Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Admixture DNA Results

The admixture DNA results for my maternal grandmother arrived yesterday. Using an admixture DNA test, you learn more about your ancestral percentages of Indo-European, Native American, Sub-Saharan African, and East Asian heritage – based upon the biogeographical history of your ancestors. This test evaluates the 22 pairs of chromosomes inherited from both parents. Admixture results will vary among siblings in a family. However, mitochondrial (maternal line) and Y-chromosome (paternal line) DNA are the same for all siblings of the same mother or father. These genes also will be the same for any relatives kin on a maternal or paternal line (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.)

My Grandmother’s admixture DNA results were:

  • 89% Sub-Saharan African

  • 6% Native American

  • 5% East Asian

  • 0% Indo-European

She was born in NC and does not have an oral history of Native American or East Asian ancestry in her family.

My admixture DNA results were received earlier this year:

  • 22% Native American

  • 78% Sub-Saharan African

  • 0% East Asian

  • 0% Indo-European

I expected some Native American genes in myself because of the oral history in my father's family. However, I have not heard of an oral history of Native American ancestry in my mother’s family. Unfortunately my mother died last year, but based on her mother's results, I believe it is possible that I got some of the 22% of Native American genes from her. I hope to have my father test soon.

For additional information on the admixture DNA test, visit the AncestrybyDNA website.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sacred Sunday

Antioch Baptist Church
Antioch Baptist Church located in the Skippers area of Greensville County, VA is the church where my paternal grandmother Hattie Moore Pair (1902-1956) and her siblings grew up. This was the church were their mother and grandparents attended: Mary Eliza Robinson Moore (1880-1920) and her parents Joshua Robinson (1846-1935) and Ersie Jane Providence Moore (1850-after 1905.)

According to the church history of Antioch Baptist Church, the church began in a Bush Arbor near the Saw Pond on the land owned by Sandy Ferguson, and his wife, Susan, around 1870. It is believed that some type of frame structure was built on the site, but it was destroyed by fire. There was a lot on intermarrying between the Ferguson, Greenaway, and Robinson families. Both Sandy Ferguson and my great-great grandfather Joshua Robinson were descendants of free blacks in Greensville County: Sandy Ferguson was the son of Henry Ferguson who was the son of Betty Ferguson. My ancestor Joshua Robinson was the son of Maria Morgan Greenaway (1809-after 1900,) a free woman of color.

By 1896, Antioch Baptist had expanded the church property with the acquisition of one acre of land purchased from Mr. Lewis H. Foster, a large landowner. A deed for the land was drawn up on January 13, 1896 by the following trustees: John J. Smith, Jesse Avent, Thomas Wright, William Edward Watson, and William Wright. The deed was recorded on March 6, 1899.

Today, there are descendants of Joshua and Ersie Jane Robinson who are members of Antioch Baptist Church.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Cooling Board

cooling board
Cooling Board

When I was young, I would hear the old people in church mention the “cooling board.” My church was of the Pentecostal Holiness denomination and it was customary to have a testimony service. A testimony service was when church members, called “Saints,” would stand up and share with the congregation things that God had done for them. They would also express their thankfulness and praise to God.

The testimony might start out as follows:

Giving honor to God, to the Pastor, Deacons, Saints and Friends.
I thank God for __________(They might mention a specific situation where they felt that God blessed them.)

And then somewhere during the testimony of one of the old Saints, they might say “I thank God for waking me up this morning and that I’m not on a cooling board.”

I had learned as a child that if you were on a cooling board, you were dead, but I never knew exactly how the board looked until a few years ago when I watched a video about a cooling board. In this video, Roy Olpin shares his family’s history in the funeral business and how his father used one the tools of the trade called the “cooling board.” The cooling board was used by his father as an embalming table during the days when this task was done in the home of the deceased.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Family Heirlooms

I have inherited numerous family heirlooms from my mother’s family. They include objects which were owned by ancestors dating back as far as my great-great grandmother Luvenia Jeffress Bullock (1864-1951.) In the late 1980s, my maternal grandmother gave me a chair which belonged to her Grandma Ven. “I’m giving you this chair that belonged to my Grandma Ven,” my grandmother told me, “but you got to promise not to sell it.” I did promise not to sell the chair. Even though I had not begun genealogy research at that time, I still saw value in this family heirloom and the importance of holding on to this family treasure.

When I first began researching in 1994, I used this chair at my computer. Today, this chair is located in a bedroom in my house and I sit in it often. These two photos were taken in 2002 of my great-nephew Vincent whom we call “C. J.” Grandma Ven is a 4th grandmother of C. J.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

African Ancestry on Roots Television

Dr. Rick Kittles is a Geneticist and a cofounder of African Ancestry, a DNA company. This company does mitochondrial and Y-chromosome DNA testing.

Interview with Dr. Rick Kittles of African Ancestry by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, author of Trace Your Roots with DNA.

Gina Paige is also a cofounder of the African Ancestry DNA company. The video below is her presentation on "DNA and Your Roots" at the 16th National Family Reunion Conference.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Introduction to DNA

In October 2006, I was interviewed by a local television reporter on the topic of family history which would be included in a two-part story on DNA. I had heard of DNA, but did not fully understand it. The airing of the story, Out of Africa - African-Americans now have resources to trace their ancestry-WAVY TV 10 on November 8, 2006 and the information provided on using DNA for genealogical purposes was an eye opener for me.

The reporter and two other persons had taken DNA tests previous weeks before the segment aired. Their results were revealed on TV. I was fascinated and could not get this out of mind. After about two weeks, I ordered my first DNA test. Prior to ordering a test, I read everything I could find on the subject and consulted with others who had taken a DNA test. One of my questions was about which company I should select. The Afrigeneas DNA Forum—Which Test if Which? broke it down in laymen’s terms.

Through my readings, I learned that there are three tests for genealogical purposes. Since 2006, I have had all three tests done on either myself or members of my various family branches. My family results of these tests will be discussed in upcoming articles.

• mtDNA – Mitochondrial (maternal line)
• Y chromosome (paternal line)
• Autosomal (Admixture—ethnic percentages)

The video Exploring Our Molecular Selves is a great introduction to DNA. The video also includes a transcript: Transcript: Exploring Our Molecular Selves

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Will of David Thweatt of Greensville County, VA

Slaves were often listed in wills and deeds of slave owners. In some cases, a slave owner freed his slaves through a will or deed. Such was the case with David Thweatt of Greensville County, VA.

In his will, he freed his slaves under certain conditions and gave some indications of kinship.

“I give and bequeath to my beloved wife Rebecca Thweatt for and during her natural life the use of my negro woman SALL, together with her two daughters HANNA and SUKEY.” “After the decrease of my wife, my said negroes above named together with their increase if any, become liberated and free.”

I also give and bequeath unto my said wife the use of my negro boys, BOB, DICK and JIMMY until they shall severally arrive to the age of twenty five years in case my said wife shall survive until that period then it is my will and desire that she continue to enjoy the use of my said negroes BOB, DICK, and JIMMY during her natural life, and after her decrease in the latter case on their arrival to the ages of twenty five years in the former case.”

The will of David Thweatt was proved in the court on May 20, 1789. His wife, Rebecca, was qualified as Executrix at May Court 1790.

Source: Greensville County, VA Will Book 1, Page 133, July 8, 1788

Monday, April 21, 2008

Papa is Buried Under a Tree

After obtaining copies of death certificates for Grandpa George Johnson (1893-1932) and members of his family, I visited the cemetery of Whites Grove Church in Warren County, NC where most of them were buried. It was Thanksgiving weekend 1996 just after a big storm and the cemetery was covered with leaves and tree branches. I was accompanied by my Uncle Willie Johnson, a son of George Johnson, and brother of my maternal grandmother, Emma. Uncle Willie had not visited his father’s grave in several years. He only remembered that he was buried under a tree. My grandmother also remembered the same thing about her father being buried under a tree.

As luck would have it, this cemetery had several trees and Uncle Willie couldn’t remember which one. Like any family historian visiting a graveyard, I didn’t let this deter me, so I began looking at all the tombstones. As I neared the end of my search, I found Grandpa George’s mother Susan Jerman Johnson (1858-1939.) A few steps away I found the grave of his sister, Mollie Johnson Rowlett (1886-1959) buried beside her husband, James Rowlett (1883-1947.)

I completed my search of all the tombstones in this church graveyard, but still could not find Grandpa George. Since his mother, sister, and brother in law, were buried near each other, then he might be buried somewhere near them, I thought. I returned to that area, but still saw nothing. Uncle Willie and I started towards the car, but I wanted to take another look. I returned to the area of his sister’s grave and looked around. As I stood looking in the graveyard above the graves of his sister and her husband, I began to sense that my feet weren’t standing on soil. The soil in the graveyard had been a bit mushy because of the recent storm. Feels like something is solid is under this bed of leaves, I thought, and it feels like cement. I began to clear away leaves and tree branches and bit by bit I saw cement, and lo and behold, there I was standing on Grandpa George Johnson’s grave.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Musical Genes in My Family

Carnival of Genealogy, http://www.creativegene.blogspot.com/

What traits run in your family? Which of them did you inherit?===========================

Music is a trait on both sides of my family. I always wished that I could sing and play the piano, however I cannot do either as well as I would desire. If I could sing, I would want to be able to sing like Yolanda Adams , Patti LaBelle, or Whitney Houston. If I could play the piano, I would want to be able to play popular gospel music by ear.

Even though I can’t sing or play the piano, I still have a musical gene. I played the Viola, a sting instrument that is a little bigger than a violin, when I was in school. I began playing during the 6th grade and stopped some time during college. I was very good at playing this instrument and was often first chair player in my school orchestra. I also participated in city-wide and regional orchestras where I won certificates and medals for my participation. In fact, I still have some of these medals. I have an instrument, but have not had a consistent interest in playing the Viola since I became an adult. Perhaps I can blame the current lack of my musical interest on my genealogy hobby which takes up most of my free time. (Smile)

Maternal Family Musical Traits
On my maternal side, I know of the following family members who had musical abilities.

  • Uncle Ray Thornton (1926-2002), a brother of my maternal grandfather, who played the piano and sang in church. Uncle Ray grew up in Enfield, NC and moved to Newport News, VA as an adult.

  • Uncle John Bullock (1885-1957) and his wife Lucinda (1901-1971) reportedly sang as a duet at various churches in the Vance County, NC area. Uncle John was a brother of my great-grandmother Bell Bullock Johnson (1890-1982), and a son of my great-great grandparents Andrew Bullock (1862-1915) and Luvenia Jeffress “Holy Venia” Bullock (1864-1951.)

  • Uncle Richard Johnson (1932-1992), a brother of my maternal grandmother used to sing gospel music with a group of young men during his youth. He grew up in Ridgeway, NC in Warren County and moved to Newark, NJ during his adult years.

Paternal Family Musical TraitsMy father’s family is from Greensville County, VA and I know of musical talent in the family of his mother, Hattie Moore Pair (1902-1956). I do not know if Grandma Hattie could sing, but I do know that some of her brothers could sing. Her youngest brother, Samuel “Channie” Moore (1917-2003) could sing and play the piano. In his youth, he and his brothers John Marshall Moore (1915-1993) and James Jefferson Moore (1913-1976) sang in a group with another neighborhood boy. The group was called “The Liberty Four.” Liberty was the name of their neighborhood in Greensville County, VA. Uncle Channie believed that the family’s musical talent came from their mother. He recalled that his mother, Mary Eliza Robinson Moore (1880-1920) could sing very well and that her family, the Robinsons of the Skippers area of Greensville County, VA were known as “great singers.”

Today, some descendants of the Moore and Robinson families can sing and play musical instruments. I have heard and observed the musical talents of these families at church services and family reunions.

In my own family branch, the musical gene is continuing in our family through my nieces and nephews who range in ages from 17 to 27. Several of them sing, play drums and/or keyboards. One of them is talented in playing the bass guitar. One of my proud moments as an Aunt was hearing two of my nephews sing solos at my mother’s funeral in August 2007. Prior to this time, I did not know that they could sing that well. Another proud “Auntie” moment was when two of my nephews, along with one of my first cousins, provided instrumental music at our family reunion last year. One nephew played the keyboard, another played the drums, and my cousin played bass guitar. They sounded fantastic and I made sure that prior to giving my remarks on family history, that I let everyone at the reunion know that the two young musicians were my nephews.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sacred Sunday

Holy Venia and Church Associate
(Left to right: my great-great grandmother Luvenia Jeffress Bullock "Holy Venia" standing beside a lady whose name has not been identified yet.) I believe that they are standing outside Veanus Chapel House of Prayer in the Nutbush area of Vance County, NC. Family and friends recall that the church was pastored by a woman, but do not remember her name.

The church began around the early 1930s.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Film: Meeting David Wilson

The film, “Meeting David Wilson” premiered last night on MSNBC. This film traces a young man’s journey to track down his family’s past in slavery. It is the story of David A. Wilson, a young African American man from Newark, NJ who is in search of his roots. The film traces David A. Wilson’s journey to North Carolina to meet David B. Wilson, a descendant of the southern white family who owned his family during slavery. Although the film focuses on racism and injustices, it’s overall message is that African Americans are “Not the descendants of Victims, but Victors.

Trailer, Meeting David Wilson

ABC News, Meeting David Wilson

ABC Nightly News, Meeting David Wilson

The documentary “Meeting David Wilson” contains the following parts:

Other Related Links

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Traveling Back in Time

In December 2003, my sister Doretha and I took a week long trip to New Orleans after Christmas. While we were at the Riverwalk mall in downtown New Orleans, I saw a young lady who had just taken some old time photos. The photos looked great so I decided to have some taken also. My sister was reluctant until she saw how my photos looked.

While at the mall the next day I passed by the studio and noticed that my photo had been put on display. I was thrilled to see my face among the other sample photographs.

Taking this old time photo and wearing the long dress and hoop skirt was a great opportunity to travel back in time. It made me think about what life might have been for me had I lived during a former time. The hoop skirt and the full skirt fabric felt confining and I was thankful that I live during a time when women dressed more comfortably.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sacred Sunday

Plumbline Holy Church
My maternal grandfather, Minor Elwood Thornton (1913-1979) and his parents Minor Thornton (1893-1966) and Marcia Ashe Thornton (1892-1954) were members of Plumbline Holy Church in Enfield which is located in Halifax County, NC. This church was founded in 1884 by Elder Joseph Silver. In the early years of the church, services were held in the home of Elder Silver during the winter months and under a brush arbor during the summer. Plumbline Holy Church represented the beginning of holiness as a denomination in the Enfield area.

My grandfather Minor Elwood served as an Usher at Plumbline prior to moving to Newport News, VA in 1940. His father Minor, Sr. served Plumbline as a Deacon and Church Secretary and his mother, Marcia Ashe Thornton served as a Minister.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

In memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)

I dedicate today’s blog in the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thank you, Dr. King, for the sacrifices you made that I might have a life of freedom and justice.

I See the Promised Land
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last speech
Prophetic words from Martin Luther King, the day before he was assassinated, April 3, 1968.

Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Cars as Stars!

Written for the Carnival of Genealogy, http://www.creativegene.blogspot.com/

Jasia at Creative Genes

My First Car
My first major purchase was a car which I purchased on Valentine’s Day in the year 1987. I had been out of college for almost two years. At that time, I didn’t have an apartment, but lived with an older lady in a house near my former college. The car was brand new and was a 1986 blue Cavalier with less than ten miles on the odometer and no air conditioning. This was one of the leftovers of the previous year’s cars in which I was able to use a rebate as a down payment. The car lot was within walking distance from my house and I often stopped by to look at cars.

Photo above taken August 1987 of my three sisters and me, our cousin Greg, and my nieces and nephews standing in front of my first car.

Transportation During Childhood
During my childhood, transportation was an issue for our family. My three sisters and I spent most of our lives living with our maternal grandparents and they never owned a car. According to our grandmother, Granddaddy used to drive when he lived in a rural area of North Carolina, but never got his license or a car when he moved to the city in the early 1940’s. Our father had a car during most of our childhood, but since our parents were separated much of the time, we didn’t see him much. As a result, we used public transportation such as a bus or taxicab or just walked. In fact, the city bus passed our house and stopped at a corner just a short walk away. Before our church purchased a van, we would ride a taxicab to church with our grandparents. Afterwards the van became my family’s mode of transportation to church.

Getting Driver’s License
Despite the fact that my family didn’t have a car, I still enrolled in Driver’s Ed during 10th grade. Passing the theory test was not a problem, but the actual driving was a challenge for me. When I sat behind the wheel for the first time, I turned the ignition and shifted the gear into drive without putting my foot on the brake. This was the beginning of a long journey to learning how to drive. I was scared to death of driving, but despite my fears and slow progress in learning to operate a car, I persevered. There was no one in my family to help me practice. However, my grandmother got a friend of my uncles to help me practice driving. He was very patient with me and also took me to get my license. I did not get my license on the first try, but kept practicing and finally got it.

My Car Ownership HistoryA few years before I could afford to purchase car, I rented cars occasionally. This provided great driving practice as well as helped me determine the type of car I wanted to purchase. My first car, a blue 1986 Chevrolet Cavalier, was not air conditioned and I roasted for many summers until I purchased a red Dodge Neon in 1995. Air conditioning, of course, was the number one priority with my second car. The second priority was cruise control because I loved to travel and liked to give my foot a rest when on the highway. I choose the Neon because I saw a lot of them on the road at the time and thought that they looked sporty. During the time that I owned the Neon, my job as a Computer Trainer was 30 minutes away from my house. I also trained in various locations, thereby putting lots of miles on this car. During the Thanksgiving weekend of 1999, my red Neon was stolen from in front of my house. It was then, that I learned that Neons were one of the top cars to be stolen because the door could easily be opened using a wire clothes hanger. The car was found a few week later and the damages were repaired. I drove the car about another year, but then began having transmission problems. I decided to get a new car and choose another car in 2001 and went back to a Chevrolet Cavalier. This one is a dark green.

My Family Car History
My father had cars when I was a child, but I don’t remember what type they were. I do remember playing in one of the cars when I was about 3 or 4. I must have put the car in neutral or something. Afterwards the car started moving and my father and some other men came running towards the car where I was sitting alone. I do not remember what happened after that.
Neither set of my grandparents owned cars. My great grandfather Minor Thornton (1893-1966) may have possibly owned a car. Below are photos of one of his daughters, Dorothy Bell Andrews (1921-1982) standing in front of a car in the family’s front yard. In the first photo, she looks to be in her preteens and in the second photo, she is a young woman possibly in her 20s. Aunt Dorothy never had children so I don’t know the identity of the baby she is holding.

Car Purchased by Great-Great-Mother
According to oral history, my great-great Grandmother Luvenia Jeffress Bullock (1864-1951) purchased a car for her youngest son, Joseph, to drive her to church. Like young men and even young women too, who take advantage of car privileges, Joseph, reportedly didn’t always show up to take his mother to church where she wanted to go. No doubt, this created much friction in the Bullock household. Grandma Ven would have purchased this car sometimes before October 11, 1932, before her son Joseph Bullock died at the age of 27 from “pulmonary tuberculosis” in the Jubilee Hospital in Henderson, NC. My grandmother Emma and her younger siblings were living with Grandma Ven during the time of Joe’s death, but my grandmother does not recall his death. She does however recall getting rides in this car with her Uncle Joe.