Finding my people


, , , , , , , ,

A few months ago, I discovered a will that included my third great-grandfather, Aaron Bryan (later Aaron Bryant) and also listed the name of his mother and siblings. Since then, I’ve been trying to piece together this family, especially that of his mother, my fourth-great grandmother, a woman named Anarky.

The will was of Clement Bryan, a North Carolina-born farmer who later moved to Randolph County, Ga., where he owned dozens of slaves. He was killed during the Indian War, and after his death, Clement bequeathed Anarky and her children to one of his sons, Loverd Bryant, who lived in Stewart County, Ga.

I knew that Aaron and his descendants– from my great-great grandfather Crawford Bryan/Bryant, my great-grandmother Rachael Bryant, my grandmother Lula Bryant Pinkard and even my mom– all lived in Stewart County. But what about the others? What became of Anarky? Where did Jack, Tom, Rose, Louisa, Henry and Jim go?

So I began searching.

I found a mortality schedule listing a 12 year-old in Stewart County as “Bryant’s


This mortality schedule shows that a 12-year-old slave named Jack belonging to a person named Bryant died of apoplexy in 1849 in Stewart County, Ga..

Jack” who died in July 1849 of apoplexy. I believe this is one of Anarky’s sons/Aaron’s brother. Before 1870, when enslaved people did not have legally recognized surnames, and were generally referred to by first name only. In legal documents, slaves were referred to as possessions of their owners, hence “Bryant’s Jack.”

I couldn’t find Rose or Tom, but there was a 51-year-old mulatto woman named Louisa Hines living next door to my great-grandfather Aaron in Stewart County in 1870. I think this could have been his sister.

Then I found a Bryan family in Houston County, Ga. in 1870. In the household was a 42-year-old man named Henry, a 41-year-old woman named Sallie, and three children, Lovard, Adel and Moses. There was also a  72-year-old woman in the household named Amy who had been born in North Carolina in 1798.


This 1870 U.S. Census shows the Bryan family living in Houston County, Ga. I strongly believe these are my relatives, including my fourth-great-grandmother, a woman listed as Amy Bryan here, but formerly known as Anarky.

Also living in Houston County was a 50-year-old man named Jim Bryan, his wife Sarah, their four children, Polly Ann, Joe, Jordan and Tump, and their two granddaughters, both named Betty.

I have a strong hunch these may be my people! The will that listed them was dated 1839, and doing the math, Aaron, Louisa, Jack and Henry all would have been children when their master gave them to his son, Loverd Bryan, who apparently was the namesake of Henry’s son. The only thing that puzzled me was that the woman’s name was Amy. Perhaps she changed her name? Or perhaps it was changed for her.



Freeze Frame Friday: A lady of “ever-present determination”


, , , , , , , , , ,

grandmamamie has several yearbooks uploaded to its site, and I stumbled upon the 1966 yearbook of Coppinville High School, which is located in Enterprise, Ala. Coppinville is also the community where the Nances have lived for more than 150 years, and this page from the yearbook, a dedication to my great-grandmother Mamie Gilley Nance (1892-1959) explains part of Nance legacy in Coppinville.

True Life: My people were once property


, , , , , , , ,

It was December 1860– the first Tuesday of the month, to be exact–when my fourth great-grandparents, Nathan and Cora Talbot, were sold during a public auction along with a girl named Amanda to B.F. Hooper.Price: $2,250 for the three, equivalent to $68,553 in 2018.

Nathan and Cora Talbot were among the 41 enslaved people– including men, women, children and married couples– who were sold after the death of John Talbot, a plantation owner who lived in Lumpkin, Ga. I was actually looking for more information about my Pinkard relatives, when I stumbled upon the record. literally has thousands of probate court records on its site, including those from Georgia counties. I was poring through the scanned pages of the Stewart County documents, just browsing and not really expecting to find anything. As I browsed the table of contents/index, I noticed the name John Talbot next to an entry that said “sale of Negroes.” Hmm, Talbot. I knew that my third great-grandmother’s maiden name was Talbot, and that she had lived– and likely been enslaved– in Stewart County. Her name was Sarah Talbot Bryant. (Her husband was Aaron Bryant– remember that for later in the story).


This document, in the Stewart County, Ga. Probate Court Records, shows the sale of the enslaved people once owned by John Talbot of Lumpkin, Ga. Among those listed are my fourth-great-grandparents, Nathan and Cora Talbot. 

I did a little more digging and found out that John Talbot had died intestate in January 1860. (“Intestate” is the legal way of saying he died without a will). His wife, Irene, died that July. As a result, all of John Talbot’s property– including the people he owned– were put up for sale.

There was Narcisa and her son Peter; Delia, a young woman; Jack, a young man; Peter, a man about 52 years old. Jane and her two children, William and Patsy. Ellen, who was about 12. Reuben was 10. Parish, and his wife Diana. Harrison, who was 15 and 14-year-old Washington. Henry, a 42-year-old man. Wilson and Melinda, George and Jenny, Willie and Suekey– three husband-and-wife couples. Ann and her five children– Amy, Sol, Isham, Sam, and Gus. Fanny and her two children. Fayette, a 16-year-old boy. Anthony, Harriet and eight children. And 10-year-old Ben.

Then it got really interesting. I was looking at who showed up to this slave auction. And I noticed another name that was familiar- L. Bryan. I strongly believe this is Loverd Bryan, who owned my third great-grandfather Aaron, his mother, Anarky and his siblings. (Yes, the Aaron Bryant I mentioned earlier).

The L. Bryan on the document bought a woman named Jane and her two children, William and Patsey. In the 1870 U.S. Census, I wasn’t able to find a William Talbot or a Patsey Talbot. But I was able to find a William Bryant age 14, and a Patty Bryant, age 12.

Interestingly enough, I saw no mention of Sarah. Maybe she was sold to another plantation before John Talbot died? Was the Amanda listed her sister? (When Amanda Talbot married, she became Amanda Humber, and had 12 children, including a daughter named Sarah).

Family names: Subject to change


, , , , , ,

Sometimes ancestors you can’t find are actually there– just hiding in plain sight and listed under a different name. This was the case with my Pinkard relatives. I had been able to document them throughout much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but there was a 20-30 year gap where I couldn’t find any of them. It didn’t make sense, especially for relatives I knew were alive between 1910 and 1930, like my great-great-grandmother, Narcis Pinkard (nee Hamilton).

I was scanning a U.S. Census document when I noticed a white Pinkston family living in the same area of Georgia as my Pinkards. “Hmmm, that’s awfully close to Pinkard,” I thought. “I wonder if there’s a connection.”

As it turned out, there was. Kind of.

The reason I couldn’t find Narcis Pinkard in the 1930 U.S. Census was because she was listed as Narcis Pinkston. There she was, living in Lumpkin, Ga., a 65-year-old widow.

This 1930 U.S. Census shows my great-great-grandmother listed as Narcis Pinkston. The surname is a variation of Pinkard.

This opened up a slew of other research possibilities. I knew from other Census records that my great-grandfather, Narcis’ son Dorsey, had died a long time before his wife did, but I didn’t know exactly when. When I began searching for Pinkston instead of Pinkard, I came across Dorsey Pinkard’s death certificate, dated March 1927. He had died of pneumonia at age 48. (It says Doss Pinkston, but a Southern drawl can easily turn an r sound into a short o. The other confirmation was the spouse, my great-grandmother Adline).

This death certificate for my great-grandfather Dorsey Pinkard shows the Pinkston variation of the surname

Pinkston is a variation that was used at least for the next couple of generations. My grandfather Willie Pinkard sometimes used it, my mom said.

“We used to laugh about it, but when my dad used to introduce himself, he would say ‘Pinkson is the name.'”


Aaron Bryan(t), Son of Anarky


, , , ,

In May 1839, a boy named Aaron, along with his mother and siblings become part of an inheritance to Loverd Bryan, a wealthy planter whose father died from wounds he sustained during the Creek Indian War. They leave Randolph County, Ga., and go further south, into neighboring Stewart County, Ga., where their new owner had built a lavish home overlooking the sprawling cotton fields where they would work.

Loverd Bryan was at least the second generation of the Bryan family that once owned my ancestors. Researching the maternal side of my family, I discovered that my Bryant relatives were once Bryan. Today I discovered it was a surname they adopted from their owners, Irish immigrants who had settled in North Carolina before relocating to southwest Georgia.

This is Loverd Bryan (1804-1887), the man to whom my third great-grandfather Aaron Bryant was given in 1839

I had been researching Bryans in Stewart County, Georgia and found myself coming back to a particular person, Loverd Bryan. I found out that he was an early pioneer of Stewart County, and also the owner of a large plantation. Here’s a picture of his house:

The migration patterns of this family were too similar to my ancestors for there not to be a connection; they had lived in southwest Georgia counties for years, and more specifically Stewart and Terrell counties, which is where my family had lived. I thought that I might be able to find a will so I could confirm my suspicion that Loverd Bryan owned my third great-grandfather Aaron Bryant, but Loverd died after Emancipation.

So I set out to look for his family. I found out that Loverd was the son of Clement Bryan, and happened upon a book that mentioned Clement by name. The book, Slavery in Southwest Georgia, noted that Clement Bryan went through great pains not to break up the family units among his slaves, and listed a quote from his will that mentioned “Matthew and his wife Violet…”

“A-ha!” I thought. “Maybe Matthew and Violet are Aaron’s parents!”

Not quite. I was able to find Clement Bryan’s will on I read through it and found out he was quite a wealthy man. He had a wife, six children and dozens of slaves– who were divided among his heirs. Among his instructions– that “twelve negroes, Alfred and his wife Anarky, and her children Jack, Tom, Rose, Aaron, Louisa, Henry, Jim, young Betty Green, Prince and Charles” be given to his eldest son Loverd.

My third great-grandfather Aaron Bryant is listed in the will of Clement Bryan of Randolph County, Ga. The will also lists the names of Aaron’s mother and siblings.

There, scrawled before me, was an entire generation of my family I hadn’t known before, listed right before a yellow Bay filly, blacksmith tools and a road wagon.

Dovie Nance finds her Waterloo


, , , , , , ,


One of the branches that had grown cold was that of Dovie Nance Ardis, one of my great-grandfather’s younger sisters. I knew her birthdate (Jan. 7, 1902), that she married and had three children and lived in Dale County, Ala. Up until a few weeks ago, I didn’t even have a death date for her.

Last year, by happenstance, I found the gravesite of one of her sons, Obie. Then a few weeks ago, I came across an obituary for her daughter, Lola Bell Ardis Alexander (1923-2012). I started reading it and discovered information that truly intrigued me:

  1. I have a host of relatives in Salt Lake City
  2.  Dovie Nance Ardis later became Dovie McKissick and spent her final days in Iowa. Waterloo, Iowa to be exact.

Iowa was one of the absolute last places that I expected the branches of my family tree to touch. I knew that several of my relatives left Alabama for Midwestern states, but to my knowledge it was Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Iowa was never mentioned. (Apparently Waterloo, Iowa became a destination for black railroad workers after white employees went on strike in the the early 1900s. The Illinois Central Railroad recruited black men from Southern states as strikebreakers. )

I did some more digging and this is what I was able to put together:

By the 1950s, the newly named Dovie McKissick was living in Dothan, Ala., with her husband, Charlie. According to city directories, the McKissicks lived in Dothan until Charlie’s death in 1963, which ruled out my theory that Dovie had followed her husband to Iowa. Nevertheless, sometime between 1963 and 1972, Dovie moved to Waterloo, Iowa.


This is the only picture I have of my Aunt Dovie (right, 1902-1972), who was one of my great-grandfather’s younger sisters. 

Then I thought maybe she followed her daughter Lola there. According to the obituary, Lola Bell Alexander had been a “longtime resident” of Waterloo, Iowa. She and her husband had moved there from Minnesota, but it’s not clear when.

Right now, I’m researching what I can about Dovie and Lola’s spouses– Charlie McKissick and Peter Alexander– to see what else I can find out about the paths their lives took, and how and why they ended up in Iowa.



Four generations and counting


, , ,

The women in my family have been hard to research, and several times I’ve had to use indirect methods. This holds true for the recent discovery I made. I was trying to find out more about the Bryant side of my family, so I began researching the siblings of my direct ancestors. In fact, researching siblings is how I found my maternal grandmother Lula Bryant– was raised by an uncle, Will Bryant.

Anyway, I came across a death certificate for Mack Bryant, who was one of my great-great grandfather Crawford Bryant’s younger brothers. The document listed his mother’s maiden name: Talbot. All this time, I knew very little about Crawford Bryant’s parents, just that their names were Aaron and Sarah, and that they were born in the 1830s in Georgia. Discovering a maiden name for Sarah Bryant opened up a lot.

This death certificate of Mack Bryant, one of my great-great-grandfather’s younger brothers, shows the maiden name of my fourth-great grandmother, Sarah Talbot Bryant.

I began researching Talbots in Stewart County, Georgia, and came back with a slew of results, including a couple named Nathan and Cora. Nathan and Cora were strangely familiar names to me, and then I realized it was because Aaron and Sarah Bryant named two of their children Nathan and Cora.

I have a strong hunch that the Nathan and Cora Bryant I saw in the Census records were Sarah’s parents. At this point, I don’t have a document confirming that, but the family has tended to name their children after those that came before them– and still do.


Ireland and Scotland: The elements of a DNA surprise


, , , , , ,

I got my AncestryDNA results back this week, expecting they would validate what I’ve known: I’m overwhelmingly, undeniably, irrefutably black with some Native American. And that’s pretty much what it showed.

But then I saw another result, and I was literally taken aback:


It was just 1 percent, but enough to show up, and something I was not expecting at all. I had– naively and now I’m finding out,  incorrectly– assumed that I didn’t have any white forbears.


I was chatting with a friend about it who wasn’t surprised at all.

“Makes sense to me,” she said. “Alabama has a lot of Scotch-Irish.”

So I looked into it. She was right. Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee– the states where my family is from– have high populations and percentages of people with Scotch-Irish ancestry.

I really don’t know how to begin researching this. But in an effort to shed light into this discovery, I took an inventory of all the surnames in my family tree I’ve been able to find, and looked up the origins:

Nance– English
Whitehurst– English
Gilley– Scottish
Brown– English, Scottish and Irish
Tindall– English
Barnes– English and Irish
Cotton– English
Burton– English
Pinkard– (I’m not really sure… one search said German, another said French, another said English, and yet another said Scottish…)
Bryant– English
Dobbins– English
Hamilton: Scottish and Irish
Clayton– English

Going by surnames alone, things seem to add up. But there are a lot of theories and what-ifs to consider. There might not be a document I can connect this to. I also don’t have pictures of anyone in my family who was born before 1865. (On my mom’s side, I only have a few pictures of my grandparents, but no one earlier than that).

It’s all very interesting, but I’m really not quite sure what to do with it.

The life and times of Rachael Bryant


, , ,

I’ve been trying to find out more about the life and times of my great-grandmother Rachael Bryant (1894-1937). In the past year, I’ve learned more about her than I ever thought I would, and each discovery makes me want to learn more.

I found out that she married twice, and ultimately ended up living in Lumpkin, Ga. Now, I’m realizing that she may have spent time in Colquitt, Ga., after her first marriage to a man named Simon Henley. In the 1920 Census, a Rachael Henley is a boarder in the home of Carrie Grimsley, a 26-year-old widow. Also in the household are two children, 2-year-old Henry Henley, and 4-year-old Susie May Henley.

It’s not clear whether these are Rachael’s biological children or relatives from her ex-husband’s family.

I wondered how and why she may have ended up further south. I glanced at the neighbors in the Census to see if there were relatives. No relatives, per se, but perhaps a connection. Charlie Lee Humber and his family lived a few doors down from where Rachael was living.  His occupation: a clerk for the city of Colquitt. A man named Lucius Humber once employed Rachael’s grandfather, Alfred Dobbins (my third-great-grandfather). And by “employed,” I mean Alfred Dobbins was a sharecropper.

These connections between sharecroppers and the people and families whose land they worked often extended through generations. Rachael’s occupation is listed as a laundress, so maybe she was working in the Humber home? I don’t know.

It’s an interesting twist in an already mysterious life. I’m not sure how long Rachael Bryant remained in Colquitt. I do know that her daughter– my maternal grandmother, Lula Bryant, was born in 1925. I always assumed she was born in Stewart County, Ga., but this revelation about her mother made me wonder. So I asked my mom:

“No, my mom wasn’t born in Stewart County,” she said. “She was born somewhere around Dawson.”

Dawson, Ga., is about 50 miles northeast of Colquitt, and roughly 34 miles southeast of Stewart County. My grandma Lula didn’t grow up with her mother. Instead, she  was raised by an uncle, Will, who was one of Rachael’s brothers, and his wife Marie.

By 1930, Rachael Henley was now Rachael Jackson, married again and living in Lumpkin, Ga. She died in November 1937 of a stroke.

I’d like to know what kept her on the move between 1920 and 1930. Who were Henry and Susie May, and what became of them? How did she end up in Colquitt, and what made her leave? So many questions…