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Tracing Native American roots

After my recent column on genealogy, I continued my search for Native Americans in my family history. I discovered I was looking on the wrong branch of the family tree.

After checking my paternal grandmother’s lineage, I found what I was looking for in her mother’s family. My great-grandmother was Elizabeth Freeman Baldwin, born in 1876 and died the day after her 91st birthday in March 1967. I was 6 when she died so I remember her well. She was blind and lived in a house with a huge floor furnace.

I lived in fear of stepping on it and burning my feet. My mom doted on her so we spent a lot of time visiting her, taking her to doctor’s appointments and playing with various cousins in her backyard.

Great-grandma Baldwin was born near Topeka, Kan., and traveled with her family to Douglas County, Mo., in a covered wagon to become one of the first white settlers in that area. She later married William Leonard Baldwin and they had nine children, including my grandmother, Esther Lorraine.

We grandchildren called her Nana.

Apparently, Grandma Baldwin’s grandmother was Alabeth Freeman, whose mother, Dolly Crabgrass, was a member of the Choctaw tribe. The darker skin popped up occasionally in their progeny. According to family lore, one of Nana’s brothers, Robert Baldwin, was so dark-skinned, he was mistaken for a black man and refused a drink at a tavern in 1894.

That solved part of the legend of Native American in our heritage but my dad had been even more specific, telling us there was an “Indian princess” on the tree somewhere. Through my research, I was able to find her as well, which was exciting.

Alabeth’s husband, Posey Freeman Jr., was the great-grandson of a Chowanoc princess, Tabitha Hoyter. Tabitha’s father, Thomas Hoyter, sometimes spelled Hoyton or Hoyston, was chief of the tribe, which settled in Chowan Precinct in Albermarle, N.C.

So there it is, proof positive of my Native American heritage.

I’ve been using Ancestry.com for much of my research, augmented by handwritten history and photos provided by one of Nana’s maternal relatives. Through online postings on the site, a descendant of one of Grandma Baldwin’s sisters contacted me with supplemental information.

However, after my last column on genealogy, I was reminded by a phone call from Pat Rosser that there is a genealogy society that serves Clayton and Henry counties. Members meet at the Brown House in McDonough at 71 Macon St.

According to the society’s website, the group formed in 1922 when two separate organizations — one in each county — merged. The Brown House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is also the Family Research Library, which provides information on families from Henry, Clayton, Fayette, DeKalb, Fulton, Newton, Rockdale, Butts and Spalding counties.

The library also features limited information on other Georgia counties and other states, including North and South Carolina and Virginia. Library hours are Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. For Clayton residents who don’t want to travel to McDonough, the county’s library headquarters also features a genealogy room that is open during regular hours.

For more information on the genealogy society, email genealsoc@bellsouth.net or call 770-954-1456.

Happy hunting and let us know what you discover on your family tree.