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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Brief biographical info in my maternal lineage

Earliest known maternal ancestor, gg-grandmother *Cely Bird* (b. 19th century).  She married Steven Hilburn in North Carolina.  One of their daughters was our g-grandmother Polly Hilburn Elkins (b. June 17, 1868-d. June 7, 1953, & buried at Cedars of Lebanon cemetery near Inglis, Levy county Florida).

Polly married George Washington Elkins, who worked in the turpentine industry. The family migrated south to St. Augustine, Florida, from Wilmington, North Carolina.

I don't know much about Cely's husband, Steven Hilburn (so far); but have seen several "Hilburns" listed on the Cherokee Dawes rolls. My grandma, Mary Gladys Elkins Thompson, told me that "old Cely" (her maternal grandmother) was from Fayetteville, N.C.  I believe both Cely and Steven were either full-blooded or part-blooded Cherokee.  I'm fairly certain, based on Grandma's testimony, that Cely at least was full-blooded and that she spoke her native language.

Edit: I recently found a marriage record online, of Polly Hilburn & George Washington Elkins (in Columbus County, N.C.), dated January 5, 1890. (Polly is mispelled "Dolly" in this copy of the record). Her parents, who witnessed the marriage license, were identified as 'Stephen' Hilburn & 'Celia' Hilburn. (My grandmother informed me of "Celia's" (Cely's) maiden name, Bird).

[UPDATE: I've read that the Native American branches of family trees are very difficult to fill in, that people frequently end up running into brick walls there.  That's what has happened to me, with Cely Bird & Stephen Hilburn (so far); and it makes logical sense, in light of the fact that Indians didn't keep written records!  Also, North Carolina (ie Cherokee country) & many other courthouses have been hit by arsonists so many times, wiping out valuable vital statistics & other legal records. Then there was also the destruction brought about by the Civil War, with further burning & losses of the 'paper trails'.]
The Kimberling Family.


  1. Hi,

    According to DNA Celia Hilburn, born about 1803, was a grandmother of mine. She also lived in NC, mostly in the Columbus County area. I also have Indian ancestry.

    Could this Celia be related to yours, possibly a niece? I do know from court records that my Celia had a child out of wedlock in 1827 and that she was required to buy a bastardy bond. I do not know the child's name or gender. I also know she married a Ambrose Bullard in 1833.

    If I can find this information it will solve a wall I have been trying to resolve for many years.

    Thanks for any help and take care.

    Tony Bullard

  2. Hello Tony, good to hear from you.

    I suppose there is a reasonable chance of some kind of relationship, but I'm not sure what it would be. My gg-grandmother (direct maternal lineage) was Cely Bird (maiden name); she was born ca1840(?) and married Steven Hilburn. One of their daughters, Polly Hilburn, was my g-grandmother who married George W. Elkins. Our maternal lineage has a very rare NA mtDNA haplotype (X, X2m1, W1e, or something very close in that cluster -- yet to be pinpointed with further testing). So, if you can test someone in your family who would have your Celia's ~mtDNA (ie a person of either gender who is descended through the direct maternal lineage of your ancestor), and it is close enough to matching ours -- then she is probably a direct relation.

    I am absolutely certain that Cely was a Cherokee, and I am fairly sure that her husband, Steven Hilburn, was also at least part Indian. They were definitely from the region of North Carolina that would probably include Columbus county and certainly Fayetteville, N.C.

    Beyond that, I just don't know. Like you and so many of us with Native American ancestry, our family histories have been treated by government as if they didn't really exist, or weren't that important, enough to keep permanent and really accurate records (for example, the Census Bureau was known to have lied about the race of a lot of Native Americans, putting them down as either "white" or "black").

    We often have only our oral histories to rely on, passed down from our elders. Fortunately, I was blessed with a very caring and intelligent grandmother, who made sure I knew at least as much as she did about it. I just wish that I could have spent a lot more time talking with her, because I'm sure there was a lot more to learn from her.

    As for the Bullard surname, I've never found it in my own direct family tree, but there is always the possibility that we are distant cousins, or something along those lines. If it turned out that your Celia Hilburn was my Cely Bird's ~mother, I would only be mildly surprised (since I don't actually know who her parents were, at least not yet); however, I don't have any real evidence of it, only the hearsay that you have presented here for me.