DNA Makes the World Incredibly Small

Source: Detroit Free Pass, “Flint mayor wins praise for highlighting water crisis,” 22 March 2016, page A5, accessed from newspapers.com.

I take time weekly to check my DNA accounts for new DNA matches that are worth investigating. While browsing the new matches in my uncle’s AncestryDNA account, I saw “Cousin Weaver.” AncestryDNA identified her as a predicted 4th cousin since she shares 26 cM over 1 segment with my uncle. Cousin Weaver’s family tree only displayed up to her grandparents. I didn’t immediately recognize any of their names, but her paternal grandparents were born in Mississippi.

Once I clicked “Shared Matches” to see who else she matches, I immediately recognized a family pattern. The “Shared Matches” tab provides a list of matches that you and the DNA match have in common, and only predicted 4th cousins or closer will be included on the list. I quickly saw that Cousin Weaver is also matching four other descendants of my mother and uncle’s great grandfather, Pleasant Barr, and eight descendants of Grandpa Pleasant’s sister, Sue Barr Beckley. I then theorize that she was somehow connected to this family branch. But how?

Since Cousin Weaver’s paternal grandmother, Frenchie Payne, was born in Holly Springs, Mississippi in about 1893, I researched her first. Within minutes, I discovered that the family connection was indeed via Frenchie! Lo and behold, the name “Frenchie Payne” was already in my family tree, but I hadn’t determined if she had married and had children. Frenchie’s mother, Elizabeth Williamson Payne (1858-1938), was the daughter of Sina Beckley Williamson. Born about 1833 in Abbeville County, South Carolina, Sina was the oldest daughter of Aunt Sue and her husband, Jacob Beckley, Sr.

As told and detailed in 150 Years Later: Broken Ties Mended, Aunt Sue, her husband, and most of their children had been transported to Pontotoc County, Mississippi in 1859. William Barr, Jr. had taken them there after selling Grandpa Pleasant to James Giles, who took him to Ripley, Mississippi that same year. While Grandpa Pleas was forever separated from his first wife and children, his sister Sue was also separated from her oldest child, Sina. Rev. William H. Barr, Sr. had bequeathed Sina to his daughter, Margaret Barr, per his 6 January 1843 will.  

In 2001, when I discovered and first met some of my newfound Beckley cousins – descendants of Aunt Sue – the documented oral history printed in their reunion booklets identified “Sina” as being the name of one of the sisters of “The Beckley Five,” the famous moniker given to five of Sue’s sons who remained in Pontotoc County after slavery – Edmond, Cannon, Clay, Jacob Jr., and Lewis Beckley. However, the family had no knowledge of Sina’s whereabouts or if she had any living descendants. Apparently, the Beckley Five had talked about her. Sue’s son, Lewis, even named a daughter after her. 150 Years Later details how I tracked down Sina by following the migration of Margaret Barr and her husband, Rev. Edwin Cater, a Presbyterian minister. She was found in the following 1870 and 1880 censuses.

1870

Edwin & Margaret Barr Cater had settled near Somerville in Fayette County, Tennessee during the fall of 1860, taking Sina and her family with them. The church records of the Upper Long Cane Presbyterian Church of Abbeville, South Carolina revealed that Margaret had purchased Sina’s husband, Sam, from a “D. Wardlaw” before they all moved to Tennessee. Sina and her family were still in Tennessee when the 1870 census was taken.

The 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Fayette County, Tennessee – Sam & Sina Beckley Williamson and their children. Cousin Weaver’s 13-year-old great grandmother, Elizabeth “Eliza” Williamson, is in the household.

1880

Sina and her family had moved to Oxford, Mississippi around 1871. Aunt Sue Beckley and three of her 12 children, John Beckley, Susie Beckley Sheegog, and Patsy Beckley Saddler, had been taken to Oxford during the Civil War, likely to stay on Hugh Barr’s plantation, and remained there after slavery. Hugh’s baby brother, William Barr, Jr., had gone off to fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War, taking Sue’s son, Edmond Beckley, with him. Somehow, Sina learned of her mother’s whereabouts, and they packed up, left Tennessee, moved there, and ultimately recorded there in 1880.

The 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Lafayette County (Oxford), Mississippi – Sam & Sina Beckley Williamson and their children, with their new son-in-law, Alfred Payne, in the household. Alfred & Elizabeth “Liza” Payne were Cousin Weaver’s great grandparents.

1900

Sina’s daughter, Elizabeth Williamson Payne, and her family had moved to Holly Springs, Mississippi. Her husband Alfred had died shortly before 1900, and Elizabeth was the head of household. According to this census, she was working as a seamstress in town to support her and her children. Cousin Weaver’s grandmother, Frenchie Payne, was in the household.

The 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Marshall County (Holly Springs), Mississippi – Elizabeth Williamson Payne and her six daughters, Almira, Annie, Magnolia, Ludie, Frenchie, and Corlillian Payne.

But there’s more “juice” to this story!

More investigative sleuthing on the Internet, on Ancestry.com, and on FindAGrave.com revealed that Cousin Frenchie Payne had married a man named Wrex Weaver, Sr. Their son, Wrex Jr., was a dentist in Flint, Michigan for many years. Not only that, his son, Wrex III, also a dentist, is the husband of Flint’s current mayor, Dr. Karen Williams Weaver. Mayor Weaver is Cousin Weaver’s sister-in-law, and she and her brother are the great great grandchildren of Sina. This makes them to be my mother’s 3rd cousins twice removed. Cousin Weaver and my uncle inherited an identical DNA segment (26 cM) on one of the 22 chromosomes that came from one of the parents of Grandpa Pleasant and Aunt Sue, Lewis or Fanny Barr.

Aunt Sue’s son, Cannon Beckley, has numerous descendants in Flint. When I informed them of this discovery, mouths dropped! Not only were the descendants of Sina located, some of them are right there in Flint, and Cannon’s descendants knew them well!

My cousin Marsha, a great great granddaughter of Cannon, commented, “We grew up on the north side of Flint and we went to the same schools. But I never knew we are connected. We went to Dr. Wrex Weaver once or twice. Wow!”

My cousin Ouida, a great great granddaughter of Aunt Sue’s son Clay Beckley, wrote, “Wow, wow, wow! This world really is small.”

Hence, I titled this blog post, “DNA Makes the World Incredibly Small.” It really does!

4 thoughts on “DNA Makes the World Incredibly Small

  1. msualumni

    Melvin,
    That was such a wonderful post. This DNA and how it is helping us find family–especially black families–is such a godsend. As I read this post, I was so happy to see that Sina moved back to MS to her family. So often thats the part we don’t know–did they ever find their family after the war? As a mother now I cannot on any level fathom being separated and never seeing your own child or parents again. If I had to number the cruelties of slavery, that would be number one. Thanks for sharing this story!
    Robyn
    https://www.reclaimingkin.com

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jon Strickland

    Another home run, Melvin! Very fascinating and informative read. The work you’re doing is unmeasurable. People are connecting with family but also learning about themselves. Learning the past helps us navigate the present and future.

    Like

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