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.
My last two posts contained self-publishing tips. I decided to take a break and publish a research tip. The next post will continue with the self-publishing tips.
I recently discovered information on three of my ancestors in the Confederate Citizens Files while performing research using fold3.com (formerly footnote.com). The Confederate States of America (aka the Confederacy) was a government established by the eleven southern states that seceded from the United States during the Civil War. The Confederate Citizens Files were created during 1861-1865 and mainly consist of papers relating to civilians who were members of the Confederate States of America. These files contains papers such as bills and vouchers from individuals for services and supplies provided to the Confederate Government and claims against the government for damages.
The document titled Perpetuating evidence of slave abduction and harboring by the enemy is of particular interest when seeking information on enslaved ancestors. In 1861, the Congress of the Confederate States of American passed “an act to perpetuate testimony in cases of slaves abduction or harbored by the enemy, and other property seized, wasted, or destroyed by them”. This act allowed slave owners to appear before a judge or appropriate representative and make an affidavit of the loss of their property. Other individuals could submit oral or written evidence in support of the person’s claim. After all the evidence was collected the judge or his representative would state in his certificate of authentication whether the evidence was credible. This act was not meant to imply that the Confederate States were liable for making compensation for any of the property.
I located several documents in the Confederate Citizens File of Jefferson Flippo that provided information on three of my ancestors. My 3rd great grandparents, Sancho (aka Sanker) and Lucinda Shakespeare and their children were enslaved by Elijah Wigglesworth in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Elijah died in the 1840’s and the Shakespeare family was separated in 1846 when his estate was divided among his wife and children.
Three of Sancho and Lucinda’s children: Richmond, Nancy and Matilda were then enslaved by Elijah’s daughter Almira and then Jefferson Flippo of Caroline County, Virginia when Almira married him in 1854. I have found a lot of information on Matilda both during and after slavery and have located some of her living descendants. However, I have not found much information on Richmond and Nancy.
The perpetuating evidence document for Jefferson Flippo was filed on October 21, 1862. It contained a list of individuals who were enslaved by Jefferson Flippo and secured their freedom by leaving with the Union soldiers. As I scanned the list I noticed the names of three of my ancestors: Richmond (age 26), Nancy (age 20) and Susan (age 1). From early research I believe that Nancy had a daughter named Susan in April 1861 while she was enslaved by Jefferson Flippo. Based on their ages I believe Richmond, Nancy and Susan listed in this document may be my Shakespeare ancestors.
As I looked further through the document I found several statements by individuals that provided additional insight. There was a sworn statement signed October 7th 1862 from Jefferson Flippo where he stated he was the legal owner of the slaves, Richmond, William, Nancy and Susan [illegible] until about the 1st day of Jun 1862. His statement also indicates that Richmond and William left on or about the 1st day of Jun 1862 and Nancy and Susan left about the middle of July.
Another page of the document contains the oral evidence given by Nelson Beasley and John T. Goodwin, neighbors of Jefferson Flippo and provides further insight. In addition to corroborating the information provided by Jefferson Flippo, they also indicate my ancestors were last seen in Fredericksburg. The final page in the document contains the certification of legal ownership by Philip Samuels, Justice of the Peace.
I now have some insight into what happened to Richmond, Nancy her daughter Susan but I still do no know what became of them. I now have many more questions. What surname did they use after they obtained their freedom? Where did they go? The oral evidence states they were last seen in Fredericksburg. Did they remain there or move to another location? Did they ever reunite with their family? Many of my Shakespeare ancestors did reunite in Caroline County, Virginia after slavery. However, I have not found any information to indicate Richmond and Nancy joined the rest of the family.
My great grandmother Louisa (who is Nancy’s sister) had a daughter named Susan whose age is very close to Nancy’s daughter named Susan. Are Louisa’s daughter and Nancy’s daughter the same person or different people who happened to be born around the same time? If they are the same person, does that mean something happened to Nancy? If so, what happened to her? These are all questions I must answer as I continue my quest to locate my Shakespeare ancestors.
Confederate Citizens Files are an excellent resource for researching the family history of both slave holding families and the individuals they enslaved. Unfortunately, the names of slaves are not indexed; therefore, those searching for their enslaved ancestors will have to search for the name of the slave owner and read each document to locate their ancestors.
Division of the Negroes and Money belonging to the Estate of Elijah Wiglesworth and Lot No 6. Drawn by Almira W. Wiglesworth. Will Book R, 1843-1846 Part 2 Page 271 Repository: Spotsylvania Court House, Spotsylvania, Virginia.
“Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-65,” digital images, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : accessed 26 November 2011), record for Jefferson Flippo, Caroline County, Virginia, Papers of Jefferson Flippo for perpetuating evidence of slaves abducted and harbored by the enemy, filed October 21, 1862, National Archives Record Group 109, War Department Collection of Confederate Records.
If you read my Genealogy Envy post , you know that I am always complaining that my family is boring. Yesterday, I thought the genealogy gods had smiled on me and given me a breakthrough. It turns out that would not be the case, but I thought I would share my adventure.
On Saturday, November 19th, I attended a meeting at the Central Maryland Chapter of AAHGS. Angela Walton-Raji , gave a very informative presentation on the Best Internet Resources for African American Genealogy Research. After leaving the meeting I was inspired to visit some of the sites she mentioned. I have not been working on my family history for the past two years, because I have been doing research for a book I am writing on Union High School in Caroline County, Virginia.
I decided to search FamilySearch.org for my 3rd great grandfather, Sancho Shakespeare. I had searched the website in the past but had not found much information. To my surprise I found an entry in the Ohio Death records for Martha Lewis who died in 1914. She was born in Virginia and her father was Sancho Shakespeare and her mother was Lucinda. I got excited because there was a link to view the death certificate for FREE. With the exception of her mother’s last name, all of the information was what I expected. Unfortunately, the death certificate did not have an informant.
Martha Shakespeare is the sister of my 2nd great grandmother Louisa Shakespeare. Everything I found out about her has been by accident. She is listed in the Freedman’s Bureau Register of Colored Persons of Caroline County, State of Virginia, cohabitating together and husband and wife on 27th February, 1866 as one of the children of my 3rd great grandparents, Sancho and Lucinda Shakespeare. She is also in the 1870 census with them. After that I could not find her. So I stopped looking for her.
After a few years I found her marriage license by accident when I was searching the Central Rappahannock Heritage database for my great 3rd great grandfather, Sancho Shakespeare. She married Arthur Lewis. This was her second marriage because she is listed as a widow and her name is Martha Hart. I found Arthur and Martha Lewis in the 1900, 1910 and 1920 census in Washington, DC that I thought were them, but could not find anything else. So I stopped looking.
My new find on FamilySearch.org let me know that Martha and Arthur had moved to Ohio. I started searching the census in Ohio and found her and her husband in the 1910 Hamilton County Cincinnati Ohio census living in the household of John W. Merritt. John’s wife was Ella Merritt. Martha was listed as John’s sister-in law and her husband was listed as John’s brother in law. Since John’s wife was born in Virginia and Arthur was born in Virginia, I guessed that Arthur was Ella’s brother.
Arthur continued to live with the Merritts in the 1920 census. However, in the 1930 census he was a boarder in the household of Gertrude Anderson. I wondered what happened to the Merritts. Further research in FamilySearch.org showed that Arthur Lewis died in 1935 in Cincinnati OH. I retrieved his death certificate and saw the informant was Ella Merritt who was living in Chicago Illinois. That solved the mystery of what happened to the Merritts.
I looked for the Merritts in the Chicago, Illinois and found them in the 1930 census. John and Ella were living in Cook County Chicago Illinois. Their adult children: William, Arthur D. and Lenora were living with them.
I continued to search for the Merritt’s in Illinois. Ella died in 1945. Her son, Arthur died in 1969. The social security death index in Ancestry.com had a link from the record to the Cook County, Illinois website which has a lot of their vital records online. Each record can be accessed for $15 plus a $1.75 fee. I didn’t want to spend $30+, so I took a gamble and purchased Arthur’s death certificate since he died more recently. I was hoping I could use the informant on the death certificate to locate a living descendant. I paid the fee and retrieved his death certificate. Much to my chagrin, the informant was the Admitting Clerk at Mercer Medical Center. I WASTED my hard earned $16.75.
Arthur and Martha did not have any children that I could tell. (The census says Martha has one living child, but he/she is never living with them.) I was hoping to trace the Merritts to a living descendant and find out more about my Shakespeare ancestors. But that trail ran cold because all of their children never married, never had any children, and lived with their parents forever!!!!!
So now I am stuck again!!!!! My genealogy luck stinks. :(
But on a positive note, I did learn that FamilySearch.org is a great research tool.