Books by Melvin J. Collier

6 x 9, 302 pages
2nd edition (June 2012)

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6 x 9, 246 pages
Aug. 2011

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Research Starter Tips in African-American Genealogy
By Melvin J. Collier

African DNA testing by African Ancestry, Inc. has found that I descend from the following African ethnic groups:

Mother's maternal line (Danner/Bobo)
The Fulani people of Northern Cameroon

Mother's paternal line (Reed/Barr)
The Mbundu people of Angola

The paternal ancestry of Bill Reed / Pleas Barr / Lewis Barr
The Fulani and Yoruba peoples of Nigeria
The maternal ancestry of Fanny Barr

Mother's father's maternal line (Partee)
The Akan people of Ghana

Father's maternal line (Bass/Morris)
The Tikar people of Cameroon

Father's father's mother's line (Ealy/Parrott)
Coming Soon

Another Maternal Lineage!!
See Mississippi to Africa: A Journey of Discovery

african-american genealogy sites

personal sites



You can certainly learn a LOT from this site. This site contains some wonderful genealogical resources for African-American researchers. Be sure to check out the Slave Data Collection and the Surname Database. You just may find some family today!
Sankofa's Afrikan Slave Genealogy
This site focuses on slave ancestral genealogy and even contains a database of slave plantations.
The African-Native Genealogy Homepage
Got Indians in your family?  If so, you can learn a lot from this site.
The United States Colored Troops
Over 200,000 African-Americans fought in the Civil War.  Check this site to see if your family member was one of those many brave soldiers.  Learn about the history of African-Americans in the War.
People of Color in Old Tennessee
Got roots in Tennessee?  If so, check out this site featuring African-American genealogy in the state of Tennessee.
Alabama African-American Genealogy
Got roots in Alabama?  If so, check out this site featuring African-American genealogy in the state of Alabama.
The Freedmen's Bureau Online
Search the available online records of the Freedmen Bureau.

My Blog: Roots Revealed


Celebrating Gullah Heritage on the Sea Islands
2006 Penn Center Heritage Day Festival
St. Helena Island, South Carolina
The 150th Year Commemorative Reunion of
the Descendants of Lewis & Fanny Barr

In 1859, we were separated. In 2009, we reunited.
Ealy Family History
The history of the Ealy Family of Leake County, Mississippi
Reed Family History
The history of the Reed Family of Tate County, Mississippi

My Family's Visit to the Motherland
Our visit to Senegal and The Gambia
The Tie That Binds - "The Beckley Five"

An amazing story of finding long lost family
separated during slavery

My Civil War Soldier Ancestor
The Life of Edward Danner, my great-great-grandfather
The Atlanta Beckley Club - Beckley Family Reunion
The descendants of my great-great grandfather's sister,
Susan (Sue) Barr Beckley

Ethnic Names
"Learn the meaning of hundreds of African names by"
African Ancestry, Inc.
Trace Your DNA, Find Your African Roots
Black Collegian Online

The Career Site for Students of Color

Your source for issues facing African-Americans

my paternal family

George Clifton Collier
Born: 1899, Rankin County, MS
Died: 1990, Canton, MS
Occupation:  Teacher, Principal

"I am George, Melvin's paternal grandfather.  I was the son of a Baptist minister and school teacher, Rev. Billy William Collier, and Ella Butler Collier. A lot of people called me "Fess", which was short for Professor.  I was an educator and school principal for many years at several schools in Leake, Rankin, and Scott County, Mississippi.  Melvin really enjoyed the fishing trips his grandmother and I took him on when he was a young boy. I taught him how to use a fishing reel just like my grandfather, Surry Butler, had taught me."

Willie Ealy Collier
Born: 1904, Leake County, MS
Died: 1990, Canton, MS
Occupation:  Teacher

"I am Willie, Melvin's paternal grandmother.  I was a school teacher for over 30 years at several schools in Leake and Scott County, MS.  My grandson and I were very close.  When his Mom cooked something he didn't like, he would sneak away to my house and begged me to buy him a Big Mac from McDonald's.  I got my grandbaby whatever he wanted. You can say that I spoiled my son and my grandchildren.  I couldn't help it.  I was my parents' youngest child and was used to getting anything I wanted.  So I did the same thing with my family. My grandson would love to hear me talk about my family, especially my grandfather, Robert "Bob" Ealy."



William & Robert Kennedy
Born:   1887 & 1885, Leake County, MS
Died:  Both in 1977, Leake County, MS
Occupation:  Farmers, Business Owner

Hulen "Newt" Kennedy
Born:  1888, Leake County, MS
Died:  1970, Leake County, MS
Occupation:  Farmer

"We are Will & Rob Kennedy, the older brothers of Melvin's paternal grandfather, Hulen "Newt" Kennedy.  Yes, Melvin's father had two fathers - a biological one and an adopted one.  Melvin is using our picture to represent his grandfather. Our double-first cousin, Willie, and her husband, George Collier, adopted Melvin's father at Newt's request and raised him since he was a baby.  Cut-n Willie did not have any children, so they were happy to raise our nephew as their own.  Melvin's father learned at an early age why our brother, Newt, came around so much.  When he was old enough to learn the truth, Melvin's father and our brother maintained a nice relationship.  He had the best of both worlds, having two fathers who loved him. He certainly had uncles who loved him as well.  Melvin's father used to work with us in the field, helping to plow our land."

Gertrude Belton
Born:  1908, Warren County, MS
Died:  1983, Harvey, Illinois
Occupation:  ---

"I am Gertrude, Melvin's other paternal grandmother.  Yes, Melvin's father had two mothers.  I was so grateful that Mrs. Willie and Mr. George adopted Melvin's father because I was simply unable to raise a child.  They gave him more than I ever could.  My son understood the reason behind my decision, and he came to visit me in Chicago often after he and Melvin's mom married.  Both of my parents, Peter Belton & Angeline Bass Belton, died when I was a little girl, and my brother, sister, and I lived with various relatives in the Mississippi Delta. I had a hard life growing up, and I wanted much better for my children.  By the way, the picture above is not me, but of my first-born, Melvin's Aunt Geraldine. He's having a difficult time locating a good picture of me."



Great News!  Melvin finally found a picture of me. I wished it was one that I took when I was much younger, but I am still happy that he has added a picture of me to his website.  Oh yeah, I am his grandfather, Hulen Kennedy, but everyone just called me "Newt".  Everything my brothers said is true.  Although I didn't raise Melvin's father, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to be in his life and watch him grow up. 


Albert Kennedy
Born: 1856, Scott County, MS
Died:  1928, Leake County, MS
Occupation: Land-owner, Farmer

Martha Ealy Kennedy
Born: 1865, Leake County, MS
Died: 1895, Leake County, MS
Occupation:  Homemaker

"We are Albert and Martha, Melvin's great-grandparents.  The men above, William, Robert, & Hulen Kennedy, are our sons.  I, Albert, was born into slavery near Hillsboro and my wife, Martha, was born the year slavery ended. She was the first child of Robert Ealy & Jane Parrott Ealy who was born free.  We lived a fairly nice life in Lena, Mississippi, raising our four sons and one daughter.  My mother, Lucy Kennedy Cherry, lived with us after my Martha died.  A tornado took my beautiful Martha away, but I soon remarried and also had eight more children by Miss Alice Hill.  I was able to obtain a large amount of land which I farmed.  Everybody think that I was able to accomplish certain things in my life because I looked like a white man.  Sure, I passed as a white man one time when I went to Louisiana to see my sister, so why not use certain things to my advantage?  They let me sit with the other white folk in the front of the train, never knowing that I was a proud Black man."

App Ealy 
Born: 1890, Leake County, MS
Died:  1966, Leake County, MS
Occupation: Land-owner, Farmer

Robert Ealy & Jane Parrott Ealy

(Photos of App & Paul Ealy courtesy of Lynda Rowe-Campbell)


Paul Ealy
Born: 1859, Leake County, MS
Died: 1943, Leake County, MS
Occupation: Land-owner, Farmer

"I am Paul, the father of Melvin's grandmother, Willie Ealy Collier.  I was born into slavery in 1859 near Lena, Mississippi on William Parrott's farm.  I was born into slavery, but since I was so young when slavery ended, I don't remember much about dem slavery days.  I was able to acquire over 600 acres of land in Leake County.  Melvin's grandmother, Willie, was my youngest child, and she was right when she would tell Melvin how I spoiled her.  I married Willie's mother, Adeline Kennedy, in 1879, and we had nine children together.  I also had another son, Elijah, who lived to get 106 years old.  My wife, Adeline, was a "mulatto," and if you didn't know her background, you'd swear she was a white woman.  My daughter would always tell Melvin that I was "dark as night."  I was so happy that my daughter and her husband George Collier adopted Melvin's father.  You see, Hulen Kennedy was my nephew, and he was also my wife's nephew too, so Melvin's father was filled with our blood.  Hulen Kennedy's mother Martha was my sister, and Hulen's father Albert was my Adeline's brother.  Hulen, his siblings, and all of my children could have all easily passed for siblings because they all looked alike.

"I am App Ealy.  Melvin's grandmother, Willie Ealy Collier, was my baby sister. Newt Kennedy was my double-first cousin.  Melvin does not have a picture of my grandparents, Robert "Bob" Ealy & Jane Parrott Ealy, so I am representing them.  They were the parents of Paul Ealy (my father) and Martha Ealy Kennedy (Newt Kennedy's mother).  That would make them to be Melvin's great-great-grandparents in two ways.  Ain't that something!  Anyway, I remember Grandpa Bob quite well.  He died in the late 1900's.  He had been born into slavery in Nash County, North Carolina on Jesse Bass's farm around 1814.  When his first "masser" died in 1822, Grandpa Bob went to Miss Frances, who was Jesse Bass's baby daughter. Miss Frances married William W. Eley, and the Eleys left North Carolina around 1837, taking Grandpa Bob with them to Leake County, Mississippi.  Grandpa Bob told us how "Masser Billy" used him as a breeder. He kept him housed by himself in an one-room log house.  Grandpa Bob fathered many children, a lot of them he never saw.  He and Grandma Jane, Melvin's great-great grandmother, had a whole bunch of children too.  During slavery, Grandma Jane and her children lived on William Parrott's farm, but "Masser Billy" Eley allowed Grandpa Bob to visit Grandma Jane and their children often, since the Eley & Parrott farms were next to each other.  My grandparents had a hard beginning, but they survived and were some of the strongest people I know."

my maternal family

Melvin Odell Reed
(1944 - 1971)

"I am Melvin Collier's uncle and namesake.  My baby sister named her only son for me in honor of me. I was the owner of Reed's Barber Shop on Alcy Street in Memphis, Tennessee. I have two nephews carrying my name, and I am grateful to my family for remembering me in such a nice way."

Doctor Rogers (Dock) Reed
Born:  1878, Tate Co., MS
Died: 1958, Tate Co., MS
Occupation:  Land-owner, Farmer


Simpson Reed 
Born:  1881, Tate Co., MS
Died:  1955, Tate Co., MS
Occupation:  Land-owner, Farmer

"I am Dock Reed, Melvin's great-uncle.  The lady in the picture is my wife, Mary Frances.  Mary Frances and Melvin's maternal grandmother, Minnie, were cousins. 
Melvin's maternal grandfather, Simpson Reed, was my younger brother, and he did not like to take pictures.  No one has a picture of him.  But out of the rest of our brothers, I guess he looked more like me, and Melvin is using my picture to represent Simp.  Melvin's grandfather was a smart man, so smart that he waited until he was 43 years old to marry for the first time.  That wife gave him three children, but she died in childbirth.  My brother soon married Melvin's maternal grandmother, Minnie.  She was half his age, but she sure did love him.  She gave him five more children, including my niece, Melvin's mother.  My brother was a great father, husband, and an admired man in his church and community.  Melvin gets his reserved personality and quiet nature from my brother."


Minnie Davis Reed
Born:  1908, Panola Co., MS
Died:  1971, Memphis, TN
Occupation:  Teacher

Young Minnie

"I am Minnie, Melvin's maternal grandmother.  Melvin doesn't remember me because the Lord called me home a year before Melvin was born.  That was God's plan.  But Melvin grew up hearing a lot about me because my children talked about me so much.  I married Melvin's grandfather when he was 55 years old.  I was 28.  My father, John Hector Davis, did not mind the marriage because everyone liked Simp.  He was one of the nicest, kindest God-fearing men you could ever meet and the Reeds were good people.  After my husband died, I desperately wanted to get out of the "country", so I went to Memphis, Tennessee and purchased a house on Davant Avenue. The picture of me to the left was taken when I was 5 years old."

John Wesley Davis
Jessie F. Davis

We are Melvin's great-uncles, born in 1893 & 1896, respectively, in Como, MS to John & Mary Davis.


Jimmy Reed
Born:  1872, Tate Co., MS
Died: 1959, Tate Co., MS
Occupation:  Land & Business Owner & Farmer
William "Bill" Reed & 
Sarah Partee Reed

Pleasant "Pleas" Reed
Born:  1888, Tate Co., MS
Died:  1966, Tate Co., MS
Occupation:  Land-owner, Farmer

Pleasant "Pleas" Barr

"I am Jimmy Reed, Melvin's great-uncle.  Melvin doesn't have a picture of my parents, his great-grandparents, Bill Reed & Sarah Partee Reed, but he is presenting them through me, since I am my parents' first-born child of 11 children.  I think learning about my father and his hard beginnings really inspired Melvin.  Daddy started out with nothing as a slave on the Barr and Reid farms in Abbeville, South Carolina and ended up being one of the largest Black land-owners in Tate County, MS. He came to Mississippi in 1866, shortly after becoming a free man.  Be sure to click on the link to learn more about my parents and the Reed Family."

"I am Pleasant Barr, Melvin's great-great grandfather.  Most people just called me Pleas. For obvious reasons, Melvin is using a picture of my grandson, Pleas Reed, to represent me.  Melvin learned a lot about me during his genealogy research.  You see, my son, Bill Reed, talked about me a lot and some of that information was passed on to Melvin.  Bill and I were forcedly separated in 1859 in Abbeville, So. Carolina, when he was 13 years old.  William Barr, Jr. "sold" me to James Giles, and he took me to Ripley, Mississippi. William then sold my children to Lemuel Reid.  When Mr. Giles took me away from So. Carolina, that was the last time I saw my children, my mother, Fanny Barr, my siblings, and other family members again.  I am grateful that my son never forgot me, and he even named his youngest son after me.  What a joy it would have been if Bill and his sister, Mary, had found out that I was over in Ripley, just 60 miles from Senatobia where Bill settled and raised a large family.

John Hector Davis
Born:  1870, Panola Co., MS
Died:  1936, Panola Co., MS
Occupation:  Farmer, Carpenter

Mary Danner Davis
Born:  1867, Panola Co., MS
Died:  1932, Panola Co., MS
Occupation:  Teacher, Homemaker

"We are John & Mary Davis, Melvin's great-grandparents. We both were born just shortly after slavery.  I, John, to Hector Davis & Lucy Milam Davis and my wife, Mary, was born to Edward Danner & Louisa Bobo Danner.  Thank God we escaped living in that dark time.  The lady above, Minnie, was our youngest daughter of nine children we had together.  Our daughter, Minnie, and my granddaughters, Melvin's mother & aunt, followed in my wife's footsteps.  You see, my wife became a teacher during the 1880's.  She was beautiful and educated, qualities I like.  She and her sisters taught at some of the earliest schools for Blacks in Panola & Tate County, Mississippi that were formed during Reconstruction."


Hector Davis
Born:  1842, Abbeville County, S.C.
Died: 1925, Como, MS
Occupation: Carpenter, Farmer

Lucy Milam Davis
Born: 1846, Tate County, MS
Died: 1927, Como, MS
Occupation:  Homemaker

"We are Hector and Lucy, Melvin's great-great grandparents.  His grandmother, Minnie, was our granddaughter - the daughter of our oldest son, John Hector Davis.  I was born into slavery in South Carolina.  But our slave "masser", John Burnett, transported me, my siblings, and my parents, Jack & Flora Davis, to Como, Mississippi in 1861, shortly before the Civil War started.  When we were living in South Carolina, Pappa 'belonged' to a neighbor Davis Family, but he was allowed to visit us on the Burnett place often.  When "Masser" John Burnett decided to move to Mississippi, he "purchased" Pappa so Pappa could be with us.  Shortly after the War, I married Lucy and we had 15 children.  Lucy, her parents, Wade Milam & Peggy Briscoe Milam, and her siblings had been enslaved on Joseph Milam's farm near Senatobia. "Masser" Joe Milam had brought Lucy's pappa, Wade, to Mississippi from Alabama.  Her momma, Peggy, had come from Tennessee.  Melvin's mom and grandmother, Minnie, look a lot like Lucy."

Edward "Ed" Danner 
Born: 1832, Union Co., SC
Died: 1876, Panola Co., MS
Occupation:  Farmer

"I am Ed, Melvin's great-great grandfather - the father of the lady above me.  Melvin is using the picture of the black soldier statue to represent me because I was a soldier in the Civil War, serving as a private in the 59th Regiment Infantry of the United States Colored Troops.  Melvin was so proud to learn that I had fought with the Union Army.  He has dedicated a website in honor of me, and you can go there to learn more about me.   The link is listed here."

Louisa Bobo Danner 
Born: 1842, Union Co., SC
Died: 1921, Panola Co., MS
Occupation: Land-owner, Housewife

"I am Louisa Danner, Melvin's great-great grandmother.  Everybody called me Lue.  The lady right above me is my oldest daughter.  I was born into slavery on Dr. William Bobo's farm in South Carolina.  From my picture, everybody see a lot of Indian in me, but my father was a white man, Elijah Wilbourn.  My mother, Clarissa Bobo, was also a slave and my Indian features came from her side of the family.  When I was 16, Dr. Bobo took all of his slaves to Como, MS.  I was married at the time to Mack Ray, a man enslaved on a neighboring plantation with whom I had my first two children, but we never saw him anymore when we were taken to Mississippi.  Our son, Mack, was born shortly after we arrived in Mississippi.  I later married Edward Danner, and had 8 more children.  After my husband died, it was up to me to raise my ten children.  When I saved up enough money, I bought 100 acres of land, and my sons and I farmed to make a living.  My daughters were teachers. By the way, my great-great granddaughter's DNA test revealed that I am part of the Fulbe (Fulani) people of northern Cameroon.  Ain't that something! Hallelujah!"

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