Family Affair

Keitt|Sapp|Shumake|McRae|McMillian|Clark|Ryal - All from Georgia

“Over the course of the millennia, all these ancestors in your tree, generation upon generation, have come down to this moment in time—to give birth to you. There has never been, nor will ever be, another like you. You have been given a tremendous responsibility. You carry the hopes and dreams of all those who have gone before. Hopes and dreams for a better world. What will you do with your time on this Earth? How will you contribute to the ongoing story of humankind?” ~ Laurence Overmire

She earned her wings

Posted by Tonya Keitt Kalule

On January 22nd, 2015 she took her last breath, two hours before I got to there.  Normally I would be sad that I could not tell her that I have loved her all of my life, and I am better person for knowing her, but I did not feel that when I walked into her bedroom minutes after finding out that she had already transition.
 I felt a big lost, a heavy heart, and a tremendous amount of grief, but with all of that was peace knowing that she was not in any more pain from the cancer that was ravaging her body.


My Aunt Helen was like a big sister to me for many years, because she was only 17 years my senior; then there were those times when she was a second mother, and later a best friend and confidant.


Yes, Helen Maxine Ryals Thornton was many things to me in the 54 years that I knew and loved her.
 She even named me when I was born.

She was my mother's baby sister.

Now my mom is the only one left from her immediate family, and that saddens her in many ways.


Betty was the middle child. Losing her older sister Bernice Ruth Ryals Giles in 2005 and now her baby sister Helen, has taken a toll on her heart.

Betty R. Keitt

You can see it in her eyes, but because she knows God so well, she is able to carry on.  For many years they were like Mutt and Jeff, always together.

That changed in the last few years after Helen had a back surgery that really changed her  quality of life. Yes she was able to get around but not like before.

Bernice Ryals Giles










These three girls were funny together, they had lots of good times.  Bernice lived in Chicago Illinois, while Betty and Helen both lived in Savannah.

My grandparents would really be proud of their girls.





These two were together until the end.  Helen wanted her big sister by her side, and her big sister would not have been anywhere else.

Aunt Helen, you know that you are truly missed her with us, but we knew that you were tired, we did not want you to have any more pain, we all were willing to let you rest.  I hear that you even saw your mother before you left, that she was with you, and that, through all of the hurt, brings me comfort.


His name is Phillip Keitt

Posted by Tonya Keitt Kalule


For many years I was told  Willie and Viola Keitt were the parents of my grandfather, Nathaniel Keitt and his older brother Romeo.  I never knew if they were married or not, but I just assumed that they were.  On the back of Nathaniel and Irene's marriage license to my grandmother, he states his parents names as Willie and Viola, no last names were given, and he also states that they were deceased.(1932)

Nathaniel Hawthorne Keitt

 I was able to find the death certificate of his brother Romeo and it states that his parents names are Phillip Keitt and Viola Coulter, this death certificate was authenticated by his cousin Jeanette Hall in Philadelphia.  Now this still doesn't tell me if they are married or not, because it asks for the mother's maiden name on the death certificate.

After searching,I was able to find Nathaniel in the 1910 census with his grandparents Joshua and Elizabeth Keitt, several cousins and his brother Romeo. In this census he(b.1905) was five years old and his brother Romeo(b.1900) was ten. So my guess is that whatever happened to his parents must have happened between 1905 and 1910.

I had a hard time finding the same family in the 1900 census, so I decided to try to locate the area where they lived in the 1910 census since it stated that it was a farm and they owned the farm, it indicated that they may have owned the land for quite some time. At that time they lived in Bowman, Orangeburg, South Carolina, but I could not even locate Bowman in the 1900 census.  Now I am really confused, so I look for a map of Orangeburg and discovered exactly where Bowman was located.  Then I started to look through the 1900 census and they listed the areas as Middle Orangeburg, and after viewing the map, Bowman was located right in the middle of Orangeburg County, so I decided to look through this area page by page.

I did find the family, but what made them hard to find is that the transcriber spelled the name wrong.  It was indexed as Reitt instead of Keitt.  When I looked through the census record, I found that Joshua and Elizabeth had an 18 year old son named Phillip.  BINGO! There is the father of Romeo and Nathaniel.


The other thing that is noticed here is that Phillip is 18 years old and listed as single.  This census was taken on 11 June 1900 and Phillips son Romeo was born 5 May 1900. So he was not married to Viola when his first son was born,

It is great to finally find that connection to my great-grandfather, but there are still many more questions.

What happened to Phillip? What happened to the mother Viola Coulter, who had two children with Phillip 5 years apart?

I will find out more about these two, Phillip and Viola, so stay tuned for updates.


African American McRaes' History Presented

Posted by Tonya Keitt Kalule

Georgia Historical Society-Jan 15, 2016

On January 15th, 2016 I met with several family members as my cousin Jesse McRae donates his book, A History of the African American McRaes of Georgia, to the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah, Georgia. It was really a proud moment for our family.  This book will assist the present and future generations in their research of the McRae ancestors.


Jesse McRae in front of the GHS



Luckily, I happened to be home from Peru for the Christmas Holidays, others came from Tallahasse, Florida, Chesapeake, Virginia and Dublin, Georgia for this event.  It was like a small reunion.  I got to meet a new cousin, Willie King, who is a descendant of Nelson McRae, the brother of my 3rd great-grandmother.

Inside the GHS

Jesse McRae is connected  to two sets of McRaes, both of which are represented here at the event., His paternal grandparents are both McRae descendants.  His paternal grandfather is Artis McRae, and the mother of his paternal grandmother is Susan McRae, so finding if there is a connection between the two is quite important to him.







God's Little Drummer Boy

Posted by Tonya Keitt Kalule




December 11, 2014 we gained an angel in our family, his name is Jermaine D. Kicklighter, Jr. better known as 'Jelly Bean'.  

He blessed us with his presence 3 years and 10 months ago, in the care of Christina Harley and Jermaine Kicklighter, Sr., his earthly parents. However, God wanted him back, and since He loves him best we can't question his reason but rather trust in His Purpose.

While on this earth, Jelly Bean became his father's shadow.  He went to church with him on Sunday and loved watching him play the drums in church. 






 He too fell in love with playing the drums.  His dad often had to search the house for his drum sticks.



So  when Jelly Bean departed this earth, he carried with him his own pair of drumsticks so he can play for his Heavenly Father as well as continue to inspire his dad's music.





Jazmaine Kicklighter is Jelly Bean's little sister, who will never get the chance to really know her big brother and feel his protection and love as is often felt in this family. I hope she knows that he will be watching out for her always.

I am truly proud and impressed with the type of father Jermaine Sr is to his children.  



He is young father like none  I have seen in a long time.  He has some great role models, a father and a step-father that he loves dearly; but also uncles that are and has always been involved in his life. 

This love and belief in family has been passed down from his grandparents, Anna and Hansel Thompson, because the other young men in the family, his first cousins, are also incredible fathers.



So you rest little man and keep watch over us.

Moving Abroad

Posted by Tonya Keitt Kalule



This chick is ready to go.
Moving out of the USA was something that I have always wanted to do.  At first I didn't know anyone personally that had done this other than military people. I wanted to do it for the experience of living somewhere that was very different from what I was use to.  As the years passed by I started to meet people who had lived abroad and returned to the US. Most of them were people in their 20s and they backpacked around Europe which was the norm.  Yes they were gone for a couple of years, but they were much younger than me and they were backpacking, which was no longer of interest to me.

I started to find more and more blogs out there where others were in their 50s and living abroad, but none of them were single women.  Regardless, I started to communicate with a few of those that were in my age group.  They of course gave good advice, but I didn't totally trust this because I didn't know these people and I didn't think that they would give me the truth about the good and the bad.  By not knowing them personally I was reluctant to ask them really personal questions, especially when it came to money. I just decided to take the chance, because if all else failed, I could always return to the USA and get back to work.



When the opportunity presented itself,  after much research and planning, I decided to go for 6 months to South America. I was always partial to the Spanish culture and wanted to learn more about it..
After recovering from several surgeries, spending a year in Savannah with my daughter and my new granddaughter, house-sitting for a  month (3 wks) in Berkeley, California, and taking a week to drive through parts of Northern California, I decided Peru was where I would start.  The plan was to stay for 6 months and move on to somewhere else.  Many ask why did I choose Peru?  Now I know that I didn't choose Peru, Peru chose me.

Gia turns 1.

Avenue of the Giants in Humbodlt County, California
 The hardest part was leaving this little one.  I had to realize that I had to step back and let my daughter be a mother, and trust that I had taught her well.

Then off I went.

First to Berkeley, California, then driving to Northern California to see the beautiful Redwood Forrest.
Mount Shasta, part of the Cascade Range in Siskiyou County,California





It is time!



Andes Mountains on the way to Urubamba Valley
I am on my way to this beautiful land, with an apartment waiting for me in Cuzco, Peru. Cuzco is the home to the famous Inca Empire in the Andes Mountains.  Something we all read about in grade school,

First Christmases

Posted by Tonya Keitt Kalule


We have some new additions to the family and this would be their first Christmas. Some of them are not old enough to even hold their first toy, but next year they are going to be pulling down the Christmas tree.  I hope you all enjoy these new additions this year.

Gia Maxine Ryals -3M



Breon Devonte Boles - 2M
Aston Lindberg McRae 12M
Aston was born December 22 of 2011, so he probably slept through Christmas along with his parents.  Now dressed in  a sweater vest and Chuck Taylors, he is ready for Old St. Nick this year.

Jayden Anthony Miles 10M

HAPPY HOLIDAYS  FROM OUR FAMILY TO YOURS   


Nathaniel Hawthorne Keitt

Posted by Tonya Keitt Kalule

Nathaniel Hawthorne Keitt
Nathaniel Hawthorne Keitt was my paternal grandfather.  My grandmother Irene Sapp Keitt was in fact his second wife.  I discovered that he had been married before when I started my family research at the Historical Society.  His first wife's name was Rebecca, but she passed before he married his second wife Irene.

I was told that his parents were Viola and Willie Keitt, but nobody seems to know what happened to them.  Nathaniel and his brother Romeo were living with Elizabeth and Joshua Keitt in 1910 in Bowman, SC per the census records.  These records also indicated that Joshua and Elizabeth were their grandparents. At this time Nathaniel was only 5 years old and his brother Romeo was 10.

It recently came to my attention that Joshua and Elizabeth never had a child named Willie Keitt, therefore they could not be the grandparents of Nathaniel and Romeo Keitt.

What happened to Willie and Viola Keitt?  Did Viola die in childbirth or shortly thereafter?  Did Willie move on to find work, leaving his two small boys with relatives?  Are there other children that were perhaps sent to live with other relatives?  Why did they live with Joshua and Elizabeth when they already had 8 kids of their own to raise?  These are the questions and many more that I need answers to.

My dad and uncle often said that their father Nathaniel never talked much about his family, but it is a possibility that he didn't know much, if anything about his parents.
I know that he moved to Savannah and lived with his supposed Aunt Aida and Lottie on 38th Street but I also discovered that Joshua and Elizabeth moved to Savannah by 1920 and they all lived at 1013 East 38th Street.

 So the family moved to Georgia from South Carolina between 1910 and 1920, but it could have possibly been the year before.  It has been said that Nathaniel was around 15 when he moved to Savannah.
He later took up the shoemaker trade, and it is on record that he has been a shoemaker from the age of 19 , which at this time he again resided on 38th street but at 1015 East 38th.

In 1928 he both worked and resided at 906 East Waters, this is where he had his shoe repair shop.  The following year he married a girl from Georgia by the name of Rebecca and they both resided at the East Waters address.
In June of 1932 Nathaniel married Irene Sapp, my grandmother.  It is indicated on the application for the marriage license that his first wife Rebecca as well as his parents were deceased. Again when did they pass.

The question for me is when did his parents die?  Did his mom die in childbirth and his father die later, or did they die together?  We do know now that they were deceased by 1932 when he married Irene.
I am going to have to research this more on the ground and possibly in Bowman, Sc.