Finding A Cohabitation Record

Last month over the Memorial Day weekend, I attended the 45th annual reunion of my McNair family in Plymouth, Washington County, North Carolina. I was honored to be asked to speak to the family during the family church service on that Sunday.  It was such a great experience! I put together a presentation to distribute to family.

As I was preparing, I did additional clean-up on my family tree. Now, over the past several months, I’ve been adding info to FamilySearch Family Tree in my goal to ensure my research lives beyond me. Well, I was so pleased the week prior to the reunion to see an FamilySearch alert for my ancestor, Mariah Wimberly, in a collection of North Carolina marriage records.

So, I click to see the image and lo and behold, her cohabitation record to Rufus Tannahill pops up! I’d known about the existence of the cohabitation record for many years but had not seen the actual image.  In 1995, Dr. Barnetta McGhee White published a 3-volume index of the extant cohabitation records from across the state, and that is where I originally learned of the entry.  But, to actually see the record and be able to read it in it’s entirety is amazing!

It reads: “Before me, E.D. MacNair, Justice of the Peace for said county this 24th day of April AD 1866 appears Rufus Tannahill and Mariah Wimberly the said Rufus and Mariah having been lately slaves but now emancipating and acknowledge that they cohabitate together as man and wife and that such cohabitation commenced on the 11th day of Dec AD, 1859 given under my hand this day and year above written.” — E.D. MacNair (JP)

Rufus’ name in this record is Tannahill, but he would later change it to McNair. The Justice of the Peace is Edmund Duncan McNair Jr. and I suspect his father to have been Rufus’ slaveholder. This is a great record to have found indeed!  If you’re interested in searching for cohabitation records, they are part of the North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979 collection at FamilySearch.

45th Annual McNair Family Reunion

Each Memorial Day Weekend my maternal grandmother’s family comes together for the McNair Family Reunion in Plymouth, North Carolina.  This year, is the 45th year and I’m so pleased to be going again! My first time going was last year. Initially, I’d planned to do a whole series of blog posts about the trip, but that didn’t happen :-)

This year, I’m especially excited because the Reunion Committee has asked me to speak and share the family history! So, I’ve put together a handout to share with everyone and on Sunday morning I’ll give an overview of the family tree and information I’ve gathered in my research. As I was working on the handout, I created a graphic to illustrate the children of the couple from which we are all descendedRufus and Mariah (Wimberly) McNair

I’m sharing this picture on our Family Facebook group and am going to try and tag as many of the family as we can to the child that is their ancestor.

It’s going to be a great weekend and I am looking forward to seeing family again. Happy Memorial Day!

My Grandmother’s Clinic Cards

My grandmother Alice kept a lot of stuff. But, this is by far one of the most interesting collection of hers that we have and I’ve learned so much by going through them – a set of medical clinic appointment cards for herself and her four kids!

Most of the cards are not dated, but many have a field for the “age” of the patient so I can tell that they span about 20 years, from approximately 1950-1970. This time range corresponds to the birth of her first child, my uncle Stanley – up to when her youngest, my uncle Calvin, was about 12 years old. The next two card images show a visit from when she was 25, and another visit when she was 46.

There was one card for my uncle Leonard when he was a baby

And, on the back, Alice wrote a brief summary of her pre-natal visits. While pregnant with Leonard, she went to the Maternity division of the NY Bureau of Child Health and it looks like her appointments were from December 1952 – March 5, 1953. My uncle would be born just about a month after her last recorded visit.

Another card in her collection records dental visits for my mother. Mommy was attending P.S. 126 at the time and she went there for  7th, 8th, and 9th grades, so these appointments would have been somewhere during that time frame.

Grandma also had a card that showed payments she made for her medical care. From the address at Lacombe Avenue (where my grandmother moved to in 1974), I estimate these payments were made around 1974  or so. Grandma’s $685 total payments at that time is around $3300 dollars now. That was a lot of money for my grandmother I’m sure.

Grandma also had her card showing her polio vaccination series – or, as she called it, her “polio needles.”  This card shows that she had 3 already…

and on the back, she wrote that she had one more to get – two years later in 1961 – then she would be done.

And this card was interesting because it was the only red one in the batch. It’s a card for my uncle Leonard for what looks like an ear appointment given my grandmother’s note on the side. Leonard was about 6 months old.

These cards are fascinating to me. I know Alice didn’t play around when it came to her health and these cards prove it! There is probably even more to learn by carefully examining them all, so I need to take the time to do that. What a great set of cards for us to have!


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!!


Lossie Attended Winston-Salem State University

While indexing some old issues of Winston-Salem State University’s yearbooks tonight for the NCGenWeb Yearbook Index, I found another relative!

Lossie’s 1946 graduation photo

This time, I found Lossie Viola McNair (1923-2008).  Lossie is a member of the 1946 graduating class and the yearbook shows that her nickname was “Mae.”    Later on in the yearbook, in the “Who’s Who” section, it’s noted that she aids a Kindergarten classroom.  And, as it turns out, she did indeed become a teacher.  :-)  

How is Lossie related to me? She is the half-sister of my 2nd-great grandfather, Abraham McNair.   She was the daughter of Andrew D.  McNair & Bennie Slade.   Bennie was Andrew’s 2nd wife; I’m descended from Andrew and his first wife, Gracy Bullock. 

I love finding these little nuggets of info! 

Death Has a Preference for Birthdays

This is a morbid post, but I have to do it!  The other night while perusing my feed reader, I saw this article from the Annals of Epidemiology.  (yeah, I have scientific journals in my feed reader – how else is a gal supposed to keep up with the medical literature for work! :-))

Ajdacic-Gross V, et al., Death has a preference for birthdaysdan analysis of death time series, Annals of Epidemiology (2012), doi:10.1016/j.annepidem.2012.04.016

I was ecstatic to see this because it presents research around something that I and my mother have talked about for years now.  As we look at the dates of death in our family trees, we seemed to have seen a pattern of people dying around their birthdays.  I was fascinated that a research group has set out to examine this on a large-scale basis. 

Here’s the overview of the research this team from the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine in Zurich.  (you can look more closely at the article here)

Why did they do this research? Whether or not deaths occur more frequently around birthdays has been a controversial for 40 years. Some research on suicides has shown there is a relationship; some has shown there is not. Some research on cancer deaths has also had mixed results. The problem has been though that all of these studies have looked at small groups of people or had flaws in how the research was conducted.  This research team has access to a very large database of deaths, so wanted to study it and see if they observed a relationship. 

Who did they study? They used a Swiss database of computerized death records that spanned 1969-2008. Excluding infants less than 1  year of age and people who were born or died on February 29th, they had 2,380,997 deaths of all causes to examine.  Wow.

What did they find out?  When looking at all the deaths, they saw that there was a peak in the data set for deaths that occurred the same day as the person’s birthday.  The “peak” was statistically significant (e.g. higher than you would expect to occur on average).  Deaths from all cause occurred almost 14% more often on the person’s birthday than any other time of the year.  This was pretty much the case for both men and women. Taking suicides out of the equation and looking at only natural causes (because people make conscious decisions about when to commit suicide and may or may not purposefully do it around their birthday), the effect was still significant.  Deaths on the person’s birthday occurred 18.6% more often than other times of the year in cardiovascular disease, and in women with cerebrovascular disease 21.5% more often than any other time of the year.  In cancer, death occurred 10.8% more often on birthdays than any other time of the year.  Significant excesses of death on birthdays were also found for deaths from accidents (vehicular + falls) and endocrine diseases.

What does it mean? It means be careful around your birthday! Nah, seriously, it confirms what my mother and I have suspected for several years now.  Admittedly, I don’t think I’ve seen too many cases of death ON the birthday, but usually somewhere  AROUND the birthday.  Of course, all research has its limitations, so it will remain to be seen if others reproduce these findings.  For example, there are properties of the data set that may sway the results — when  the exact date of death is not known, it is not uncommon to put the 1st or 15th of the month.  If the the exact date of birth is not known, it is not uncommon to put the same date as the date of death.  In this study, the investigators were aware of these trends and did adjust for it. I find it fascinating nevertheless.  

To quote a line from Randy Quaid in Independence Day when the television is showing the alien invasions around the world:

Good God! I’ve been sayin’ it. I’ve been sayin’ it for ten **** years. Ain’t I been sayin’ it, Miguel? Yeah, I’ve been sayin’ it.

Minus the *expletive deleted,* that was precisely my reaction reading this study!  Case in point, my ancestor Rufus Tannahill McNair.  According to his headstone he was born June 11, 1823 and died June 11, 1910.  I was always a suspicious of those two dates; a little *too* convenient and I suspect it was a case as described above – they didn’t really know his birth date.  But, I do have plenty of other family members that did die around their birthdays. Hmm.. I should run a report in my database and see if I see any observable trends or if I’m just making it up.  

I’m in total MPH geekdom right now applying this epidemiological study to genealogy research. Kewl. :-)


40th Annual McNair Family Reunion

This Memorial Day Weekend, as it’s traditionally held, my McNair branch of the family is having their 40th Annual Reunion.  Started in 1972, I am amazed and proud of its longevity!  I’ve not yet been to one, but my maternal grandmother, Alice McNair Robinson, used to go often and has shared with me details about her family that helped inspire my love of genealogy.

In preparation for the reunion this year, at the request of a cousin, I compiled a booklet of the family tree information I currently have for the McNair family. The reunion is for the descendants of Rufus & Mariah McNair, so the booklet lists each of the branches of their children (10 who are known to have offspring).

This is the front cover I made.

For now, the booklet is purely a list of names. Next year, I hope to be able to include pictures of at least the generation of the grandkids of Rufus & Mariah. I am honored to have met at least one – my 2nd great-aunt Martha. Aunt Martha is doing well and is attending the reunion herself this year! 

I am looking forward to the feedback from this weekend and the chance to further update and make our family tree even better.  To my McNair Family – enjoy and if you aren’t going, please consider sharing what you know so that we can preserve these memories for our own descendants. 

Establishing my Great-Grandparents DNA Profile

Well, parts of it anyway. :-)

This week, the 23andMe DNA Roots Into the Future results came back for one of my mother’s paternal 1st cousins.  A great advantage of her having done the test is that I can now begin to establish segments of my mother’s DNA that comes from her paternal grandparents,  Lewis & Lucinda (Lennon) Robinson, whom Cousin C and my mother have as their Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA).

“Cousin C” shares 10.5% and 28 segments of DNA with my mother.  All 28 of those segments come from Lewis & Lucinda.  Additionally, Cousin C shares some DNA segments with my mother’s brother that she does not have in common with my mother (11.2% and 32 segments).    Because the sharing with my mother and uncle are not 100% overlapping, this means even more segments from the great-grandparental units.

In the image below the DNA Cousin C shares with my mother is marked with green; the DNA she shares with my uncle is marked in blue.

This means that as I sort through my mother’s Relative Finder matches, if someone matches both her and Cousin C – then that person is related to us through Lewis & Lucinda and will thus help me narrow which branch to focus the search on.  As I have started to tabulate these shared segments into my analysis spreadsheet I have already identified a few individuals who I can now narrow our search for our MRCA to that branch of my tree.

And also of interest, I have parts of DNA of a set of my 2nd great-grandparents, Andrew & Gracy (Bullock) McNair on my mother’s side since a 3rd cousin of hers, for whom Andrew & Gracy are the MRCA, has also had his testing completed.  On my father’s side, I’ve got DNA segments attributed to ancestors of mine even more generations back that these — how cool is that?

I really need for one of the DNA testing companies to add the tagging capability I’ve described on my blog in the past — it would be so helpful!

Grandma Truly Is Forever In Our Hearts

My daughter Kaleya was born on her great-grandmother Alice’s birthday – October 16th.  Yesterday, we celebrated Kaleya’s 7th birthday.  Yesterday, my grandmother did not turn 87.  :-(

Today, b/c of it being her birthday, my mother went to her gravesite to visit her and to take the first pictures of her headstone.  Grandma is buried in Sarasota National Park cemetery and is in fact in the same section as her eldest son, Stanley, who passed away 10 months before her.

Mommy says that Grandma is in the same diagonal row as Stanley – just 11 rows above him.


Great-Grandparents’ Signature

My great-grandparents, Abraham & Martha (Walker) McNair, purchased their home in Plymouth, Washington County, North Carolina in 1945.  While I have a copy of the deed from the local registrar’s office it is not a true copy of the original.

My mother found their original deed last week and their signatures are on it

signature of my great-grandparents

Looking at this, I see now that my grandmother, Alice,  had her father’s handwriting.  I am looking forward to making a copy of the original deed next time I visit home.