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A family matter

So here’s a question for you…

What exactly do these two people have in common?

table

You may recognize the person on the left. The Legal Genealogist. Blogger. Speaker. Genealogist with a law degree.

Let me introduce you to the person on the right. Tamara Rasheed. Author. Speaker. Budding genealogist.

So… What exactly do these two people have in common?

Well, an interest in genealogy, of course.

But not just genealogy in general.

Genealogy very much in particular.

As in, one particular piece of family history.

One, it would appear, that was lost to my family and to Tamara’s family somewhere back in Mississippi, sometime in the 19th century.

Because, a preliminary analysis of DNA evidence suggests, somewhere back in Mississippi, sometime in the 19th century, ancestors of mine were also ancestors of hers.

And, if history is any guide, slaveowners on my side. Slaves on hers.

We’re just starting the process of trying to prove where our family lines intersect, but the preliminary evidence points strongly towards my Gentry line in early statehood Mississippi.

The first of that line to reach Mississippi, my fourth great grandfather Elijah Gentry Sr., was a Revolutionary War veteran who arrived in what was then the Mississippi Territory just before the War of 1812.1

Elijah Sr. and the next in my line, my third great grandfather Elijah Jr., both served in the War of 1812 in the 1 Regiment, Mississippi Territorial Volunteers.2 Elijah Sr. died around 1818, in what was later Monroe County, Alabama,3 when Elijah Jr. was wrapping up an early career as a circuit riding Methodist Episcopal preacher.4

By 1820, the younger Elijah had married and was enumerated in Wayne County, Mississippi, with a young family.5 Hinds County was formed in 1821,6 and Elijah was on the tax rolls there in the 1820s where — by 1825 — he was recorded as owning one slave.7

By 1830, another new county had been formed — Rankin County8 — and Elijah was there with his family … and with four slaves (one male 36-54, and three females aged 10-23).9

His slave ownership continues to be carefully documented thereafter:

• In 1840, he was in Winston County and owned seven slaves (two males under 10 and one 35-55, and one female under 10, two 10-24 and one 25-34).10

• In 1850, he was in Neshoba County and owned 14 slaves: six males ages 40, 12, four, three, two and one, and eight females ages 32, 31, 18, 15, 10, five, five and one.11

• In 1860, he was still in Neshoba County, and owned 21 slaves — 12 black females, ages 40, 40, 27, 24, 19, 15, 11, 8, 7, 4, 4 and 1, 8 black males, ages 22, 14, 12, 11, 7, 5, 4 and 3, and one mulatto male, age 3.12

And somewhere, likely right around that third great grandfather, the DNA suggests that one of the Gentry family did more than merely own a slave. Whether it was Elijah himself or one of his sons, the evidence surely suggests that some Gentry ensured that Gentry DNA is present in both of our lines.

That evidence suggests that Tamara and I are somewhere in the general neighborhood of third to fifth cousins. She shares segments ranging from 12 to 34 centiMorgans with nine members of my family who descend from Elijah Gentry through three of Elijah’s children and a smaller segment with a descendant of yet a fourth of Elijah’s children.

Now without something of a paper trail, without some documents to back up our theories, the DNA by itself is evidence, not conclusive proof, of our mutual descent from this man. But it is surely something more than mere coincidence that Tamara’s paternal great grandmother was one Gladys Gentry of Hinds County, Mississippi.

There’s more work to be done — records to find and sift through — to determine exactly how Tamara and I are related. We both recognize that it’s still possible that it will turn out that it isn’t through the Gentry line at all.

But as she and I are turning to that paper trail now … we do so with an eye on a dream. It’s a dream articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his speech at the Washington Monument on August 28th, 1963. It’s a dream, he said he had, “that one day… the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

So maybe it won’t be the sons, Dr. King.

Maybe this time it’s going to be the daughters who will sit together.

And, like good daughters everywhere, we’re inviting everyone from every part of the Gentry family to come to this table, to join us as we work together to try to shed light on our common ancestry.

Because, as we sit here today, in 2016, it’s a family table.

And we can’t wait to find out just how our branches of this family tree intertwine.


SOURCES

  1. His Revolutionary War service is documented in two stub indents dated 18 July 1785, for “duty in the Militia as Private since the reduction of Charlestown” and “Duty in the Militia as Sargeant before, & since the reduction of Chas Town,” South Carolina Commissioners of the Treasury, Stub Indents, Lib U, Nos. 654-655, Elijah Gentry, 17 July 1785, South Carolina State Archives, Columbia.
  2. Compiled service records, Elijah Gentry, Pvt., and Elijah Gentry Sr., Pvt., Captain Samuel Dale’s Company, 1st Regiment Mississippi Territorial Volunteers, Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations, War of 1812; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1762-1984, Record Group 94; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  3. Monroe County AL Orphans Court orders, 11 May 1818, estate of Elijah Gentry.
  4. See Methodist Episcopal Church, Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the Years 1773-1881 (New York : p.p., 1883), 298.
  5. 1820 U.S. census, Wayne County, Mississippi, population schedule, p. 99 (penned), Elija Gentry; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 September 2002); citing National Archive microfilm publication M33, roll 57.
  6. Act of 12 February 1821, in Laws of the State of Mississippi (Columbia: P. Isler, state printer., 1822).
  7. Hinds County, Mississippi, Tax Lists, 1823-1825; Box 3654, Mississippi Department of Archives & History; digital images, FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org/ : accessed 27 May 2016). See particularly the list of 1825, page 2, line 12, entry for Elijah Jentry.
  8. “An Act, to divide Hinds County…,” Laws of Mississippi (1828).
  9. 1830 U.S. census, Rankin County, Mississippi, p. 165 (stamped), Elijah Gentry; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 September 2002); citing National Archive microfilm publication M19, roll 71.
  10. 1840 U.S. census, Winston County, Mississippi, p. 265 (stamped), Elijah Gentry; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 September 2002); citing National Archive microfilm publication M704, roll 219.
  11. 1850 U.S. census, Neshoba County, Mississippi, slave schedule, p. 2 of 16 (unpaginated, dated 2 Aug 1850), Elijah Gentry, owner; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 August 2002); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 387.
  12. 1860 U.S. census, Neshoba County, Mississippi, Twp. 12, Range 10, slave schedule, p. 30 (penned), Elijah Gentry, owner; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 Feb 2007); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 601.
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