Category Archives: Benjamin Thomas of Anson NC

Benjamin’s ancestral link is unproven though a connection is made through DNA.


My last post covered DNA evidence linking distant cousins within the Benjamin Thomas family of Anson County NC. Contradicting accepted family history, genetic markers proved that Benjamin is not the son of Stephen Thomas who came to North Carolina from Maryland. From this realization, our brick wall is Benjamin Thomas; we can only guess as to his ancestry.

When a door is closed, many times a window opens. Though limiting who we think ourselves to be, participation in DNA studies also open whole new worlds of family to explore.

John Pelham Thomas, Jr

John Pelham Thomas, Jr

From saliva coated swabs, testing has allowed me to connect with blood cousins I’ve only just now met and whose family traditions only hint at a connection to mine. One such cousin, a retired professor of mathematics at Western Carolina University, John Pelham Thomas Jr, enjoys the high country in Cullowhee NC where he owns a blueberry farm and whiles away the hours plucking traditional music on his mandolin. Pelham is a thinker, an inventor and entrepreneur. Like me, he too is interested in learning who he is.

Joab Langston Thomas

Joab Langston Thomas

Pelham Thomas was born in Ashby, Bibb County Alabama, the son of John Pelham Sr and Rebeca Jane Hudson Thomas. Born in nearby Holt AL, his first cousin, Joab Langston Thomas (February 14, 1933 – March 3, 2014), is the son of Ralph Cage and Mittie Stovall Thomas. Joab was a scientist who will be remembered for his lifetime achievements as administrative president of Pennsylvania State University, North Carolina State University and the University of Alabama.

Pelham’s and Joab’s Grandfather, William Henry Thomas is the son of Micajah C. and Frances Emeline Dunlap Thomas. Micajah is the son of Joseph and Nancy Thomas. We know that Joseph moved with his family from Georgia to Russell County Alabama in the mid 1830’s. And by the 1850 census, they had again relocated to the Hatchet Creek District of Coosa County Alabama. Following service in the American civil war, Micajah Thomas removed to Ashby, Bibb County where many of this prominent pioneer family are buried at Antioch Baptist Church.


Joseph Thomas, born in 1796 in North Carolina, is the brick wall for Pelham and the Thomas family of Bibb County Alabama. There’s very little solid history prior to the following census record:

1850 Coosa County Alabama
Joseph Thomas 56 M NC
Nancy Thomas 40 F SC
Mary Thomas 21 F GA
William Thomas 17 M GA
Micager Thomas 14 M GA

Began over 20 years ago, research based on works of Robert Thomas of Texas hints at ties to the family of Rev. John Thomas of Toisnot Baptist church in present day Wilson County NC. The trail of documentation is not decisive and has not been verified through DNA. It’s my hope that more known descendants of the Toisnot Baptist family will be tested.

The story of Joseph Thomas calls out for much more research. Though sharing DNA with descendants of Benjamin Thomas, family names in the Joseph Thomas lineage honor a much different past. Names like Joseph and Micajah (Michajah) appear often in records north of Anson County into areas such as Chatham, Wake and Edgecombe Counties NC.

Someday we’ll discover the elusive record that binds our family; it’s doable. We’ll even prove connections to another Thomas family member who’s got ties across the universe. How’s this possible? …keep digging deep and wait for the call 🙂


It’s hard to undo errors in history when, as the living, we’re out there unknowingly perpetuating untruths. Most people don’t have the understanding needed to sort the facts or are simply happy just to be able to tell a story. Others, having gone long down the wrong path, are unwilling to make changes, even knowing that change is right and needed. We’re all a little guilty of this. Like Forest Gump, we run our race and when tired, are ready to just end it where we stand. It seems the larger the family circle gets, the harder it is to keep the story intact.

For my ancestor Benjamin Thomas, it has been very easy for generations to believe that he was the son of Stephen Thomas whose family settled in Anson County after removing from Maryland. Blatantly wrong, this belief ignores deeds in which Stephen’s Benjamin sold land in Richmond County NC prior to moving to Tennessee and on to Mississippi. It also ignores differences in naming traditions and hints of other possible beginnings.  My Benjamin came to Anson County as the son of Stephen was moving west. And truth be known, we do not know the ancestry of my Benjamin Thomas of Anson County NC. We do however know well of his male descendants and also of others who share our DNA.


The following two tables show the earliest known ancestor along with DNA markers attached to their corresponding haplogroup. By definition, a haplogroup is:

“a group of similar haplotypes that share a common ancestor having the same single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) mutation in all haplotypes”

…whew, that’s a lot of definition!! In other words, these folk can be traced back through time, location and migration collectively through their shared DNA.

DNA from descendants of Stephen Thomas indicates that he belongs to the I-M223 Haplogroup with early roots in northwest Europe. From results (family pedigree 187) found on the THOMAS FAMILY PROJECT at FamilytreeDNA, numerous members of the family spanning well beyond the immediate descendants of Stephen share the same markers. The results validate family histories as well as much of their supporting written documentation.
Edmund Thomas 1549 Kent England
I M223-15/23/15/10/15/16/11/13/12/14/12/32

Benjamin Thomas who first appeared in the late 1770’s Anson County is also represented by numerous descendants who share a common DNA. From results (family pedigree 100) found on the THOMAS FAMILY PROJECT at FamilytreeDNA, our Benjamin belongs to Haplogroup R-M269. With roots in sub-Saharan Africa, this group spread north and west through Spain and UK.
Benjamin Thomas 1778 Anson County NC
R M269-13/24/14/11/11/14/12/12/13/13/12/28

From the very different DNA, it’s clear and undeniable that Benjamin Thomas of Anson County is not a member of the Stephen Thomas family. Equally exciting are the results and implications from participants whose DNA match mine and who are not believed to be descendants of Benjamin Thomas of Anson NC. More on their stories later.

Keep on running!

Bessie and the Beef Shoot


Shooting for the Beef - George Caleb Bingham

Shooting for the Beef – George Caleb Bingham

I remember as a little kid struggling to peer over my dad’s arms while he whittled us kids flutes made from the hollow stems of squash leaves. Though the instruments more or less squawked, you could truthfully say they worked …at least for a minute or two before turning to mush.

One day at around age eight, I just happened to observe something going on that was not meant for my young eyes. My dad and older brother were seated at the kitchen table where my dad had a knife and wood in hand. Working on a scouting requirement, my dad’s attention was rightfully on my brother, not me. By and by, and not wanting to be left out, I made it to the tool shed where a chisel and piece of 2×4 caught my attention. It didn’t take long for the chisel to find its way off the wood, severely splitting the end of my finger. Scared to death and having to show the dripping wound to my dad, he pulled out the doctoring stuff and went to work. As always, his last move was to give me a smile, give the bandage a squeeze and then gave me the warning not to do that again. To this day my unhealed scar and split nail are always there reminding me of the good memories of youth. The accident also drove me on a journey that has defined my adult life. For many years I’d rather be carving wood than eating a good meal.

Though I knew little of art as a kid, I did know what I liked. And for me, classical American landscapes have always pulled me to another day and time. From images of animals grazing, people at work, the glow of early morning light, and maybe a ray of sun glistening on a faraway hill, the 1800’s luminst style of painting in particular speaks to my heart.

One of my favorite paintings was “Shooting for the Beef” by Caleb Bingham. Even though I was a city kid, I got the message that the painting was of a scene like a turkey shoot with the prize being a beef cow. I loved how the image captured real life in rural Americana.

Acting on my desire to recreate the image in wood, my dad carried me to a lumber yard where he bought me a huge piece of mahogany that I cut, glued up and carved on for years. Since the wood turned out to be longer in scale than the painting, it was necessary to be creative by exploring my own ideas to lengthen the carving. As the painting showed only the front end of the cow, I decided to include all of the animal for which a wonderful photo was found in the family set of Encyclopedia Britannica.

After countless hours of work, my carving was complete and I was truly proud. Giving it to my parents to go over their mantel, my dad helped to make brackets and bought a special light. It made me happy to see my parent’s pride in sharing my work with friends and neighbors.

And then one day, late in my grandmother’s life, dad brought her to the house for a weekend visit. My grandmother lived to 98 and was a person who actually lived the kind of days and life portrayed in my work. She grew up in hard times and was yet the warmest soul I will ever be privileged to know. Not being able to say enough good about my grandmother, I’ll never forget her remark after seeing my carving. With chin in hand, she gazed the people and landscape until her eyes reached the cow. She shook her head, smiled, and said “why child, you’d eat Bessie?”

Failing to acknowledge the importance of the working ends of beef cattle vs. a dairy cow, all the time and effort I had spent boiled down to whether an animal had teats or not. And my grandmother was right on. You’d never take the life of such a prized Jersey cow to fill a plate with meat! For me, this was a valuable lesson. There’s so much that you need to get right in life and there’s plenty of opportunity for mistake. Know your subject and do your best to get the story right. Composition is more than the image, it’s also the resulting story that’s being told.

Shooting for the Beef -1982

Shooting for the Beef -1982