Category Archives: Genealogy

National Archives Research and New Information on WHITFIELD Family

Recently I visited Washington, DC and the National Archives.  I was looking into the pension files of US Colored Troops who were either members of my or my spouse’s family, or people of interest on my list of early black/colored Toledo families.

One of the family’s on my list is the WHITFIELD family.  When I first began this blog, I had found some information that lead me to believe that my earliest WHITFIELD ancestor, named Elias WHITFIELD born approximately 1862-1863 was from North Carolina.  I did some extensive research on the North Carolina WHITFIELD family and they did have a person with the same name and approximate same age who I believed had moved to NW Ohio and was a relative.

In my hobby of genealogical research, I often continue to research the same individuals over and over again.  I had a nagging feeling  that Elias may have been related to one of the earliest black families in Toledo also with the surname of WHITFIELD who were enumerated on the 1850 Census in the City of Toledo. I also discovered that the NC Elias WHITFIELD had moved to Washington, DC with his family and I later found a census record of him from the 20th century when my 3rd great grandfather Elias WHTIFIELD died in 1897.  Due to that discovery, I deleted all of the information I had on my NC WHITFIELD line and started from scratch back at Elias.  I did however, make a tentative link of him to the 1850 Toledo WHITFIELD family and decided to do some off-line research on this family so placed John WHITFIELD’s pension file at the top of my list of ones to request on my visit to the National Archives.

On the 1850 Toledo census the WHITFIELD family was headed by a man named John W. WHITFIELD Sr. and his suspected wife named Hannah.  Per the 1850 Census  – John  was born in approximately 1823 in Virginia.  His wife Hannah was born in Canada around the same year.  They had within their household five children in 1850 – John W Jr., Jacob and James (twins), daughter Ann, and baby Robert WHITFIELD.  All the children were born between 1840 and 1850.

While in DC, I reviewed the file of John W. WHITFIELD Jr. in regards to his pension.  Both he and his younger brother Jacob are known veterans of the Civil War and both fought in the US Colored Troops, 5th Ohio regiment.  They both enlisted here in Toledo for the regiment and went to Delaware County for training.  During their service, both experienced some medical issues/illnesses and John Jr.’s pension file centered on him having had a finger shot off during the war along with a cough where he spit up blood, which was labeled as a “lung disease.”  His younger brother  Jacob died in 1868 in the City of Toledo so did not recieve a pension, but John Jr. filed for one first in 1889 then again in 1892 after a law was passed where veterans didn’t have to prove a disability to receive a pension.  John Jr. had lived primarily in Toledo prior to and after the war but died in Cleveland, Ohio in 1905.

In his pension file, John Jr. had to create a statement and tell a bit of his life and service in the military, including any injuries he suffered.  In his statement, he stated that he was currently married but had been married before to a woman named Mary EDWARDS.  EDWARDS is another early black/colored Toledo family and I had them on a spreadsheet for future review.  Due to seeing Mary EDWARDS’ name, I decided to do some digging on her and her family to see if she had any children and if she and John Jr. could potentially be the parents of Elias WHITFIELD.

Reviewing the EDWARDS family showed that Mary EDWARDS and John WHITFIELD Jr. married in Toledo in 1887.  Also that Mary was born in 1851.  Due to the late marriage date and Mary’s year of birth, she could not have been the mother of Elias due to him being born between 1861-1863 and she was very young at that time.  It was possible but not likely for her to have a child so young and the marriage date didn’t make sense.  John Jr.’s pension file also included a note that he had not had any children so this made him not likely to be the father of Elias Whitfield.

However, I discovered that Mary EDWARDS had an aunt named Lavina EDWARDS born approximately 1840.  Lavina was the sister of Mary’s father – William EDWARDS Jr.  There was an entry in Toledo’s marriage records  via Family Search that showed that she married John WHITFIELD Sr. in 1859.  John WHITFIELD Sr. was no longer living in Toledo in 1860 and I had always wondered where he’d moved to or if he’d  passed away.  Doing a query with him and Lavina, showed that a John WHITFIELD was a saloon keeper living in Detroit in 1860 with a woman of the same age as Lavina, who was enumerated as Elvina.  I thought that that may have been a mis-spelling by the enumerator due to it being similar to Lavina  Within their household was also a Robert WHITFIELD who was the  youngest child of John Sr and Hannah in 1850 and it stated he was born in Ohio.  Also within that household were two other children – Samantha WHITFIELD born 1852 and a baby named Mary Ann who was born in 1860.  So I believe that the 1860 household was indeed John and Lavina Whitfield who had been married in Toledo in 1859.

I did some digging into Samantha WHITFIELD and it did show that her father’s name was John WHITFIELD on her death record.  She was also enumerated in the household of William EDWARDS Sr.  in 1870 in Toledo, Ohio.  William EDWARDS Sr., born approximately 1795-1803 was the father of Lavina EDWARDS, he was living with her in Toledo by 1880.  This further solidified a relationship between these two families.

Some digging into baby Mary Ann from the 1860 Census in the household of Elvina and John WHITFIELD Sr., a death certificate turned up showing that she was the daughter of Lavina EDWARDS and John WHITFIELD.

Another person also had a death certificate that showed she was the daughter of Lavina (this time THOMAS – Lavina married Montgomery THOMAS after the death of her second husband Arthur SPENCER) and John WHITFIELD.  This daughter was named Lulu and she was shown to have been born in approximatly 1863-1864.

A review of the 1870 Census looking for Lavina showed that there was a Lavina SPENCE living in Toledo in the household of Arthur SPENCE.  Within that household included a male named Eli SPENCE.  I concluded that John WHITFIELD must have died between 1860 and 1863 as Lavina re-married a man named Arthur SPENCER in 1863 in Toledo.  By 1880, Arthur also must have passed away because Lavina was listed as a widow and she later re-married a man named Montgomery THOMAS in 1884. Due to her having a male named Eli in her household, I thought maybe this Eli SPENCE(R) was more than likely Eli(as) WHITFIELD.  I’ve seen before in censuses where the surnames of family members were incorrect, mostly due to the re-marriages of their parents and them being given the name of the widowed mother or stepfather instead of their biological surname.  I also  never have seen an Eli or Elias Spencer listed in the city directory of Toledo, however starting in the 1880s Eli or Elias WHITFIELD was listed several times until his death in 1897 and later he was listed as the deceased husband of my 3rd great grandmother Martha JONES WHITFIELD.

Unfortunately Elias WHITFIELD died prior to the establishment of death certificates in the City of Toledo.  So his parents were not listed on the death register since that information was not collected prior to the 20th century in Toledo.  I have never found him on census records in Toledo as Elias WHITFIELD, only in the city directory starting in 1883.  Due to these connections discovered via information on the EDWARDS family as a result of reviewing John WHITFIELD Jr.’s pension file, I am 95% sure that Eli SPENCER may be Elias (also labeled as Eli in directory information) WHITFIELD.  I base this on the fact that Eli would have been the middle or youngest child of John WHITFIELD Sr. and Lavina EDWARDS.  Mary Ann was born in 1860, Eli in 1862-63 and Lulu in 1863-64.  Both Mary Ann and Lulu lived until the 1920s so had a modern era death certificate that listed their parents as John and Lavina, so I feel safe concluding that my 3rd great grandfather Elias WHITFIELD was actually the son of John WHITFIELD Sr., and brother of John WHITFIELD Jr.

I am very excited to explore this connection further and the EDWARDS family, especially since William EDWARDS Sr.  would be a potential 5th great grandfather.  He was a Barber in Toledo and worked and/or lived in the same location as Barber William MERRITT who was a known black UGGR administrator in Toledo.


1850 Census – Household of John Whitfield

Marriage Record of John Whitfield and Lavina Edwards 1859

1860 Census – Household of John Whitfield

1860 Census – Household of Willien(William Sr.) Edwards – includes Mary Edwards

Marriage Record of Lovinia Whitfield and Arthur Spencer 1863

1870 Census – Household of Arthur Spence 

1870 Census – Household of William Edwards

1880 Census – Household of Lavina Spencer

Death Record of Lulu WHITFIELD VENABLE


Early Black Toledo Families – DENT Family

I have always read that many of our early black Toledo families settled here due to being runaway slaves and escaping to their freedom.  Due to Toledo’s distance from the southern slave holding states and its proximity to Canada, I am sure that many of our early black residents were indeed fugitives seeking to own themselves and gain control over their own lives and provide their children with greater opportunities.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult at times putting together the stories of our early resident’s lives to confirm their history, especially if they were not well known and just lived ordinary lives.  For me, the lives of ordinary people are just as important and inspiring as the more well known, so focusing on some of our unknown early black Toledo residents has been rewarding.

Due to the difficulty of researching little known persons, I was excited to find an interesting bit of information about one of the families on my list to research – the DENT family lead by patriarch John DENT.

John DENT and his wife Sarah were first enumerated in NW Ohio on the 1860 census.  At the time, they had in their household four children – Mary, John, Julia, and baby George who at the time was the second youngest black resident in the city at age 2 months.  John was listed as a laborer from Kentucky.  Wife Sarah did not provide her state of birth, but I later discovered she was also from Kentucky.

Some digging into this family produced a source from the University of Kentucky Library system called the “Notable Kentucky African American Database.”  Within this link was information about the ancestry of a woman named Hazel THOMPSON GOMEZ who was the granddaughter of John and Sara DENT.  It states that John DENT escaped slavery by riding his horse into Ohio.

I was very excited to find this information that provided a link to one of our early black residents escaping bondage and finding freedom in our area.  I looked up the book from which this information was taken, which is titled “In Darkness with God:  The Life of Joseph Gomez, a Bishop of the AME Church,” by A. L. Gomez-Jefferson – a great granddaughter of John and Sarah DENT.   The book related John’s escape as follows:

Her maternal grandfather was John DENT, a former slave born in Paducah, Kentucky.  He had escaped from slavery by simply jumping on his master’s horse and “riding like hell” to freedom.  For a while  he settled in Ripley, Ohio, where in 1849 he married Sara Jane GRUBB, a young woman of African parentage who had been born in Sterling, Kentucky.  The couple moved first to Columbus, Ohio and then to Toledo.  Julia Ann, Hazel’s mother, was born in March of 1858, one of their twelve children.

A review of available source material showed that John DENT was living in Wayne, Fayette County, Ohio on the 1850 Census so he probably escaped slavery in the 1840s.  He was enumerated in the household of a woman named Sarah SMITH who also had Kentucky as her state of birth.  Due to this Census document, I believe that Sarah SMITH was the grandmother of John DENT’s wife – Sarah Jane GRUBBS.  This is due to the fact that also within Sarah SMITH’s household was a couple named John M and Emily GRUBBS and their children who were close in age to Sarah.  Them having the maiden name of Sarah as their surname and the other GRUBBS youths being close in age to Sarah, lead me to believe that Sarah Jane was the daughter of John M and Emily GRUBBS.

John DENT and Sarah Jane GRUBBS were actually married in Wayne County, Ohio in 1849, not Ripley, as stated above.  Ripley, Ohio was a known town with significant Underground Railroad activity and activists, so John DENT may have received assistance there and lived there prior to going an hour north to Wayne.   In 1850 a new Fugitive Slave Law was passed in the United States which required state governments and citizens to assist in the capture of runaway slaves so they could be returned to their owners and re-enslaved.  This law caused a lot of panic amongst black families both formerly enslaved and those who had long been free.  Black families during this era moved to what they considered safer areas when they could to avoid being re-captured and sent into slavery or to avoid being kidnapped and made a slave when they had never been before.  It seems the DENT family also fled southern Ohio after 1850 per the book noted above.  They eventually settled in NW Ohio, which was a safer distance away from slave catchers.

As stated above, by 1860, the DENT family lived in NW Ohio, in Oregon specifically.  They were enumerated numerous times between 1860 and 1910 in the city.  John DENT died on May 10, 1890.  His death record said that he died of a concussion suffered via a fall.  He was listed as being 80 years old on the death register, but due to his headstone shown below and other census documents, he was probably in his late 60s or early 70s as he was consistently labeled as being born between 1820 and 1833.  The document said he had been a resident of Toledo about 50 years at the time of his death and that he lived on “Bridge” street in the 6th Ward of the city.

A review of the book noted above provided a sad account of the death of John DENT.  The wife of Joseph GOMEZ, of which the book details his life (and is a great read for anyone interested in early black civil rights leaders) was named Hazel.  She was the daughter of John and Sara DENT’s daughter Julia Anne by  her second husband George THOMPSON, a man who apparently looked white and was of mixed race ancestry (European and Polynesian descent).  Hazel THOMPSON was light skinned and received some  cruel treatment from Sara DENT due to Sara’s personal prejudices against whites/people who were light skinned based on her experiences with whites and the circumstances of her husband’s death.  Page 39 of the text highlighted above, stated:

Ironically, Julia’s father, John DENT, died from a concussion received when he was thrown down a flight of steps by some Polish men during a racial incident.  After that, Julia Anne and her four children went to live with his widow Sara, who made life miserable for Hazel because she was of light skin.  Sara had no use for “yeller niggers,” and that included her granddaughter, who had the “blood of the men who killed her husband.” 

I have been slowly going through early City of Toledo death registers and have noticed a little more than a handful of black men who had been labeled as being “found drowned” or who were labeled as being “murdered.”  It made me wonder about the racial atmosphere in the city during the 19th century in the city and how it probably was much worse than what I had initially thought for black residents.

The text also highlighted the limited opportunities for employment that blacks faced nationwide in this era, whereas Julia DENT made sure to send her daughter to Wilberforce University in Ohio so that she would at least have an opportunity to be a teacher and not live as a domestic all her life.  Black women in America have a history of always having high employment rates due to the precarious economic situation of black families.  Both husbands and wives usually worked and helped support the family.  Both genders were limited due to their ethnicity – men were usually general laborers and performed the most difficult and dangerous jobs for less pay than white men in many cases.  Black women, including Julia DENT,  were usually domestic workers – maids, cooks, or washer women (doing laundry) and both men and women worked long hours.  Julia told her daughter, per the text, after Hazel came home from Wilberforce after only a week with homesickness that Hazel would have to go back because Julia wanted to ensure that :

“she could get an education and not have to work in somebody’s kitchen all her life.”


Julia Dent – Early Black Toledoan, mother of Hazel THOMPSON GOMEZ

Though John DENT’s death was and is tragic, it is heartening to me that he lived the majority of his life free, and not as a slave.  He took ownership of his life and endured tough circumstances in regards to race prejudice and even a tragic death, but succeeded in raising a large family in the city.  I’ve seen many obituaries of the DENT family in the Toledo Blade through even the 2000s and feel that there are probably still a significant amount of descendants of this family in Toledo.  Hopefully they are aware of the story of John and Sara DENT and take great strength and pride from the hard work and suffering of their early black Toledo ancestors who endured such tough times to give them an opportunity to better themselves today.

Will end with the fact that I am related to the DENT family by marriage through a 4th great aunt – Martha JONES DENT who married John DENT Jr., the brother of Julia DENT shown above.  So I was enriched by learning more about their lives while researching the family’s history.


In Darkness with God:  The Life of Joseph Gomez, a Bishop of the AME Church,” Annetta Louise Gomez-Jefferson

1850 Census – Household of Sarah SMITH (includes GRUBBS and DENT families) accessed via 9/13/2017

1860 Census – Household of John DENT  accessed via 9/13/2017

1870 Census – Household of John DENT  accessed via 9/13/2017

1880 Census – Household of John DENT  accessed via 9/13/2017

1900 Census – Household of Julia DENT THOMPSON  accessed via 9/13/2017

1910 Census – Household of Tena DENT ALEXANDER accessed via 9/13/2017

Death Record of John DENT died 10 May 1890 – Ohio County Death Records 1840-2001 accessed via 9/13/2017

Photo of Julia Dent – accessed via public images 9/11/2017

Cemetery Photo of grave of John DENT – Find-a-Grave – Forrest Cemetery, Toledo, Ohio – accessed 9/11/2017

Early Black Toledo Families – GATLIFF/GATLEFF

As was shared in the post regarding basketball legend William (Bill) McNeil JONES, his parents were William A. JONES and Jessie L. GATLIFF.  Both the JONES and GATLIFF families lived in the Toledo area prior to 1900 before the Great Migration got into full swing and the black population of Toledo swelled like many other Midwest industrial centers.

I thought it would be interesting to explore some of the families of early black/colored Toledoans and due to my curiosity regarding those families from my transcriptions of the 1840 through 1900 census information (I am currently working to transcribe the 1900 census).  Unlike other persons I mentioned in this blog, a majority of these other black/colored individuals and families weren’t well known in the community.  However, the history of regular people’s lives is just as important and interesting as more well known persons and a review of the family of Jessie GATLIFF is well worth sharing some information.

Jessie L. GATLIFF/GATLEFF  was born in Chillocothe, Ohio in approximately 1882.  Her parents were John H. GATLIFF/GATLEFF Jr. and Amanda GOINS/GOINGS/GOENS.  She was the second of three children born to John Jr. and Amanda.  She was the middle child between older brother Clark and younger brother Everett James.

The GATLIFF/GATLEFF family had lived in Chillicothe since approximately 1870.  John H. GATLIFF/GATLEFF Jr. was originally born in Rockcastle County, Kentucky  and was the son of John H. GATLIFF Sr (1823-1910) and Cynthia GATLIFF (1824-1913).  This couple threw me for a few loops in researching them due to both Cynthia and John Sr. having the same surname.  A review of Milton GATLIFF/GATLEFF’S death certificate – a son of John Sr. and Cynthia, and due to a clue revealed in a book about Cynthia’s mother Rose, it was shown that John Sr. took the surname of his wife when they were married.  Due to that, I have not been able to track his family back further than John Sr.  On his death certificate, shown below, his parents were unknown.

Cynthia GATLIFF/GATLEFF was also born in Kentucky in approximately 1824.  Her mother Rose GATLIFF/GATLEFF was held as a slave and had to sue for her freedom in the courts of Kentucky.  It took her nearly 20 years but she was eventually set free.  As a free woman, she was enumerate on the 1850 census in Rockcastle County, Kentucky with some of her children and grandchildren.  Rose was born in Virginia in approximately 1772 and was the daughter of a “mullatto” allegedly of mixed European and Native ancestry.  She was described as having blond hair and blue eyes.  Her case was based upon her stating that her mother was a native American and therefore she could not be held as a slave.  In the late 18th century, indigenous people were no longer considered slaves and if she had been born to a Native mother, she would automatically be free.  According the book “Rose, a Woman of Color:  A Slave’s Struggle for Freedom in the Courts of Kentucky,” by Arnold Taylor, Rose, through her attorneys claimed that she was made a slave through illegal maneuvering.  Jenny, Rose’s mother thought that she was putting Rose into an indentured servitude period, it was Rose and her attorney’s position that instead, Rose was instead enslaved.  Documents were drawn up labeling her as a slave.  The prosecutors alleged that due to the records of Virginia, as they discovered paperwork that supported that Rose was sold as a slave as a girl, that she was indeed a slave.  They also alleged that her mother Jenny was not a Native American and instead a mullato with some negro ancestry.  Many witnesses were brought forth for both Rose’s and the state’s case.  Her attorney’s position was, that of course the persons who profited off of Rose would take advantage of her position as a mullatto child of Indian and white ancestry and make her a slave for their benefit, so the jury should not accept that the documents of Rose’s alleged status as a slave should be believed.

The book above was very interesting and gave a good genealogical account of Rose’s family, including her mother Jenny and her suspected father who was a white man that Jenny worked for. It also discussed that one of Rose’s daughters – Nancy GATLIFF/GATLEFF had been freed due to winning a case in Indiana, whereas her owner had taken her to that “free” state for more than 6 months and left her there.  Nancy also won her case.  One of the arguments against Rose, ironically was that since Nancy was freed due to Indiana’s laws regarding slaves, that Rose herself, must legally be a slave and not eligible to be freed based on her mother’s ancestry.  Rose GATLIFF/GATLEFF died died a free woman around 1870 and at that time most of her children moved to Ross County, Chillicothe, Ohio including Cynthia and John Sr.

Due to John Jr. and Amanda being listed on the 1880 Census in Ross County, City of Chillicothe and because both Jessie L, born in 1882 and Everett, born in 1885 had birth records on file in Ross County, it can be determined that John Jr. did not move away from Ross county until after 1885.

John Jr. was one of 10 known children of John Sr. and Cynthia GATLIFF/GATLEFF.  Two of his brothers – James and Frank GATLIFF showed up in the Toledo City Directory in 1892 and 1895.  By 1900, John Jr. and his sons Clark and Everett GATLIFF/GATLEFF were living  in Toledo.  Clark GATLIFF was also listed in the city directory in 1899 so we can conclude that members of the GATLIFF family moved to Toledo between 1890 and 1900.

Per the census document below, John Jr., Clark and Everett were living in a boarding house in 1900 located at 132 N. Erie Street.  That address is now a parking lot located near the corner of Erie and Jefferson Ave in downtown Toledo.  In 1900 John Jr. was working as a laborer.  His oldest son Clark was a Porter in a barber shop  while younger brother Everett, who was only 14, had “At School” listed as his occupation. By 1910, Jessie was also living in Toledo and was married to William JONES.


There was never a record of Amanda GOENS/GOINS GATLIFF in Toledo and I have yet to find a death certificate for her.  John Jr. re-married in 1914 to a woman named Martha YOUNG.  He is last found in genealogical records on the 1920 census where he lived with his second wife Martha.  John Jr. died in Toledo in 1921.   His last known residence was 580 Norwood Ave, which was listed as his residence on both the 1920 census and his death record in 1921.  That address currently is just an empty lot very close to interstate 75 in Toledo and the home probably was demolished to make way for the freeway.

John Jr.’s daughter Jessie GATLIFF married one of my 4th great uncles – William Allen JONES on April 27, 1907.  Together they had nine children, eight lived to adulthood.  Both Jessie and William were active members of Toledo’s black community from the early 1900s until their deaths in the 1950s.  Jessie’s obituary labeled her as a “Church and Organizational Leader” and listed the many organizations that she worked and lead during her lifetime.  Her obituary is listed below.  She died on April 18, 1959:

As stated earlier, Jessie was the mother of William (Bill) McNeill JONES one of the first black basketball players who integrated professional basketball.  Her youngest child – Elizabeth JONES WILSON died in Toledo in October of 2014.

Additional information regarding the brothers of Jessie GATLIFF JONES was also discovered, including an obituary of Everett James GATLIFF whose daughter Dorothy GATLIFF BROWN was hired as one of Toledo’s first black female police officers in 1946.


Below is a lint to a short family tree of the GATLIFFs.  Please note that these particular descendants of Rose GATLIFF/GATLEFF are the Toledo branch.  If there is any inquiries about this family please email me for a complete tree at

GATLIFF family link


1850 US Census, via; accessed on 3/3/2017 (Household of Maragret GATLIFF)

1860 US Census, via; accessed on 2/26/2017 (Household of Cynthia GATLIFF)

1870 US Census, via; accessed on 2/26/2017 (Household of John GATLIFF)

1880 US Census, via; accessed on 2/26/2017  (Household of John GATLIFF)

1900 US Census, via; accessed on 2/26/2017 (Household of John GATLIFF)

1900 US Census, via; accessed on 3/31/2017 (Household of Albert SPEAD – boarding house)

1910 US Census, via; accessed on 2/26/2017 (Household of Cynthia GATLIFF)

Ohio Deaths  1908-1953, via; accessed 2/26/2017 – death record of Cynthia GATLIFF

Ohio Deaths 1908-1953, via; accessed 2/26/2017  – death record of John GATLIFF Sr.

1910 US Census, via; accessed on 11/15/2016 (Household of William JONES)

1920 US Census, via familysearch.og; accessed on 3/31/2017 (Household of John GATLIFF Jr.)

1920 US Census, via; accessed on 11/15/2016 (Household of William JONES)

Ohio Deaths 1908-1953, via; accessed 2/26/2017 – death record of John H. GATLIFF Jr.

Michigan Marriages 1868-1925, via; accessed 2/26/2017 – marriage record of John H. GATLIFF Jr and Martha A YOUNG.

Ohio County Marriages 1789-2013, via; accessed 11/15/2016 – marriage record of William A. JONES and Jessie L. GATLIFF

1930 US Census, via; accessed 11/15/2016 (Household of William JONES)

1940 US Census, via; accessed 11/15/2016 (Household of William JONES)

Toledo Blade Obituary Index, via Toledo Lucas County Public Library 2/28/2017; Jessie L JONES published April 20, 1959

Toledo Blade Obituary Index, via Toledo Lucas County Public Library 2/28/2107; Everett James JONES published January 20, 1953

Toledo Blade; “Blazing a Trail” published 2/26/2003

The ENOS Family and Hinson Village, PA

The ENOS family (variant spellings include ENAS/ENUS/ENNIS/ENUS/ENIS/EINES/ENS, etc. many others!) is one of my maternal grandfather’s line of ancestors that I discovered this past summer when researching the SNIVELY family who will be the subject of another post primarily about military research.

In the fall of 2016, I went to Harrisburg, PA in order to visit the Pennsylvania Archives since I have discovered that many of my maternal ancestors who came to Toledo have ancestry from that state.

For instance, both the ROBINSON and JONES families in the previously posted entry regarding the JONES/ROBINSON family have their roots in Pennsylvania. James Edward ROBINSON, whose obituary is listed in this blog was originally from Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. His wife Nancy JONES ROBINSON was born in Ohio but her mother was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania as were her older brother and sister.

The SNIVELY family mentioned above, one of whom married an ENOS female ancestor, I have traced them to Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and believe they may have originally lived in Franklin County, PA which was where a large amount of white SNIVELY’s lived.

The female ancestor who married into the SNIVELY family was named Mary Ellen ENOS. Her surname was spelled in so many different variations over the years that it was ridiculous how much time I spent trying to find out what the heck her name really was!

I first started tracing her after finding the death certificate of her son Grandville SNIVELY Sr.  His death certificate shown below stated that his mother’s maiden name was EINSES.  This was one of the weirdest names I had ever come across.  I thought maybe it was some sort of strange French name due to the reference regarding Montreal, which is in Quebec, the French speaking province of Canada.  However,  I could not find anyone who married Grandville’s father Jeremiah SNIVELY whose last name was EINSES.  The second time I found reference to Mary was in Grandville SNIVELY’s marriage records.  He was married twice, the first time to a woman named Mary CHANDLER.  The marriage record from Michigan also stated that his mother’s maiden name was EINES, which was similar to EINSES but I could not find anything about Mary other than these two entries for her son Grandville SNIVELY who is my 2nd great grandfather.

This past year, I have started a trend of not only performing searches on direct ancestors – like grandparents and great grandparents, but also on their brothers, sisters, cousins, etc.  I knew that Grandville SNIVELY’s father was named Jeremiah SNIVELY, also known as Jerry SNIVELY.  The SNIVELY’s originally were from Pennsylvania, as stated above.  They moved to the Chatham-Kent area of SE Ontario, Canada in the 1850s.

I searched for Canadian births of SNIVELY surnames and saw Grandville along with a younger brother named Nathan SNIVELY.  Both were born in Ontario.  I did some digging into Nathan to see if I could find his marriage and death records, among other sources and found his marriage record to wife Mary TRUSBLOOM.  In that record, it stated that his mother’s maiden name was Mary ENOS.

I did another search for Mary with the surname of ENOS and discovered her listed with her parents – Nathan Bailey ENOS and mother Julia Ann ALLISON ENOS in Chester County, Pennsylvania on the 1850 Census of the US.  She was listed also on the Canadian Census of Ontario in 1861 with her parents in the same area where the SNIVELY family had also moved to in Canada.

I had to do a manual search through the Ontario, Canada marriage records due to them not being able to be queried at the time on the Family Search website.  Knowing that Grandville was the oldest child based on Census records and him being born in 1868 due to a birth record I found, I browsed through each year of marriage records from 1863 through 1870 until I found an entry showing that Jeremiah SNIVELY married Mary ENESS on November 30, 1867.  Her parents were listed as Juliana and Baly ENESS and she was born in approximately 1844 in the United States.

Since finding a connection to the ENOS family via Mary, I have been doing a lot of research into this line on my family tree.  Recently I discovered that the father of Nathan Bailey ENOS was Ceasar ENOS via the Chester County, PA “Poor School Children” records.  Chester County, PA is now one of my favorite places in my genealogical research since they have a wealth of information on their own site, for free that you can peruse and obtain reference material on one’s family.

I have discovered through the Chester County records along with Census records that Ceasar ENOS was a free black person who was originally from the state of Delaware.  He was born in approximately 1780 and lived in Sussex County, DE before moving to Chester County, PA.  Both of these areas are very close to each other geographically.

I also discovered due to that trip to Harrisburg, that Nathan Bailey ENOS lived in a community called Hinson Village or Hinsonville, Pennsylvania, which was a community of free black people where Lincoln University (PA) is currently located.  Lincoln University was this country’s first established Historically Black College/University (HBCU) and was founded in 1854.

Nathan Bailey ENOS was enumerated in this community with his wife Julia and six of his children in 1850.  A review of deeds at the Pennsylvania Archives showed that Nathan Bailey ENOS (called Bailey ENOS/ENICE) purchased land from a man named Jesse HINSON in Chester County, PA in 1843 for $200.  He sold the land in 1847 for $400 to a John BURNS.  I believe that Bailey ENOS and his family moved to the Chatham-Kent area – the Buxton Settlement in Canada around 1851-1854.  Bailey was enumerate on census records and land records in Canada from the 1860s-1870s.  He then came back to the United States in around 1879-1880.  He was enumerated in Monroe, Michigan with his wife and some of his children on the 1880 US Census.  Unfortunately, I have yet to find his death certificate, but I am pretty certain that he died in Michigan.  Most of his children moved to the Ypsilanti area first, then to other parts of Michigan.  Mary ENOS SNIVELY died in Ypsilanti, per the previous post regarding obituaries and death records, in 1880 of tuberculosis.  Her son Grandville SNIVELY later moved to Flint, Michigan where he divorced his first wife Mary CHANDLER.  There he met Reva MORRISON who is my 2nd great grandmother  and his 2nd wife.  They later moved to Toledo in the early 1900s.

In researching the ENOS family, I have been fascinated with Hinson Village/Hinsonville and its history.  Bailey ENOS initially bought his land in Hinsonville from Jesse HINSON whose  father – Emory HINSON Sr., founded Hinson Village in the 1820s when he became the first black owner of land in that part of Pennsylvania.  I have been trying to figure out how these families were connected or if they were related over the course of my research.

Currently I am at a mysterious sort of roadblock that I am slowly climbing up and around in regards to the connection between the HINSON and ENOS families.  I checked out a book from the University of Toledo Carlson Library called “Hinsonville, A Community at the Crossroads – The Story of a 19th Century African American Village.”  In this book there is not much mentioned about the ENOS family except deed information showing where Bailey’s land was and a mentioning of the fact that he bought the land he owned from Jesse HINSON.

The author, on page 20 describes that not much is known about the HINSON family.  Many African Americans believe that this HINSON family is also related to the HENSON family of Maryland, of which the famous explorer – Matthew HENSON who was the first black man to go to the North Pole descended from.   Emory HINSON Sr. of Hinsonville was also from Maryland but not much is known about his life.  However, in connection with my ENOS family I think that the book provided some insight into who the mother of Bailey ENOS could be.  Page 20 says as follows:

Ironically, although the hamlet bears Emory Hinson’s name, his small family did not remain long in the area.  By 1841, Hinson’s wife had died.  In keeping with what appears to have been a pattern among widows and widowers in that rural community, Emory Hinson remarried within three years, taking a woman named Keziah as his second wife in February 1844.  Keziah ad been born in Delaware in 1795, but the county and local records reveal little more about her except that she did not bear any children to Emory, or at least none was ever listed in their household.  To be sure she was already forty-nine years old when they married.  Then after her husband’s death in 1852, she left Hinsonville.

Bailey ENOS purchased his land in Hinsonville and moved to that area around the time that Keziah married Emory HINSON Sr.  I am thinking that Keziah may have been Bailey ENOS’ mother.  On page 21 of this book, it was stated that one of the early presidents of Lincoln University – Horace Mann, wrote that Emory HINSON Sr. sold his lands in order to move to Upper Canada in 1851.  Bailey ENOS and his family also moved to “Upper Canada” which is what SE Ontario was referred to at the time, in the early 1850s.

Bailey ENOS also had a daughter named Keziah, which I thought was a pretty unique name.  So even though there is only my coincidental hunch, I am leading to the conclusion that Keziah married Emory HINSON Sr. after both of them became widowed.  After 1830 there are no records mentioning Ceasar ENOS that I can find so I assumed he may have died between 1840 and 1850 similar to the death of Emory HINSON’s wife and that they married each other and one of Emory’s sons – Jesse HINSON sold land to Bailey due to him being a step-brother.

More digging is needed on this but I am excited to look more into the mystery.

The site I mentioned in another post – also has an entry about a free ENNIS/ANNIS family of Delaware and Maryland and I believe that Bailey and Ceasar ENOS are connected to the family detailed on that website.  I am hoping that eventually I can find out more information linking the ENOS family and the HINSON families and other free families that lived in Chester County, PA and the Buxton Settlement in Canada.

Death Records for Genealogy Research – What you might not be looking at! (Part 2)

As stated, I felt that Obituaries should have a separate entry being that they can provide additional information and details that can easily lead to more research opportunities.
In the Toledo area we are very fortunate that our Local History Department at the Main Branch of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library will provide electronic copies of Obituaries published in the Toledo Blade for free. The Toledo Blade Obituary Index is provided via the Ancestry.Com site along with but you can also just go to their site directly, which I personally prefer and look up the person you are searching for. I prefer to go to the site because there is an option once you get a “hit” to request that they email you a copy of the obituary within two weeks. The library asks that you only make 3 requests per week. I make sure to follow those guidelines as I feel it is such a great service that they provide to us for no cost. Many other libraries around the country charge a minimum of $5-$25 for them to do this sort of research for you. So I am very appreciative of that.

This past year, I have probably put in a request for over 50 obituaries! The obits published in the Blade vary from just the list of deaths that are still published in the paper for public notices, to short write-ups to very extensive, in-depth obituaries. Some examples of obits are below:

Here is the obituary of Robert TRAYNUM Sr. He was the first of my TRAYNUM line to come to Toledo via the Great Migration from South Carolina. He died in 1933 and his address and cause of death was contained in his death notice. I found via using Google Maps that he lived a block from where I grew up in South Toledo! I also discovered that other TRAYNUM relatives actually lived across the street from where I grew up 70 years before and I never knew! His house is now a parking lot that I used to ride my bike in as a girl.

The earliest full Obituary that I’ve been sent is of James Edward ROBINSON, published in the blade in December of 1910 who I discovered had the nickname of “Bones.” The obit stated that Bones was one of the “one of the most well known negros” in the City due to his affiliation with an organization called the Toledo Cadets for about 40 years. Using information from his obituary caused me to look up the Toledo Cadets to learn about them. I found a book and purchased it about the history of the organization and was shocked that it included a copy of his picture! It is 120 years old and was published in 1896 and I feel very lucky to have found such a distant image of my 3rd great grandfather!

Interestingly the book also had a picture of William A Jones, the father of basketball legend William McNeill JONES written about in a previous post (Bill Jones – Basketball Pioneer). William JONES’ nickname was “Inky” and he also had an impressive obituary written up, which is below.

One of my favorite obituaries is of a 4th great uncle names Francis/Frank BURTON. Frank was born in Charlevoix County, Michigan, which is north of Saginaw and near the Petoskey area. Due to his obit mentioning that he worked for the WPA project on the Toledo Zoo Aquarium and Ampitheater, I think of him when I take the kids to the zoo. I loved that it spoke of what a hard working man he was and was surprised that it said he was a Potawatomi Indian. I have yet to see any other documentation of any native ancestry, but the area they lived in was a place where this tribe lived/resided at the time of Frank’s birth.


Other obituaries outside of Toledo I’ve found were primarily in the Ypsilanti, Michigan area whereas there is another blog similar to this one on the black history of Ypsilanti called South Adams Street 1900.  Mary ENOS SNIVELY only had a death notice shown below. Her husband Jeremiah SNIVELY was a veteran of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) and fought in the Civil War. He and three of his brothers, who were all living in Canada at the time, came back to the United States in order to serve to help free the slaves in America. Jeremiah died on the same day as another “colored veteran” also named Jeremiah as noted in his obituary. Since Jeremiah SNIVELY was stated to have been a GAR member I am hoping to do some digging into Michigan GAR records to see if a picture can be found for him. Jeremiah SNIVELY’s obit also says he was a Mason, as did William A JONES’ above. I’m unsure if the Mason’s keep records but I plan on finding out from my relatives who are still members of the organization here in Toledo to see if I can learn more information about those ancestors who were involved in that group.


So make sure to thoroughly review obituaries, even death records.  I personally like looking up the homes where my ancestors lived via Google Maps.  Many of them are still standing and in the case of my TRAYNUM ancestor it was interesting to know I played where his home once stood.  The organizations that your ancestors were involved in, many of them kept historical records on members or they issued “Resolutions” that were read at the funeral and placed into safekeeping by that organization and many times you can request a copy.  You may be fortunate enough like I was to find a 120 year old picture of a relative as well.

It is also important to take note that all the information contained in obituaries may not be true so to not rely 100% on that information.  The reference to being a Native American in Frank Burton’s obituary, though interesting, I never believe these references to be true unless I find evidence to substantiate that claim.  Many people white and black claim to be “Indian” when they really don’t have any Native American ancestry and it is just a family myth.


Death Records for Genealogy Research – What you might not be looking at! (Part 1)

Over the course of 2016 I’ve gained a lot of distant family members to my family tree. Some I have been blessed to have reached out to me via various social media sites, others have sent me emails and I’ve even called some distant relatives who I never knew I had until really expanding my family tree.

Many of these individuals and various unnamed connections were made via the use of death records which can include death registers, death certificates (there is a difference!), obituaries, and funeral home records.

A very important tip in regards to perusing death records, especially registers and death certificates is to always look at the original document. We are very fortunate to be genealogical researchers in the digital age whereas we can type in a query into a search engine and our ancestors information pops up, but only looking at the transcribed information shown to you at or or any other genealogical website you may use, means you are overlooking important clues that can add additional value and branches to your family tree.

Death registers – basically a list of everyone who died, their age, cause of death and sometimes their address and where they were buried, were kept by the City of Toledo and Lucas County starting in the 1840s. There are few records between 1840 and 1860 but from the 1860s forward there are quite a lot of entries. I am currently working on transcribing the death records of all black/colored individuals who died in the City of Toledo from 1860 through 1880 and I may go a bit further if time warrants. Below is a sample of one of my ancestors whose information I discovered via the Death Register of the City of Toledo. It is the death record of Elias Whitfield, one of my first documented early Toledo ancestors. Elias died in 1897 at the age of 35 and was the husband of Martha/Mattie JONES and the father of Harold Elias WHITFIELD. If I had only looked at the transcribed version of the death register record, only the following information shows up:

Name                                           Elias Whitford
Event Type                                Death
Event Date                                 25 Nov 1897
Event Place                               Toledo, Lucas, Ohio, United States
Gender                                         Male
Age                                                 35
Marital Status                           Married
Race                                             C
Race (Original)                         C
Occupation                               Drayman
Birth Year (Estimated)          1862
Birthplace                                  U.S.
Cemetery                                   Forest
Father’s Birthplace                 US
Mother’s Birthplace               US

Please the first line of the attached picture below and note that WHITFORD is a variant spelling of WHITFIELD. Many times surnames and even given names were mis-spelled or incorrectly written by record keepers. Everything else I knew about Elias WHITFIELD matches with this death certificate since I had other sources about his life. He was born approximately 1862-1863. He was black/”colored” as mentioned in the record. He was married and he died in Toledo in the 1890s. This transcription provides a lot of information that is useful for a family tree.
Here is the original version of the death record:

As you can see, the original version gives a bit more information. It also states that he was 35 when he died. It shows the address where he died, which was 1611 Canton Avenue in Toledo. I could assume this was his home address. The Canton Avenue district in Toledo near Cherry Street and Bancroft was the location of the largest percentage of the black population in the city at the time. Elias’ cause of death was Phthisis Pulmonalis Congestion of the Lungs, basically Tuberculosis, something that was a huge public heath epidemic from the late 1800s through the 1950s with the invention of antibiotics to combat this illness. He had been sick for 18 months before his death. He had lived in the city for 20 years, so had moved to Toledo in the 1870s. The physician who attended him was named J.A. Wright .

Starting in the 1900s the federal government required all states to issue Certificates of Death for everyone who died in the country. Many states didn’t begin to implement this directive until they were required to do so around 1915. This is the case especially for many southern states who unfortunately didn’t routinely record the deaths of black people. Their lack of doing so can be a road block in black genealogy. In Ohio and Toledo specifically, we are lucky that Toledo kept death records on all citizens who gave a record of death. My earliest ancestor who had an official Death Certificate was Amy BLICK/BLECK JONES the mother-in-law of Elias WHITFIELD. Amy BLICK/BLECK JONES died in 1903. Below is the transcription of her Death Certificate:

Amy Jones
Ohio, County Death Records
Name                                        Amy Jones
Event Type                             Death
Event Date                             01 Sep 1903
Event Place                           Toledo, Lucas, Ohio, United States
Residence Place                 Toledo, Lucas, Ohio
Gender                                   Female
Age                                          abt 60y
Marital Status                    Married
Race                                      black
Race (Original)                 black
Occupation                       house work
Birth Date                                1843
Birthplace                                U. S.
Burial Place                           Toledo, Lucas, Ohio
Cemetery                               Forest
Father’s Birthplace           U.S.
Mother’s Birthplace          U.S.

On the original document below Amy’s cause of death was listed as “endocartitis” and “rheumatism.” It shows her approximate year of birth. Since I am fairly confident that Amy BLICK/BLECK JONES was a slave, it can be assumed that her exact birthdate was unknown, which is why “about 1843” was written on the certificate for her birthday and “about 60” was written as her age. It lists the funeral home that took care of her burial “Wilson and Feese.” The certificate also shows her address of 218 Avondale Avenue, which corresponds to the accumulation of the black population, starting in the late 1800s to about 1930 being centered in what is known as the “Port Lawrence” district of the city near St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and where the current Port Lawrence housing community is situated. Amy also was stated to have lived in the city “about 20 years.” A perusal of City Directories shows her husband and herself as residents of Toledo in in the 1880s.
This early death certificate differs in look from the ones used starting in the 1910s. They are pretty similar from all across the country in regards to the ones I have reviewed from 1915 forward. Below is the Death Certificate of Edna ROBINSON PARROTT. She was a 4th great aunt of mine. Information found within this Death Certificate pointed me toward the genealogy of her mother Nancy JONES. As stated earlier in the JONES/ROBINSON post, I was unaware of Nancy’s maiden name for a number of years due to believing it was BAKER. Details in the original image of the death record allowed me to put some pieces of the JONES/ROBINSON puzzle together.

Name                                             Edna Parrott
Event Type                                  Death
Event Date                                  19 May 1929
Event Place                                Toledo, Lucas, Ohio, United States
Address                                        138 Hamilton St.
Residence Place                      Toledo, Lucas, Ohio
Gender                                         Female
Age                                                48y 6m 14d
Marital Status                          Married
Race                                             Colored
Race (Original)                         Colored
Occupation                               housewife
Birth Date                                  05 Nov 1880
Birthplace                                Toledo, Ohio
Burial Date                              22 May 1929
Cemetery                                Forest
Father’s Name                      Ed. Robinson

Father’s Birthplace             Harrisburg, Pa.
Mother’s Name                    Nancie Jones

Mother’s Birthplace           Greenfield, Ohio
Spouse’s Name                    Bert Parrott

As shown above, this death record provides some great information in the transcribed form. It does show birth her parents, even her mother’s maiden name and the places of birth for both. However a review of the original certificate showed that the “Informant” for the Death Certificate was “Nancy BAKER” meaning Edna’s own mother provided the information so it can be seen as much more factual than other certificates, like Amy BLICK/BLECK JONES’ above, which have a physician or hospital worker as the informant for the data within the document. The document also says that Edna was buried by the WANZO Funeral Home, a black owned funeral home that was later sold and is still in existence today as the Dale-Riggs Funeral Home on Nebraska Ave.

Earlier this year I read a 2011 thesis paper/book written by a PhD student from Bowling Green State University. The research paper was titled “Revelations fron the Dead: Using Funeral Home Records to Help Reconstruct the History of Black Toledo” by Camillia Z. Rodgers. Prior to reading this thesis, I had never considered using funeral home records before for genealogical research and especially never knew that I would be able to get access to long ago funeral home records. In the paper, Dr. Rodgers wrote about the Wanzo Funeral Home. Elvin B. WANZO was a prominent black citizen in Toledo and moved to the area in the early 1900s. A review of my relatives’ death certificates from the early 1900s when Wanzo opened his funeral home through the 1950s when he sold the business showed that Mr. Wanzo buried 3-4 generations of my direct ancestors and distant family members during the time his business was in operation, including Edna ROBINSON PARROTT above.

The records and registers that Mr. Wanzo kept regarding his services, primarily for the African American community in Toledo are currently housed in at BGSU’s library in its special collections department. I have yet to make a visit to BG to view the records but wanted to let readers know that these records may provide additional information on your ancestors and it may be worth a drive to BG if you are in the Toledo area.

The next post on this subject will be about Obituaries, which I feel warrant a separate entry.


Ohio County Death Records 1840-2001 via

Ohio Deaths 1908-1953 via

OhioLINK ETD (see link above for thesis)