Missing in Action

I realize that I have been missing from the blog for a few months. My focus has mainly been on my regional history blog, www.blackripley.com , and I have not done much genealogy lately on my own family. I do have an update on where Ellen Gilliland Clay is buried. I finally found her! Yay me! I just need to find time to write it all up.

I know through looking at the site stats that there have been visitors so I will work harder to get more content on this blog.


Thanks as always,



If you are a frequent reader of my blog then you have read the story of Major Gilliland/Gildon/Bates. He ran away from his plantation in Lauderdale County, TN and joined the United States Colored Troops. After months of wondering if Major really did have David Gilliland as his owner this was proved to me by taking a look at Major’s Civil War troops records where he listed Mr. Gilliland as his owner and Lauderdale County, TN as his home.

Yesterday I was out in Lauderdale County, TN doing some genealogy research and I decided to go and see if I could find Major’s grave. I had found an application completed by his wife to get him a military headstone so I was confident that he had a headstone and would be easy to find. Needless to say he was more than easy to find! He was right at the front of the cemetery along with his descendants.

Major Bates Grave

Major Bates Grave

Major’s story is a remarkable one. He escaped from slavery and somehow he made it to Kentucky. Ripley, TN is located right on the Mississippi River and the town he made it to in Kentucky is located on the Mississippi River as well. I’d like to think that he somehow caught a ride up the river. What I am curious about is why his brother William did not join him, but that’s another story for another day. Although his headstone was no longer standing upright I am glad that it is still in one piece and it is in a cemetery that appears to be somewhat taken care of.

– Tiffany

Source: Photo My Own

Awhile back I blogged about how I was intrigued by the fact that Eli Buchanan and his family, all slaves, were listed on the 1850 US Census, which I believed was unusual for a slave. I had always wondered more about Eli and I discovered something about him yesterday night. As I was looking through old newspapers gathering information for posts for my Black Ripley blog I came across a newspaper clipping on Eli Buchanan. Of course I was excited to find an article about him when I wasn’t really looking for anything family related, but I hated the context of the article.

Nashville Union and American September 17, 1873

Nashville Union and American September 17, 1873

Seriously Eli? You were shooting at Elvira and ended up hitting one of the kids? If you’ve read my blog in the past you know that Eli Buchanan married Elvira Nixon and they had 1 son together named Emmanuel ( aka Manuel). Eli also took in Elvira’s 4 other children, which makes me wonder which of the children got shot in the leg by Eli? Eli’s troubles with the law did not last long because by 1877 he had married his second wife who was only 15 at the time while he was 45. I wonder if she knew of his past troubles with his ex-wife.

– Tiffany

Source: Nashville Union and American September 17, 1873 edition

Finding Ellen..Part 2

No one ever said genealogy was going to be easy, but don’t you love when you think you have something all figured out and it turns out that you don’t? Last month I wrote about how I thought Ellen Gilliland Clay was buried at the Zion Cemetery in Memphis. I had checked their online records and didn’t find a thing. So, I went to the Memphis Shelby County Room at the main branch of the library and decided to have a look at their records on Zion Cemetery. Well… turns out that Ellen wasn’t listed in those records either. My thought that maybe the records got transcribed wrong was incorrect. So where is Ellen?

I continued to look through the records in the Memphis Shelby County room. As I looked through cemetery information I discovered that there was another cemetery named Mt. Zion. I looked this cemetery up and discovered that it wasn’t in Memphis. It is in Collierville, TN, which is a suburb of Memphis and a great distance away from the South Memphis area where Ellen lived. Today if I were to leave the South Memphis area and drive to Collierville it would take me at least 35 minutes. So, it seemed impossible to me that Ellen would be buried all the way in Collierville. She died in 1911 so I’m pretty sure that the hearse that carried her was horse-drawn. I can’t imagine how long it would have taken to get from South Memphis to Collierville in a horse-drawn wagon! This was the only other Mt. Zion cemetery I could find so I decided to investigate.

This past Saturday my family and I drove out to Mt. Zion. People were buried in the cemetery as far back as 1910 that I could see, so Ellen could very well have been there. Of course, I found no marker for Ellen. Finding a marker for her would have been too perfect right? When I got home that evening I decided to do more digging on the McCoy & Joyner funeral home that buried her. I searched everywhere and kept coming up empty. Then I thought “let me just enter the search terms McCoy undertaker Memphis, TN” and see what I get. And wouldn’t you know it? I hit the jackpot! DING! DING! DING!

There appeared a book on google books written called “Black Property Owners in the South 1790-1915” written by Loren Schweninger and there also appeared Mr. Levy McCoy.

Entry of Levy McCoy from Black Property Owners in the South 1790-1915 by Loren Schweninger

So, now that I had the full name of the McCoy part of the McCoy & Joyner funeral home I had a clue that could help me dig for more information. I then decided to turn to city directories of the time. I had previously used the city directories to pull the address of the McCoy & Joyner funeral home and discovered that it was about 2 blocks away from where I currently worked. I pulled the 1908 City Directory and hit the jackpot once again! DING! DING! DING!

Entry for Levy McCoy for the 1908 Memphis City Directory

So not only did I find an entry for Levy McCoy, I also found out that he owned Mt. Zion cemetery as well as his funeral home and since he was Ellen’s undertaker he probably buried her in his cemetery. At this point I got up and did the happy dance. Next, I googled the address of 157 South Fourth Street and discovered that it is currently a parking lot. I hate to think that she is buried underneath a parking lot. They would have had to have relocated the bodies correct? Plus Ellen was buried over 100 years ago so the numbering convention on this street could have changed.

This morning I drove along South Fourth street twice looking for anything that resembled an old cemetery and came up empty-handed. There were a lot of buildings that I know weren’t there in 1911 so maybe they did relocate the bodies? I’m not sure, but I am glad I made some progress. However, it appears that there will be another entry on the blog for Part 3. Hopefully, it will detail how I actually found where Ellen is.




Usually any post that I begin that starts with the word “Finding” is usually follow by the name “Amy”, but not this time. You see, it appears as if Ellen Gilliland Clay has gone missing. Even though she died 101 years ago, I have discovered that she may not be buried where I thought she was.

It all started when in my African American Studies group my Professor mentioned that we would be going to Zion Cemetery in South Memphis. I immediately perked up and let it be known that Ellen Gilliland Clay, my husband’s 2nd great grandmother, was buried there. Well fast forward to last night when I began digging around for info on this cemetery. Turns out this cemetery has been abandoned since the 1970’s and to say that it has been badly damaged is an understatement. It has become a dumping ground and is very, very, very overgrown. It is a 15 acre cemetery and so far only 4 acres have been uncovered. This is very sad because Zion Cemetery is home to many Black Memphians and was created especially for use by Black Memphians.

Well I discovered a website about Zion Cemetery and turns out they have a transcribed list of burials there. I eagerly looked for Ellen’s name, only to discover that it wasn’t listed. Not listed. Not listed. Not listed. I felt like the air had been sucked out of my body. Her death certificate clearly says Zion was the place of burial.

Ellen Gilliland Clay's Death Certificate

Ellen Gilliland Clay’s Death Certificate listing place of burial.

Maybe there is an error in the transcription? The Memphis public library has the original burial records for this cemetery so I will check there. Maybe Mt. Zion isn’t the same as Zion Cemetery? In my opinion Zion Cemetery was the most logical place for her to have been buried, given the time and location of her death. I have been unable so far to find any records on the McCoy & Joyner funeral home that handled her burial. I also haven’t found any other information on a Mt. Zion cemetery that would have been around at the time of her death.

So where is Ellen?


– Tiffany

Finding Amy – Growth

While in my last post I was venting about the difficulties of finding Will and Amy’s roots, I did happen to find more information on their son Fred “Buddy” Wade. Fred “Buddy”  Wade died in Memphis, TN in 1959 and left behind a wife and children. Through the help of my Aunt I have now been able to identify all of his children and even found some of their descendants. My Aunt had been in contact with Rogers Wade’s daughter and she actually told me Aunt the names of Fred’s children! (I was shocked that she shared some info!) She even said that one of Fred’s sons had stopped by her house a few weeks prior! When my Aunt asked if she had Fred’s son’s phone number or a way to contact him she said no, (not surprising) but at least we are making some progress with her. I will continue to pray that we make even more progress.

I entered the names of Fred’s children into google and up popped an obituary for Fred’s stepdaughter listing the names of his children further corroborating the information we were provided. I then took additional names found in the obituary and entered them into Facebook and up popped more descendants of Will and Amy! I have not sent them a message on Facebook yet, but I need to do so ASAP. I am so excited at the prospect of meeting new relatives. I keep saying that I need to figure out a way to get all of the descendants of Will and Amy together. Maybe I will hit the lottery and make this happen.

Fred died when all of his biological children would have been about 11 years old and younger. He was his wife’s second husband. I wonder if his children that we have just discovered know anything about Fred. From US Census records I know that he was a farmer (sharecropper) who lived on the Flynn Plantation in Tunica County, MS. Velmarie’s granddaughter has told me stories about Fred from his childhood, but mentioned that she did not have any recollections of her grandmother speaking of Fred as an adult.

I am excited to connect with Fred’s children and hear their memories of Fred.

– Tiffany


I get really annoyed with the secrets that exist in families. I do realize that people of past generations did keep a lot of secrets. There are a lot of things that they didn’t talk about out of fear. I’ve written about fear before, but now I’ve really been thinking about secrets and lies in family history.

I haven’t given up, but I haven’t been able to locate an Amy Lipscomb on any census record that she would appear on. I also haven’t been able to locate anyone with the last name Lipscomb. I am beginning to wonder if that was even her real last name. If she really was banished from her family it is very possible that she just started calling herself something else.

What bothers me more than that is that Rogers Wade knew her family and had spoken with them, even if it was just them threatning him. His daughter says she has no knowledge and that he never discussed his parents with her, but when you think about it Rogers discussed his parents with a lot of people. These people were his siblings and his nieces and nephews, yet for some reason he never talked to his own daughter? I’m sure he told his wife about his parents, yet she doesn’t have any information that she wants to share so it looks like all of this information died with him.


– Tiffany

I found out today that a relative had passed away. This caused me to break out my family history notes and put the pieces together to see where this relative fit in with my family. As I was reading through my notes from a few years ago I saw that I had scribbled  this down

“Ruthie Mae (Coosie) Lizzie Spencer’s sister Obituary. Parents listed as Pammie Cross Spencer and William Spencer”

Lizzie Spencer Granger is my great grandmother and my mother’s grandmother. This note was interesting and puzzling at the same time because my Ancestry.com family tree lists Lizzie’s parents as Millie and William Spencer. As a matter of fact, I have a census record from 1910 that lists William, Millie, Lizzie, and Ruthie. Another cousin of mine had listed Lizzie’s parents as Millie and William as well.

I did find a 1940 US Census record which listed Pammie Spencer and William Spencer. What’s very interesting to note is that  Millie and her William and Pammie and her William all lived in the same area and they were all about the same age!

So what records do I have that point to who Lizzie’s mother really was?



1. 1900 US Census lists a daughter named Lizzie

2. 1910 US Census lists daughters named Lizzie and Ruthie

3. Lived in Preston, Sumter County, Alabama

4. Married to William Spencer



1. Lizzie named her oldest daughter Pammie

2. Ruthie listed Pammie Cross Spencer as her mother in her obituary

3. Lived in Preston, Sumter County, Alabama

4. Married to William Spencer

5. Pammie Cross Spencer’s mother was named Lizzie


So, I began to think were Millie and Pammie the same person? What do you think?


At this precise moment I do believe they are the same person. From the preliminary research that I have done Millie and her William and Pammie and her William never show up on the same census. Plus, how can you argue with Ruthie’s obituary and the fact that Pammie Cross Spencer named her daughter Lizzie after her mother and that Lizzie named her daughter Pammie? Pammie is not a common name. So for now I am going to consider this mystery solved. My next mystery will be to figure out why Millie/Pammie had two first names.


– Tiffany


As I wrote my last post I began to think about fear. Particularly because Rogers Wade, son of Will and Amy Wade, was told that if he ever revealed who Amy’s parents where that her family would kill him. Of course he told his brothers and sisters and I am hoping and praying like I don’t know what that he told his wife. In those days the fear of doing something a White person told you not to would have been the greatest fear you could ever have. There was no recourse. No one you could tell about this threat who would protect you. The consequences of not following the rules would have been death and there was nothing anyone could have done to get justice for your murder.

If the story is really true that Amy was a white woman and her family threatened Roger, what about the stories that her family would come and watch them from afar? I would think that a white family would completely disown their daughter for taking up with a Black man. I’m honestly surprised they didn’t have her killed or have Will killed. They could have killed Will and the law wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

But when you really stop and think about it I am not surprised that Rogers was threatened. Recently in the news there was a story about how in Crystal Springs, Mississippi a Black couple who had been regularly attending a White church was denied the use of the church to get married. Crystal Springs is in Copiah County, MS. The same Copiah County where Will and Amy lived 100 years ago and actually not too far from the town of Carpenter which was their home. It doesn’t appear as if much has changed there.

 Could this fear have kept Roger from mentioning Amy’s family to anyone besides his siblings?

– Tiffany

Interviewing Family

I have no problem admitting that I am a poor interviewer. I just can’t seem to come up with the questions I need to ask to get people to talk. This has been bothering me because in this coming month my Aunt will be taking me to speak with the only descendant of Rogers Wade, son of Will and Amy. I spoke to this particular cousin on the phone once and our conversation was very short. It basically consisted of

“Do you know who Roger’s parents were?”


“Did he ever talk about his family?”


“Ok bye!”

Pathetic I know…

So before I actually go meet her and finally get to see a picture of Roger (major yay!) I need to come up with some great open ended questions to ask. I need to make her feel comfortable with me because per my Aunt this cousin doesn’t like to talk about family history. I am keeping an open mind, but I find it hard to believe that Rogers never mentioned his parents to her when he was the one who told all of his siblings about their parents. Rogers 2nd wife is actually still living. I am hoping that one night while in bed that he told her something about his family. I am not willing to give up on the fact that the true story of Will and Amy died with him. I can’t even stand to imagine how devastating that would be to me. Somebody somewhere has to know something. I just need to develop the right questions to job their memory.


– Tiffany