Natchez, Mississippi-A Richardson Family History Lesson
Part 1 of 4

Family, have you ever wondered about the origins of our Richardson family? After laying my mother, Caldonia Verlina Richardson to rest in May 2017, I began to peruse through her old papers, notes, telephone contacts and family bible to collect information. I began this process to assist me in informing relatives and friends of her passing. My mother had a penchant for documenting events in her life such as births, deaths, marriages and graduations. By chance, I ran across a list of phone numbers with a Mississippi area code. Her cousin, Ray Richardson, was listed among the contacts and I recalled that Mama always talked fondly about cousin Ray. I called his number, which was over twenty-five years old! To my surprise he answered and we had quite a long, insightful conversation. Ray moved from Natchez, Mississippi many years ago to Oakland, California (his current location). He became emotional over the passing of Mama and it was evident that they were extremely close first cousins.

During the conversation, I remembered Ray and members of his family attending a family reunion the summer of 1991. During that particular reunion, we were not able to talk at length (as I was the activities coordinator and extremely busy)-- which made this call so important. It was a great step forward in obtaining more information and maintaining closer family ties. I learned that he had two sisters, Mary Grainger and Ella McKnight who both reside in Natchez. Mama actually had Mary and Ella’s numbers in her information, but I didn’t realize they were his sisters until cousin Ray verified their information.  The next day, I made an attempt to reach his sisters but I was unsuccessful establishing contact. Trying not to let disappointment set in, I relied on the old saying “the Lord will provide”, and He did just that. They both returned my calls and was I happily reunited with relatives that I didn’t know existed from over fifty years ago. To say that these moments brought joy and excitement would be an understatement. I now have a brand new connection with two new family members!

Mary and Ella are sisters with beautiful loving and giving personalities. They are so close that they literally live directly across the street from each other.  They are retired educators -- married with grown, successful children and grandchildren. My wife Jacki and I had a wonderful opportunity to travel to Natchez and visit with them in May 2018. We experienced true Southern hospitality from their families! (See Part 2 of the series). These two sisters, in their seventies, are not your typical seniors. They lead active lives and start each day with early morning brisk walks and have no problem staying in communication with family and friends through social media, technology, (mobile texting, selfies, etc.) really young at heart! Although their last names are different by marriage, they demonstrate a rich pride never forgotten as direct descendants of Henry Ferdinand and Gertrude Richardson Sr.  Henry Ferdinand was my Grandfather Sylvester Richardson Sr’s brother. Mary and Ella are the last known direct descendants of Richardsons in Natchez, Mississippi that we are presently aware of. More research may reveal additional relatives in Mississippi and the state of Louisiana.

Mary, Ella and I have conversed at length about our Richardson family roots. It seems my mother was the last of her siblings to follow the migration trail from Natchez to Chicago.  This is a fascinating subject in the plight of African Americans that moved north during that era in Black History:

Part 2 of this series will reveal my journey in the continued research of our family tree, which involves more on the trip to my motherland Natchez, Mississippi. Please read this series and feel free to add feedback.
In updating our family tree. I am requesting all heads of family units please complete the Ancestry form listed below. Ctrl+click on the links below which will provide (1) written instructions and (2) PDF data entry form which should be completed and returned by May 3rd. If you have any questions, I can be reached at 240-832-1652 or email:
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Written Instructions- PDF Data Form-