MattL's Civil War Ancestry

diane

that gal
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Me, too, or I'd have got it for you. Maybe somebody here can still get in and grab it. Hope so!
 

MattL

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On a topic related to my ancestry, but not so much Civil War (I didn't want to create another thread), I have shared before that despite being white with only records of white ancestors (and being as pale white as you can get) DNA testing on myself, my father, mother, and maternal grandmother has revealed that I probably have African American ancestry from at least three different sources (Sub-Saharan African DNA segments that my maternal grandmother has, a big segment my mother has but her mother doesn't have, so came from my grandfather, and some small segments in my father as well). Considering that you wouldn't be surprised to find I have mostly Southern ancestry (a couple old northern lines, but mostly Southern colonial) on both sides.

So somewhere Black ancestors had children with White or mixed race ancestors and their descendants passed for white. Likely 200+ years ago or so on all fronts.

I have made some progress in researching where a couple of these ancestors might be. As you can imagine it's tricky decoding a secret kept 200+ years ago and never even suspected in any genealogical research I've found.

One line I'm able to narrow it down a decent bit. I descend from a John Busby born about 1720-1740 and died 1778 in the South Carolina back country, I descend through a son of his, a Jacob Busby, who served in the American Revolution and moved to Alabama. Multiple direct male cousin descendants of him have been Y DNA tested and despite also being white came up with Sub-Saharan African Y DNA. Meaning an African American ancestor. This mean that John Busby's paternal ancestor at some point was an African American, a slave exported from Africa. Of course this also means an African American male ancestor of my own. Obviously considering the year he was born it couldn't have been too far back. Unfortunately the paper trail currently dead ends with him.

He himself identified only as white. Though he (and related Busbys living nearby) resides next to mix raced individuals (A Chavis surnamed individual, part of a well known mix raced Chavis family) and in a nearby district there is a free colored family of Busbys, that considering the DNA I suspect might be related. There's also a record of free colored child being taken identified as "Busby" from South Carolina to North Carolina, and there a Chavis was charged with returning him to his family in SC, happening to be the brother of the Chavis who had land near a Busby of the same family in SC. Lots of other interesting clues that considering the DNA aren't too surprising. John Busby himself made a recorded testament confirm his nephews were white, which of course if you had to get testimonies confirming it there's something else there. In that case it was through a line that wouldn't have been his (their mother's line) which would disqualify from him for testifying anyways. Though interesting associations. Seemingly he was light skinned/white enough to pass comfortably.

Another interesting lead is the African Y DNA didn't just match Busbys from a South Carolina cluster. It matched fairly closely to that a cluster of Iveys. As it turns out in the 1600s the White Ivey those descendants had believed they descended from lived on the same creek in Viriginia nearby a Thomas Busby (who interestingly was an Royal Indian interpreter and Indian slave trader). Various people in that area have various records of free people of color living nearby. Seemingly a mix of servants of Indian, African, and likely mixed heritage, and some slaves. This getting into the time where racial slavery was just being formed out of various forms of indentured servitude etc.

After the African Y DNA Busby researchers found it interesting that of the people who lived on that same Virginia creek was a Thomas Busby listed an "indyan boy" and servant of a Robert Caufield (Thomas being born around 1674 based on being listed as 10 and tithable at 1684). Likely being named for the Thomas Busby royal Indian interpreter in the neighborhood. He sits as a possible progenitor to the South Carolina Busbys, possibly even being tri-racial.

The research continues, though looking back into the late 1600s is obvious very difficult. A lot of the more easily found records have been found, so it's mostly trying to connect neighbours, their connections, obscure records etc. Though I hope to one day figure it out, or get a stronger lead on it.


In researching another line I've been able to triangulate a lot of autosomal DNA matches on the biggest Sub-Saharan African segment my mother has (that I inherited part of), which also means mostly likely the most recent African American ancestor. I've spent years waiting and finding new matches on that segment and now possibly have confirmed 3-4 of us that share that same exact segment (meaning we share the same exact source for the ancestry, it's important to not just find matches, but people who share the same specific segment, or it could just be different shared ancestry among people) that all have Higginbotham ancestry from Georgia leading back to Virginia.

There's a lot of ambiguity on how each of our lines specifically connect to the Higginbotham family of Virginia, though it's giving me a more specific focus to research. Additionally the Higginbotham line itself dead ends with some ambiguity in Virginia in the 1700s, some old genealogy seems to be pretty poor an alleges connecting the line to English Higginbothams who landed in Barbados, though some more concrete (but still circumstantial) research seems to lead back to Higginbothams in Pennsylvania (possibly then back to Maryland, but very speculative).

Still very vague but a place for me to dig in and research further. One day I hope to identify one of my African American ancestors.
 

MattL

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Unfortunately since I don't know Jesse Thomas's parentage I know nothing of Williams roots up that line. Having recently discovered Rebecca's parentage I know some of that line though am still researching it.

Her parents were Christopher Baker married to Agnes Forrester. I know Christopher Baker served in the American revolution in the 2nd North Carolina Regiment.

On further research it seems the John Hewitt that Jesse and Eli B Thomas were accused of attempting to murder was married to another daughter of Christopher and Agnes Baker. So seems like the in-laws had some issues.

Finding information about William C Thomas has been challenging. Though it's not the first piece of evidence I found about them it makes sense to start with a family tree notes sheet I got from a wife of a cousin at the same generation as my grandfather, she took the notes from her mother-in-law making it even one generation further back. This is the furthest back family lore/info I've gotten on this line of my ancestry, one of the only ones. It's about my Bryant ancestry which leads up to William C Thomas.

I descend from an Elias Bryant who married Nancy Manassas Thomas daughter of William C Thomas and Amanda Langston

View attachment 212

It gets a lot of things wrong. It has Elias Bryant father as a John Gilbert Bryant Sr. Someone who never existed, his father was John Pinkney Bryant Sr. They also place his wife as a Martha Langston when it as actually a Virginia Cooper. Nancy's parents are listed as a Amanda & John Thomas. When it was William C Thomas and Amanda Langston.

Mostly mixing up names and people though some of the general details are right. It makes sense now that I know the full story, both Elias and Nancy were orphaned young and never knew there parents well (or at all). In Elias Bryant's death certificate filled out by his son (not my ancestor) it lists his father as George Bryant and mother Unknown. That was wrong as well. It seems like little of family info was passed down.

The most interesting part is here, a little story about Nancy's father.

View attachment 213

Where it says

----
Manassas Thomas
was left an orphan at 7 days old
Her father killed in Civil War in the battle of Manassas.
She was named for the battle.
After her mother died
the children were found hiding in the leaves.

----

Most of that matches up. In the 1860 census I see William, Amanda, and children (two sons and one daughter) minus Nancy who was born Jan 1862 (living next to Amanda's parents John and Clarissa Langston). In the 1870 census William and Amanda are gone and their children are split up between relatives. Nancy and her sister are living with their grandmother Clarissa Langston (John their grandfather is dead by then), one son is living with William's mother Rebecca. Another son is living with William's sister a Mary Thomas who married a James Echols.

So I searched military records for William C Thomas. In 1860 he and his family were residing next to his in-laws (likely on their land actually) in Gilmer, Dawson County, Georgia. Dawson was formed partially from Gilmer in 1857 and there's a marriage certificate for a William C Thomas marrying Amanda Langston in 1854 in Gilmer County, Georgia (I assume Gilmer, Dawson County represents the portion formed from Gilmer County).

So I looked for him in either Dawson or Gilmer County. His Langston brother-in-laws enlisted in Dawson. No William Thomas that fits. I also don't find a William Thomas from Georgia that died at the Battle of Manassas, so I suspect that part of the story isn't quite right. Nancy does show up in her marriage records and some other records as "Nancy M Thomas"... additionally her sister had multiple descendants who passed down a middle name of Manassas, so the middle name is likely correct. Though I suspect she was named for the symbolism of Manassas to Confederates.

I looked through all the William Thomas records, William C Thomas, W C Thomas, etc... I do find one that is both unaccounted for, doesn't fit any other William, and matches up nicely for him.

https://www.fold3.com/image/20/78629409/

View attachment 214

A William C Thomas (sometimes listed as W C Thomas) who enlisted July 3, 1861 in Company C of the 11th Regiment Georgia Infantry.

It says he was 27 years old, I'm assuming this is from enlistment date, though the bounty roll referenced is not dated. That would place his birth year around 1834, mine was born 1836-37 so not perfect but pretty close. The census could be off by a couple years or the enlistment records.

It says he was born in Lumpkin County, Georgia, though my William C. was born likely in Forsyth County, Georgia. Though Forsyth bordered Lumpkin at that time and his family moved around that area a lot as those counties were first formed. Additionally his family was living in Lumpkin County by 1850 so he probably spent a lot of his childhood there that he remembered.

Company C was formed out of Murray County, Georgia. Though William wasn't living there in 1860 his parents Jesse and Rebecca were (and possibly where he was living there before marrying Amanda), as it turns out his family was in Murray County, Georgia in 1840 as well. Looking in Murray Co., GA in 1860 there's only one William that could fit age wise, though he was born in Tennessee.

Additionally there is no pension record for William Thomas, or widow's pension, this fits with my William whose wife predeceased him.

After all this search I'm pretty confident this is the right service record. It's the record that fits best for my William C and my William C is really the only fit I've found for this service record.

Following that record he enlisted July 3rd of 1861 as a Private and the last muster roll recorded is March and April 1864 where he is listed as a 4th Sergeant. There is no death recorded or anything seemingly recorded about what happened to him. This left me puzzled for the last couple years though I assumed he died. Recently I solved this mystery with the help of another. They found this newspaper article for the casualty listing for the 11th Georgia published in June in 1864

View attachment 215

For Company C it lists "Killed - Sergt W C Thomas"

In looking at fold 3 for the casualties of the 11th Regiment for the 1864 Virginia campaigns I can find Company C's records here on page 7
https://www.fold3.com/image/249/276353865

Though the page is very faded and torn, it seems likely he was entered in that place that was torn and other than newspaper references to casualty lists (something I've seen some books mention they couldn't find) his death record was lost.

At the bottom of the casualty list it reads:

"The majority of these casualties were sustained June 1st, in driving the enemy's skirmishers and sharpshooters from their position behind the timer(?), while our line was exposed to a gatling (?) fir as it advanced across an open plain."

Which would place his death at the Battle of Cold Harbor. In some quick searches I do find that Tige's Brigade was involved in efforts on the 1st.

It seems William C Thomas served quite a while and through a lot of key battles. The 11th was originally commanded by George T. Anderson ("Tige") until he was promoted to command the brigade. Much of the war they served under Longstreet under Lee.

They missed First Manassas by 1 day though. Looking at the list of battles for the 11th Georgia from 1861 to June of 1864 it includes him surviving Sharpsburg/Antietam and Gettysburg. It seems the 11th Georgia had 65% causalities on a single day of Gettysburg.
So I made a pretty big discovery regarding my ancestor William C Thomas. As I previously outlined that record for a William C or "W C" Thomas who served in the 11th Georgia seemed to be a very good fit for my ancestor.

After confirmed he died around June 1st 1864 at the Battle of Cold Harbor (and before that when I knew he must have died sometime in the war) I've scoured the probate records and other official records where his family lived in Dawson County, Georgia. Trying to find some reference to his death. Also considering his wife died 7 days after the birth of their child (while he was serving), my ancestor Nancy Manassas Thomas, that would've orphaned their children so figured there must be some record to it. I found no probate records according to their deaths, no administration records, and no guardianship bonds, at least in the administration and guardianship bond books (and other probate books, including wills). Though the administration and guardianship bonds book is pretty lean so I think it's missing quite a bit and there may be gaps in some of the other surviving records.

Unfortunately many of the Dawson Co., GA records aren't indexed (most of these old probate books are indexed in the first few pages, but not a lot of these unfortunately). Which means I have to either go through page by page (reading old cursive) or find some way of narrowing down the range. So striking out in the obvious places I figured if he was the same one that died about the 1st of June in 1864 at the Battle of Cold Harbor some time shortly after that might be some sort of court reference to his death, his estate, or his children. So I cracked open the inferior court minutes and started looking at their June 1864 term.

Only a couple pages in I find what I'm looking for. I find the following signed by "John Langston" who was Amanda's (wife of William, mother of my ancestor Nancy M) father (who they also lived next to before going off to war).

...
the undersigned desires to be appointed guardian of the persons and property of M J Thomas, A A Thomas, Jesse M Thomas, and Nancy M Thomas. Minor children of William Thomas, deceased, ....
...
Dated July 4th, 1864.

Down below on the same page it seems another entry granting that request.

1864 July 4th - Dawson County GA - Minutes, v. A-AA 1858-1884 pg 155 - John Langston requests ...jpg


This of course fits perfectly if he is the same W C Thomas who died around the 1st of June 1864. About a month later his father in law is granted the guardian of his now orphaned children. So for me this pretty much confirmed what I was pretty confident before.

Sadly on the next page I find John Langston's will probated about a year later. So it seems Nancy M Thomas lost her mother about 7 days after birth. Probably never saw her father who died while in the war. Then a year after having her grandfather made her guardian he died as well. By 1870 the children are split between the extended family. Their grandmother, Clarissa Langston (Matthews) stayed in Dawson Co., GA and had the two daughters in her household. William Thomas's sister (who seemingly had no children of her own) had one son in her household and another son was in the household of Williams mother's household (his father also being dead at this time too).


1864 July 4th - Dawson County GA - Minutes, v. A-AA 1858-1884 pg 155 - John Langston requests ...jpg
 

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