Looking at Nellie McCorkle-Murphy-Giles

As a genealogist we find new family lines quite often. But what do we do with them once they present themselves? Some we will research and add the information to our trees, others will sit and be ignored until something triggers the memory. I have the belief that the ancestors will contribute to some of this action. All of a sudden, we keep seeing the names of ancestors almost as a tapping on the shoulder is happening. That’s the time to take a peek at the line. We are hearing the whispers of our ancestors. I have now learned a good lesson – We need to stop and listen. I have dedicated some time for  research for over 20 years researching my great grandparents on my father’s side. Specifically, looking at the union of Nellie (McCorkle) Murphy-Giles and the mystery man, William Michael Murphy, Nellie’s first husband. His son, of course is William Columbus Murphy, my grandfather. Granddad, as he was called who I did not know died in 1956.  He has led me on a chase with different birth locations, etc. I have been in and out of rabbit holes. So, I will focus a little more on Nellie. Here is a short version of my tree following my great grandmother Nellie’s maternal line:

My Father: Calvin 1924 Ft. Wayne, IN- d. 1997, Leon County, FL (he has 2 sisters -Lillian and Evelyn and 4 brothers, William, Harold, Donnie, and Ralph)

My Grandfather: William Columbus. Murphy b. IL 1887 d. 1956, MI married two times, I do not know the first wife’s name but she died in 1911, 2nd wife is Viola (Cureton) b. Loudon TN in 1895 and died in 1952 in Grand Rapids, MI)

Great grandfather: William Michael Murphy b. supposedly born in Indian Territory- unknown d. unknown (total mystery, I am not sure of any dates of birth, is he white, mulatto or what?) His name and information was retrieved from my grandfather social security application. He apparently was married to Nellie, because she re-married and her name was Nellie Murphy marrying Henry Giles in Bell County, KY.

Great grandmother: Nellie McCorkle b. abt. 1868 TN d. 1910-15 Iowa (questionable)

  • 2X great grandmother: Nellie’s mother is Rose (Henry) b. 1840 d. unknown (married to John McCorkle, the McCorkle surname was just taken, as there was an abolitionist in the Greenville, TN named Francis McCorkle)
  • 3X great grandparents: Rose’s parents: John B Henry/Hendry and Esther (unknown). Both were born about 1811 in Virginia, which should be Frederick County, Virginia. I continue to work on finding the deaths of both of them. They lived in Greene County, TN and that should be where they died.
  • 4X great grandparents: John B’s parents are Rose (unknown/could be Henry), a slave of William Hendry/Henry b. 1764 Frederick, Virginia d. 1838 Tn. Also seeking to find when his father William Henry freed him. I do find him in 1840 census in Greene TN, free.  (John B. has a sister with the same parents named Delphie, she because free…read about her and her path to freedom: http://www.aleliabundles.com/2014/10/14/delphia-the-price-of-freedom/
  • 5X great grandparents: William Hendry’s parents: Thomas (George) Hendry 1725. MA D 1782 Frederick, Virginia & Deborah (Borden) b. 1728NJ d. 1799 Frederick, Virginia.
  • 6X Deborah’s parents: Benjamin F. Borden and Zeruiah (White)

Now looking at the Borden line, thinking the name was familiar. (oh geez-it was Lizzie Borden, Borden’s Milk and Elsie the Cow). The Borden’s were Quakers coming from Kent, England and settling in Rhode Island and New Jersey. I do not know much about the Quakers, so there is lots to learn in order to understand the culture and life they lived during the 18th century. My line is from New Jersey group to Virginia group. Benjamin Borden was a land gangster as I call him. The Borden’s basically landed in the Shenandoah Valley (Virginia’s counties: Frederick, Rockbridge, Augusta and Bedford, etc.) obtaining land all over the place. Here is the link to read about the 92,100 acres granted from Lord Fairfax. (http://www.virginiaplaces.org/settleland/borden.html)

This all is a shock! New information which brings its own set of research challenges and more family. I am having to face some challenges of researching a slave to freedom. I had no idea any line of my father’s had Virginia roots. I only knew of Tennessee roots from Nellie and nothing from William Michael-maybe he didn’t exist, which is an often thought. He is lurking around, so I am sure at some point I will find him. Maybe the Murphy’s are from Virginia? Who knows. Selma Stewart, a genealogist from the Hampton Roads area continues to remind us that “all roads lead to Virginia”.  I have tracked Nellie through a second marriage and having two children besides having my grandfather by William Michael Murphy. I am still researching the Hendry’s who lived two hours from me in the Winchester area before William moved the family, including John B and Delphie to Greene County, Tennessee. John B and Delphie are now free. We have Delphie’s information but so far, I have yet to find when in Virginia John B was freed.

On the old Ancestry’s app (We’re Related) the Hendry/Henry line kept showing itself as a possible connection and I ignored them. I didn’t connect that it was Nellie’s folks, she was a mulatto. I ignored the fact mainly because I didn’t know the white Hendry’s connected to mine and this line had enslaved ancestors. I just didn’t make the connection and a new lesson has been learned. Check out everything. Also, my research on the Henry/Hendry line takes me back to Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the same place Patrick Henry’s line comes from. Well who knew! That will be another blog…responding to the question: do we connect to Patrick Henry who was born in 1736 in Virginia.

For more information: I did another article on the Henry’s and Borden’s.


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10 Best Genealogy and History YouTube Channels

My Roots My Blog

BlackProGen LIVE! Is on Family Tree Magazine’s 10 Best Genealogy and History YouTube Channels.

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Shall Yerger (25 May 1853-22 Jan. 1884)

Learning about the students who attended the University of Virginia (UVA). Author, Jean L. Cooper, gives insight to their life and the life on the grounds of Thomas Jefferson’s university.

Students of the University of Virginia, 1825-1874

Shall Yerger was the son of William Yerger (1816–1872), a lawyer and a judge in Jackson, MS, and his wife, Malvina Hogan (Rucks) Yerger (1819–1914). He grew up in Jackson, and attended the University of Virginia in session 47 (1870-1871). There he studied Mathematics, History and Literature, and Modern Languages. In the later years of his life, Shall Yerger was appointed Deputy Sheriff of Bolivar County, Mississippi. He never married.

Yerger had suffered from “chronic gastritis” throughout his life, and that is what caused his death in Bolivar County in 1884. After his death, his remains were buried beside those of his father in Greenwood Cemetery, Jackson, MS.


  • “The Death of Shall Yerger.” The weekly Copiahan. [volume] (Hazlehurst, Copiah County, Miss.), 02 Feb. 1884. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/2018270504/1884-02-02/ed-1/seq-3/
  • “Personals.” Memphis daily appeal. (Memphis, Tenn.), 29 Jan. 1884. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers…

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“African American Genealogy Challenges” Part 1

I am challenged everyday on how I conduct my genealogical research. It doesn’t matter if I am doing African American or European ancestry  -challenges are expected and welcomed. There are so many myths that cause more challenges, such as all enslaved individuals took the slaver owner’s name. This is not true. Per Family Search only about 15% took the slave holder’s name.  Here are some common challenges that I have faced over the last 25 yrs. This is not an exhaustive list.

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If you do not understand the “slavery system”, the system will fight you all the way and you will have more challenges than you need to have. This will require you to read, listen, read more, and attend as many talks/lectures as you can.

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This is where you begin. “Ask yourself questions”. Just because you find something in a book or online, doesn’t mean it is a fact or truth that is relevant today. Some resources that are found 10 years ago, might not be valid anymore because a year ago, another record became available. This is critical to your success. It does not matter who the author is or what institution who shares the information. There could always be another source that pops up.

I researched my Davis line for over 20 years and the first born son, Joseph Brand Davis turns out is not Davis, son of William Davis. I was able to locate a record of a lawsuit that specifically says, he was illegitimate, meaning he is not William Davis’s son. You have to make serious and committed attempts to “exhaust” the records and resources available.

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Set some goals, don’t make them big or too many when you are just getting started. Make them workable goals and view them as steps, meaning one step at a time.

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Remember the tips…they will get you further than anything else. There is no magic to conducting genealogical research.

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Genealogy research cannot be done all online! If you do all your research online, you will never be done and never know what is accurate or not. Do not take others research as being the end all. Researchers are human and we can make mistakes. Conduct the research yourself. Resolve your issues and challenges.

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Don’t believe everything you have been told, even if it was from your grandmother. Oral history is a valuable tool to have and to use. But over the years a story can vary and by the time it gets down to you, it could be a totally different story from the original. It might also mean that the full story wasn’t given to grandma and she just repeated what she heard. Pay attention to the “assumptions”. Work through the questions and stories and try to resolve any challenges that you are confronted with.


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Black Family Research: Records of Post-Civil War Federal Agencies at the National Archives

See the post from Leslie Anderson sharing good information on Black Family Research. Free to download.

1st U.S. Colored Cavalry

This 32-page guide by Reginald Washington (now retired from the National Archives)
is a must. It’s free. Just click on the image and download it.

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Finding Enslaved Laborers at UVA Descendants…

Sharing information about my new job. Join me in reading the articles and feel free to share. It will take a community to build this project. The President’s Commission on Slavery at the University (University of Virginia, Charlottesville) has designed a memorial to the enslaved laborers who helped to build the University. The memorial will be viewed by only the descendants in the Fall of 2019. A public opening will be in the Spring 2020.

We are looking for descendants of the enslaved workers. If you think you had ancestors who lived near or around the University of Virginia (Charlottesville area including the counties of Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa, Nelson, etc.) There might be a chance you will connect. Watch for names/surnames and other information on the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Finding-the-Enslaved-Laborers-at-UVA-960038024340461/). If you have any questions, please post or contact us at enslavedlaborersuva@gmail.com

Here are some links to help you get familiar with the project:






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William C. Murphy: is it two or three wives?

I have written about my paternal grandfather a few times. But this one has my mind boggled. So let’s walk through a bit of a timeline to see what I have.  I know I have to do the SO WHAT thing of analyzing and questioning the information that gets presented to me. My goal is to determine how many times William Columbus Murphy was married.  Its seems like everytime I receive new information more conflicts and issues come with it.



First, his father is William Michael Murphy and the information came from William Columbus’s social security application:

William C. Murphy SSA

The SSA document is the first I saw what my great grandfather’s name was; William Michael Murphy.  Now this is interesting because William C’s first born son is William Jr, his first son is also William and second son is Michael. Okay I can go with that pattern. Mom told me years ago there were five Williams in the line. The application for a social security number is dated May 27, 1937 (this seems to be correct, but I also located recently a city directory for them still living in Ft. Wayne in 1942, and he is in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Is there two William’s and 2 Viola’s?  If you will note where he says he is born, well I am not sure where that comes from because there is no such place as Halifax, Iowa. I searched the state and county where William Columbus was with his mother, Nellie (McCorkle), and her second husband Henry Giles.  I even contacted the state regarding ghost towns named Halifax. No such place they tell me.  Now Nellie (great grandmother) was born in Greene County, Tennessee to Rose (Henry) and John McCorkle.  Nellie’s second marriage occurred in 1896 (to Giles) in Bell County, Kentucky.  I was able to track Nellie, Henry and her son William C.,  along with William C’s  half siblings to Fulton County, Illinois.  Henry Giles was the husband of second marriage and my grandfather, who is age 14 in the 1900 census were both listed as coal miners.  So this is after they married in Bell Co. Kentucky, had Johnny in 1896 and Ethel Irene in 1899, both born in Bell Co.  William C. always claimed on various records that he was born in Canton, Illinois.  It’s on his military documents, etc. So where Halifax Iowa came from I do not know. But he did live in Des Moines. I have not been able to validate where he was in between 1910-1920,  and then he shows up in Indiana.  Just because he said he was born in Iowa or Illinois, does not make it true.  He has Illinois on his military registrations. I have not been able to track Nellie and William Michael anywhere in the USA as a couple to be my great grandparents.  Sometimes I wonder if he was a real person and really alive to father a son named William C.  One thing to note when Nellie married Henry Giles, she married as Nellie Murphy! (geez). Listed below is his WW1 draft registration, he was living in Ft. Wayne, Indiana and single in 1917. So he is arriving around the same time the Cureton’s from Loudon Co. Tennessee.

william murphy ww1 registration

Now William Columbus and Viola (Cureton) married on 19 June 1920, in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  The application for marriage is where he tells that he was married before and his first wife died in 1911 on the marriage record to Viola B. Cureton. He also says his father was William Michael and he was born in Indian Territory. Darn, in Indian Territory, Murphy is a common name like Smith and Johnson there.

william and viola marriage license 2018-01-25 at 5.35.50 PM

Now the information on the application connects to what my mother Verna shared via oral history.  She says “Granddad” was married before and his wife died in 1911.  She said one evening when they lived next door to my grandparents (William C & Viola) on Henry Street, she and my dad, Calvin were going out to an American Legion activity.  This was in Grand Rapids, Michigan and dad was the Commander of the American Legion.   Granddad fussed at my dad saying, “Boy get something on that girl, my first wife died like that”.  This indicated to me and Mom that the first wife might have died from pneumonia or something.  Mom recalls having a sleeveless dress on that night.  The research continues to locate the name of the first wife and where she died.  My mother also mentioned in another chat that she remembers Granddad saying he lived in Chicago and ran with a gang.  (now he did this before become a Baptist preacher in Indiana) Well, I am shocked about this, but you never know about the Murphy’s.  They didn’t talk much about their family, the children did not know their mother’s middle name and they didn’t know their father was married before. I never heard my father speak of a Murphy grandfather.  I have been researching over 30 years now and still have not found my great grandfather William Michael.

I ordered Granddad’s Certification of Military Service years ago:

william c murphy certification army

This certification provides lots of information especially his military number. A few months ago Angela Walton-Raji and I were talking about our grandfathers being in the same units,  but different companies.  We saw that it was the  809th. Here is her blog about her great grandfather:

(http://myancestorsname.blogspot.com/2010/04/ ) William Columbus served in World War 1 and they both went to France.

Angela located a Passenger Ship list and shared it with me.  As you can see William C. Murphy is listed on line #8 and with his military number, which matches his number on the Certification of Service. We did not make the writing on this document.

william c murphy Fold3_Page_680

If you read across the row towards the right where Murphy, William C. is listed it shows his rank as a Sargent and that he served in the 809th Pioneer Infantry (he probably made Sargent quick due to his time in the Illinois militia for three years. I have yet to research the militia time.  I continued to read and saw that it names a “Mary Murphy” as his wife living on Wells Street in Dayton Ohio.  Well– who the hell is this?  We have a wife who died in 1911, and we have no name.  Now we have a Mary Murphy and is his wife – could she be number two living in Ohio.  Now what Murphy’s do we connect to that lived in Ohio?  I did not see this coming and the Passenger Ship List from France was completed in July 1919.  And we have William Columbus marrying Viola Cureton in June 1920, which would be wife number three. Geez!

Now I have to begin with drafting a timeline on William C with what I know and what I question. I also have to deal with the conflicts that are raising their heads. As usual I begin with the things I know and can document. Then I will proceed with a list of what I don’t know, what I am questioning and who or what might have the information. If there are any conflicts I have to figure out how to resolve them. Sometimes when I am stressing a bit about a line, I resort to doing a board, here is the one while searching for William Michael:

william m. murphy challenge map copy

Every time I walk by this board, I write done something to research. If you have any questions or information to help resolve this, please share it. My email is shelleyviola@gmail.com

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