He’s A Koonce Too!

This weekend, while working on the family tree of a friend of mine from high school, guess what I discovered?  He’s a Koonce descendant too!

My friend, M.M., has family roots from Craven County – I’d always known that. But I’d never explored his family tree until now. I was so tickled to find out that he is descended from a Koonce.

My friend is a 5th-great grandson of Killis Koonce.  Killis was born in North Carolina, about 1804. Born enslaved, Killis would make it through emancipation and the last record I have of him so far is in 1880 at the age of 76 years old. He is living in Cypress Creek with 21 year-old niece Vannie Koonce.


Killis Koonce with niece Vannie, 1880 Jones County NC

I have no evidence that I too am related to Killis, but of course I will be researching him more in-depth now. I  just thought it was cool that my friend is now part of my surname project!

Are They Connected?

I’m currently working on investigating more Koonce families of Dothan, AL.  There has turned out to be quite a cluster of Koonce’s there and there are several other researchers seeking to learn if there are explicit connections. The four African-American family groups of particular interest right now are:

a) Elizabeth Koonce was born abt. 1842 in Dothan, AL.  To date, I have primarily worked on the family of her son Eugene who migrated to nearby Seminole County, Georgia and  Leon & Wayne counties in Florida.

b) Henry Koonce was born about August 1854, likely in Dothan, AL and died between 1910-1920. His wife was Elizabeth was from Jackson County, Florida.  Henry& Lizzie were living in Jackson County by 1900 and their descendants populate that area, with a few branches migrating up to New Jersey.

c) Maliki Koonce – was born Oct 1879 in Alabama – it seems he too was from near Dothan, AL as in 1900 and 1910 he and wife Lizzie and their family are in Cowarts, a community just outside Dothan.

d) Clopton Koonce – born abt. 1854 in Alabama – descendants believe he and wife Sarah are from Gordon, AL, which is not too far away from Dothan. By 1900 were living in Jackson County, Florida.

The challenge is trying to find connections between these four families.  Are Henry (b) and Clopton (d) related? Both have descendants named Hosea and Clopton has a son named Henry.  Maliki (c) also has a son named Hosea.    I am fascinated by this and the research continues!


Delmo Koonce Cafe

Very early on in my Koonce project, I began searching the full-text newspaper resource of the Library of Congress, their Chronicling America collection.  One of the hits that I would often get was to a cafe in Washington D.C. called Delmo Koonce Cafe.  I was not able to learn more about the cafe however, but occasionally, I’ll revisit it and see if I can learn more.   This last time I searched, I found some new information!

I learned from another newspaper blurb that the cafe was owned by J.S. Koonce.  Since the advertisements I’ve seen have been in a black newspaper, the Colored American, I figured that the cafe was for blacks.  This is the article I found from 1900 that names the owner.


“Untitled.” Colored American [Washington, D.C.] 9 June 1900: 2. Library of Congress: Chronicling America. Web. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83027091/1900-06-09/ed-1/seq-2/>

I did another Google search for Delmo Cafe and this time I got a new hit.  My very own alma mater, Emory University, has an online collection called the Emory Women Writers Resource Project.  In that collection, I found online a brochure from a convention held by the National Federation of Afro-American Women in June 1896.  The brochure has an advertisement from the Delmo Cafe and I was able to learn more about them.

1896 Brochure of the NFAAM Convention. Emory Women Writers Resource Project. http://is.gd/5muGm

1896 Brochure of the NFAAM Convention. Emory Women Writers Resource Project. http://is.gd/5muGm

Information in the brochure states that the cafe was operated by J.S. & L.L. Koonce and they offered baked goods.  The shop was located at 1905 7th St., N.W.   Not surprisingly, this is just down the street from the historically black school, Howard University.

I also found another newspaper mention of them looking for a colored ice cream maker.  The address now, in 1900, is now at 1606 M. St. NW, which is now much further away from Howard.


“Untitled.” Colored American [Washington, D.C.] 5 June 1900: 2. Library of Congress: Chronicling America. Web. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85054468/1900-06-05/ed-1/seq-7/>

Armed with the name & the location at two different points in time, I then set off to search the census records.  Lo & behold, look who I find in the 1900 census of Washington, D.C. residing at 1606 M . St. NW!

1900 US Census, Washington D.C., District 40, Page 7

1900 US Census, Washington D.C., District 40, Page 7

26 year-old Jessie S. Koonce, born in November 1873 and his 18 year-old niece Estale who was born in January 1882.  Both were born in Alabama with Jessie enumerated as “Confectioner” and Estale enumerated as “Waitress.”  This is great! I wonder if I’ll be able to find out even more about them.   Is there a connection with the Koonce families that I already know about in Alabama?  Only time will tell.

Passing of Tunisia Koonce

Yesterday,  I learned from a fellow family history researcher of the passing of Tunisia Koonce.

Prior to yesterday, I did not know how Tunisia connected into the Koonce line, but with the news of her passing, I did explore it further.  Tunisia Abdullah Koonce died Wednesday, October 7, 2009 of breast cancer.  She was only 38  years old and leaves to mourn husband George Koonce, daughter Jayla and son George 3rd.

This is a picture of the family that I found on a webpage she’d dedicated to her husband back in 2007.

When I learned who her husband was, I realized that I knew him! Well, now *knew*, but a few months ago, upon learning about George I’d tried to contact him.   George is a former football player and now is Director of Athletics at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaulkee, but I never heard back from him.  I would later learn that at the time I sent my email, he was in the process of transferring to his current position, so it is possible he never received it.

George’s ancestry also goes back to  Jones County, North Carolina like my own Koonce family.  He is the grandson of Sudie Koonce (1912-2008), a native of Pollocksville, NC and the son of George Earl Koonce Sr.  I do not know who Sudie’s parents are at this point but I will further this research over the next few weeks.   My thoughts are with the family during these sorrowful times.

Update on Jeffrey Wayne Koonce

In my last entry I posted about fallen Vietnam Veteran Jeffrey Wayne Koonce.  His brief bio was sent to me by J.P. Koonce and as a first step to finding out more about him, I decided look for an obit.  I posted on the Union County, NJ forum for newspaper suggestions and was directed to a website New Jersey has set up for a state memorial of Vietnam Veterans.

On the memorial page, is this picture of Jeffrey Wayne

On his memorial page his siblings are named and that was enough for me to find out more about his family and trace his Koonce line back three more generations to his great-parents Henry Koonce & Elizabeth Ellis of Jackson County, Florida.  Henry was born about 1854 in Alabama.  Geographically, Jackson County is near Houston County, Alabama where I know offhand there were several white Koonce families.  Is there an association between Jeffrey Wayne’s ancestors and these other Koonce families?  Perhaps time will tell.

To see the descendants of Henry & Elizabeth as I have gathered to date,  click here. Remember that the names are hyperlinks to their individual pages.