The Alabama Black McGruders

8 March 2021: I wish I could announce that The Alabama Black McGruders is here…but it’s not quite yet. I’ll post more info as soon as I have it.

J.R. Rothstein, the principal author, has worked with a team of family historians and genealogists, other researchers, and editors, to craft and document this narrative of the family through multiple generations. I am honored to have worked on the manuscript, in a role that evolved into “lead editor” and sometimes “chief nag.” This is a greatly expanded version of the story published on this site a few years back.

Early in the process, J.R. Rothstein was contacted by a literary and media agent about pitching the story to a major T.V. network. The happy result is a short segment on The Alabama Black McGruders, airing in the second episode of the new ABC documentary series, Soul of a Nation. Here’s a clip! You can meet family members, including 95 year-old Lucille B. Osborne, and see the McGruder family land in Sawyersville, Alabama.

Soul of a Nation: Legacy of a Slave

If you are related, or think you might be, the best people to contact are JR Rothstein and Jill McGruder. You can reach JR at jrr483(at)

Jill has built the family tree, and may be able to link your folks to one of the branches. If you’re on Facebook, join one of the Magruder/McGruder groups and post a message for Jill & the rest of the family. If you’re not on Facebook, contact me and I’ll pass on your details to Jill.

41 comments on “The Alabama Black McGruders

  1. Marie Robinson says:

    Jr, my mother, Janie Mae McGruder Ferrell married my father William Carl Ferrell. It is so interesting the mentioning of the Ferrell name. Excellent Documentary!!!

  2. Jo McCruter says:

    Are the McCruter’s related to this family?

  3. Terrie says:

    I was blown away when. While reading this story that brought back many memories from stories told to me by my father that there is a picture of my grand mother: Julia McGruder, Edmonds – Pippens posted here.
    My father was: Prince M. Edmonds

    All of his children have this picture on our walls.

    His sister’s were: Mary & Fannie
    My name is: Terrie (Edmonds) Peace

    • susantichy says:

      Terrie: I am so glad you found this connection to your family. You should write to J.R. Rothstein–he would love to hear from you and to share information. Probably you each have some info the other hasn’t found yet.

  4. KAREN says:

    Just an outstanding story! I found it very interesting and informative. My nephew has a DNA match (autosomal) with a Mary Elizabeth McGruder (1846, Shelby Co, MO – bet 1910-1920, Shelby Co, MO). However, we have an ancestor, Milton Howard/Smith (c1845, Muscatine Co, IA-1928, Davenport, Scott, IA) who was formerly a Pickett slave in AL – we think Autauga or Montgomery Co. We do not know very much about his AL life. Mary’s father, James McGruder was born in 1820 in VA and died in Shelby Co, MO. Are your AL Magruders related to the MO or VA Magruders?

  5. Tasha Peace says:

    Hi, I am a granddaughter of Prince M. Edmonds, Sr. His grandmother was Julia and his mother was Dovie McDaniels. My mother is Terrie Edmonds-Peace. Based on conversations with my mom and information I found on, I have more family than I could have ever imagined. Is it possible for me to have a telephone conversation with one of my family members? Maybe I will be able to find more family and have some questions answered. Fannie Lee McDaniels was the baby girl of Dovie McDaniels and Richmond Richard McDaniels Sr. My aunt Mary Louise McDaniels Dozier passed before being able to tell us more about our family history. This has been an exciting revelation thus far and I look forward to learning more. Thank you in advance!

  6. Electa Graham Churchill says:

    I enjoyed everything that was written in this report . Thank you all.


    MY GRANDMOTHER, ROSA BELL GARRETT LIVED In Sawyerville, AL, she was a sharecropper and she had son’s named Alfred, Charles, William (my father) and June. 2 daughters that I know of Ann and Juanita. It is so hard to figure out anything about my family heritage. My father’s dad was an Abrams. but MY DAD carried the name WYNN. I have only assumed that my grandmother had my father by a man that did not marlry her. so….my GRANDMOTHER’S MAIDEN NAME HAD TO BE WYNN. I have been trying to figure out for a long time, where my family tree starts and this article gave me some insight at least to location where family is located on my father’s side. I THINK MY FAMILY MAY BE RELATED TO THESE MAGRUDERS AS WELL.


  8. Sherry Wynne says:

    You mention Genealogist Sabrina Franklin having a very detailed history of the Wynne Family. I have searched for her but can’t find any information. Do you know where I might find her information? Thank you for taking the time to detail all of the information above. It’s amazing!

    • susantichy says:

      Hi Sherry. J.R. Rothstein did that research. I helped with the editing and published it on my site, but he is the one with the contacts among those family members. You are welcome to email him
      All best, Susan

  9. Conchita T Harris says:

    I am descended from someone named Hezekiah Magruder who lived in Fayette County, PA. He fathered many children also including my great great grandmother Margaret Goe. I have pulled off info from Ancestry and other sites that take this lineage back to a man named John Billington who was one of the people who came over on the Mayflower. His son, Francis had a daughter named Mary who somehow got involved, probably with slavery of the Magruder’s on my side of the family. I would love to know if our Magruder’s connect, as I have seen Alexander’s name several times in my line. I also found out info on that claims to have me related to Abraham Lincoln.

  10. Rand Retterath says:

    Where can I buy a copy of the book?

    • susantichy says:

      Hi Rand. The book isn’t out yet. We expected it out by the end of February, but J.R. Rothstein has delayed publication. I’ll be sure to post the info when it comes.

  11. Tru Johnson says:

    Hi my name is Tru,
    My grandmother’s maiden is Mattie L. McGruder and her mother’s name is Mary Emma McGruder and they are from Midway and Birmingham, Alabama. My sister and I was watching your story on “Soul of a Nation”. We are in Michigan at the present time. My Great Grandmother had 7 children in which are McGruder’s, and have passed away. There are still a few family members that still carry the McGruder name that I know of in Alabama, Kent, Washington and Michigan.

    • susantichy says:

      Hi Tru. Maybe you’d like to be in touch with the family featured on the program? They have a lot more info on extended family relationships. You can start by emailing JR at the address on my page. Not all black McGruders are from this family–ABC exaggerated that. There are many other, unrelated families around the country. But if you have Alabama roots, it’s likely you are in some way related, even if not descended from Charles.

  12. Kimberly Walls Kirk says:

    I saw the ABC special last night… my great -great- great grand father was Mark McGruder Jr … I believe his father was Mark McGruder Sr who married Mary (maiden name unknown) McGruder

  13. […] Born as a slave in North Carolina in 1822, McGruder was emancipated after the Civil Battle. After years of sharecropping, he bought land in 1877 close to Sawyerville, in Hale County, which a few of his household nonetheless owns. McGruder additionally modified the spelling of his household’s surname. His white proprietor was Magruder, the unique spelling of the McGruder final title. McGruder’s household believes he modified the final title to point out his “independence.” Jill Magruder, who’s a descendant of the white Magruders, just lately came upon that the white Magruders and Black McGruders are linked by blood. She is at present mapping out the family tree. […]

  14. Anne says:

    How was the white lady related to the them

    • susantichy says:

      Good question. ABC didn’t include the family’s relationship to white Magruders. One of the the Alabama Black McGruders’ ancestors is Ninian Magruder, a white slaveholder. He the father of Ned Magruder, with an unknown enslaved woman. Ned married a woman named Mariah, and one of their sons was Charles McGruder Sr. All of us are descended, through various lines, from Alexander Magruder, the Scottish immigrant who arrived in MD in the 1650s. So the white woman on the program, Jill Magruder Gatwood, is a distant relation of the Alabama family. She has done a lot of work helping black Magruders/McGruders trace their families and connect through DNA, and she set up the two Facebook groups for Magruder/McGruder descendants.

  15. Tashell says:

    Hello my name is Tashell Magruder and i’m an adopted kid and i’m on an journey to research my family and find out where i really come from. i was literally sitting here watching soul of a nation and got chills when i saw the magruder segment cause i literally was just praying about this. hopefully you could help me.

  16. Diana Sandate says:

    I was married into the McGruder family and I have 5 kids with the last name McGruder. My kids father name is Al Lee McGruder but was shoot and killed 5 yrs. ago.They have a great Grandma name Rosy McGruder and is about 87 yrs. Old and lives in Houston

  17. Charles Mcgruder says:

    Hi….I’m Charles Mcgruder jr……I live in Danville il ….I’m trying to figure out if I’m apart of this..I’m just so confused.

    • Charles G Mcgruder says:

      This is Charles Mcgruder jr again….My father’s name is Charles Mcgruder sr..he past away last year….His father’s name was Harvey Mcgruder….

    • susantichy says:

      Hi Charles. The black McGruders of Alabama are a large tribe, now spread throughout the U.S., but not every black McGruder or Magruder is part of their family. Your name and your father’s make a striking coincidence, but may not mean you are directly related to them. I suggest you join the Facebook group called Magruder/McGruder Family Genealogy. You can post info about your family and ask if anyone there is related, or knows anything about your people. Jill Magruder Gatwood, who started the group, keeps a huge family tree of black and white Magruders & McGruders. She also oversees the DNA project, which has answered a lot of questions for us all, as well as confirming some family traditions about ancestors. Good luck finding your connections!

  18. Charles G Mcgruder says:

    Hi….my name is Charles G. Mcgruder jr. I’m from Danville il….and I was wondering what would be my next step in finding out if I’m connected to the Alabama Mcgruder’s.

    • susantichy says:

      Hi Charles. I can’t tell from your comment if you have read the book yet. That would be one step, to see profiles of some of the descendants and where they fanned out to in the 20th century. You can also join the “Magruder / McGruder Family Genealogy” Facebook group, where several members of the family are active, along with others who have a wide knowledge of who is related to whom, both black and white. Share what you know about your family and ask if anyone can connect. You can also email J.R. Rothstein, the family member who put the book together, at I’ll add that there are many other black Magruder/McGruder families that originated throughout the south. Some are descended from white Magruders and some took the name for other reasons. In Maryland, where the white Magruders first came from, there were free black Magruders as early as the 18th c., and others who weren’t free until Emancipation. For learning how to research your black ancestry, I highly recommend the Robyn Smith’s brilliant blog, Reclaiming Kin,

      • Charles G Mcgruder says:

        Hi….thanks for responding…..I definitely will join Facebook Mcgruder/Mcgruder Genology…
        I don’t even know who is my family….My father never told us anything……

      • susantichy says:

        It’s heartbreaking that so many families are like that, and don’t pass on their history. Even so, you can start with your father and work your way back. Census, marriage licenses, death certificates, newspapers, military records & pension applications are all widely available online. Once you have a few names to work with, land records are also very helpful. Some states have those online. And, of course, wills & probate records. Just start where you are, take a step at a time, and be patient. Any family you can identify that might be yours, research, all members of the family and household. For example, by looking at a sibling, you might find out who the parents were, or where they were born. Robyn Smith’s site, that I recommended, can help you learn how to use each type of document, what info can be gleaned from each, and how to tell what info to trust. Also, how to organize and record what you learn, so you don’t go nuts trying to keeping track of it! Good luck.

      • Charles G Mcgruder says:

        All that my siblings and myself know is that my dad’s dad name was Harvey Mcgruder from Peoria il,and his name wasn’t even on my father’s birth certificate….

      • susantichy says:

        But you think Harvey McGruder was his real dad? If you think Harvey could have been born around 1912 or 1914 in Illinois, send me an email through the contact tab at the top of any page on this site. If that’s him, there’s a lot on

      • Charles Mcgruder says:

        All I know is Harvey Mcgruder

      • susantichy says:

        Private email is a better place to talk about this, rather than in these comments. I’m just asking if the generation is right. I don’t know how old you are, when your dad was born, etc. If it seems like the right generation, born about that time and served in World War II, this well might be the man. There can’t have been many black men named Harvey McGruder in Peoria. There’s a lot of info there about this guy, including where his mother lived, and from some of the details you might be able to make an educated, guess whether it might be the right man.

      • susantichy says:

        Even if you think it’s the wrong generation, I think you should look closely at this man. A black man in Peoria with the identical name is almost certain to be a relative of the one you are looking for. Ancestry has info on his family, addresses, employment, etc. I’m happy to help you access their information if you don’t have an account.

Leave a Reply to Jo McCruter Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s