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African American Lives 2 -- Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
In Search of Our Roots -- Buy the companion book now from ShopPBS
Sharing Stories: One Family's Story
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grandmother Lincoln County Missouri 1855 Missouri and Kentucky oral history interview with my grandmother

My great-great grandfather Jasper Wommack was born a slave in 1839. He left behind his story before passing away in 1916 stating that his last name was taken from him during slavery. In 1997, my grandmother asked me to find her grandfather's last name which was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I didn't have any luck and my grandma passed away in 1998. It wasn't until 2005 when I was at the Missouri State Archives looking through the death index records for the other side of my family that I ran across the name Jasper Wommack. The death certificate stated that his parents had a different last name (McMahill). This information led me to the will and probate records of Robert McMahill where Jasper's name is mentioned in the will. Now I know that Jasper's parents were Harry and Malinda McMahill of Kentucky. Jasper was born in Lincoln County Missouri in 1839. When the slaveowner, Robert McMahill, died in 1855, he willed Jasper and family to his children. Richard Wommack, another slaveowner in the Lincoln County community acquired my grandfather forcing him to give up his last name (his identity with his biological family). Jasper served in the US colored troops in 1863 but couldn't stay due to a handicap (coxalgia--one leg shorter than the other) which has been passed down genetically through the generations. In 2005, I reached out to the descendents of Richard Wommack who claimed their granddaddy didn't own any slaves but the 1860 slave schedule speaks otherwise. I'm having a hard time finding out how Robert McMahill acquired my g-g-g-grandparents, Harry and Malinda McMahill in Kentucky. Also, Jasper's name doesn't appear on the 1870 census in Lincoln County Missouri (only on the 1910 census record) where he's working in the home of Richard Wommack's son (Brice) so he didn't get very far after the war. If anyone can help me trace my roots back further, I'd be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

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