Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Harold and Janice Murrell

Harold Murrell and his baby girl Janice.
My grandpa and aunt

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: More of the Bryants Buried At Bayview Cemetery

Grave of Henry Bryant
located to the left of his wife Caroline Ellison Bryant.
Headstone missing.

Last Tombstone Tuesday I featured the grave of my 3rd great grandmother Caroline Ellison Bryant and after doing so I thought well that's not right, I should have included her husband's grave. Unfortunately, his stone is missing but his grave is covered with a cement slab. Henry Bryant, my 3rd great grandfather was born around 1830 in Beaufort County, NC. He died before 1900.

Here's my 3rd great grandmother's grave again.
She was born in Beaufort County, NC as well.

It appears that Henry Bryant son's tombstone shared the same fate as his father's. Henry B Bryant's grave is located in the same area of his father and mother. 

Henry B Bryant grave is on the right in this picture.
Henry B Bryant --March 5, 1876--August 4, 1937
2nd great grand uncle

Henretta Bell Bryant 
December 25, 1877--June 19, 1925
2nd great grand aunt

All these graves are located in Bayview Cemetery in Morehead City, NC.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Mystery Surrounding My Great Grandmother Ella

My grandmother, Ethel Murrell, and my brother,
probably, around 1970.

When this past January came around I thought, this year was going to be the year I was going to break down the brick wall surrounding the mystery of my great grandmother, Miss Ella. I am going to refer to her as Miss Ella because that is the one piece of information I feel the most confident about, her first name being Ella. You see, Ella was the mother of my grandmother, Ethel Smith Murrell. These are the pieces of information I know. I know from grandmother's birth certificate, that her mother was listed as Ella Carr and her father was a John Edward Smith and that she was born on January 6, 1911 in Wilmington, NC. John Edward Smith's occupation was listed as being a carpenter. Ella Carr according to my father had a set of children prior to her having my grandmother. The names of two of those children may have been George and Larcy.  The whereabouts of those children we have no idea about. My grandmother had 2 other sisters she grew up with Edna and Hilda. Edna Smith was born March 7, 1918 in we believe North Carolina and she and my grandmother shared similarities in appearance so I think they had the same father. Hilda (Bernice)  Dixon, the youngest, was born in Philadelphia, where the family lived for a period of time before moving to New York City. Her date of birth was February 23, 1921.

I could only locate the family on the 1930 Census.

Image courtesy of

Ella Carr appears to be 41 years old according to the census which would make her born in approximately 1889. It also shows that she is married. Now according to oral history she married a Jamaican man when she was in Philadelphia and that was the father to the last child Hilda. My grandmother, being older helped to raise her sisters and was forced to drop out of school which she always felt bad about. I have a sense that she was the closest to her mother. Also, I think this is from whom my grandmother learned how to cook so well. Let me just say, "The Woman Could Cook!" The recipes that she knew and the ease in which she worked in the kitchen tells me that my grandma probably grew up under her mother's apron strings. 

Anyway, here comes the dilemma. My great-grandmother Ella became affiliated with the Church of Father Divine when she lived apparently in Harlem. Shortly after my grandmother was married and her two sisters were a little older she ran off with the church, as the story goes.  My dad and his sister, Janice never met their grandmother and unfortunately, neither of them were ever shown a picture.  It seems that Ella, never wanted her picture taken. My dad and I have talked about this. We wonder, "Why? What were you hiding? What were you running from?"
If you aren't familiar with the story of Father Divine, here's a summary provided by Wikipedia.

Father Divine (c. 1876--September 10, 1965), also known as Reverend M. J. Divine, was an African American spiritual leader from about 1907 until his death. His full self-given name was Reverend Major Jealous Divine, and he was also known as the "the Messenger" early in his life. He founded the International Peace Mission movement, formulated its doctrine, and oversaw its growth from a small and predominantly black congregation into a multiracial and international church.

Father Divine claimed to be God. Some contemporary critics also claimed he was a charlatan, and some suppose him to be one of the first modern cult leaders. However, Father Divine made numerous contributions toward his followers' economic independence and racial equality.

Harlem 1932-1942

Father Divine moved to Harlem, NY, where he accumulated significant following in the black community. Members, rather than Father Divine himself, held most deeds for the movement, but they contributed toward Father Divines's comfortable lifestyle. Purchasing several hotels, which they called "Heavens", members could live and seek jobs inexpensively.

Father Divine
Image courtesy of

What else do we know about Ella? On the 1930 census we see she is residing in a household with possibly a cousin named L. B. Hayes. Now the reason why this is interesting is that when I sent away for my grandmother's application for her social security card, it read that her mother's maiden name was Ellen Hayes. 

So was her name Ellen and her nickname was Ella? Was her maiden name Carr or was it Hayes? Will her last name still be Dixon  on the 1940 census? Oh 1940 census, hurry up and get here will ya!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Reaction To Finding Out My DNA Results And What Does This Mean?

So there's my genetic make-up, 70% African and 30% European. I do want to add something here that I left out from yesterday's post. In the supplemental information that African Ancestry sent with the test results, there is a section describing test accuracy. Here it is.

Now the thing that stood out for me the most after receiving my DNA results is this. That 70% African. Instantly, like a light switch, my focus in my head said, why am I focusing on the minority portion of my DNA so much. Not that it isn't is. It's part of me. Now it turns out, it doesn't look like I have Native American ancestry.There is one thing to consider perhaps there are not enough DNA samples from Native Americans to rule this out, especially since there are number of Eastern Carolina tribes that no longer exist. The one thing that I go back to then for myself is okay, let's say they missed something...what would that be 2--10%? For me the test just handed me what Oprah calls a "light bulb" moment. Shouldn't I focus on what is the majority of me? So you know what this means. That's right more testing LOL! I have to now know what tribe, what area...yadayadayada. Time to save up some money :) 

I am about to get a little silly now. On a lighter note, for all those ignorant people out there from my childhood who told me "Oh you think your white!" because I didn't talk a certain way or act a certain way or because I maintained good grades in school. 

Hmmm, well I know I am white ......(wait for it) but only 30%. Hahahahaha.

Have a good day everybody!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My DNA Admixture Results Are In!

Image courtesy of

I am sure many of you have been waiting for a follow up on my post from a couple weeks ago, called  My Thoughts About My Pending DNA Results. As I had mentioned in that article, I used a company called African Ancestry to have my DNA Admixture tested. This test provides you with a percentage breakdown of what your ancestral make-up is. Typically after 6 weeks you receive your results, however, the company had a sale in December for this particular test and I believe that they had a tremendous response from that. Subsequently my results took a little longer. I did call to see what the hold up was and I have to say the company has wonderful customer service over the phone. They are real people and you can tell they truly care about the service they are providing. Well anyway, I received the results last night and I have to say I am thrilled but not for the reasons I thought I would be thrilled for. I wanted to take this test to either prove or disprove my family's claims of Native American ancestry. To put it simply, to gain some clarity on genetically who I am. When I think of clarity, I think of an image I took while on vacation on Cape Cod last year. Here it is.

My DNA Admixture Results Are In --How Did I Get Here? My Amazing Genealogy Journey
I have clarity now.

So without further ado.

No Native American here folks! Ha.
So I'd like to take this time to apologize to the Tuscaroran and Cherokee Nations for misrepresenting myself.

In conclusion I thought I should run a segment I found on Youtube that pretty much sums up everything I just went through. It is from African American Lives 2 by Henry Louis Gates.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Caroline Ellison Bryant --My 3rd Great Grandmother's Grave

Caroline Ellison Bryant
(August 4, 1844--August 1, 1920)
My 3rd Great Grandmother
Bayview Cemetery, Morehead City, NC
I love the inscription, "Mother We Honor Thy Memory"

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sundays Obituary Update: A Picture Of Freddie Harrison

Freddie Harrison 
January 20, 1925--November 9, 1979
Another brother of my grandfather Lemuel Harrison

Back in September of 2011, I posted Freddie Harrison's obituary and mentioned I really didn't know anything more than what was written in it about him. My trip to New Bern and Morhead City in January yielded a picture. The link to that post is here.

I would like to add that now I know a little bit more about him. I have located his U.S World War II Young Man's Draft Registration Card.

Image courtesy of

I know he served in the Army and that he is buried at New Bern National Cemetery, in section 3 site 27.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pictures From The Day My Brother Graduated From St. Pascal's Catholic School

I wasn't sure what I was going to post when I sat down to write today, so I looked at the pictures I have saved on my hard drive and these stuck out. They were taken inside of St. Pascal's Baylon Church in Hollis, NY. My brother and I attended school across the street. These pictures were taken on the day he graduated from the 8th grade. I guess I am feeling sentimental for those who have passed on.

From left to right.
Me, my mom, my paternal grandparents Ethel and Harold Murrell, my maternal grandmother Mary Horton who's standing and my aunt Janice Murrell.

Harold Murrell, Janice Murrell, Mary Horton and my cousin Audrey Harrison
Everyone in this photo has passed away since it was taken.

Janice and my dad.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Earl Whitney Harrison --My Grandfather's Brother

Earl Whitney Harrison
May 23, 1927--February 25, 1985

Earl is another one of my grandfather Lemuel Harrison's siblings. My mother's father was Lemuel Harrison.
Until recently, I did not know that Earl's middle name was Whitney until released the U.S. World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1898--1929.  Here is his draft card.

Image Courtesy of

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Thank Goodness I Began My Blog --Part three

If you missed my last two posts, you will want to read those first before beginning this one. Here are the links to those posts. Thankful Thursday: Thank Goodness I Began My Blog --Part one and Thank Goodness I Began My Blog --Part two

So now you know about my new found cousin. Amazing things can happen when you least expect them.  After Rudi and I connected at the end of September we have been in contact via email. My unexpected trip to Morehead City and New Bern due to the death of my Aunt Rosa, allowed me an opportunity to finally get a picture of Rudi's father. You see, he had never seen a picture of him. I can't even imagine going through life not knowing what your father looked like. I had a wonderful visit with my Aunt Carrie who is a sister of my grandfather Lemuel Harrison. She was so sweet to share images that I had never seen before of the family. Here is one of my cousin Rudi's father.

Rudolph Henry Harrison
(born 1930--died April 1966)

Here's another picture. This one is of my cousin on his wedding day to the lady with the lovely Irish accent.

Rudi and Sheila
I love finding family!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thank Goodness I Began My Blog --Part two.

If you missed yesterday's post, you will want to read that one first. Here's the link to it. Thankful Thursday: Thank Goodness I Began My Blog --Part one

Microsoft Office Downloaded Image.

So the next day rolls around. I am nervous to make this phone call to Ireland.  What am I about to find out? I finally pick up the phone and dial. The phone rings and this lovely lady with the beautiful accent answers the phone. Her name is Sheila. She lets me know that what she is about to tell me may come as a bit of a shock but a good shock. She lets me know she will have to explain things a bit before the story becomes clear. I don't remember exactly how the conversation unraveled but she said this information was about a man who was a brother to my grandfather Lemuel Harrison. She explains. She tells me the story about how a man named Rudolph Henry Harrison served in the U.S. Airforce over at Fairford Airforce Base in England in the early 1950's. He was an African American gentleman who met a lady while he was stationed there. She became pregnant and subsequently he married her. The child was born in 1952. Rudolph unfortunately abandoned his family and returned to the U.S. The mother of this child later remarried and the child was adopted by her new husband and raised by them in England.  From the information she had, she knew the name of Rudolph Henry Harrison's parents were John T. Harrison and Carrie Harrison and that they were from New Bern, NC. She said John T. Harrison was a tailor and I verify yes. She tells me that this child was named after his father and he goes by the name "Rudi" and that she is his wife. "Rudi" had been looking for years for information regarding his father but hadn't come across anything until she found my blog. I gasp to myself. I am thinking this is all too surreal. She says that her husband is sitting next to her and asks if I would like to speak with him. I say yes, of course. Then something happens that was just absolutely amazing. I hear his voice and I know. He is my cousin. You see on my Harrison line, all the males have a similar deep voice quality that as soon as you hear them, you know that they are a Harrison. The man spoke like three words and I knew immediately he was kin. English accent and all, but I knew.

To be continued.......

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Thank Goodness I Began My Blog --Part one

Last year on May 30, 2011, I decided once and for all to begin to blog. I wanted this journey that I had been on of discovering my ancestors to mean more than just bits of paper with dates of births, deaths, and census records. I wanted to share with friends and family or anyone who would listen how special all these pieces of information put together truly were. And so I began to write.

In my mind I had a bit of a plan. My maternal line has been absolutely amazing to research with an abundance of information and stories so this made a logical starting point. I shared information about my Morehead City, NC ancestors (Jones/Mitchell/Bryants) first and then moved on to begin talking about my Harrison family line which was from New Bern, NC. At first, I tried to make myself write a blog post everyday. Soon I realized that probably wouldn't be realistic and just concentrated on when I felt the need to jot something down. As I continued to write, I felt good that finally I was getting it out there, our family story. 

My mother-in-law sadly passed away on July 30, 2011 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. I posted this information on the blog on July 31. Little did I know at the time what events would follow. 

You see we don't realize at times that the Lord is using us as an instrument, a facilitator to make something extraordinary happen. Something grander than you could ever imagine. 

September rolls around. I keep writing. Then I believe it was on a weekend at the end of that month, I get a phone call from my sister-in-law. She's very excited and speaking really fast on the phone and so I don't initially get what she's saying to me. And then she takes a deep breathe and slows down so I can understand her better. She says she spoke to a woman from Ireland with such a lovely accent. This woman says that she thinks she has information regarding one of my grandfather Lemuel Harrison's brothers. She found my blog on-line and it seems that there is some sort of connection. This woman had tracked me down through my mother-in-law's obituary. My husband and I have just cell phones and no land line, however my sister-in-law still has a home phone. My sister-in-law's name was in the obituary and via the miracle of the internet, this woman was able to come across a phone number. This Irish lady would like to speak to me, to pass this information on to see if indeed we are talking about the same person. My sister-in-law gives me the lady's telephone number. We finish our call and I hang up feeling a bit dazed and exhilarated at the same time. I think to myself, who is this person? What am I about to find out?

To be continued.......

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Bryant Siblings In Birth Order

Frank, Linwood, Loris, Ray, Mary, Rosa and Eloise
standing on the front steps of my Aunt Rosa's house in Queens, NY.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Solomon Allen's Grave

Solomon Allen
May 4, 1824--May 10, 1926
Gravestone reads:
 "Died May 5, 1926
Age 100 Yrs

He followed virtue 
As his truest guide.
Lived as a Christian
As a Christian Died"

Solomon's connection to me is through his daughter Chloe Ann Allen who was married to my 2nd great grand uncle Alfred Mitchell. Alfred Mitchell was the brother to my 2nd great grandmother Rosa Mitchell Jones. Solomon Allen's grave is located in the old African American Cemetery behind Mt Olive AME Zion Church in Riverdale, Craven, NC.

Solomon's death certificate provides a different date for his death. 

Image courtesy of

Looks like my 2nd great grand uncle was the informant. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Amanuensis Monday: The Whitney/Harrison Bible--Part three

 Almost forgot it was Amanuensis Monday. Whoops, my bad. LOL. Today was mad busy for me. You know the usual stay at home mom stuff. Clean house, grocery shop, get kids off to school and back again, run errands, host playdate....yadayadayada.  Anyway here is the last  portion from the Whitney/Harrison family bible.

From pages 22-30 there are no hand written notes of family births/deaths etc.
Picking up with page 31.

Page 31

Robert (Bobby) Eugene Harrison
Born: July 28, 1939
Place: Good Sheppard Hospital
(West Street)
City: New Bern  State: North Carolina

One sent Forth--prophet ---Apostle--not of this world (Adopted in God's Family before Time began) was no ordinary child Like Jesus Christ and Moses, Abraham, Isaac & Jacob Etc.---

Page 32:  No handwritten notes.

Page 33

March 24  1895

I Sam Whitney & Sarah J Whitney his wife do & did agree to liece a part of their lot to Julia Lock to build her house on for five dollars a year as long as we can agree and if any dissatisfaction  he can remove said property by showing receipts for payment in full from time to time 

Samuel H Whitney                                  }
Sarah J Whitney                                     }    

( I have to pause and say that it was so totally awesome to see my 2nd great grandfather, Samuel Whitney's handwriting. I recognized it from his signature that he provided on in his brother's Civil War Pension file. And yes I was born in the 70's and grew up in the 80's unfortunately.."So totally awesome" is part of my vernacular." Forgive me. Back to the bible.)

Anyway Pages 34 and 35 have no hand written information. We pick up with Page 36

Page 36

Bristor. F. Whitney the son of Samuel H Whitney & Sarah Whitney was born June the 20th, 1884
Samuel David was born November the 3rd 1885. 

Johnny Edward was born May the 16th, 1887____________
Johny E. Whitney was born the 27th of Sept 1888 

That's pretty much it from the family bible. When I was handling the bible during scanning, behind the last page out popped my great grandfather's social security card in a manner that it was like him saying to me....wait there's one more thing.  I won't ever forget that.  Still waiting on my DNA results. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Thoughts About My Pending DNA Results

Image courtesy of

So back in December I decided to dive into the world of DNA testing. For my first test I decided on finding out my DNA mix through the DNA testing company African Ancestry. At a later point in time when I could afford it, I would test my individual maternal and paternal DNA. My best friend told me about the sale African Ancestry was running on their admixture testing and that she herself had already done it and was awaiting her results. For those of you who may not know, the admixture test will give you a percentage breakdown of what your ancestral make-up is, by breaking it down into the following categories: African, European, Native American, East Asian and Indian ancestry. I thought this would be a good test to start with because I wanted to prove or disprove family oral history. Both of my mother's parents were supposed to have some portion of Native American ancestry, specifically through my Mitchell and Harrison family lines. Now I am sure that some of you out there have seen the Henry Louis Gates Jr. series African American Lives 2. At one point in the series he discusses how so many African Americans believe they have some portion of  Native American blood somewhere along their family trees. In Wikipedia, I found under the header of "Black Indians in the United States", a section where they quote the point Dr. Gates made in the African American Lives 2 series.

As Harvard University historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. wrote in 2009,

"Here are the facts:  Only 5 percent of all black Americans have at least 12.5 percent Native American ancestry, the equivalent of at least one great-grandparent. Those "high cheek bones' and straight black hair' your relatives brag about at every family reunion and holiday meal since you were 2 years old? Where did they come from? To paraphrase a well-known French saying, "Seek the white man."

So am I one of the 5 percent? For the longest time that has been my belief however, the odds are I am not. It's not like we are talking about me winning the lottery or something here. I am merely interested in knowing the truth about my ancestors. Part of me hopes it is true though because I have always felt a connection to the land and nature and  have always identified this in my mind as being due to what I believe is my Native American ancestry. Plus, who wants to really prove their family wrong. I was brought up to believe what your elders told you. They said we were part Native American, that meant we were part Native American...End of discussion!

Last week, I called African Ancestry to verify that they had received my DNA test kit and to see if they might know when I might have my result. (In the DNA test kit, they did say it would take about six weeks to receive your results and for this test they are sent via email.) Of course, I knew it hadn't been quite six weeks yet but, I was hoping that the representative on the phone would tell me my results were in. Not! Oh well, it was worth a shot. She was extremely pleasant to talk to and did let me know that my results would be due sometime after February 3rd.  So here it is the February 2nd, on the eve of the premiere of the new season of "Who Do You Think You Are?" and I can't help but wonder what will be the answer to that question for myself after I receive the DNA results?

To be continued......

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: My 2nd Great Grandfather--Thomas Duke Harrison

Rev. Thomas Duke Harrison
December 25, 1864--February  7, 1940
My 2nd great grandfather

The 1907--08 Hill's City Directory for New Bern shows him listed as pastor for that year at a St James AME Zion Church. Later he became part of St Peter's AME Zion Church in the same city.

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