From Magruder wills, census records, Registrations of Free Negroes, and other sources, I have been trying to construct relationships among various free, enslaved, and newly emancipated Dodsons in Prince George’s County and Washington DC. from the late 18th c to Emancipation. If you are an Af-Am Dodson or descendant and have information, questions, or theories, please get in touch. Even if you just want to say “Hey, I’m a descendant!” I’d like to hear from you. Please use the CONTACT tab or click here to contact me directly. This works much better for me that trying to follow up on comments.
As you may have noticed, things have been slow on the landing for a while, as I was going through some major life changes. Behind the scenes, I have been corresponding with some folks looking for their family members, but not much has been happening here on the dock. I think the dust has settled now–I’m retired, I’ve moved, my 6th book has been published and the 7th is underway. Retirement + Covid19 = more time than I ever could have imagined while teaching. So, I think it’s safe to say: I’m back.
If you have requested specific help from me and not received a reply, please resend your request USING THE CONTACT TAB. It is very hard for me to pick up the strands of your search from a comment on the website. I’ll remind you that I am not a genealogist & can’t do your basic research for you, such as searching online records, nor is there a place on this site for ongoing genealogical discussions. What I can offer are general suggestions about the sources you might consult and, once in a while, advice on where and how your search may have gone astray. In addition, if you are African American and think your family has Magruder ties, of blood or history, I will do my best to connect what you have dug up so far with my resources.
Don McGruther & Sue Emerson have re-released their popular book & CD set, full of information about McGruthers/McGruders/Magruders in Scotland & America. Don attended last spring’s Southern Maryland Genealogy & History Fair, where people got pretty excited to get their hands on this info. Nearly every family represented at the fair had intermarried with Magruders in Maryland–not surprising, since Alexander arrived in the colony about 20 years after its founding. For his book, Wha’s Like Us, Scottish researcher Don McGruther combed historical records for every trace of our family name from its 14th c (& maybe even 13th c) origins up to the 19th c. The book includes Alexander the Immigrant’s antecedents, as well as much more info & context. The book is sold as a package with Sue Emerson’s CD, in searchable PDF format, Magruders In America, a heroic attempt to trace every documented descendant of Alexander down to nearly the present day. The CD has two documents on it, Magruders In America and Updates which amount to about 1,700 pages each, or 3.3 million words. If interested in purchasing the set, please contact Sue Emerson at fossilsue(at)comcast.net.
Hey Magruders, McGruders, McGruthers, McGrews, & all… On June 29, descendants of perhaps 100 southern Maryland families will converge on the La Plata campus of the University of Southern MD. It looks like a group of us, both African American & white, will be taking part, and we want you to join us. None of us attended last year’s event (at least no one I’ve been in touch with) but we think it could be a great way for some of us to meet face-to-face and see what we can learn from each other. Duncan McGruther plans to fly over from Scotland, with all his research info on Alexander McGruder/Magruder’s origins. Many others will have their family trees, their research, and their questions.
Registration is $25, and your payment and registration must be in by June 1. The chief organizer is Wanda Simmons of the organization Southern Maryland Families. (They do not appear to have a web site.) I don’t want to publish Wanda’s email here, but if you click the Contact tab at the top of this page and send me a message I will either put you in touch with Wanda or just forward the info to you directly. (Wanda has been swamped with correspondence, so the latter might be better.) You can also check out the thread about this on the Magruder/McGruder Family Genealogy Group on Facebook.
There are also plans–talked of, but not yet firm–for Magruders/McGruders to have our own informal gathering either the day before or the day after the fair (June 28 or June 30). I’m sure folks will want to visit the site of Magruder’s Landing and tobacco warehouse, and other sites. If you want to seriously explore, plan on at least one extra day.
If you are not a Magruder by name, but are connected through the legacy of slavery, please also consider attending. The more we share, the more we’ll learn.
And: anyone living in southern Maryland, please reach out with advice on hotels, restaurants, meeting places, and all.
More soon, and hope to meet you in June.
It is with great excitement that I announce publication of The Alabama Black McGruders: The Life and Ancestry of Charles McGruder Sr. by J.R. Rothstein. I congratulate Mr. Rothstein, and am proud to host this remarkable history on Magruder’s Landing.
A great-great-great grandson of Charles McGruder Sr., Mr. Rothstein has worked for years to piece together written records, oral histories, and DNA evidence to create both a plausible narrative of his life and origins and an open-sided platform for further research, debate, and community. Though born into slavery and suffering some of its most demeaning aspects, Charles McGruder Sr. and his wives succeeded in establishing a strong sense of family and a legacy of achievement that survives among many of their descendants.
The story presented here is by no means complete. One power of this document is Mr. Rothstein’s careful distinction between what’s known, what’s believed, what’s contested, and what’s possible. Don’t skip the footnotes! Often, that’s where the debate, the dilemmas, and the possible next steps may be found.
At every juncture, others are invited to step up into the unanswered questions and continue the work Mr. Rothstein has begun. (You will find his email in the history’s introduction and at its conclusion, and should feel free to use it.) Seven collaborators are acknowledged in the introduction, and the stories of many more are quoted in the text; still others, both black and white, generously shared their DNA. So this is, already, a community endeavor, and, as Mr. Rothstein has said to me, an American story.
From the introduction:
Charles Magruder was born a slave in North (or South) Carolina in 1822. According to some accounts, Charles would eventually sire over a hundred children, including fifty-two sons. Many of these children had large families of their own who had large families of their own. Hundreds, if not thousands, of his descendants, sometimes referred to as the “Black McGruders of Alabama,” would go on to populate Alabama and its adjacent territories during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This account, using DNA, oral history, and the written record, attempts to reconstruct the origins of this family and preserve the events of Charles’ life.
Mr. Rothstein goes on to state that this history is relevant only to McGruder descendants whose ancestors were held in slavery by the Magruder-Wynne families of Hale and Greene Counties, Alabama. This may be so; but taking into account Charles McGruder Sr.’s large number of descendants and the subsequent movement of African Americans out of the deep south into northern and midwestern states, it is likely that many black-identified McGruder descendants will be able to link their ancestors to this family tree. You will note in the document that many spellings of the name evolved, including MaGruder, McGruder, Mccruder, Mcgruda, McGouder, Mcruder, and Mcgruter. So pay attention! This could be your family.
Charles’ large number of children resulted from his use as a “breeder,” moved from plantation to plantation in order to sire more slaves–a practice that became increasingly common after the importation of slaves was abolished and, simultaneously, what we now call the Deep South–Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana–was opened for American settlement by the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Throughout the first half of the 19th c., every kind of domestic slave trade increased, including the movement of at least a million enslaved people from the Upper south–Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina–into the new territories, where the cotton gin and other mechanical and financial innovations made industrial-scale production both profitable and pitiless.
In Charles McGruder Sr.’s family, we see, for example, a movement from the Carolinas to Alabama. The parents of one of Charles’ wives, Rachel Hill, probably were born in Virginia, then taken farther south either by the white family who held them in bondage or by professional slave traders. Rachel’s birthplace is uncertain, so it’s possible that she, as a child, made this arduous journey along with her parents.
Here is Charles McGruder Sr.’s line, as it can be traced from Alexander Magruder, the Immigrant:
Alexander the Immigrant > Samuel Magruder + Sarah [surname debated] > Ninian Beall Magruder + Elizabeth Brewer > John Magruder + Jane Offutt > Ninian Offut Maguder + unknown enslaved woman > Ned McGruder + Mariah [surname unknown] > Charles McGruder Sr.
Charles was born on the estate of Eleanor Magruder Wynne. Her father, Ninian Offutt Magruder, had passed Ned McGruder to Eleanor in his will. Most likely, she was Ned’s half-sister and Charles’ aunt.
This is the truth of family in the days of slavery. In our times, let’s allow the Magruder/McGruder family story to take on new breadth and inclusiveness, literally new life.
Congratulations, again, to Mr. Rothstein and to all who made his achievement possible.
& don’t forget the Magruder/McGruder Facebook groups:
& other resources linked in the sidebar of this page…
For those of you with American Clan Gregor Society connections, I wanted to let you know that my father, Joe Tichy, passed away in September. Joe wasn’t a Magruder, though it was hard at times to remember that. On his mother’s side, he came from Tennessee/Georgia hill folk. On his father’s side, he was a second generation Bohemian-American whose grandmother never learned English. When he married my mother–Margaret “Peggy” Bubb, 10th generation descendant of Alexander Magruder–he had no idea he was also getting hitched to a Scottish-American identity that had already endured for three hundred years and was not ready to quit. In the end he surrendered, acquired a kilt he couldn’t afford, and became Assistant Chieftain (which translates as business manager or executive director) of the American Clan Gregor Society. He held that position for 28 years, during which he transformed the society from an old-fashioned, Washington D.C.-based family club to a wealthy nonprofit with an active national membership. Though the ACGS is a different beast now–due in part to changing times, and in part to people like me who have realized we Magruders aren’t even MacGregors–in my parents’ day it was solid and stolid, full of formal and “respectable” people devoted to their Scottish heritage and the idea of kinship…just occasionally letting their hair down enough to have a good time. (Were any of you at the Gathering–I can’t remember where or when–when the pipe band got into the hotel elevator, 2 a.m…guests on all floors madly phoning the manager to complain…in vain…because the manager was in there with the pipers, riding up and down for…was it an hour? God help their ear drums!)
I don’t know if free whisky for the pipe band was traditional or one of Joe’s brighter ideas, but here’s a tale I know belongs just to him. It’s from page 160 of my book, Trafficke.
Baltimore, 1967, the annual gathering of the American Clan Gregor Society, flawed only by the unpracticed hands of office staff called in to serve the Saturday banquet—climax of the weekend, evening dress only—when the regular wait-staff go on strike. My father, who will later remind me of this night, assumes it’s a union problem, but doesn’t ask. He’s not a Magruder, though married to one, and holds no sway. Jump to 1976, and my father, handsome in his new kilt, has been running the Gathering for four years. In the cocktail hour before the banquet, he’s checking details, admiring the centerpieces, the flags, and the large banner of the Fiery Cross, hung, as always, behind the head table. But there’s a wee problem. The wait-staff, all black, refuse to work in the banquet hall so long as that banner is there. My father asks to speak to them, and with (I am sure) great charm and tact, explains the history of the Fiery Cross, its legendary use as a symbol to call the clan to arms—men running picturesquely over the heather, house to house and glen to glen, carrying hand-sized pitch-pine torches in the shape of a double-armed cross. See? It’s there on the banquet program, too, above a few lines from Sir Walter Scott. Nothing at all to do with the KKK. He is sure of this, and sure that his explanation has put their minds at ease. Nevertheless, he takes down the banner, mentions it to no one; and neither at the banquet nor afterwards does anyone remark on its absence. My father runs the Gatherings for more than twenty years, and the banner is never seen again.
OK, yeah, it was naïve on his part to believe there was no connection–however twisted–between Scottish clans and the Klan: that was the whole point of putting this story in Trafficke, so readers could see what my father couldn’t. Looking back now, I can see other reasons this story got under my skin, how it sums Joe up in so many ways. He didn’t know much of the relevant history–and he certainly wasn’t a civil rights activist–he was just a guy with a banquet to run. And a problem. Now, he could have just taken the banner away and got on with the evening. Or he could have insisted it stay, that the meaning of a burning cross in the ill-defined past of the Scottish Highlands trumped its meaning in America. That is what he told the waiters, after all. But he didn’t do either of those things. He accepted that the banner had different meanings for different people, and he talked to them about it. He tried to make them, and himself, more comfortable. Did it matter? Were any of those black waiters one whit happier after his explanation? Who knows. If they were, it was probably not due to what he said, but simply that he made the effort to turn a confrontation into a conversation.
For those of you who knew him, you’ll be happy to hear that he kept his gift of gab, and his famous sense of humor, to the end.
I am happy and impressed when anyone takes the time to actually read Trafficke, much less review it. I was exceptionally pleased when I learned Jon Curley had reviewed it on Galatea Resurrects, an outstanding venue for engagements with poetry books and projects. Jon brings great historical depth to his review, and writes more eloquently than I do about why and how the method and poetics of Trafficke matters. I was so pleased by his words that it took me a couple of times through to realize that our family’s 200 years of slave holding–the book’s ultimate ethical challenge–was never mentioned. Take a look at the Galatea page now and read the ensuing comments and discussion. Sean Pears (a brilliant young writer now working on a PhD in Poetics) took the lead; Karen Branan chimed in; Jon responded with generosity and insight; and I added my thoughts. Taken together, this is an outstanding way to review a book and to keep bringing hard truths to consciousness. We all have to learn, and sometimes we have to learn in public. I’m grateful to Jon, Sean, & Karen, and to Galatea Resurrects for providing the forum. http://galatearesurrection26.blogspot.com/…/trafficke-by-su…