It’s been a while…..

Life has, once again, taken me off-line and out of touch with my wonderful hobby. I do, however, peel a few minutes away every now and then. In one of those precious moments, I came across a great potential resource for researchers of African American ancestry that I’d like to share.

Tom MacEntee over at GeneaBloggers runs quite a few inspirational theme ideas for other family history bloggers. One of his recent ones is called, “Friend of Friends Friday”. The premise is this:

“if you have encountered records of enslaved ancestors, whether they are your own ancestors or not, make it a point to transcribe those records and get them posted on the Internet via your blog.”

WHAT A GREAT IDEA!  There is simply no repository of this kind of information and no replacement of it as a resource to peek behind the shroud of slavery before 1870.  Of course its not indexed, comprehensive or, in some cases, written to be very useful for researchers.  But it is a start.  I’ve attached the Google reader RSS URL here.  Enjoy and check out some of the other great ideas Tom and his friends have come up with over time.  There’s also a special section on African American blogs as well.


FL & TN Collections

I’ve been researching my family history for quite some time (mostly online which I plan to change in the near future) and one of the most frustrating moments for me is when I come across a GREAT database or index for Oregon…..or Delaware…..or some other state/locality that I’m certain my ancestors never saw.  It was one of those moments recently that gave me this idea.

The vast majority of my research is centered around two states; Florida and Tennessee.  I’ve collected hundreds of pieces of information when I’ve come across one of these online gems that happens to cover my family’s slice of the world.  Going forward, every time I find one, I’m going to post the link here so that others might stumble across this information about our place in the world.  You’ll find these collections on the tab above or by clicking here.


For me, truthfully, documentaries about African American genealogy begin and end with African American Lives 1 & 2. I didn’t really get into NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are” during its first run. This year, one of the show’s (which premieres February 4th at 8pm/7 C) first celebs is Vanessa Williams. As it turns out Ms. Williams family history yields some genealogical gems worthy of prime time television:

a visit to the national archives

She had me at “United States Colored Troops”, so I guess I’ll be watching……

UPDATE: Really, really good stuff!  I’ll be watching every Friday (or at least on DVR)!

Tennessee Breakthrough

After climbing back in the saddle over the weekend, I began to explore some of my old website haunts to see what I’d missed in my absence. A fellow family site (who has sadly pulled her site down in recent days; hope to see it come back, but I get how life might get in the way) posted a link that helped me source more than a dozen death and burial dates and locations on Sunday morning. The beta site has really moved forward in the last few months. Several of their libraries including, Tennessee Death Records, 1874 – 1955 have proven invaluable.

If you haven’t been there in some time, pay them a visit. They provided several wonderful hours of discovery for me.


A few years ago when I started this wonderfully obsessive hobby, I became very frustrated with the difficulty I was having documenting the first generation beyond my grand-parents.  I mean, these were people that lived during my lifetime in some cases; but woefully little documentation (let alone pictures) where available for me to put my hands on.  Now, if you’ve visited my little space in the world here, you know that I got over it.  In fact, recently I documented my 1,000th direct relative.

Pushing ahead through the frustration was due, in no small part, to my old friend Dr. H.L. Gates.  I became an avid fan, and purchaser of African American Lives I and II.  What encouraged me beyond the fascinating stories and details of lives long past was the fact that, even with extensive research time, funding and dozens of professional genealogists, sometimes there are just ‘blanks’ on your pedigree chart.  There just are… and it doesn’t mean you are a bad researcher or something is wrong with your family.  It simply means you haven’t turned over the right rock…..yet.

Well, it seems Dr. Gates is at it again…. and this time he’s tackling genealogy beyond black folks.

I’ll certainly be watching, and I hope others are similarly inspired.  In case anyone visiting here hasn’t seen AAL I or II, here’s a pre-view of II to get you inspired to watch….

More Genealogical Current Events

It is not my intent to use this site to talk about current events, but when they keep cropping up with direct connections to African American genealogy; I feel compelled to post.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates (before his unfortunate episode with the police earlier this year) produced a fantastic series called African American Lives.  The two part series was devoted to using a variety of genealogical methods to uncovering the ancestral pasts of several well-known blacks.  Tom Joyner took part and learned of his family’s anguished encounter with “southern justice”….

Well, today CNN published a story on the follow-up Mr. Joyner has done since learning about these circumstances.

Nearly 100 years had passed since his great-uncles, Thomas Griffin and Meeks Griffin, were wrongfully executed in South Carolina. On Wednesday, a board voted 7-0 to pardon both men, clearing their names in the 1913 killing of a veteran of the Confederate Army.

It marks the first time in history that South Carolina has issued a posthumous pardon in a capital murder case.

I haven’t been doing this research very long, but I get the sense that these recent past meets the present stories are just the start of things to come.

Slaveholder vs. Slaveowner

I haven’t posted in a bit and this is probably an interesting subject to jump back in on, but it’s my site so…..

When I started peeking into my family’s past a few years ago, I knew that (if I was lucky) much of my research would lead to a “brick wall” around 1865.  With African-American genealogy this is the case more often than not.    I’ve found the names of several whites who possibly held legal title to my relatives before the end of the civil war  (Now, just typing that last sentence bothers me greatly).  I prefer to call these people “Slaveholders” vs. “Slaveowners”.  It’s probably a semantic argument at best legally, but I view my ancestors born into slavery as people held captive and not owned; as I don’t believe one human being can “own” another human being.  The notion seems to run counter to the very definition of human being.   One of the best websites I’ve ever found to help researchers on this subject is here.

So far, using a very less than definitive process, I’ve attempted to identify the last slaveholders for all of my ancestral lines.  Less than definitive is an understatement.  Given the lack  of names or identifiers other than gender and age, I pieced through the 1860 Slave Schedules and found people (slaves) close to the attributes I know of my relatives.  If there were any duplicate matches (more than one person fitting the profile), I don’t connect them in my database.  The results of what I’ve been able to compiled are listed below.Compiled potential slaveholder data

My next step is to explore what I can to find out about these slaveholders online.  After that, trips to Murfreesboro, TN and Lake City, FL to see if I can find legal documents to validate (or invalidate) what I’ve uncovered so far.  I know I have a few visitors out there from time to time, so if anyone has other ideas, please let me know.

Benevolent Cemetery, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

During my research a few years ago, I came across this description of the Rutherford County, Tennessee – Benevolent Cemetery.  I referenced it as a source for my Great Grandparents place of burial.  Several months later I went back to the site to check on a new name that I’d come across only to find the website gone.  Fortunately, I recently found a re-posting of the same information.  This time, with all the proper citations and references in place, I post it here where I can control how long its available for research.

Rutherford County, Tennessee – Benevolent Cemetery

Made available to The USGenWeb Archives by Jim Walker –


1100 Broadway,

Nashville, TN 37203 fax # 259-8093

By Trine Tsouderos, Rutherford Today

Murfreesboro – A person could pick his way through the scrubby field off

Highway 231 and never know he was stepping on and over the remains of 320

souls. Johnson grass and other weeds obscure the stones marking hundreds of

graves, mostly of African-Americans, in the Benevolent Cemetery.

Pushing aside the weeds, the names on some of the stones are difficult to


Some date back 100 years to when the cemetery was new and its owners, the

members of the Benevolent Lodge No. 11, were many and strong. The Benevolent

Lodge was an African-American club in Murfreesboro made up of members who

agreed to care for one another in illness and in mourning. Part of the

lodge’s legacy – the club itself is defunct – is its cemetery, which was

deeded over to Allen Chapel AME Church by one of the lodge’s oldest living

members, Mary Goodman.

The Rev. Melvin E. Hughes of Allen Chapel said his congregation periodically

received checks from local funeral homes because they had buried someone in

the Benevolent Cemetery. That helped pay for the upkeep, Hughes said.

But a few years ago, funeral homes stopped burying people in the cemetery,

and the checks stopped coming. Since then, the weeds have grown tall, the

graves have become obscured, and it has become easy to dismiss the cemetery

as a field of weeds. Hughes bemoans the state of the cemetery. The church

is in the midst of a major building program and simply does not have the money

to keep up the cemetery.

Donations or some kind of grant money is needed, he said. “At least to insure

it and keep it up,” Hughes said. He estimates it would take about $50,000 to

insure the cemetery and maybe put a fence up. Several people have made offers

to buy the cemetery land for business uses, which lies in a well-placed spot right

off Highway 231. So far, the church has turned them down. But Hughes said he has

contacted some local franchises about buying the cemetery. One half of it is still

available for burial, Hughes said. So far, there has been little interest in using

the cemetery for future burials, Hughes said.

Hughes said he hopes interest in the cemetery’s history and importance to

the county’s African-American community will spark donations to help pay for

its upkeep. Or perhaps people will start researching who is in the cemetery.

If some kind of historical significance can be attached to it, the church may be

able to obtain some kind of grant, he said. For instance, several people buried

in the Benevolence Cemetery apparently served in the Spanish-American War, in

which the United States joined Cuban rebels in the island’s fight for independence

from Spain in 1898.

For more information about the Benevolence Cemetery, call Allen Chapel AME

Church, 893-7842. The following names were taken off the tombstones in

Benevolent Cemetery in Murfreesboro and published in A History of

Rutherford County’s African-American Community by the Rev. Melvin E. Hughes

Sr. Some of the information is incomplete because of deterioration of the

grave markers.



Walter Rucker Oct. 23 1924 September 24 1926

Savannah Rion Feb. 20 1898 Oct. 2 1899

Ellen Alexander 1831 Oct. 30 1911

Samuel and Minnie Shanes Family

Edgar Shane

Joe Shane

Willie Shane

Nexie Virginie Murfree March 2 1884 Nov. 1 1903

John B. McClellan Jr. Nov. 26 1894 May 13 1934

Joe Alexander 1820 June 15 1904

Louis McDowell Feb. 23 1910

Nathan Turner Jan. 7 1847 Jan. 11 1906

Ike Foster 1864 1959

Adam Delbridge

John Cheers

Isaac and Fanny Fisher:

Issac April 20 1904

Fanny April 4 1894

Sir Thomas Moore Sept. 24 1874 Jan. 22 1901

Nacissa Turner

Hattie Newell May 27 1879 Sept. 2 1898

Mindora Carney Aug. 28 1879 Aug. 30 1898

Richard Vaughn Nov. 5 1900 Dec. 18 1912

Frances Thompson 1893 Nov. 15 1903

Deck North Sept. 7 1909

Henry Smith

Belle Roberson May 10 1846 April 5 1908

Joseph R. Pickett March 12 1846 Oct. 21 1899

Rev. B.F. Anderson Feb. 15 1840 March 3 1915

Mattie B (rest of identification was destroyed)

Fred Barns 1850 1926

Lidda Howse April 9 1880 May 31 1931

Charley F. Howse

George Keeble Feb. 5 1910

Sons of William and Mary

L.I. Harden May 25 1856 1914

Dr. G.C. Harden Jan. 18 1856 July 28 1932

Ollie L. 1880 1954

Virgil 1884 1966

Oscar Sehorn

Fannie Alexander Lytle Nov. 13 1898 Nov. 13 1936

James and America Eules

Luke Malone Feb. 22 1933 July 11 1916

Mattie Pickette April 25 1897 July 17 1916

Rev. E.D. Childress April 19 1917

Matthew Thompson Sept. 18 1891 Dec. 12

Salem Jordan Sept. 27 1879 Oct. 11 1916

Annie Tilford 1870 May 27 1919 Star Chamber 399 Quite,TN

Willie Jarrett Feb. 6 1887 June 16 1939

Eldres Miller 1900 1967

George Scruggs March 17 1919

Nannie G. Williams

Lethia Cunningham

Lizzie AUSB April 13 18? Dec. 16 19? (Remainder of information

was destroyed)


Mattie Sue Long Aug. 25 1872 July 15 1955

Mariah 1845 1929

Hillard 1848 1918

Gustic Lasiter

Jimmie Lasiter 1851 1935

Felix Avent Oct. 28 1876 Aug. 6 1961

James Childress Feb. 4 1897 April 19 1927

Roxie and H Dillard

Annie Bell Butler 1898 1973

William Fletcher 1841 1926

Eugene M. 1881 1925

Fannie K. 1883 1927

Fannie Cowan 1889 1828

Winter 1831 1931

Terrie Fuggett 1886 1938

Thompson Feb. 19 1916 Dec. 5 1928

Dee Phillips Jan. 25 1928 ?

Minnie B. Woodson March 20 1881 Nov. 14 1929

Robert T. Johnson July 6 1902 Oct. 17 1929

Vernon Robinson

Seppie Quarles Dec. 21 1987

Mable Mitchell July 16 1988

Oscar Gordon Jr. July 19 1928

Carrie T. Weatherly Black June 9 1920

Homer Weatherly

Ben Sublett Sr. Oct. 5 1894 March 6 1933

Jim Hickman April 1 1957

Joseph Alexander 1867 1932

Maranda Hodge Sept. 10 1880 Aug. 6 1933

Van Hickman Feb. 23 1938

Wyoming Smith Nov. 11 1947

Clemmie E. Price Smith Nov. 11 1947

Ed Williams 1877 1947

Zera Smith March 25 1951

Hattie M. Johnson Sept. 6 1984 Oct. 27 1948

Irene James Keeble 1864 1951

Susie Murray Lyons 1866 1949

Fannie Prim Jarrett April 18 1898 July 14 1948

Fannie Ree Woodson 1916 1948

Nora Moore 1879 1944

Rufus Brandon Feb. 6 1963

Mattie Frazier McClain Aug. 25 1881 Dec. 25 1955

Robert Hyde Aug. 1 1905 Aug. 4 1955

Johnie 1984 1962

Carrie 1897 19?


Eva Mai Smith Feb. 21 1970

Ruth Smith Nov. 21 1969

Charlie Smith July 4 1879 April 11 1948

Alta Bonds

James Pickett 1871 1957

Eugene M. Woodson April 17 1912 May 12 1961

Frank Sublet 1876 1961

Rev. Jessie C. Alexander 1906 1968

Jim E. Gaine May 14 1964

Edna Mitchell May 1 1964

joe Robinson 1883 1963

Willie Robin King 1883 1967

Andrew King Nov. 13 1970

Joe W. McIntyre 1901 1971

Minnie H. McIntyre 1900 1966

Leana M. Jordan May 20 1870 Dec. 19 1964

Sam Ella Sanford 1910 1983

Pearline Haynes 1912 1963

Bessie Allen Oct. 12 1907 Feb. 10 1974

Armenta D. Norris May 17 1919 April 24 1974

Cora Ramsey

Early McGowan Sr. 1909 1984

Mary E. Davis Dec. 20 1984

Lutisha Allen Nov. 12 1886 Oct. 20 1972

Bishop S. Jarrett 1892 1970

Ruby Lee Womack Feb. 22 1919 May 10 1974

Rev. Hugh Trimble Feb. 8 1976

Everleana Reece June 27 1976

Vella McKnight 1886 1969

Millie Bass

Fannie C. Taylor Dec. 14 1906 Dec. 10 1971

Mildred Brown Jan. 18 1972

Leana Ramsey Dec. 12 1971

Annie Lou McGowan Oct. 22 1912 Dec. 24 1972

Minnie J. Hatchett 1910 1973

Nannie H. Jordan June 22 1985

Howard Moore 1900 1984

Maggie Kate Howse 1903 1984

Victoria Taylor Feb. 24 1886

Brenda Bigsby March 20 1986

Lucille Smith Nov. 10 1983

Joe M. McGuire (remainder of identification was lost)

Caleph Smith 1909 1983

John Thompson Jr. July 2 1932 April 23 1983

Wayman Johnson Jan. 1 1983

Minnie Brown Jan. 19 1983

H-llum Howse (remainder of identification was lost)

Leon Williams Sept. 24 1982

Cal H. Puckett May 26 1982

Johnny Crocckett May 26 1982

Hattie Crowford (remainder of identification was lost)

J-h Ferguson (remainder of identification was lost)

Christie Burns Dec. 5 1980

Earl Gatson Jan 1 1899 Nov. 6 1980

Bessie Nunn June 19 1919 Oct. 26 1979

Eugene Franklin Dec. 25 1927 Feb. 7 1979

Alonza Williams June 13 1978

Andy Drake March 5 1909 March 7 1978

Roosevelt Davis Feb. 13 1978

Randall Davis June 13 1989

Lizzie Maney May 26 1989

Charles Majors Jan. 17 1989

Walter Allen Dec. 3 1912 Dec. 15 1988

Goldie M. Davis 1912 1988

Joe Mosley March 31 1988

Calvin Anderson Feb. 19 1988

Mattie Mae Mullins May 14 1907 Feb. 23 1988

Lee. C. Fields Feb. 20 1903 Jan. 23 1988

Annie B. Smith June 12 1987

Henry C. Puckett Oct. 29 1932 Aug. 12 1987

William I. Brown May 18 1977


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Surnames of Interest

Below is a listing of surnames I’m very interested in for my research as well as the timeframes and US states for each.  If any of these can be cross-referenced with your research, please don’t hestitate to reach out.  Thanks!

Name Soundex Qty Date Range State
BATEY B300 15 1848 – 1912 TN
BRADFORD B631 13 1876 – 1929 TN
BROWN B650 89 1829 – 1989 TN
BYNUM B550 85 1818 – 2007 FL, SC
COLEMAN C455 21 1815 – 1949 TN
CRUTCHER C632 8 1902 TN
GRAHAM G650 12 1805 – 1898 FL
KIMBRO K516 8 1845 – 1884 TN, TX
MURFREE M616 5 1833 – 1878 TN
NATTIEL N340 10 1927 – 1952 FL
POSEY P200 9 1883 – 1909 TN
ROSS R200 15 1825 – 1909 TN
SMITH S530 20 1851 – 1909 TN

Joseph Ceasar Bynum

The eldest Bynum I’ve been able to find so far is Joseph Ceasar Bynum Sr. Joseph was born in 1830 somewhere in South Carolina. Probably born as a slave, Joseph’s first documented record is in 1870. Joseph is married to Phyllis (maiden name unknown) and has two male children; Ceasar and Smart. Joseph is a farm laborer who can neither read nor write. The family is in Columbia County, FL. Joseph lived to at least 65 and eventually owned farm land in Columbia County.

US Federal Census Bureau, 1870 Census – Lake City, Columbia County, Florida, USA,Rec. Date: 25 June 1870, Farm Lot 306. Cit. Date: 16 Feb 2006 page 1 (lines 39-40), 2 (lines 1-2)

US Federal Census Bureau, 1880 Census – Lake City, Columbia County, Florida, USA,Rec. Date: June 1880, Cit. Date: 21 Feb 2006  (lines 4-8)

US Federal Census Bureau, 1900 Census – Lake City, Columbia County, Florida, USA, Rec. Date: 1 June 1900, Cit. Date: 16 Feb 2006  (lines 4-8)


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