Category Archives: African-American Genealogy & Slave Ancestry Research

Sherman, William Roger- Tennessee

header_athens
My great grandmother Celia holding my aunt Barbara,1921. My grandfather Albert Cleage standing outside of 1st United Presbyterian Church. Teachers from the Athens Academy, my great uncle Henry Cleage and his first wife among them. Someone on a road in Athens. A shot of the church I took in 2004.

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free and their descendants.  Today I am going to write about William Roger Sherman who was my great grandmother’s 2nd husband.


William Roger Sherman was born into slavery in 1846 in Maryland. His mother’s name was Charlotte Blackwell. He ended up in Athens Tennessee and that is where he was at the end of the Civil War. On October 31, 1866 he married Jane Ewing. They had three children – Mary, Marsha and John. Sherman was a house carpenter. In 1870 he had $100 worth of real estate and $100 worth of personal property. Both Sherman and his wife could read. Seven year old Alice Cleage lived with them and attended school. As his children grew old enough, they also attended school. Enumerated on the same page as the Sherman’s in the 1880 was Alexander Cleage who had once owned my ancestors and his brother David Cleage.

William Roger Sherman is listed as architect for First United Presbyterian Church, a historic black church in Athens, Tennessee built in 1892. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

William Roger Sherman married my great grandmother Celia Rice Cleage , in Athens, Tennessee on April 25, 1897.  He was 51.  She was 45.  It was a 2nd marriage for both. In 1900 all of his children were in homes of their own. I found two – Mary was a seamstress and John was a brick layer. Three of Celia’s children – Edward, Henry and Albert were still at home and all were students. Everybody was literate.  Celia’s daughter Josie and her family were living in the house next door. William’s son John and his family lived next door to Josie’s family.

In 1910, William R. Sherman was 64 years old. He rented his house, which seems kind of sad for a carpenter. He hadn’t been out of work at all the previous year. Celia was working as a cook. Celia’s son Charles and his family were sharing the house, as was her son Henry’s eight year old son Richard.  Charles and his wife ran a restaurant. I wonder if that is where Celia cooked. Richard was in school. Everybody except the 2 year old and the infant were literate.

By 1920 the household was broken up. Sherman, age 75 lived with his daughter Mamie in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He was not working. His daughter was a steward at a local school. She was a widow and owned her own home. Also in the household were two of her stepsons and her brother John’s daughter. All of the young people were high school or college students.

Six months later, William Roger Sherman died of tuberculous of the bowels. He had been sick for a year before he died. His daughter was the informant on the record.

My great grandmother Celia lived in Detroit with her son Albert and his family in 1920. She died of a stroke in 1930.  According to their death certificates, both William R. Sherman and Celia Rice Cleage Sherman are buried in Athens, Tennessee. I have been unable to find in which cemetery (or cemetaries) they are buried in.

Robert Allen – Kentucky

header ato z 2016This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free and their descendants.  They are not my ancestors.


While looking for my great grandmother’s father, I came across this document from the Freedman’s Bank. The name was right, Robert Allen and Clara was my great grandmother’s name. However, her father was said to be white and this one was black. And the county was wrong.  My Clara was in Marion County, Kentucky for the 1870 census and the 1880 census. This Robert was a lifelong resident of Fayette County.  This was not the Robert Allen I was looking for. However,  this form contained a lot of information and I thought it would be interesting to find out more about him for A to Z.

robert allen freedman's bank recordsRobert Allen was born into slavery about 1824 in Fayette County, Kentucky. His parents were Scipio and Jane. He had no siblings and no children. His wife’s name was Clara. Robert Allen worked as a porter at Apostalic Times.  He was dark complected and 50 years old.  The form was filled out on January 8, 1874.

With all that information, I expected to be able to find him in the 1870 census and perhaps in a directory or in the 1880 census. Maybe a death record.  I found nothing. Perhaps he went by a middle name or lived at the end of a road that wasn’t enumerated.

Queries – I was called by them “Quincey”

The Freeman heading

Separated, Not Destroyed

While looking through the 1894 very fragile copy of The Freeman, I came across a column called Lost Relatives. There were many columns like this after the Civil War where people wrote hoping to find family members – mothers, brothers, sisters, children – that were sold away to other plantations.  This column was written 29 years after the war and people were still hoping to find their loved ones.  As my friend historian Paul Lee wrote:

The notices demonstrate that, though slavery inflicted lasting damage on black families by ruthlessly dividing them, it could not erase the love and loyalty that family members felt for one another — even after decades of separation.

The notices make clear that, through all of slavery’s horrors, many bondsmen and -women found reasons and ways to maintain their sense of familyhood, and acted upon it when freedom finally arrived.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

Pinkey Porter – Virginia

Pinkey Porter 1920 copyright Becky Leach
Pinkey Porter holding baby William Turner.  1920 (copyright Becky Leach)

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free and their descendants.  They are not my ancestors.


One day last month I saw this photo on my friends facebook page. All she knew about it was that the baby held by the servant was her husband’s father. And what was written on the back – Pinkey’s name and the date. I decided to see what I could find. I started by looking for the 1920 census on Ancestry.com.  I found her employed and living in a multigenerational white household  in Petersburg, Virginia. The members of the household were:

Julitte Robinson             Head 69
William O Robinson     Son 31
James M Turner            Son-in-law 49
Sue R Turner                  Daughter 27
William Turner             Grandson 4 mths
Pinkey Porter                 Servant 25
Maud Macklin                Servant 20

Pinkie was born in 1895 in Virginia. Both of her parents were also born in Virginia. She was working as a cook and lived in the family’s home. She was literate.

Next I did what I do and began to search for Pinkie Porter in other records. I found three in the Petersburg City Directories. One for 1907, one for 1909 and one for 1920.  The entry for 1920 gave her name, occupation as cook and the address was the same as where she worked in the 1920 census. In 1907 and 1909 directories, the Pinkie Porter born in 1885, would have been too young to to be listed.

I looked in the marriage records to see if Pinkie had married and changed her name.  I found two Pinkie Porters who married in Petersburg. The first was born in 1885 and married Robert Mcdougold in 1909. I think this was the one who appeared in the 1907 and 1909 city directories.  Pinkie and Robert moved back to his family farm in North Carolina where I found them in the 1910 census. Unfortunately, Robert Mcdougold died of TB in 1914.

The other marriage record was for Pinkie Porter born in 1893 and Alex Martin. They were married in 1918.  Alex appears in the 1922 directory working as a laborer. This could be the Pinkie in the photograph because ages often vary by a year or two (or more) in different records. But if this was Pinkie from the photograph, she would have had to leave her husband, go back to her maiden name and go to work as a cook to appear in the 1920 census.  Which could have happened.

I found only one Pinkie Porter in any of the censuses living in Virginia.  She was born in Surry County, Virginia in 1868. She married William Henry Lestage in 1888 in  Surry County. Pinkie Porter Lestage died in 1900 after giving birth to her fourth daughter.  The baby’s name was Pinkie.


I want to thank Becky Leach for sharing her photograph and allowing me to use it in this post.

Otis Graham Avery – Alabama

header ato z 2016This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free and their descendants.  They are not my ancestors.


Otis Graham was born in Elmore County in 1869, to John and Anna Graham. She grew up surrounded by family. Her grandparents lived next door and her uncles lived nearby. All of them were farmers. The family was recently out of slavery, which ended in 1865, and they were unable to read and write.  Otis lived with her uncle Henderson after her father died. She attended school through the 2nd grade.

Screen shot 2016-04-16 at 8.45.04 PM
From FamilySearch.com

Otis married Edward Avery on October 21, 1885 at The Good Baptist Church in Elmore County by Elder  Rames. Edward’s father, Frank Avery was a witness.

By 1900 Edward owned his farm, with a mortgage. He was 33 and could read, but not write. Otis, at 32, had given birth to seven children and all were still alive and living at home. The two oldest, 13 year old Willie and 11 year old Daisy attended school.

I do not know what happened during the next twenty years because I could not find them in the 1910 census. In 1920, the family was living and farming on rented land in Liberty, Autauga County. Otis was 50 and Edward was 54.  There were four children at home. All of them had been born after 1900. That makes at least 11 children in the family.  Mary was fifteen and the oldest child at home. She and thirteen year old Gertrude were both literate. Eleven year old Boss and eight year old Graham were not. No one had attended school in 1919.

Edward died before 1930.  65 year old Otis and her youngest son, Graham were back in Elmore County. They lived in a rented house. Graham supported them doing general labor. Otis was not employed.

In the 1940 census we learn that 23 year old Graham Avery completed 6th grade. He was doing farm labor.  75 year old Otis was a laundress working from home. She had completed 2nd grade. They were in the same area living in a rented house.

I found a death record for an 88 year old Otis Avery in Mobile Alabama for 1959. It does not include parents or husbands name because it is just an index entry and not the death certificate, so I am not positive it is for her.

Most of the children remained in Elmore county. One daughter and her family moved to Pittsburgh, PA. Graham ended up in Birmingham, AL.

Nelson and Caroline Graham – Alabama

header ato z 2016This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free.

I was looking for one of my enslaved ancestors named William Graham when I found an 1860 estate file on Familysearch.com for Judge William A. Graham  with a list of slaves to be divided between his heirs.  I hoped my great grandfather was one of those named.  I decided to go through the list of 60 plus and see what I could find out using online records. I still don’t know if the William on the list is mine or not, but it has been interesting to find out what happened to those listed after they were freed in 1865.


Nelson Graham was born into slavery in Georgia. Both of his parents were born in North Carolina. Caroline was born into slavery in Alabama. Her parents were also born in North Carolina.  They ended up on the plantation of Judge William A. Graham in Autauga County, Alabama and appear on the 1860 estate list. They appear in lot 1 with their three youngest children, six year old Sallie, five year old Duncan and one year old Fanny. They were to go to Judge Graham’s daughter Eliza Fay of Autauga County. Two of their older children, eleven year old Caroline and thirteen year old Nelson were included in lot 5. They were to go to Judge Graham’s daughter Maria McLemore of Autauga County.  Twenty year old William was in lot six which went to Judge Graham’s son Alfred Graham of Rusk, Texas. Seventeen year old Henderson was in the undivided group.

Nelson & Caroline Graham estate file
Nelson and Caroline’s family as they appeared on the Estate List. The amount they were valued at is in the last column.

In 1870 Nelson and Caroline were living in Montgomery. Five of their children were living with them; Caroline, 20; Sallie, 16; Duncan, 14; Fannie, 8 and five year old Elsie.  Nelson had no occupation. Caroline was keeping house. No one in the household could read or write.

In 1880 Nelson Graham and his family lived on Peacock Track in Montgomery. Of their children, only their 21 year old Fannie still lived at home. There were four grandchildren living with them – thirteen year old Willie Graham, six year old Duncan Wilkerson, five year old Sarah Powell and three year old Irene Holtzclaw.  Nelson worked as a drayman. Fannie was a house servant. The two older grandchildren were in school and the two little ones were at home. Caroline did not work outside of the house. Neither of the parents were literate. Fannie and Willie were.

Nelson appears in the Montgomery Directory in 1883 and 1893 as a laborer living on Peacock Track. After that I cannot find him or Caroline.

Margaret Lane Alley – Kentucky & Ohio

Margaret Lane Alley
On back of photo: Margaret Ally (colored) who was at Grandmother Peaslee’s wedding when she was married at College Hill in 1874. Often Margaret used to come over and make jelly for us.

This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free and their descendants. Most of them are not related to me.


Today’s post started with the photograph above. My friend Zann shared it with me.  It is one of the things that made me chose “Telling Their Stories” for my A to Z Challenge theme.

Margaret Lane Alley was the daughter of Allen Lane – Born 1810 in Kentucky (Click the link to see his story.). James Hardage Lane owned Allen and three others.  He set all of them free in his will. Margaret and her siblings were owned by someone else.  Who, I do not know. I spent most of today looking through slave censuses trying to figure it out, but the enslaved were not named in the slave censuses, just age, sex and color were given. Without names it was a guessing game and I gave up.

Margaret and her husband John Alley were both born into slavery in Kentucky. They were married in 1861 and relocated to Cincinnati, Ohio after they were free. Both of their children were born in Ohio.  In 1870 the family lived in College Hill, Cincinnati Ohio. John did day labor and Margaret kept house. Neither could read or write. Their children were five year old John, Jr. and three year old Louisa.

In 1880 the family owned their home on North Bend Road in College Hill.  John, Sr. was a laborer and could read, but not write. Margaret was keeping house. The children had both attended school the previous year and were literate. The census says that John, Jr. was out at service so he was also working.  Margaret’s younger brother, Thomas was living with them. He was a laborer, could read and write and had consumption.  He was thirty years old.

Betty Ann Smiddy  gives a description of their little green house and a bit of it’s history in her online book A Little Piece of Paradise… College Hill Ohio

“On the south side of North Bend Road not far from Savannah was a little green frame cottage,…. in which an African American family lived. We have learned that this lot was bought in 1880 by John Alley, Sr. from the College Hill railroad. … Mrs. Rosemary Forbes remembered of seeing a tall, thin black man who played a ‘squeeze box’ living in the green cottage, which had no foundation, only stones supporting the four corners.”

 In 1900 John was sixty. He had been out of work for 11 months during the previous year. Margaret was 61.  Their daughter Louisa’s two oldest children were living with their grandparents.  They had attended school. The youngest daughter was with her parents in Kentucky where Louisa’s husband was a minister.  The Alley’s owned their house free and clear.

In 1910 John Alley was 79 and no longer working. Margaret was 72. They were living in their house on North Bend Road.  Their son, John Jr, and his wife both died in 1904. Their twelve year old son, Frank was living with his grandparents.

Margaret Alley died on August 28, 1910.  She was 72.  John Alley died in 1917 in Indianapolis, Indiana where he was living with his daughter Louise and her family.  He was 86 years old.

Dr. Thomas's house which stands where Margaret and John's house once stood.
In 1935 the property was sold to Dr. Theodore Walker, who tore down the cottage and built his brick house on the site. He  was the doctor to the African American community in College Hill. Image from Google.

I wish I could have figured out where Margaret and her siblings were enslaved after their father was freed around 1840. That left them as slaves for over 20 years after he was free. I found the information in Census records, death records and directories on ancestry.com and familysearch.com. Special thanks to Zann Carter and Lisa Schumann for their help.

Libbie Logan – Louisville Kentucky

header ato z 2016This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free and their descendants.

Today I write about Libbie Logan Stewart who was the daughter of  Ellen Logan, the cook for the Peaslee family both during and after slavery. You can read about Ellen at this post Ellen Logan – Louisville, Kentucky.

Libbie was born into slavery in 1863 in Louisville, Kentucky.  Alice Norcross Cane describes her thus in her book Slightly Historical.She (Libbie) was smart and capable and almost white. She and her little brother, from their likeness to a Northerner stationed in the neighborhood, were evidently his unacknowledged children.

“By early 1862, Louisville had 80,000 Union troops throughout the city. … By May 1862, the steamboats arrived and departed at the wharf in Louisville with their cargoes. Military contractors in Louisville provided the Union army with two hundred head of cattle each day, and the pork packers provided thousands of hogs daily. Trains departed for the south along the L&N railroad.” Louisville, Kentucky, in the American Civil War

In 1870 six year old Libbie lived with her mother Ellen, her siblings and the other servants in the two-story building in back of the Peaslees. In 1873 when Libbie was nine years old, her mother and newborn baby died in childbirth.  It was not rare for girls as young as this to act as nursemaids, usually with an older person to oversee them. Perhaps those were Libbie’s duties. By the time she was sixteen in 1880 Libbie was literate. She continued to work for the Peaslees until her marriage to Frank Stewart, a coachman, in May of 1886.  They married at the house and Alice remembered it in Slightly Historical:

“She was married from our house to the coachman of the Henning family. A hack drawn by two horses took them away the night of the wedding. This was the first wedding my sisters and brother and I had ever witnessed and was, for us, a big event. … Libby made her home one we enjoyed visiting. She kept it apple-pie condition. Her tiny front yard was ablaze with flowers and she herself was always neat in appearance.”

Libbie and Frank moved to their home at 1958 Sixth Alley. There Libbie had a yard full of flowers. They never had children. Frank continued to work as a coachman until 1908 when he became a butler.  Libbie did not work outside of the home until that same year when she is listed as a laundress in the city directory.

The next year she began working at the Louisville Girls High school where she continued working for the next six years. Frank also began to work as a janitor. During this time they rented their house on Sixth Alley, eventually moving to another rented house on Levering Street Rear where Frank continued to live until his death at 71 years in 1928.  Libbie remained there and worked as a domestic until at least 1935.

She died suddenly of a heart attack on October 24, 1942.  She was 79 years old. Both she and her husband are buried in Louisville Cemetery.  Louisville Cemetery was incorporated by several prominent black citizens in 1886.


I found my information in “Slightly Historical” by Alice Norcross Cane; in census, marriage, death records and Louisville city directories on Ancestry.com, familysearch.com and rootsweb Kentucky death records. Also helpful was the Wikepedia description of Louisville during the Civil War.

Kate Graham – Autauga County Alabama – Lost

header ato z 2016This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free.

I was looking for one of my enslaved ancestors named William Graham when I found an 1860 estate file on Familysearch.com for Judge William A. Graham  with a list of slaves to be divided between his heirs.  I hoped my great grandfather was one of those named.  I decided to go through the list of 60 plus and see what I could find out using online records. I still don’t know if the William on the list is mine or not, but it has been interesting to find out what happened to those listed after they were freed in 1865.


estate list page 2
Page 2 of the estate file of Judge William Graham. Kate’s name appears on the line with the dot. Click to enlarge.

Kate appears on page two of the 1860 estate file of Judge William A. Graham.  She was three years old and valued at $300. Kate was not in a family grouping.  She was among a group of children that appeared to be without parents.  Kate was placed in lot 4 along with 16 year old Emily and child, six year old Jane and 18 year old John.  They were to go to William A. Graham of Autauga County, Alabama.  Out of that group I have only been able to trace John, who I wrote about at Betsy & John Graham.I was unable to find Kate in the 1870 census or beyond.

James and Cynthia Graham – Alabama

header ato z 2016This is my 4th year participating in the A-Z Challenge.  I am writing about people who were born into slavery and  lived to be free.

list of enslaved pg 1
Estate file of Judge William A. Grahams. Page 1 of several pages of the enslaved with names, ages and values. 1860. Click to enlarge.

I was looking for one of my enslaved ancestors named William Graham when I found an 1860 estate file for Judge William A. Graham  with a list of slaves to be divided between his heirs.  I hoped my great grandfather was one of those named.  I decided to go through the list of 60 plus and see what I could find out using online records. I still don’t know if the William on the list is mine or not, but it has been interesting to find out what happened to those listed after they were freed in 1865.

______________

I wrote a bit about Emanuel Graham and several generations of his descendants here.  Today I am going to take a closer look at Emanuel’s son James.  James Graham was born into slavery in 1848, probably on Judge William A. Graham’s plantation. His parents were Emanuel and Elsie Graham.  In the 1860 estate file, James appears with his family group as a six year old valued at $700. James, his parents and his two year old sister Clara were in Lot 2, which was to go to to the Judge’s daughter Ellen Graham Strain in Shelby County, Alabama. James older siblings were in separate lots. Ten year old Betsy was in Lot 6 to go to Alfred Graham in Rusk, Texas. Eleven year old Harris was in Lot 9 to go with Sarah Graham Sims in Macon County, Alabama. Thirteen year old Charles was in Lot 7 to go with Lenora Graham in Prattville, Autauga County, Alabama.  The settling of the estate seemed to drag on for several years and I am not sure if they were separated.

In 1870 Harris, 22; Betsy, 20; James, 16 and Clara, 12 were all living with their parents in Prattville.  Clara was the only one attending school. Emanuel was a farmer with $100 worth of personal estate. Elsie was keeping house. Harris and James worked as farm labor on the family farm. Betsy was a domestic servant. Nobody could read or write.

James married Cynthia Gibbons in 1877. They were both about 23. In 1880 they were working for the Northington family.  They had two children, two year old Mary and one year old Christopher.

By 1900 they owned their own farm free of mortgage. James was farming. Cynthia had given birth to ten children and all were still living,  nine in the family home.  Their ages ranged 22 down to four year old Samuel. Nobody had attended school that year. Viola and Elsie were able to read. Manuel and Albert were laborers on the home farm. Cynthia’s brother Robert owned and farmed the land next to them.

In 1910  Five of James and Cynthia’s sons were living at home and working on the farm. They were all literate. One of the children had died.  James does not appear in any other records after 1910.

In 1920 Cynthia and the youngest son, Samuel were working the home farm. Son Manuel and his family owned land and were farming next door. Son Haywood and his family rented and farmed next to Manuel.

Samuel died in 1926. His mother Cynthia does not appear in any more records. I was unable to find death records for James or Cynthia Graham. Of the children that I was able to follow, all remained in Autauga farming except for Haywood who moved with his family to Youngstown Ohio where he worked as a laborer until he died in 1979.