Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Passed Down

The family stories passed down from generation to generation tends to change. No one wrote it down; it’s always by word of mouth. I have 2 main stories in my family that are either inconsistent or just not true!

My great grandmother, Bessie Lowry, had an older brother named Shelton Lowry (B: 1908, D: 10 Sep 1947). The story from my great aunt was he died in a drowning. He was out on a boat and someone started rocking the boat. Shelton told them ‘don’t rock the boat, I can’t swim’ and he and a friend fell in the water and drowned. The story from another great aunt is everyone in the boat died.

Hopefully some info from the FRSNNC will help clear this up.

Now for the complete untruth.

Leroy McCoy, possibly the son of Ernest McCoy who is the son of William Everett McCoy (my 3rd great uncle), was researching the family tree until his death in 2005. He told several elder Spence family members a story. I remember when I first heard this story, before I began researching the tree, I said it didn’t make sense. So, here we go.

Back in the late 1800’s, 3 Spence brothers came over on slave ships and were separated thru sale. They landed in various counties in NC; Pasquotank and Camden being 2 of them. Our real name was SPENCER however was changed to SPENCE when we were sold into slavery. Remember, this is the late 1800’s. at we came over on slave ships in the late 1800’s. The Spence brothers that were sold into slavery was either my great grandfather, Aaron, and his siblings or my 2nd great grandfather Aaron (to be know as Aaron Sr.) and his siblings (have no clue who his siblings are).

Well, for the truth.

The truth being that none of the above happened. Aaron Sr was probably born into slavery. His parents are Enoch Spence and Susan Williams who were also slaves. They officially married in 1866. I’m certain they had other children; however, I haven’t been able to locate them. In 1900, Susan was living with, Aaron Sr. On the 1900 Census, it states she had 6 children and 4 living.

I’ll be discounting the ‘SPENCERS on a slave ship’ theory that the elders have included in family history. Hopefully they don’t throw stones.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Great Grandparents

I went to my dad’s house last week and we were looking thru the book my aunt made and I asked him, who is these people?

He looked at the picture and said this is a picture of your great grandfather, Aaron Edward Spence, and your great grandma, Bessie Lowry when they were younger. I would have never known that.

This is my great grandparents when they were older. I never got a chance to know my great grandfather. He died 6 years before I was born. However, I did come to know and love my great grandmother dearly!
She raised my father like a son. When ever I would see her she would tell me the same story. "I was the first one to hold you when you came home from the hospital." Recently my dad told me the whole story.
My great grandmother (Bessie) worked for a white woman in Elizabeth City, NC cleaning her house. The woman would often travel and Bessie would travel with her. I suppose they had a pretty good working/friend relationship. This one trip, the woman happened to be coming down to FL and of course Bessie went along. She took it as an opportunity to see her grandson and his family. The day they arrived in our city, my mother was just discharged from the hospital from having me. When we arrived home, Bessie was waiting at the door for us. That's when she scooped me up and the first one to hold me when I came home from the hospital. It was a matter of pure coincidence or divine intervention. My mother told me that it was a blessing having her there for almost a week because she took care of almost everything. Gave her time to rest and recover.
I miss hearing that from Bessie.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Questions for the dead

I saw this on Jennifer’s blog, But Now I’m Found, and I thought it was a great idea. So, I borrowed it.

I would love to ask my great great grand father Aaron Edward Spence what his brothers and sisters’ name’s are. I know he had siblings, but I haven’t been able to locate them.

I wish I could as my great great grandfather William Lowry if that was really him living with his grandfather in 1880 and did he change his name from Barker to Lowry. Also, is he part Indian? Does he have any siblings? Who is Issaac Boykin and Alfred Ferebee that was living with him in 1880? How did he feel when his mom married and left him with his grandparents?

I wish I could ask my grandfather, Aaron Edward Spence, who George Washington Bolden is? What is the real story behind my dad living with them as a kid? How much land did he own?

Lastly, I would love to ask all the ancestors…….WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?!?!?!?!?

George Washington Bolden/Bowden/Baldwin

This is George Washington Bolden/Bowden/Baldwin. Excuse the variation of the last name, my grandmother could never tell me what it really was.

He is my paternal grandfather. Neither I nor my father has ever met him. My dad joined the navy for 2 reasons; because he was drafted and he wanted to find his father. My grandmother has never really given much info about this man and I’m not to sure why. But my father and I would love to know who he is.

What my grandmother has told me:
  • She’s not sure if his last name is Bolden/Baldwin/Bowden. But, she’s sure that it’s George Washington.
  • He called her about 2 or 3 months after the initial meeting. She told him she was pregnant and he said that he would come back and marry her. She said no.
  • She says that he was older, maybe in his 20’s.
  • It was a one time thing.
What my great aunt (my grandmother’s sister) has told me:
  • It wasn’t a one time thing. He’s been to their house before and all the sisters just thought he was so cute.
  • She thinks there was more to the relationship.

What I’ve been able to determine:

  • My grandmother was 16 when she had my father. My father was conceived in December of 1952 when my grandmother was 15.
  • He was in the Navy in 1952, probably working in Norfolk, VA.
  • Based on the stripes on the sleeve, he was in for at least 8 years and he was an E-3 by the time this picture was taken.
  • If the picture was taken about 1952 or 1953, that means he joined the Navy around 1944.
  • I believe that the youngest they could have been to enlist was 17. That means that he could have been born anywhere between 1920 to 1928. My grandmother was born 1936 and she claims he was much older than her.
  • He’s not from Pasquotank or Camden, NC. He always visited with some distant cousins and stayed with them. That tells me that maybe his home is to far to travel when he was on leave.
  • He was probably on Christmas leave in 1952 when he and my grandmother ‘hooked up’.

What the distant cousin has told me:

  • Last he saw him was around 1955 to 1965. he was on his way to Trinidad on deployment.
  • He worked on the docks with him.
  • Last he talked to him, George was getting deployed to Trinidad some time in the 50's.

My father is the oldest of all her children and the only one with a different father. My grandmothers 1st husband took the picture when my dad was young and tore it up. This is the only picture we have of him. I intend on getting the picture restored. I sent it off once, however the picture that came back looked HORRIBLE! It didn't even resemble this.

My father was raised by his maternal grandparents, Aaron Edward and Bessie Spence and on several documents he's listed Aaron Edward Spence as his father.

Now what? It's not like the Navy enlistment records are available online. So, how can I locate him???

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Sometimes the hardest part of your genealogy research is the living relatives. Searching for African American ancestors makes this increasing difficult as well. Over generations, African Americans did not talk about their ancestors. Sometimes stories were passed down, but not necessarily shared among everyone.

My family double related. You would think this would make it easier for me to get information. However, it’s not. It makes it more difficult. For whatever reason, my family, the Bessie Lowry/Aaron Spence side, isn’t that close with the other side, Rosa Lowry/Enoch Spence side.

My own perception of it is: The Rosa Lowry/Enoch Spence side MOVED. They didn’t stay in the small town and most moved on to MD or VA.

However, the Bessie Lowry/Aaron Spence side remained in Pasquotank (Elizabeth City/Newland area). Not many of them moved on. I guess from there, some members of the family seemed to have grown apart. I wonder if the Lowry sisters were close with each other. There was a 10+ year age difference between them, but it just makes you think. They married brothers, they should have been close.

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