The Henry Williams Family Cemetery is located in Sandy Creek Township, Warren County, North Carolina. I first noticed it a few years ago, as we traveled along the winding state routes of Warren on a routine family research trip. From the road, I’d spied the tip of what appeared to be a lone headstone amidst the felled trees, limbs, and other debris, and decided it warranted further inspection. In rural areas, it’s quite common to see small, family cemeteries along the roadside, situated in front yards, or in the middle of fields. I’d considered our extensive family roots in Warren and surrounding counties, and couldn’t help but wonder, was it a possible family member?
**Unfortunately, due to my serious concerns of theft of my intellectual property and research on African American and slave burial grounds in North Carolina over the last six weeks, my “North Carolina Cemeteries” page will be removed until further notice.**
When Nadia Orton’s kidneys were failing, she sent letters to friends and relatives in the hopes that someone could be a donor or help defray the cost. Orton’s great-aunt Philgrador responded with money from her church. So a few years later, when Aunt Phil asked on her deathbed that her family not be forgotten, Orton knew she had to find a way to honor her ancestors. The problem was that she didn’t know who they were, or where to find them.
As she started tracing her lineage and locating her ancestors’ final resting places in North Carolina and Virginia, Orton began to notice the state of black cemeteries. Many were overgrown, unprotected and unmapped. Seeing the condition of these sacred spaces sparked a passion for protecting them.
Orton has since visited hundreds of cemeteries, and helps other families identify their ancestors’ plots. Host Frank Stasio talks with Nadia Orton, a public historian and professional genealogist, about how she uncovers the past and how it feels to find who came before you
A late afternoon visit to Coley Springs Missionary Baptist Church and cemetery, in the Afton community of Warren County, North Carolina. November 11, 2017.