Monday, May 09, 2011

A Tangled Web

A few days ago Joyce Spencer and her two daughters, Joy & Roberta, stopped by the house for a visit. You may remember Joyce from my February 11 post ( about the new grave marker for our great-grandparents.

In the course of our conversation Joyce mentioned "Aunt Dark," a relative she had heard about, but whom she couldn't remember.

Here is what I discovered: "Aunt Dark" was Dorcas Williams Spencer Gaskins (b. 1858), Joyce's husband's great aunt. But she was also Joyce's second cousin, twice removed. There was another "Dark," (Dorcas Scarborough Williams, 1833-1921), who was Joyce's first cousin, three times removed. To further complicate matters, there was another Dorcas ("Dart"), 1893-1915 , Joyce's fifth cousin, twice removed. And that doesn't count Dorcas Williams Spencer (1805-1877), Joyce's great, great, great aunt, and her husband's great-great grandmother. There were other Dorcases on Ocracoke...but my head is spinning.

In the course of making elaborate genealogical charts on multiple sheets of paper taped together I was struck again by how entangled the old Ocracoke families are. Joyce is my secound cousin (through our O'Neal grandmothers)...but she is also my fourth cousin (through our Williams great grandfathers). Her children are my second cousins, once removed...but also my fourth cousins, twice removed through our common Howard ancestor.

I was reminded that my direct Ocracoke ancestors were also intermarried. I am my own sixth cousin through the Williams line...and my own sixth cousin, once removed, through the Howard line!

Thank goodness for the US Coast Guard (which, during WWII, brought off-island men to the island who married local girls), and work for island men in Philadelphia (where, in the early twentieth century, they married women of immigrant descent)!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of the Ocracoke Preservation Society. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous6:31 AM

    Sounds like those in the "tangled web" could pool their monetary resources draw straws for the blood to donate for the DNA geanology testing for ancestral roots.

  2. Anonymous6:32 AM

    Philip, I feel cross-eyed just trying to read your blog about the island's numerous Aunt Darks!!!! You must have had fun getting all the info straight! It is a tongue twister and a mind bender!

    Good ancestry info and quite interesting!


    Oh, does Charles Temple appear tonight on Jeopardy?

  3. Even Blanche was getting confused about the Aunt Dark genealogies! But it was fun to sort it all out.

    Charles will compete on Wednesday night...and if he wins again, on Thursday and Friday.

  4. bill kostar7:50 AM

    Thanks for another really interesting geneological tour of the island, cousin eight times removed Philip!

  5. In the post I said that "Aunt Dark" was Dorcas Williams Spencer Gaskins (b. 1858), Joyce's husband's great aunt, and also Joyce's second cousin, twice removed. That is correct. But I have discovered that she was also Joyce's great, great aunt! That is because Joyce's great grandfather, Millard Filmore Williams, was married to Rebecca, Aunt Dark's sister...and Aunt Dark & Rebecca's brother, Edward, was Joyce's husband's (Washie's) grandfather.

    Also, in addition to being Joyce's second cousin, and fourth cousin, I have discovered that I am Washie's fourth cousin also.

    Have you got that all straight?

    I haven't checked to see if Bill Kostar is telling me the truth...but I believe he is!

  6. Bill, I got thinking about your post, and knew we weren't that distantly related. We are, in fact, 3rd coursins! We share the same great-great grandfather, Solomon Howard.

  7. Anonymous7:52 AM

    Anyone got an aspirin? My head is spinning, but it's all super fun stuff!!!! Love it!