Some More Notes on African-American Bembrys

After my first post in the subject of African-American Bembrys, I was contacted by an African-American Bembry with more information about that side of the family.

It got me to thinking and digging again. I thought I would post some notes about it here, in case it can be helpful to anyone else.

Unfortunately, I am currently limited to online research. While I am not very experienced with African-American genealogy, I am sure that locally available wills, deeds, and oral history can further straighten all this out. If you have information that would be helpful, please let me know, and I’ll post it on the blog.

I have been looking at the black and “mulatto” Bembrys living in the Pulaski County area after the Civil War, and trying to make connections between them and their pre-war owners. I have found several apparent family groups on the 1870 census.

First, there is Richard Bembry (b. 1820 NC), a mulatto man living next door to John Bembry, a white grandson of Miles Bembry I through Thomas Bembry, my own ancestor. They are in militia district 511, a portion of western Pulaski County that was in Dooly County in 1860. Richard’s wife was a “mulatto” woman named Harriett, and their children, Seborn, Peggy, Richard Jr., Rosanna, Hardy, Lincoln, Isabella, Clifford, and Dock are all listed as mulatto. There is more about Richard on my African-American Bembrys page.  He was very likely a son or grandson of Miles Bembry I (possibly a son of Thomas Bembry).

This John Bembry’s household on the 1860 slave schedule included the following slaves (all black):

M 48 (likely Richard)
M 36
M 21
F 16
M 12
M 6

There is another group found living three doors away from Marina Mayo Bembry in 1870.  This group consists of Ned/Edward (b. 1810) and Sallie (b. 1815) Bembry, both born in NC, and their children, Ester, Ham, Eva, and Sallie.  All of these people are listed as black. Their ages match up almost exactly with slaves found on previous censuses going back several decades. Ned and Sallie are evidently a couple that came with Marina and her husband Miles from North Carolina, and may previously have belonged to Miles Bembry I.

I have read online in a message board post by a descendant of Ned that he was “treated well” and given land by Marina after emancipation.

Right next door to Marina, Hampton Bembry (b. 1799 NC), is living with the Chester Loving family—probably a son-in-law. Ned’s son Ham is probably named after this Hampton, which may indicate that Ned and Hampton were brothers. Hampton is also listed as black.

In 1860 Marina was widowed and living with her son, William, who was later killed at the battle of Chickamauga. Their household included the following slaves (no race listed):

50 Male (Ned)
40 Female (Sallie)
22 Female
3 Female
1 Female

Also near Marina (about six doors away) Sylvia Bembry (b. 1820 GA) is found living with her three sons, Benjamin, Will and Mike. She is probably not related directly to Ned or Hampton, because she was born in GA before the white Bembrys got there with their slaves in 1829. However, she is almost certainly another of Miles II and Marina’s former slaves. She is not listed as married, but is not listed as widowed either.

According to a descendant of Benjamin, Sylvia’s son, Benjamin himself was a mulatto. He is listed alternately as black and mulatto on censuses, but his children are consistently listed as mulatto.  It is therefore entirely possible that Benjamin was a son or grandson of one of the white Bembrys.

I have also heard that Benjamin was given land by Marina after the war, but have not confirmed this. He married Mariah Fleming. Their children as listed on the 1900 census were: Charlie, Mathis, Thomas, Arthur, Georgia Lee, and Cicero. There was also at least one older son, James (Jim) who was literate, owned land, and owned a small shop by 1910.

In addition to William Bembry, who lived with his mother, Marina, two other sons, Miles III and Kenneth Bembry lived nearby in 1860 and owned slaves.

Kenneth Bembry was killed in 1863.  In 1860 his household included:

1 m 65 black (Hampton?)
1 f 30 black
1 f 25 black
1 f 18 black
1 m 17 black
1 f 15 black
1 f 10 black
1 f 3 mulatto

Kenneth is the obvious candidate for father of the 3 year old mulatto girl. The 17 year old boy is the right age to be Benjamin, though he is listed as black. But there is no woman the right age to be Sylvia listed. That said, ages are quite often wrong on censuses even for free whites, and I don’t know as the census takers paid very close attention to the ages of slaves. I have also read that slaves were sometimes not counted if they were working on another property at the time or had been hired out to someone else.

Miles III had quite a few slaves.

46 Male Black
43 Male Black
40 Male Black
36 Female Black
26 Female Black
26 Female Black
24 Female Black
22 Male Black
8 Male Black
8 Male Black
8 Male Black
6 Female Black
5 Male Black

This looks like four sets of parents with children, but I have not yet been able to match the adults up with older Bembrys found in 1870. One possibility is that they took the name Mayo instead of Bembry. There are no slaveowners named Mayo in Pulaski County in 1860, but there are lots of black and mulatto Mayos in 1870. From what I have read, emancipated slaves did not always use the last name of their most recent owner. They might use the name of a previous owner if that gave everyone in their own family the same surname, for example.

Marina was the daughter of a wealthy North Carolina planter, and surely brought some slaves of her own into her marriage. Those slaves and their children and grandchildren might well have kept the name Mayo in common after emancipation, particularly if they respected Marina herself, which it sounds like they did.

Finally, one more Bembry of this generation of former slaves appears out of nowhere in 1900. Caroline Bembry, a black woman born in 1819 in GA is found living in Dooly County. This is of interest because her age and birthplace match up with Sylvia. She also lives with a “daughter” named “Callie,” who I suspect is probably her daughter-in-law because she was born in 1876 when Caroline would have been 55 years old.  Not impossible, but it doesn’t seem very likely. Meanwhile, Sylvia’s son Mike married a woman named Carrie and he is not found in 1900, while Carrie is listed as widowed. So, it may be that this Caroline and Sylvia are the same person, and that Callie and Carrie are the same person.

That’s about as far as I can get by myself, and long-distance. If you have information that would help complete the picture, please email me!


5 thoughts on “Some More Notes on African-American Bembrys

  1. We are almost certainly related. My ancestor Samuel David Andrew’s wife was Irene Scarborough, daughter of Dr. David Scarborough, whose second wife, Irene’s mother, was Penelope Louisa Bembry.

  2. My son and I visited the Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield park many years ago and found a book there that listed people buried in the Confederate Cemetery at Marietta, GA. The book listed a William Bembry as being buried there and also as being killed at Chickamauga. At the time we did not know much at all about our Confederate Bembrys. I stopped at the cemetery in Marietta and walked around, many grave markers indicate unknown so I do not know if his grave is identified or not. It is a fairly large cemetery and is about a mile from the National cemetery where Union dead are buried.
    I believe this William was a first cousin of Thomas N., my gg grandfather.

  3. Hi, my maiden name is Bembury, I am not sure if it is any any way related to the surname spelled Bembry, but my grandfathers family if I am not mistaken is from right around the Chowan County, North Carolina area, we are from the African-American side. I found this blog interesting because I have always wanted to trace my families roots back as far as possible. So, when my grandmother passed away in 2011 my uncle gave each family member a packet of papers that are or families register report of a Mr. Samuel Bembury in 1827 and married to a woman by the name of Adaline who was born around 1936. Together they had for children by the names of Sammie Bembury 1870, Adaline Bembury 1874, John Bembury 1873 and Edward Bembury 1881. As far as my Great-Great Grandfather Samuel Bembury 1827, I much I I searched I could not find more information about him before this time.

    • Thanks for commenting! Your name might be from Bembry or it might be from Benbury, which was a big family in the Chowan area. I think it is possible that the Bembrys were originally Benburys, but I have never found any proof of that. My dad has never even had a DNA match with anyone from the Benbury family. So, I think it is equally possible that the Bembrys are completely separate from the Benburys. It remains a mystery!

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