The tracing of ancestry for African Americans is especially difficult. Genealogists face not only the usual difficulties, but also those caused by slavery and discrimination. This page will identify some of the resources available for genealogical research, as well as some of the information available on this website.
Genealogies on the GFA Website
These are the families with African ancestry that we know about. There are undoubtedly sections of other genealogies that belong here also. If your family is not included here but should be, please let us know and send information.
All of the genealogies listed below are incomplete, and additions and corrections will be appreciated. There is some confusion between genealogy 67 and genealogy 79, and some of the families are connected with others in unknown ways. Your help is needed.
DNA testing is very useful for showing what ancient ancestral group (for example, African or European) a person is descended from, and also showing whether two or more people are descended from a common male ancestor (though an all-male line) or a common female ancestor (through an all-female line). We need to have at least one male with the Graves surname tested in each family to determine the ancestral group (called a haplogroup). A 12-marker Y-DNA test is sufficient for that, but a 37-marker Y-DNA test is needed to conclusively show whether two Graves men (or two Graves families) share a common male Graves ancestor, and a 67-marker Y-DNA test is usually even better.
For the majority of descendants who don't have a direct male or female line back to a Graves ancestor, an autosomal DNA test can be very helpful in determining Graves ancestry. It will show relationships with relatives on all ancestral lines back as far as 5 or 6 generations (and sometimes much farther), and it works equally well for males and females. It will also show ancient ethnic ancestry and give an indication of where your ancestors were living thousands of years ago.
- Thomas Graves and Mollie ------ of Lauderdale Co., TN & Mississippi Co., AR (genealogy 4) & chart -- No DNA tests
- James Graves and Melvina ------ of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 22) & chart -- No DNA tests
- Pinkney Graves and Susan ------ of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 58) & chart -- 1 Y-DNA test
- Nathan Graves and Adaline ------ of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 66) & chart -- No DNA tests
- Susan Catherine Desnoozes Graves of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 67) & chart -- No DNA tests -- possibly descended from genealogy 270, perhaps from Henry Major Graves (b. 1817)
- Margaret Boyd Graves of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 79) & chart -- No DNA tests -- possibly descended from genealogy 270, perhaps from Henry Major Graves (b. 1817)
- Simpson Graves and Harriett ------ of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 88) -- No DNA tests
- Calvin Graves of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 108) -- No DNA tests
- Nancy Ann Graves and Josiah Thomas Settle of NC, TN, MS & OH (genealogy 115) -- No DNA tests -- possibly descended from genealogy 270, perhaps from Azariah Graves (b.1768).
- James Graves and Laura B. Anderson of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 127) -- No DNA tests
- Warren Graves and Harriette ------ of SC and Caswell Co. & Rockingham Co., NC (genealogy 218) & chart -- 2 Y-DNA tests
- Booker Graves and Celia ------ of Pittsylvania Co., VA (genealogy 250) -- No DNA tests
- Doctor Graves and Mary ------ of Fayetteville, Fayette Co., GA (genealogy 259) -- No DNA tests
- Spencer Graves and Rachel ------ of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 294) -- No DNA tests
- Monjett Graves and Alice Henry Graves of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 307) -- No DNA tests
- Smith Graves and Charlotte ------ of Prince George & Sussex Co., VA (genealogy 313) & chart -- No DNA tests
- Jacob Graves and Edy ------ of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 314) -- No DNA tests
- Sam Graves and Lilia ------ of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 376) -- No DNA tests
- Edward Graves and Mary Donnell of Memphis, TN, and Alamance and Guilford Cos., NC (genealogy 378) -- No DNA tests
- Owens C. Graves and Mary Stewart of MS, TX & LA (genealogy 427) & chart -- No DNA tests
- William Graves and Georgia Smith of TN(genealogy 431) -- 1 Y-DNA test
- Henry Graves and Rosetta ------ of Haywood Co., TN (genealogy 438) & chart -- No DNA tests
- Parents of Harry Graves and Aquilla Graves of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 455) & chart -- No DNA tests
- Walter Graves and Ella Venson of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 569) -- No DNA tests -- probably descended from genealogy 270, perhaps from Barzillai Walter Graves (b. 1852)
- Hercules Graves and Emaline ------ of NC (genealogy 613) & chart -- No DNA tests
- Parents of Alfred Graves and Emily ------ of NC, VA & OH (genealogy 636) & chart -- No DNA tests
- Parents of John Graves and Samuel Graves of Caswell Co., NC (genealogy 658) & chart -- No DNA tests
- Enos Graves of Coleridge Twp., Randolph Co., NC (genealogy 789) & chart -- 1 Y-DNA test
- Stepney Graves and Adeline ------ of TN & KY (genealogy 824) & chart -- No DNA tests
- Joseph Graves of Hancock Co., MS (genealogy 912) -- No DNA tests
- Ned Graves and Virginia ------ of Campbell Co., VA (genealogy 969) -- No DNA tests
- Benjamin Graves and Judy Graves of Brunswick Co., VA (genealogy 979) & chart -- No DNA tests
DNA Testing and Test Results
Only a few of the descendants who are known to have African ancestry have taken part in our DNA study. Almost all this testing has been for Y-DNA (requiring the person tested to be a male with an unbroken male lineage from a male Graves ancestor) because the Y-chromosome is the only one passed on from father to son essentially unchanged. Most of those so far tested are E1b1a (previously called E3a). Haplogroup E1b1a is an African lineage. It is currently hypothesized that this haplogroup dispersed south from northern Africa within the last 3,000 years with the Bantu agricultural expansion. E1b1a is also the most common lineage among African Americans. It is an old, diverse haplogroup with many branches and is found distributed throughout Africa today. It is also found at a very low frequency in North Africa and the Middle East.
More recently, it has become possible to test autosomal DNA, which gives information about all the ancestral lines of the person being tested about 5-6 generations back. This is called Relative Finder at 23andMe and Family Finder at Family Tree DNA (the company that is most used for genealogical DNA testing). Ancestry just started offering autosomal DNA testing in mid-2012, and those test results will also be used as they become available. A summary of our autosomal DNA testing can be seen on the Autosomal DNA page of this website.
It would be very helpful to have genealogies for the families of all people tested. If we have matching DNA test results but no genealogies, there will be no way to know how these people may be related.
- DNA sample N19423, 12 markers, haplogroup E1b1a (previously E3a), genealogy 218, 4 matches with 1 in Graves group
- DNA sample 32262, 12 markers, haplogroup E1b1a (previously E3a), genealogy unknown, no matches in FTDNA database
- DNA sample 32505, 12 markers, haplogroup E1b1a (previously E3a), genealogy 789, 1 match in FTDNA database
- DNA sample 129642, 12 markers, haplogroup E1b1a (previously E3a), genealogy 218, 4 matches with 1 in Graves group
- DNA sample 210487, 37 markers, haplogroup R1b1a2, genealogy 58, possible matches with family of John E. Brown in Caswell Co., NC
U.S. Federal census records of 1860 and earlier do not give names of slaves, but do list gender, age, and other information about them.
- 1860 census, North District, Pittsylvania Co., VA, Slaves of Dinney Graves
References to African Americans on this Website
- Denyce Graves, opera singer
- Clinton Greaves, Buffalo soldier and recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor
- Alex Haley, American author
Current News Page. Stories about African Americans include:
- June 15, 2008, Joseph Graves
- June 13, 2008, Reuben Graves
- June 3, 2007, Earl Graves
- June 1, 2007, Denyce Graves
Sources for learning more
- Family Tree DNA website. If you want to order a DNA test, do it as part of the Graves DNA project, since it will be less expensive and we will help you interpret the results.
- African American Research article in Ancestry Magazine here.
- Afrigeneas is a site devoted to African American genealogy.
- CAAGRI, the Center for African American Genealogical Research, Inc.
- Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware from a book about the history of the free African American community as told through the family history of most African Americans who were free in the Southeast during the colonial period.
- Cyndi's List of Genealogy sites for African American Research
Other interesting and helpful information (blogs, etc.)
- "How Misunderstanding Genealogy DNA Tests Can Cause Unnecessary Ethnic Confusion" is an interesting blog entry on Axinar.