Disclaimer: Others have likely researched branches of Chadwick’s family. However, this post is based on my personal curiosity and research, and I have deemed it a great slave ancestral research case to add to my blog.
I joined the millions who were deeply saddened when I learned of Chadwick Boseman’s shocking passing on 28 August 2020, from stage IV colon cancer. His role as T’Challa in Marvel’s award-winning superhero movie Black Panther deeply touched the souls of many of African descent. I was soon reminded that this super-talented actor was also born and raised in the deep South – Anderson, South Carolina – a town I have traveled through several times en route to Abbeville, South Carolina.
Over the past several years, I observed that my mother, aunt, and uncle, who I tested with AncestryDNA and 23andMe, share DNA with many who are either from Anderson or had immediate family roots from Anderson. This was not surprising. Their paternal grandfather, William “Bill” Reed of Tate County, Mississippi, was born in nearby Abbeville County, South Carolina in 1846. He, his sister Mary, and others migrated to northern Mississippi around 1866, shortly after gaining their freedom.
While investigating the family trees of some of these DNA cousins with Abbeville or Anderson County roots, I frequently see the surname CLINKSCALES. The oddity of this name makes it stand out. I realized that scores of white and African American Clinkscales families resided in both Anderson and Abbeville County. Several white Clinkscales had owned slaves. I even discovered that Chadwick Boseman’s paternal grandmother was Ilove Clinkscales Boseman (1911-1989), the wife of Aaron Boseman Sr. (1911-2000), both of Anderson County.
I could not help but to probe into his Clinkscales family. I am not trying to prove if Chadwick and his grandmother were my cousins; I presently do not have any concrete clues to make this claim. However, I desired to find out more about his Clinkscales ancestors to see if they were related to some of my family’s genetic cousins. My curiosity got the best of me and a lot was unearthed. I realized that these findings offer a good case of slave ancestral research.
Chadwick’s paternal grandmother bore a unique name, Ilove. Her obituary was published on 17 May 1989, in the Greenville News newspaper, Greenville, South Carolina, in which I found on newspapers.com. Newspaper obits are excellent resources for genealogy research. For example, although Ilove’s newspaper obit does not provide her parents’ names, it gives the names of three sisters, Charlene, Felicia, and Brilliant, and one brother, Zack Clinkscales.
Typically, researchers are instructed to start with the latest census available to the public (1940) and work backwards. However, for this blog post, I start with the 1920 census, armed with the names from Ilove’s newspaper obit. She and her siblings were found in the household of their father, Moses “Mose” Clinkscales. He was reported as being 42 years old (born c. 1878). See image below. Mose, his wife (Julia Adams), and their children were also found in the 1910 and 1930 censuses.
Mose Clinkscales died in 1931, and his death certificate from Ancestry.com shows that his parents were Gran Clinkscales and Lucinda Martin. Mose was then located in the 1900 census, residing in the household of his widowed mother, Lucinda, and seven siblings. See image below.
Since the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire, the 1880 census was then researched, and it offered some significant findings. First, little Mose Clinkscales, who was reported as being 1 year old, was found in the household of his reported father, Gran Clinkscales, whose name was officially Granville and whose age was reported as being 27. Second, an older couple, Phillip and Clarissa Clinkscales, who were old enough to be Granville’s parents (ages 60 & 51), lived adjacent to him. Third, a white Clinkscales family, headed by a man named Levi N. Clinkscales, 49 years old, lived adjacent to Phillip. See next image below.
This provided one of two great clues to knock down that “1870 Clinkscales Brick Wall.” Even my own 3X-great grandparents, Jack & Flora Davis of Panola County, Mississippi, were just four households away from their last enslaver’s son, Johnson Burnett, in 1880. Many African American families remained in the area where they had been enslaved. Interestingly, the black Clinkscales’s color was noted as “mulatto,” which indicates that the census taker perceived them as being racially mixed.
Fortunately, Phillip & Clarissa Clinkscales were found in the 1870 census. Granville was in the household with a reported age of 18. Although the 1870 census does not provide the relationships to the head of household, one can plausibly assert that Phillip and Clarissa were Granville’s parents. To add, the death certificates of 12-year-old Warren Clinkscales and 2-year-old Eliza Clinkscales, who were also in the household, show that their parents were Phillip & Clarissa Clinkscales.
In the 1870 census, I observed that a 58-year-old African American male named Zachariah Clinkscales lived nearby with his wife, children, and a 59-year-old named Robert Clinkscales in the house. See next image below. Robert was still residing with Zachariah in 1880 and noted as being his brother. In 1870, Phillip Clinkscales and his family were enumerated on page 603 of the census, and Zachariah and his family were enumerated on page 601. The census taker likely walked a short distance between the two households. This underscores the significance of studying the neighborhood.
Additionally, Phillip named one of his sons Zachariah, and even Chadwick’s grandmother, Ilove, had a brother named Zack. Naming patterns are often great clues of family relationships. Therefore, one can plausibly assert that Phillip, Zachariah, and Robert were likely brothers.
Interestingly, a search in the South Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Field Office Records, 1865-1872 in FamilySearch.org yielded the second great clue to knocking down the 1870 Brick Wall. Roll 44 of these records contained a Register of Contracts, Dec. 1865 to Dec. 1866, for Anderson Courthouse. These contracts typically “consist of agreements between freedmen laborers and planters stating terms of employment, such as pay, clothing, and medical care due the freedman; the part of the crop to be retained by him; and whether a plot for growing subsistence crops was to be provided.” (Source) Many of these planters had been their enslavers before Emancipation. A register entry revealed that “Phil & his wife, and Henry & Stewart” were to labor for T. L. Clinkscales from January 1 to December 31, 1866 for “1/3 corn and ½ cotton.” Henry and Stewart were two of Phillip Clinkscales’s sons and were in his 1870 household. Was T. L. Clinkscales the last enslaver?
As stated earlier, I had observed that a white Levi N. Clinkscales lived adjacent to Phillip in 1880. When enslaved people became free, many were able to reveal the surnames they had chosen for themselves. While many chose not to take the surname of their last enslaver, many did. Several Clinkscales researchers have identified Phillip’s 1880 neighbor, Levi Newton Clinkscales Jr., as the son of Levi Newton Clinkscales Sr. who died on 13 August 1843 in Anderson County. Levi Sr. also had a son named Thomas Leftwich Clinkscales (1833-1890), who was undoubtedly T. L. Clinkscales. T. L. was found on page 604 of the 1870 census, and Phillip and his family were recorded on page 603. Therefore, I asked the question, “Had Levi Jr., Thomas L., or their father Levi Sr. been the enslaver of Phillip and his brothers during slavery?” Fortunately, I found the answer to this question.
In 2017, FamilySearch.org discontinued the use of microfilm in favor of digitized records. To date, their digital archivists and scanners have digitized over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. Many of these digital images are probate/estate records, including the estate records for Anderson County. Fortunately, the will of Levi Clinkscales Sr. was found. On 31 March 1843, he wrote the following:
One can plausibly assert that Bob and Zack were likely Robert and Zachariah Clinkscales, Chadwick’s 4X-great uncles, who likely remained legally enslaved by Mary “Polly” Clinkscales, the mother of Levi Jr. and Thomas L., until they gained their freedom in 1865. Polly died four years later in 1869.
Since Levi Sr. died leaving a will, he died testate, and his estate was distributed according to his will. These distributions are typically recorded in estate records. Enslaved people are often named in inventories and appraisements of the estate. Fortunately, Levi’s estate record contained the following inventory that included Phillip, whom Polly took possession of in 1843, along with “Negro woman, Miley.” Phillip was about 20 years old. The estate record also named at least 15 other enslaved people who were part of Levi’s estate.
Phillip Clinkscales continued to labor on or near the Clinkscales farm, located about 11 miles southeast of Anderson near the Anderson-Abbeville County line, as late as 1880. He died on 22 June 1892, and was buried at Shiloh Baptist Church in Anderson County, according to FindAGrave. He enjoyed about 27 years of freedom. Undoubtedly, he and other ancestors greeted his 43-year-old great great great grandson with pride as Chadwick joined them on 28 August 2020. Their resilience had manifested in him to continue to persevere and make great movies, including Black Panther, while battling colon cancer. His legacy will live on forever; he is an ancestor now. Our great loss is certainly heaven’s gain. R.I.P. Chadwick Boseman (29 Nov. 1976 – 28 Aug. 2020).