For many years, I was reluctant to build a family tree online because I wanted to protect the privacy of family members and control access to information on my tree. When I learned that I could use privacy settings to control access to my tree, I decided to put my tree on Ancestry.com.
I only put deceased individuals on my tree and used the ‘Private’ privacy setting to prevent other subscribers from viewing information on my tree. However, basic information (name, birth year, and birthplace) about deceased individuals is displayed in search results. If a person wants to view my tree, they must contact me anonymously through the Ancestry.com messaging service. You can learn more about ancestry.com privacy setting and decide what is best for you.
An added benefit of putting my tree online was I was able to take advantage of ancestry.com hints. This feature uses information from your family tree to suggest possible matches between people on the tree and historical records and/or other family trees.
I recently solved a genealogy mystery thanks to a hint from Ancestry.com. I have traced my Shakespeare family back to the 1840’s where Sancho and Lucinda Shakespeare and their children were enslaved by Elijah Wigglesworth in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Over the years I have made considerable progress on expanding my Shakespeare family tree but I had several people whose trail went cold.
Richard Shakespeare was one of those people. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1899 to Richard Shakespeare Sr and Molly/Mary Bailey. I believe his mother must have died when he was young because after 1900 he and his brother, James, lived in Caroline County, Virginia with their father’s brother, John Henry Shakespeare, and John’s wife, Sarah Ann (Sallie) Ferguson. Their father remained in Baltimore, MD where he died in 1927.
The latest information I had on Richard Shakespeare Jr. was from the 1920’s. He was listed in the 1920 Caroline County census with his aunt, uncle and brother. I could not locate any information on Richard after the 1920s.
Last month, I received an email from ancestry.com with a hint for my Shakespeare Family Tree. I clicked on the link which took me to Richard Shakespeare’s death certificate. From this document I learned that Richard lived in Beaver County, Pennsylvania and his wife’s name was Jannie.
Armed with this new information I began to search for Richard in Beaver County, Pennsylvania and located information on Richard, his wife and their children. Using other ancestry.com hints, I attempted to locate and contact some of Richard’s living descendants.
I used resources outside ancestry.com to obtain death notices for Richard, his wife and their children. I learned from their death notices they were members of Love-Hope Baptist Church and wrote to the church to see if they had any information on Richard Shakespeare and his family. The church was gracious enough to forward my letter to Richard Shakespeare’s great granddaughter who contacted me. We recently met and exchanged information. They shared this picture of Richard Shakespeare with me.
Thanks to a hint from Ancestry.com, I was able to solve the mystery of what happened to Richard Shakespeare, expand my Shakespeare Family Tree and meet some new cousins!!.
Descendants of Sancho and Lucinda Shakespeare
Richard was the grandson of Sancho and Lucinda’s son Beverly. In addition to Beverly, they had seven other children: Eliza, Richmond, Louisa, Nancy, Matilda, John, Martha. The family was separated in 1845 when their slaveowner, Elijah Wigglesworth, estate was settled and his property was distributed among his wife and children
I have not located any information on Eliza. I am not sure if she used the Shakespeare surname after slavery. She may have been taken to Tennessee when her slave owner, Andrew J. Wigelsworth, moved to the state.
Richmond and Nancy
Richmond, Nancy and Matilda were enslaved by Jefferson Flippo of Caroline County, Virginia when Almira W. Wigelsworth married him. Nancy had a daughter named, Susan. The three of them escaped from Jefferson Flippo in 1862 but I have been unable to determine what happened to them. . I am not sure if they used the Shakespeare surname after slavery.
Matilda Shakespeare were enslaved by Jefferson Flippo of Caroline County, Virginia when Almira W. Wigelsworth married him. She had several children during slavery. One of them was John Henry Lewis. . I met the wife of John Henry Lewis’s youngest son who shard this picture with me.
After slavery Matlida married Dingo Rollins and they had several children. Two of their children were Rachel and Marry Rollins. I met Mary’s granddaughter who share these pictures of Matilda’s daughters with me.
Louisa married William Woolfolk. They are my 2nd great grandparents. They had several children, Overton, my great grandfather, and Susan. I have not located a picture of Overton. I located Susan’s granddaughter who shared this picture with me.
Beverly Shakespeare had several wives and several children. John Herbert Shakespeare is also a descendant of Beverly.
John is listed in the 1870 census with his parents. I have not located any other information about him.
I wrote a blog post about Martha.
When researching your family history, it is a good idea to revisit resources and repositories that you have used in the past. New information may have been added since your last visit or you may have gained additional knowledge that will make you see the information in a new light. Such was the case with my paternal great grandfather, Overton Woodfork.
From my research, I knew that Overton’s parents were William and Louisa Woolfolk and his mother’s maiden name was Shakespeare. I also knew from my research with the census (via ancestry.com) and the DC City Directories (using microfilm and the actual directories) that Overton had lived in Caroline County, Virginia during the 1870’s and early 1880’s; Washington DC during the late 1890’s and the 1900’s; and returned to Caroline County, Virginia during the 1930’s where he died in 1933. There were time periods, where he seemed to disappear and I did not know where else to look for him since, to my knowledge, he had only lived in Caroline County, Virginia and Washington, DC.
I had recently learned that one of my Shakespeare ancestors, Martha Shakespeare Lewis, and her husband, Arthur, had moved from Caroline County, Virginia to the Walnut Hills area of Cincinnati, Ohio in the 1890’s where they lived until she died in 1915 and he died in 1935. I also knew that some of my Shakespeare ancestors had moved from Caroline County, Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland.
Periodically, I search ancestry.com for my ancestors to see if I can locate any new information. A few months ago, I decided to search for my paternal great grandfather and was surprised to see the search results contained an ‘Overton Woodfork’ in several Cincinnati, Ohio City Directories. Since Overton Woodfork is not a common name, I had a suspicion that it might be my great grandfather. The 1886 entry in the Cincinnati City Directory really caught my eye because in the section for the address it said “bds Arthur Lewis’ Walnut Hills”. Another search result was for an entry in 1887 Cincinnati City Directory contained “rooms 20 Curtis Walnut Hills”. After checking my research notes form Martha Shakespeare Lewis, I confirmed that she and her husband also lived at this address. Therefore, I am almost certain that these entries for ‘Overton Woodfork’ are my great grandfather.
A little while later I searched for Overton Woodfork again on ancestry.com and this time the search results also contained entries from the Baltimore City directory. After making this discovery, I decided to browse each Cincinnati City Directory and Baltimore City Directory manually during the time periods that Overton did not live in Caroline County, Virginia or Washington, DC. I found Overton Woodfork in several of the directories that did not show up in the online search results either because his name had been transcribed incorrectly or some of the names on the page had not been indexed. I also visited the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, Maryland to search the microfilm for the Baltimore City directories that were not online.
After completing this research, I now have a more complete timeline for Overton Woodfork. There are still a few years where I don’t know where he was living, so I still have more research to do to fill in the blanks.
In addition to illustrating the importance of revisiting resources and repositories, this experience demonstrates the importance of not solely relying on online search engines to perform research. It is also necessary to browse through the original documents to search for information. You may discover new information that will help you fill in the blanks on your family tree.