More Napier Connections

Meet Ella.

Ella was the daughter of Sophie Napier Watkins (1854-1917).  Sophie was a cook at Helen Keller’s home.  For the past couple of years, I’ve been working off an on with family members of Ella & Sophie to determine if I could help document the family oral history that they were related to James Carroll Napier (i call him JC), a prominent politician & businessman from here in the Nashville area and former treasurer of the United States Treasury from 1911-1913 under President Taft.  I am not related to this family but became engaged in helping to find any possible connections.

This week I was contacted by a granddaughter or Ella and I’ve been revisiting the genealogy.  Last year when I did when I did the initial research, I was not able to make a firm connection, though I had a series of information that made it likely to me that there was a relationship, but I could not get anything concrete.  Today, I realized the premise I was searching under was incorrect.  I was working under the premise that Sophie was a niece of James Carroll Napier.  Yet, today, it was clarified for me that the family history, coming directly from Ella to her daughter and grandchildren, that it was SHE that was the niece of JC, not her mom Sophie.  Sophie would have been a sibling of JC.

One of my biggest obstacles in trying to determine a niece/uncle relationship between Sophie and JC were their dates of birth.  JC was born in 1845 and Sophie in 1854.  Their supposed shared father, William Carroll Napier (I call  him WC), was born in 1824.  I struggled trying to place a sibling of JC being old enough to have fathered Sophie..  WC’s childbearing age would have begun around 1842 right? So,  how could he have a son who would have had time to father Sophie by 1854? It just never worked out.

Today, I learned that it was not Sophie who was JC’s niece, it was her daughter Ella. Thus, Sophie would have been a sibling of JC’s, and this makes much more sense!  The birth years of WC’s documented children are 1845,  1847, 1849, 1851 and 1859.  Hmm.. there’s a gap there between the last two and see how Sophie’s birth year of 1854 fits very nicely in there??

Besides, I’ve had others contact me saying their family history indicated other undocumented siblings of JC, so I’d had independent suspicion that WC was not having children solely by his wife Elizabeth Jane.  Then, the family sent me this picture of Ella and when comparing it to pictures of JC, all of you who have commented on it have seen strong resemblance in their facial features. In addition, Ella’s granddaughter sent me pictures of more family members and there are resemblances further down along the line – especially with the eyes.

Yep! I’m ready to connect these two families in my database along with a note of how we’ve come to this conclusion, but given the other information I’ve gathered, I am about 90% sure the family’s oral history is validated.  Of course, the quest for more documentation will continue, but isn’t DNA a great thing?

Comments (5)

  1. Renate

    Good work, detective! The resemblance is uncanny, and I’m sure, very confirming for you. Is JC supposed to be completely Caucasion, because he doesn’t look it to me.

  2. John G. West

    Taneya, good story! Most brick walls are created by making assumptions… sadly, we all do it far too often! You took down this brick wall a few bricks at a time which is the best way.

    Ella is a very attractive young lady.

    Helen Keller may be one of the world’s most phenominal individuals ever and Sophia Napier Watkins was a cook at her home! Sophia’s stories about working there would be very interesting, I would think.

  3. Mark

    Interesting, were JC and Sophie listed in the 1860 & 1870 census records?

  4. Anna Williams

    Tonya,I just ran accross this.You are a great researcher.If that was his sister do that make my Johnson Napier his brother since he and Sophia are supposed to have the same mother.I am still not sure about my John’s father.John S Napier or John WS Napier.This other family that you are in touch with,do they know anything about my John Napier. Anna

  5. Anna Williams

    Renate,JC was mixure of black and white,his grandfather was Elias Napier.

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