I know, long time… no posts. But I’m happy to say it’s more because of projects than because a pandemic is occupying too much of my attention–which is a major improvement.

One of the things I worked on at the beginning of the year is about to see the light of day next month and I’m very thankful to have gotten an early look.

Cover of Black Homesteaders of the South by Bernice Alexander Bennett, available October 24, 2022

Black Homesteaders of The South by Bernice Alexander Bennett is a wonderful collection of Homesteader stories about families that didn’t necessarily head west for their land. These homesteaders took up property in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

The project grew out of Bennett’s coordinated efforts to solicit contributions for Black Homesteaders at the National Park Service site–in an effort to broaden the understanding of Black Homesteading beyond the Exodusters in the Great Plains states. I contributed the story of Levi Hampton, Harrison Trotter’s uncle, who homesteaded in Bradley County, Arkansas and granted some of that land to Harrison.

Grab a copy from your favorite vendor: https://bookshop.org/books/black-homesteaders-of-the-south/9781467152303?fbclid=IwAR34fhXjco5jEzHHg1RwKzICe_PFkdhfGeaj0w6st_I09P7qKkm8YPynodM

Happy hunting,


As I’ve mentioned in passing before, Levi Hampton is not (to my knowledge) a direct line ancestor but he has been at the center of my research on the Trotter and Johnson families.

Levi Hampton was born into slavery around 1835 in Alabama according to most Census records. His direct descendants pass down a story that he was used as a “Stud” by slave owners and possibly belonged to a plantation owner named Graham but I haven’t been able to verify that. By the time of the 1870 Census he was married to a woman named Sally and had 5 children in their household: Homer, Edward, John, Willie, and Lottie. According to the paperwork associated with his Homestead Application he settles a plot of land in or around January of 1873 and formally applied for the land in September 1884 under the Homestead Act of 1862.

Sally died sometime between the birth of daughter Anna (born in 1876 according to the 1880 Census) and his second marriage to the woman I believe to be my 2nd Great Aunt (and sister to Josephine), Jane Johnson, on 05 Nov 1877. The 1880 Census also enumerated a widowed daughter Mary Hampton. But my guess is that she is actually a daughter-in-law by way of Levi’s son Homer.

Levi Hampton PatentIn September of 1890 Levi testified in the process to prove his claim to the Palestine homestead and the land patent was signed in July of 1891. His testimony also stated that he regularly voted, and a 1905 Poll Tax list for Palestine Township show him as paid in full and qualified to vote.

I have been unable to find Levi’s family in the 1900 and 1920 Census, but the 1910 Census, shows a daughter probably with Jane, Lou Hampton, as well as his nephew (and my Great Grandfather) Harrison Trotter.

I also have a transcription of Levi’s will written in 1916 which names five living children: Ed, John, Willie, Lottie Sims and Orrie Nelson (I’m pretty sure this is Annie Hampton who married John Nelson). He also willed to Harrison Trotter “the small old field southwest of my house on the west 80 acres”—the site of the Trotter Homestead I featured last post.

I know there’s more to know about the Hampton/Johnson/Trotter ties but for now I feel I’ve hit a brick wall—at least until I can get out on the road and locate more Arkansas records.

Happy hunting!


I’ve decided to jump in late to Amy Crow Johnson’s 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks challenge. So, hopefully, I’ll be featuring 52 ancestors—blogging research problems, stories, photos, or whatever else I can think of for 52 ancestors. And ideally, I will do this in addition to my “Not Quite Wordless Wednesday” posts… Wish me luck! The real goal is to seriously look at my research and write this year.

I’ve mentioned my Second Great Grandfather Sam Trotter here a number of times but it’s always been just mentions because he’s one of those elusive characters in my family tree. What I know is sketchy. His son, Harrison, claimed Sam and Josephine Johnson were his parents in his Social Security Application. And I was able to find a marriage record for Sam and Josephine, not in Bradley County, Arkansas where I expected to find them, but in neighboring Ashley County on 30 Dec 1880. Family stories, obituaries, and later census records make it look like my Harrison was the last of 6 children born to the couple in 1890—all conveniently between censuses. I have also found Sam listed as a witness in notices regarding Levi Hampton’s Homestead Application in 1890 and 1891

Then things get interesting. I haven’t found anything related to Josephine’s death but Sam is credited with two more children with Maggie Goudlock, Sarah in 1896 and Richard in 1898. And Sam married Etta Stanfield Thompson in September of 1898 and according to family stories they had one child, Cora, in Oct 1901. However, Etta, is listed as a widow in the 1900 Census with four Trotter stepchildren (Henry, Susan, Pearl, and Belle) and two children with the last name Thompson including a Cora born in 1899. I have no idea what happened to Sam but Etta married Ezekiel Hemphill in 1902, making me think that Sam probably did die prior to 1900.

Going backwards Sam is probably the son of Eliza Jane who later married James Newton. Their 1880 household included a 16 year old Sam listed as James’ stepson along with a brother Matt. But he is not listed in 1870–only Matt and his older siblings Rial, Jane are enumerated

Trotter CoggleAll of this is a roundabout (and long-winded) way of saying Sam is the first of my 52 Ancestors because he’s at the top of my research list this year.  I want to know more about the Trotter line and I’m going to follow up every lead I can think of to track down more information on them.

So far the top two items on my to do list are 1. Wheedling my dad into a Y-DNA test… (Check! Now awaiting results.) and 2. Trying to figure out of if there are other records I’m missing. For the latter, I’ve been brainstorming possibilities through a technique suggested by Thomas MacEntee using Coggle.it and it has helped me get an idea visually of what I have checked and what I haven’t. Next up tracking down records.

I’ll update you all as I find out more. Thinking positive!

Happy hunting,


Trotter-Rogers Reunion 1985, Detroit, MIIt’s reunion/family-get-together season and I’ve got the photos to prove it!

This one’s from 1985. I’m not sure if this was an actual reunion or just a large family gathering.

I only really know my immediate family here. I’m with Mom in the front right and my brother is looking surly with his plate in the front left. I see Grandma and the outline of Grandpa, two of my cousins, three aunts, and three uncles, Great Aunt Lee Ellen (Trotter) Hampton, and Cousin Carol. I’m guessing there are more Hamptons in the shot?

Dad had to have been one of the photographers. How do I know? Because I was making funny faces at the photographer in the next shot and that would only happen to him and my Uncle Christopher. And Chris was in the background of both shots.

This was taken in front of my Grandparents house near the old Detroit City Airport, Detroit, Michigan.

Happy hunting!


PS. Can anyone tell me how Cousin Carol was related to the Trotters?

Here’s my first follow-up post from research inspired by sessions from the Michigan Genealogical Council’s 2011 Family History Month Workshop.

As I noted in an earlier post, Pamela J. Cooper’s Homestead Act session encouraged me try requesting a selection of the Federal Land Entry files for my ancestors.  On October 30th I started out by ordering the file of Levi Hampton who was listed in the 1900 Census as my Great Grandfather’s uncle and is one of the few members of my Arkansas family to have a patent listed in the BLM database 

I searched the BLM database for Levi Hampton in Bradley County, Arkansas (one can further limit a search under the “Miscellaneous” section switching the drop down menu beside “Authority” to “Homestead Entry Original”). I took the information in that entry to fill out the NARA order form. The request is currently $40—but it should be noted that this is a flat fee regardless of the size of the file. The deliverables can be photocopies or a digital copy.  I ended up requesting a digital copy to save myself the time scanning.

I was thrilled to receive the disk within 11 days—which is a little funny because it still shows on my NARA account as waiting to be sent. Levi’s file is 44 pages and includes his testimony, as well as that of two distant relatives—Wil Newton and Wilson Terry. I will admit that I really got my hopes up because Levi initially named my 3rd great-grandfather Sam Trotter, his brother, Rial, and their stepfather James Newton all as witnesses. But when the time came for the hearing Newton and Terry were the only witnesses. But regardless, there is a lot of information that I can cull from the file and I’m looking forward to spending more time on it.

Maybe the most interesting moment for me in reading the file was when I got to the presiding Judge, W. J. Hickman’s note on the change of witnesses. He comments, “I think myself that this witness is as good as either one of the others as he has been raised in the neighborhood of the said claimant. They are all Colored and one is as good as the other not withstanding his name does not appear in the publication.” I’m not sure why but it momentarily took my breath away to see that stated so plainly in a federal document. But as my parents noted when I shared it with them… it was a different time.

These files are definitely worth the price and slowly but surely I’ll start ordering Shea, Cunningham, Wilfong, and other family files.

Happy Hunting,


Harrison and Rhoda (Rogers) TrotterThis last week was meant to be spent on my Massy/Alison family in prep for an upcoming road trip (I’ll get to next post) but instead I received an email from a fellow researcher about our shared Trotter/Hampton families from Bradley Co., Arkansas. It gave me a great excuse to make sure I was caught up that portion of my research. It also gave me the impetus I needed to go page-by-page through Afro-Americans of Bradley County, Arkansas compiled by MacArthur and Princella Davis.

This book is an amazing collection of photographs covering what looks like just about every African-American family from the southern Arkansas county my paternal ancestors have called home since before the Civil War. It includes more than 350 pages of identified photographs with sometimes minimal and sometimes extensive family information. The photo quality is all over the place–I’d guess based on what they received in their call for photos. The one of my grandfather, Levie Trotter, is bad because it was taken from his funeral program (black and white photo on brown paper) but the one of my great-grandparents, Harrison and Rhoda (Rogers) Trotter, with my uncle Christopher is great. Regardless, the fact that there are so many photographs and that they are identified, outweighs everything. The book is an absolute treasure! It has been particularly helpful in filling in gaps caused by the missing 1890 Census especially when used in conjunction with FamilySearch.org’s database Arkansas County Marriages, 1837-1957. Researchers may be thrown by the format of the index (first name), but again the detail and range of information in the book makes up for that.

I’ve now been through it once and it’s cleared up a number of confusing lines. And I believe that, as my research continues, I’ll continue to get more out of it. Anyone with African-American family or ancestors from Bradley County should grab this book. It’s been an amazing resource by itself and a great source of information when I go through it with my relatives.