yazoo + warren county maps, DNA connections and more (part 1)


Psst… Want to hear a secret? I guarantee this is going to rock your socks off when I reveal it you. Ready? Wait, no. Okay, here it goes. Way back when – a very long time ago our ancestors lived in very close proximity to their family. Say what?! YES! Now most of you already knew that or suspected as much for immediate family members and I know this isn’t true for everyone, but for the most part families stayed within arms reach more times than not. This little secret even applies for extended family members who could often be found nearby as well. This is something I myself continue to rediscover as I return to old census records I’d sworn I reviewed with a fine tooth comb. However, it is actually my ongoing efforts and waiting for new DNA matches (who are very slowly appearing) that is causing to re-review the records once more.

Because I enjoy sketching (it helps me to retain information better) I decided to draw out a map of the areas my 2x great grandparents, Stark King and Jeannie Gilliam King were residing in 1900 and 1910 to reflect this phenomenon of families living close by one another. These map sketches of mine are strictly based off of my imagination and are not drawn to scale or with any land surveys, so entertain me if you will.

Let me begin with the 1900 Census. Stark and Jeannie were living in the Enola area of Beat 1. I’m told Enola was once a plantation and in imagining a plantation I drew rows of houses to reflect data from four consecutive pages. In this case that would be pages 49-52 out of 67 pages from this enumeration district. Anyhow, back to Stark and Jeannie. At the time of enumeration they had in their household four children; Brucie, John, Riley and Miranda King. My great grandmother, Louise King, would be born a few months later that year. For the past decade all of the other names on the page they are listed and even a few pages forward and backwards were quite insignificant. The only exception being the Darwin Gilliam fellow who I suspect a sibling relationship to my Jeannie Gilliam, but have nothing to prove such.

Now behold the power behind DNA testing for the purposes of Ancestry or genetic genealogy. On my 1900 map I sketched all the households listed in pencil and then I went back on made bold the households where a DNA tested descendant or living representative has appeared within my list of matches. All of these particular matches have appeared within my matches at Ancestry.com. Since I’m dealing with a number of families this may become a little messy, so I will do my best to keep it tidy by assigning a letter to house in bold with a their DNA match. Here goes:

Match A: Represents a descendant(s) from the line of Sonny Hawkins
Match B: Represents a descendant(s) from the lines of Lewis & Delia Bell Miller
Match C: Represents a descendant(s) from the lines of Stark and Jeannie Gilliam King
Match D: Represents a descendant from the lines of both Rena Crockett Johnson and Albert and Cassie Ann Morris Lewis
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current research interests

I recently shared in detail my connections and research interests related to Yazoo County, Mississippi. The King and Gilliam lines out of Yazoo from which I descend can be found on my mother’s maternal side. I made a commitment this year to focus on my mother’s maternal lines first and foremost. That is the part of my family tree with the least amount of information. Still, I would like to summarize some additional interests across my entire pedigree. Without further delay here they are:


Location(s): Franklin, Lincoln & Bolivar Counties, MS

Celia Ann Robinson Thomas, formerly Celia Ann Roberts is my 2x great grandmother who resided in Bolivar County, MS. When I requested her 1913 Death certificate from the MDAH I had no idea how it would propel me into seeking free people of color (FPOC) in Franklin and Lincoln County. Per the information provided on her death certificate, my Celia Ann was the daughter of a James Roberts from Franklin County, MS. With the information found on the death certificate I was finally able to locate Celia Ann in the 1870 and 1880 Census years living in Lincoln County with her father James Roberts and mother, also named Celia. I noticed from the 1870 Census that Celia Ann’s father James was listed as a mulatto which prompted me into seeing whether he could be found in 1860. And wouldn’t you like to know what I found?! I found a mulatto James Roberts (presumably the same one that is Celia Ann’s father) living free in 1860 and 1850 with his family. Free People of Color!

Actually, on these two census years I see that James’ father, Dread Roberts, is a mulatto man married to a white woman, Elizabeth Mitchell Roberts. Say what? Yes. Here is where my troubles and questions arise. If James was a FPOC living comfortably in Franklin and later Lincoln County, why did he and several of his children turn up living in Bolivar County with the last name Robinson? Well a couple thoughts come to mind. Come 1870 Dread Roberts and the rest of his children are now passing for white. This trend continues into 1880 and onward for all of Dread Robert’s children. They marry white people and their children become white as listed on every Census record post 1870. The only exception is my 3x great grandfather, James Roberts. So did he move to the Mississippi Delta and change his name because he married / partnered with a woman of color? Or was he himself phenotypically of defect to his own family?

So far I’ve located a number a of Dread Roberts white descendants a.k.a. my distant 4th and 5th cousins, but none are too familiar with their family history that far back. Hmm, I wonder why? I’m certainly not trying to ask anyone who obviously looks white to redefine who or what they are. I only want to have a complete and accurate history to pass down to my own children. This is one of my research areas where I am hoping DNA testing will prove most useful.

Location(s): Mississippi Delta & King George, VA

Anderson Henderson, my 2x great grandfather, was always said to be the son of Hardie and Susan Dandridge Henderson. I accepted it. I rolled with it until I decided to order the pension record of Hardie Henderson. Boy did that muddy the water! Hardie, a Civil War veteran, has a pension file that is 90+ pages long. Long story short: Hardie does a good job including information on his spouse and their children. The first issue I came across was Susan, his wife, was a war widow. The documents state she was previously married to a Bob Green(e) who perished in Vicksburg. My next observation was that Hardie never lists Anderson as one of his children unless Anderson has another name unbeknownst to me. It would seem to me that my 3x great grandfather, Anderson Henderson was adopted by Hardie and took on his surname. However, his biological father is a Green(e). That naturally changes the whole ball game.
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mississippi delta genealogy road trip: planning it out


Section of an 1874 Map of Yazoo County, Mississippi with Phoenix area

I hate to moan and groan about one season compared to another, but I’m so ready for Fall. This Florida summer heat has been brutal and we are not even deep into the season. Plus I’m ready for new and inspiring episodes of Finding Your Roots. Really, I’m most excited about my upcoming genealogy road trip to the Mississippi Delta in October. So what’s on the agenda and what am I hoping to accomplish? Here is my loose working itinerary thus far:

Day 1: 14 hour drive day from Central Florida to Yazoo City, Mississippi. Check in to hotel and rest up.
Day 2: Explore downtown Yazoo City by foot in the morning checking out as many historical African-American landmarks as possible (Wash Rose Building, Bethel A.M.E Church, Henry Herschel Brickell Memorial Yazoo Literary Walkway) For the afternoon I’m thinking of checking out the Oakes African American Cultural Center before hitting the road to drive through the Phoenix and Enola areas where my people once lived.
Day 3: Check out of hotel and hit the road for Indianola in the morning. Visit the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. My grandmother always stated that B.B. King was her cousin although I have yet to tidy up that connection. Have lunch in Indianola and head over to Greenville to check in to hotel for next couple of days.
Days 4 & 5: The plans for these two days are very loose at the moment. One full day may be dedicated to exploring the Choctaw community of Shaw, MS where my grandmother was born and raised. The city is having an annual city wide reunion, so it should be a good opportunity to meet people, including cousins I’ve not yet met in person. I’d like to visit the church where she went to school as a girl and perhaps a cemetery where my ancestors may have been buried. Because we will also be fortunate enough to be around while the Mighty Mississippi Music Festival is going down in Greenville, we may pop into that for our Blues fix.
Day 6: Say farewell and hit the road back to Florida.

It is going to be a short and fast trip, but I’m sure we will find our way to slow it down and relax a bit once we’ve reached our destination(s). For the sake of my mother and two small children who will be in tow, I am omitting research time at the court house and library for a more lively itinerary. Truthfully, I’ve gotten a lot of records over the years through Mississippi vital department, MDAH and with the help of local volunteers. I can’t think of anything I’d need to obtain in the court house at this time, but something always comes up. Unfortunately, if records are desired I’ll have to obtain them another time.

As for what I’ll be bringing along:

1. Portable scanner. This is probably one of the most important items for a genealogy road trip that I can think of. Should I run across someone with old family photos and an opportunity presents itself to make a copy this is one of the easiest ways to do so.
2. Camera.
3. Blank autosomal DNA test sampling kits from FTDNA.
I’m contemplating bringing 3-5 kits. If I happen to run into a relative that becomes interested in testing I’ll have the materials they’ll need right then and there. No pressure, right? :p
4. Healthy Snacks. I’ve been to Mississippi to know that I can’t always find the healthiest of snacks while enjoying the delicious down home Southern that is there, so better safe than sorry.

That’s all that comes to mind for the moment beyond the basics. Is there anything else I may need to consider when packing? How about restaurants and attractions while I’m in Yazoo? Indianola? Shaw? Or Greenville? Any expert opinions are very much welcome and appreciated.

Note: 1874 Yazoo County provided by the Ricks Memorial Library Historian

yazoo county connections: paper trail problems + genetic findings

Yazoo Roots

They are laughing again. My ancestors. Perhaps I’m mistaking laughter for their cheering me on, but in either case their presence is heavy these days. And it is rather intense. I can not imagine how anyone can go about pursuing those who have walked before them without quietly holding conversation with them. I find myself whispering into the winds, so that they may hear my soft and gentle pleas for a clue. Maybe, just maybe, they are starting to hear me…

My great grandmother Louise King

My great grandmother Louise King

Mama Ease. She died 11 years before I was born so I never had the opportunity to know her personally. She was my mother’s maternal grandmother. And before she was Mama Ease, grandmother to my mother and her siblings, she was Louise King, born on the 12th of August in 1900 to parents Stark King and Jeannie Gilliam King. Her place of birth was likely in the Enola community of Yazoo County, Mississippi, but I’m not 100% certain. With the exception of one Census year, 1930, the life of Louise was documented very well. Since my mother knew her I know her through my mother’s memories of her. She isn’t much of a mystery. Old family photographs captured her beauty. Oral history provided me with details of her ability to make an exceptionally palatable pound cake. Furthermore, she worked for the famous Tropical Hut restaurant in Chicago as a Cook. One of my cousins who knew her well often describes how Louise would share with her and show her the doughboy uniform of her brother Riley King, who died in WWI. Of course all that was after she left Mississippi sometime in the early to mid-1930’s. No, Louise King is not a mystery, but her parents and their vague ancestral lineage mark the beginnings of my brick walls.

My 2x great grandmother Jeannie Gilliam King

My 2x great grandmother Jeannie Gilliam King

Incredibly little is known about Mama Jeannie or Jeannie Gilliam, so I will describe what I do know – most of which I learned through Census records. Jeannie was born about 1872 in Mississippi. Unable to successfully locate her in 1880, the first true and solid documentation I have is her 20 July 1888 marriage record to spouse Stark King. They married in Yazoo City, Mississippi. By 1900 Jeannie and Stark have established a nice growing family and can be found residing in the Enola Precinct in Yazoo County. In 1910 they’ve moved over the Yazoo County line into Beat 5 of Warren County on Ball Ground Road. From 1920 to approximately 1934 Jeannie and her family can be seen living in the Choctaw community of Shaw, Bolivar County, Mississippi. Like her daughters, whom she had sent away from the Mississippi Delta into Chicago, Illinois, Jeannie later made the bustling city her home during her later years of life. Mama Jeannie perished in 1951 leaving no information behind about her parents. This lack of information has made her difficult to locate prior to her 1888 marriage record despite her uncommon surname.

Stark King on the other hand is a bit of a different story. I can’t begin to describe how much sleep has been lost over figuring out the life of my 2x great grandfather, Stark King. Unlike his wife, Stark can be located on the 1880 Census. It is on this record that I find him living with his mother listed as Nora and his siblings, Mose King, Mary King and (half-siblings?) twins John and Susie Williams. Stark is said to be 17 years old at the time which would place his birth date in the year 1867. He should have been enumerated with his family in 1870, but I’ve had a terrible time in all my attempts to locate them in Yazoo County or surrounding areas. The rest of Stark’s life and his whereabouts for the most part are as clear as day and as follows: 1900 – Beat 1, Enola Precinct, Yazoo County, 1910 – Beat 5, Warren County, 1920 – Beat 5, Bolivar County, 1930 – Beat 5, Bolivar County. He was deceased as of September 23, 1932 in Shaw, Mississippi. Although his daughter, Brucie King Johnson provided names for both of Stark’s parents for his death certificate, I remain skeptical about the John King noted to be his father.

The real trouble I have with my ancestor Stark King lies within his own name. While the last name King was quite common in Yazoo, the first name Stark wasn’t common at all in Yazoo or elsewhere. Strangely enough there is a white doctor by the name of Thomas Stark King residing in Yazoo County as well. This doctor had only one son whom he named Stark King and his son was born a few years give or take from the date of my Stark King. To make matters even worse the white Dr. Thomas Stark King had a wife named Lenora, but she can also be found simply listed as Nora. I did mention that my Stark’s mother was also named Nora too, right? Besides racial designations the only other difference I can establish between the two families is that they were residing on different sides of the county from 1880 onward.

1880_ TS_King

1880 U.S. Census record with the family of Dr. Thomas Stark King


1880 U.S. Census with the family of Nora King and children including my 2x great grandfather, Stark King

So where does the name Stark come from and where am I really going with this? In regards to the name your guess is as good as mine. In regards to every other matter I can’t help to wonder and cling to the idea that the two families could have been connected biologically or other. Dr. Thomas Stark King had a brother named John King who was of the right age to be my Stark King’s father. However, I have very little to support that theory of parentage. I’ve had the kindest volunteers in the world to collect wills and probate records on the white Thomas Stark King family and related individuals. Sadly, those documents did very little in solidifying a connection. My Stark King was listed as a mulatto only on the 1910 Census year and I’m not even sure if his father was white or black. So I’m stuck in regards to paper records here.

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finding your roots: season two preview

Sound the trumpets y’all and come on September. I’m very much looking forward to this new season of the PBS, Henry Louis Gates Jr. program, Finding Your Roots. Based off of this video preview there isn’t an episode I won’t want to see. I’m especially interested in seeing the one with rapper, Nas. His Jones family has roots in parts of Mississippi that my Jones families are from. Could we be related? Who knows? As I’ve already said every episode looks awesome and I can’t wait. Fellow fans of the show, whose family history are you looking forward to most?