Last night, my husband and I were watching Roots: The Next Generations. We watch this periodically and each time I watch it, I do some online searching to add to the tree I’m building for Alex Haley’s family. It’s just a curiosity I have.
One storyline that fascinates my husband is that of the interracial couple portrayed in the mini-series. In the show, Jim Warner, the son of an established Henning County, TN citizen, Colonel Warner, becomes interested in a black school teacher, Carrie. Carrie is said to have been a member of the 2nd graduating class of Fisk University (here in my home city of Nashville) and Jim and she eventually marry. Jim is subsequently outcast by his father, who declares him to be treated as a black man by all white citizens of the county. Jim and Carrie have a child, who grows up to be a doctor. My husband is particularly interested in knowing more about this doctor.
In my quest to learn more about Jim and Carrie and try to find them in the records, I was not sure where to start. In the mini-series, many of the last names of the people were changed from the book, and the events in this follow-up mini-series were not even completely covered in the book Roots. I consulted our hard copy of Roots and also saw that Carrie is described as having graduated from Lane College, not Fisk. With these type of alterations to the facts, I was unsure how to really search. As I tried several strategies in vain, my husband said, “what about searching for mulatto children? Does the database let you do that?”
At first, I didn’t think that would work. Surely there would be many mulatto children right? But I did search the 1880 census using that criteria and sure enough, there were only 5 results for Lauderdale County, TN. The first three I quickly discounted given the age. The fourth one I did go ahead and look at the original census record, but it was an indexing mistake; the person in question while indexed as mulatto was enumerated as black. The 5th one was more interesting however.
Jas could be short for James; and Jim, the name used in the miniseries is also short for James. The wife here is named Carrie. The surname Turner is also not too far off from Warner. Is this the family? I go to look at the census record. I open the page and before I get to the Turner family I see someone familiar. Alex Haley’s 2nd-great grandfather, Chicken George! (George Lea was his name).
And soon after him on the page is the Turner couple. Jas. B. is enumerated as Mulatto, Carrie is black and is a Schoolteacher by occupation. They have two children, a son and a daughter, also enumerated as black. Now, I am pretty sure this is the family in the mini-series! Perhaps the Mulatto enumeration for Jas. stems from how his family outcast him? I’ll be continuing my search to see if I can further verify if this is indeed the couple and to see if I can find out more information about this James’ parents. I do know that there was a prominent white Hardin Turner in the county and James has named his son Hardin.
I am pretty sure it is them though. I located Jim & Carrie in the 1900 and 1910 census records of Lauderdale County. In 1910, their son Hardin is listed as Hardin A. In 1910, I found Hardin Alexander Turner, born about the right time in Tennessee, living in Ouachita County, Arkansas and is a doctor! A check of the 1912 Catalog of Meharry Medical College (also here in Nashville) and I find he graduated from there in 1906.
I’m trying to locate more about this family and the search continues. Just think, all this due to a search suggestion from the hubby. He rocks :-)