Hampton Roads Chapter of the Volume 1,
Afro American Historical & Genealogical Society Issue 1,
AAHGS By the Sea
From the Editor…
Hello, HR-AAHGS! It is with excitement that I present this, our first Five members of HR-AAHGS
volume of our “reincarnated” chapter newsletter! During the prepa- traveled to Richmond to
ration process, I was asked by our Chapter President, Stephanie hear DNA Expert, Shannon
Thomas, what the name of our newsletter would be. Well, I hadn’t Christmas, give a talk.
thought of that, and there wasn’t really time to come up with any-
thing, using a democratic process, so I told her that (for now), we Dates to Remember:
wouldn’t have a name! And so it was left, until just before I began
to insert the text into the template. Since our chapter is made up October 8, 2015—Chapter
of members from the “7 Cities” of Hampton Roads, and since the meeting (10:00 a.m. HPL)
one thing that all of those cities have in common is that they are
all connected to at least one body of water, I thought it appropriate Oct. 13-16: AAHGS National
that we (at least temporarily) name our newsletter, “AAHGS By the Conference (Atlanta)
Sea”! I think the name is catchy, and it perfectly captures one of
the most notable aspects of living in Hampton Roads. What do you Nov. 12: Chapter Meeting
Renate Yarborough Sanders
AAHGS By the Sea is the triannual newsletter of the Hampton Roads Chapter of the Afro
American Historical and Genealogical Society. Members are welcome to submit articles to
be considered for inclusion in the newsletter up to one month prior to the next issue’s
publication date. Publication dates will be the first of October, February, and June of each
From Our Members...
I began my family research about 38 years ago after the deaths of several family members
within a few years of each other. My father, brother, grandmother, and a great-aunt had
passed. Alex Haley’s Roots had been published, and I had a burning desire to see if I could find
out about my own roots before anyone else died. My eldest great-aunt, Margaret Smith, had
moved back to my hometown of Marion, Virginia, and I had to opportunity to interview her.
Aunt Tartar, as we called her, had never married. She had moved to New Jersey with a white
family, when she was a young woman in her twenties, to be the children’s nanny. Some fifty
years and three generations later, I sat before Aunt Tarter and asked her how far back she could
remember her family. She was willing and eager to share her knowledge and memories of her
enslaved grandmother and great-grandfather. Within a few minutes I realized I was hearing first
-hand accounts of stories Aunt Tarter’s grandmother Sallie had passed on to her. This was an
experience hard to describe, like the first time I saw Aunt Tarter, my grandmother Willie, their
sister Anna, (just young girls) and their parents in the 1900 census in Smyth County, VA. It’s
almost like being transported back in time…
One interesting story that she told me I have not been able to document, and the details don’t
seem to match with the timeframe she described. Aunt Tarter explained that her grandmother
Sallie Adams had been sold to someone in Florida, and Sallie’s father David Adams, taking his
grandson with him, went to Florida to buy Sallie back. Well, everyone involved in this story was
enslaved. The eldest grandsons were born near the end of the Civil War. What money and
means would David have had to travel from southwest Virginia to Florida? Aunt Evelyn’s story
involving Sallie and her family as told by another of Sallie’s granddaughter’s goes like this:
When she was a young girl, Sallie’s family was sold to a man in Lynchburg, Virginia, but Sally
remained with the Thurman family in Marion to be a chamber maid for the ailing mistress. Sal-
lie, missing her family, would slip outside to a stately oak, hug it and cry about missing her fam-
ily. So which story is accurate? Well, in 1870, David Adams is still living in nearby Washington
County where his former slave owner lives; Sallie’s mother, Eliza Adams appears in the Smyth
(continued on page 4)
From Our Members (continued)
LaCombe/Boisdon Family Research
Deborah Robinson Cuffy
My genealogy journey began when I joined Prodigy On-line Service (mainly because they
offered me free software), where I found the African American genealogy group. Those
resources were, and are, the people who could point me in the right direction.
Where to Look. The importance of oral history cannot be overstated. My grandmother used
to tell me stories of her family, and she was the only one who knew anything about my
mother’s side of the family. She told me that her great-grandmother had been born in
South America, and she described her as a beautiful, dark skinned woman with hair to her
waist. She had provided me what I needed to find my ‘needle in the haystack.’
Unearthing the Story. With the information I gathered online, I traced my LaCombe line to
Charleston, SC, but needed more details, and the records pointed toward them or their
parents having been born outside the US in French territory. I researched New Orleans
Census records with absolutely no luck. While talking genealogy with a Prodigy buddy I told
her about this line and all the difficulty I was having finding them in the New Orleans Cen-
sus. She advised me to stop looking in New Orleans because the family had probably immi-
grated directly into Charleston. So, I did what she said. I looked closely at Charleston and
at Philadelphia (The family moved to Philadelphia during the Civil War) and found a wealth
of information. (Continued on page 5)
County 1870 census where her former slave owner lives; and one of Sally’s sisters, Susan Adams
Taylor is deceased in Lynchburg, VA, and her husband and family are living there in 1870.
The most interesting story that Margaret told me was about David Adams having had three wives,
one of whom was white. Made no sense to me, but hey, I wrote it down. As I continued to contact
other elders in Marion (some I did not realize were “cousins”), I was told to talk to Clara Johnson
Smith, another granddaughter of David Adams, living in Washington, DC. The part of Clara’s story
that struck me was that David’s wife Mollie (Parson Adams Guthrie) was a “switched child.”
What??!! She went on to explain that Mollie, white, was nursed by a slave, and had been switched
with one of the master’s mulatto infants, thus freeing the slave child and enslaving Mollie.
(Pictured: Henry Smith, (son of Sallie Adams Smith), Margaret Smith, seated, Anna
Smith Goble, left, Willie Smith Sharpe, right )
I ’ve had so many wonderful conversations with people I would have never
known about if I had not started this journey of looking for ancestors. My
goal is to find living descendants of every line of my family. I have two
white great-great-grandmothers, one on my mother’s side and one on my
father’s side. I have found descendants from both of them; we are in touch
by phone, email, or Facebook. One male cousin and his wife have even
visited me here and my husband and I visited another, the late Dean
Sharpe in Pinacle, NC.
When I write my book, I want to call it, Wouldn’t Trade Nothing for My
Journey, and I wouldn’t. I am delighted at every opportunity to help any-
one who is interested in researching his or her own family history and connecting or reconnecting
with relatives. I am excited for them as they begin to tell me their stories, and tell me about the
newly found cousins they’ve talked to. I thank God for the gift of critical thinking and loving people
and not meeting a stranger. You can’t be shy in this work. If you haven’t decided to begin, go
ahead and start before it’s too late. I’m glad I didn’t wait. Stephanie Sharpe Thomas
Did you know?
CRUSIN’ in 2017!
I found death certificates that listed birth countries of the individual and, in some cases, of their parents.
My LaCombe and Boisdon relatives were born in the West Indies in Saint Domingue on Hispaniola.
Hispaniola. "Christopher Columbus landed first in the New World at the island of San Salvador, and after
praising God, enquired urgently for gold. The natives…directed him to…a large island…rich, they said, in
the yellow metal. "The Spaniards…annexed the island, called it Hispaniola. “1
Through the ongoing wars among European nations seeking expansion into the new world, the French
managed to gain a little less than half of the island of Hispaniola, and named it Saint Domingue. (The
Spanish side was Santo Domingo—essentially the same name, but a different language.) A very interest-
ing fact is that Saint Domingue slaves can be traced back to 30 tribes from which the French continually
The Revolution. Over a12-year period there were three revolts that eventually lead to the creation of the
nation Haiti. The first two revolutions were led by mulattoes who wanted equal rights. The third was led
by Toussaint L ‘Overture.
Flight to the United States. When it was clear that the slave revolt was going to be successful, whites and
blacks began leaving in significant numbers. "The convoy of ships fleeing the massacre at Cap Francais in
June, 1793, put in at Norfolk, VA. On July 6 the Virginia Chronicle and Norfolk and Portsmouth General
Advertiser inserted a rush notice that a French 74-gun ship and a fleet. . .had put in at Hampton with a
request that passengers be permitted to land."3
This was the first and largest group of French immigrants into Norfolk. The estimate is set at 3000. Six-
teen years later in 1809, 376 additional French immigrants arrived from Cuba. Considering that in 1793
Norfolk consisted of 500 houses and approximately 4000 inhabitants, this influx of 3000 placed an incredi-
ble burden on the city's resources. Add to this the fear of free people of color, and the situation must have
been very tense. One reason Norfolk was attractive to the refugees was the French hospital for sailors,
which had been established and supported with French funds for over 20 years. Up to 800 refugees were
patients shortly after the convoy arrived.
A prominent citizen of Hampton Roads, Colonel Thomas Newton, wrote to the mayor of Hampton, Miles
King, that "Our place is crowded with Frenchmen, and too many Negroes have been brought in with them.
. . ."4 Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia handled the influx of French refugees and free people of color
in much the same manner.
(Continued on next page)
The Out and About with
Chapter of the Afro-American
Historical and Genealogical Society Chapter members,
(AAHGS) is pleased to host the 37th please submit news
National Conference at the Westin (and photos) of any
Atlanta Airport Hotel, October 13 – history or genealogy
October 16, 2016. -related events you
attend, as this will
Attend 30+ sessions focused on
historical events, research methods, be a regularly-
and resources that will help find the featured segment of
history of your family. Learn
strategies to stay on track , and take our newsletter!
away a wealth of information to
support your research.
Join groups on pre-conference
historical tours in and around
Experience the work of
genealogists, who will exhibit their
resources, selected books and
genealogical software and projects,
in addition to ethnic and cultural
wearables and heritage collectibles.
Click here to register,
and to view the
Queries: Do you have a research question
that our readers might be able to help you
with? If so, submit your query, to our edi-
tor, up to one month ahead of our
next issue, so we can publish it here.
Be sure to include your contact info, so that
those who wish to assist can get in touch
I found my great-grandfather, William Boone, in Do you think we are the same person?
the 1866 Census in Uniontown, Perry Co., Ala- Submitted by Renate Yarborough Sanders
bama, and every census after in Perry County,
until 1910. In 1866, there is a Mariah Boone firstname.lastname@example.org or 757-291-9109
right next door to him. She is listed as being be-
tween 40-50 years old, and he is listed as being
between 30-40. I can’t find her on the 1870 cen-
sus, but I do find a Mariah Boone on the 1880 for
Perry Co., born about 1815, in GA.
Does anyone think this is his sister? How do
you sort this out?
Submitted by LaVetta White email@example.com
A Tribute to Selma Stewart
A Message We owe a huge thank you to Selma Stewart for all the work she’s done over
From Our the last twenty years ensuring that our Hampton Roads chapter of the Afro-
President American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS) remained vital,
relevant, and engaged with the community of researchers, authors,
genealogists and historians at universities, in other genealogical associations,
and historical societies. She is well respected as an expert and valued asset in
the field of genealogical research.
Selma has kept members and non-members alike informed of relevant books,
articles, events, potential speakers, and anything else that would help each of us in our respective genealogical journeys.
Her ‘mantra’ to all who know her has been that we need to “get the [original] records.” She is an avid reader and a lover
of maps, reminding all of us to put our history and findings in their historical
context including location, location, location! Taking that advice to heart has
served many of us well in our genealogy research.
Additionally, the self-named “Pack Rat,” has safely preserved decades of
records, documents, journals, newsletters, photo albums, newspaper articles, sign
-in sheets, etc. that gives us credibility as one of the longest continually operating
Selma has stepped down as the chapter president, but she has agreed to be our
unofficial Information Officer, and continue to keep us and others informed.
What would we do without her? (I have an email folder just for Selma’s emails!)
We thank you, Selma, for your years of service, for your knowledge and
expertise, and for your love of genealogy.
Charleston, SC, on the other hand, started out being open to the French immigrants, even the free people
of color. Their sentiments did not change until much later during the Denmark Vessey revolt in 1822. The
Vessey revolt would serve to significantly change things for people of color in the entire South.
Research. Having Catholic relatives has really helped my research because they believe in baptizing all
children, and there are baptismal records still available in Charleston and Philadelphia. France also kept a
census of those living outside of France. On 14 September 1793, the French government passed a law
that all citizens living outside France must make Certificates of Residence with the nearest French Consul.
The French Counsel in Norfolk kept records over a period of 15 years. Often these records contain mar-
riage, birth, and death information to include people of color--slave and free. All of the records that sur-
vived have been copied and are either in a state archive or held by the Latter Day Saints.
From Charleston to Philadelphia. My LaCombe and Boisdon relatives were in Charleston in the 1850 Cen-
sus. In 1870 some of them are in Charleston and some in Philadelphia. I checked the birth dates from my
second great-grandparents’ six children to get an idea of when the family moved, and saw that some were
born in Philadelphia as early at 1861. But how did the family get there during the Civil War?
For the longest time I researched Underground Railroad routes from Charleston to Philadelphia to no avail.
Then I read Ira Berlin’s book that led me to read No Chariot Let Down where I learned that free people of
color escaped the civil war in Charleston by hiring boats to take them north. The stories of ‘negroes arriv-
ing by hired boats’ are documented in New York and Philadelphia newspapers.
Future Research. Knowing that there were 30 tribes that made up the majority of the people of color of
Saint Domingue gives me hope of meeting the descendants of my old world ancestors. As to my non-
minority relatives, my third great-grandfather was born in LaRochelle, France, and I’ve found census rec-
ords for his family. I’m really proud of the fact that he married my mulatto third great-grandmother and
baptized their children. Like most people that have taken DNA tests, I am working through how the results
fit the black and white evidence I have, and how it will lead me forward.
I am looking forward to the challenges, and while I appreciate all the new online sources, I am most grate-
ful for Valencia Nelson King and Selma Stewart teaching me to do the hard research of looking for confirm-
ing relationships through official records. Conjecture is not research. They taught several of us to be sure
to understand each record—not every census provides the same information; to learn the history of the
(continued on next page)
time period and place—how things work in VA is not how they work in SC; and to learn the right questions
to ask because that’s how the links are formed to find the previous generations.
l. James, C.L.R, The Black Jacobins, NY, NY 1963, pp.3‐ 4
2. See Debien, Gabielle, Les Origins Des Esclaves des Antilles, Institut Francais d’Afrique Noire, 196l-
1967, (Interlibrary loan: Tulane University call letters, HT Latin American HT l107.D4)
3. Babb, Winston C., French Refugees from Saint Domingue to the Southern United States: 1791 – 1810,
UMI, Ann Arbor, MI, 1953, p.54
4. Ibid., p56
Cover from special edition of The National On Saturday, September 24, 2016,
Informer, “Celebrating the National Museum our beautiful new National Muse-
of African American History and Culture” - um of African American History
Sept 2016 (Click link to view full issue.)
and Culture opened adjacent to
the Washington Monument, in
Washington, D.C. Don’t miss your
opportunity to visit this historic
treasure! Visit the museum’s web
site to secure FREE timed tickets for
your visit. A limited number of
timed tickets will also be available
The Hampton Road Chapter of AAHGS meets on the sec-
ond Saturday of each month (September-June) at 10:00
a.m. at the Hampton Public Library (main branch) - 4207
Victoria Blvd, Hampton, VA 23669. Guests with an inter-
est in African American history, genealogy and/or culture
are always welcome and invited to join us!
Our Chapter Officers are as follows:
President: Stephanie Thomas
Vice President: Naida Sweat
Treasurer: Deborah Cuffy
Secretary: Lorie Henderson
Corresponding Secretary: Mary Carter
Membership Chairperson: LaVetta White
Parlimentarian: Ron White
Newsletter Coordinator/Editor—Renate Sanders