Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Traveling in the Tardis to Meet Thomas Duke

Elizabeth O'Neal over at Little Bites of Life has invited all genealogy bloggers to take a ride with the Doctor in the Tardis to meet one of our ancestors. It may surprise most of you that I am choosing to go back to the 19th century instead of further back in time. However, I could think of two ancestors that might be able to steer me in the right direction to continue pursuing their lines--W. Daniel Phillips and Thomas Duke. Thomas Duke is the one I chose because I know the next step will be in North Carolina, a state in which I visit the archives on a regular basis.

Who was Thomas Duke?

Thomas Duke was born 3 May 1828 1 in Virginia.2 Family tradition states that his father was Benjamin Duke and that his mother was Elisha? Parker. Much of this information is based on the fact that his daughter Berniece Estelle "Bennie" Duke was named for his father and on the fact that his son James Parker Duke's middle name came from Thomas' mother's surname. The name Elisha was passed down through daughter Martha Virginia's descendants. Thomas was orphaned. We do not know exactly when. Some of his grandchildren who never met him report stories about Thomas working on a tobacco plantation of relatives in North Carolina, leading to the inevitable family story that this was the Washington Duke family. No evidence for that connection has been located. It seems unlikely since Washington was not born until 1820 himself and did not gain his fortune until after the Civil War.3 It does, however, seem possible Thomas moved to Mississippi from North Carolina. Thomas allegedly came to Monroe County, Mississippi with a Knowles family. The only Knowles family in Monroe County in 1850 is a Benjamin G. Knowles family.4 Both Benjamin and his wife were born in Rhode Island. He was a merchant. Although no apparent connection with Thomas is evident in Monroe County records, Benjamin Knowles resided near families associated with Nancy Allred's family. He arrived by 1850 as he is enumerated twice in that census--once with the Isaac N. Rogers family in the Eastern division of the county5 and once with the Lyles J. Parchment family in the Western division.6 In 1860, he is enumerated with the B. G. Doughtry family in the Western Division of Monroe County in an area served by the Aberdeen post office.7

Thomas married Nancy Malinda Allred 15 August 1867 in Monroe County, Mississippi.8 They had five children. Berniece Estelle "Bennie" Duke was born 5 July 1868.9 Martha Virginia Duke was born 16 December 1870.10 James Parker Duke was born 12 February 1873.11 Joseph Thomas Duke was born 3 January 1876.12 Myrtis Duke was born 9 July 1883.13

Thomas and his family are enumerated in township 12 of Monroe County in an area served by the Smithville post office in 1870.14 By 1880, he and his family are residing in the Cotton Gin Port area of Monroe County.15 Thomas died 18 May 1894 at the age of 66 and is buried in the Greenbrier Cemetery in Becker, Monroe County, Mississippi.16

What Question(s) Do You Need to Ask Him?

  1. Where in Virginia were you born?
  2. When did you move to North Carolina?
  3. When and where were you orphaned? Who were your guardians?
  4. Tell me about growing up -- what you did, your friends, your education, the places you lived.
  5. Who was your father? Where was he born? Who were his parents?
  6. Who was your mother? Where was she born? Who were her parents?
  7. Tell me any family stories you remember your parents or relatives relating to you.
  8. Tell me about how you came to Monroe County and any stops you made along the way.
I'm certain that his answers would spawn additional questions. He would probably think I'm a pretty nosy outsider. I doubt he knew what an oral history project was. Fortunately the University of Mississippi admitted women in 1882 so I might be able to pull off my time-travel venture as an oral history project. While I have not researched it, I doubt that the Industrial Institute and College (now Mississippi University for Women) included such programs as history when established in 1884. Mississippi State University was found as an agricultural and mechanical land-grant university. No date for the first admission of women at it has yet been located.

Is There a Problem You Can Help Your Ancestor Solve?

None that would make sense to resolve in that period of time. Family tradition states he was somewhat crippled. Most thought it was due to an injury received during the Civil War. Although a William T. Duke served in Captain Berry's Company of the Mississippi Infantry Reserves in the Battle of Harrisburg (now Tupelo), Mississippi, this individual with the rank of sergeant died in the battle.17

Will You Reveal Your True Identity to Your Ancestor?

I doubt it. It would be too mind-boggling.

Will You Bring Your Ancestor to the Future to Meet His Descendants?

Why? It would not serve a useful purpose.

Little Bytes of Life


1 Greenbrier Cemetery (Becker, Monroe County, Mississippi, off Old Highway 25), Thomas Duke and wife marker; read and photographed by Lori Thornton, abt. 1992.
2 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Monroe County, Mississippi, population schedule, Eastern Division, p. 16, dwelling 114, family 121, line 19, Thomas Duke; National Archives microfilm publication M432, roll 378. The birthplace Virginia is consistent in other census records.
3 Duke University. Rubenstein Library, "Washington Duke (1820-1905)," web page, ( accessed 13 Apr 2016).
4 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Monroe Co., Miss., pop. sch., p. 16, dw. 114, fam. 121, line 19, Thomas Duke.
5 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Monroe Co., Miss., pop. sch., Eastern div., p. 7A (stamped), dw. 99, fam. 105, Benj'n Knowles family.
6 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Monroe Co., Miss., pop. sch., Western div., p. 178, dw. 361, fam. 361, line 4, Thomas Duke.
7 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Monroe County, Mississippi, population schedule, Western Division, Aberdeen post office, p. 470, dwelling 304, family 304, line 38, Thomas Duke; National Archives microfilm publication M653, roll 587.
8 Monroe County Mississippi Marriages (1821-1921), s.l.: s.n., n.d., vol. 2, p. 149; Evans Memorial Library, Aberdeen, Mississippi. Copy of marriage record from Monroe County marriage records is in possession of Lori Thornton. It appears to be on a page ending 48 in the marriage record that covers that period of time. I failed to note the marriage record and page number at the time the copy was made in the early 1990s. The bondsman was John Martin, and the license was issued 13 Aug 1867. It was performed by Franklin Finney, a Minister of the Gospel. A discussion concerning the evidence for Malinda's first name is located in my earlier blog post, "Brick Wall: Thomas Duke."
9 Greenbrier Cemetery, Becker, Monroe Co., Miss., Bennie E. Duke marker.
10 Greenbrier Cemetery, Becker, Monroe Co., Miss., Martha V. Duke Moss and William R. Duke marker.
11 "U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,"digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 13 Apr 2016), card for James Parker Duke, order no. 873, Local Board, Aberdeen, Monroe County, Mississippi; citing United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, National Archives and Records Administration, publication M1509, roll not stated.
12 "U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007," database, Ancestry ( : accessed 13 Apr 2016), Joe T. Duke, no. 427-90-2724; citing Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007.
13 Greenbrier Cemetery, Becker, Monroe Co., Miss., E.G. and Myrtis Betts marker.
14 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Monroe County, Mississippi, population schedule, Township 12, Smithville post office, p. 196, lines 22-24, Thomas Duke household; National Archives microfilm publication M593, roll 741.
16 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Monroe County, Mississippi, population schedule, Cotton Gin Port, SD 1, ED 125, p. 36A (stamped), sheet 15, dwelling 123, family 123, lines 1-6, Thomas Duke family; National Archives microfilm publication T9, roll 658.
16 Greenbriar Cemetery, Becker, Monroe Co., Miss., Thomas Duke and wife marker.
17 Jim Taylor, "Captain Berry's Company, Reserves," Jim Taylor's Home Page, web page, ( : accessed 13 Apr 2016).

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  • Hi Lori,

    I think it would be wonderful if you could ask your ancestor Thomas Duke about his life (being orphaned, where he was born, his education, and most of all, any family stories he heard when he was growing up. He lived through such a time of change in American history that hearing his comments would be especially informative. Good luck finding out the answers to your questions!

    By Blogger Marian Burk Wood, at 4:33 PM  

  • I would want to know how and why his parents died and did he have any siblings.
    One question always leads to another doesn't it.

    By OpenID myfamilyrootsrundeep, at 9:16 PM  

  • I would want to know what happened to his parents and did he have any siblings. The stories he could tell us.

    By OpenID myfamilyrootsrundeep, at 9:19 PM  

  • I would want to ask him what happened to his parents and did he have any siblings.
    Such a good looking young man

    By Blogger Life Goes On, at 9:20 PM  

  • It would be so cool if we could really do this. Like you said, the answers to these questions would surely lead to more questions. This is the first time I've come across someone else who has an ancestor with the name Thomas Duke. My 2nd great grandfather was a Thomas Duke Harrison and he was sometimes referred to as "The Duke." Good luck finding the answers you seek. Thanks for sharing.

    By Blogger Andrea Kelleher, at 1:06 AM  

  • I would definitely want to know about his life after he was orphaned and at what age did he lose his parents. That had to have made a big mark on his life, especially if he was very young when they died.

    By Blogger Linda Stufflebean, at 4:16 PM  

  • I agree that it would be mind boggling to reveal your true identity to him!

    By Blogger Nicole Dyer, at 11:21 AM  

  • Interesting story. I would definitely reveal my identity to my great-grandmother -- all I'd have to do was explain about the Tardis, right? :)

    By Blogger Elise Ann Wormuth, at 9:50 PM  

  • I think it's amazing you have a photograph of Thomas! You've got great questions for him. If only you could ask him!

    By Blogger Nancy, at 9:14 PM  

  • I think if we genealogists had time machines, we'd drive some of our ancestors to drink with all the questions we'd want them to answer! :) I enjoyed your post.

    By Blogger Bill West, at 1:43 PM  

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