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FAMILY TREE

Share your experiences while tracing your family's geneology. Your processes, discoveries and surprizes...

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Comment by Lydell Jackson on November 16, 2010 at 6:09pm
Comment by Lydell Jackson on March 11, 2010 at 9:20am



Emmitt Smith's Family History

Some know Emmitt Smith as the National Football League's all-time leading rusher. Others recognize him as a three-time Super Bowl champion or a Dancing with the Stars winner. But do you really know who Emmitt is?

Until he traced his genealogy for the NBC reality series Who Do You Think You Are?, Emmitt says he didn't even know the answer to that question.

To find out more about himself and the family members who paved the way for his success, this hall-of-fame inductee followed his roots to Burnt Corn, Alabama, the town where his great-grandmother was born. "I feel like a detective on a hunt trying to find clues," he says.

In Burnt Corn, Emmitt wandered into a convenience store and asked a clerk if he knew two of his relatives, Bill and Victoria Watson. Coincidentally, Joe, the clerk, turned out to be Emmitt's second cousin.

Emmitt soon learned that his great-great-grandmother, Victoria, had an unusual maiden name—Puryear. Genealogist Marjorie Sholes told Emmitt that "Puryear" was probably the name of a slave owner. "African-Americans, at the end of the Civil War, sometimes picked the names of their last slave owner," she says.

The next step? Emmitt went in search of Victoria's parents' names. In an old ledger, Marjorie found a man named Prince Puryear who was described with the letter "m," which meant mulatto. "Specifically, black/white race," she says.

They also discovered that Prince's mom was a woman named Mariah. "Now, I know that Prince was mixed race and born into slavery," Emmitt says. "If Mariah was his mother, could she be the link between the black and the white side of my family?"

To explore this theory, Emmitt traveled to Mecklenburg, Virginia, to learn more about a notorious slave trader who owned Mariah at some point in history. The man's name was Alexander Puryear.

Virginia historian John Caknipe said Samuel Puryear, Alexander's father, might be the link to Mariah. To find out for sure, John selected a book of old deeds from a shelf. The number on the book was 22—the same number Emmitt wore on the football field for 15 years.

"I've been wearing jersey number 22 since college," he says. "Maybe it is my destiny, and I've always believed I was a child of destiny, but, whew, this is … it's making me a little bit nervous."

Emmitt says the family history he unearthed in book 22 shook him to the core. John helped him find a property deed stating that Mariah was transferred from Samuel to his son, Alexander.

"Samuel probably had her bred," John says. "Then, when she got old enough, he gave her to his son. … They raised and bred horses, and raised and bred slaves."

"In other words, the horses were more important than any slaves that they ever had," Emmitt says. "They treated my people like animals…but worse than animals."

The deed stated that Mariah was passed down along with a horse bridle and a saddle. "She was such a young woman," Emmitt says. "I have a 13-year-old daughter right now, and I have a 10-year-old daughter right now. I couldn't imagine them being passed down through slavery that way."

Professor Steven Deyle, a domestic slave trade historian, says it's safe to assume that Samuel was, in fact, Mariah's father. "Alexander was engaged in this horrible, horrible traffic and why he didn't sell Mariah is because he recognized Mariah as his sister," Steven says.

Read the rest of the story on Opra.com
Comment by Cherene on December 29, 2009 at 5:22pm
I was recently contacted by someone who believes that we are related. I am so excited by the entire connection. I hope that we really are. She has traced ancestry back to the 1600s. I haven't gotten the final word yet but it opens several doors for me emotional and ancestrally. I will keep you posted!
Comment by Nina Vélez-Troya on March 9, 2009 at 11:31am
Thanks very much.
Greetings from Barcelona.
Nina.
Comment by James E. St.Clair on March 6, 2009 at 11:16am

There is a cost..in the $350 range...check www.africanancestry.com. They are done with a cotton swab in the mouth.
Comment by James E. St.Clair on March 6, 2009 at 10:57am
Last year I took to DNA tests with African Ancestry.com. I discovered that my Maternal line is from Sierra Leone and the Limba Tribe....no surprise sense so many from there were brought to the US to cultivate rice...rice is in my blood...LOL...My paternal line was traced to the Balanta Tribe of Guinea Bissau. Peace,Saint
Comment by Lydell Jackson on March 4, 2009 at 6:15pm
Thanx E!
 

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