Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Curious Case of James Nunez

The 1860 census has always vexed me. I was happy to see that my ancestors were free prior to the Civil War. On the other hand, the census left me with more questions than answers.

This snapshot was taken from the September 1, 1860 census for the Four Mile township of Barnwell, SC. My 2x great-grandfather Robert Young aged 40 was a free person of color (mulatto) with a personal wealth of $150 (That equaled $4,285.71 in 2014). We also have my 2x great-grandmother Nancy Young aged 30 with three of their children Loreander age 13, John age 8 and Louisa age 4. My great-grandfather Alfred wasn't born until later that year. In addition to the family there was another lodger, James Nunnus, a mulatto aged 19.

Who is this guy? I played the Bill Withers tune in my head, "Who is he and what is he to you?" Was he a brother-in-law, cousin or just a tenant? The census provided no clues.

What is challenging for me is that I am having the most trouble identifying my ancestors of the Young branch. I can not confirm Nancy's maiden name and I do not know the names of Robert's parents. I have few matching relatives with the surname Young from all of three my DNA tests. I will blog about that later.

James Nunnus, born about 1839, was actually James Eunice in the 1869 Militia Roll, James Nun in the 1870 census and James Nunis in the 1880 census. He married Georgianna Young b. 1853 and had 4 children named Anna May Nunez b. 1872, James Joseph Nunez b. 1874, Louisa Nunez b. 1876 and Joanna Nunez b. 1880. Notice that James and Georgianna name a daughter Louisa. I think that Georgianna might be my great-grandaunt Louisa Young from the 1860 census.

I never found a record of James' death but there was an interesting court case about his life.

James was one of five children of Joseph Nunez, a mulatto himself, and Patience, his negro slave that he married. They lived in Burke County, Georgia which was 4 miles west of Barnwell, SC across the Savannah River.

Joseph Nunez descended from Dr. Samuel Nunez, a Portuguese physician of Jewish descent, who fled that country to escape religious persecution in 1733 and opened the first apothecary (retail drug store) in Georgia. Samuel's son, Moses Nunez had several mixed race children with Mulatto Rose, a Native American Indian. Moses and Rose had a son named James Nunez who married a white woman named Lucy Anderson. They were Joseph's parents. Joseph's father James owned Patience's mother, her and her siblings.

In 1846, Joseph Nunez transferred ownership of several slaves he had inherited to a neighbor, Alexander Urquhart. A year later, Urquhart sold the slaves to Seaborn C. Bryan. After Nunez's death in 1846, the administrator of his estate, Hugh Walton, sued Bryan to recover the slaves. Walton's strategy was to have the Georgia courts declare that Nunez was a free person of color rather than a white man. State law at that time prohibited anyone who was at least one-eighth black from selling or giving away property. If the courts agreed Nunez had an eighth or more black ancestry, he could not have sold the slaves to Urquhart, who could not then have sold them to Bryan. The matter came to the Georgia Supreme Court three times between 1853 and 1864 before the parties finally accepted the court's decisions that Nunez was not a person of color.

During the trial the defendant testified that Patience died in 1851 and he didn't know the whereabouts of Nunez' children. Somehow one of them, James found his way to Barnwell and lived in my great-great grandparents house as a free man. He had no fear of extradition and used his name openly.

I did find a living descendant of James Nunez a few years ago so his legacy lives on. In fact, I have kept in contact with several of Dr. Samuel Nunez' descendants throughout the years.  These wonderful people really helped me discover more about my ancestry as well even though I am not a Nunez descendant myself. You can read more about the Nunez family in a large variety of books, Facebook groups and websites. They have so many interesting stories that spans centuries.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Missing Livingston Child

Once again DNA answered an age old question lost throughout the decades.

Let's start with the records first.

The June 1900 census for Cope, Union Township, Orangeburg County, South Carolina had my 3x great-grandmother, Idella Livingston b. 1830 in the household of her grandson Samuel Livingston b. 1870. At this time Sam was married for 5 years to his wife Frances Brown-Livingston b. 1877. They had three children Verna (Vernell) b. 1896, Annie b. 1897 and little 3 month old Jasper b. 1900. I mentioned how Sam's eldest daughters married into the Wilkinson family in an earlier blog post. As you can see in the picture below circled in red, Sam and Frances had 3 children who were all alive in 1900. Unfortunately, all 3 of Idella's children were dead.

During this time period it was rare to find someone with so few children. Idella must have been heartbroken to bury her husband and all of her children. At this time, I still don't know how any of the children died. Official death records are scarce for the time period between 1880 and 1900. I can only assume the worst: by accident, incident or disease. Within those two decades I was able to uncover the names of my 3x great-grandparents and two of their children. So here is the question:


No records of my family were found in 1870. I can only guess that the census taker skipped their part of town. YOU HAD ONE JOB TO DO!!!! 

In April 1880 Willow Township, Orangeburg, SC my 3x great-grandfather, Boston Livingston b. 1810, died by accident in a gravel pit.

In June 1880 Liberty Township, Orangeburg, SC my 2x great-grandfather Jace Livingston b. 1856 lived with his wife Dorcas Hawkins-Livingston b. 1854 and the first six of their nine children. It is when I researched the children where it all started to make sense. 

Their children were:
  • Grant Livingston b. 1870 was named after his uncle Grant Livingston b. 1859.  I made an earlier blog entry about when this Grant and his brother Sam attended Claflin University. Grant later married Janie.
  • Samuel Livingston b. 1872 would be the one who had his grandmother Idella live with him in 1900. 
  • Harriet Livingston b. 1874. 
  • Adaline Livingston b. 1876 was the twin sister of Emeline. Adaline was named after her aunt Adaline Jones-Hawkins, wife of Dorcas' brother Jacob Hawkins. Adaline married into the Curry family.
  • Emeline Livingston b. 1876 was the twin sister of Adaline. 
  • Doctor Livingston b. 1879 was named after his father's cousin, Doctor Jennings b. 1855. Jennings was Idella's maiden name. 
  • William A. Livingston Sr. b. 1890 was my great-grandfather. He married Maud Easterling b. 1893 and had 5 children including my grandfather William A. Livingston Jr. b. 1916. My actual grandfather was never married to my grandmother. They had two kids together including my mother.
  • Idella Livingston II b. 1893 was named after her grandmother. She married into the Williams family.
  • George Livingston b. 1895 was my step-grandfather. He actually married my grandmother Izora Gibson b. 1914. They had two kids together. I told that whole story in an earlier blog.
There might have been more children born in the 1800s but I haven't identified all of them yet. Jace probably died between 1895 and 1900 since George was the last child born. I do not know where he was buried. Dorcas died in 1913 and was buried at Mt. Zion cemetery in Cope, SC. 

The reason I never found Jace's brother Grant Livingston in any earlier censuses was that he was employed as a longshoreman which kept him out at sea for an extended period of time. He did manage to return and live in Charleston, SC before he died in mid-1900. His sudden death might have been at sea. He was married to Lula Aiken b. 1880 for 4 years and had 3 kids. Only two children Willie b. 1897 and Viola b. 1899 survived past childbirth.

Several weeks ago I was checking my updates in AncestryDNA and came across a gentleman who was a 4th to 6th cousin. I reviewed his tree and discovered something new. His great-grandparents were January Hart b. 1850 and Louvenia Livingston b. 1852. 

January Hart was the son of Abraham and Annie Hart. January and Louvenia were married around 1872 in Orangeburg, SC. The couple had at least 6 children together. Louvenia died between 1895 and 1900. The 1900 Elizabeth, Orangeburg, SC census listed January Hart as widowed. He died there of dropsy (pulmonary edema) on May 1, 1915. 

Their children were:
  • Peter Hart b. 1872 was married to Charlotte Dickson b. 1862 with children Sam Hart b. 1896, Pearlie Hart b. 1897, Lou J. Hart b. 1898, Arebel Hart b. 1898 and Lilly Hart in 1900.
  • Ella Hart b. 1877. 
  • Pinkie Hart b. 1883.
  • Gilbert Hart b. 1886. 
  • Ollie Hart b. 1889.  She married David Johnson b. 1886 in 1907. My DNA cousin descends from them. She died on July 30, 1959 in Winston-Salem, NC. Her death certificate listed her parents as January Hart and Louvania Livingston.
  • Dennis Hart b. July 4, 1890. He married Roxie Northey b. 1906 and they relocated to Jacksonville, Florida. He died in 1985. His birth certificate below named his parents as January Hart and Louvania Livingston.

Of course I had to verify if this was the correct Louvenia Livingston. There were two other Louvenia's that would fit the time frame. In 1880 Orangeburg, March and Mary Livingston had a 1 year old Lavinia Livingston. This couldn't be the right person if her first child was born in 1872. The only other Luvenia Livingston b. 1846 from Orangeburg was white. 

So therefore Luvenia Livingston-Hart and Jace Livingston were brother and sister. She was the first born, Jace was the middle child and Grant was the baby. All of Boston and Idella's children were back together again. DNA solves yet another mystery. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

You Are The Great-Great-Grandfather! A Mystery Solved Through DNA Testing

I had a Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. moment last weekend. That means I made a discovery using both DNA and a paper trail. My missing branch has grown leaves and sprouted!

A few months ago I blogged about the Easterling mystery within my family. To recap: I didn't have a death certificate for my mulatto great-grandmother Maude Livingston. I couldn't identify her parents' names. All I knew that her mother's maiden name was Busby. My aunt told me that Maude's mother went to work for a white family, was seduced by an older man and had 5 mixed children in Orangeburg, SC. That was partly true.

I found out she actually had 6 children by three different men.

James Easterling (1877-1951) was listed as negro in the Orangeburg census records. His death certificate listed parents as William Easterling and Eliza Busby. This William Easterling b. 1840 was African-American. James married his half-sister Rosa Lee (last name Trembull on the death certificate was actually Tremble). James died of pneumonia on November 24, 1951.

Rosa Lee Easterling (1885-1975) was listed as mulatto in the Orangeburg census records. Rosa raised her young siblings by herself in 1900. In 1910 the family lived in the household of their uncle Webster Busby. Rosa had a son named Robert Tremble in Georgia around 1911. She must have been married to her son's father but it didn't last. She later married her half-brother James. Unfortunately her death certificate will not be made public for another 11 years.

Augustus Easterling (1888-1963) was listed as mulatto in the Orangeburg census records. Augustus was married to Jessie May b. 1894 and had a son William Roy Easterling on January 16, 1912 in Orangeburg, SC. Augustus was drafted into World War I. After the war he relocated his family to 2355 N. Orkney Street in Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaAugustus died of a gastro-intestinal hemorrhage on February 7, 1963 in Philadelphia. He was buried at Merion Memorial Cemetery in Montgomery County, PA. His death certificate named parents as William Easterling and Eliza Busby

Maude Easterling (1890-1942) was listed as mulatto in the Orangeburg census records. Maude married William Livingston Sr. (1890-1982) and had six children together which included my grandfather William Livingston Jr (1916-1993). It was rumored that she became mentally ill and was committed to the asylum in Columbia. She died on January 21, 1942 and was buried at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. No death certificate was found.

Vivian Easterling (1890-?) was listed as mulatto in the Orangeburg census records. Unfortunately nothing else was ever recorded about him. 

Ollie Easterling (1892-1931) was listed as negro in the Orangeburg census records. She married
Lawyer Johnson b. 1888 in 1911 District 46, Union, Orangeburg. Their children were Marion Johnson b. 1913, Vernon Johnson b. 1914, Lawyer Johnson Jr. b. 1916, Nancy Johnson b. 1920, Lucille Johnson b. 1921, Ollie M. Johnson b. 1923, Rosalie Johnson b. 1925, Walter Johnson b. 1927 and Lillian Johnson b. 1929. Her death certificate listed parents as David Franklin and Eliza (misspelled Leiza) Busby. David was African-American.

William Easterling (1897-?) was listed as mulatto in the Orangeburg census records. He may have moved to NC and been incarcerated there. There were multiple William Easterlings so it was hard to track his whereabouts.

The Busby, Easterling, Johnson and Livingston families lived near each other throughout the first few decades of the 1900s. I was lucky enough to identify Eliza Busby b. 1880 as my great-great grandmother. She probably died before 1900 of TB or in childbirth. The 1900 census had her last 5 children named Busby. In 1910, the children were named Easterling and lived with their uncle Webster Busby and his wife. Eliza's brother Webster's death certificate named his parents as William Busby and Margaret Lewis. They were my 3x great-grandparents. I will blog about the Busby family at a later date. (I have a great story on that side of the family!) But who was my great-great grandfather?

This is where the paper trail ended and I relied on DNA for an answer. Over the years, I have taken several DNA tests and uploaded my results to,, and A few weeks ago I was reviewing some new matches in AncestryDNA and found a 4th to 6th cousin match with the surname Easterling. I reviewed her profile and discovered that she was white. I am not mentioning her name out of respect for privacy. Her Easterlings were indeed from Orangeburg and were white, unlike mine which were mulatto. Her ancestor, Mary Ann Easterling-Tyler, had a brother named Jonathan Charles Easterling Jr. Jonathan and his wife Jane Martha Hall had a son named William Augustus Easterling (1842-1915). 

I found him in the 1880 Orangeburg, SC census listed as W.A. Easterlin, a single 39 year old white farmer, who lived a few houses down from William Busby and his family (including a single 20 year old Eliza). Both William and Eliza are circled in red in the census record below. This was indeed the man I was looking for since Eliza named two of her sons Augustus and William, it made perfect sense. 

The DNA test proved several things:
Poor Eliza, the stigma of having children out of wedlock by multiple men including a white man during the turn of the century must have been too much to bear. She might of died of a broken heart. Her daughter Maude was committed to a mental institution and died there. Perhaps the same thing happened to Eliza? I may never find out the truth. No state mental health records or death certificates were found for either of them.

Did I find anything else about William Augustus Easterling? He was born on July 15, 1841 in Orangeburg. His family was wealthy and owned a large amount of land in the area. He eventually became a cadet in the military academy and fought on the side of the Confederacy, Hampton Legion Infantry in the Civil War. William never married. He owned and farmed his own land after the war. Whatever transpired between him and Eliza was forever lost in those fields of Orangeburg. He died of Pulmonary Tuberculosis on March 20, 1915 in Richland, Columbia and was buried in his hometown. 

On a positive note, the Easterling branch, that used to be a thorn at my side, has now grown by leaps and bounds! My 5x great-grandfather, Reverend Henry Easterling III, was a Captain in the American Revolution. I felt like I was on an episode of Finding Your Roots and Dr. Gates told me to "turn the page." I can now trace my lineage back over 500 years to England. The Easterlings have their own genealogical society and have a family coat of arms as well. 

Origin of the Easterling Name

"The Easterlings, present an intriguing origin, dating back to 1066, when they arrived in England with William the Conqueror, wealthy bankers, coiners and lenders of money, to achieve distinction by becoming England's foremost mint masters, taking their name in compliment to the quality of their product. In the time of King Richard I, money coined in the east part of Germany began to be of especial request in England for the purity thereof, and was called Easterling money, as all the inhabitants thereof were called Easterling. Shortly after, some of that Country, skillful in mint matters, were sent far off into the realm, to bring the coin to perfection, which from that time was called of them 'Sterling' for Easterling."

Found in "History of South Carolina, Biographical Volume," Wallace, The American Historical Society, Inc.; New York, 1934.

Now I have new surnames to research which include: Hall, McMichael, Howell, Kincaid, Bennett, Chears, Widdington and Vines to name a few. More work for me (the kind I enjoy doing)

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Ghost in the Library

A few years ago, I worked for an energy services company in the Southeast US. My job was a performance contracting engineer, which is an interesting profession. It enabled me to travel to different locations, analyze the energy usage of different facilities and make recommendations for them to go "green" by installing energy-efficient and environmentally friendly equipment. Part of my responsibilities was to conduct the energy audit, which meant I would physically walk through a building taking energy readings, counting light fixtures and gathering nameplate data from their HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) units.

So one day, my sales associate asked me to audit the Charleston Library Society in South Carolina. This library, founded in 1748, is the third oldest in the country.  It houses plenty of colonial era literature including a letter from President George Washington. What I didn't know before I scheduled the appointment there was that it also contained one GHOST.

I walked in the Library and met with the head librarians. The library was moderately occupied for a Tuesday afternoon. They basically gave me free access to venture throughout the building on my own. I started from the top (the roof) and worked my way down to the basement. I only needed an hour or two to do my job. It was your standard audit, counting lighting fixtures, measuring windows, gathering temperature readings, calculating ventilation and taking down make/model numbers on motors, AC units and the boiler. The librarian did tell me that one time the vents on the boiler were not working properly and they almost had a carbon monoxide poisoning incident there recently. Otherwise nothing special to report here or so it seemed.

While I was in the basement, I walked through the Archives, the special collection of books that were not available to the public. I happened to notice in an adjoining room there was a person in there. I didn't want to disturb them as their back was towards me. I did notice something odd. They were just standing there, not making a sound. I assumed it was another librarian re-shelving books. He had on an old heavy looking suit though, which I found odd since it was the middle of the summer. I paid him no mind and continued looking at the lights.

The PA system came on a few minutes later telling us that the library would be closing in 15 minutes. I finished what I had to do and made my way upstairs. Once the I got to the main floor most of the library was empty and the librarians were shutting down the lights. I informed the librarians that there was someone still downstairs. They both looked at each other and said "No there isn't." I politely told them "Yes there is, I saw him. He had on a black coat. He's in the archives room. Is that one of your co-workers?" Their eyes widened and one of them spoke softly. She said, "You saw THE GHOST."

I thought to myself and said "I'm getting the hell outta here these people are crazy." Did the ghost try to kill them by closing all the vents on the boiler? Something told me that they were telling the truth but I wasn't going back downstairs to prove them wrong. Later on, I approved their project for whatever they wanted. I never went back to see if it was done!

Fast forward 8 years later to now and I run across some old articles to this old haunting ground. I can now put a name and face to my ghostly encounter. The ghost that haunts the Charleston Library Society is none other than its largest contributor, the late William Godber Hinson (1838-1919). Click that link to see his face and read a story about him. Several librarians have reported seeing him over the years.

I may never set foot again in the Charleston Library Society, but if I do, at least I know who to call....

Read my mother's old ghost story HERE if you dare!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

All Aboard With The Wilkinsons

Have you ever wondered what made your Southern ancestors relocate up North during the Great Migration? This is one of the stories that has been passed down in my family history on my mother's Livingston side.  I wish to thank Lorraine Thompson for gathering all this data and keeping the history alive that we share during the Livingston-Wilkinson-Wright Family Reunions as the years progress.

Moore (also known as Murrah) and Matilda Curry-Wilkinson were born in Orangeburg, SC in the mid 1800s. Moore was born about October 1855 and Matilda about 1861. They lived on their own plantation that was previously owned by his father and his father before him. Moore and Matilda had 15 children, 6 girls and 9 boys.

They were:
Willie Wilkinson-Wright (married Catherine Brown) b. 1877
Alice Wilkinson b. 1878
Festus Wilkinson (married Gladys) b. 1879
Elijah Wilkinson b. 1879
Tinkerbell Wilkinson b. 1880
Laura Wilkinson b. 1881
Marstella Wilkinson b. 1882
Jerome Wilkinson b. 1884
Ernest Wilkinson (married Sally) b. 1885
Moore Mose Wilkinson Jr. (married Annie Livingston) b. 1888
James Wilkinson b. 1891
Eugene Wilkinson (married Vernell Livingston) b. 1894
Sentie Wilkinson b. 1896
Herbert Wilkinson b. 1898
Rubin Wilkinson b. 1899

Moore Sr was a humanitarian in his own right. He attended Claflin University where he studied law. He taught school and helped his people as much as he could. He was very much concerned and interested in the welfare of his race. His neighbors and friends would consult him for advice and assistance. He would bail them out of jail, give them jobs and provide land for them to work and farm in order to make a living for their families.

One time, Murrah defended one of the neighbors who had been accused of stealing a pig from a white man's farm. Murrah said, "If you stole that man's pig, give me half of that pig and I will keep you out of jail." The man gave him half of the pig. While pleading the case, Murrah told the judge, "That man does not have anymore of that pig than I do." Because he was respected as an honest man, the case was dismissed and the man was free to go. Murrah warned him of his faults and advised him to change his behavior.

As a peacemaker, he would often give of himself, talk to others and advise them on how to handle different situations to keep out of trouble. He went to court on many occasions defending, counseling and representing people as their attorney. A school was named Wilkinson High after him and is still operating within the Orangeburg school district. GO BRUINS!!

With acres of land on their huge plantation, he worked hard at farming, raising cattle and chickens, etc. until the decided they needed a change for their children along with a better chance to give them an education and an opportunity to do so. Moore believed and stressed getting the best education offered during that time. He was very strict and proud. He sold his plantation in the fall of 1907. On December 20, 1907 the Wilkinson family left Orangeburg by train with 9 of their children (5 were deceased) to New York. Their son Willie came a year later in 1908 to their new home at 639 Lexington Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. The home remained with the family until it burned down in the early 1960s.

Murrah worked at various jobs until he secured and purchased his own cleaning and pressing business. He and his sons worked very hard, long hours and were successful for several years.

Moore Wilkinson Jr., left the family business to work for the Eastern Seaboard Air Line Railroad as a porter traveling from Maine to Florida, sometimes cross country; until 1913 when he moved to Washington, DC on Patterson Street NE with his younger brother Eugene. Later Eugene Wilkinson and his wife Vernell moved to 6412 Chapel Road, Cedar Heights, Maryland. To this day, the family still owns the land but the house was torn down. Eugene became an ordained minister serving the Colored Methodist Episcopal churches in Washington, DC and Virginia areas. He performed many marriages and numerous deeds of kindness but would not charge anything. His favorite saying was "Stand for a Principle." 

Eugene and Vernell's 11 children were:
LeRoy Webster Wilkinson (married to Lilliemae)
Frederick Eugene Wilkinson (married to Genevie Thomas)
Learline Dorothy Wilkinson (married to Grover Carson)
Ruth Vernell Wilkinson (married to Edward E. Thomas)
Curtis Samuel Wilkinson (married to Nellie Black)
Nathaniel Louis Wilkinson (married to Helen Hilda Johnson)
Florence Evelyn Wilkinson (married to Thomas Freeland)
Christine Alberta Wilkinson (married to Michael Parker Sr.)
Naomi Margurite Wilkinson (married to John W. Minor)
Jean Delores Wilkinson (married to Richard Colbert)
Vernita DeVera Wilkinson (married to Joseph Wimbush)

Samuel and Frances Brown-Livingston were the parents of Vernell and Annie. Samuel was the brother of my great-great grandfather William A. Livingston of Orangeburg, SC. When Vernell graduated from Claflin College at age 16, her mother sent her to Maryland to live with her Uncle Willie and Aunt Catherine Wright. Catherine and Frances were sisters. Annie also went to live in MD a year later. When Vernell arrived in DC by train, Willie sent his younger brother Eugene to pick her up. It was love at first sight. They courted for 2 years before she was allowed to marry. Annie and Vernell were very close and didn't want to be separated. When Moore Jr. came from Brooklyn to visit his brother in MD, he fell in love with Annie. Moore Jr. married Annie on October 6, 1914.

Moore and Annie bought land and built their home at 307 64th Street in Cedar Heights, MD. Moore did odd jobs when he first came to DC, took courses at Burrville School (801 Division Avenue NE, Washington, DC) attending at night in order to better himself. He was awarded certificates for Carpentry and Masonry.

The family relocated to Detroit, MI for 2 years so that Moore could work for the Ford Motor Company. Unfortunately conditions there were too competitive and he returned back to DC in 1923.   He was hired by the Federal government (US Department of Interior employed Moore as a laborer and then an engineer) serving until his retirement.

Moore and Annie Wilkinson had six children:
Jessie Mae Wilkinson (married to Mr. Hart)
Rosalee Constance Wilkinson (married to William Davenport Sr.)
John Emory Francis Wilkinson
Annie Eiles Wilkinson
Marie Genevieve Wilkinson (married to Wallace James Deal Sr.)
Lorraine Marguerite Wilkinson (married to Hayward Thompson Sr.)

Moore and Eugene would later ask their father for the money to relocate their wives' other sisters (Mary Livingston-Lee, Hattie Livingston-Wheeler, Ella Livingson-Stephenson and Nina Livingston-Hall) and mother (Frances Livingston) from SC to Maryland to keep the family close. The Wilkinson brothers built another home on the property so that the Livingston's could have their own place to live. Another brother, Herbert Wilkinson wanted to marry Mary Livingston but Frances put her foot down and said "There's ENOUGH Wilkinsons in this family!" Mary would later marry a man (Burgess Lee Sr.) that abandoned her and their two children. Mary died of pneumonia at the age of 35 leaving her children to be raised by their relatives. Frances would regret making that marriage decision for the rest of her life.

Annie Wilkinson died in January 1935. Moore raised his family alone for over 10 years. Moore then married Mattie Black on June 26, 1946. Moore died in March 1988 at 100 years old. Mattie died in 1990. Eugene died on October 28, 1956. Vernell died on March 4, 1974.

They left us a legacy of love for family, education and determination to make a better place in this world for our children. Most important though, they taught us that nothing could be accomplished without a belief in God.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Where there is a WILL, there is a way (The story of Julia Jackson)

Every summer, mom and dad would drive from Long Island, NY down to South Carolina to see the family. I would stay up all for most of the 16 hour trip just to make sure we stopped at South of the Border. I had to get my fireworks from Pedro for the Fourth of July! That was always the highlight of the trip for me but dad wanted us to get to know our kinfolk.

Dad really was the glue that kept all the family together. For 2 weeks dad would make sure we got to see almost all the branches of family scattered across the state. Last on the trip would be a visit to the countryside of Ritter in Colleton County. There resided the Jackson family. Julia Ann Murray Jackson (1889 - 1978) was my great-grandmother. I don't remember much about her because she died when I was young. Whenever I look at this photo of her, I tend to revert to a 5 year old, want to jump in her lap and listen to her tell me a story. I remember fig trees in her yard and fresh pecans in her kitchen. She had a big country farm full of cows, pigs and horses left to her by her husband, my great-grandfather George Jackson (1887 - 1967).

Peter Murray and his wife Rebecca Grant-Murray lived near the Jackson family. I had mentioned Peter's father Henry Murray in an earlier blog post. George married his neighbor Peter's daughter Julia in 1908 and were devoted Catholics. Life for them was blessed but sometimes chaotic. George received plenty of farm land in Ritter by his father Frank Jackson.  George worked at the local saw mill by day and was a bootlegger by night. He was literally two different people. His nickname was TUNK. That's what you called him when you wanted to buy some alcohol. During the time of prohibition, you could make a fortune on corn liquor. He would bring his shotgun to church on Sunday just in case he had to run out to protect his still. The still was located deep in the woods near his house but was within running distance of St. James the Greater Church at Catholic Hill in case the police showed up. I remember seeing what was left of the still back in the 70s but I didn't have a clue what went on there. Back then, kids were seen and not heard. And what went on in the family, STAYED in the family.  I guess we had our own version of Boardwalk Empire going on back then.

Rumor has it that George and Julia had 20 children. Unfortunately, the Jackson family descendants only remember 17 of them. Three must have been stillborn or died very young.

I have a copy of my great-grandfather's Last Will and Testament dated October 18, 1965. George Jackson owned 108 acres of land in Catholic Hill, near the community of Ritter, in Blake Township, Colleton County, South Carolina. The estate included three homes (George's, Harold's and Henrietta's) and land was valued at $35K (equivalent to $261K in 2014). The will only listed 10 surviving children. All of the property and estate went to Julia. Before she died, she prepared a will that left everything to her surviving children and their descendants. Julia Jackson died on January 15, 1978 and was buried alongside her husband at St. James the Greater Cemetery in Catholic Hill. The Jackson property was to be distributed in tenths to coincide with those children mentioned in the will. Approximately 10.8 acres were to go to each child.

George and Julia's children were:

Frances Jackson: She died in 1956. Her share (1/10) of the estate was split evenly between the 5 children by her husband James Young Sr.

Frank Jackson: He received one tenth of the estate. He is pictured below. He was married to Evelyn Jackson and had no children. It was rumored that he had one son out of wedlock.

Mary Jackson: She received one tenth of the estate. She had one daughter out of wedlock.

Georgia Jackson: She married Terry Griffin. They had no children before she died. She received one tenth of the estate.

James "Bubba" Jackson: He died young with no children.

Earnestine Jackson: She died young with no children.

Harold Jackson: He was married to Queen Hairston. He received one tenth of the estate. They had 2 children. He also had 3 children out of wedlock with Rosemary Radcliff. 

Henrietta Jackson: She received one tenth of the estate. She had 1 child. Henrietta took care of her mother until she died. She is pictured below with Julia's great grandchildren Karen Radcliff-Ferguson, George Jackson III, Harold Radcliff and Mary Frances Jackson-Holmes. Her home is pictured in the background.

Lee Jackson: He married Evelyn A. Johnson. He received one tenth of the estate. They had 2 children.

Cornelia Jackson: She was the wife of Anderson Chisolm Sr.. She received one tenth of the estate. They had 4 children.

George Jackson Jr.: He died young with no children.

Minnie Jackson: She was the wife of Harley Magwood. She received one tenth of the estate. They had 2 children.

Dorothy Jackson: She died young with no children.

Bell Jackson: She died young with no children.

Wesley Jackson: He died young with no children.

William Jackson: He died young with no children.

Louise Jackson: She married Oliver Bartholomew from Grenada. She received one tenth of the estate. They had 3 children together. Louise had one son prior to this marriage.

Unfortunately the harmony within this family did not last. After Julia's death, the surviving siblings fought to gain control of majority share of the property. Henrietta produced a third will appeared that stated the land wasn't divided evenly. She felt she deserved more for taking care of  Julia in her final years. The children of Frances Jackson-Young received only 0.93 acres each!  This caused a major rift between the Youngs and Jacksons. Henrietta died shortly after her mother and then Frank assumed control of the land. The legal battle went on for nearly 20 years until all of the original Jackson siblings died off in the 1990s.

Now there are more descendants and the property has been divided even further with a bit sold off. Our ancestral homes are no longer there but some of the land is still ours. So in order to restore peace, several of us plan to hold a Jackson Family Reunion on the old homestead within the next year or two.

It was hard but my great-grandmother showed that she loved all her children EVENLY. I hope that this reunion will settle her spirit and bring the family back together as one.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Back to School with the Livingstons

Did your parents ever say that you would be the first to attend college in your family? I knew I wasn't the first on my dad's side but I was curious to see who on my mother's side could claim that title. Of course fate would have it that I would find proof that not one but TWO of my great grand-uncles attended Claflin University in Orangeburg, SC way back in the late 1800s. Claflin is the oldest Historic Black College & University (HBCU) in the state of South Carolina. Claflin celebrates its 145th year in existence with the theme "Celebrating Traditions, Pursuing Transformative Change." I like their Twitter hashtag as well: #AverageIsOverGo Panthers!! 

Claflin University was founded in 1869 and its mission was to educate freedmen and prepare them with skills as full citizens. Their standard college courses included English, geometry and physics. On March 12, 1872 the College of Agriculture and Mechanics' Institute for Colored Students was created with an 116 acre experimental farm. There, students learned trades such as surveying, steam engineering, bricklaying, carpentry, nursing, tailoring and domestics. If you completed the standard college courses you received a diploma. If you completed the rudimentary English courses and learned a trade you received a certificate. 

Grant Livingston b. 1870 and Samuel Livingston b. 1872 were both sons of Jace and Dorcas Livingston from Liberty Township in Orangeburg County, SC.  In 1880, both sons attended school but Grant couldn't write. These two were the only ones that could read. Their parents were both illiterate and the other children were too young for school. It is not known how much education they received from public school but they probably left to help their parents on the farm. 

Once they reached their late teens, both young men went to college to learn a trade.

Samuel and Grant Livingston were named as students in the 1889 - 1890 Claflin University Annual Catalog. They attended sewing/tailoring classes that year. 

From 1890 to 1891, Grant and Samuel Livingston were enrolled in the Third Grade English Curriculum at Claflin University.  

Courses include:
Reading — Fourth Reader. 
Arithmetic, Multiplication, Division, etc., to Fractions. 
Geography — United States to South America. 
Language — Language Lessons. 
Science — Physiology (Elementary.) 
Religious Instructions daily. 

In 1891, Grant was enrolled in Carpentry and Painting. Samuel took Blacksmithing as a skilled trade. 

By 1900, Samuel was a married father of three with his wife Frances b. 1877 and 
grandmother Adella b. 1830 in his household located in Union Township of Orangeburg. His occupation was farmer. The later censuses said he had a 4th grade education. Grant 
became a longshoreman, married Lula Aiken b. 1880 and had several children in 
Charleston, SC. He spent most of his time out at sea throughout the years. 

It is not known if they received their certificates for the trades they studied or actually used 
those skills professionally. 

In our Livingston-Wilkinson Family Gathering Souvenir Booklets we normally have a 
page that lists all our University Graduates, next time I will petition to have Grant and Sam's names added as the FIRST of our family to attend college. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Frank Jackson - Keeping the Faith Alive

Happy Juneteenth Bloggers!

During the Civil War, South Carolina lost as much as 20% of its white male population in battle. Many of its plantations were burned to the ground. Freed persons of color were no longer considered as property but as human beings. When the fortunes of the former slave-owners were diminished, many of them left the area. In addition, several churches were abandoned as well. Prior to the war, prominent slave-owning families in SC had converted their slaves to Roman Catholicism and had them baptized. After emancipation, it was only logical that these freedpersons would remain tied to that religion. Here is a story about one of my early African-American ancestors and his role in the Catholic Church. 

Frank Jackson was born on November 15, 1855 in Barnwell, SC. Frank was the son of George Jackson b. 1833 and Maryann Green b. 1840. Frank had a younger brother named James Jackson b. 1859. From what I was able to uncover was that George and Maryann were not married to each other. By 1863, George resided in Aiken, was married to Jane and was the father of two sons Anthony and Preston Jackson.  Maryann resided in Barnwell, was married to John Graham and was the mother of two sons Benjamin and Edward Graham.

Poor Maryann was paralyzed and bed-ridden. Only young James lived with the Graham family. Frank was on his own by the age of 15. In 1870, he lived in the household of Ben Deedly of Bedloc, Barnwell and worked on the 8,000 acre Johnson farm. What is interesting to note that the foreman of the Johnson farm was James Morgan Jackson b. 1820, who is probably his grand uncle.

By his 18th birthday, Frank had earned enough money to own his own land. He relocated to the city of Walterboro, formerly a summer retreat for wealthy plantation owners, in the township of Blake, Colleton County, SC. Frank owned five acres of land next door to the Grahams and his brother James. In 1875, Frank married Louisa Lewis b. 1852. Frank helped raise Louisa's two sons Willie Smith b. 1870 and Henry Smith b. 1872 by a previous marriage. Frank and Louisa's children were Louisa Jackson b. 1874, James Jackson b. 1876, Kate Jackson b. 1878, Sarah U. Jackson b. 1883, George Jackson b. 1887, Cardoza Jackson b. 1888 and Annie Jackson b. 1890. Only 4 of their children lived past 1900.

Interesting side-note: George Jackson is my great-grandfather. He had a son named Frank Jackson and a grandson named George Jackson. So my family had five generations of alternating names between George and Frank.

When Frank and his family moved to Walterboro, he renewed his faith and practiced Catholicsm with the local residents. Frank's land is no more than a quarter mile from St. James the Greater Catholic Church located on Ritter Road. The church had burned down in 1856. By the time Civil War occurred plans for rebuilding the church were abandoned when white residents left the area. In the 1870s, a school house was built on the site called Catholic Hill by the free African-Americans who lived nearby. Residents used that building to educate their children and to pray. Frank helped build that school house.

By 1897 a new church was built. Frank was one of these parishoners mentioned in an old pamphlet that helped maintain and preserve the church for future generations. (Click the 3rd image to view his name)



Frank and his brother James remained close. They were neighbors in 1900. James was married to Nancy and had seven children of his own.


James Jackson died on November 20, 1916 from Bright's Disease. It was from his death certificate that I was able to identify his father's name. Frank Jackson died on November 21, 1926 of Dropsy. They are both buried in the church's cemetary on Catholic Hill. I have six generations of family buried there. To this day, my family still owns the land surrounding the church. To everyone, the church is a historic landmark. To me, its the house my great-great grandfather built.

A special thanks to Valerie Lewis-Mosely for providing me a copy of the St. James the Greater Church pamphlet. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

William T Young - The T is for TROUBLE

My dad rarely talked about his youth when he was alive. The only thing he left was a scrapbook with a lot of cool pictures. Luckily for me, he told my mother a few stories about his adventures in the Navy. And boy, he was trouble with a capital T!

William Theodore Young was born in Charleston, SC in 1935. He was the 2nd son to James and Frances Young. I get my brown eyes from him. William (he hated to be called "Bill") attended the segregated school district in Charleston County. He graduated from the all-black Burke High School in 1953. Here he is at the high school prom. Maybe someone can recognize this woman.

William was a teenage father when he graduated. Yeah, he got some girl in trouble. That's a story for another day. He enlisted in the Navy to pay child support. On November 5, 1953 he and his high school friends joined the 6th Naval District in Charleston. My dad served two tours of service (8 years) on the Andromeda Class Attack Cargo Ship USS Mathews AKA-96. He saw action during the Korean War.

I am looking for the descendants of these service men. I don't have their full names but my dad wrote down the following: (From left to right: My dad, Smith, Davis, Mack, Lobo, Louie and Samuel)

His rank was TN-Stewardsman. He was a cook on the battleship. He told us that his captain disliked the black guys on his ship. He and his buddies endured a beating once they crossed the equator and the captain called it a welcome initiation. What I did learn was that they got their revenge one night by spiking the captain's food with a laxative! Dad was thrown in the brig for that mess!

Ironically, he received two good conduct medals during his two terms. With his pay he sent money home for child support, his mother and grandmother. We even have fine china he shipped over to his late mother to this day.

Once the ship landed in other countries, my dad and his shipmates were treated very well by the locals. Dad especially liked Italy, the Phillipines, Japan and China. As you can tell by these pictures, they liked him too.

My dad did a lot of drinking and gambling on that ship. As you can tell, he was a hit with the ladies. I wouldn't be suprised if I run into some blasian Youngs one day. He told us in Japan there were co-ed public toilets with no partitions. It was no problem for women and men to share a bathroom. But their bathrooms consisted of a hole in the floor leading out to flowing river of sludge and human waste behind the building.


One night in Japan, he and his buddies played poker against some Japanese men and won big. The local ladies were all over them. A fight broke out and the Navy guys beat up the locals. What they didnt know was that they were fighting the Yakuza. Enraged, the losers left and called for back-up. The women told my dad and his friends to run for their lives! A chase ensued and most of the guys got away. My dad didn't. He was cornered by at least 4 guys. The only way he escaped was by jumping a fence into the sewer. There he stayed hidden for hours flowing downstream until the coast was clear. He got back to the ship hours late covered in feces. He was hosed down and thrown in the brig for being AWOL. Thanks for almost causing an international incident DAD! LOL!

Left to right: Scott, King, Wilkes, Young and Slaughter

William was discharged honorably from the Navy on November 4, 1961. He did not want to serve under that captain anymore. He was good at keeping in touch with his old Navy buddies for a while. After he left the Navy, he relocated to Brooklyn. He began working for the US Post Office, got married to my mother in 1962 and went on to graduate from Brooklyn College in New York with a degree in drafting. I find it amazing how certain skills get passed down genetically. My grandfather was in construction and built his own home. My father could draw and did carpentry on the side. I am an engineer and artist. My niece wants to be an architect. Funny how that works!

When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 my father, mother, god-parents and his cousin all attended his funeral.

(First pic: Dad, Frank Young and Gerald Murray. 2nd pic: Frank Young, Mom and Gerald Murray)

My dad died of cancer on November 11, 1995 which is federally observed as Veteran's Day. He is buried at Calverton National Cemetery in Long Island, NY. I always get lost when I go there to visit him until I see that tree near his grave. I normally lay stones or coins on his headstone. It's a fitting memorial for him.

Happy Father's Day dad, I salute you.