Karyn Greer discovers ancestor's tombstone in Mississippi

7:35 AM, Mar 2, 2011   |    comments
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A week ago, 11Alive morning anchor Karyn Greer barely knew her great-grandfather's name.

Now, she's seen his gravesite.

"I think we all need to get a better sense of where we came from and who we really are -- what defines us," said Greer before learning her family history through the work of www.ancestry.com genealogist Anastasia Harmon.

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Karyn quickly learned from Harmon about her great-grandfather, a former slave named Samuel Crossley -- the farthest name back in her family tree.

"This 'O' [on the census form] means he owned his property; this 'F' means it was a farm," Harmon said. "And this 'F' in this column means he owns it free and clear.

"This man who was born to slavery, who spent the first 20 years of his life enslaved, [winds up owning] his own farm -- and he's not making payments on it."

Choking up, Karyn responded with amazement, "That's wonderful."

Another detail on the census indicated that Samuel Crossley's father -- while his name is still unknown -- was born in Georgia. The discovery gave Karyn pause, because, she said, she recalled how concerned her grandfather was upon hearing she'd be moving to Atlanta.

"He was like, 'Baby, take care of yourself,'" Karyn recalled. "He said, 'I really worry about you; I don't know a lot about the South.' And now I see: his grandfather was here."

After a day of revelations, the biggest one came a week later when Karyn and Anastasia traveled to Amite County, Miss., the hometown of Karyn's ancestors.

Walking around a cemetery, Karyn stumbled upon a headstone no one had expected to see: the stone of Samuel Crossley, her great-grandfather.

After several "Oh my God!"s, Karyn stood in disbelief at the sight before her.

"I don't even know if any of my family members know where he's buried; I really don't," she said. "Now to see him at this amazing marker and know where he's buried... I mean, wow."

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