Church research helped overcome a genealogy dead end

02/15/2014 12:00 AM

02/15/2014 7:33 PM

In March 2003, Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick was stuck in the pursuit of his family history. He posted a plea for help on the Olde Mecklenburg Genealogical Society website.

“I am looking for information on the parents of my great-great-grandfather Sam Kirkpatrick who lived in Charlotte on what is now called Sherwood Forest. They would have been slaves owned by the Kirkpatricks who resided in the same area and attended Sardis ARP Church.”

Almost four years later, he got a response.

Jane Starnes, a former curator of Costume and Textiles at the Mint Museum, had contributed an essay to a book on the history of Sharon Presbyterian Church on its 175th anniversary. She was fascinated by what she learned about Mecklenburg County in the 1800s and continued her research.

She came across Kirkpatrick’s query and thought she might have an answer in the church’s 150-year-old records. On Jan. 17, 2007, she posted:

“I am attempting to respond to Jimmie Kirkpatrick’s March 2003 query posted on the Olde Mecklenburg genealogical website .... It may be that Mr. Kirkpatrick’s enslaved great-great-great-grandfather was held by Hugh Kirkpatrick ... according to the Sharon Church session book, an enslaved infant boy named ‘Sam Robert’ was baptized at Sharon Church sometime between the mid-1850s and the mid-1860s and his parents were listed as Sam (a ‘servant’ of H. Kirkpatrick) and Caroline (a ‘servant’ of Dr. Ross).”

She found Kirkpatrick in Oregon, and called to tell him of her discovery. They traded emails, shared information, and walked the cemetery at Sharon Presbyterian when Kirkpatrick visited Charlotte in 2007.

In an email to Starnes in June that year, Kirkpatrick wondered how to find more on the man who owned his great-great-great-grandfather. He wrote: “Hugh Kirkpatrick seems to hold the key to my quest….”

It would be six more years until the next breakthrough – the phone conversation with a former high school classmate, De Kirkpatrick, great-great-grandson of Hugh.

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