Make Black History Personal: #15 A Story of Slavery in My Family

The picture below is my great-grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Parker. He was born April 1878 in Harris County, Georgia; youngest child of Isaiah Parker and Charity Ann.

Thomas Jefferson Parker - My Paternal Great Grandfather
Thomas Jefferson Parker – My Paternal Great Grandfather

Charity Ann was Black and one of the slaves owned by Isaiah’s father, the Rev. Isaiah Parker. I’ve been able to find a fair amount of info on the Parker family but not much on my slave ancestor, Charity Ann. Funny thing, is that I feel so connected to her because of all the stories my grandmother (and her granddaughter) told me about her.

My grandmother, Beatrice Parker, was Thomas Jefferson Parker’s daughter who was born in 1898 when Charity Ann was still alive. Grandma got to spend quite a bit of time with Charity Ann who lived with the family until her death in 1905.

According to my grandmother, Charity Ann and her sister were girls when they sold away from their mother in Virgina. Their new slave owner was Rev. Parker and he took the girls away in a big wagon with Black horses as Grandma told it.

But as a genealogist, I was never satisfied just with Grandma’s stories – however entertaining they were. I’ve always wanted to know more about Charity Ann and here’s what I have pieced together up to this point –

1. Charity Ann aka Ann was born in VA about 1825, which is the date of her birth given in the 1900 United State census.

2. I was told by my grandmother, who lived to 97, that Charity Ann and her sister were sold away from their mother to Isaiah’s father when they were girls. He sold the sister on the way back to Harris County GA where he had a cotton plantation with 25 slaves according to the 1860 United States slave schedules.

3. Charity Ann and Isaiah developed a relationship and had 16 children together – some of them were born during slavery.

4. To my knowledge, neither married anyone else. After the Civil War, they lived together as a common-law couple because  miscegenation laws in the South preventing them from legally marrying.

5. During slavery, Isaiah’s father died and Isaiah bought Charity Ann and 3 of their children from the estate. Here’s a copy of the bill of sale dated 8 Jan 1862.

The bill of sale for Isaiah Parker's purchase of Charity Ann. They were my great-great grandparents.
The bill of sale for Isaiah Parker’s purchase of Charity Ann. They were my great-great grandparents.

6. Charity Ann died about 1905. This syncs with my grandmother’s recollection of when she died. Charity Ann is buried in the Prospect AME church cemetery in Fortson, Georgia – the Black cemetery. Isaiah is buried in the White cemetery.

Charity Ann's grave in Georgia.
The grave of my great-great grandmother, Charity Ann who was a slave.

7. The family story is that Charity Ann was part Cherokee. My grandmother always said Charity Ann looked like (and these are Grandma’s words, not mine) “an old Indian squaw” with her hair in two long braids that hung below her waist.

But after my DNA test results came in last year, I’m skeptical of a Native American connection here. My ancestry composition was only 2% Native American so I believe it’s more likely that Charity Ann was part European, as I am.

8. I don’t have any info on where Charity Ann came from in VA or who the prior slave owner was but I have heard my great-great grandmother referred to as “Charity Ann Graves”. That makes me wonder if that was her name when she was sold to Rev. Parker.

I always heard that Charity Ann was born near the James River in Virginia. When I checked for Virginia slave owners named “Graves” in the 1830 Census who had female slaves under 10 yrs old (which she would have been then), there were 47 Graves slave owners of in 24 locations. Three of those slave owners lived 35 miles or less from the James River.

This may be a wild goose chase but one I’ve got to go on because there’s so little information available about Charity Ann. She’s one of  my ancestors who I’ll be hot-on-the-trail of for years to come.

How can you make Black history personal?

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10 responses to Make Black History Personal: #15 A Story of Slavery in My Family

  1. Terrance says:

    Your story is true to a certain point. Charity Anne was not black but was Native American. Her and her family chose to not go on the reservation and his from the army in Virginia. They found them and sold them into slavery. Because of her Native American race she would be considered mulatto especially being sold into slavery. Most Cherokee Indians had a dark complexion, but I promise you she was not black.

    • Based on my DNA results, Terrance, I question whether Charity Ann was Native American. I only have 2% Native American ancestry. But my grandmother (who was Charity Ann’s granddaughter and lived with her for probably 8 years) insisted that her grandmother looked Native American. And that is definitely the oral history through my family. So you may be right. Thanks for your encouragement to keep an open mind on this:)

      • Victori Bass says:

        The way I understand it is it trickles down by percentages each generation, so if Charity Ann was your great great great grandmother and if she was half Native American, Her offspring Thomas would be 1/4 his offspring would be 2/4 and by the time it came to you, you would be either 3/4 or a very small amount.

  2. Victori Bass says:

    Hi Karen, Thanks one of my DNA cousins on 23 and me is related by slavery to this same man Isaiah Parker, I was just Google searching his name to find who he bought his slaves from and found this. Ann is also my cousins relative as well so possibly we may also be related. Please email me. My family was from Newberry, South Carolina via Virginia. Her profile page tells the story in brief. I would certainly like to know more and learn how the Parker and Pitts families are related to my Sheppard family. So I will be checking in at your blog periodically to learn more.

    Thanks, Victori

  3. Joan Bennett says:

    I am a distant relative of Charity Ann Graves Parker…one of her children married my Aunt…..fantastic story……..

  4. Joy says:

    I am a descendant of Charity Ann answer Isaiah. My great great … grandfather was Elijah Parker

  5. Reggie Delarm says:

    Have you traced all 16 of their children… it is an interesting story.

  6. Jonathan L Johnson says:

    My cousin did a Genealogy for her doctoral program and shared with me a few names which I googled led me here. Virginia Parker which was one of charity Anne’s (who we were always told was cherokee) daughters had a daughter named Maude. Maude was who we in my family referred to as “Big Momma” she was a white (or apparently white) woman. one of her daughter which was my great grandmother named Robena had my grandmother Virginia Anne who still lives in Columbus GA today.

  7. Charles Walker says:

    Dear cousins,
    I am also a descendant of Charity Ann and Isaiah Parker. They had a daughter, Amanda, who married Charles Walker. Amanda was my great grandmother. I would love to hear from you.

  8. Kellie Parker says:

    Thank you so very much for your time, effort and love that went into your reasearch. I am a Parker . . Isiah is my 3x’s great grandfather. I believe my Dad said, Isiah Parker and Thomas Jefferson were brothers. He (my father) was very aware of who Charity was. My father is the son of Glenn Parker, my grandfather; who is the son or grandson of Isiah and Ida Parker (not sure which one). Your findings are remarkable. I remember my dad telling me stories about my Papa’s grandmother being of native decent. My dad is the reason for my response. He told me about the article. Good luck on your journey.. . .KP

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