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.
I try to be very organized when I am performing research. Before going on a research trip, I identify the ancestors I will be researching, check the library’s catalog to determine what resources are available and make a list of questions I would like to answer. However, some of my best genealogy finds have happened when I was not looking for the information. When this happens, I jokingly say my ancestors are talking to me.
Here are some examples of some great information I stumbled upon while performing genealogy research.
- My 2nd great Aunt Matilda Shakespeare had several children while she was enslaved. One was a son name John Henry Lewis. At the end of the Civil War Matilda married Dingo Rollins and they had several children. I found their marriage certificate and the family in the 1870 and 1880 census. I also found a death record that indicated Matilda died on June 27, 1882. I could not find any more information on the Rollins family after the 1880’s. One day I traveled to the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center in Fredericksburg, VA for a research trip. The volunteers were very helpful as I searched for information on Dingo Rollins, his children and John Henry Lewis. Unfortunately, we did not find any information on the Rollins family.
A few days later I was contacted by the volunteer who was helping me on my research trip. She told me she had located documents for a court case involving John Henry Lewis and Dingo Rollins’ children. She happened upon the information when she was looking through a box that was sitting on the shelf. Another volunteer told her the box had been there for awhile. The court documents contained a wealth of information on Dingo Rollins and his children including the married names of his daughters and their spouses, as well as the fact that they had moved from Caroline County, Virginia to Washington, DC. I was able to use this information to further trace the family line and locate some of Matilda and Dingo’s living descendants. They shared with me a family Bible which had a lot of birth, death and marriage information, as well as, numerous photographs.
- Two of my ancestors were born, lived and died in Washington, DC. I assumed they were married in the city as well. On several occasions, I looked for their marriage certificate at the DC Archive and did not have any luck. One day while on a research trip to the Library of Virginia, I was scrolling through a microfilm for marriage records when I realized I had scrolled past the name I was looking for. I looked closely at the microfilm and to my surprise I had stopped on the marriage certificate for the ancestors I believed had married in Washington, DC. They were married in Alexandria, Virginia which is a little more than 10 miles outside Washington, DC. Since, I had known both the bride and groom to have lived in Washington, DC all their lives; I never thought to look elsewhere for the marriage certificate.
- Emma Woolfolk is the sister of my great grandfather, Overton Woodfork. She married Barnett Hawkins on February 22, 1883 and they had a son name William (Willie). Willie married Fannie Turner on February 25, 1909. They are listed in the 1910 census and in a 1916 deed, but then the trails went cold. A few years later, I was at the Caroline County Court researching schools for a book I was writing. I was flipping through a Chancy Court book to locate a certain page and realized I had gone too far. I glanced at the page as I prepared to flip back a few pages and the name Fannie Hawkins caught my eye. I had unknowingly stopped on the page that contained the divorce decree from Fannie and William Hawkins.
What about you? Share some of your stories when you accidentally discovered information that was helpful to your research.