#52Ancestors – DNA– My Great Grandmother: Ellin Wilson

Ellin Wilson/Gainer Williams was my great grandmother. She was married to my great grandfather, Joshua W. Williams.[1] My Aunt Lutie, who was my father’s older sister and our family historian, about whom I have written before,[2] grew up around Ellin, her grandmother and her aunts and uncles, the sisters and brothers of her father, William G. Williams, my grandfather.[3] Aunt Lutie told me that Ellin was the daughter of Fannie Gainer,[4] whose husband was Alex Gainer,[5] but who was not the father of Ellin. However, Aunt Lutie said that she used Gainer as her maiden name and she even gave it as a middle name to my grandfather,[6] her oldest child, as his middle name. Clearly, she had great respect for Alex Gainer. I was also told that Ellin and her mother Fannie left South Carolina and went to Florida in search of Fannie’s other daughter and Ellin’s half-sister, Carry,[7] after the end of the Civil War. To date I have not located any South Carolina records that definitively identify Fannie or Ellin in South Carolina, even though both were reportedly free-born, but indentured. Of course, until now, I really wasn’t sure what family’s records to investigate.

Ellin Wilson
Ellin Wilson/Gainer Williams, 1854-1924

The Research

I found Fannie and Ellin for the first time in the 1870 census. Fannie was living with Alex Gainer.[8] Ellin was married to my great grandfather, Joshua, with my grandfather, Willie, who was one year old.[9] They were all living in Suwannee County, Florida. Carry was living with her husband, George Manker.[10] Going further, I was able to locate the marriage record of my great grandparents. According to the record, my great grandmother’s maiden name was “Wilson.”[11] That was great to learn, except that wasn’t one of the names I had identified from other documents.

Death certificates of Ellin and those of her children that identified her as their mother had various surnames associated with her. Her own death certificate said her father’s name was “George Johnson.”[12] My grandfather’s death certificate identified her maiden name as Ellen Gaynor.[13] Those of at least two of her children said her maiden name was Ellen Wilkinson.[14] So, what was it? Standard genealogical research never turned up any more than this. I hoped that DNA might be helpful.

DNA Evidence

I made the assumption that whoever Ellin’s father was, his first name was very likely George. I could also surmise that his last name ended in “son.” Maybe it was Wilson; maybe it was Johnson; maybe it was Wilkinson; regardless, it probably ended in “son.” I began searching my DNA results for the different surnames in the various databases where I had tested and on GEDmatch, where I had uploaded my results. Neither Wilson nor Johnson provided any cluster of matches. Wilkinson, on the other hand, was more promising.

I began noticing that there were matches who all seemed to have in common that they were descendants of Samuel Wilkinson and Esther McBride, or their son, William Wilkinson and his wife, Drucilla Hampton. William and Drucilla Wilkinson had a son, George.[15] While the family had roots in North Carolina, many family members, including George, had migrated to South Carolina, to the York, South Carolina area that Aunt Lutie claimed Ellin told her she was from (this despite some records stating she was born in Georgia).[16]. With this information, I began to develop a family tree branch for the Wilkinsons, but I did not attach them to Ellin. I left the branch free floating in my tree database.

Recently, Ancestry has created something called Thru-lines, where their algorithms identify potential common ancestors based on DNA matches as well as information from family trees. However, it must be reiterated that I had not attached any Wilkinson family members to anyone who was on my family tree as an actual genealogical family member. In other words, the place on the tree where Ellin’s father’s name should be listed was blank. Despite that, Thru-lines placed William Wilkinson as a possible third great grandfather.  With that, I decided to add George’s name as Ellin’s father. Consequently, I was able identify thirty-eight individuals as DNA matches. These individuals represented descendants from virtually every child of William and Drucilla (Hampton) Wilkinson, as well as the siblings of Drucilla Hampton and the siblings of William Wilkinson.

Final Thoughts

I don’t have a document yet that places my great grandmother in the home of George Wilkinson or any of his family members. What I do have is enough presumptive evidence to begin researching the various family members’ records to see how I can make the definitive connection. However, even without a document, the many DNA matches tell me that somehow they are my family; somehow I am their family.

References

[1] “Florida Marriages, 1830-1993,” database with images, FamilySearch, Joshua Williams and Ellin Wilson, 05 Nov 1868; citing Marriage, Suwannee, Florida, United States, citing multiple County Clerks of Court, Florida; FHL microfilm 1,007,156. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org

[2] Williams, M. L. (2018, 6 Jan). Blogpost:  #52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Start: Lute Odette Williams Mann, 1894-1985. Personal Prologue. Retrieved from: margoleewilliamsbooks.com

[3] New Jersey, State Census, 1905 [Database on-line]. Ellen Williams, head; Lute Williams, age 11. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[4] “New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch, Frances Gaynor in entry for Ellen Williams, 09 May 1924; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,031,493. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org

[5] “Florida Marriages, 1830-1993,” database with images, FamilySearch, Alex Gainer and Frances Gainer, 14 Jan 1874; citing Marriage, Suwannee, Florida, United States, citing multiple County Clerks of Court, Florida; FHL microfilm 1,007,156. Familysearch.org

[6] Death Certificate of William Gaynor Williams, 6 October 1953, New York, New York. Bureau of Records and Statistics, Department of Health, City of New York. Certificate #156-53-121719. Certified Copy in possession of author.

[7] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch, Dwelling #52, Family #57 Alex Gainer, head, Frances Gainer, wife; Family #58 Carry Manker, head; Dwelling  #53, Family #59: Joshaway Williams, head; Ellen Williams, wife; citing enumeration district ED 145, sheet 286C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d), roll 0132; FHL microfilm 1,254,132. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org

[8] 1870 US Federal Census: Subdivision 9, Suwannee, Florida; Alex Gainer, head; Francis Gainer. NARA Roll: M593-133; Page: 693B; Image: 522; Family History Library Film: 545632. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[9] 1870 US Federal Census: Subdivision 9, Suwannee, Florida; Josh Williams, head; Ellen Williams, wife. NARA Roll: M593-133; Page: 686A; Image: 507; Family History Library Film: 545632. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[10] 1870 US Federal Census, Subdivision 9, Suwannee, Florida: George Manker, head; Carry Manker. NARA Roll: M593-133; Page: 693B; Image: 522; Family History Library Film: 545632. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[11] “Florida Marriages, 1830-1993,” database with images, FamilySearch, Joshua Williams and Ellin Wilson, 05 Nov 1868; citing Marriage, Suwannee, Florida, United States, citing multiple County Clerks of Court, Florida; FHL microfilm 1,007,156. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org

[12] “New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch, George Johnson in entry for Ellen Williams, 09 May 1924; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,031,493. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org

[13] Death Certificate of William Gaynor Williams, 6 October 1953, New York, New York. Bureau of Records and Statistics, Department of Health, City of New York. Certificate #156-53-121719. Certified Copy in possession of author.

[14] “New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch (, Ellen Wilkinson in entry for Edward Williams, 19 Jun 1939; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,109,537. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org; And “New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch, Ellen Wilkinson in entry for Calvin Williams, 19 Apr 1933; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,070,580. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org

[15] 1850 US Federal Census: Prosperity, Mecklenburg, North Carolina; William Wilkinson, head; Drucilla Wilkinson; George Wilkinson, age 11. NARA Roll: M432-637; Page: 52B; Image: 112. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[16] 1870 US Federal Census: Fort Mill, York, South Carolina; George Wilkinson, head. NARA Roll: M593-1512; Page: 410B; Family History Library Film: 553011. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

 

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#52Ancestors – In the Newspaper – An Interesting Ordination: The Rev. Islay Walden

The Rev. Islay Walden was a formerly enslaved poet from Randolph County, North Carolina. He had graduated from the Normal Department at Howard University in Washington, D. C. He then traveled to New Jersey where he was one of the two first African American students at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary. The other young man was John Bergen. Interestingly, they were both vision impaired.

This article on Walden’s ordination appeared in the New York Evening Post, a paper of William Cullen Bryant. It detailed not only the events of the ordination itself, but also gave a substantial biographical sketch of Islay Walden’s life, most notably here, that Walden was the first African American to be ordained from the Seminary. A transcription of the article appears below.[1]

Figure 23-Islay Walden Ordination article Evening Post
An Interesting Ordination, Evening Post, 2 July 1879

 

An Interesting Ordination

How Islay Walden, a Young Colored Man Obtained His Education –

From Slavery to the Pulpit.

New Brunswick N. J., July 1, 1879

The ordination of Islay Walden, a young colored man, took place in this city this afternoon, the laying on of hands having performed by the classis of NJ in the Second Reformed Church. Considerable interest was manifested in the ordination in the fact that Mr. Walden was the first colored man who was ever graduated of the theological seminary of the Reformed church of America which is in this city, and from the fact that he is the first candidate from the colored race who has been ordained by the New Brunswick classis or any other classis in New Jersey.

Mr. Walden has had to struggle against apparently insurmountable difficulties to obtain an education. He was born in NC and he and his mother were several times sold as slaves. The price obtained for both when Walden was a babe in arms being $800. His father escaped from slavery by running away from his master and getting to Indiana on a forged passport. Young Walden was declared free when he was 22 years old and then he was ignorant of even the letters of the alphabet. At this age however, he formed a determination to become a teacher. He left home and traveled to Washington DC, where by force of his entreaties he was allowed to enter Howard University.  He remained there for more than six years and obtained a good education, notwithstanding that he was almost blind, defective vision being an infliction which came with his birth. After graduation at Howard University, he came north selling a small volume of poems of his own composition to obtain funds to pursue a theological education. He made applications to be admitted into the seminary at Princeton College, but Dr. McComb interposed some objection that very much disheartened Walden. He was more successful at New Brunswick, where Prof George W Atherton of Rutgers College interested himself in his behalf and introduced him to the faculty at the theological seminary. About the time Walden was knocking at Prof Atherton’s door, seeking an admission, the Rev. Dr. C. D. Hartranft, formerly of the Second Reformed Church of this city but now Professor of the Hartford Theological Seminary brought word that a member of the Rev. Dr. Coles’s Reformed Church at Yonkers N. Y. had just left a legacy of $8500 for the education of a colored man.  The Board of Education of the Reformed Church then took Mr. Walden under their care and he entered the theological seminary for three years course with another colored man named John R. Bergen. His innovation met with no opposition from the other students, but instead the utmost good feeling prevailed throughout the three years of his life there. The colored students although both suffered from defective vision kept their places in the classis and not infrequently distanced the white students in efficiency and aptness. They were both graduated last month and have been licensed to preach by the New Brunswick classis. Mr. Bergen will be ordained once his field of labor is decided upon. He has expressed a desire to go to Africa, but his physician thinks his constitution as not robust enough for that climate. Mr. Walden has been engaged by the American Missionary Society to go south and labor among the freedmen. The Reformed Church has no missionaries in the south or Mr. Walden would have gone there under its auspices.  At the ordination services this afternoon, the Rev. Dr. J. L. See, President of the Classis and Secretary of the Board of Education presided. The Rev J. M. Corwin, of Middlesex N. J., preached the services. The other clergymen who participated, were the Rev. Dr. W. H. Campbell, President of Rutgers College, the Rev. Dr. Lord of Metucheon NJ. The Rev. Messrs. Jacob Cooper and Doolittle of Rutgers College, the Rev. Dr.  D. D. Demarest, Professor of Pastoral Theology and the theological seminary, and the Rev. Dr. Van Dyke of Hertzog Hall of this city. The Rev. Dr. Strieby, Secretary of the American Board of Missions was also present.

Reference

[1] Evening Post. (2 July 1879). An Interesting Ordination. (New York, NY). Retrieved from: Fultonhistory.com