Sunday, February 22, 2015

They called my ancestors name

My mother received a phone call from her cousin Lillian the other day. She was overjoyed and excited! She said "They called our name in the Book of Negroes!" I didn't catch it the first time but I watched the episode again. During Episode 1, a young Aminata Diallo from Gambia was in the belly of the slave ship and the men in chains were telling her their names so that she would remember them. The last one called out his name as SAMBA. My mouth dropped. I was amazed. My 6x great-grandfather was named Samba too.  He was the patriarch of the Tyler branch of family from Orangeburg, SC.

Samba was born about 1759 in Africa.  Based on my DNA and my research of that branch of family, it was likely that he was from West Africa near Gambia. He was named after a Gambian Obeche tree commonly called the Samba tree.

Samba was enslaved and brought into the US during the late 1700s. Samba was the slave of Charles Milhouse (1790-1830) from the Barnwell District of South Carolina. His name was changed to Sambo. Sambo might have been married to a slave named Poll or Moll. When Charles died in 1830, he left a large number of slaves to his sister Eliza M. (1798-1856), wife of Elisha Tyler (1794-1851). Elisha and Eliza Tyler lived in Orangeburg, SC and attended Willow Swamp Baptist Church. When Elisha died in 1851, he had 51 slaves. Below is a copy of Charles Milhouse's September 28, 1826 will. The will was proved on November 24, 1830. 

This document was very useful but it took me several months to backtrack and figure out who was who. I had to jump between census records and death certificates between several generations to piece the family together. What I found interesting was that my 3x great grandfather was named Sam Tyler. Sam was born about 1830 which meant that Samba was still alive to see his great-grandson's birth. I also knew that Sam's two sons Joseph and William "Landy" Tyler b. 1862 (my 2x great-grandfather) lived with their grandmother Mary Sanders-Tyler in 1870 Rocky Grove, Orangeburg, SC. In the 1880 census, Mary was actually Maria, wife of Patrick Tyler. Patrick was named a mulatto in the census. There was a Mariah found in the 1830 will. Both Maria and Patrick were born about 1815. Also found in the Milhouse will was Bill Sabem, Patrick's father. By reaching out to Milhouse descendants it was discovered that Bill Sabem was really meant to say Bill Samba or Bill, son of Samba. After emancipation Bill was known as William Tyler b. 1797 and lived in Beat 4, Grenada, MS with his mulatto wife Hannah Jones-Tyler b. 1800. That confirmed to me that Patrick was Hannah's son. William's 1880 MS census record mentioned that his father was born in Africa and his mother was born in SC. As you can see, Landy was named after his great-grandfather also. Luckily, it was Landy's July 7, 1916 death certificate that provided me with both his parents' full names including his mother Louisa Gray-McDonald b. 1829.

Since that time, the family has grown and spread out to areas such as MS, NC and PA.

A few years ago, my mother and I went to her cousin Lillian's house in Charlotte, NC for a family BBQ. My mother and Lillian used to play as kids together. Lillian's father, Jerome Tyler and my great grandmother, Tenell Tyler-Gibson (1892-1920) were both Landy's children. Lillian is the Tyler family historian so I gladly volunteered to do an impromptu family tree presentation for the Tyler family. Because everywhere I go, I am always PREPARED to talk about genealogy. I am proud that this is one of my few completed branches of family that go all the way back to Africa. So this blog post is dedicated to Lillian Tyler-Weathers and the whole Tyler branch of family.


  1. I would of died. That is interesting how you found that Sambo and the Tree. You probably weren't even paying attention lately to this branch. This is wonderful! Great Piece.

  2. Great piece Wayne Young! Your ancestor, Samba would have been very proud that his name lives on! Samba is a type of tree native to West and Central Africa and from time immemorial, has been well sought after (for example in guitar making) for the brilliant and shining quality of its wood, its uprightness and its lasting and enduring attributes. Very apt name indeed! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for that additional piece of information about the Samba tree! I didn't know that!

  3. I finally heard it! I loved the movie and the book, but most of all I loved your blog,