am extremely grateful to Marissa for taking the time to send me these pictures. I am overjoyed!!! 

My Friend is Also A Koonce Descendant

Last week, as a way to help a non-profit in which my sister is involved, I offered to do genealogy reports for two people if they donated $50 or more.  A deal I know! We created this wonderful ad to showcase the offer:

It then turned out that the 1st winner of one of my genealogy reports knows a good friend of mine. So, I’m talking to this friend of mine about it and he says “I should get you to do my family tree!!” Of course, I’m all over it.

Well, as I worked on his tree this weekend I discovered that he is also a Koonce descendant! It turns out he is the 5th great-grandson of a man named Killis Koonce. More details on my Koonce Surname Project blog. I just thought that was too cool.


A Possible Brick Wall Buster via the Digital Library on American Slavery?

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Lisa Louise Cooke for the Family Tree Magazine monthly podcast! The theme of November’s episode is about busting through brick walls and Lisa interviewed me for a segment covering resources from the magazine’s 101 Best Websites list. Listen to Lisa, myself, and her other guests in the November 2015 episode to learn more about busting brick walls.

One resource I covered was the Digital Library on American Slavery. Covering the database was easy for me. As I stated during the podcast, it is one that is “near and dear to my heart” as it is a project out of UNC-Greensboro. I was raised in Greensboro so the city has a fond place in my heart. When this database first came out, I’d back then, found a record in it for whom I believe to be my family, but didn’t follow-up on obtaining the full petition until Sunday as I prepared for the podcast interview. I’m so happy I did follow-up too!

This image is excerpted from a North Carolina legislative petition (#21284706) addressed in the Jones County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in November 1847. Six white slaveholders, John S. Koonce and wife Susan, Isiah Wood and wife Elizabeth, Benjamin Brown, Asa Brown, Zachius Brown, Mary Brown, Orne Brown, and Isaac Brown (the last five being children in the care of Zachius Brown) appeared to request division of ownership of six slaves – they were requesting 1/8th share each. Obtaining that 1/8th share could have meant selling them and splitting the proceeds. The Digital Library on American Slavery provided the index, but through information on their page on “Obtaining Copies of Petitions,” I was able to get the full petition.

Well, the six slaves at hand here are James, Jonas, Mariah, Allen, Hannah, & Sarah (sometimes called Harriett).  I highlight three of these slaves’ names because they match names found among my own family!.  The reasons being as follows:

  • Independent of this record, I’d traced my Koonce line back to a former slave, James Koonce of Jones County.  From census records, I know James had two partners, Susan and then Isariah (sometimes appearing as Mariah in documents I’ve already located).
  • James’ mother was named Hannah.
  • From oral family history shared by a cousin of mine, Isariah/Mariah was probably just a Koonce by marriage, and may have been the offspring of a white Wood male family member. Given that this petition has both Koonce & Wood family members, it makes this an intriguing possibility for being tied into my family tree 
  • The name “Caff” appears next to Jonas’ name, and MY James’ first wife Susan was a “Craff” in documentation I have in my files. Could Caff/Craff be one and the same name?

I think I have already identified who John S. Koonce is (I’m thinking it is John Speight Koonce) and I found Isaiah & Elizabeth Wood in records as well. This is definitely something I need to research further! Perhaps this clue can lead me to busting my own brick wall! Research in action. 🙂

So, thanks to Lisa for the impetus I needed to finally request this record! And for my readers, be sure to check FamilyTree Magazine’s podcast page over the next few days to look for the November 2015 episode and hear the show!

Koonce & Koonce Expedition – Part II

Back in 2009, I wrote about a day of Koonce-hunting in Lincoln County, TN with my buddy John P. Koonce. Yesterday, we were able to continue the adventure and an adventure it was indeed!!!

John was joined by his nephew Dan and the primary purpose of our trip was to look for the Grills-Koonce cemetery in Fayetteville. John has made several trips to look for it with no success.  We had it’s location based on a map produced by the Lincoln County Genealogical Society, but the cemetery is not visible from the road and would require some investigation. As we traveled down to Fayetteville, I looked the cemetery up in Find-A-Grave and was able to find GPS coordinates.  

satellite map


We traveled down Koonce Lane again (we did last time). However, because we had GPS coordinates and now have the great technology of Google Maps, I could see there was a side lane we could travel down in order to try and get closer to the cemetery, Stable Lane. We’d not done this back in 2009. But alas, we went down the lane and fencing creates a barrier to going on the property. Plus, there was so much growth, we couldn’t see much and even try and visually see a cemetery.

view down Stable Lane

And while there was a house at the end of the road, the gate was closed so that was a bummer. So, we turned around and decided to ask some of the neighbors if they knew anything about the cemetery. The first lady we spoke to had not been living on the street for long, but she gave us a recommendation for a family to go speak to. As were were back in the car heading to this family, we saw someone pulling onto Stable Lane – we were so excited! We thought it was perhaps the people who lived in the house.

So, we followed the truck down the lane. They saw us and stopped and upon talking to them, we discovered they were not the owners, but were there to look for the Grills-Koonce Cemetery also. Not only that, they were Grills themselves and had ancestors buried in the cemetery! How funny! A set of Koonces and a set of Grills looking for the Grills-Koonce cemetery at the exact same time! It was too much! 

Well, the homeowner at the end of the lane saw us there and came down. Her family has lived on the property for 70 years and she knew of the cemetery; had seen it herself before. She pointed in the general direction of it, but advised us to go speak to the person who owns the land on which the cemetery is situated, for permission to enter. Fortunately, the cemetery land owner lived down the street. 

going over the map for the cemetery

So, off our caravan went to go knock on the door of the cemetery land owner. Fortunately for us, she was home and even better, she offered to drive us right to the cemetery. And let me tell you, even with her directions for where to drive once we would have entered the land, there was NO WAY we’d have ever found it on our own. The picture below shows the height of the foliage as we drove through to the cemetery. 

the foliage we drove through to reach the cemetery

I approach the cemetery. See how high those plants are!

Once we arrived at the cemetery, we could definitely see how it has been left untended. Many graves were just about completely overgrown, and only a few were above ground enough to read. While we found headstones for Grills family members, we didn’t see any with Koonce, but we know at least two Koonces are buried there – Napoleon Polk Koonce and wife Elizabeth Brown Koonce – exact relationship to John & Dan still unknown. This means we have research to do.

But our new buddies, the Grills, found headstones for their family!

Grills family members

Afterwards, we had to take a group photo. Note – cemetery hunting is hard, sweaty work 🙂

Grills & Koonces after visiting the Grills-Koonce cemetery

We were all excited to finally get to this cemetery.  The owner told us that the last time someone asked about it was about 15 years ago, but we have now been there! The Grills plan to come back and do some work to help get it cleared up and hopefully find some of the headstones currently covered. What a great time!

John, Dan and I also stopped at two other cemeteries while in town.  We visited the Kelso-Koonce-McCartney-McGee Cemetery again and Stewarts Cemetery. Lots of pictures were taken of Koonce headstones and I’ll be working on adding them to the Surname Project files. I’ve already added the interments we know about to Find-A-Grave (I tried to post pics to BillionGraves also, but the GPS signal was too weak).

Photos with the Ancestors

During the July 4th weekend, I was so fortunate to be able to visit eastern NC again to visit my father’s hometown, Fort Barnwell and my maternal grandmother’s hometown, Plymouth, NC.

My visit to Fort Barnwell was my first time back since my paternal grandmother, Cora Lawhorn Koonce, passed away in 2006. So, I visited the Mitchell Family Cemetery where my Koonce family is buried and visited her graveside for the first time. Since Kaleya was with me, she had to take the requisite pictures with her family. She may not appreciate it now, but it is my hope that when she is older, she will be able to cherish the fact that she has visited the town where her grandfather grew up.

panorama view of Mitchell Cemetery

Kaleya with her 2nd great-grandparents, Josephine Holloway & Barfield Koonce

I also went to the Alum Springs Church cemetery so that I could take pictures of Cora’s side of the family – namely, my 4th great-grandmother’s headstone, Mima Gooding Kilpatrick.

My cemetery visits were short – I had only 30 minutes and then needed to head to the Kilpatrick Family Reunion, but I am so very glad that I had a chance to do this.

Just a couple of days prior, while driving on my way to the Outer Banks, I stopped in Plymouth, the hometown of my grandmother Alice McNair Robinson.  Her parents’ home, the home of Abraham & Mattie (Walker) McNair. The house, at 502 Wilson Street, is in very poor condition, but because it is there, I took Kaleya by and told her that her 2nd great-grandparents lived there.

in front of Abraham & Mattie’s home

I also took her around to the back porch b/c I have a photo of myself as a youngster on the back porch.

at the back porch

We then went over to the McNair Family Cemetery where Abraham & Mattie are buried, as well as our McNair ancestral couple, Rufus Tannahill & Mariah (Wimberly) McNair.

at Abraham & Mattie’s graveside

at the grave of Rufus & Mariah McNair

I told her there would be a quiz later – let’s see how long she remembers the details 🙂

Photos of my Grandfather!

I am completely ecstatic tonight! Over the weekend, my father visited his stepmother (whom he had not seen in over 20 years) and got some pictures of his father!  My grandfather, William Koonce Sr.,  passed away in 1976 when I was six months old, so I never knew him.  And, until tonight, I’d only seen about 3-4 pictures of him. So, I was so happy to see this pictures tonight!!!  This has absolutely made my week. 

Granddaddy & M

Granddaddy & M.