Thursday, November 7, 2013

Harrell Genealogical Research in Pike County, Mississippi

Derius Harrell conducting genealogy research
It's  has been well over ten years since my distant cousin Derius Harrell and I conducted genealogical research in Amite and Pike County, Mississippi. Derius contacted me after reading something I posted online about the Harrell's in Mississippi and Louisiana. We arranged to meet and discuss our Harrell genealogical research and compare our notes.

His Harrell lineage connected him to Amite County, Mississippi and Pike County. Both of our families came down to Mississippi and Louisiana with Levi "Fat Old Levi" Harrell from Darlington, South Carolina in 1803. I remember the first day I met Derius, I couldn't stop starring at him because he resembled my first cousin Rodney Harrell. After telling him how much the two of them resembled each other, he then told me that he knew Rodney. He met Rodney while living in Houston, Tx. Not only did I find that they resembled each other, but they smile a like and have just a beautiful way about themselves.

Derius and his father Melvin are the one's in their family who research and preserve the family history for their family. I was astonished to see a young man like him wanting to know about his family history. Sometimes you may not find as many men who want to know about their roots. When you do find one who wants to know, you want too teach them as much as you possibly can.
Slave Inventory of Samuel Harrell, Amite County, Ms

Well we set out to find what we could in the county clerk's office of public records. Derius located marriage records, succession and probate records and land deeds. This was his first trip to the county clerk of courts looking for records about his family.  He was so excited about his finding.  One of the statement he made was so profound about the importance of genealogy for young black men. If young men knew their family history it would help to restore pride, dignity and self-worth in these young men.

Using the county map, he tried and trace the migration of his family. Looking at land boundaries, and where they lived and worked. Did they live along the river? After slavery did they own any land? If so, how much did they own? Is the land still in the family? If not, what happened to the land? These are questions that we ask if we found that our ancestors or family owned land.

Two summer ago I was invited by Derius's father to attend their Dillon family reunion in Amite County, Mississippi. I got a chance to meet some of his elderly relatives who were in their 90s. I wish I had more time just to sit and talk with them. It was good to see family talking, sharing photographs and family history with each other. The younger generation were listening to the elders speak before they found their way to the dance floor.
Grandchildren of Purdell Dillon
Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr.

Some of the elders were the grandchildren of Prudell Dillon a woman of Indian descent. Prudell Dillon was born July 14, 1868 and died October 18, 1938. She was the mother of Walter Beasley, Robert Dillon, Wren Jones, Eli Lucas, Trudie McGhee, Emma Swinginton and Price Wilkinson

The descendants of Prudell recalls the days of growing up in their grandmother's house. They talked about how hard she worked in her garden and how she canned food and made their clothing. What a way to celebrate family!