Category Archives: ancestry

Treasure Chest Thursday: Thanks to, Another Cousin, Found!

My third cousin, Sylvia!

My cousin Monique is now the queen of all Internet searches.  It was her voracious searching that turned up my second great-grandfather’s Civil War era sword on ebay, a portrait of one of our ancestors at the Maryland Historical Society on their online database, and me on  Now, she’s done it again.  Monique found another one of our cousins, again on  (I think that internet genealogy site is going to have to start paying her soon – she’s a walking commercial for their services!)

Meet cousin Sylvia Smith Isabel.    She lives a short bus or train ride away in New York and is as passionate about uncovering our family’s history as Monique and I.

Keeping track of all these cousins can be confusing so here is how we’re all related:

The ancestors that all three of us have in common are Tempy Burton and Col. W.R. Stuart, aka The Colonel.  Tempy was a slave in  Elizabeth McCauley’s family.  When Elizabeth married the Colonel, Tempy was  given to the couple as a wedding gift.  Elizabeth couldn’t have any children but Tempy could and did have seven, probably all with The Colonel.  But two of her children were definitely The Colonel’s, documented through their death certificates.  They were Alfred Burton Stuart, Tempy and The Colonel’s oldest child and Josephine Burton Ford, their youngest child.  Alfred was Monique’s great, great-grandfather and Sylvia’s great-grandfather. Josephine Burton Ford was my great-grandmother.  Using the cousin calculator that makes Sylvia and Monique first cousins, once removed, Monique and I third cousins, once removed and Sylvia and I plain ole third cousins.

Two days after Thanksgiving, Monique and her family came over to our house and we had a few good hours of laughs over all the things we’ve found this past year and we were feeling pretty thankful, like we’d reached the peak of our genealogy mountain and could just take in the view.  Then, two days later, with the discovery of Sylvia, we had even more to be thankful for, and more history to uncover (her dad grew up on Alfred’s farm and told her stories of  Alf  working as an unofficial town vet – news to us!).  It feels like we’re at the beginning of another journey.

Check out the other cousin we found earlier this year, Renee Smith.



Filed under ancestry, race, slavery, Uncategorized

Obituary Sunday: Alfred B. Stuart’s death notice

Last week, my friend, Shannon Brock sent me a couple of death notices that she thought pertained to my family.  I’m not sure about one of them, but the following is definitely the death notice for my kin, Alfred B. Stuart. He was great, great-grandfather to  my cousin Monique and my great-grandmother, Josephine Burton Ford’s brother.  Here is the transcribed death notice as it appeared:

Times Picayune, Thursday, October 4, 1928:

STUART – On Wednesday afternoon at 4:45 o’clock.  ALFRED B. STUART, beloved father of Mrs. Lillian Boyd, Mrs. Temple Smith of New York,  one sister, Mrs. Viola Battle of New Orleans, LA. Remains to be shipped to  Ocean Springs, miss., Thursday morning, October 6, 1928 at 11 a.m. via L. & N. R.R. Funeral services Thursday afternoon 3 p.m. at St. James Church, Ocean Springs, Miss. Los Angeles, Cal. papers please copy.  Arrangement by the Geo. D. Geddes Undertaking Company.

The next week, the family published this follow up:

Times Picayune, Wednesday, October 10, 1928


WE TAKE this method to thank our many friends, both white and colored, for the beautiful floral offerings, kind words and loving care during the illness and death of our beloved brother and father, ALFRED BURTON STUART who died October 3, 1938.

The bereaved family,


Thanks again, Shannon for connecting us with more important family documents to help us in our research.

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Filed under ancestry, Uncategorized

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Friends from our Family Footsteps Tour

Ms. Lois celebrating her 89th birthday at the Jackson County Archives in Pascagoula, Mississippi where she works full time!

The first stop my cousin Monique and I made on our Family Footsteps tour was to the Jackson County Archives which had copies of court records, land deeds and wills pertaining to our family.  Our new friends “Ms. Lois” Castigliola and Linda Cooper  helped us navigate the books, gently nudged us out the door at quitting time, and let us share in Lois’s birthday celebration.  89 years young, Ms. Lois is still working full-time!

Linda Cooper, Archive Assistant and Ms. Lois in front of the books that contained information on our ancestors.

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Filed under ancestry, geneology, Mississippi

Treasure Chest Thursday: Six Degrees of Slave Owner Separation

It’s nice to be back from a great vacation where I unplugged from my computer and soaked up the surf and sun.

Even though I wasn’t blogging or researching, genealogy was never too far from me.  As we made our way down to Hilton Head, South Carolina,  we passed a town named Burtonville (Burton is my great, great-grandmother’s surname) and saw a sign for Nash County, NC where many of my ancestor’s slave owners were from.  If there is one thing I’ve learned on this journey, it’s that the genealogy world is small, and all relative.  And my ancestors’ world was just as small if not smaller and it seems their owners really were related.

A few months back when I realized that one of the women who owned my great, great-grandmother, Tempy was Judith Boddie, I started searching for information about the prominent North Carolina Boddie family and found a Google book with extensive information about their lineage.   The book, Lineage and Tradition of the Herring, Conyers, Hendrick, Boddie, Perry, Crudup, Denson and Hilliard Families shows the interconnection of all these families through marriage.  When I found it,  I didn’t know that another family listed in this book also owned my ancestors.  While Tempy was owned by the Boddies, her sisters, Polly and Liberia were owned by Dr. Robert Hilliard. Hilliard settled in Louisiana but was originally from Nash, NC.  The Google book shows generations of intermarriage between the Boddies and Hilliards.  There is even one family member named Tempe Boddie Hilliard!  (Tempe was a popular name among both families).

Six degrees of separation?  I think a lot less.

Can you connect yourself to the president through six people or less?  A woman at my gym works for him.  Your turn.


Filed under ancestry, Boddie, Hilliard, slavery, vacation

Sentimental Sunday: The Ancestor Clock

The handmade clock by my cousin, Monique Smith Anderson which includes images of my ancestors.

Check out the amazing handmade gift my cousin, Monique gave me today when she came over for a bar-b-que.

The picture hardly does justice to her ancestor clock.  It includes images of things we’ve found during the year that we’ve been on this journey together, decorated with her special flourishes and finished with a ton of love.   Originally, she was going to give me the quote in the bottom part of the clock and have it framed, but then she got inspired to give me something that I might one day pass down to my children.  I love that she gave me our family history in the face of a clock, something I can share with my family every day, and a constant reminder that my ancestors are always with me informing my future.


Filed under African-American history, ancestry, family history, geneology

Wordless Wednesday: A picture of past, present and future

On my way home from jury duty in Newark, New Jersey yesterday, I noticed a cemetery crunched between a row of new houses on one side and an impending construction project on the other.  It struck me, past, present and future all shoved together on one urban city block.  So, today after fulfilling my jury duty, I stopped and took these pictures with my cellphone (so please excuse the poor quality):

A Jewish cemetery on South Orange Avenue in Newark, NJ with new housing on one side of it...

and a construction project on the other.

Stone plaque at the South Orange Avenue entrance of a Jewish cemetery in Newark, NJ


Filed under ancestry, family history, Uncategorized

Monday Madness (the good kind): Freedom’s Child

I’ve just finished reading, Freedom’s Child: The Life of a Confederate General’s Black Daughter by Carrie Allen McCray.  It tells the story of McCray’s remarkable mother, the child of a former slave and Confederate general who goes on to become a lifelong activist for what she calls “full freedom” for black people.

Anyone following my blog knows that my great, great-grandmother Tempy Burton was a slave and had several children with her former owner, Col. W.R. Stuart, a confederate like McCray’s grandfather.  (Stuart wasn’t a colonel in the Confederate Army, however.  This honorary title probably came from his association with a fraternal order).

Our parallel ancestries are crazy on their own (the hypocrisy of fighting to preserve slavery while fathering children with slaves still makes my eyes cross), but the places where our own lives connect is really wild:

  • The author spent most of her life in the same town that I live in now. I pass her family home just about every day.
  • Before moving to New Jersey, she lived in Lynchburg, Va. I’ve been traveling to a town just outside of Lynchburg annually for the past four years as part of a writing retreat.
  • The person who lent me the book was my minister.  It was a present to him from the writer. While McCray did not belong to my congregation,  research for her book brought her there.  Her mother collaborated on many anti-segregation causes with former ministers in my congregation.

I’m sorry I didn’t know about Ms. McCray before she died two years ago.  How wonderful it would have been to meet her, perhaps here in our own town or down in Lynchburg during one of my writing retreats. I would have liked to thank her for her book.  It’s both a moving tribute to her mother whose tireless efforts I continue to benefit from, (among other things, she helped integrate our town’s movie theaters) as well as  an important addition to our country’s history.

You can read her obituary which includes a summary of her book here:

S.C. author Carrie Allen McCray Nickens, 94, dies | The Herald – Rock Hill, SC.


Filed under African-American history, ancestry, family history, geneology