Category: European Roots

Connection to the Free State of Winston

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By , July 23, 2017 11:34 am

Knew that not all southerners supported the Confederacy but never thought about my family in connection with Winston County, Alabama (“Free State of Winston”). Came across this interesting tidbit written by an Ingle descendant while working on my family tree this morning. John Byrd Norris would have been my GF’s 2nd cousin, mine twice removed. Just, wow!

f9cce708-a8ed-470f-84db-8086575bf817“Winston County was a “no-man’s-land” in the year 1863. Mayhem was being committed upon the population of that poor county, and in the Counties of Walker, Marion, Franklin, and other contiguous counties of the area. The Confederates had what were called “Impressment Officers” who would find an eligible man for military, arrest him, keep him tied to a tree for five days in which time he had to make up his mind to join the Confederate Army. If he decided not to join, he was shot. That amounted to “heads I win, and tails you lose.” Either way, he lost.

There are some cases that could be cited here; however, the most illustrative one of which I am more familiar is the case of John Byrd Norris, the husband of Lodusca Darthula Frances Ingle, the daughter of George Washington Ingle, granddaughter of Peter Ingle, and g. granddaughter of Paulser Ingle. John Byrd Norris deliberately refused to join. He was taken to the Jasper, Alabama area and held for the five days, and shot “seven times in the back, where the “gallowses crossed”. (gallowses are the across-shoulder suspenders for men who wear overalls). That case, in my opinion, is what stirred up rebellion in the Confederate ranks and caused 9000-12000 Confederate troops to desert their units and find their way to the 1st AL Cav, USA, which was organized in Glendale, MS, and had some troops stationed in Mooresville, and Decatur, AL.”

Reposted from Facebook on November 11, 2018.

The Mystery Surrounding William Young Norris

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By , February 26, 2015 2:18 pm

I was searching for something a few nights ago and chanced upon two letters dated March 9, 1868 from a woman named Mollie A. Armstrong to Isabelle Donoho Norris and to William Young Norris among the Donoho family papers at the UA Library. Mollie Armstrong didn’t ring a bell right away but the Norris name made me stop in my tracks. I read the letters.

Mollie, aka Mary Ann Norris Armstrong, was my GF Robert Norris’ aunt and William was his uncle (or maybe even his father) and Isabelle was William’s wife. I’ve been trying to find out what happened to William for years, he just dropped off the radar screen after the Civil War. I came across Isabelle Donoho and William Young Norris before but they lived in a county I didn’t associate with my Norris family and there was nothing else to corroborate that Isabelle’s William was my William.

Until these letters! Mollie wrote to Isabelle and her brother asking about his health and urging him to come back to Camden to visit with his family. It seems that he died maybe not long after but certainly before 1870 and Isabelle remarried. That’s why I could never find him again. Mystery solved!

From the notes to the guide to the papers: “The Donoho family lived in and around Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in the early and mid nineteenth century. Charles Mitchell Dohono (1809-1856) married Rebecca Trowbridge Whitcomb (1817-1846) and had two children: Henry Seymour and Isabelle (1842-1915). Rebecca Dohono died 30 March 1846, leaving Charles with the two young children. An aunt, Mrs. A. M. Peek, cared for the children.

Henry served in the Alabama 2nd Battalion Light Artillery, Company F, Lumsden’s Company; he enlisted on 21 February 1861 as a private. His cousin, Charles Donoho, enlisted on 29 November 1861, also as a private. Henry was captured on 15 December 1864, near Nashville, Tennessee, and spent the remainder of the war in various prisoner of war camps in Kentucky and Illinois. Charles was also captured in Tuscaloosa, on 18 May 1865.

Isabelle married twice, first to William Young Norris around 1867, and second to Samuel Lowrie Robertson. She and Samuel had eight children.”

The Donoho family papers were purchased from an antiquarian book dealer in Lancaster, PA, in 2013. I don’t know how long the images have been online but they were in the right place at the right time for me to find them. Serendipity!

Here are photos of my GF Robert Norris and his aunt, Mary Ann “Mollie” Norris Armstrong. Do you see a family resemblance?

Robert Norris - Mollie A. Armstrong

Source: Republished from Facebook on February 26, 2016:

Better and Better

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By , June 22, 2014 8:00 pm

It just keeps getting better and better. After more than a decade, I was able to contact the woman who originally provided the deed gifting a slave girl Julia to my GF’s grandmother, Mary Norris. Thank goodness some of us keep the same email addresses!

Turns out she wrote a history of the Shields family. She was in the process of moving so couldn’t put her hands on it but she was gracious enough to provide some information “to keep you going” while she looks for it.

In the meantime, I found this article online. The William B. Shields referred to in the story is Mary Ann Norris’ maternal uncle making him my GF’s great grand uncle. The story of William Shields and his enslaved offspring is absolutely fascinating. It also illustrates the discussion yesterday that the children’s status follow the mother.

I can’t believe that two people that I corresponded with starting in 1998 about Dallas County, AL and the Black Belt genealogy in general turn out to be related to me! How fortunate for me that they are both still online.

Now if I can just confirm that the slave girl Julia is my missing GM, my work will be finished. I feel as though my GF is guiding my hand these days.

Victoria man learns he is a descendant of slaves, looks for relatives

Mary Rebecca Shields Ewers YarbroughFor most of his life, Daryl Ewers believed he was white, but two years ago, he learned he is a descendant of slaves.

“I just found out a few years ago that I am part black. I did not know this,” he said

Ewers, 54, of Victoria, said learning he has black ancestry is very exciting and his main reason for talking about it is because he wants to get in touch with his African-American relatives from whom his paternal family was separated during slavery.

“My great-great-grandfather was William B. Shields, a planter from Perry County, Ala., who had several biracial children by a black slave woman. I don’t know who she was. I don’t know her name or what their relationship was,” he said.

Before then, the Shields family, who was of Irish origins, had lived in North Carolina, he said.

First Lady Michelle Obama has descended from the white Shields family of the Carolinas, and Ewers said they may be related.

In 1848, Shields moved to Mexico with his family, where slavery was already abolished, and began negotiating with Alabama legislators. He wanted to will his plantation to his children, but the state of Alabama wouldn’t allow it.

“He also wanted to free them, so the state of Alabama did a special legislation on it where they could be free – but only in three or four counties,” said Ewers. Eventually, he did manage to gain legal title for his children as “free blacks” within the United States. Shields bought 3,300 acres in Polk County, Texas.

He taught his children to marry white to avoid having their families kidnapped and sold into slavery. He also taught his children how to read and write and gave them an education. They lived in Mexico until the Civil War ended.

“My great-grandmother, Mary Shields, and her brother were both arrested in Texas for marrying white, and there was a $500 bail,” said Ewers, who is a fiscal manager.

He learned his family’s history from discussions with family members and a 2010 book titled “Positos/Oakley Texas 1886,” by Mamie L. Ballard.

“Now, I don’t know where I fit in,” Ewers said. “I have been raised to believe that I am white, but now I find that is not true. Most people believe that I am Hispanic when they first meet me. Although I enjoy learning about my black ancestry, I certainly don’t feel as if I am a part of the black culture. So, if not white, then what am I?”

Shields’ son, Archie, and his son, also named William B., were Buffalo Soldiers in Brackettville.

And what is the most powerful message Ewers learned from all this?

“You don’t give up, you fight. It’s survival,” said Ewers. “I am strong because of the older generations. I am here, and I have a life to look forward to. If the slaves lived today, they could celebrate with us.”

Source: 18 Jun 2013.


Josiah Norris query on GenForum dated May 2001

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By , April 11, 2014 9:51 am

Here’s a query I posted on GenForum back in 2001. I had forgotten about it and it contains some good information on the sons of Josiah Norris that I haven’t been able to find anything further about. I also need to go back and find all these old postings to update my email address so that folks can find me.

Hi Catherine,

I’m also researching this family, especially during the time they resided in Wilcox County, AL. Here’s a query I sent out some months ago:

I’m still searching for information on J.E. Norris and descendants. I’m grateful to Teresa Evans who provided data some time ago but I have yet to determine where this family went after 1860. Someone else must be researching this line.

This is what I know to date:

Josiah E. Norris, b. abt. 1799 in probably Oglethorpe Co., GA, married Mary A. Sewell on 6 Oct 1837 in Perry Co., AL.

Josiah E. Norris purchased land in Sect 3, T16N R6E, bordering Perry, Dallas, Wilcox and Marengo Counties ca 1833-1837.

Joseph E. Norris is mentioned in a Perry County deed dated Feb 1848 between William B. Shields and Joseph’s wife Mary Ann Norris.

J.E. Norris and family were enumerated in the 1850 Dallas County Census:

J.E. Norris, 52 M
M.A. Norris, 34 F
John A. Norris, 13 M
Wm Y. Norris, 10 M
J.B. Norris, 8 M
M.A. Norris, 5 F
S.D. Norris, 4 M
E.J. Norris, 2 F
Nancy Sewell, 70 F

J.E. Norris and sons were enumerated in several households in the 1860 Wilcox County Census (Western Division, Prairie Bluff P.O.):

#61 J.B. Norris 18 M
(enumerated in household of)
#61 J.A. Ervin 25 M
#61 Elizabeth Ervin 28 F
#69 John A. Norris 21 M
(enumerated with)
#69 G.W. Smalls 21 M
#69 Thomas Wilkinson 18 M
#69 J.C. Mixon 26 M

#70 J.E. Norris 61 M
#70 Mary A. Norris 40 F
#70 Mary A. Norris 15 F
#70 Samuel Norris 12 M
#70 Jane E. Norris 10 F
#70 Franklin Norris 9 M
#70 Nancy Sewell 82 F

Where did this family go after 1860? Is anyone else researching this line? J.E. may have been a brother or other relative of William H. or Rigdon Norris who acquired contiguous property in the same period.

I received the following response from Harold Norris:

In a book written by Harry A. Davis in 1930 entitled “The Norris Family of Maryland and Virginia” the following information is given on your J.E. Norris:

631. Joseph E. (7) Norris

(631.) Joseph E. (7) Norris (William 6, Joseph 5, Edward 4, John 3, Edward 2, Thomas 1) was born in Franklin County, Georgia in 1798.

He migrated to Alabama about 1832 and married there, prior to 1837, Martha A. Sewell, daughter of widow Nancy Sewell. Nancy Sewell was born in North Carolina in 1780. Her daughter, Margaret was born in North Carolina in 1816.

Joseph was a mechanic and resided in Dallas County, Alabama. This family moved to Texas after the civil war and no further record.

i. John A. b. 1837 Served as Pvt., Co. K., 17th Ala. Inf., C.S.A.
ii. William Young b. 1840 Served as Pvt. and Corporal, Co. E., 3rd Ala. Inf., C.S.A. Enlisted Apr 23, 1861 and discharged for disability Aug 19, 1862.
iii. James B. b. 1842 Served as Pvt., Co. E., 10th Ala. Inf., C.S.A.
iv. Mary A. b. 1845 Said to have married a Mr. Armstrong and resided in Hays County, Texas after 1870.
v. Samuel D. b. 1846
vi. Ella Jane b. 1848

Maybe you can get some more out of this. Mr. Davis listed all his siblings and his ancestry back another 6 generations. If you would like this information, I would be glad to send it to you.

I hope this helps, Catherine. Can you help me fill in some gaps in Alabama?

B.J. Norris Smothers

My Sister’s DNA Admixture Test

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By , November 26, 2011 7:45 pm

My sister recently tested with 23andMe and shared her ethnicity results:

49%   European

46%   Sub-Sahara African

5%     Asian (Chinese)

I was thrilled that she tested with them during a free promotion (but that really was aimed at collecting medical data on African Americans). Mom, Uncle Bobby and my sister all exhibited a strong Asian phenotype. Since Mom and Uncle Bobby have passed on, there was no one left to prove or disprove the hypothesis except her. My own results showed only a 2% Asian admixture.

Photos of William Hutchinson Norris and James Reece Norris

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By , November 9, 2011 4:26 am

Received this email from Doc Jones back on 5/10/2011. See any family resemblance?

For a good many years there has been some conflict about photos of some of the early Norris Family Members…. I just got this from Francisco Daniel in Brazil and I am confident that the photos contained in this email are correctly attributed…I would appreciate it if you guys would send this email to other family members who are not in the sent to list…..Thank you very much……doc jones sends

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Kito <>
To: Doc Jones <>
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 1:40 PM

William Hutchinson Norris and James Reece Norris

William Hutchinson Norris and James Reece Norris


Col. Frank W. Norris – 345th Field Artillery

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By , November 8, 2011 7:09 am

Sent an email to Doc Jones on 11/7/2011:


Col. Frank W. Norris

Found this on Col. Frank W. Norris (born 1916 in Wharton Couty, TX) who was one of John Alexander Norris’ sons. If my scenario is correct, he would have been my GF’s great nephew and my 2nd cousin. He and my dad were about the same age and fought in WW II in France at the same time. I am doing more research on the 345th Field Artillery (Frank Norris) and the 519th QM Bn (my father Theodore Norris) to see where the units were in proximity to one another.

BTW, John Alexander Jr. attended West Point. Found snippet of an article on him in the West Point alumni magazine. Contacting the archivist to get a copy. His son John Alexander III died in Vietnam at age 25. Was living in CA at the time. Don’t know whether he was married or had children.

Still searching for a living descendant of Josiah Evans Norris.


Dad’s African Ancestry Test Results

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By , June 9, 2005 2:23 am

Dad’s came in today:

100% with the Mende and Temne peoples in Sierra Leone, the Kru people in Liberia, and the Fulani people in Guinea-Bissau.

During a visit to West Africa a couple of years ago, a first cousin was told that she looked Fulani. Very interesting!

100% with people living in Germany and England. Not a surprise.

Still waiting for mine.

Source: Reposted on 11/9/2011 from the AfriGeneas African American DNA Research Forum

My Biogeographical Admixture Test Results

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By , May 25, 2005 3:54 am

Received the results of my admixture test from AncestrybyDNA last week:

Sub-Saharan African: 51%
European: 42%
Native-American: 5%
East Asian: 2%

Very interesting. But, just as with Dad’s previously reported results (SSA 42%, Eur 47%, EA 9%, NA 0%), my results raise more questions. I had expected to see a larger EA percentage reflecting my mother’s ancestry. Mom was of Jamaican-Cuban extraction and both she and her brother exhibited some Asian characteristics (which is pretty common in the Caribbean) as does one of my sisters. They were/is often mistaken for Chinese, Thai, Filipino, Hawaiian, etc. Even I have been called a Filipina once too many times and a friend once wrote me from Bangkok, “…all your people are here.” So, there’s something there but if my DNA results are to be relied upon, apparently their appearance wasn’t due to an EA genotype at all. Hmmmm. Strange.

Another mystery surrounds Dad’s missing NA heritage which is family lore but still undocumented. His DNA shows no NA ancestry at all . . . unless, of course, his EA results (where did that come from?) are really NA. This is possible because I understand from Toot and others that it is somewhat difficult to distinguish between the two.

But then NA shows up in my results. Either this is from Dad, confirming what we’ve long-suspected, or it is Amerind from Mom’s side, which might explain her (and her brother’s and daughter’s) Asian phenotype mentioned earlier since NA and EA are so close, genotypically speaking.

Still waiting for my matriclan test results and for Dad’s patriclan and matriclan tests from African Ancestry. I’m pretty sure that his Y will show no African ancestry (or just a trace) but I can’t wait to see where his mother’s line originated. Ditto mine since my maternal grandmother was from an area of Cuba where there a great deal of admixture between the native Indians, Europeans and African slaves. Er, that would’ve made her a typical Caribbean Hispanic, wouldn’t it?

Source: Reposted on 11/9/2011 from the AfriGeneas African American DNA Research Forum

Dad’s Biogeographical Admixture Test Results

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By , April 23, 2005 6:27 pm

Received my father’s biogeographical admixture test results from DNA Print Genomics (

– European 47%
– Sub-Saharan African 44%
– East Asian 9%
– Native American 0%

The percentage of Euro admixture wasn’t too surprising. Even though Dad is brown-skinned and his mother may have had about 1/8 Euro ancestry, his father was at least mulatto . . . may even have been quadroon or octoroon.

The East Asian ancestry was interesting but if I read correctly it is considered a trace that shows up in many populations so isn’t too significant.

The shocker, however, was that Dad had NO Native American ancestry. One of my family stories is that Dad’s grandfather was of NA descent. The story specifically refers to the Creek (folks said Cree but it was more likely Creek since they’re from south-central Alabama). The confidence interval was 4-8% so I understand that he still could have up to 12% NA ancestry but that possibility is less than 2x as likely as his having 0%. I also undrstand that since every child inherits different combinations of genes from their parents, that any one of the other 7 of Dad’s full siblings may have exhibited NA ancestry. But since Dad is the last of his family, we will never know definitively.

Sent Dad’s african ancestry swabs off four days ago (and my own admixture test). Can’t wait. Brave New World!!!!

Source: Reposted on 11/9/2011 from the AfriGeneas African American DNA Research Forum

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