My name is Dennis Richmond Jr., and I am a 26-year-old author and genealogist. I have been examining my family tree since March of 2008. I am humbled to say that I made strides that many of those researching Black families only dream of making. I know the plantation that my family was on and, I know who owned them.
I also know where my ancestors came from in West Africa.
My great, great grandparents are Rhina Nelson and Brutus Bowens. Born on Saturday, Dec. 28, 1889, Grandpa Brutus was one of the children of Gabriel Monday Bowens and Flora Stevens. He was born in Big Camp, South Carolina. Big Camp is close to Pineville, SC. Grandpa Brutus, a farmer, and father of seven died of heart failure on Oct. 29, 1931, at just 41-years-old.
My great, great grandmother, Grandma Rhina, the daughter of Kate Nelson and a former slave named John Gould, died in 1950. She is resting in the Mexico Cemetery in Berkeley County. There are at least two dozen Bowens relatives buried in the Mexico Cemetery. The fact that there are first names in my family tree, like “Saturday” and “Monday,” suggests that my ancestors descend from the Akan people of Ghana.
My great, great, great grandmother is Grandma Kate Nelson. Grandma Kate was born c.1866 in Berkeley County, South Carolina. Her parents are Primus Nelson, born c.1842, and Sarah Wiggins, born c. 1845. Grandpa John Gould was the son of Cain Gould and Henrietta Westin. I found my family through census records, death records, and with the help of a special genealogist named Jeanie Glaser. My ancestors Primus and Sarah were born in the Mexico area of Berkely County.
The goldmine for me was locating several of my ancestors in an estate inventory. Primus, Sarah, Cain, and Monday all appeared in the estate papers for Major Samuel Porcher in 1851. Samuel Porcher owned close to 400 slaves at the time of his death. All his property had value. His property included my ancestors. I saw prices next to all my ancestor’s names. Imagine waking up and being told that you were worth $340.
I learned that Grandpa Cain’s parents were named Quashy and Sappho, Grandpa Gabriel’s parents were Moses and Lizette, and Grandpa Primus was a child of Billy and Lucy. Galboa and Silvey were the names of Grandma Sarah’s parents.
My ancestors were slaves on the Mexico Plantation in Berkeley County, South Carolina.
My ancestry doesn’t start on the Mexico Plantation, though. DNA evidence from multiple descendants of Grandpa Brutus and Grandma Rhina shows Ghanaian ancestry. Those Akan naming traditions survived Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, the slave ships, and the Mexico Plantation, all the way to 2021 to allow me to write about them today.
Many of my ancestors on this branch of my family descend from people stolen from Ghana. My African ancestors didn’t come to America by choice.
It’s time for me to take a trip back home.
Dennis Richmond Jr. is an author, genealogist, and freelance journalist.