The Search Continues

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.

Further support for my suspicion

As I am building the tree for Robert Diggs Wimberly (the person whom I suspect owned my ancestor Maria), I am coming across a few more clues that I think lend support to my theory.

Before starting his tree, I had the following items to lead me to believe he may have been her slave owner:

  • Maria and her husband Rufus live right next to him in the 1870 census, which indicates that Robert had a real estate value of $17,000. One of the things I learned in Beth Wilson’s lecture was that with this amount of real estate value, it tended to indicate the person owned slaves.
  • There are only two other white Wimberly’s families in Edgecombe County, NC from 1850-1870 and they are the families of Robert’s sons, George & Joseph. His son George also has a large real estate value ($15,000).
  • The 1850 and 1860 slave schedules show that between them, Robert and his son George owned around 80 slaves. They were the only Wimberly slaveholders in the county.
  • I have a hypothesis that Maria’s father’s was Allen Wimberly (I could do a separate list for that, which I probably should), but Allen was married to a Della Battle as demonstrated by county cohabitation records and the Battle Plantation was near the Wimberly lands. I still have to do research of land and property to better understand this.

I think this is itself is already compelling, but I wanted to find out if I could actually find more information to support my hypothesis. Over the weekend, I’ve learned:

  • Rufus & Mariah had sons named Barnes and Sterling. Sterling is a Wimberly family name – Robert’s brother was named George Sterling Wimberly, and their mother had a brother named Sterling. Barnes appears to also be a family name as I now know that a relative of Robert’s mother married a Barnes who later would live on the Wimberly property in Edgecombe County. I do not yet know this exact relationship.

I can’t wait to see what else I discover and I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the available county records (another tip from Beth – scour all the available county records you can get your hands on.)

Results from my State Archives Visit

Okay – here is a summary of what I retrieved today at the TN State Archives. Today I focused on Edgecombe County, NC where I am most heavily researching my McNair, Wimberly and Tannahill surnames as I look for possible slave owners.

1. I have a few counties photocopied from Somebody Knows My Name, but went today to look for the records of cohabitation for Jones County, North Carolina. I need to order the CD so that I can have my own copy. Unfortunately, Jones County is not included. However, I did go ahead and photocopy Nash County. I learned yesterday that Rocky Mount,NC is split in the middle of town, between Edgecombe County and Nash County. I have had family in Rocky Mount, and so I decided I should have this county as well. Good thing too – I found another Wimberly!

2. From the book, Heritage of Lenoir County, I photocopied the entry for Richard H. Koonce & Eliza King. Richard is the son of Wiley Benjamen Koonce. I still am not sure how Wiley fits into the family tree for the white Koonce family I am specifically tracking, but I figure I will get there eventually. Good to have it for later reference.

3. Abstracts 0f Wills, Edgecombe County by David B. Gammon – This was wonderful! It is a four-volume set that covers wills from 1732-1910. I photocopied almost every will that had a mention of any McNair, Wimberly, or Tannahill person. I see now that there were two I missed, so I’m making a note to get those when I go back. I also photocopied the indexes of volumes 3 & 4. I plan to make them PDFs and put them online so that others will know if the person of interest is at least mentioned. I’ll go back another time to get the indexes for Volumes 1-2.

4. Marriages of Early Edgecombe County 1733-1868 – Another great book. The authors have compiled early marriage bans, marriages as proved by county wills, as published in newspapers, and other various sources. I photocopied every page that had a reference to a Wimberly, McNair or Tannahill. I also copied the indexes from this book as well.

5. Tombstone & Census Records of Early Edgecombe County - This is a compilation of cemeteries throughout Edgecombe County. Again – I photocopied every reference to a McNair, Tannahill or Wimberly that I could find. I do see that I skipped one, so I’ll have to go back to get it.

Overall, a wonderful morning. I think however, that I am going to now have to create formal trees to track everyone I want!

Ft. Barnwell

I learned today about a new database – it’s a database of historical signposts that you see all around the place. I decided to make my first search the one for Ft. Barnwell. I remembered having seen this sign there everytime we would go visit when I was younger. And, I found it! I don’t remember seeing it when I was there last in March for my grandmother’s funeral, but looking at the picture, I know now exactly where it is — there is only one Citgo in that place :-) I used to go there all the time with my cousin when we would spend summers there.

The site gives the text of what the sign says and also some more history – this is the first paragraph from the essay that accompanied the sign..
“John Barnwell emigrated from Ireland to South Carolina in 1701. By the time of the Tuscarora War (1711-1713), he was a trusted official in the colony. Meanwhile, in North Carolina, in response to the establishment of a Swiss colony at New Bern, the Tuscarora Indians massacred settlers in that area. On September 22, 1711, over 130 colonists lay dead and even more were wounded or captured. When North Carolina called on its neighbors for aid, South Carolina sent Colonel John Barnwell. In January of 1712, he led a militia of thirty soldiers and 500 friendly Indians to attack the Tuscarora fort, Narhantes (also known as Torhunta), on the Neuse River. According to Barnwell, Fort Narhantes was the Tuscarora’s largest and most warlike village. Despite several casualties, Barnwell took the fort on January 30, 1712.”

Then, I had to look up the UNC one that I would see practically EVERY DAY while I attended library school there. This sign is on Franklin Rd.

Information for the essay about this sign was taken from a work written by Kemp Battle, a former university president. I’ve posted about this before, but Kemp may in fact be a slave owner of one of my ancestors. I do hope that one day I can learn if this is true or not!