Genealogy Detective: Michael Patrick Leahy Digs Deep into the Ancestry of Dr. Carol M. Swain


Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed former Vanderbilt professor Dr. Carol Swain to the studio.

During this segment, Leahy puts on his genealogy hat and looks into Swain’s family tree.

Leahy: When you were here last time Carol we had an interesting conversation. As you know I’m a genealogy buff and I have an offer for you. And here’s the intro to that segment.

(Segment intro plays)


Leahy: So Carol, we’re going to talk a little bit about your family. And you’ve mentioned that there is a family legend that you are a descendant of possibly…

Swain: Well, let me clarify.

Leahy: You clarify.

Swain: On one side of my family there is an ancestor who is Thomas Jefferson. And on that side of the family, there is a rumor that we might be related to Thomas Jefferson.

Leahy: To thee Thomas Jefferson. So putting together my genealogy detective tools. For relaxation other people do puzzles, I do genealogy. Go figure. But I find it very interesting. So you were the very first person on our program that I’ve offered this little detective work to.

Swain: I’d like to say to the listeners that I did not give Michael Patrick Leahy any information and he was able to dig up a lot of facts.

Leahy: Yes. A lot of facts. This is basically out there. All I do is I go on and then try to apply certain rules of logic and do a little research.

Swain: I didn’t give you my maiden name.

Leahy:  You did not. I found out what that is. (Swain chuckles) It’s out there in public records. And so we found your maiden name. So we’ll take this story to your great great grandmother. We know that you descend from a woman by the name of Edith Dicey Jefferson who was born in 1836 and died in 1921. Born in Bath County, Virginia. That’s in the western part of it right on the border with West Virginia. And then she died in Rockbridge County which is just south of it.

Swain: That’s where my grandmother was born.

Leahy: Yes. Exactly. And here’s where the story begins. So we know her name Edith Dicey Jefferson was her maiden name. We know from census records she was born in 1836. We know from the records from the Bureau of Freedmen’s slaves that from an 1866 document that she married in 1864 your great-great-grandfather Harry Green Kier. So we know that happened. We know she was born in Bath County.

Swain: They pronounced it Kye-Er.

Leahy: They pronounced it Kye-Er. Thank you. But we know she was born in Bath County. Now Bath County today has about 4,000 people. In 1840 when she would have appeared in a census on the slave schedule it had about 4,000 people. So very small. Very small. So here’s the rest of the story for you, Carol.

Swain: Now was she a slave because on that side of the family…

Leahy: Yes.

Swain: OK.

Leahy: She was a slave. And we’ll tell you a little bit about that. And we know that because she appears in the Bureau of Freedmen’s records.

Swain: Already the old history is wrong because on that side of the family they say that they hail from a long line of free blacks.

Leahy: They may have been on one of the other sides of your family. But this particular one if you are in the freedman record. There’s a record of 1866 of your great-great-grandmother and great great grandfather. But here, is the rest of the story as they say. When she died in 1921 in Rockbridge County they list the name of the father and the mother.

Her mother’s name was Harriot Jefferson from Bath County and her father’s name was Thomas Jefferson. But we both looked at this record and we were trying to figure out where was this place. And we realized the place was, don’t know. So they don’t know where Thomas Jefferson came from.

But here’s the rest of the story. Bath County, this is where the detective stuff comes in. Bath County, very small. In 1850 in the census there was a census of slaves. So that would say who the owner is. Then the gender and age of the slaves that they owned. So ok, we know that Edith Dicey Jefferson was born in Bath County as well as Harry Green Kier.

Both are your great great grandparents. They got married. Well, they were in Bath County and they were slaves. We know that. So there are only 12 pages and about 50 families in the 1850 census of slave schedules. And if you look in that we can find out and I can pretty much tell you where I think your great-great-grandfather Harry Green Kier and his father and mother were.

Where they were slaves. Because you look at the ages. And so we know that his father was born in 1805 and mother was born in 1810. Moses and Sally. Harry was born in 1839 and had a brother who was born in either 1840 or 1838. And another set of twins born in 1845.

So if you go to Bath County and you look at the 50 families that owned slaves you will see there is one family that owned a male slave age 45. A female slave age 40. And then male slaves ages 10 and 11. And then two male slaves age five. Dr. Thomas Goode. He owned 65 slaves. Probably your great great grandfather. And he was a proprietor of what was called Virginia Hot Springs which today is known as…The Homestead.

Swain: OK.

Leahy: So how about that. His descendants sold it to JP Morgan in the 1880s. And now it’s a big big resort owned by Omni. Now, what we don’t know, who was the Thomas Jefferson who was the father of your great great grandmother, Edith Dicey Jefferson? There are a couple of options. Could be the nephew of Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson had a younger brother who had a son named Thomas who lived in Charlottesville. That’s one. It could be a white guy.

It could be possible that there is a Thomas born to some records was born on Montecillo born to Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings a slave according to some records. But not really backed by a lot. Could have been that person. Not even sure that a person existed. Or it could have been a slave that worked at Monticello or elsewhere in Virginia who took the name, Thomas Jefferson.

Swain: Now, why do you say you’re not sure that person existed?

Leahy: Because if you look at the records, some records say that there was a Thomas son of Sally and Thomas Jefferson. Many records say not. We have to do more research on it. But there you go. We know for a fact  Carol, by documentary evidence that you are a descendent of a Thomas Jefferson. (Swain laughs)

Leahy: So there you go.

Swain: Alright.

Leahy: Let’s play the end of that segment again here.

(End segment plays)

Leahy: So anyways Carol that’s our first episode of that and it will be a regular feature. As time goes on.

Swain: I like it better than the Bless Your Heart series.

Leahy: Do you? Well, we’re trying to make it funny.

Swain: Maybe because this one is about me. (Laughs)

Leahy: It’s about me. It’s about you.

Swain: I’m just joking.

Leahy: No I think that’s true. We’re going to resurrect the Bless Your Heart segment. It got kind of sidetracked from this coronavirus stuff. What about you?

Swain: I am too. And when it goes back to blacks and slaves, all of us in America pretty much have Caucasian ancestors. My grandfather could pass for white.

Leahy: That’s interesting. Way back I have one ancestor who was my only French-Huguenot ancestor in 1790 Captain Andres Bavier owned one black slave in New York back in 1790. That’s the only one I kind find in my heritage.

Swain: He was probably a household slave.

Leahy: Probably.

Listen to the second hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.







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