Tale of 2 Counties: Pasquotank & Camden County, NC

*The little red dot in the ‘Newland’ part of town is where my ancestors lived.  The black line is the main road going from Pasquotank to Camden County. Pretty close, huh?

The vast majority of my Spence ancestors come from Pasquotank County, NC. I can trace my Spence line to dang near the same road they currently live on today to 1870. But, my [living] family has told me that anyone with the last name of Spence in Camden and Pasquotank County is our cousins. They know this because this is what was told to them by their parents and/or grandparents.

Camden and Pasquotank County is close. Close doesn’t even describe how close they are. They lifestyle of the counties seem to overlap. My uncle works with one of the Camden County Spence’s and another relative works with a different Camden County Spence. Somewhere in this closeness is relation. But, I have yet to figure out how they’re related to the Pasquotank Spence’s..my Spences.

A recent contact on Facebook has me researching this side again.  She is from the Camden County Spence side and she said they go over the family tree every year.  I gave her some information and my theory on how the Pasquotank and Camden County Spence’s are related.  She think that her 2nd great grand and my 2nd great grand, Aaron are brothers.  But her 2nd great grandfather, isn’t old enough [in my opinion] to be his brother.  He wasn’t born until 1889.  Aaron was born 1853.  Somewhere between 1880 & 1900, Aaron’s father passed away and in 1900 his widow, Susan, was living with her son Aaron.

My Theory?

My theory is that one or a few of the Camden County Spence’s born prior than 1853 are the siblings of my 2nd great grandfather Aaron Edward Spence. According to the 1900 census, his mother Susan Williams Spence stated she had 6 children and 4 were living. I assumed that Aaron Edward Spence was the youngest child because parents tend to go live with the youngest child.

But, I do think that her 3rd great grandfather, Moses Spence and Aaron could possibly be siblings.  He was born 1846. Moses married Louisa Turner in 1875. I know I have the marriage certificate around here in my papers.  I remember either seeing no parents listed or N/A listed for Moses parents.  Which is odd for me.  If he is infact Aarons brother, why doesn’t he list his parents when they were alive when he got married??

Then another confusing thing, on the 1880 census for Moses and Louisa (Lewissie), there are 4 children listed.  The wierd part is that their last name isn’t Spence and they were all born after the marriage in 1875.  The oldest child being 4 born 1876.  Not only that, but that child is listed as illegitimate also.  The listing of illegitimate would make me think that they’re her children that she had with someone else, but still came home to her husband. WHOA.

Now, I know what you’re saying..why are you sharing? This is WAAAAYYYY personal, right? Well, the ancestors made me do it.  I was researching Moses, minding my own business and these children distracted me.  There’s a reason. I can’t stop thinking about them. Tomorrow, I will be requesting a copy of the marriage record for the oldest child.

Surnames I’m Researching

I know I’m late but I’m trying to catch up. But, a few weeks ago, other blogger began posting the surnames their researching. I believe Geneablogie was the first one (I got a Note from him on Facebook).

For those of you who don’t know, the surnames that I’m researching are listed on the right side. I try and tag my blogs with the surnames I’m writing about.

Pasquotank County, North Carolina

  • Spence
  • Lowry/Laurie/Lowery/Laury/Lowrey
  • Banks
  • Williams
  • Ferebee/Ferbee
  • Howell
  • McPherson

Camden County, North Carolina

  • McCoy
  • Spence (Want to see if the African-American Spence’s of Camden are related to the Pasquotank Spence’s)

My Calling

If you see on the lower right hand-side, I have about 20 surnames. Not all are blood lines to my tree. Most are the spouse, person on the census, or some other type of connection in my research. However, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to know more about them.

I believe that every black person in these counties are related me some kind of way. I’ve even found connection between my Cuz Tina’s paternal line and my family (her ancestors and mine married further up the tree-so we’re cousins a couple of times along the way)

I post all the surnames I come across because you never know who is reading. What if someone just so happens to be researching an Uncle that they knew about but didn’t really know?

I truly believe that this is my calling; connecting the dots on my tree with solid lines! And as I begin working on my presentation and try to think of what I’m going to say at my family reunion, I came across this poem that says it perfectly.

My feelings are in each family we are called to find the ancestors.
To put flesh on their bones and make them live again,
To tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve.
To me, doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead,
Breathing life into all who have gone before.

We are the story tellers of the tribe.
We have been called as it were by our genes.
Those who have gone before cry out to us:
Tell our story.
So, we do.
In finding them, we somehow find ourselves.

How many graves have I stood before now and cried?
I have lost count.

How many times have I told the ancestors
you have a wonderful family, you would be proud of us?

How many times have I walked up to a grave
and felt somehow there was love there for me?
I cannot say.

It goes beyond just documenting facts.
It goes to who I am and why I do the things I do?
It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever
to weeds and indifference and saying I can’t let this happen.
The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh.

It goes to doing something about it.
It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish.
How they contributed to what we are today.
It goes to respecting their hardships and losses,
their never giving in or giving up.

Their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family.
It goes to deep pride that they fought to make and keep us a Nation.
It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us
That we might be born who we are.
That we might remember them.
So we do.
With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence,
Because we are them and they are us.
So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family.

It is up to that one called in the next generation,
To answer the call and take their place in the long line of family storytellers.
That is why I do my family genealogy,
And that is what calls those young and old to step up and put flesh on the bones.

[Author: Della M. Cumming ca 1943.]

We is Cousins….

Hello Cousin! I’m searching for info on Rosa Spence/ Cora McCoy/ the Lowry’s too. I’m in Baltimore; email me so that we can work together.”

That’s how I met my cousin, Tina, in November 2007. See, her grandmother, Rosa Lowry, is my great grandmothers, Bessie Lowry, sister and her grandfather, Enoch Spence, is my great grandfathers, Aaron Edward Spence, brother.

Our family story has always been 2 sisters’s married 2 brothers we’re all double related. I always heard the story but never really knew it. I didn’t know Rosa’s side of the family, although we have the same side. But, I never knew her children, grandchildren etc….til now.

When Tina contacted me, I was skeptical. She found me thru Ancestry.com. I thought no one else was researching my family tree. I would look at message boards and websites and everyone was researching other counties in NC. The rare post I would find researching African-American ancestry in Pasquotank would be for a different surname.

Although our family has been in Pasquotank and Camden counties since at least 1870, I haven’t been able to find much, in my opinion, on our family. I’ve interviewed family members and none of them could ever tell me

Her: Hey Cuz! Girl, tell me who you are (who’s your mom)… I didn’t know I had family in Florida! Did you go to the family reunion this year? I was there. My Mom is one of Rosa Spence’s daughters her name was Matlene (but she goes by Madeline) How do I see your family tree? Maybe you can help me, I’m looking for my father’s grandmother’s family and I’m hitting a brick wall — how do I get around that?

Me: Hey. My dad is Spence. His mom is Spence. Her mom is Bessie Lowry. Her parents are William Lowry and Harriet Banks. Harriet’s parents are Caleb Banks and Henrietta. What’s your dads name and DOB? Also where was he born? Maybe I can find something. I missed the reunion. My grandma told me that the Spence family from South Mills came. I’m trying to compile a family tree for the next on. That’s how it all started. Now, we don’t do our research without each other. We’re always sharing ideas, theories and finds with each other.

Four Newland Negroes Drowned

**Scanners working now**

The library in Elizabeth City, more specifically, the genealogist at the library is awesome! She only works 1 day a week (Thursday). I called on Monday and she called me back Thursday morning. She said she found the article and I had a copy in my possession by that Saturday. All that for a mere $.10!

My hopes were correct and there was an article about the drowning of my uncle, Shelton Lowry. The 4 people that I found on Ancestry that died on the same name were the 4 men in the boat that day. The article also gives me the name of the one survivor. What a great find!

“Four men, all Negroes, were drowned late Wednesday afternoon in Dismal Swamp canal in Camden County when, with five on bard a small skiff, on man decided to rock the boat. He rocked it and the boat sank: drowning four of the five occupants, according to a report brought back to the city by Assistant Fire Chief George Koch, who answered an SOS call from the scene of the drowning at six o’clock. With fireman A. W. Pool, Koch arrived on the scene in a few minutes and with a length of barbed wire curt from a nearby fence had all four bodies fished out; he estimates, in a matter of 15 minutes. With inhalator brought along in the car he and Pool worked over the bodies for an hour or such a matter, but to no avail.

The downed men according to the fire department records are Shelton Lowry, 40; William K. Barnard, 25, John Wilfred Adams, 26, and Milford Moore, 34 all of Newland.

According to the story told Koch by Linton Burnham, survivor Burnham and his brother were swimming in the canal at the point where the old toll bridge used to cross back of the site of the old John Louis Hinton home about 10 miles from Elizabeth City. They live in the old house once occupied by the bridge keeper when the bridge, abandoned when the river was bridged above the cut with paving of U.S. 17 to South Mills, was in use.

The four who were drowned appeared on the opposite bank of the swamp and asked to be brought across the river, Burnham said. Burnham in a small boat went to get them. They all got aboard and one of them wanted to use the paddle. Burnham told him to be careful but he said he knew all the tricks of handling a boat and began to rock it. The boat sand and all five men went overboard. They began struggling with one another in the water; but Burnham extricated himself and swam to safety.

Sheriff M.D. Stevens and Coroner Carroll Godfrey were summoned and the coroner viewed the bodies and held no inquest necessary as the men evidently came to their death by accidental drowning.

Three of the bodies of the drowned men were turned over to the Walson Funeral Home and the other to the Davis Funeral Home in Elizabeth City.”

Genealogy Addict

Genealogy is a genuine obsession of mine. My family nor friends quite understand it; however, they all think I should do it professionally. I don’t think I’m there yet. I love sharing my recent ‘finds’ with my family. More than likely, they have no clue whom I’m talking about and constantly get confused about which Aaron Edward Spence I’m referring too or who exactly was William Lowry, etc. But for me, explaining it is easy. I have these ancestors, my family, memorized. I can tell you who had a half sister, how the Ferebee surname got into our tree, what year my 3rd great grandfather passed away, etc. These are my family.

One of the most interesting facts that I found is a relative shared the same birthday as I. He’s the son of Shelton Lowry (Brother to Bessie Lowry-my great grandmother). He was born 11 Mar 1928. Sure there is 50 years difference between our births, but I think it’s awesome that a relative and I share the same b-day and I don’t even know him.

I intend on writing the library in Elizabeth City, NC (which covers several counties in northeastern NC) to see if they can pull an article about Shelton’s drowning. Another great aunt of mine told me that all in the boat died and even gave me the name of the person that rocked the boat. However, the problem that I have is, if everyone died, how did they get the story about rocking the boat and Shelton saying ‘Don’t rock the boat because I can’t swim’? Another tidbit she gave me was that Shelton may have died of a heart attack because he was so frightened about drowning. She said her sister told her that there was no water in his lungs. She didn’t know how true that was but I told her I’d order his death certificate and see what it says.

The facts I got from her were:

  • 5 people were on the boat.
  • John Adams rocked the boat.
  • John said ‘All y’all who can’t swim, shame on you.”
  • More than 2 died.
  • They begged him not to rock the boat.

I found record for 4 people that died on 10 Sept 1947 in Camden County, NC. I will be ordering these death certificates.

  • John Adams
  • William K. Barnard
  • Shelton Lowry
  • Milford Moore

I would think that if so many people died in a drowning in a little city like South Mills, it may be in the papers.

African American History in Albemarle

How interesting. Searching for Pasquotank in Google’s Blog search, I found this article.

The participation in this February’s National African-American History Month throughout the Albemarle has been phenomenal, and Wednesday night’s event at the Pasquotank-Camden Library was no exception. By 7 p.m. Wednesday night, the Community room of the Pasquotank-Camden Library was packed full with a diverse range people, all eagerly awaiting tales of the African-American history in their area.

The event that this group attended was the 2nd Annual Famous First Black History Month program, a tribute to all of the Albemarle area’s first African-American accomplishments. Beginning last year, the library decided to recognize all the new honors and job positions that African-Americans in the Albemarle achieved. I

n the program Wednesday night, many of the new firsts were honored, ranging from the first high school wrestling coach, to the first police officer to receive a silver star for bravery. The program started strong with a portrayal of the local legend, Moses Grandy, by City of Elizabeth City Councilman, Read more ……


If you are researching family in northeast North Carolina and haven’t joined Family Research Society of Northeastern NC (FRSNNC), you’re doing it all wrong!

I came upon FRSNNC early in 2007 when I was really getting into my family tree. I sent them an e-mail seeing if they could help me…and they did! They sent me documents helping with my search and guided me in the right direction to go forward.

The counties that they cover are Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Pasquotank and Perquimans. They know the ins and outs of those counties. They can tell you about traditions and records. They are a non profit organization and everyone that works there is a volunteer.

Membership is only $20.00 and with that, you get a quarterly newsletter (more like a book), member directory, surname lists and endless help. The newsletter is full of useful information. It has stories, obituaries and plenty of information to help you with your genealogy research. Even if you’re only researching one of the counties listed above, I suggest you join the organization.

Long Lost Relatives

In the picture book my aunt made, there was a picture of Alfred (B: 1907) and Thelma Ferebee (B: 1910)-pictured to the left. Below them, there was a picture of Maggie McCoy at age 100. There was no description of these people and when I asked her nor could anyone else tell me exactly how they’re related. My great uncle told me that Ferebee was related thru his father, a Spence. But, that didn’t make sense, especially since I couldn’t find any Ferebee’s in the tree, except for the one living with William Lowry in 1880.

I began obsessively researching Alfred Ferebee. I first found Alfred and Thelma living with Alfred’s brother, William Ferebee, in Camden County, NC in 1930. It was obvious that Alfred and Thelma recently married since they had a 7 month old daughter named Vivian at the time. I knew I wouldn’t find them together in 1920. In the 1920 census, Alfred and his brother, William, were living with Julian and Ella Daniels in Camden County, NC listed as nephews. Then in 1910, I found Alfred and William living with their parents in Camden County, NC, Luther and Daisy Ferebee.

The birth index for Alfred lists his DOB as 5 April 1906 and his father as Speed Ferebee. I found another birth index for William Edward Ferebee with a DOB of 28 June 1903 and his father was Speed Ferebee. Maybe Speed was a nickname for Luther. Unfortunately, a lot of Camden County records aren’t available thru Ancestry.com like Pasquotank County. So, marriage records didn’t show a marriage between Alfred Ferebee and Thelma.

I called my uncle again and asked about the Ferebee’s and he said that he thinks we’re related to the wife, Thelma, and not Alfred. Why didn’t he tell me this the first time?? That means Thelma is a Spence, Lowry, Banks or McCoy since those are the main branches of my tree.

*Genealogical info-When a couple decides to get married, the man would apply for the license in the county the woman is from.

My McCoy line is the only one from Camden. She must have been from Camden also since there was no marriage record for a Thelma marrying anyone with the last name of Ferebee in Pasquotank.

I searched by Thelma McCoy and found one on the 1920 census living with an Everett and Maggie McCoy. Well, there’s my Maggie…possibly. In 1920, he’s listed as William E. McCoy (B: 1882). So, now who are Everett and Maggie McCoy? I was only able to go as far back as 1910. I didn’t know Maggie’s maiden name to search her on the 1900 census and William didn’t show up on that census.

I sent a letter to Camden County Register of Deeds for a copy of William E. and Maggie McCoy death certificate. When I got it back, William’s parents were Henry and Columbia McCoy. Those are my 3rd great grandparents. That means that William E. McCoy is my 4th great uncle and Thelma is a cousin (don’t to what degree). I didn’t have any record of William and since he was born in that ‘black out’ period, he was hard to know about. Oh and Maggie, well, her maiden name is Ferebee.

*Genealogical info-What I call the ‘black out’ period, is that time between 1881-1899 when most of the 1890 census were destroyed in 1921 during a fire in the basement of the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C.

When I presented this new uncle to my grandmother and great uncle, they didn’t have any idea. They knew that Alfred, Thelma and Maggie were related, but just didn’t know how.

Family Profile: Aaron Edward Spence

Today’s family profile is of Aaron Edward Spence. Based on his death certificate, he was born 29 September 1853 in Pasquotank County, NC. I suspect he was born into slavery considering that his parents, Enoch Spence and Susan Williams are not listed on the 1860 census. Nor is he or his parents listed on the 1870 census. Black folk shied away from government people in those days.

I believe that Aaron and his parents were owned by slave owner named Thomas B. Williams. Now this is a guess based on the fact that Susan’s last name was Williams and Thomas’s wife, Ellen, was the neighboring white family in 1880 when Enoch and Susan finally showed up on the census. It’s possible that the family remained serving the Williams family even after emancipation. I know that Thomas owned slaves in 1860. Enoch would have been abt 53 in 1860 and Susan would have been abt 47. I’m ordering the estate records from NC state archives to verify this.

In 1877, Aaron had married Hester Riddick of Pasquotank County, NC (B: 1856), daughter of Edward and Sophia Riddick. Neither Aaron nor Hester shows up on the 1880 census. It’s possible that Hester died in childbirth because by 1888, Aaron had remarried. Dineppa (Dinah) Bogues/Boague of Pasquotank County, NC was his 2nd wife. They both were on their 2nd marriage. Dineppa was previously married to Oliver Foreman. I suspect that Oliver passed away and she remarried. However, she too also passed away. I haven’t been able to find record of that, but divorce was not something that was very common. In 1892, Aaron married for a 3rd time to Cora McCoy of Camden County, NC (B: 1871, D: 07 Oct 1922). That union yielded 9 children. Berna B: 1893, Enoch B: 1894, Herbert B: 1896, Clyde Lee B: 1898, Blariche/Blanche B: 1900, Pearl B: 1902, Mabel B: 1904, Aaron Edward B: 1906 and Charlie Mack B: 1909.

I believe Aaron to have been the youngest of his siblings or the youngest living. By 1900 census, his mother Susan was living with him. She’s listed as 86 years old at the time. She’s also listed on the census as having 6 children and 4 living.

These are possible siblings that I have to research further. Excuse the roughness of this, these are my notes.

  • Enoch Spence born abt 1825. Only shows on 1870 census married to Prissy. By 1880, Prissey is a widow.
  • Joseph Spence born abt 1830. Living near Enoch Spence on 1870. Married to Tilley.
  • John Spence born abt 1832. Living in Pasquotank 1870 married to Winney–oldest son Anderson. Living nearby is a Williams (white) family by 1880, John died and Winney/Vinney is a widow.
  • Jennie Spence. Married Edmund Sawyer 1873. Possible sister.
  • Martha Ann Spence married Jacob Moore 1880. Possible sister. There’s a Martha L. Moore living with Hardy Measels in 1880 listed as widow and sister in law. Meaning she’s Hardy’s wife (Fanney) sister. Fanny maiden name was Temple. Married Hardy in 1871. May not be the same.
  • Martha J Spence married Daniel Godfrey 1894.
  • Nancy Spence married Alfred Ferebee jr. 1902. Possible sister. –Side Note, this is also the same Alfred Ferebee that could be a possible half brother to William Lowry. CORRECTION 08/04/08-Her maiden name is Griffin. She married Moses Spence then married Alfred. Not a true Spence.
  • Sarah E. Spence married Henry Murden 1894. 1910 Henry Murden living in Pasquotank w/wife Anna. Then moved to PA.

Aaron died in 1920 and Cora died 2 years later in 1922 in Pasquotank, NC. Their death certificates state that they were buried at Hinton BG. However, I haven’t been able to locate that. My grandmother said that it’s located further down on Mill Pond Road. The same road my grandmother and great grandmother has lived for years.

Off to do more research.

Happy Sleuthing….