Archive for the ‘African-American Bembrys’ tag
I recently did the DNA thing at 23andme.com and ended up with 545 cousin matches. Heavens! Anyway, most of those are very distant cousins, but I have been in contact with several people who are listed as 3rd to 5th cousins. I’ve learned a couple of interesting things pertaining to the Bembrys.
The cousins who have surnames in common with my own family tree are all in the paternal haplogroup R1b1. Which is my father’s haplogroup, and the most common haplogroup in western Europe with subgroups in the Irish, British, French and Basques. I am not surprised to find that I am white, of course, but this does not disprove that Miles was originally a Benbury. At least we can be reasonably certain that he wasn’t some random Russian or Italian whose name got translated to Bembry, if you see what I mean.
A second interesting thing is that several of the closer matches show the maternal haplogroup L2c, which is African. Now, this could theoretically be a connection to anyone, anywhere in my family, but given that at least half the Bembrys I have met online in the course of my research have been African-American, and given that Miles was a plantation overseer who may well have had children with an enslaved woman named Dinah, well, I’m going to bet this is a Bembry connection. Again, not a surprise, but genealogy is about facts, and this is certainly a fact.
This DNA stuff is really complicated, and I don’t honestly understand it very well, but so far, it’s been really interesting and fun to see both the genealogical and the medical information that came up. I did it because they were running a special and I was curious about my maternal haplogroup, ( H1, which is southern European) but I also found that I have a dash of African and Asian (almost certainly Native American) in me, and that I have a couple of genetic drug sensitivities that probably ought to go in my medical file. It’s been a worthwhile experiment!Share on Facebook
My dad, Elwyn Bembry, went down for the Bembry family reunion a few days ago and took these photos along the way.
This is Hiram Bembry’s house near Jasper, FL. It is shotgun-style and he built it himself. Must have done a decent job of it, because it’s still standing now.
This is William Miles Bembry’s plantation near Hawkinsville, GA on Route 341. He was the grandson of Miles Bembry, and a prosperous farmer and miller. The property is now a tree farm and forest reserve, and there are several historic buildings on it. Two Bembry family cemeteries are nearby.
This is the former site of the Bembry Mill on Limestone Creek. The grist mill was originally built around 1840 by Miles’ father-in-law, George Washington Lancaster. Miles later added a sawmill and a cotton gin on the same creek.
And yes, there is a Bembry Road. I just knew there had to be one somewhere.Share on Facebook
Just updated the African-American Bembrys page so that it makes more sense, and also added a little more information to it.Share on Facebook
Just finished pages on both those subjects.Share on Facebook
There are both white and black Bembry families in the U.S. today. Many slave families adopted the Bembry name after emancipation, but some are probably our relatives as well.
Here is some information about the major Bembry slaveholders that may be useful to those tracing their slave roots. I hope to add more named slaves to this page eventually.
Miles Bembry owned a small plantation just east of Rocky Mount, NC. In 1830, this plantation included 18 slaves, a number that remained more or less consistent from 1810-1830. In a “conveyance” that Miles wrote in 1832, he specified several slaves by name that were given to his son John’s children, and were to be kept together until the youngest grandchild came of age. John’s children’s names were Penelope (later Scarborough), John, Kenneth, and Sarah Ann. The names of the slaves were Dinah, Dick, Alice and Saline (likely a family, or a mother and children).
John died (or ran off) before Miles’ death in 1838. Dinah, and her children then were given to Penelope, under unclear terms. She and her husband also appear to have been the guardians of her younger siblings, and so I suppose it was logical they they would also take possession of Dinah’s family. Penelope’s husband, David Scarborough, went broke and the sheriff took and sold Dinah and her children Berry, Jacob, Eleanor, and Oran in 1841 to settle debt. Oran ended up being owned by a man named Willis Leonard. (Interestingly, the name “Oran” is also found among the white Bembrys. John’s son Kenneth had a posthumous daughter named Kenneth Oran in 1863.) In 1845, David sued for the return of Oran on behalf of his wife’s siblings and lost.
More details can be found in Supreme Court of Georgia decision, Leonard Versus Scarborough, 1847.
Miles’s sons all inherited and owned slaves as well. (Most likely his daughters also owned or inherited slaves, but they would presumably be less likely to adopt the name Bembry years later.)
In 1830, Miles’ son John Bembry owned ten slaves in Leon County.
His brother, Kenneth Bembry, of Tallahassee, was quite wealthy and owned forty slaves by the time he died in 1851.
William Miles Bembry also had a plantation in Leon County, though he resided in Georgia, and owned nineteen slaves in 1830. He died in 1839, leaving his plantation, and presumably his slaves, to his son, also named William Miles Bembry. He owned 85 slaves in Pulaski County on the 1860 slave schedule.
Thomas Bembry owned very few slaves. Six are listed in Edgecombe County, NC, in 1830, and three in Pulaski County, GA in 1840. There is a notice of a sale of a slave named Rose in 1841 in order to settle a financial dispute between David Scarborough and Thomas Bembry. Rose may originally have been another of Miles Bembry’s slaves. Thomas seems to have gone bankrupt shortly after that point, and owned no slaves by 1850.
Of Miles’ grandchildren, there are only a few who could have owned slaves. John was Miles’ oldest son, and his daughter Penelope inherited the slaves mentioned above. Her brothers John and Kenneth owned a few slaves before they both died in the Civil War.
Miles’ son Kenneth only had one daughter, Henrietta, who would presumably have inherited some of his slaves upon his death. She married a wealthy man named Hunter B Fisher in 1854, and he would be named as their owner on the 1860 census. While I did not find an H Fisher on the 1860 slave schedule, there are over 2,700 slaves owned by Fishers in the state of Florida, so some were probably owned by him and the name is just incorrect on the schedule.
The only one of Thomas’ sons to own slaves was the oldest one, John. In 1860 he owned six slaves, also in Pulaski County, Georgia.
In short, it is safe to assume that most African-Americans named Bembry who can trace their roots back to the Hawkinsville, Georgia area probably have ancestors who were owned by either William Miles Bembry or John Bembry, both grandsons of the first Miles Bembry. A search of the 1870 census results in about 60 black or “mulatto” individuals with the last name Bembry in the Pulaski/Dooly/Houston county area alone. There are many others in Leon County, Florida (Kenneth Bembry’s plantation) and some in North Carolina.
I am not sure why there are black Bembrys found in North Carolina in 1870. After all, Miles I died in 1838 and all his sons had moved out of the state by 1840. There are no Bembrys, white or black, found on the North Carolina census between 1840-1860. It is possible that they are just “hiding” with a misspelled name, but the name had settled into a fairly regular spelling of Bembry by 1840. Maybe some of the black Bembrys had been freed before 1860 (in Miles’ will, perhaps), or simply decided to use the name of their first owner, rather than their last one. I don’t know enough about African-American genealogy to say. But there are some interesting cases, such as an 88 year old man named Dempsey Bembry in Tarboro, Edgecombe County who is being cared for by a young black couple named Savage. He is certainly old enough to have been owned by Miles Bembry at some point. There is also a Bembry family headed by a black man named Bolivar Bembry in Colerain, Bertie County, which is not far from Scotland Neck, the plantation where Miles worked as an overseer, or the farm that he owned.
Other miscellaneous Bembry slave names that I have gleaned from message boards etc. are: Hannah, Ned, Ben, Clamey, Jane, and Dorcas.
So, there were many African-American Bembrys who acquired the name after emancipation because they had been owned by white Bembrys. But, I believe there were also many who were actually related to the white Bembrys.
For example, the 1870 census also shows a mulatto man named Richard Bembry living right next door to John Bembry, grandson of Miles, in Pulaski County, with his family, all of whom are listed as mulatto. He was born 1820-1824 in North Carolina. I believe that he is very likely a son of Miles Bembry. Richard is probably the “Dick” listed in Miles’ will, above, which would mean his mother was probably Dinah. It is worth noting that Richard is a common name among the Benburys of Chowan County, NC, from which I believe Miles Bembry originated. Miles would have had several relatives with the name Richard Benbury.
It is interesting that the will specified that that Dinah and her (presumed) children were to be kept together until Miles’ grandson Kenneth came of age. Kenneth was no older than 7 in 1832, so they would not be separated for at least another 11 years, when he reached the age of 18, or maybe even 21, depending on what “of age” meant at that time. This seems to indicate some personal concern for that particular slave family on Miles’ part. “Special consideration” for slaves with whom the master had a personal relationship of some kind was common at the time, and many wills include stipulations of one kind or another for especially valued slaves, including children that had resulted from liaisons with them. The family did in fact stay more or less together until 1841, and were only separated when David Scarborough went broke.
The 1830 census reveals a slave the right age to be Richard, as well as several women the right age to be Dinah in Miles’ household. I am unable to find the 1840 census listing for David Scarborough, but Richard would presumably have belonged to him at that time, although it is possible that when he reached adulthood he was sold to, or given to, another Bembry. In 1860, John Bembry, Penelope Scarborough’s brother, has a slave the right age to be Richard in his household in Dooly county, GA. John was killed shortly afterward in the Civil War, and it would make sense that Richard would be passed to John’s cousin, also named John Bembry, who lived in nearby Pulaski county. This John Bembry, a son of Thomas Bembry and grandson of Miles, would in fact be Richard’s nephew.
So, that is my working theory, which cannot be positively proved or disproved at this time. But in any case, here we have a mixed-race man of about the same age as a white man, with the same last name, born in the same state, living next to each other, apparently voluntarily, in another state 50 years later. What are the odds that they are not related?
Richard Bembry married a woman named Harriet, also mulatto. In 1870 they have nine children listed:
Seaborn, b. abt 1853-d. 15 Sep 1933
Peggy b. abt. 1857-d. aft. 1870
Richard b. abt. 1861-d. aft 1900.
Rosanna b. abt. 1862–d. 1896-1900.
Hardy b. abt. 1864–d. bef 1900
Lincoln b.1865-d. 1910-1920
Isabella b. 1869-d. aft. 1800
Clifford b. abt 1872-d. aft 1880
Dock (or Doc) b. abt 1875-d. aft 1900
Richard died about 1876, and Harriet married a black farmer named John Westbrook who was twenty years older than she was–and apparently willing to take in a houseful of children. On the 1870 census the children have his last name, but on later censuses they revert to Bembry. Most are found in the Pulaski and Dooly County area for decades afterwards.
It should also be mentioned that there was one Bembry who fought for the Union side in the Civil War. His name was Thomas Bembry and he served with the 136th U.S. Colored Infantry out of Atlanta, Georgia. His name is supposedly listed on the African American Civil War Memorial. He is probably the same Thomas Bembry who is found later in 1870 living with his parents in Houston County, Georgia. So, there was a white Thomas Bembry fighting for the Confederacy, and a black Thomas Bembry fighting for the Union at the same time.
In another interesting twist, a black man named John Elton Bembry was an important mentor to the militant civil rights activist Malcolm X while both were in prison. John Elton is described as “tall and light-skinned” and, as such, may well be related to the white Bembrys. Read more about him here (bottom of the page.) A nephew to John Elton Bembry confirms that his family did originally come from the Edenton, NC area, so there is certainly some type of connection.Share on Facebook
To my knowledge, all Bembrys are connected in one way or another to Miles Bembry (1770-1838). I have been researching my own line of descent, and this blog is focused on those individuals, however, I have included any other information that may be interesting or relevant. This blog outlines my working theories which are based on extensive research. However, it is also work in progress and probably always will be. If you have information or corrections to share, please post a comment!
See the links at right for biographies of the Bembry men and their wives, starting with Miles, and working forward in time through Thomas, Thomas N., John T., Hiram, and finally, Edgar, my grandfather. Each wife’s page also has some information about her family background.
Many Bembrys served in the Civil War, and so I have made a page for Bembry Confederates. I found some interesting stories about the early Bembrys and put those on a Bembry Scoundrels and Scandals page. There are at least as many African-American Bembrys as white Bembrys, and so I have included a page about our shared history. And, finally, I have tentatively linked Miles Bembry to the Benburys of Edenton, NC, so here is some background on that family.
See Bembry Cousins and Bembry Links, at right, for more information about the Bembrys and related families.
Added June 2013: I have still not managed to find any DNA connection to any Bembrys. If you are a Bembry, and have tested with Family Tree DNA or 23andme, please look me or my father up under “Bembry” and let me know whether we are cousins!Share on Facebook