My great grandfather Philip Henry was born around October of 1870, the third child of Sandy and Agnes York. I believe Philip was born in Arkansas and I know the family was in Bradley County by 1871 when Sandy sold $62.50 worth of cotton to E. B. Turner. But I have yet to find the household in the 1870 Census. By the 1880 Census Philip was 11 and listed as working on his father’s farm.

York-Wilfong Marriage License, 1894On Christmas Day 1894 Philip married his first wife Mary H. Wilfong (the daughter of Monroe and Ellen Wilfong) and in fairly rapid succession they had 4 children: Calvin in the following September, Sandy Napoleon in November of 1896, Aunt Rachel in April of 1898, and Frederick Philip in August of 1899. The family is enumerated in the 1900 Census and Philip is listed as renting land and farming as well as being able to read and write (unlike his parents). He is counted immediately following his father’s household and before his younger brother Edward. I’ve also found a note indicating in 1905 Philip had paid his poll tax to be eligible for voting.

York-Philips Marriage License, 1903While I have been unable to find a death certificate or notice, family stories indicate that Mary died young and in December of 1903 Philip married, Mattie C. Philips (the daughter of Shade and Camelia (Howell) Philips). Mattie added five children to the line: Preston Garett, Ossie B., Mary, Walter, and Mamie. When the family was enumerated in the 1910 Census Philip owned (with a mortgage) and worked his farm with the added labor of Calvin and Sandy Napoleon.

York-Wheeler Marriage  License, 1913Again, family stories indicate that Mattie died young and in October of 1913 Philip married his third wife (and my Great-Grandmother) Sallie Wheeler, the daughter of Moses and Candes (Thompson) Wheeler.  Unlike his other wives, Sally brought a small parcel of children born out of wedlock with her into the family—Ressie and Willie B. Wheeler and James Avery. The couple then added Anna, Arverse, Herman Lee, Oscar Shelly, Ernest Philip and finally my Grandmother, Elnora in 1926.

By the 1920 Census the large family was farming on rented land with a few of the older sons working the home farm. This was also after the death of Philip’s father and his mother and older brother, Albert, were also counted in the household. The 1930 Census offered a surprise in the form of a previously unmentioned sibling credited to Philip and Sallie, a daughter named Katheline born in 1928. This is probably actually Katherine York, their granddaughter and the daughter of Mamie York and Willie B. Hampton.

Less than a year later, in March of 1931, Philip died and the following November Sallie followed, leaving the younger children scattered among older siblings and cousins. Grandma remembered time spent in the household of Uncle Sandy and his wife though in 1940 she is listed (as a cousin) in the household of her half-sister Ossie B. and James Rogers.

There’s so many important bits and pieces I’m missing in this family… death dates, information on how the children were parceled out after Sallie’s death, the location of the York families in 1870, just to name a few. Dad’s family is full of roadblocks I’ve yet to skirt but I’ll keep working on it.

Happy hunting,

Jess

I’ve spent the last few weeks tweaking a talk on researching African American ancestors for Western Michigan Genealogical Society—which was a lot of fun!—and the process left me with a number of interesting and sometimes frustrating finds… here’s one that reminded me to keep an open mind in my searching.

Do you ever just want to throw up your hands because it seems that your relatives hid out to avoid the Census takers? I’ve got a few families like that and they’re mostly from my father’s side of the family. I know that I have to be creative in my name spellings, not nearly as tied to location, and imaginative when looking at the indexing… but still sometimes I’m surprised by how far from accurate some of the records are when I finally find well hidden family members. A recent example would be when I was researching my 2nd Great Grandmother Candes Thompson Wheeler.

Detail from the Death Certificate of Sallie Wheeler York

Candes’ name and birthplace of “Codesco, Mississippi” came to me through the death certificate of her daughter Sallie Wheeler  (Her father Moses Wheeler was the informant) and from there, after a lot of searching, I located proof of Candes’ marriage to Moses in 1882—though there she was listed as Candes “Thomas.” But when I checked the census for Candes in Bradley County, Arkansas I couldn’t find her.

So I broadened my search—not limiting myself to Arkansas and using her estimated birth year from the marriage license. I hit on two “Candis” Thompson’s in Attala Co., Mississippi. One was married to a George Thompson and one was a year younger living with her mother, Sally; brothers, Mac, Amzi, and Burlon; and grandmother Mariah in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Sally is my Great Grandmother’s name and her siblings include an Amzi and Kosciusko is a place name made to be misspelled. So I’m tentatively approaching this as the correct line.

Sallie Thompson Family, 1880 Kosciusko, Attala Co, MS

I decided to track them back in the 1870 Census and again found no hits for Sallie and Candes Thompson. So, I decided to just try searching on first names. And by searching for a household with a head or wife named Sallie and her children named Mac and Candes I did get a hit.

I found Sallie indexed as Sallie “Buerebokite” along with Candis, Mack, and an unnamed newborn boy immediately following the household of Maria Thompson (indexed as Nona). But when you look at the original images and the names throughout the township it becomes clear that through bad indexing and a somewhat sloppy hand the family name actually written by the Census taker was Musselwhite—one of the most common names in the county.

Bad Indexing: Sallie "Buerebokite"

Sallie Musselwhite, 1870 Kosciusko Attala Co, MS

Of course all of this has just lead to more mysteries… How, when and why did Candes move to Arkansas? What happened to the rest of her family? How did Musslewhite become Thompson? … Just to name a few. But these intriguing mysteries would have remained hidden from me if I hadn’t slowed down and tried different searches to locate the Thompsons in the Census.

Keep an open mind, be creative in your searching, and get back to the original documents.

Happy hunting,

Jess

102 years ago today the Census takers were passing through Palestine Township, Bradley County, Arkansas. This is the entry for the family of Moses Wheeler, my 2nd Great Grandfather. His wife Josie Avery was his 2nd wife.

Moses was a farmer all of his life. He was born in 1862, the son of Isaac and Sicie Wheeler. In the 1870 Census he was listed with his parents and four siblings. In 1880 he is still at home with his parents but in 1882 he married Candes Thompson. By 1900 he is on his second marriage and the first six of at least 12 children were born. With Candes he had at least four children: Sallie, Louis, Joseph, and Amzi. The eldest child, Sallie, is my great grandmother who became the third wife of Philip Henry York in 1913. Candes died sometime between 1892 and 1894. Moses married Josie in December of 1894. They had at least six children including: Isaiah, Moses, Lizzie, William, Mary, and Simon. He also had two children out of wedlock: Wilson “Buddy” Wheeler and my uncle, John W. Newton (with Miss Becky Newton).

Moses and Josie both died in February of 1948. Josie had “worked herself ill” caring for Moses (who possibly had Alzheimer’s or some kind of dementia) and he died 4 days later. They had a double funeral service and were buried at Palestine Cemetery. It’s something that my Grandmother remembered clearly. She wasn’t able to attend the service because she’d just had her first child.

I was also able to locate the couple in the 1940 Census living with a son–I’m guessing Isaiah? It looks like “Iz” to me.

Happy Hunting,

Jess

Beyond the fact that there are so many Trotter, Hampton, and Newton families, each with such huge farm households, there is also the issues of lines marrying together in multiple ways and illegitimate children taking the last names of their mother. The family of our Uncle John Newton is a fabulous example of this. And in talking with his relatives—which turned out to be on both sides of my father’s family—it really brought home how careful I had to be in my research.

What I knew going in about John W. Newton (who lived from Feb 1880 to Oct 1968) was that he had married at least twice—first to my 2nd Great Aunt Susan Trotter (in Mar 1902) and once to my Great Aunt Irene Trotter (in Jun 1939)—who I am told moved in to help with the children when his wife was ill. Census and Marriage Records actually show that Amanda Hampton was in between Susie and Aunt Irene (in Dec 1917). Also, John had at least 21 children with his three wives: 11 with Susan, 3 with Mandy, and another 7 with Aunt Irene.

Then when I went down to Bradley County, for my Great Aunt Ometha’s funeral in 1999, the family took me to Palestine A.M.E. Cemetery (which is probably 99% family) and started telling me stories as we walked through. My aunts told me about Miss Becky Newton, who never married but had at least five children connecting different lines in my family in surprising ways. For example, John W. Newton, was her son by Mose Wheeler, my Grandma Elnora’s Grandfather. So, as I walked through with Burlon Newton (Aunt Irene’s eldest son) and my Grandmother it occurred to them that they were first cousins though they didn’t seem to think of it that way at first as Grandma is also his aunt by marriage. Uncle John turned out to be my Great Uncle and 2nd Great Uncle by marriage as well as my 2nd Great Uncle through the Wheelers.

That connections forced me to rethink just how tightly woven this community was (and in many ways still is). And it took me—the product of a 2 child nuclear family not brought up in the community with my extended family—a while to get my head around all the ties this created and how it might (and come to find out does) play out in other lines. For example, the world gets a little smaller when you realize that Mandy Hampton’s mother was Jeanie Avery Hampton and her aunt was Mose Wheeler’s last wife, Josie Avery Wheeler—making him both uncle and grandfather to Mandy’s children. Or, to follow the Wheeler’s another step, one of Josie and Mose’s daughters married a Trotter cousin making their children both first and second cousins of mine (twice removed).

It can get a little dizzying if you spend too much time on it… but it’s also a fascinating puzzle.

Happy Hunting!

Jess

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