Descendants of the Great Dismal

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This is my photo collection from a kayak trip on October 16, 2020.

There is an old Indian legend about a Firebird who lived in the center of the Great Dismal Swamp, a territory shared by surrounding tribes for thousands of years. The fearsome creature formed its nest (at the site of Lake Drummond) through a vast wildfire, killing countless Indian families as it burned a hole into the ground. According to the legend, an Indian hunter killed the Firebird’s babies within the nest and… Read More

I am a Trafton descendant through my third great grandmother Eliza Trafton (b. 1820). Eliza was born free which is evident through her presence in the 1850 Federal Census (as the wife of Henry Newsom); however, little is known about her early life. In an effort to learn about Eliza’s lineage, I have begun to research the Trafton family of Camden County, NC. This article is an introduction to the patriarch, Charles Gardner Trafton, and… Read More

In genealogy, much of one’s time is spent learning the geographical and historical details of ancestral communities. I have written many articles about life on the Virginia/North Carolina state line, lifestyles, and infrastructure development that transformed the region–but researching these details was merely part of capturing evidence (knowing where to look and what type of records to look for). Throughout this process, I have learned many other details of personal importance that… Read More

In this article, I present the story of David Leary Pritchard—a man whose life served as a perfect cross-section of early 19th century South Mills (Camden County, NC)—as an example of how one can learn more about ancestors of color through their white neighbors (who were sometimes relatives). David Leary (also spelled Lurry) Pritchard was born on February 13, 1807—the youngest child of Joseph Pritchard (b. 1756-1774) and Chloe Leary/Lurry (b. 1756-1774)…. Read More

When I first started researching my Camden County, NC ancestors it was clear that they had connections to the Nansemond community in Norfolk County, VA but it seemed like an impossible feat to demonstrate how the two groups of people were related. There were numerous individuals with the same names, same general places of birth and residence, and even the same approximate ages. Despite this complexity, I eventually learned to individuate conflated… Read More

The mid 1600s was a transformational period for the Nansemond people. After a series of violent conflicts between the Powhatan Chiefdom and English colonists, the Nansemond community was divided between those who chose to assimilate to a “Christianized” lifestyle and those who chose to remain “traditional.”1 As Nansemond people were displaced from their ancestral land (along the Nansemond River in present day Suffolk) through encroachment, the “Christianized” Nansemond shifted east toward Norfolk… Read More

This is my photo collection from the Nansemond Indian Pow Wow held at Mattanock Town on August 19, 2017. Kay Oxendine was the mistress of ceremonies with Dalton Lynch as arena director and Tatanka Gibson and Sierra Locklear as head dance staff. War Paint (Northern Drum) and Smokey River (Southern Drum) were the host drums for the event. It is worth noting the strong presence of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe (among event staff, singers, and dancers) at… Read More

The 29th Annual Nansemond Pow Wow is just a few days away and, though most Nansemond research is focused on the 1600s through the 1800s, I thought this would be a great time to share some insight on recent Nansemond history and the people, both inside and outside the community, who have been influential in the formation of the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association (NITA). This article will include detail on Nansemond leaders,… Read More

The Great Dismal Swamp and its surrounding communities have an incredibly diverse history. As a near coastal region with numerous inland waterways, many different types of people traveled through, settled in, and migrated out of the area—including multiple indigenous groups and people from throughout Europe and Africa. Prior to the influx of newcomers, the identities of indigenous people were self-controlled. There were tribal differences between natives but there was no need for… Read More