Finding Henry Stokes: Clarke County Marriage Records 1865 – 1909

I have spent the last month going through five roles of microfilm that I have rented from the Family History Library trying to find any of my relatives that were married between 1865 – 1909 in Clarke County, MS.  The records were segregated at that time, so I was specifically looking at the microfilm of the books labeled “Freedman Marriage Record, Colored”. Since I am focused on the STOKES line, I did find the marriage records for almost all of Grandpa Henry’s children and also the marriage records for several of Grandpa Henry’s siblings. But I could not find his marriage record nor could I find the marriage record for his father, Taylor STOKES.

Although I could not find his marriage record, while going through page by page on several of the rolls, I began to notice that a lot of the records were recorded in the book from little slips of paper. Most looked like a note from the person who performed the ceremony or either the nearby merchant asking the clerk to send back the marriage license. Most of the notes had the date, the names of those being married and the assurance that they were both of the appropriate age.

Seeing this helped answer a question I have had since 2012 when I found the marriage record for Grandpa John STERLING to Grandma Bessie STOKES. The record had the ages 21 and 18 respectively. I incorrectly assumed that the clerk was listing their ages and thought that my great grandparents had fudged the truth since they would have been older at the time. After seeing those notes, I realize that the law at that time may have been that the male must be at least 21 years old and the female 18 years old in order to marry without parental consent (I have yet to find it). Since the notes didn’t have their actual ages, I don’t know how the clerk could really confirm that they were of age.

Having to go through the microfilm because I didn’t find what I was looking for in the index has definitely helped me understand the records a bit better. I now understand how most of them were recorded and the what information I can possibly use from them in my research. Still bombed that I haven’t found Grandpa Henry’s record. The search continues!


52 Ancestors #4: Finding Henry STOKES

I have been doing a lot of research on the STOKES line of my tree and have been concentrating on the family of Henry STOKES, my maternal great great grandfather. He is the father of Bessie STOKES, whom I shared with you last week. He has been a bit elusive on the census and is making it hard to answer several questions that I have. Out of frustration, I often find myself saying “Grandpa Henry, where are you and why are you hiding from the census taker!!” I have gone page by page, viewed census on, Family Search, and Heritage Quest, and have searched by other family members (siblings, children, wife, etc) as well as neighbors. I even went to the archives to see if he showed up on the soundex index for 1900 and 1920 and came up empty handed. So, either he was hiding or the census taker simply refused to take down the information because I seem to find everyone but him (except for his brother Robert…I can’t find him on 1900 or 1920 either)!!

Henry Stokes

Henry Stokes, Sr.
New Hope Cemetery
Quitman, MS

I am not quite sure of his year or place of birth. I am finding conflicts between the census records that I have found, his grave marker, and what is on his and his children’s death certificates (those that I was able to order). I do know that he died on 22 September 1926 in Clarke County, MS1. I was able to find the certificate because the year of his death on his grave marker, so that was easy! When I received his death certificate last year, I learned that his parents’ names were Taylor & Cornelia (?) STOKES2. I was later able to confirm this based on the information received from the STOKES family reunion committee.

He married Malissa PICKETT somewhere between 1873 and 1875. I have not been able to find their marriage record in Clarke County. I am in the process of going image by image on the microfilm a second time to be sure it’s not there before I start to look at surrounding counties. From this union I believe there were at least 9 children. I understand that they may have had 2 more children; however, it’s been difficult to confirm the number of children because the family seems to have been skipped on several of the population census for Clarke County. Currently, I only find Grandpa Henry on the 1870 census with his parents3 and the 1910 census with his wife and 3 of the children, one of which is my great grandmother Bessie STOKES4. It’s on that census that the census taker recorded Malissa had given birth to 13 children, 11 of which were still living. It is my goal to find the names of all of the children. I am almost certain they were in Clarke County at the time of the 1900 census because I found that he acquired land in 18975. However, since I can’t find them on any census outside of the two mentioned, I am going through the tax rolls available online for Clarke County to confirm that he was actually in the county during those time periods. In the meantime, I guess I will need to figure out if there is another way to identify all of the children.

Interestingly enough, when reviewing his death certificate, I also learned that he married a second time to a woman named Indianer6. Did his wife Malissa pass away or did they divorce? Each new record find seems to add more questions to my list. At this point, I have quite a few questions that I am trying to find the answer for about Grandpa Henry (and his family). I will continue on in my research on his children and siblings in hopes that it will give me the answers I seek.

This is my fourth post as a part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, created by Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small.


1. Mississippi State Board of Health, death certificate 17599 (1926), Henry Stokes; Death Certificates and Indexes; Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Jackson.

2. New Hope Cemetery (Clarke County, Mississippi; County Road 691 GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 31.98102, Longitude: -88.67754), Henry Stokes, Sr. marker, photograph taken by Amy L Cole, September 2013.

3. 1870 U.S. census, Clarke County, Mississippi, population schedule, Quitman, p.18, family 95, Henry Stolks; digital image, ( accessed 2013); citing Family History Library microfilm: 552225.

4. 1910 U.S. census, Clarke County, Mississippi, population schedule, Quitman, p. 76, dwelling 652, family 652, Henry Stokes; digital image, ( 2013); citing Family History Library microfilm: 1374749.

5. Clarke County, Mississippi, U.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907, ( accessed 27 July 2013), entry for Henry Stokes, T2N, R16E, S27; generically citing United States Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records as the source of this database.

6. Mississippi State Board of Health, death certificate 17599 (1926), Henry Stokes.

© 2014 Amy L. Cole and Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey. All rights reserved.

Cite This Page:
Amy L Cole, “52 Ancestors #4: Finding Henry STOKES,” Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey, 16 March 2014 ( [access date]).

Please do not copy without attribution and link back to this page.

52 Ancestors #3: Bessie STOKES STERLING (1893 – 1962)

Bessie STOKES, Momma Bessie as she is known to our family, was born to Henry and Malissa (Pickett) STOKES in Clarke County, MS on March 10, 1893.1 Today is the anniversary of her birth 121 years ago.

I was able to find Momma Bessie living with her parents on the 1910 census as a teenager.2 When she was 22 years old, she married John “Johnny” Sterling and she began her journey as a wife and mother.3 Together they had 7 children: Lillie (1915 – 2006), Lucille (1916 – 2000), Maudie (1919 – 1990), John (1920 – 2003), Thomas (1922 – 1988), George (1927- 2010), and Orvelle.

I followed her through the census records with her family until 1940 when I found her living with her four sons.4 She was listed as married, but I found Grandpa Johnny living alone in another part of the county. That is when I learned that they later decided to divorce in October of that same year after 25 years of marriage.5

I never got to meet Momma Bessie, I only know her through the stories told by my mom and her siblings. From their stories, I gathered that they loved spending time with Momma Bessie. My mom said “we would go wherever she would go to get away from the house”. Mom most remembered that she loved to go fishing and visiting people in the neighborhood.6 She was also the favorite aunt of my 95 year old cousin.  She says that Aunt Bessie, as she called her, was fun to be with and had something to laugh about all the time.7 I really wish I could have met her. Since I didn’t, I will do my best to preserve the memories of her.

My mother’s last memory of Momma Bessie is that she went to the hospital and never come back. Based on her death record she had suffered a stroke and died several hours after reaching the hospital. She died on August 4, 1962 in Quitman, Clarke County, MS at age 69.8 She was buried in the New Hope Cemetery in Clarke County, MS.9

Happy Birthday Momma Bessie!

This is my third post as a part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, created by Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small.


1. Mississippi State Department of Health, delayed birth certificate no. 112100 (1956), Bessie Stokes; Vital Records; Jackson.

2. 1910 U.S. census, Clarke County, Mississippi, population schedule, Quitman, p. 76, dwelling 652, family 652, Henry Stokes, Malisy, and Bessie; digital image, ( 2013); citing Family History Library microfilm: 1374749.

3. Clarke County, Mississippi, “Freedmen Marriage Record, Colored; v3 1914 – 1919”, page 39 for John Sterling and Bessie Stokes, Office of the Clerk of Circuit Court, Quitman.

4. 1940 U.S. census, Clarke County, Mississippi, population schedule, Quitman, p.13, family 112, Bessie Sterling; digital image, ( accessed 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration, 1940; Roll T627_2015.

5. Clarke County, Mississippi, Chancery Court, divorce file 3950 (1940), John Sterling v. Bessie B Stokes Sterling, final decree; Office of the Clerk of Chancery Court, Quitman.

6. Jerlean (Edwards) Pruitt, Quitman, MS, interview by Amy Pruitt Cole 05 July 2013; audio privately held by interviewer, Georgia, 2014.

7. Malissa (Rogers) Speed, Quitman, MS, interview by Amy Pruitt Cole 12 March 2013; audio privately held by interviewer, Georgia, 2014.

8. Mississippi State Department of Health, death certificate 13450 (1962), Bessie B. Stokes; Vital Records, Jackson.

9. New Hope Cemetery (Clarke County, Mississippi; County Road 691 GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 31.98102, Longitude: -88.67754), Bessie Sterling marker, photograph taken by Amy L Cole, September 2012.

© 2014 Amy L. Cole and Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey. All rights reserved.

Cite This Page:
Amy L Cole, “52 Ancestors #3: Bessie STOKES STERLING (1893 – 1962),” Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey, 10 March 2014 ( [access date]).

Please do not copy without attribution and link back to this page.

Maudie Sterling Edwards: Why I Called Her Name

Maudie Sterling Edwards

Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey

I can not begin to describe how I felt during the AAGSAR BLOGFEST2014 announcement of the New Kids on the Blog.  There were a lot of emotions all at once.  When the post was released, I clicked the link and waited in anticipation for the picture that I had chosen to come up in the slide show.  There she was, my grandmother, my inspiration.  To see my grandmother, Maudie Sterling Edwards, amongst the ancestors of my fellow New Kids on the Blog roster as representation for Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey, brought tears to my eyes.

I want to share the reasons why I chose my grandmother to represent the introduction of this blog.  See, this is not the first time that I have called her name.  I wrote a tribute to her when I was in college (I will share that at a later date) and she helped me with every word.  I truly believe that she must have known that I would be here, digging through records and helping to tend the roots of the family tree so that it grows to include the names of those before her that were unknown to me.

In addition to this, for as long as I can remember, I have been told that I look like her.  My mother and her siblings often look at me and say, “you look so much like momma.”  I know that I must bear a strong resemblance to her because elder relatives who see me for the first time look at me as if they have seen me before.  After the squinting of their eyes and cocking of their head, they too begin a sentence with “you look just like…”.  I just smile and say “I know”.

When I first started this journey, I started with her father, John Sterling, and her grandfather, George Sterling, both of Clarke County, MS.  Soon after starting, I made my first trip home to find out more.  My mom led me to the papers that my grandmother left behind and to my surprise, she had left me a treasure trove.  Amongst her papers were old funeral programs and even an old family reunion booklet for another line of the family.  I was delighted that she had kept these things and that no one had decided to throw them out after her passing.  I made a couple of trips home in 2013 and decided that I must go through those papers again, for fear that I have missed something.  And sure enough, I did.  With each trip I found additional papers to help with my research.  To top it off, I found a Bible of hers in which she wrote the names, death dates, and burial dates, and sometimes place of death of relatives.  Just recently, I referred to the Bible and realized that she had left the death date and place of a relative that I had been searching for.

Research continues on the Sterling line, but my focus was shifted to work on her mother’s line, Bessie Stokes Sterling.  Since connecting with the cousin that I mentioned in Collaborating with Cousins, I have learned that the family has been working on keeping and updating the tree for a while.  However, I am starting to understand why my focus was shifted to this line.  The research has brought me to the name of my 4th great-grandfather (her 2nd great-grandfather), Kelly Stokes.  I can’t say that I fully understand what it is that I am looking for, but I know she will help me just as she has done before.

Thank you Grandma for sending me to AAGSAR!  Also, thanks you to Luckie Daniels and the AAGSAR group for all of the continued support!  #BLOGFEST2014

Many Blessings and Happy Searching!


© 2014 Amy L. Cole and Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey.  All rights reserved.

Genealogy Year in Reflection: 2013

It’s the last day of 2013, so I have been reflecting on how the year has gone as it relates to my genealogy research.  As I think back, my year really started when I got the Exploring Our Roots & Finding Oprah’s Roots DVDs for Christmas.  That was followed by a mobile handheld scanner for my birthday on January 4th.  I was really excited because I had made such progress since I started in July 2012. But this year, I was determined to learn more about the process of researching genealogy and family history.

January 2013 – I watched every episode on those DVDs and made notes of comments that might help me in my research. I watched some of the archived webinars on  I also started organizing planning my first research trip to my hometown to gather documents and conduct interviews.

February 2013 – I conducted 3 phone interviews to prepare myself for the trip I was about to embark upon.  Toward the end of the month, I finally decided to order Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree by Tony Burroughs.  I read parts of the book at the time, because I wanted to only review the parts that I would need for my trip.  Didn’t realize at the time that I really needed to read that book cover to cover before running off on a research trip!  Lesson learned.

March 2013 – I went on my first week-long research trip to Mississippi to my hometown.  I created a calendar and had everything planned out from visiting the cemeteries where my family was buried, the county courthouse (Clarke), the state archives (which is a 2 hour drive one-way from my parents), conducting interviews, and searching through the “family archives”.  I got to interview my 94 year old cousin, who was an absolute delight! I also got to meet some people on my Dad’s side of the family who I had not previously met, even though they only lived about 15 minutes away from my parents all my life.  My mom was my riding partner and she braved the cemeteries (deep in the woods of Mississippi), helped me dig in at the courthouse and the archives, sat through interviews and scanning sessions, helped me track down where funeral home records went, and contacted everyone she knew that could help me.  She is still helping me now with my questions and hunting down those that are living who can answer the questions that she doesn’t have the answers to.  March was an excited research month for me and I came back with lots of information for my research.  To top it all off, there was the birth of my 8th grand nephew (I have 5 grand-nieces as well)!

April 2013 – I started to attend genealogy seminars that were being held here in Atlanta. My first seminar was a lecture by Tony Burroughs and he signed my book!

May – September 2013 – I attended more seminars and even got my feet wet in The National Archives at Atlanta.  It was during these months that I realized that I was seriously unorganized!  I begin to catalog, scan and file.  I am still working on the organizing part (computer issues).  Didn’t realize I had so much stuff.  I did some research as well, adding to the pile! 🙂  I also started to join Facebook groups looking for guidance. It was through one of the groups that I was able to get the death certificate of my 2x great-grandfather, Henry Stokes, which included the names of his mother and father, taking me back another generation.

Richard Edwards, Jr.

Me and Uncle Richard

October 2013 – I lost my Uncle Richard.  Richard Edwards, Jr., born February 19, 1940 to Richard Edwards, Sr. and Maudie L. Sterling Edwards.  He passed away October 7, 2013.  We were hurt, but we know he is at rest and that we were blessed to have encountered him.  I cried as I recorded the date in my tree.  That was the hard part of genealogy for me.  I can still hear his laugh.  I am thankful that my sister and I were able to sing a joyful medley at his funeral.  I also got to meet his youngest son, a first cousin that I didn’t know existed.  October was hard, because my mother lost her brother and 2 cousins that month.  That is 4 deaths in all for my family for the year (1 on my dad’s side a few months earlier).

November 2013 – I refocused and started to research the Stokes side of my family.  I conducted a couple of phone interview and tasked myself with gathering vital records again.  On Thanksgiving Day, I met a cousin who added to my collection of funeral programs and even gave me a copy of a fictitious account of the lives of my Great-Granduncle Charlie Moody and Aunt Libby Stokes Moody.  The book is called Paw Charlie’s Triumphs by Roy Conner. I read it a day’s time…I was that excited!  I finally decided to finish reading Black Roots: A Beginners Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree by Tony Burroughs!  After I finishing that book, I also read Got Proof! by Michael Nolden Henderson in two day’s time. I love reading, can’t you tell!  November was also the month that I was able to obtain the death certificate of Taylor Stokes, father of Henry Stokes.  That death certificate had the name of his father, Kelly Stokes, taking me back yet another generation.

December 2013 – I started to focus on how to properly document my research.  My 9th grand-nephew was born!  I was connected to a cousin who is the keeper of the Stokes family tree.  Lastly, I joined AAGSAR and started this blog to share my research.

I’d say that was an ok year in genealogy, wouldn’t you?  I’m pretty excited to take it to the next level and see what my ancestors will show me in 2014!

Happy New Year & Happy Searching!


© 2013 Amy L. Cole and Tracing Amy: My Ancestral Journey.  All rights reserved.