Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Paternal Grandfather, Harold Murrell--Part one.

Harold Murrell How Did I Get Here? My Amazing Genealogy Journey
Harold O. Murrell

Happy New Year to everyone in the blogosphere! I have decided to start things off by diving into my paternal line. My paternal grandfather was Harold Osmond Murrell (August 16, 1903--October 9, 1996.) What a sweet man. I am blessed to have so many fond memories of him. This picture is from a wallet of his from when he was a young man

Harold Murrell's Wallet --How Did I Get Here? My Amazing Genealogy Journey

My Grandfather's Wallet --Harold Murrell How Did I Get Here? My Amazing Genealogy Journey

The story of grandfather begins back in St Philip, Barbados.  He was one of four children born to a George Murrell, a carpenter, and a Frederica Augusta Inniss. The two daughters Lillian and Edna never married. Rupert, my grandfather's older brother did marry and had a family. There were not many opportunities on the island beyond sugar cane and fishing so my grandfather sought out opportunity elsewhere. Rupert being the oldest took on the responsibility of caring for his sisters and his own family.

A couple of years back, my father told me the story of when my grandfather left the island. My grandfather went down to an area on the beach where there were small boats that had to be rowed out to the larger ship that would leave the island. My great-grandparents accompanied him and saw him off. There he was a young man all excited, gung ho to seek out opportunities elsewhere. He was about to go on the biggest adventure of his life. He gets on the row boat and it sets off to the large ship. He turns and waves to his parents and that's when it hits him. In that moment, he realizes that he is never going to see them again. He began to cry. When I heard this for the first time I wanted to reach back in time and space and give my grandfather, the young man who just left his family behind a huge hug. I wanted to comfort him.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: My Paternal Grandparents Wedding Photo

Ethel Murrell and Harold Murrell --My Paternal Grandparents Wedding Photo How Did I Get Here? My Amazing Genealogy Journey
Ethel Smith Murrell and Harold Murrell
My paternal grandparents
Wedding Photo from 1932.
They were married at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem 
by Adam Clayton Powell Sr.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Mind Is Back In Hyde County Folks!

I am back in Hyde County folks. No, not physically but in my mind in terms of researching my family tree. For those of you who are new to the blog, my Whitney family line came from Hyde County, NC.  I am very  thankful for the helpful nods I have been given along the way while studying my ancestors. I had on the message board for Hyde County an inquiry about additional information regarding my 3rd great grandparents, Thomas Whitney and Margaret Merritt (Merrick) Whitney. A very helpful Kay M. Sheppard told me about two publications that could help me with my research. Both provided details about the land called the "Donnell Farm," where I believe my ancestors worked and eventually I believe were laid to rest at.

The first publication is called "Hyde County,(NC) Land Divisions in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries" by  Richard B. Lupton. This book has tons of information regarding the different land divisions in the county as well as background information about Donnell farm that I found very intriguing. Here's a passage from this book that discusses John Donnell, the owner of Donnell farm.

The largest and most prominent of these landowners and masters was an absentee land baron from New Bern.  By the middle of the nineteenth century, Judge John Donnell controlled 13,206 acres, mostly in central Hyde, owned 220 slaves, 10 of whom were mulattoes, suggesting a sexual bond among the slaves, whites and/or Native Americans.  The Judge never resided in Hyde County, but his footprints and the slaves' legacy remain imprinted in the coal black soil on the south of Lake Mattemuskeet. 

Things that make you go hmmm, right? Well this is an important finding. My family's oral history was that my 3rd great grandfather, Thomas Whitney was of Portuguese descent and both he and his son Samuel, my 2nd great grandfather, spoke fluent Portuguese.  I had traced a Samuel Whitney to the 1830 and 1840 censues who was a free person of color who I have theorized was the father of Thomas Whitney. What if Samuel Whitney found on the 1830 and 1840 censuses was not from the Azores as my family had been told? Perhaps an earlier Whitney ancestor was the one who came from there. Or perhaps the oral history is wrong all together. 

I went back over some information that I had found back on the WRG (Whitney Family Group) website sometime ago. On that site they have noted that the earliest know Whitney that they could find information about in Hyde County was a man named Isaac Whitney who was found listed as a witness on a land deed from 1767. This could very well have been the spouse of a Sarah Whitney who is found in Hyde county on the 1790 census. 

Information Courtesy of

Sarah Whitney had 23 slaves. More than likely it would seem that one of those slaves was probably the Samuel Whitney who is a free person of color by 1830 in New Bern. There are no other white Whitneys found after the death of Sarah in Hyde County. The two males listed on the 1790 census may have been sons or may not have been. They apparently were not in the picture as of the 1797. Sarah Whitney died some point that year and her estate's distribution was handled by a Benjamin Russell. Also mentioned in the Hyde North Carolina Minutes for Sarah's estate are a Samuel Jasper, Henry Clark, and Ben Foreman. It would seem that more than likely Sarah's slaves and other assets would have gone to these individuals and or perhaps other Hyde county residents. 

The other publication that I purchased recently was the Spring 1982 edition of "High Tides", the Hyde County Historical and Genealogical Society's Semi-Annual Journal. This issue of the journal contains a drawing of what the Donnell farm looked like back 1891. There's also mention of Civil War letters primarily from Henry Jones, the overseer of the farm. Tons of great information in here. I have to finish going through this journal and then follow up with some research on the people mentioned in the court minutes for Sarah Whitney's estate.

I do find it interesting that there are only African American Whitneys found in Hyde County Censuses since the time of Sarah Whitney. Anyway, I have to stop here because the kids are tugging me off the computer. LOL. Time to play Wii.  :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and good tidings for the New Year!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

So Where Do I Go From Here? Looking At What Maybe To Come In 2012.

We are now almost at the close of 2011 and I have started to reflect on this year's genealogy journey and I wonder where it will take me next year. I am certainly hoping for a chance to dive further back on my paternal side of the family. My father's side of the family has been challenging in regards to finding out information. My father's father came from St Philip's Parish, Barbados and my father's mother's line has proved to be the greatest challenge of all. My grandmother's mother came from Wilmington, NC  according to family oral history. After this, much is a mystery regarding the woman I refer to as "Miss Ella." I call her Miss Ella because it seems to be the only thing that had remained consistent about her name over the years. She became involved with the church associated with Father Divine and did not remain in contact with the rest of the family. Maybe with the release of the 1940 census, I might be able to crack this brick wall. We'll see.

Of course there is more work to be done on my maternal line so I will continue to share my findings with everyone. I am so glad I started blogging. There are so many amazing family stories out there. I am thankful for the camaraderie that exist between those in Geneabloggers Community.  Here's to a wonderful 2012 everyone!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Blog Caroling: O' Holy Night.

I finally decided to join in on Blog Caroling. Thank you to Footnote Maven for putting forth a beautiful tradition. Here's one of my favorite versions of this song, "O' Holy Night." To me, Patti LaBelle could sing the Encyclopedia and I would be mesmerized. So enjoy and sing along if you like.

Now this version includes only the first verse before the chorus, the chorus and then the chorus is repeated... but it is absolute heaven to listen to. I can feel my grandma next to me raising her hand to to the Lord in praise whenever I listen to it. 

O' Holy Night
Composed by Adolphe Adam in 1847 to the French poem "Minuit, chretiens"(Midnight, Christians) by Placide Cappeau. Singing version created by John Sullivan Dwight
(information courtesy of Wikipedia)

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices, 
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. 

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices! 
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming, 
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger, 
In all our trials born to be our friend!

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and his Gospel is peace. 
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease. 
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, 
Let all within us praise His holy Name!

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Wordless Wednesday: Christmas When My Mom And Uncle Were Little.

I am not sure what year this was. The expression on my Uncle's face is priceless. I have to ask my mom if she recalls the story behind this picture.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Tragedy For One...Leads To An Opportunity For Another.

Since I just finished part two of my family history movie which was about the Mitchell family line, I thought this would be a good time to do a post on how my 3rd great grandfather Mortimer Mitchell came to own his land in Riverdale, NC. If you missed that post, here's the link The Mitchells.

When I received Mortimer's deed sometime ago, the first thing I researched was information regarding the people he bought his land from.  Maybe by doing this I would be able to unveil more information about my ancestor. The owner of the land was an Elizabeth Williams and her husband is listed as a witness on the deed, R B Williams. I found it rather curious that the wife was the owner of this land due to the fact that this deed was dated from March 1878. So I did some digging. It turns out that Elizabeth was originally Elizabeth Tolson who married a Gabriel Hardison back on Dec. 7, 1858. Elizabeth and her first husband were married until some terrible events unfolded in December 1866. Here is an excerpt from an article found in the The article was contributed by a Gloria Smith Taylor. This excerpt describes testimony given in court regarding the case of Calvin McCrellis, who was charged with complicity in the murder of Gabriel Hardison.

New Bern Weekly Journal Commerce,  18  December 1866

Gabriel Hardison murdered in his home. 

....John Ives, the first witness, was in the room at the time of the murder of Hardison. A negro came for fire about sunrise, stating that he had just come from Beaufort.  After some conversation, he left the room but immediately returned followed by three others, who with the most horrid imprecations demanded the surrender of the family.  Mr. Hardison replied that he was unarmed; to take anything they wished; but spare his life. Upon this a thickset negro raised his gun, and shot Hardison through the head--he falling into the fire.  The murderers now began to plunder and subsequently pulled the body from the fire to get a pocket book. 

John Ives makes no mention of the name of the man or men who committed the murder. Next there are more testimonies.

Miss Emeline Robertson, was next introduced and deposed as follows:  She was on a visit to W. T. Bright- a relative, residing near Croatan. The prisoner came and gave the following account of himself. 

He had been a Union soldier, and left a wife and daughter in Massachussetts.  Upon his return home he found his wife in the arms of a hotel keeper in Lowell, and killed her at once.  She had spent the $3,000 he left with her. 

He now took a steamer and came back to Newbern, went to farming upon a plantation belonging to J. L. Rhem; was robbed of his cotton, 2 mules, 4 horses, & etc. Was on his way to Beaufort.  W. T . Bright had seen him on Friday evening going down the road, and again on Saturday coming up.

Vine Allen and Thomas Tolson live at Croatan Station.  McCrellis came to their house about supper time on Friday evening and in conversation stated substantially above.  He asserted that he was on his wasy to Beaufort to take a steamer North.  Remained at the house until the train came and was seen to get on it. 

All these statements went to clear McCrellis although his sections and language were most extraordinary. 

McCrellis was next put upon the stand and stated as follows:  

Had been in N.C. about five weeks; was a native of Lawrence Massachusetts; had been in service three years; discharged last September at Smithville; and left a wife at home; she left him; was with the proprietor of the Montezuma House; all the tales about killing her were lies; all the story about his farming was a lie; he had lied a good deal; had talked with a great many negroes; they spoke of a determination to rise; the negroes didn't get their rights; they wanted them; they were worse off now than when they were slaves; of the northerners didn't help them they would help the secesh; if somebody didn't help them they would help themselves; "blood and thunder" was the game they would play. 

The court, after having all the evidences, concluded these was not enough evidence to convict the prisoner; but still enough to make it certain he was not the kind of man the neighborhood desired.  He desired to go North and the court agreed to let him go, but remanded him to the jail until such time as he or someone else should raise the necessary funds to pay expenses.

When I read the section I have underlined, I couldn't help but let out a chuckle to myself. I am sure he was "not the kind the neighborhood desired." However, the thing that did get me about this is that they didn't just railroad the man into a conviction. I would think that after something so heinous should happen in the community the first thing on everyone's mind I would have thought would have been vengeance and people would hasten to serve out punishment as quickly as possible, nevermind finding out the truth. Regardless, McCrellis probably was left in jail for quite some time, unless by chance someone was able to pay his expenses.

Gabriel's widow, Elizabeth went on to marry a Robert B Williams of Croatan in February 15, 1872. So six years after the death of her first husband, Elizabeth sells off her land to my 3rd great grandfather, Mortimer. Perhaps the murder that took place there had nothing to do with it and it was just a simple business transaction. Perhaps she was letting go of a terrible reminder of the past.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Mitchells: Part Two of My Family History Movie

Okay, this Windows Movie Maker Program I am starting to really get into. This is a great way to document the discoveries I have come across and since I have family in different parts of the country, it makes the perfect way to share those discoveries. So here's the latest installment.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Am So Excited About What I Have Been Working On.

Okay, I have been away from my blog for a few days here for good reason. I started playing around with a program on my computer called Windows Live Movie Maker and Bam! Now I have a new hobby. LOL. I just finished my first family history movie with images of my ancestors on my maternal line; more specifically of my ancestors who came from Morehead City and Riverdale, Craven, NC.  I feel like Ken Burns all of a sudden. Well anyway I am going to tweak the movie over the next couple of days and then let a couple of people in my family view it and see what they think. I will keep you posted.  
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