I’m back from my very quick trip to Chicago, but it was a very worthwhile trip. On my last post, I blogged about the death of my great-uncle. Fred was my maternal grandmother’s youngest and last surviving brother. On Saturday, I was able to spend some time with the family whom I’d never met. It was great. I learned more about his life things he had accomplished. For example, I did not know that he was an electrician by trade and the reason he moved to Chicago in the first place was b/c of a trade school he attended there. It was in Chicago that he met his wife and they have lived there ever since – some 46 years.
His wife, Priscilla, is my kind of person – she had tons of pictures! It was cool going through them and really getting to know some of the history of the family through the pictures. I took pictures of some of them, namely, their wedding pictures. What struck me most about looking through the family pictures is how different Fred looked at different stages in his life – really looking like a completely different person!
Here they are from one of the wedding pictures.
And, here is Priscilla going down the aisle. She was given away by her uncle, Moses Wright.
It was a very enjoyable experience. I really look forward to visiting with them again.
Now, Priscilla’s uncle, Moses, is affiliated with a very tragic event in the past. More on that in the next post.
On Monday, May 12th, my maternal grandmother’s youngest brother, Fred Louis McNair passed away. This is a picture of him from the 70s I believe, though it could be from the 80s.
Fred was born in January 1934 to Abraham Lincoln McNair Sr. and Martha “Mattie” Jane Walker.
Just like my grandmother, there is some discrepancy of his birth day. According to his daughter, he used to celebrate his birthday on January 18th, but changed it to the celebrating it on January 22nd like his birth certificate said. He has two birthdays! 🙂
I never knew Fred, but in the course of doing the family tree, have corresponded regularly with his daughter. Fred was a preacher at a church in Chicago and my mother has all kinds of stories about him. He was very much like my grandmother in approach to living – very straightforward and proper 🙂
His funeral is being held tomorrow in Chicago. Coincidentally enough, I am flying into Chicago tomorrow for a business trip, so while I will not be able to attend the funeral, I will get to spend some time with the family tomorrow evening.
My grandmother is now the last of the set of kids. She grew up with four brothers, Curtis who died in 1997, Lorenza who died in 2005, Abraham Jr. who died in 2006 and now Fred. Her parents did have five other children that all died as infants/toddlers. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s and does not know that she has no more siblings alive. She knows of Curtis’ death since that happened before the Alzheimer’s, but not of the others. We are hoping to keep it that way.
Rest in peace uncle Fred.
Tonight was an interesting night. I received an email yesterday through Ancestry from someone seeking more information about my 3rd great-grandfather, Rufus Tannahill McNair. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with her and she has a collateral relative that married a Rufus McNair and is trying to figure out who her Rufus McNair may be. I think I may have some ideas and in researching with her tonight I’ve been looking more closely at my McNair roots.
In the 1880 census for Lees Mills, Washington County, North Carolina, there is the following household :
Harvey, Tamer – age 53, B, F, widowed
McNair, Rufus – age 21, B, M, son
McNair, Jane – age 21, B, F, daughter
The family lives next door to the following household :
Thorp, Tom – age 20, black male
Thorp, Adeline – age 20, black female, wife
McNair, Christopher – age 21, black male, brother
Jane, wife of Rufus, was born Jane Harvey and Tamer is her mother. The lady I spoke to (we’ll call her G) knows this for certainty. So, her dilemma is trying to figure out who this Rufus is and she found my family information in her searches.
Prior to hearing from her, I had seen this Rufus & Jane as I reviewed census records but was not able to connect him to my family tree. My Rufus Tannahill McNair did have a son named Rufus, but my Rufus Jr. was too young to be this married Rufus. Besides, I can account for my Rufus and his family in 1880 – they were living in neighboring Edgcombe County. Intrigued, I then began looking for her Rufus in 1870.
As I’ve been working on my McNair line for a couple of years now, I know that the McNairAfrican-American name came from the white slaveholding MacNair family in Edgecombe County. The only Rufus McNairs (or variations thereof) that I could locate in 1870 were in Edgecombe County. There were 4 of them and two of them are “mine” that I just mentioned. So, that leaves two to look at:
#1 – this Rufus McNair is 12 years old in 1870, thus about the right age, and is a servant in the household of the white Colin McNair, brother to the man I’m targeting as possible slaveholder of my Rufus Tannahill McNair. Interestingly enough, five households away from Colin is a 52 year-old black man named Anthony McNair married to Penny, with three kids – Isabella, Jane and Luke. 
#2 – this 12 year old Rufus McNair is the son of a 38 year-old black man named Christopher McNair. Christopher is married to a woman named Isabella and in addition to Rufus has kids Flora, Joseph, Sophy Ann & Martha. Next to Christopher is a 53 year-old black man named David McNair married to a woman named Martha.
So, of these two, which one is G’s Rufus? Of course, it could be the case that neither one of them is, but I believe that one of them is and furthermore, I have a suspicion it is #2. This is why I think this:
- the father of Rufus #2 is only 8 years younger than my Rufus Tannahill McNair and is thus a good candidate to be related, possibly a brother? Could of course be just another former slave that took on the same surname, but keep reading.
- My Rufus Tannahill McNair had a son named Christopher as I just mentioned. He also had a daughter named Sophie. Rufus #2 had a father named Christopher and a sister named Sophy. names reappearing!
- Rufus #2 lives next door to a David who is 8 years older than my Rufus Tannahill McNair. Well, Rufus Tannahill McNair also had a son named David. Could David be another brother? David’s wife’s name is Martha and Christopher has a daughter named Martha. Given the proximity to similar aged Christopher, I bet he and Christopher are brothers and given the name similarities between Christopher and my Rufus Tannahill, I am beginning to think this is the case — the three could be brothers – Rufus, Christopher & David
- In 1880 G’s Rufus lives next door to a Christopher McNair that is the exact same age as the Christopher that I know to the be the son of my Rufus Tannahill McNair. In fact, I already had attached this census record to my tree at least a year ago. Can’t be certain, but he was the only Christopher McNair in the area that was even close to being a possibility.
- Father of #2 in 1880 lives two households away from Dred Wimberly, whom I believe to be my Rufus Tannahill McNair’s brother-in-law.
- In 1900, Rufus #2’s family were living over in Lees Mills where Rufus had been at in 1880.
- When Jane & Rufus were married in 1880, their witnesses included a Christopher McNair. Can’t say for sure if this is the possible father Christopher or the possible cousin Christopher? But the fact that Rufus #2 was associated with a Christopher puts more likelihood in him for me.
The next step from here is to begin researching the descendants of Rufus & Jane as we can track them. G did speak to some McNairs in the Plymouth area (including some of my relatives!) but did not get much new info, other than being told there are at least two McNair families running through that area that as far as they know, are not related. Is that true? It seems that there is a possibility. That Anthony McNair is still unsure to me, so maybe he is a different family? There is also a Wiley McNair running around that I am not sure of either. Maybe time will help us connect the dots.
 1880; Census Place: Lees Mills, Washington, North Carolina; Roll: T9_986; Family History Film: 1254986; Page: 244.2000; Enumeration District: 136; Image: 0063. [Link to Ancestry image]
 1870; Census Place: Tarboro, Edgecombe, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1136; Page: 216; Image: 433. [Link to Ancestry image]
 1870; Census Place: Tarboro, Edgecombe, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1136; Page: 219; Image: 438. [Link to Ancestry image].
My maternal grandmother, Alice Elizabeth McNair Robinson (the one perched on the car) has two birthdays. Officially, we celebrate it today, October 22nd. However, her mother always told her she was born October 16th. I obtained a copy of her birth certificate last year and guess what? It has October 16th too! I’m not sure how the family came to celebrate her birthday on the 22nd, but we always knew that she has two birthdays. A similar situation also exists for her brother Fred – his birth certificate says one day, but the family celebrates it a different day. What was going on 🙂
Today, my grandmother is 83 years old. She is the only girl surviving to adulthood of Abraham Lincoln McNair Sr. and Martha Jane “Mattie” Walker. Alice was born in Tarboro, Edgecombe County, North Carolina, but grew up in neighboring Plymouth, Washington County. Apparently, the family was temporarily living in Tarboro when she was born, then afterwards, they moved back to Plymouth. Alice had four children, and married Herman Robinson on September 22, 1950 in New York, NY. The story of how they met is a fun one, but I’ll reserve that for a later post 🙂
My grandmother Alice is the reason I am as interested in my family history as much as I am. One day about 10 years ago, I interviewed her and over the course of several hours she gave me so many details about the family tree that I still find myself trying to document some of the things she told me about and I often refer to those notes. What I need to do however is type them all up so I have them electronically too, just in case something happens to them. But, Alice knows her family. My mother says they could go anywhere and she would know family there. It was always important to Alice for her to know the goings on of the family. It is my goal to be like her in that respect.
Now, my grandmother has Alzheimers , so the memories she’s able to share come and go, but I am so glad I did have that opportunity years ago. This picture was taken in the mid 1950’s in New York. The little boy is my uncle Stanley and we are not sure who the other woman is. That is a mystery for another day….
Since my last post, I’ve been spending the week looking for more information about Dred Wimberly, and doing some further analysis of the information that I do have. I posted that I think he is the brother to my 3rd great-grandmother, Mariah Wimberly. My connection is circumstantial at best, but let me share why I think this and I’ve love to hear any feedback from anyone who may be reading. Am I making too much of this?
Here is a list of reasons for my theory on why I think he is the son of Allen & Della and why I suspect Mariah to be his sister and also their child.
- The 1930 census record for Dred’s family, has him living with his sister, Annie E. Wimberly, who was born about 1867. In 1870, Dred lives two doors away from Allen & Della and Allen & Della have a daughter named Annie who was born about 1867. In the 1870 census for Tarboro, Edgecombe County, the only Annie Wimberly is this daughter of Allen & Della’s. The fact that Annie is Dred’s sister is further confirmed by an article in the Raleigh, NC News & Observer from 1937 that I obtained from the University of North Carolina this week. (I’ve ordered his death certificate and expect it this week…)
- Dred named two of his children Allen & Della. He also had kids named Lucy, Frank & Annie. Allen & Della also had children named Lucy, Frank & Annie (Dred’s siblings)
- In 1880, Dred lives two doors away from Allen & Della again.
- Mariah also lives two doors away from Allen & Della in both the 1870 and 1880 census records and she is of age to be their daughter given that I know from the book, Somebody Knows My Name, that Allen & Della got “married” about 1841/1842.
- Both Mariah & Dred have a son named Andrew.
- Mariah had two children named Louisa and Joseph – Allen & Della had two children named Louisa and Joseph (would have been her siblings)
So – that’s what I’ve gathered so far. Mariah died in 1910, and I’ve not been able to locate any death certificate for her. I also checked the newspaper for the city where she was living and did not find any notice. But, I have hand-searched the census for all of Edgecombe County in 1870 and the way the proximity of the three families (Rufus & Mariah, Allen & Della, Dred and his family), all make sense.
Now, apparently, Dred has a history which resonates with me as I received my library degree from the University of North Carolina. There seems to be a story from him and from the son and grandson of Kemp P. Battle (former president of the University of North Carolina), that during the time period when UNC was closed and they were seeking more appropriations to re-open the university, that Dred gave the deciding vote for the appropriations, thus the school was able to re-open. However, it seems that Dred’s account, and Kemp’s son’s and grandson’s account conflict with NC records and the history of the University that Kemp wrote. The documented records have the appropriations being decided and voted upon during a time when Dred was not in office. I will definitely be researching this further!
But, in the meantime, I continue to collect all that I can find about Dred. And, there have located several items:
- UNC Clipping File – the North Carolina Collection at UNC had a few newspaper articles about him that they sent to me.
- Battle Book – the TN State Archives has the published family history of the Battle Family. It is a two-volume set written by one of Kemp’s sons. In this book there is a picture of Dred.
- Dred’s gravesite – Just last year in Rocky Mount, NC, his headstone was found as there was a clean-up going on of the cemetery where he is buried. This article in the Rocky Mount Telegraph reports on it, and there is a picture of Dred’s daughter, Della’s, headstone.
- In 1967, a state historical marker was made and put up in front of Dred’s home for his role on the NC General Assembly and State Senate and his positive voting record for education. You can see it by going here and doing a search for Dred Wimberly.
- Hall of Fame – and, the Tarboro Daily Southerner just ran a story this march that indicates Dred was inaugurated into their local Hall of Fame in 2005.
- Biographical Profiles – and, I have two biographical profiles of Dred. One is from the NC Dictionary of Biography that I was able to get as Vanderbilt has this full-text online and one from the book Ninety Bits of North Carolina Biography that I ordered and was delivered to me just yesterday.
I’ve been a busy bee haven’t I? But, I now will proceed with ordering certificates for Dred’s suspected family members and ordering microfilm of the newspapers of the county during his time in the General Assembly and State Senate to see what else I can find!
I’ve done a little reading online about how to go about the process of making cold calls to relatives in search of genealogy information. Yesterday, I finally worked up the nerve to call serveral relatives of mine on the McNair side and I am so glad that I did! I spoke to four McNairs all living in my grandmother’s hometown of Plymouth and they are all aged 75 or older.
It was an amazing experience for me. I learned some of the history of how the McNair family reuntion got started. I learned the circumstances surrounding my great-grandfather’s death and who found him. I learned more about some great-uncles of mine that I’d never met. All in all – I spent about three hours on the phone with the relatives and am very glad that I made contact.
I definitely plan to keep the relationship open too. It is so important to capture their memories and their knowledge and I’m so glad to have had this opportunity to further enrich my family tree. So now, I have work to do in following up with each of them. I plan to mail them some of the information I’ve gathered to use as a springboard for further conversations. Wish me luck!
The past couple of days have been amazing for my genealogy research. Thanks to being contacted by another person (NK) who is researching the descendency of Rufus & Mariah McNair on behalf of a mutual cousin of ours (VM), I have learned that a Bible Record exists for the children of Rufus & Mariah!
VM is a great-grandchild of Rufus & Mariah through their youngest son Solomon. Solomon’s brother, Andrew, was my great-grandfather. In the Bible, Solomon had written the birth dates of his brothers and sisters. I talked to both VM and NK last night, and though the bible pages are faint, we believe the information to be as follows:
Rufus & Fannie had a son named either Houston or Austin (I think it may be Austin)
Rufus & Millie had son Sterling b. 10 Dec 1852
Rufus & Mariah had the following children:
- Christopher D. McNair born May 8, 1858
- David born Feb 1, 1860
- Byron W. born July 18, 1861
- Blount born March 8, 1863
- Rufus M. — (he was a son of theirs, but i’m not sure yet if he is in the bible record).
- Andrew D. born May 5, 1866
- Shedrick H. born March 3, 1868
- William H.born May 23, 1870
- Louisa born Jan 25, 1872
- Joseph H. born Feb 9, 1874
- Octavia born Dec 24, 1875
- Susan born July 10, 1878
- Sophia born Nov 19, 1880
- Sarah born March 30, 1884
- Solomon born Aug 7, 1887
The Bible was passed down to one of Solomon’s son, who’s wife likely has the bible. i would love to see it one day, but that would require a trip to Oakland, CA. VM was a great source of information when I spoke with her and I look forward to many more conversations!
After visiting the Tennessee State Library and Archives again today, I have more information to help me in figuring out the trees for the white families I’m researching. Some of the goodies:
- Onslow Register: Records of Onslow and Jones County Citizens and Related Families by Kammerer & Carptenter (1984) – contains some court proceedings, births, deaths, marriages from these counties. Found some information for the Koonce family.
- Edgecombe County, North Carolina Court Minutes by Haun – abstracts from the 1700’s. Found several entries for the Wimberly family I’m researching.
- North Carolina Illustrated by H.G. Jones – general book on the history of NC. Contains a lot of pictures. Found a picture of a J.Z. McLawhorn in Pitt County that I copied as it may possibly be someone of interest for my Lawhorn line (family lore is that the name was originally McLawhorn). There was also a watercolor of Plymouth, NC that I may track down a better picture of. It may be nice to have in case I really do get around to writing up my McNair/Wimberly lines.
- Marriage Records of Edgecombe County, 1760-1868 by Frances T. Ingmire – Wonderful listing of records. Duplicates some other information I have, but it doesn’t hurt to have further confirmation. I did also find some unique marriage dates here, so I was able to glean additional info for the McNair and Wimberly families.
- Craven County North Carolina Marriage Records 1780-1867 by Frances T. Ingmire – Ms. Ingmire was a busy woman. She has a whole series of these books. Found some dates for the Kilpatrick, Cox and Goodings families.
- Minutes of the Jones County North Carolina Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions, 1826-1841 by Nancy Aiken – these entries are very detailed and not always exciting, but overall, can get some good genealogy info. Found some entries for the Wimberly family, but there is some language used that I’ll have to research in order to understand what it means.
While there, I also looked through the Heritage Books for Martin County, Craven County and Lenoir County. Made copies of a few key pages. However, I have to say that overall, I am quite disappointed with these series of books. They seem to have been mostly done by local genealogy societies in the 80’s and 90’s? My disapppointment with them is the true lack of adequate representation of black familes. Is it b/c the societies decided not to pursue as many black families? Is it because they tried and didn’t get participation from black families? For the Craven County book, the church section did not include black churches! (at least not the two that my families have been going to for the past 70 years. I am truly dismayed. Not sure what to do about it yet….
I have been completely obsessed the past few days! But, I have to say, I am rather happy with where I stand with my searches thus far and I have more information to help me build up the family trees of the Wimberly and McNair families.
On Saturday night, I discovered the existence of a book written by a cousin to Robert Diggs Wimberly. The book is called Recollections of a Lifetime, and it was written in 1902 by Mary Katherine Killebrew. The book was republished in the 70’s by a person from this area of TN, so there was a copy of it at the Nashville Public Library. Mary Katherine’s father was Robert Diggs Wimberly’s brother. Robert was born in TN, so, their father had moved here in the late 1700’s and Robert moved to NC (where his father was from). Mary Katherine’s father stayed here, thus, she grew up in TN. The information in the book confirmed relationships for me, so I was very pleased to find them. I know now Robert’s family tree fairly well on his father’s side. I now need to start working in earnest on his mother’s side. I have put up the tree so far (I still have a lot of people to add) on my site.
Then, two nights ago, as I was searching for more information about the McNair’s, I found a book online in Ancestry.com written in 1928 called McNair, McNear, and McNeir Genealogies. It has 5 generations worth of the McNair family I’m researching! This book confirmed the grandfather of the McNair I was most interested in, Augustus Harvey McNair, and it had a ton of additional information about the family. Fascinating!
So, I do believe thoroughly understanding each one’s tree will help me once I get back into the county records. For example, I had a false lead earlier this week but now that I know the family tree, things are more clear.
Augustus’s brother, Hugh, reports having 7 slaves in the 1860 census. On the slave schedule, slaves numbers 5,6 and 7 had names next to them. One of the names was R Tannahill and there is a note that this person is from Virginia. I was beginning to get excited when I saw this b/c my ancestor is Rufus Tannahill! and, the age of the slave was about ten years off, but I was willing to accept it as him anyway. However, as I reflected more on the list, I realized that R Tannahill was indeed the slaveowner – it just happens that this slave was with Hugh McNair during the census. Slaves #6 and 7 on that list also have other slaveowner names other than Hugh. Each slavowner listed R Tannahill of Virginia, EB McNair of NC and another McNair of Virginia, are all family members of Hugh’s – R Tannahill is his nephew, Robert Tannahill (who in 1860 lived in Petersburg, Virginia), E B McNair is Hugh’s mother. I’m not sure who the third one is.
Alas, of course it was not going to be that easy!
But, as I look at the 1860 slave schedule for Robert Wimberly, I notice right away that he is enumerated right after Augustus’ brother, E.D. McNair and their brother, Ralph McNair. So, I plan to really focus more on these two McNair brothers as I move forward. If Rufus was with one of them, and if Mariah was with Robert Wimberly, the proximity of the white McNair/Wimberly’s might be meaningful!
More to come as I find it.