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My Ancestry: Mom’s Side

As of about a year ago I thought my family history story started with my great grandparents on my mom’s side.  Because that was all I was ever told and that’s all my family knew.  But recently through my own research and research done by an older cousin, I have been able to go back a little further in my family tree.  

Okay. Starting with my research: My mom’s mom’s side of the family: Desmond’s. 

Growing up I was told that my great grandfather, Stanley Desmond Sr., came to America from Nova Scotia, met my great grandmother Ethel “Mudder” Ward. They started a family in Greenwich, CT and then moved to Western Massachusetts in the 50s.  They had 14 children. One of which being my grandmother, Florence. However, recently after discovering a document in a photo album while cleaning the house after my mother passed, a whole new chunk of the family tree began to surface.

Document I discovered in the photo album
Photo Description: Aged document dated ‘Christmas Greeting 1896’ with title ‘The Ages of Ms. Caroline Ward and Children’ and list of names and birthdays of Caroline Ward and her 10 children.

Dated Christmas 1896, It lists Caroline Ward and her children. Given the date, I realized it was my 3rd great grandmother and her children, including my 2nd great grandfather, William T. Ward. Through searching some of the names on Google I came across a website, usgwarchives.net, that had digitized census records from Bertie County, North Carolina.  

Screen Grab of the Bertie County, NC usgwarchives website

Through this I was able to add the links of the census to my tree.  From the estimated ages I was able to do further research and find my 2nd great grandfather and his siblings obituaries and grave locations.  Through analyzing the obituaries for context clues I was able to track down living descendants of my 2nd great grandfather and his siblings.  

One of my older cousin’s found more information about Caroline Ward and her parents. The following is an excerpt from a post on our family Facebook group: 

“Caroline,( Mudder’s grandmother) was born a slave in 1839 on a farm near Hertford, North Carolina . Her mother was a slave and her father was the slave owner Mr. Winborne.  The slave owner had a wife and also children with his wife. When one of his white daughters , Sally Winborne got married to James Henry Ward  Caroline was given to her as a wedding gift along with another slave who was Caroline’s husband named Sam and their son Hardy both Winborne slaves.  They were now the property of  James Henry Ward therefore their names were changed from Winborne to Ward. Sam ran away and joined the Union army. After the civil war Sam came back for his family. They loaded everything on an Ox cart and left. During their journey they had to cross a frozen stream. Since the Ox couldn’t walk on ice, Sam had to break the ice in order to cross. Sam got wet and died of pneumonia.”

Now on to Ethel’s mother’s side. I was able to connect with a distant cousin, a descendant of one of my 2nd great grandmother’s sisters, they shared their tree with me and I got to learn about her siblings.  My 2nd maternal great grandmother was one of 12 (11 girls, 1 boy). Her family was also originally from North Carolina. 

Both sets of Ethel’s grandparents were born within the last 15-20 years before slavery legally ended.  

The research has been very interesting and eye opening.  I am glad that although some of the family history is dark that it has been discovered so future generations have an appreciation of those who came before them. 

By Whitney Porter

My name is Whitney Porter. I am 21 years old and from New Jersey, USA. I have been interested in family history and genealogy since I was 13. I have been doing genealogy research for about a year and a half. My ancestry is Southern US, Jamaica, St. Kitts, and Nova Scotia. I previously attended Campbell University majoring in Political Science with a minor in Economics. I am now working in the non profit sector. I enjoy recovering and preserving the stories of the past so that they may inform and guide us in the present into the future.

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