Mershell & Annie Mae Graham Sibling Relationship Proved

Graham, Mrs. Annie, Elmore. Funeral service will be Sunday at 11 a.m. at East Chapel MP church. The Rev. Paul Cook will officiate. Burial will be in Jackson Cemetery with Ross-Clayton Funeral Home directing. Survivors include one daughter, Mrs. Emma Reves; sons, Clyde Jackson, William Jackson, Birmingham, and Joe Jackson; a brother, Marshall Graham, Detroit, Mich.; 16 grandchildren; 43 great-grandchildren; three daughters-in-law, Mesdames Edith, Odessa and Ethel Jackson; and other relatives. She was a member of the Esters of America Society No. 1.

When I found this obituary for Annie Mae Graham on, I wondered who the son “Joe” was. I had never heard of him before. At first reading I thought that “Marshall Graham” in Detroit was her son, formerly identified as “Michele” in census records. On re-reading, I realized that the “Marshall Graham” was named as her brother, and was my grandfather Mershell who lived in Detroit. And that Joe was Annie’s son, Michele.

I had been looking for something to tie my grandfather Mershell C. Graham to those I suspected were his siblings – Annie, Jacob and Abraham Graham. All of them listed the same parents on their delayed birth records and death certificates, but I could not find them in the same household. In 1900 my grandfather was not in the home with the other children. I have yet to find him in 1900.

Annie Graham’s great grandson, Cedric Jenkins, saw the obituary and contacted me on Ancestry. That was the first he had heard of my grandfather Mershell. We exchanged photographs and information. Annie and Mershell certainly look like sister and brother in the photos below.

After Cedric got in touch with me, I realized I had a DNA match on 23 & me with the surname Jenkins. That Jenkins matched my maternal first cousin, Dee Dee, and was identified as a probable third cousin. He turned out to be Cedric’s nephew.

Using an obituary, a genealogical paper trail, DNA and a newly connected cousin, I was finally able to connect my grandfather Mershell Graham to his sister.

O. Barron’s Farm 1918, Elmore County, Alabama

Cedric was also able to identify the children in the photo above as Annie Mae Graham’s children. In the front are Joe (Michele) and Emma. On the mule closest to us is Will and next to him is Clyde.

Mershell Graham with his wife Fannie and children Doris (my mother), Mary Virginia and Mershell Jr. Standing in front of Plymouth Congregational Church in 1927. Detroit, Michigan.

Other posts about Mershell’s siblings

R is for Relatives, of the Elusive Kind
Mystery Photograph
Annie Graham – Sibling?
Jacob Graham – Sibling?
Inside Cover of Mershell C. Graham’s Bible

Note: I published an earlier version of this post but I got so much new information that I decided to re-write it but keep the comments from the first post, as I did not want to leave that one up.

27 thoughts on “Mershell & Annie Mae Graham Sibling Relationship Proved

  1. Very satisfying when a piece of the puzzle slots in. Sometimes it is very slow progress.

  2. Obituaries can be a really good source of information. Family members who know all the relationships often help write them.

    1. And they may be the only relative to know those relationships. I wish I knew who wrote my most helpful obituaries.

  3. Is that Plymouth Congregational, my home church, which was formerly a synagogue, in the background of the last photo?

    This is some serious detective work, Kris. Yet another occupation that you might’ve successfully pursued! (Smile.) How does it feel to have finally made the connexions that you so long searched for?

  4. Kris, I hope that you don’t mind, but I’d like to use this post for a commercial — for YOU!

    I wanted to thank you for your eight-page “Little Poems During the Pandemic” booklet, which you kindly snail mailed me! Small as it is, it really packs an emotional punch! It’s a hauntingly beautiful collection of dreams, imaginings and recollections, all expressed in what one would expect from a Cleage — namely, vivid verse.

    The fact that you made it yourself also places you in the proud tradition of your late Uncle Louis, who ran a printing shop next to his doctor’s office on Detroit’s Old West Side, the looted remnants of which I was privileged to visit and photograph a few years ago with your son, James. I’m glad to see that “ruff draft” printers, which used to produce your fascinating family newsletter, the precursor of, lives!

    I don’t know what the inspiration for your “Little Poems” was, but I keep it next to my bed cuz it’s helping ME get thru this dislocating pandemic! Thanx for blessing me with this latest example of your creativity.

    Because you’re so great at family history, I sometimes forget that you’re an equally great artist! I’m glad to share your bloodline … spiritually and religiously (Plymouth Congregational/United Church of Christ, Central Congregational/Shrine of the Black Madonna)! (Smile.)

    1. Thank you Paul for letting me know. It really means a lot.

      Louis didn’t run the printing shop though, Henry and Hugh did. He helped them buy the first press and later Milton Henry helped buy an upgrade.

      We started using Ruffdraft when we put out the family newsletter “Ruff Draft” when the kids were homeschooling. After that, whenever I printed up chapbooks or anything else, I always used the “Ruffdraft” for the publishers.

      I just erased a paragraph. and who knows what it said! Oh, how lucky I was to be raised by people who had the imagination and skills to do whatever they thought needed to be done.

      The inspiration for the little book was running across a “how to make a tiny book” lesson on a blog I follow. I decided to make one and since I have so many small poems already written on my ruffdraft blog, I used them. My blog posts would have been way too long!

  5. I adored the old Plymouth Congregational, now Plymouth United Church of Christ (UCC), which I used to attend with my maternal Aunt Marian, the church’s organist, in the early 1960s!

    She began under the Rev. Horace A. White (whose widow, Juanita, was one of my father’s best friends; she lived down the street from us in Highland Park) and continued under the Rev. Nicholas Hood, Sr.

    As you’ll recall, Plymouth had a wonderful circular sanctuary! My baby sister, Laura, and I used to crawl under the benches — from one end of the church to the other! I’m sorry to admit that I never cared for Plymouth’s replacement, which, by comparison, is colorless and characterless.

    About 15 years ago, I told “Big Nick” after he spoke at the Detroit Historical Museum that his very rational preaching “spoiled” me for any other minister. He smiled, knowing that I had much later joined your father’s church, Shrine of the Black Madonna #1, and replied, beaming, “Yes, but not for Al Cleage [sic], who was, after all, a UCC preacher!” From this I inferred that UCC ministers have a reputation for rationality!

    1. My sister and cousins and I sometimes went with my grandfather when he was repairing the furnace or something else around the church. I don’t remember crawling under the pews, but it was very exciting to be able to roam around the empty church. It was before Central bought the building on Linwood so that was the only church we had the run of like that.

  6. Yup — that’s what me and my siblings had because of “Auntie” — the run of the church! I’m grateful for that cuz, to be frank, the Reverend Hood’s weighty oratorical meditations could be rather taxing for children! (Smile.) I was delighted to later learn that your family helped to found my home church, one of dozens of connexions between our families.

  7. That must have been a real euphoric moment! – great when the final link is found. Wishing you further successes like these. As always, loved the photographs, a tangible sense of the ways life was lived more calmly and more meaningfully in those.

  8. It’s just so amazing to me to see all the photos you have if your family – and then to meet a cousin who has photos, too? Wow!
    Congrats on solving this mystery.
    Patience really is a virtue, especially in this work we do, huh?


    1. Yes, it was wonderful. I have had so much luck with cousins sharing photos when we find each other.

      Now what is the next mystery I need to solve? And what unexpected way will it be solved?

  9. Amazing. It boggles the mind. That Marshall was Mershell, that Joe was Michelle, that you can establish that they were siblings even if you can’t find evidence that they lived in the same household. It still feels like magic to me. Meaning, you are very good at this!

    1. “Mershell” is an unusual name and I had seen my grandfather called “Marshall” before. That it was an unusual name is probably why Joe changed his name to “Joe”. Following Annie’s family through multiply census records, I “knew” the names of the children. That’s the problem with only having official records, you don’t know what is happening in everyday life.

      I found a book my grandfather received from his fellow workers on retirement, I saw he had called himself “Bill” at work. My grandmother and his friends called him “Shell”.

  10. Kris, how is you find their delayed AL birth certificates? – what they via their SS death applications?
    Thank you
    G Johns

    1. I had my grandparent’s delayed birth certificates in their papers. They got them to apply for social security benefits. I found one for my great aunt Alice on Ancestry when she applied for social security benefits. under U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index on ancestry dot com.

      I did not find one for Annie, but she probably was unable to collect social security because her work was not covered.

      I have found one from Tennessee online. All of these were applied for from Detroit.

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