My Search For Ancestors
My Search For Ancestors
A number of years ago, I began a journey to discover my parents’ families. This discussion is about my mother’s paternal family. I started with several surnames, spoken to me by my mother’s sister. They were Bedenbaugh, Shumpert, Peister and Peckenpaugh. Next, I located a funeral program, for one of my grandfather’s older brothers. He was born in Newberry, S.C. The family migrated from there, during the 1880’s. My grandfather and other siblings were born in Hearne, Texas. Unfortunately, all of my grandparents were deceased, by the time I developed my interest in research.
At the time, I was living in Washington, D.C. I started with a visit to the National Archives. I asked the librarian if she had any idea of how to spell Bedenbaugh. She did not. I started with Slave Schedules for Newberry, S.C. There I found the spelling for Bedenbaugh. I looked at the slave holdings of various Bedenbaugh families, and wondered which plantation my family lived on. I found an African American Bedenbaugh family, in the 1870 and 1880 census. I recognized the name of my grandfather’s mother. I had seen the name Dorcas, in copies from the family bible. In earlier census, the name was Darcissa. My aunt also shared a photo of my great grandparents, Darcissa Bedenbaugh and Mark Williams.
When I returned to Texas, I started research at the local National Archives. One day I decided to look at the 1860 census for Newberry, S.C. I was shocked to find my great great grandparents’ family. They were a free family. The thought that they might have been free never crossed my mind.
For several years, I worked part-time with a subsidiary of American Airlines. This allowed me to visit more courthouses, libraries and Archives. I searched microfilm, city directories, tax rolls, marriage, death and any other records I could locate. As I learned more, I was able to travel and meet relatives. I made a vast number of telephone calls over the years. Several times, when my search led to a deceased family member, I actually found people who had known my extended family members. These old friends were nice enough to send a photo, funeral program and even a dress, of a family member.
On several occasions, it was necessary for me to hire a researcher. I wanted a copy of my great great grandfather’s estate papers. I called the Newberry courthouse and asked if they could make a copy. The person I spoke with ask me to hold. The person who took the call introduced himself as Boyd Bedenbaugh. I was taken aback. I told him what I wanted and he asked for the person’s name. When I told him Joseph Bedenbaugh, he responded with a fascinating familiarity, with my great great grandfather. This was a real turning point in my research.
Boyd Bedenbaugh told me about Margaret Cooper. She had also been referred to him, and requested the same document. He told me that Margaret had photos of my great great grandparents and their children. It seemed like months, before Boyd finally sent her contact information. When I called and it was “not a working number,” I was beside myself. I reserved a car and caught a flight to Tampa, FL. With assistance from AAA, I located her address. There was no answer, so I located the condominium office. I was informed that my cousin and husband only lived there part of the year. The manager agreed to mail a note to her, from me. While I was back in Columbia, S.C. at the Archives, Margaret caught up with me by telephone.
I made arrangements to meet with her in Dayton, O.H. After seeing photos of my great great grandparents, I called around and located a photo store,willing to make negatives of these photographs, while you wait. There were also photos of most of their children. There was one of my great grandmother, Darcissa, as a youth.
The Irene and Joseph Bedenbaugh family appear in every U.S. census taken in Newberry, S.C., from 1840 to 1870. However, Mrs. Cooper informed me that the family left Newberry, during the Civil War. They relocated to Oxford, O.H. Their last two children were born there. They were back in Newberry, for the 1870 census. Their older children had started families and remained in Ohio. By the 1880 census, my great great grandmother was deceased, and my great great grandfather was remarried. The youngest child was a 17 year old farm laborer, living with another family.
Joseph Bedenbaugh’s estate papers allowed me to identify the married names of their daughters. Several children passed, before the estate was settled, and their children were listed. Some of the females were listed with their husband’s names and addresses. My goal now was to locate living members, from each of the Bedenbaugh children.
I had met Margaret, her nieces and nephews. They are members of Civil War veteran, Joel Bedenbaugh. By this time, I had gathered names, addresses and telephone numbers, for a number of descendants of the Bedenbaugh children. It is a family tree type directory. I organized a family gathering in Oxford, O.H., with the assistance of another Joel Bedenbaugh cousin. We both happen to be named Audrey!
At the Oxford gathering, I met Audrey and more Joel Bedenbaugh family members. I also met members from Mary Jane Bedenbaugh-East, Andrew Bedenbaugh, and Amanda Bedenbaugh-Cave. In Detroit, I met members of the William Bedenbaugh family, another Joel Bedenbaugh member and a Greer cousin. I will return to the subject of the Greer family line.
For a number of years, I talked with a grand daughter of Andrew Bedenbaugh. I traveled to Newark, N.J. to finally meet her. Unfortunately, by the time I was able to meet her, Alzheimer’s had taken a toll on her. I also met several of her adult children. Separately, I met a great grand daughter of Mary Jane Bedenbaugh-East.
On a return trip to Washington, D.C., I met three descendants of Polly/Mary Bedenbaugh-Bates. I had been communicating with the husband of a late cousin, of the Andrew Bedenbaugh line. They decided to have a gathering that same week, so I headed to Philadelphia, P.A. I met about twenty cousins. I met one of them before, on a trip to Newberry. We searched the old Hannah AME Church cemetery. The only two surviving Bedenbaugh headstones are those of Andrew and Lucinda Bedenbaugh. Thomas Bedenbaugh’s headstone was there, when Boyd Bedenbaugh and I first went there. We did not find a headstone for Hannah Greer. It is said that Hannah A.M.E Church was named for her, as a tribute to her grandson, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner.
My last two trips were to Oklahoma City, Wichita, K.S. and Los Angeles, C.A. In the first two, I met members of the Texanna Bedenbaugh-Singleton family. In L.A., I met members of the Ella/Barbary Bedenbaugh-Bauknight family. I had such a hard time finding living members, that one of them actually found me! She had seen one of my posts on Ancestry.com. We share the same birth month and day. Before this, I referred to them as “The Lost Bauknights of Waco.” I also met members from the Mary Jane Bedenbaugh-East, Joel Bedenbaugh and a member of my own Darcissa Bedebaugh-Williams line.
So I did accomplish my goal, with the exception of one of Irene Greer and Joseph Bedenbaugh’s thirteen children. Their youngest son Oscar is still lost. As I previously stated, he was 17 years old in the 1880 census. I searched and searched, but could not locate any records after that. I had almost decided that he must have died young. Then, several years ago, a lady from California contacted me. She also had seen one of my post on Ancestry.com She had located records on Ancestry for Oscar Bedenbaugh. I had not done must research over the past few years, so I had not gone to the library and looked on Ancestry. They must have added more information, since I did any research.
In the1900 census, Oscar Bedenbaugh lived in Varner, V.A. He had a wife of one year and her brother Then the brother-in-law appears in the 1920 census, with a wife and a 15 year old boy named Clarence Bedenbow/Bedenbaugh. Then they are gone again. So I do not know if he died young, or had a family for me to find.
Neither Margaret Cooper or myself has been able to determine who Joseph Bedenbaugh’s parents were. When his free family appears in the 1840 census, his neighbors are several Germany-American Bedenbaugh families. In the 1830 census, one of them had a free male of color listed in his household. I believe that youth was Joseph Bedenbaugh. We believe he was biracial, but his parents are very much unknown. We also do not know about the parents of Hannah Greer, and how her family came to be free.
Now, a return to the Greers. In the 1850 and 1860 census, Hannah Greer lived with my great great grandparents, in Newberry, S.C. It wasn’t until I met cousin Margaret Cooper, that I learned that she was Irene Bedenbaugh’s mother. I also learned that Hannah was the grandmother, of the Bishop Henry McNeal Turner. His mother was Hannah’s daughter Sara Greer-Turner. Margaret told me about the Turner collection, at Howard University. So, I arranged a trip to Washington, D.C.
Turner was a force in our history and a number of books have been written about him. President Lincoln appointed him as the first Black chaplain, to the Union Army, during the Civil War. He was a Georgia State Legislator. He traveled to Africa a number of times and established African Methodist (AME) churches. He felt that Blacks had been betrayed by Reconstruction, and the 1883 decision. That decision declared the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional. In 1876, Turner was elected Vice President of the American Colonization Society. He supported the position that African-Americans should move back to Africa.
I learned that Hannah was married to David Greer. It is said that David was an African Prince, who was freed in Colonial Charleston S. C. A Quaker family from Abbeville, S. C, adopted him. He was probably from the Mandingo tribe. A purchase is made from the estate of David Greer by another David Greer. I believe he may be Hannah and David’s son.
Unfortunately, I do not have a lead on any of his family. In the 1830 census, David (the son) had a family of six. Their daughter Hannah Greer, apparently moved to Africa, and is buried there. It appears that she did not have a family. I am from the Irene Greer-Bedenbaugh line, and I have met additional members of my line as well.
When I was at Howard University’s Spingarn Research Center, I requested copies of documents, as well as photographs of Sara Greer-Turner-Story and Henry. Shortly after that, I was contacted by Paul Sluby, of Washington D.C. He had also ordered Sara Greer’s photo, for a client. When I lived in D.C., I did some research with him. His client was Sara Bumbary. Sara was from the Sara Greer-Turner-Story family and the mother of the Bishop Henry McNeal Turner. I contacted her and on several trips back to D.C., we visited with each other.
Mrs.Bumbray told me about Greer family in Montgomery, A.L. and Detroit. I talked with Mrs. Nichols for a number of years, but was never fortunate enough to meet her. We exchanged information, and she also told me about additional Mary Greer-Wilson family in Detroit. They included the Thomas doctors, who established the first Black hospitals in Detroit. This year I reconnected with Mrs. Nichols’ son. He posted the following:
“… to go back to the beginning, it has always been my understanding that the 12 year-old boy from French-controlled “Senegambia” in 1789 was named Menelik and was a prince of the Mandinka (what people commonly refer to as the Mandingo) nation. Upon arrival in Charleston, SC he was dismissed from the auction block because of the brand he wore on his chest. He was then adopted by the Greer family of Quakers who were widely known to be against slavery. After adopting a Christian way of life he changed his name to David, married Hannah and had Mary.” Sean Patrick Nichols
Biona, the Ella Bedenbaugh-Bauknight cousin who found me, suggested that we form a family group on Facebook. Our Bedenbaugh/Greer private group has a membership of over one hundred twenty. We have at least one member from each of the Bedenbaugh children, as well as from Mary and Betsy Greer lines. This was a great idea. Members have the opportunity to meet each other, share photos and family history. Most of us have never met.
The Betsy Greer family has been having reunions for over sixty years. I hope to attend this August, in Greenville, S.C. I will meet more cousins and see some that I’ve not seen in a number of years.
A number of years ago, I wrote a paper entitled, “In Search Of…Maybe Of You!” I placed it on file at the libraries of most cities, where family members had been. I have learned much more since I wrote that, so I do need to fill in the blanks. I hope to accomplish that update this year.