Readers of 150 Years Later: Broken Ties Mended read about my genealogical challenges and successes and overcoming big obstacles to piece together the story of my mother’s paternal grandfather, William “Bill” Reed. He was permanently separated from family members during slavery, including his father Pleasant Barr, his paternal grandmother Fanny Barr, and other family members. He never saw them again when William Barr Jr. took most of them to Pontotoc County, Mississippi in 1859.
Grandpa Bill and his siblings were sold to a slave-owner(s) there in Abbeville County, South Carolina. His last enslaver was Lemuel Reid. Before he died in Tate County, Mississippi in 1937, at the age of about 91, he loved sharing stories underneath his sycamore tree about his hard life in slavery, according to family elders. Now, DNA technology is revealing that there’s more to his story!
I am actually not surprised at all. There’s always a lot more history and details that aren’t discovered until a major clue pops up and more research is conducted. For many, DNA technology is uncovering the once unknown. Many secrets are no longer buried. True paternities, and maternities too, are being revealed. Lost family branches of family trees are being found. Genetic evidence of known ancestors is being unearthed. And DNA doesn’t lie!
The lady on the left is my great-uncle Pleasant Reed’s daughter, Armintha of Mississippi. She is 97 years old. She is the oldest-living granddaughter of Grandpa Bill Reed. Cousin Armintha took the 23andMe DNA test several years ago. The lady on the right, Teresa, lives in Abbeville County, South Carolina. She is 90 years old. She recently took the AncestryDNA test. Their raw data files were uploaded to MyHeritage.com and GEDmatch.com for comparison. As I was hoping, Teresa’s DNA opened the “information floodgates.”
Shortly after Emancipation, Grandpa Bill and his sister Mary, ages about 20 and 16, respectively, joined a wagon train headed to northern Mississippi in 1866. The leader of that wagon train told them that “Mississippi was the land of milk and honey with fat pigs running around with apples in their mouths,” according to oral history. After arriving in Panola County, Mississippi for a better life, Grandpa Bill married Sarah Partee in 1871, and they had 11 children. His sister Mary married and had two surviving children, whom she named Louvenia and William.
Apparently, back in Abbeville County, a young woman, also named Louvenia, married and started a family with a man named Robert Thompson. Born about 1849, Louvenia was around 17 years old when Grandpa Bill and Aunt Mary left. Now, over 150 years later, her descendants are showing up as sizable DNA matches to Grandpa Bill’s descendants. Consequently, this caused me to ponder, “Was she Grandpa Bill and Aunt Mary’s sister who chose to remain in South Carolina when they left?”
Luckily, Louvenia Thompson has one surviving granddaughter via her third son of nine children, whom she named William. That granddaughter is Teresa. My genetic cousin Najeeullah and I knew that we had to test her DNA – to garner additional DNA evidence to support my theory that his great-great-grandmother was Grandpa Bill & Aunt Mary’s sister. The naming patterns among them just didn’t seem coincidental. My theory made her to be a proposed 2nd cousin to Grandpa Bill’s grandchildren. (Note: Full second cousins, who are defined as the children of two full first cousins, share an average of 212.5 cM, according to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), and an average of 233 cM, according to genetic genealogist Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project.)
So, I mailed Cousin Najeeullah an AncestryDNA kit in April. He made the 2-hour trek from Atlanta to Abbeville County to collect Teresa’s saliva sample. Twice. Her saliva sample failed both times. I was terribly disappointed, and I pondered if we should try again. I didn’t want to bother Teresa for yet another saliva sample. But Cousin Najeeullah urged that we should try again. So, I sent him the replacement DNA kit, and he drove to South Carolina again. Teresa happily spat in the cup for the third time.
We all have heard the saying, “Third time’s a charm!” Well, it’s true! Her DNA results arrived last week. To say that we were overjoyed is an understatement. The amount of DNA she shares with Cousin Armintha and numerous other family members is definitely indicating that my theory is true. This is a major piece of genetic evidence. And more of the story continues to unfold! Stay tuned.