30th Anniversary, California African American Genealogical Society (CAAGS) conference 17-19 March 2016.

(l to r) Anita R. Henderson, Kenyatta Berry, host of the  PBS program, "Genealogy Roadshow", and Michael N. Henderson.

(l to r) Anita R. Henderson, Kenyatta Berry, host of the PBS program, “Genealogy Roadshow”, and Michael N. Henderson.

On 17-19 March 2016, I had the pleasure of participating as a speaker at the 30th Anniversary, California African American Genealogical Society (CAAGS) conference held in Los Angeles, California. This year’s theme for the CAAGS conference was “African American History is American History: Reaching In, Reaching Out”.

Also among the lineup of speakers was Anita R. Henderson, publisher of my book, Got Proof! My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation.

One of the highlights of  this conference was meeting Kenyatta Berry, host of the popular PBS program, “Genealogy Roadshow“. Kenyatta presented the closing plenary session titled, “The Changing Face of Genealogy”.


Michael Nolden Henderson presenting a talk at 30th Anniversary CAAGS Conference, 17-19 Mar 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

I presented two sessions — Manumissions and Motivations: Decoding Freedom Papers to Uncover Family Connections, and Black Women, White Men: Embracing the Forbidden Fruit of Genealogy. I also co-presented a session with Anita titled, Publishing to Leave a Legacy, which highlighted the importance of publishing one’s genealogical research as a means of leaving a compelling footprint of your research for future generations to appreciate.

While at the conference, I connected with  several of my old friends, one in particular was Margeret (Marti) Lewis, president of the San Diego African American Genealogy Research Group (SDAAGRG).  When I lived in San Diego several years ago, SDAAGRG was the first genealogy group I joined as I began developing my genealogical research and speaking skills. Returning to California, and participating in the CAAGS 30th Anniversary Conference was like coming home to the group that helped me begin my research journey.


Anita R. Henderson presenting a talk at 30th Anniversary CAAGS Conference, 17-19 Mar 2016


Anita R. Henderson presenting a talk at 30th Anniversary CAAGS Conference, 17-19 Mar 2016

While at the conference, I had an opportunity to sit in on a few of the sessions. Two sessions I attend were: Who, What, When Where? Using Journalism Techniques to Write Your Story, and Nuts and Bolts of Storytelling, both presented by Anita R. Henderson of Write Your Life. These two sessions were particularly interesting to me because many of the techniques Anita shared were used during my own storytelling journey when I published my memoir, Got Proof! Attending these two sessions gave me a chance to be an example of the outcomes possible for those seeking to write and publish their own stories.

Another informative session I had the pleasure of attending was presented by Janice Lovelace, a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialization in child and family therapy.  Her presentation was entitled Is the Trauma of Slavery in Your Genes? A Look at Epigenetics and Health in African Americans. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes that occur without a change in the DNA sequence, a fascinating study with far-reaching consequences when considering the trauma of slavery and its effects on African Americans.

Many thanks to Dr. Edna Briggs, President California African American Genealogical Society and members that helped make this year’s conference a success. A special thanks to the members of CAAGS, who made my participation in this year’s conference enjoyable.

See a few more picture taken at the conference:


Michael Henderson and Monika R. Hall, a Member of CAAGS who purchased a signed copy of my Memoir, GOT PROOF! My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation


Michael CAAGS2016

Michael Nolden Henderson at CAAGS 2016 30th Anniversary Conference in Los Angeles, California


Anita Henderson At CAAGS 2016 30th Anniversary conference. Los Angeles, Ca

Anita R. Henderson At CAAGS 2016 30th Anniversary conference. Los Angeles, Ca



Ms Kenyatta Berry, Host of the PBS program, Genealogy Road Show and Michael Nolden Henderson, Author of Got Proof! My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation


Getting to Know Anna and Victor at the Whitney Plantation


The Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana

In a previous post, I described my experience visiting the Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana. The plantation was the home of a prominent German family named Haydel who owned many slaves. The property has been restored and serves as a museum dedicated to those enslaved inhabitants who built, lived and died there. I found myself interested in both the property and in the Haydel family because, through my research, I discovered an ancestral connection to them.

During my tour of the Whitney Plantation, we visited the big house. In one of the bedroomsScreen Shot 2015-04-25 at 11.20.53 PM is a four-post bed and a cast iron statue standing next to it. The statue depicts the image of a young girl, who the tour guide explained was an enslaved child named “Anna”. Having seen Anna’s name on the Wall of Honor earlier, and now seeing the lifelike image standing in the room, I felt that her presence had somehow come to life. Suddenly, I had a desire to understand as much as possible about her.


Young Enslaved girl “Anna” standing in the bedroom of her mistress Marie Azélie HAYDEL in the “Big House” on the Whitney Plantation

Anna’s life has been recorded by one of her descendants, Curtis M. Graves, according to oral history of his grandfather, Elphége Haydel (1879 -1959). Graves’ story about Anna is included in the book, BOUKI FAIT GOMBO, by Dr. Ibrahima Seck. In the book, Seck quotes Graves as follows:

     “Anna was bought from the slave market in New Orleans by Marcellin Haydell (his full name is Jean Francois Marcellin Haydel, who was Azélie’s husband) and brought to the plantation and given to Azélie as a gift. Azelie had no children and always wanted a girl.” 

The story goes on to explain what many descendants in the family believed Anna’s ancestry and racial make up was.

     “My grandfather also said that she was not real black. So they thought she might have been mixed with Indian [I have done my DNA and I have no Indian. So I think her father was white]. . . . Azélie raised her in the big house. She had a child in her teen years with Azélie’s brother Antoine, and never liked him. So I think it was rape (since a slave girl could not say no!). She did not marry anyone and also had no other children.”

Oral history passed down from elders can be valuable; however, these memories should be researched carefully to separate fact from fiction. As a researcher, you should locate any documents to support these oral histories, if possible. In the case of Anna, this is exactly what I set out to do.

As an enslaved girl, Anna bore a child named Victor. Victor Haydel’s lineage has been proven through ecclesiastic records and other documents housed at the St. John the Baptist catholic church in St. John the Baptist Parish and various archival depositories in Louisiana.

According to stories told at the Whitney Plantation:

“Victor was the son of an enslaved woman named Anna, who was herself a mulatto. Victor’s father was Antoine Haydel, the brother of Marie Azelie Haydel, the last Haydel family member to own the Whitney. It is known that [Antoine] was married, and that refusing to engage in sexual relations with a white man was not an option available to [enslaved] women.” (Source: The Whitney Plantation – Wall of Honor)

Through birth, marriage, and death records, I have connected my own lineage to the Haydel family through two sisters — Ann Marie Schoff and Marguerite Schoff. This pedigree chart traces my ancestry to the Haydel family through my maternal line (Henderson, Phillips, Mathieu, Legaux, Clereaux, Schoff (Chauf)) leading to the two Schoff sisters. Double click charts below for closer viewing.

My Connection to Victor Haydel

Michael Nolden Henderson Pedigree Chart connecting to two sisters of the SCHOFF family one of which married Ambroise Haydel, the Progenitor of the Haydel family on the German Coast of Louisiana

Below is a baptism record of Victor Haydel, listing his father as Antoine Haydel and his mother as Anna.

Victor Baptism Rec

Certificate of Baptism for Victor HAYDEL, the Mixed race offspring of Antoine HAYDEL and the Enslaved female ANNA.

There is also a record showing both Anna and Victor as part of an inventory of slaves being assessed after the death of Marie Azélie Haydel.

Azelie Slave Inv Anna Victor

Source: SJB -178-1860 Inventory of the estate of Widow Marcelin Haydel (Marie Azélie Haydel); 10-12 November 1860. Anna and Victor Haydel in the last inventory of the Haydel Plantation.

So what is the significance of these two documents?

  1. The name of Antoine Haydel (who is a white member of the Haydel family) is listed as the father of the mixed-race child, Victor Haydel on the certificate of baptism. Records in other states rarely show documented evidence of white slave owners as parents of black slaves. However, in Louisiana there are many instances where these relationships are documented.
  2. The baptism record can serve as the beginning paper trail in gathering evidence of a bloodline connection to the white Haydel family on the German coast of Louisiana.
  3. This mixed-race person born of a mother who was enslaved makes the child enslaved, according to the Code Noir in Louisiana. This law states that the status of the child will follow that of the mother at the time of birth. These laws were enacted in Louisiana as early as 1724 during the French colonial period in Louisiana. They were later modified, yet still defined the status (free or enslaved) of individuals born during the time of Victor’s birth.
  4. The child identified as Victor is given the surname Haydel, which is the same as the white family that owned him and his mother, Anna. Consequently, it is the same surname as the man identified on Victor’s baptism certificate as his father, Antoine Haydel.
  5. Since the father, Antoine Haydel is the brother of the slave owner, Marie Azélie’s Haydel, that makes Victor Haydel not only Azélie’s slave, but her blood nephew.

The slave inventory of the estate of Widow Marcelin Haydel (Marie Azélie Haydel)  indicates that both Anna and Victor Haydel remained as her property and lived on the  Haydel Plantation until her death.

See below chart of the Victor Haydel family lineage.Stay tuned for a follow-up story in my next blog post describing Victor’s life as an adult after 1860. I’ll explore the first generation of Victor’s offspring born after slavery was ended in Louisiana, and more of what I learned while visiting the Whitney and surrounding community.



Henderson received Meritorious Service Medal From Georgia State Society Sons Of the American Revolution

Henderson SAR 2016

Michael Nolden Henderson, LCDR USN Ret, Past-President Button Gwinnett Chapter SAR and Compatriot Thomas Owens, President Georgia State Society. SAR

I was honored to receive the  National Society Sons of the American Revolution Meritorious Service Medal from the Georgia State Society SAR.

This award was in recognition of notable service in behalf of the Society’s American Principles. The award was presented at  the Annual SAR State Conference held in Atlanta January 2016.


My Visit to “the Habitation Haydel”,The Whitney Plantation in Wallace Louisiana


Mr. John Cummings,
owner and visionary of the Whitney Plantation.
Photo Credit: Whitney Plantation

I had the pleasure of visiting the Habitation Haydel, known today as the Whitney Plantation several years ago after meeting Mr. John Cummings, the owner and visionary behind this amazing project. He invited me to see what he was planning to do with the property he had purchased.

Since that meeting, Cummings and his staff have turned the sprawling site into a living museum, dedicated to those whose lives helped build this place. Their enslavement fueled the wealth and prosperity of the Haydel family.

Got Proof Front Cover 9-29-14-1

Michael Nolden Henderson
Photo Credit – MNH

I was excited and curious to visit The Whitney Plantation because I had earlier traced part of my ancestry back to an eighth generation great-grandmother, a French immigrant named Ann Marie Schoff, daughter of Hans Jacob Schoff and Marianne Foltzlouer. Ann’s sister Marguerite Schoff was the wife of the progenitor of the Haydel family, Ambrosie Heidel. Mr. Cummings has built on the property several memorials dedicated to the over 100,000 slaves who were researched, compiled and documented in Dr. Gwendylon Midlo Hall’s Louisiana slave and free database. Many of them lived on Habitat Haydel, the Whitney Planation.

This database over the years has helped me identify and document several of my enslaved Louisiana ancestors who lived during the French and Spanish periods in Louisiana’s history. One such person was Agnes, an enslaved women born in 1758 in St. Charles Parish. By 1779 she had gained her freedom with the assistance of her French consort, Mathieu Devaux dit Platillo. Agnes and Mathieu are my fourth generation great-grandparents.  Their story, along with my personal research journey, was told in my memoir, Got Proof! My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation (The Write Image 2013).

During my visit to the Whitney Plantation, I was hoping to locate the name of Agnes and any of her enslaved family members on the site’s memorial wall. On this particular sunny day in late April 2015, I returned to see what had become of Mr. Cummings’ grand vision for the place now called the Whitney Plantation.

As I drove up to the entrance of the plantation, I started to sense that Cummings’ vision, spoken of many years earlier, had finally been realized. I prepared myself to step back in time and learn a few new things about slavery in Louisiana.

2015-05-02 12.48.35

Michael Nolden Henderson and Dr. Iberiam Seck
Photo Credit- MNH

As I approached the visitor’s center, I was met by Dr. Iberiam Seck, the Director of Research at the Whitney Plantation. I met Dr. Seck in 2010 while attending a Louisiana Creole genealogy research conference in New Orleans. In fact, I was introduced to him by Dr. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, who had worked with him to develop the Louisiana Slave and free database. I was pleased to see Dr. Seck that day because I wanted to bring him up to date on my ancestral findings, connections to several members of the Haydel Family, and several of the enslaved persons hopefully included on the stone memorial walls on the property.

2015-05-02 14.07.45

The Antioch Baptist Church
Photo Credit -MNH

Dr. Seck and I sat for a few minutes, while I showed him some of my ancestral family pedigree charts linking me as a descendant to the Schoff and Haydel families. He also shared with me some of his research, which has been published in a book, BOUKI FAIT GOMBO: A History of the Slave Community of the Habitation Haydel (Whitney Plantation) Louisiana 1750-1860. After our short conversation, we agreed to connect later that afternoon after my tour of the plantation. As I began the guided tour with several other visitors, I immediately knew we were in for a different perspective about slavery in Lousiana, particularly plantation slavery at the Whitney.

Our first stop was at The Antioch Baptist Church that had been moved from another location and brought to the Whitney as part of a preservation effort. The building had a musty smell and featured several life-sized figures of depicting the enslaved children who would have lived on the plantation.

2015-05-02 14.24.59

Slave Memorial wall of some those who actually lived on Whitney Plantation
Photo Credit -MNH

Next to the church is a large granite memorial wall dedicated to the many enslaved individuals documented as having lived on the Haydel Plantation during the Antebellum period.

As our tour guide spoke briefly about the many persons listed, she mentioned two individuals who were identified as being direct ancestors to the Haydel’s and who were also Creoles of color. This mixed-race family is a branch of the white Haydel family of the German Coast of Louisiana, who were descendants of an enslaved woman named Anna and a white male member of the Haydel family named Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 11.20.53 PMAntoine Haydel. The male child born of this illegal relationship was named Victor Haydel. As the guide explained the family ties, I suddenly realized the missing piece in my own Haydel family research. At that moment, I Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 11.47.43 PMknew how Victor Haydel was also related to me.

My ancestral connection to the Haydel family is via two sisters, Ann Marie Schoff and Marguerite Schoff.  Marguerite Schoff married Ambroise Haydel. Together they had three daughters and seven sons: Regina, Marie Françoise, Anne Marie, Jacques, Nicolas, Mathias, Jean Christophe, Jean Georges, Jean, and Jean Jacques.   Jean Jacques Haydel, their youngest son, is credited with building the Big House on the Whitney Plantation. He later passed ownership on to two of his sons. It is through the line of his brother, Mathias Haydel and his wife Marie Magdeleine Barb Huber, that the bloodline of the mixed-race enslaved child Victor Haydel can be traced back to Ambroise Haydel. See chart below; double click to enlarge:

Chart Schoff and Haydel 2a

Pedigree chart showing a common ancestral link to two sisters and where Michael Nolden Henderson is a 4th cousin, 4x removed to Victor Haydel.

Mathias had a son named Alphonse Haydel who was married to Marie Troxler. They had a son named Antoine Haydel. Antione had an illicit affair with Anna, the slave of his sister, Marie Azelie Haydel, the last Haydel owner of the property. Anna was the mother of the mixed-race son named Victor Haydel (pictured on right side of chart above).

2015-05-02 15.02.00

Michael Nolden Henderson standing in the door way of one of the Slave Cabins
Photo Credit- ARH

As the tour continued, we stopped at several other buildings, including the slave prison, pigeonniers, slave quarters, kitchen, blacksmith shop, Wall of Honor, Allées Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, and The Field of Angels. I thought  about those who once lived on this plantation and how challenging their day-to-day lives must have been. Knowing that I share an ancestral connection to both the white and mixed-race Haydel members who lived on this planation gave me a deep sense of ownership of this troubled history in Louisiana.

2015-05-02 16.58.35

Michael Nolden Henderson
At the Entrance of the Whitney Plantation
Photo Credit -ARH

On this visit, I came away with a sense that Mr. Cummings’ vision has been realized. He has turned the Whitney Plantation into the first ever museum dedicated to the lives and stories of individuals enslaved along the German Coast of Louisiana. While more projects and research are still underway, I believe this amazing educational site promises to help fill in some of the gaps in the narrative of the lives of those who worked, survived, and died as a result of plantation slavery in Louisiana’s history.

So I hope on your next visit to New Orleans, Louisiana, you will plan some time to visit the Whitney Plantation. It will be well worth your time; it sure was well worth mine. Stay tuned for more on my discovery about Victor Haydel and his bloodline connection to the Haydel family in Louisiana.   Stay tuned for more, as we come to know Anna and Victor Haydel at the Whitney Plantation.

See more photos of the Whitney Plantation below:


2015-05-02 14.47.10

Memorial dedicated to the many enslaved Children who died on the Whitney Plantation, Statue and place titled :The Field of Angels
Photo Credit -ARH


2015-05-02 15.03.38


2015-05-02 15.03.05

Slave Jail on the Whitney Plantation


2015-05-02 14.20.31

Slave Children depicted in these images throughout the Ole Church on the Whitney Plantation
Photo Credit – ARH


2015-05-02 14.21.13

A little Slave Girl representing the many children on the Whitney Plantation
Photo Credit – MNH


2015-05-02 14.51.48

Several Buildings and Sugar Pans in the Back of the Big House on the Whitney Plantation
Photo Credit – ARH


2015-05-02 15.08.41


2015-05-02 15.08.22

Robin’s BlackSmith Shop on the Whitney Plantation
Photo Credit – ARH


2015-05-02 15.09.03


2015-05-02 15.27.01

Oak Alley front of the Whitney Plantation Home
Photo Credit – ARH



Habitation Haydel, The Whitney Plantation, Wallace Louisiana
Photo Credit – ARH


Allees Gwendolyn Mildo Hall

Large Memorial dedicated to the 107000 African Slaves who are documented in the Louisiana Slave and Free Database. Area is titled Allées Gwendolyn Mildo-Hall
Photo Credit – MNH


See more here: Getting to Know Anna and Victor at the Whitney Plantation


GOT PROOF! Wins the 2015 Indie Book Award.

Got Proof Front Cover 9-29-14-1

Michael Nolden Henderson’s Memoir, The Writer Image, 2013

Indie_Book_WinnerI am incredibly honored to have received the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Award from  the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group. My book, Got Proof! is the Winner in the Memoir (Historical  /Legacy/Career) and received Finalist in the African American category. This is truly a tribute to my Louisiana ancestors whose lives inspired me to write Got Proof.

The 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards is the largest not-for-profit book awards program for independent publishers and self-published authors.


Got Proof! is the Winner in the Memoir (Historical /Legacy/Career) and received Finalist in the African American category

“Our awards program is known as the ‘Sundance’ of the book publishing world,” said Catherine Goulet, Chair of the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards program. “Authors and publishers who compete in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards are serious about promoting their books,” adds Goulet. “They aim to stand out from the crowd of millions of books in print.”

A complete list of 2015 winners and finalists is available at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards website at www.indiebookawards.com.

To learn more here about click here,  GOT PROOF!

Seated Within Ear Shot Listening to Stories of the Past


(l-r )Frances (Michael’s Mom) and Cousin Viola Dorsey, and Michael Henderson. Still today, I find time to sit closely and listen as my elders catchup on days gone by.

“The oral tradition within my family has been alive and well for as long as I can remember. As a child, I would sit quietly with my mom, her sisters, and their aunts as they would discuss other family members. I realize now that it all bordered on gossip, but at the time, I felt that I was in an honored position to be able to listen to all of the tales of who did what to whom, what the other one said, and what happened after that. At times, it seemed that they did not even notice me in the room. At other times, I would notice the women looking at one another. They would raise their eyebrows when they glanced in my direction, and then they would speak a few words in a language I did not understand, which I later learned was French Creole.”

What Happened to the Bounty Land promised to My Ancestor a Veteran of the War of 1812? – A Cause for Concern


Bounty Land file in the Case of Louis Devau alias Innocent Mathieu, Veteran of the War of 1812 who fought at the Battle of New Orleans January 8, 1815

A few days ago, I received information requested from the National Archives in Washington DC about bounty land warrants for my 3rd generation great-grandfather, Innocent Mathieu (Mathew) also known as Louis Devau, a veteran of the War of 1812.

Included in Innocent Mathieu’s bounty land file is a document which indicates a land warrant No. 87991 was issued in accordance with the act of September 28, 1850.

Since this was my first look into the application process for bounty land, I needed to learn more about how veteran land warrants and patents worked, and under what authority they were issued.

Bounty land warrants (BLW’s) were originally authorized by the Continental Congress in 1776 as an inducement to enter and remain in military service, but later acts of Congress authorized them as a reward for past service.  BLWs provide the right to free land in the public domain. The warrant  was a piece of paper which states that, based on his service, the veteran is entitled to X number of acres in one of the bounty land districts set up for veterans of the War of 1812. These land districts were located on public domain lands in Arkansas, Illinois, and Missouri.

A veteran who decided to redeem his warrant was issued a patent for the land itself, and a bounty land warrant file was created in the General Land Office. This file contains the surrendered warrant, a letter of assignment (if he assigned his interest to another party), and any other documents pertaining to the transaction. The warrant itself should include the name of the veteran, his rank on discharge, his branch of service (including company), and the date the warrant was issued. It may also include the date the land was located and a description of the land. For more on Bounty-Land and Warrant for Military Service 1775-1855 see here.


Warrant No. 87991 for 40 Acres issued in Favor of Innocent Mathieu, Private in Captian Simon’s company, Louisiana Militia, War 1812. However shows Land Patent is assigned to Edward Stewart and his heirs.

Once I gained a better understanding of what this file was supposed to include, I continued my search and found a document within the file indicating that Innocent Mathieu received a bounty land warrant no. 87991 on May 13, 1853, for 40 acres for his service in the Louisiana Militia during the War of 1812 (the Battle of New Orleans, Dec. 1814 – Mar. 1815).

The death record found in same file, indicated that Innocent Mathieu (Mathew) died on April 13, 1845. Yet, as noted above, a bounty land warrant No. 87991 was issued to Innocent Mathieu on May 13, 1853. Also, a bounty land patent (title to the land) for 40 acres was issued on Oct  2, 1854 and assigned to a gentleman named Edward Stewart and his heirs.

A veteran of the War of 1812 was issued a land warrant eight years after his death, and another man, not the qualified veteran nor his family member, was granted the land patent.  (Double click photo to enlarge)

Another document in this file indicates that the veteran’s widow received a land patent for 160 acres, under warrant No 53415, on Nov 3, 1855, in accordance with an act of  March 3, 1855. She is identified as Claire Devau, widow of Louis Devau, a private who served as Innocent Mathieu under Captian Simon, Louisiana Militia, War of 1812.  However, it was also documented in this file that no record application under the act of 1855 was on register (referencing Warrant no 53415).

I looked up Act of 1855 and discovered that on March 3, 1855 (10 Stat. 701), the U.S. Congress went beyond merely satisfying the former pledge of the Continental Congress and authorized the issuance of bounty-land warrants for 160 acres to soldiers, irrespective of rank, who had served for as few as 14 days in the Revolution or had taken part in any battle. Widows and minor children of such veterans were also eligible. An individual who had received a warrant under previous bounty-land legislation was limited by the act to receiving a second warrant for only such additional acreage as would total 160 acres.  To see more about bounty land file and warrants see here

Another document indicated that the veteran’s widow received a land patent without having an application on file. How could this have happened?


Warrant No. 53415 for 160 Acres issued in favor of Claire Devau widow of Louis Devau, Private who served in the name of Innocent Mathieu, in Captian Simon’s company, Louisiana Militia, War 1812. However shows Land Patent is assigned to Silas R. Mangrum and his heirs.

In the case of the 160 acres under warrant 53415, a bounty land patent on July 2, 1860 was assigned to a Silas R. Mangrum and his heirs. However, the two bounty land warrents were set aside and granted to Innocent Mathieu. Yet, no record application under the act of 1855 was on register (referencing Warrant no 53415).

Puzzled by these findings, I now wish to know how the land, amounting to 200 acres, ended up in the hands of two unknown men and their heirs.

Was this land stolen from the widow and family of a dead veteran of the War of 1812?  Was fraud involved in any of the application processes? Is there any evidence in the form of documentation that could prove such assumptions? What became of this land? These are just a few questions that came to mind as I summarized my initial review of the bounty land warrant file of Innocent Mathieu.

Stay tuned as I reveal more evidence discovered in this case of the bounty land promised to Innocent Mathieu, a veteran of the War of 1812 at the Battle of New Orleans.

First African American Revolutionary War Patriot in Alabama Honored

Memorial Marker Jim Capers

First African American, Revolutionary War Patriot Honored in the State of Alabama,Photo credit: Michael Foster Webmaster Alabama Society SAR

On Sunday, February 1, 2015 at 2:30 p.m at the Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church in Orion, Pike County, Alabama, the Alabama Society, Sons of the American Revolution in conjunction with the Wiregrass Chapter SAR honored with a Memorial Marker Dedication Ceremony, Patriot Jim Capers, 1742 – 1753, Revolutionary War Soldier, A FREE MAN OF COLOR, Drumer, 4th South Carolina Regiment.

History of Jim Capers bio Presented by Compatriot John Wallace:

“The small amount of information we have concerning the life of Jim Capers comes from his Revolutionary War pension application and widow’s pension application files following Jim’s death.

The story starts in 1849, when Jim Capers appears in the Pike County Court to file his Revolutionary War pension application in order to received the benefits of a persnion law by Congress in 1832.  At the time, the court noted that his age was 107 and he was a man of Color. He stated that he was born on the 23rd day of September 1742.  When asked if he had any documentation of this fact, Jim responded that this was the date my old master Capers told him. When questioned as to why he had waited so long to apply, he responded that he did not know a free man of color was entitled to receive a pension.

According to the pension application, Jim served better that seven years in the army as a drum major and was engaged with the enemy at Savannah, St Helena, Port Royal, Camden, Biggins Church, and was garrisoned at Charleston for some time. He was in the Battle of Eutaw Springs, often described as the bloodiest of the battles of the Revolutionary War. Capers reported he received four wounds at Eutaw Springs, including two saber cuts to his head and one to his face, and that a shot passed through his side killing the drummer behind him. At the end of his service he was at Yorktown and witnessed the surrender of British Forces to the patriots.

2015-02-01 15.46.34

Michael Nolden Henderson,LCDR USN Ret. Past President Button Gwinnett Chapter Georgia Society SAR and Hon. Rick Hollis, Vice-President General Southern District.Photo taken by: Anita Paul, The Write Image

At the time of his pension application, Capers was living on the Norman McLeod plantation and was married to Milley, one of McLeod’s slaves. According to two pension applications, totaling more than 90 pages, McLeod did a great deal to assist both Jim and his wife in obtaining a pension. Neither application, however, was approved, but by a special act of Congress passed on 3 Feb 1853; the Secretary of the Interior was required to place the name of Jim Capers upon the list of revolutionary pension, and to pay him a pension at the rate of eight dollars per month; said pension to commence on the first day August, 1850 at $8.00 per month. Although there is nothing in the pension file to show how this occured, it is suspected that McLeod, who was a former state legistor, may have been involved through his political connections. There is a receipt where Jim’s wife Milley received $256.00 under this act. Jim died 1 April 1853.”*

*As published in the Memorial Marker dedication program Alabama Society SAR- Wiregrass Chapter.

The Alabama State Society Color Guard presented colors at the opening of the ceremony, and several chapters from the SAR and DAR within the state of Alabama and Southern District were present to present wreaths on behalf of their chapters.

I was extremely honored to present a wreath as Past President on behalf of the Button Gwinnett Chapter, Georgia Society Sons of the American Revolution, South Atlantic District. Many from the church and surrounding community were also in attendance.  After the ceremony, a reception was held in the church fellowship hall.

2015-02-01 15.31.14

Compatriot Ike Edwards President, Gulf Coast Chapter, Mississippi Society SAR, Mrs. Nikki Williams Sebastian (Atlanta Chapter, DAR), and Compatriot Michael Nolden Henderson, LCDR USN Ret., Past President Button Gwinnett Chapter Georgia Society SAR, Photo taken by: Anita Paul, The Write Image



2015-02-01 15.50.25

Compatriot Michael Nolden Henderson, LCDR USN Ret. Past President Button Gwinnett Chapter Georgia Society SAR, with four members of the United States Army, GO NAVY. Photo taken by: Anita Paul, The Write Image



Several current and retired members of the United States Armed forces were present during the Ceremony.  I was honored to have  a photo taken with fellow veterans.







Nikki Willams

Compatriot Col. Larry P. Cornwell, USAF-Ret. Genealogist General 2011-2014 National Society, SAR and Mrs. Nikki Williams Sebastian (Atlanta Chapter, DAR) with United States Army Veterans. Photo Credit :Nikki William Sebastian












2015-02-01 15.13.25

Judge Wes Allen Photo taken by: Anita Paul, The Write Image



Pike Country Probate Judge presented a proclamation honoring Jim Capers, the first African American patriot of the American Revolution in the state of Alabama.






2015-02-01 15.35.29

Back row: Alabama State Color Guard members from (L-R) are: Tom Smith, Perry Vickers, Larry Cornwell, Jim Maples, Price Legg, Dick Wells, Jack Caraway, Glenn Nivens, and John Kelsoe. Front (l-r) Eufaula Delegation! Edgar S. Hicks, Mary Williams (Registrar of the Lewis Chapter DAR), DJ Smith, KiKi Smith, Deborah W. Hicks (Vice-Regent of the Lewis Chapter DAR), Janie Smith, and Daryl Smith. Photo taken by: Anita Paul, The Write Image



Several church and community members pose for a photo with Alabama State color guard and militia members. The young man and lady in the middle (DJ Smith and Kiki Smith) will remember this moment forever.








2015-02-01 15.37.54

Compatriot Henderson speaking with members of the Wiregrass Chapter, Alabama Society, SAR



Compatriot Henderson is congratulating Compatriot John Wallace and members of the Wiregrass Chapter, Alabama Society SAR on a wonderful tribute and memorial marker dedication for Patriot Jim Capers.





Alabama Society

Compatriot William Oliver “Bill” Stone, General Richard Montgomery Chapter, Alabama Society SAR, and Compatriot Michael Nolden Henderson, Past President Button Gwinnett Chapter Georgia Society SAR. Photo credit: Michael Foster Webmaster Alabama Society SAR


The Sons of the American Revolution is a lineage organization composed of gentlemen who can document a direct bloodline to one of the patriots of the American Revolution.

The grave dedication ceremony is part of the society’s ongoing program to honor American heroes who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of a new nation.

Jim Capers is one of many veterans who moved West following the American Revolution and is among the approximate 1,000 Revolution War soldiers known to have settle in present-day Alabama.

For additional information on Jim Capers, visit Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters




2015-02-01 15.46.07

We, the members of the Button Gwinnett Chapter, Georgia Society Sons of the American Revolution, South Atlantic District, honor and celebrate , Patriot Jim Capers. Photo by Anita Paul, The Write Image


See more about Henderson’s personal journey and discovery of a Louisiana Patriot Ancestor in the American Revolution   Also recipient of the 2014 National Society Sons of the American Revolution Minnesota Society Stephen Taylor Award.

Family’s Female French Progenitor Discovered, Documented and Claimed


Michael Nolden Henderson is Confirmed as a descendant of Anne Lemoyne who arrived in Montreal Quebec Canada in 1657

How many of you keep hearing how difficult it is to document one’s ancestry through the female side of your family.  Reason often given is because each time a female marry, she gives up her birth surname and takes on her husband’s surname.  Well, while this is true in some cases, it also creates a great opportunity for some interesting genealogical research.


Family Tree connection Mathieu surname and Darensbourg all the way back to Lemoyne family in Montreal Quebec Canada 1657.

Here is what happened, when I went looking  through my mother’s ancestry, through several family surnames such as  Philips, Mathieu (a critical family surname – Mathieu documented and recently published in my Memoir – GOT PROOF!) D’arensbourg, Duclos-Deselle, Messier and Lemoyne.

What I discovered was our family’s French female progenitor back to 1657 in the Lemoyne family line.  And guess what, It’s now documented through two lineage Societies.  See more in recent  blog post titled :  French Female Ancestor Documented Back to 1657 Links New Orleans Native to Founders and Settlers of Quebec, Canada.

It is my sincere hope that each of you on a similar journey are continued to be inspired by stories such as this one and know that anything is possible as long as you believe and not give up the search.  I did not and hope you to won’t either.

Return to click here:  Henderson’s Descent From French Ancestor Michel Messier dit Saint Michel Certified

National Genealogical Society Quarterly Reviews GOT PROOF!

NGSQ Dec 2014a

National Genealogical Society Quarterly December 2014

What a pleasant surprise to learn that a review of my recently published memoir, GOT PROOF! My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Document (The Write Image 2013) was published in the December 2014 issue of National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

The NGSQ reviewer captures what many genealogist and family historians all go through during their research.

“Bewilderment, frustration, hopefulness, and elation — these emotions frequently attend the researcher’s journey to prove elusive ancestors. Family historian Michael Henderson has published an enjoyable and educational account of his journey of discovery . . . Henderson reviews the many name variations necessary to be reconciled from documents written in Spanish, French, and English. He describes the iterative, nonlinear process of piecing information to prove that Mathieu and Agnes are his ancestors . . .”

James Ison, AG, CG
Westerville, Ohio