About Kay Strickland

I am a keeper of my family's lore, chasing after my ancestors' tales in south central New York, southwestern Pennsylvania and Southside Virginia. The stories and photographs that I share on this blog are my intellectual property. While I do my very best to provide well researched posts, I do not pretend to have reached genealogical proof standards. Therefore, much of this work is to generate conversation among interested parties. If you would like to share my work or my records, please contact me: dkaysdays (at) gmail (dot) com.

Library Love

Going to take a moment here this Friday morning to give a shout out to all the genealogical communities scattered in counties and municipalities across the country, and around the world.

Yesterday I traveled down Route 11, crossing the Susquehanna River at Plymouth, and dodged potholes on the San Souci Highway.  A right turn at the Hanover Area High School light took me up the hill to the Hanover Green Cemetery, and the building that houses both cemetery maintenance and the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, Inc.  

Mind you, I am researching roots in southWESTERN Pennsylvania and southside VIRGINIA. Yet I make near-weekly treks to this site and am warmly received as the “Document Lady.”

NEPGS is a certified member of the Family History Library network, and when I sit at their computers I can access ALL the digital records within Family Search’s database. Plus, this local library can receive any microfilm records that I request because they have yet to be digitized.

Over the years I have been able to accumulate dozens of wills, deeds, tax records, and court documents from Mecklenburg County, Virginia because of the generosity and kind spirit of these dedicated folks.

A hearty thank you to my local genealogical society board of directors and staff.  I couldn’t chase my ancestors without you.




Snow days

DSC_3656Today was the day that Quinn was supposed to rage through the trees, whipping lightweight flakes into road-obscuring drifts.  But the winds never came, and the system showered my neighborhood with snow that sits in heavy lumps on branches and gathers between dog toes like tiny snow melons.


Lucy Boyd Dodson, Freedwoman

In building out my Dodson ancestors’ social and economic ecosystem I asked questions about the enslaved.  I wondered if I could find evidence of how their journey from emancipation through Reconstruction differed from the post-war opportunities of my family.

In doing this research I uncovered what I believe to be a family tree of Lucy Boyd Dodson, enslaved on my 2nd great-granduncle’s farm in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.  Benjamin Franklin Dodson was married to Delia Boyd Dodson, who became executrix of his estate in 1864 after he was killed by a Union sniper at Petersburg, Virginia.

The inventory that Delia filed that autumn included the names of the enslaved:

Nancy and 2 children (Caroline and Lucius)





Lucie and 3 children (Henrietta, Virginia, and Elie (Elsi))


Inventory of Benjamin F. Dodson, 1864

Estate of Benjamin F Dodson, Mecklenburg County, Virginia Will Book 22:123, 1864.

Lucy is found in the Virginia Slave Birth Records as the enslaved of Benjamin Dodson, bearing four children between 1854 and 1860, including Henrietta named in the Probate Inventory.  The 1860 mortality schedule lists the deaths of two of her children, Martha and Robert.  Another son, Alexander, is unaccounted for in the inventory or following records.

The 1870 census records Lucy Dodson living in the Boydton District of Mecklenburg County on a farm with Archer, Armstead, Henrietta, and three more children not listed in the inventory, Kesiah, Nathan, and Mary.  Virginia and Elie, from the 1864 inventory are not included in the list.

The 1880 census records Lucy as the wife of Armstead Dodson, living in the Boydton District with their two children, John and Harriet.  Nathan is working as a house servant at the next-door neighbor’s farm. Kesiah and Mary are working as servants in the household of Delia Dodson’s sister, Harriet Boyd Dodson Cogbill, in Boydton.

Henrietta may have moved to North Carolina in 1871 and married Paul Merryman.

Kesiah, Mary, and John have left no trace that I have found. But Nathan and Harriet moved into the 20th century leaving bread crumbs of data in marriage licenses and death certificates.

Harriet married Frank Swift, moved to Norfolk, Virginia, and had several children: Willie, Ruth, Elmira, Mary, and Ernest.

Nathaniel B. Dodson moved to Brooklyn, NY in 1887, and married a Mecklenburg County gal in 1898.  Sarah Goode and Nathaniel had several children: Lillian, Nathaniel Jr, Evelyn, Ralph, Harold, Edith, Kenneth.  Their youngest, Owen Dodson, was a poet, playwright, and Howard University professor of theater. James V. Hatch wrote a biography of the “dean of Black Theater” after Owen’s death in 1983.  Reading Sorrow Is The Only Faithful One has been a fascinating way to confirm some of my hunches about Lucy, Armstead, and their children.

Lucy and Armstead remained farmers on the land near Taylors Ferry Road, Mecklenburg County for the rest of their lives.  Lucy died before 1900, as Armstead is listed in the 1900 census as a widowed farmer living with his brother, Archer (of the inventory list perhaps), and two grandchildren, John H. and Lucy Dodson.  Armstead died on March 14, 1913 and was buried at Shiloh Colored Church, Boydton, Virginia.

This sketch of Lucy’s life will be painted in as I compare her life to that of the widow Delia Dodson, a process that I expect to be a rather uncomfortable reckoning with the inequities perpetuated from slavery to reconstruction to Jim Crow through my life.  The present is much the past.

I am constructing a public tree for Lucy in Ancestry.com, a platform that is amazingly cumbersome in trying to record how African Americans moved from enslavement into freedom! I welcome any suggestions that would make that tree more helpful to family seekers.





It’s Complicated

I shouldn’t have been astonished.

The Mecklenburg County, Virginia U.S. Federal Census of 1860 enumerated two Dodson households–my white 2nd great-grandparents, James and Sarah, and his brother and sister-in-law, Benjamin and Delia.

In the U.S. Federal Census of 1870 James and Sarah were enumerated with 9 children; Delia, widowed by a Union sniper bullet in 1864, was listed with 6 children.  An unrelated white Dodson family, William, Lucy and 4 children, is also listed.

Sixteen additional households carried the Dodson name, and 6 individual Dodsons  lived with other families.  All of these Dodsons were black and mulatto.  The freed.  The emancipated.  The formerly enslaved men, women, and children of my ancestors.

Peter, George

Abram, John, Mary, Frankey, Philip

Lucinda, Alexander, Alexander

Reuben, Nansey, Alice, Clarisa, Nancy, Edward

Armstead, Lucy, Archer, Henrietta, Keziah, Nathan, Mary

Mary, Jordan, Emma, Mary

Orville, Leanna


Alexander, Joanna, Lorice, Petius, Joseph W

James, Martha, Amos, Henry, James, Nathan, Charles, Fannie


Harriet, Richard, Mary F, Margaret

Alexander, Maria, Charles, Selina,

Richard, Harriet, with Celia Hepburn and her children, Mary F. Margaret A., Robert H.

Benjamin, Lucy

Edward living with Stokes, Harriet, and Elvira Walker

Ellen Dodson living with Clarissa, Samuel, Oton, Margaret, Matilda, Samuel, and Henry Hepburn

Susan living with a white family

Alice living with a white family

Nancy living with the Dailey family

Richard, Harriet, Mary F., Margaret

Narcissa with the Gillespie family

I am humbled to realize that I spent almost a decade documenting “my line” before asking the whereabouts of the unnamed of 1860, enumerated by a number, sex, skin color, and age.  In the 1870 census their names and occupations, who they live with, who they live by, begin to unravel a knotty, complicated story.

I am in the process of mapping their social network, curious to know if I can connect these names to previously collected Dodson records, picking up strands of my ancestral story with all the Dodsons of Mecklenburg County.

Version 2


The promise

I start the week with a broken range.  Locked out of stove top and oven because of a suspected short in the control panel, I can’t create with ingredients.  No dinner making. No holiday baking. No soups, chili, stew, cornbread, or greens.

My reliance on Wegman’s shifts from produce to prepared-right-there aisles.

If I shift my exasperation to the side a bit, I can see the promise of this week of waiting for the repair person.

Instead of gathering flour, sugar, and butter, I can gather pine cones, pine boughs, and glue gun.  Wreaths and swags can emerge from my hands, and I am still able to move into the season of advent, a time of re-grounding and renewal as I watch the sun move to its most southern point in my afternoon sky.

The promise of the sun returning, the days lengthening, fuels my hope for peace and inspiration.

The promise of hope.

From a broken range.