Friday, July 8, 2016

What's In A Name?

by Bernice Bennett

One day I had a conversation with my mother who was reflecting on how she named each of her children. When it came to the last child in the family, my sister Betty selected the name Cynthia Ann. Mom told me that when they called my paternal grandfather William Alexander to tell him about the birth of his new grandchild, he told her, “if he had known that they were having a girl, he would have asked them to name her Amy, after his mother”.

Several weeks later, my mother was again talking about her paternal grandfather Benjamin Mitchell and recounted another conversation with my grandfather William. She told me that William would not have anything to do with his grandpa Wallace because he hit his dog in the head with a stick and killed him.

Hmmm! Sorry about the dog, however, I now had two names – Amy and Wallace, but no last name.

I decided to search for my grandfather William Alexander in the United States Census in South Carolina because I knew that my great grandfather was John Alexander. This was easy because I found them in the 1900 United States Census. My grandfather was living with his mother Amy, father John Alexander, and siblings in the Kinard Township of Greenwood, South Carolina.

Well, this census did confirm my great grandmother’s first name was Amy,  however, I still had not confirmed her surname or the name of her father.

I ordered my grandfather’s social security application because he would certainly know his mother's maiden name. The social security application revealed several findings; William Alexander was living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1936 at 3102 4th street. He worked at Sears, Roebuck and Company. He indicated that he was born on March 10, 1896 in Greenwood, South Carolina, near 96. His father was identified as John Alexander and his mother was Amy FRIAR Alexander. Sex is male and his color is Negro. William signed the application on March 28, 1936. Just as I expected, my grandfather included his mother’s maiden name - FRIAR.

I then evaluated two other sources: my grandfather’s death certificate in Fulton County, Georgia and a delayed birth certificate for the State of South Carolina. My step-grandmother Bessie Johnson Alexander (we always referred to her as Aunt Bessie), was the informant for my grandfather’s death certificate. William F. Alexander died on June 6, 1963 in Atlanta, Georgia. He was buried at the Lincoln Cemetery in Atlanta. His father was listed as John Alexander and his mother Amy Frair.  I noticed that my grandfather had the middle initial F on his death certificate, and I assumed that the F was from his mother’s maiden name.

The delayed birth certificate included the same information and more. Amy FRAIR was born in Edgefield, South Carolina and died at the age of 35. John Alexander was also born in Edgefield, and was 73 years old when he died. My grandfather was born March 10, 1889 and he applied for the delayed birth certificate on August 17, 1952. I did note a discrepancy in the birth year for my grandfather between his death certificate and this information.

Being just a little curious, I also obtained a copy of my grandfather’s brother- Gosby Alexander’s death certificate in Atlanta and 1915 marriage record from South Carolina. Both documents confirmed the name of their mother – Amy Friar and father John Alexander.

I was convinced that with several independent sources, I had confirmed that my great grandmother was named Amy FRIAR.

Now, I needed to find her in the household with Wallace Frair (Frier Friar, Fryer). The spelling variations all sounded alike and I decided to search using the wildcard * for any one of the names found in the 1870 US census. I found them! Amy was living with her father Wallace Frier, mother Lucinda and siblings Jane, and Elizabeth in Saluda, Edgefield, South Carolina.

While, this is not the end to this story, my mother’s memory of two names served as a compass to direct me to my great-grandmother Amy and great-great-grandfather Wallace. Although, my parents did not name their last daughter Amy after my grandfather’s mother, they did agree to name her Cynthia who is now referred to as Cindy. However, it is ironic that Amy’s mother is named Lucinda, and she could have also been called Cindy during her lifetime!

But, the story does not end with finding the surname of my great grandmother. I was now curious and wanted to know more about the (Frair, Fryer, Frier, Friar) surname and began to check other records. To my surprise, I discovered a Freedman’s Bank Record for an Edmund Friar in Barnwell, South Carolina. Edmund listed his sibling’s (Richard, Hillery,Wiley, Simon,Wallace, Caroline, Elizabeth, Jackson, Cely, Winnie, Tamar), and his parents (Clive and Amy). I was amazed to find my great great grandfather Wallace in the record as well as other family members including his parents - my great-great-great grandparents!

Now, could I find Wallace’s parents and siblings prior to the 1870 US Census? Was this possible? Were they free or enslaved? Well, why not keep searching?

I think that by now, the ancestors are guiding every step of my journey because in 2010 a new book written by Gloria Ramsey Lucas Slave Records of Edgefield County, South Carolina changed my entire perspective on slave era research. This book included thousands of names of slaves in transactions involving estates, wills, and sales of slaves from one owner to another. The big question for me was whether I could find Wallace Friar, his parents and/or siblings in this book? This was a challenge because the book included a listing of the enslaved with first names and no surnames. Therefore, I initially looked for a slave owner with any of the surnames sounding like (Frair, Frier, Frear, Freer, Fryer, Frayer, and Frair). Not a single slave owner with any of those surnames was listed in this book. I did find a Richard Friar in the 1850 US Census in Edgefield with one female slave around the age of 55. But, he may not have had a will or a slave sale transaction to make it into the book.

I then decided to go through each page by searching for a family grouping with the names listed on Edmund Friar's bank record.

Well, one day, I was lamenting on the excitement of one of my genie friend's – Ellen Butler, who had just found her ancestor’s in the Slave Records of Edgefield County when my eyes found a listing of some familiar names associated with Andrew Pickens and his daughter’s Susan Calhoun and Eliza Coles, and his son Francis Pickens. The slave transactions were between 1838 and 1854, and most of the transactions listed them with (NVG) no value given. They were not sold but given as gifts!

Not only did I find my great grandmother’s maiden name, I also found my entire family enslaved by the Pickens family.

A simple conversation one day with my mother created a wonderful journey for me. The Ancestors Told; The Elders Listened; We Passed It On!

More to come in Part 2
(c)copyright secured all rights reserved (c) 2012

1. "United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 18 Nov 2012), William Alexander in household of John Alexander, ED 86 Kinards Township, Greenwood, South Carolina, United States; citing sheet 6A, family 93, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1241530.

2. Social Security application for account number ***-***-1972 was ordered from Baltimore, Maryland – Social Security Administration in January 2005.

3. Certified Birth certificate number 3225 in the Georgia State File 15951 was obtained from the Georgia State Office of Vital Records and signed by Julie D. Bidley State Registrar and Custodian – May 20, 2005.

4. South Carolina Delayed Births, 1766-1900 and City of Charleston, South Carolina Births, 1877-1901 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.Original data: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

5. Georgia Department of Public Health Certificate of Death – 975. Fulton, County Georgia. Gosby Alexander - Age 42 – death date – January 19, 1949 – father John Alexander and mother Amy Friar.

6. Marriage License- Affidavits to obtain Licenses – State of South Carolina – County of Greenwood. September 27, 1915. Groom Gosby Alexander –age 21- Mother of Amy Friar and father John Alexander. Bride, Parthena Sims – age 18- mother- Ann Morgan and father Stephen Sims. Ninety-Six, South Carolina.

7. Year: 1870; Census Place: Saluda, Edgefield, South Carolina; Roll: M593_1494; Page: 49A; Image: 102; Family History Library Film: 552993.
Registers of Signatures of Depositors in Branches of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company, 1865-1874. Washington, D.C: Record 6689 for Edmund Friar – June, 1874 –Barnwell, South Carolina. National Archives and Records Administration. Micro publication M816, 27 rolls.

8. Lucas, Gloria Ramsey. Slave records of Edgefield County, South Carolina. (Edgefield, South Carolina : Edgefield County Historical Society, c2010) 432 pages. Names are arranged by the name of the owner who sold the slave. Ancestors were found on page 311 – Amy and Wllace – negro slave and children – owner – F.W. Pickens – new owner Coles, J. Stricter and wife Eliza, 1854/08/07- no value given – Deed Book – JJJ, P 596. This deed book also included – Richard, Tamar, Martha, Hannah, Catherine, Henry, Eliza and Amy. Other transactions will be discussed in another paper.