McNair

Tombstone Tuesday: Filling in Our Find-A-Grave Entries

Sunday afternoon I was reading Susan Petersen’s post on her Long Lost Relatives blog about how to make the most use of Find-A-Grave.  It’s a useful article and while I do most of what she discusses, as I read it, I was inspired to create the memorial for my grandmother that just passed away on Mother’s Day.

So, I went ahead and created hers, then realized I did not have memorials for her mother, nor three of her brothers – all have predeceased her.  I was busy Sunday afternoon creating them, then linking the family together.

Now, she and all her brothers are there and linked to their parents, Abraham Lincoln McNair Sr. and Martha Jane Walker McNair and each has pictures added.

I am so glad I’ve done this.   I have more family members to add of course, but it was important that I do her family cluster right away.  With her passing, all of their children have now died.

Part II – There is another part I need to add onto my original post.  I wrote this Sunday, but Monday morning when I logged onto my email I had another tombstone treasure — someone was nice enough to send me a picture of my 2nd great-grandmother’s headstone that he’d taken! This is the headstone for Polly Hood Holloway.  I was tickled pink!

 

I then went over to Find-A-Grave to see if she had a memorial and sure enough someone else had added it and an picture back in November.  See, Susan is right – you must go back to review regularly! Thank you Susan for the inspiration.

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.

Our McNair Family History is on the Books

A few weeks ago I had a chance to see in person the book,  Edgecombe County Heritage, North Carolina, 1735-2009.  I was thrilled to see in print my contribution to the book that I submitted in 2008.

I contributed an article on my McNair ancestry, going back to my 3rd-great grandfather Rufus Tannahill McNair and his wife, Mariah Wimberly McNair.
I did not photocopy the pages; instead I took a digital picture, but I do want to go back later and get the physical copy.

I am very glad I contributed this information for 50, 75, 100 years from now, hopefully additional descendants will come across the information I share.  I do see that the publishing company messed up my 4th great-grandfather’s name the first time it is mentioned (Allen Wimberly), but as I mention him again a couple of lines down, hopefully a smart reader will figure it out.  I also included a picture of my great-grandfather, Abraham Lincoln McNair, with my submission and several references.

I am ecstatic! :-)  And though I didn’t submit this one, there is also a brief bio of Mariah’s brother, Dred Wimberly in the book too.

At least I know that some of my research will continue on in print format.

RIP Jassmine McNair

On November 26, 2010, my 5th cousin, Jassmine McNair (b. 1990), was killed in an automobile accident.    I have never met her, but soon after learning the news from a family member,  I could not help but feel sadness and loss.  We share 3rd great-grandparents – Rufus McNair & Mariah Wimberly of Plymouth, Washington County, North Carolina.

Jassmine and daughter Kamerin

Jassmine will be missed sorely by her family and friends and my thoughts are with the family in this challenging time.   It is a tragedy that you were taken so young in life, but your memory will not be forgotten.  RIP with our ancestors.

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.

My Cousin’s DNA

My mother sent this to me and of course I had to post it.  I am related to Charles Barkley (I’m his 3rd cousin once removed), and last night on Lopez tonight they revealed his ethnic ancestry from  a DNA test.   Turns out he is:

  • 0% Asian
  • 14% Native American
  • 11% European
  • 75% Sub Suharan African

This came about as the result of a question as to who is “blacker” – he or Snoop Dogg :-) Well, I’m they don’t say which lineage of his they tested and he’s such a distant cousin I’m sure this is not relevant for me, but it was interesting anyway. 

Please note: Charles Barkley + George Lopez – not always politically correct…..

mtDNA Testing in My Family’s Near Future?

This evening, as I was just finishing wrapping the final presents for the kids, I received an email about a distant cousin of mine.  I was contacted by a woman (we’ll call her Ms. C.) who is part of a project to identify remains of Korean War soldiers who died during the war.

Ms. C  contacted me in regards to my 2nd cousin, John Clinton Blount Jr. John Jr. was born in 1932 in Washington County, North Carolina to John Clinton Blount Sr. and wife, Alice V. McNair.  John was a member of Company L, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. He was listed as Missing in Action while fighting the enemy in North Korea on November 27, 1950. He was presumed dead on December 31, 1953.  His mom Alice McNair is part of my extended McNair family tree, the McNairs being my maternal grandmother’s family who, coincidentally enough is also named Alice).

When I received the email, I went back to my McNair family tree to look at John Jr.’s family structure.   I was hoping to reassess it for clues for how to proceed with doing more searching for his immediate family members since all I had was his name and the names of his siblings; nothing beyond that.

But then, as I looked at his mom Alice’s  record, I saw that her mom, Mary, was  Bullock by birth and I had a note in Mary Bullock McNair’s record that I suspected her to be the sister of my great-grandmother, Gracy Bullock McNair.  This would mean that John Jr. is a double cousin of mine.   And thus, if they were sisters, maybe there would be someone in the branch of the McNair family that I do know that may be a candidate for comparison testing.

Alas, I didn’t have enough documentation though that Gracy & Mary were sisters.  My research of census records and family information led me to believe that they both were the daughters of Lawrence & Chaney Bullock.   How could I determine for sure if the two ladies were sisters?  Well, I went back to Mary’s record and realized that though she died in 1950 in North Carolina I did not have her death certificate as a source.  So, off to Ancestry’s 1909-1975 NC death certificate database I went to look for it and found it within seconds.  Sure enough, her father is listed as Lawrence Bullock.

death certificate of Mary Bullock McNair

Now armed with this, I began to get really excited as this, combined with my other information, confirms for me that Gracy & Mary were indeed sisters.   So, I went back to the family tree and figured out who in our line would be of direct maternal descent who could have their mtDNA tested for comparison with remains (though, I’m not even absolutely sure right now that there are remains or if they want to have some on file in case there are remains found).

At first,  I guess I got overzealous for I thought I would qualify, but then realize that I descend from Gracy through her son, therefore, he would not have passed on anymore of her mtDNA.  But, she did have a daughter named Mary Della McNair, who had only one daughter, Gertrude.   Here is how Gertrude and John Jr. are related (this graph shows one relationship, through John’s father, but the Gracy & Mary shown as wives to the McNair men are the sisters I’m referring to)

Cousin Gertrude and my own grandmother were extremely close friends and my mother remains in constant contact with Cousin Gertrude and family.   I am going to hope that if Ms. C. is able to use mtDNA testing, that Gertrude’s daughter may agree to do it. Gertrude also has a granddaughter through one of her deceased daughters that may also agree to it.

Now, how did Ms. C find me?  I have my McNair family tree linked from the Washington County NCGenWeb pages and she found me that way.  Even though I am now the county coordinator for that site, I had my link added about three years ago.  Lesson learned? Share your data! You never know who it can lead to you.

Hmm… more to come as events warrant, but what an interesting thing to think about this Christmas Eve.

Family History in San Francisco

Have you ever been on an aircraft carrier??

I had a chance to visit one this past week during a recent trip to San Francisco.  I was in the city for academic reasons (attending the American Medical Informatics Association annual conference), but since I’d found out in May that the USS Hornet was now a naval museum in Alameda, CA, it was high on my priority list to visit.

One of my maternal grandmother’s brothers, Lorenza McNair, served on the USS Hornet for 13 months.  As a “ship’s company” member on the carrier from the day it was commissioned in November 1943 until early December 1944,  Lorenza experienced many battles during the Pacific campaigns in World War II.

In May, I blogged about my visit to Pearl Harbor, where Lorenza missed being present during the attack by only a few days. The ship he was stationed on at that time, the USS Portland, had left the base enroute to Midway.  After that visit, when looking at the ships he’d served on during his entire time in the Navy, I learned that the USS Hornet was outside San Fran.

Lorenza joined the ship the day it was commissioned, November 29, 1943. I found this picture in an online photo archive of the ship right about this time, in December 1943.

During his 13 months on the ship, the USS Hornet  participated in close to 30 air strikes in the Marshall Islands, Marianas Islands, Caroline Islands, the Phillipines and all throughout the Pacific Ocean battles.  Every time I review the historical record, I’m amazed at the ship’s extensive battle history and that my great-uncle experienced it all.

The TOUR

My friend went with me to visit the ship and we spent about 4 hours on board touring the various parts of the ship.

Never having seen an aircraft carrier before, I’d not realized how large the ship would be!  We started our time on the ship with a tour of the engine area of the ship.  The docent who did the tour was very knowledgeable and it was interesting to learn about how the engines operated.  Here is one of the steam engines in the ship.

They would convert the saltwater to steam in order to power the ship. Now, the ships have jet engines, but the steam engine rooms would get incredibly hot – up to 120-130 degrees or so depending on how high the ambient air temperature was outside.

Lorenza was a cook in the Navy – here is the main mess deck of the ship where he would have spent a majority of his time.  Of course, during active battles, men would be pulled from all parts of the ship to help out, so I imagine he helped during these times as well.

I have more pictures of the ship in my photo album, but I was so glad I was able to tour the ship.   So that I can contiue to learn more about what his life would have been like, I purchased a couple of books on the history of the ship from the gift shop onboard.  I also plan to contact the curator to find out what information they have on crew members from the first year of the ship in hopes of possibly finding something relevant to Lorenza.

As I’ve blogged before, Lorenza never talked about his military service, but I feel as if I’ve been able to have another glimpse into it this week.


Lorenza McNair (1921-2005) during the 1940s.