You Never Know What You’ll Find

Have you been following all the great records FamilySearch has been adding to their website?  There are many NC related record sets for you to search and/or browse.   To see what records are available, visit the page of North America collections and scroll down to those titles that begin with “North Carolina,” — collections are listed in alphabetical order.


Tonight, while browsing the Wake County Death Certificates 1900-1909 death certificates recently added, I found an interesting record that made me pause.  It was a hand-written note on letterhead from the Elmington Manor estate in Gloucester County, Virginia noting that a 90 year-old black woman named Sallie Heywood (possibly Haywood) had passed way on the property, the home of Reverend Thomas Dixon,  in March 1900.  Her death was due to natural causes.  Dr. Phillip Taliaferro wrote the note and affirmed that her body was safe for transportation back to Raleigh for burial.  She was interred in the City Cemetery March 3, 1900.

Given the note and my curiosity, I sought to see what I could learn about Sallie and Elmington Manor.


A few moments after searching for the manor and owner Thomas Dixon, I quickly learned that he was the author of the screenplay for the movie Birth of A Nation.  He was a native of Cleveland County and his uncle was a Ku Klux Clan leader. Elmington Manor was described in the August 15, 1903 issue of the New York Times as “the most beautiful estate in the South.” Some of his papers are held at my alma mater no less, Emory University.

Given Rev. Dixon’s viewpoints on the relationship between blacks and whites  I then reflected on what Sallie was doing there at his manor and what life may have been like for her.  Was she visiting family? Did she have an existing relationship with the Dixon family?  I wonder if she has descendants? Do they know about the tie to Thomas Dixon?  I have not yet found any information about Sallie but finding this record and her association to Thomas Dixon was interesting.

Check the collections at FamilySearch – you never know what you’ll find.

Update: The Wake County Death Certificates are part of the North Carolina, County Records, 1833-1970 database.

3 thoughts on “You Never Know What You’ll Find

  1. Dixon wrote a tribute to Ms. Heywood in a Virginia paper. Besides fitting into the genre of white folks bemoaning the death of an “old time Negro” (as opposed to assertive “new Negroes” that men like Dixon feared), it tells us that Heywood was generous in giving to black education and to the black church (but of course Dixon didn’t tell us WHAT church Heywood preferred). She worked for the Dixon family in Boston, New York, and Virginia, being nanny to Dixon’s children (in Virginia, she also tended chickens and turkeys). She was a mixed race woman, and Dixon noted her “culture and refinement,” but, as is typical of this sort of writing by white racists, he doesn’t note whether Heywood had any family.

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