Thursday, June 27, 2013

Isaac Holliman - A Story of the Old South, Part III

by Glenn N. Holliman

Who were Ann Gray Holliman's Parents?

The oral family tradition is compelling and dramatic.  Perhaps during the Civil War, a man held in bondage, one Isaac Holliman, ran away with a white woman, Ann Gray, evidently half his age.  Her parents were furious, and the couple escaped their outrage by hiding in the forests or swamps of southeast Virginia.

Below the Chapel Grove United Church of Christ in Windsor, Virginia where Isaac and Ann Holliman may be buried.  Many of their descendants rest here.

Who was Ann Gray?  Who were her parents and where did this family live?  Oral tradition places both Ann and Isaac as natives of Isle of Wight County, Virginia.  Grays and Holymans were both early settlers of Isle of Wight, and their ancestors live near each other even today.

We have some hints but only a very few....

In a published Isle of Wight will, one Ann Gray is recorded as a grand daughter of Josiah Holleman who died in 1847.  Josiah Holleman had a son named Wilson Holleman.  The will also lists a daughter, Virginia Gray and another grand daughter, Virginia Gray, the same name.

In the Census of 1860, a family is listed in Smithfield, Isle of Wight, of William Gray, age 40, Matilda, age 34 and among the children, one Ann, age 13.  Is this the same Ann Gray recorded in Josiah's 1847 will?   Is this the Ann Gray who will marry Isaac Holliman?  She could be as the age almost works, but, it is difficult to be certain.  As descendant Nonnie Holliman notes, this Ann is no longer with the Gray family in the 1870 Census.

As noted in the last posting, one Isaac Holliman, age 47, and Ann, age 21, and a minor, Isaac's son Robert, age 15 by a first liaison, are recorded in U.S. Freedman records in 1866.  This Ann is close to the age recorded in the 1860 Federal Census in the William Gray family.

 This couple, with increasing numbers of children, appear in every Federal census until Isaac's death before 1900.  Isaac and Ann are recorded as mulatto, that is of mixed African and European DNA.  These several censuses place the couple as living in Windsor, Isle of Wight County, Virginia which is located near the original Christopher Holyman plantation founded in the 1680s.

So here we are....

1. The above Pre-Civil War records may or may not identify Ann Gray's parents and grandfather.  Circumstantial evidence is there.  Is it enough?  It is hoped that more records can be discovered to verify parentage beyond a reasonable doubt.

2. Federal censuses identify Isaac as mulatto which begs the question - was he the biological son of a white man named Holyman, Holleman or Holliman?  After all Isaac took the name Holliman from the family that owned both him and perhaps his mother.

3. DNA testing done to date has not yet tied the European Hollimans to the African American Hollimans.  DNA from a male, directly descended from Isaac through males only, is needed to test the thesis that Isaac is descended from Christopher Holyman, 1618-1691.

4. To my knowledge no one has approached any Gray descendants for DNA testing.  Research could be done to locate persons who have Gray ancestors in Isle of Wight County.  (For DNA testing cousin Tina Peddie can provide assistance; see information below in blue.)

5. The evidence we do have is remarkable - oral tradition that Ann was the 'white grandmother', the Freedman's record of 1866 and the Federal Census records that place the family in Windsor, Isle of Wight, near the historic homes of the Grays and Hollemans.

Isaac and Ann Gray Holliman left a legacy of children and later descendants who proudly claim this remarkable couple as their 'founding family'.  From time to time, descendants gather in southeastern Virginia to celebrate their heritage and the blessings of being American.  Sandi Royal and others have published a book on the descendants of Isaac and Ann Gray Holliman.  For information on future reunions and this publication, Mrs. Royal can be contacted through this writer at
In the Autumn of 2012, Holliman descendants on an afternoon of discovery visited the Mill Swamp Baptist Church Cemetery in Isle of Wight, County, Virginia to learn more about our shared history and possible ancestors. Below, left to right are Christopher S. Holliman (the writer's son), Doris Knox, Cyndi Barnett, Tammy Hunt, Glenn Holliman (the writer) and Sandi Royal. 
The gravestone, pictured above, is a memorial to several Isle of Wight County 20th Century descendants of Christopher Holyman (1618-1691), of whom recent members generously gave the land for the cemetery.  More will be written on this branch of the Holleman family in future posts. 

Research work remains to be accomplished to verify if our Holliman families are genetically related.  However, it is very appropriate to state that we are related by time, place and the tides of history, and that we share in the American story!

I am grateful to the above descendants and others of Isaac and Ann Gray Holliman who have written and told me this intriguing story and encouraging additional research.  Any errors in these posts are mine alone, and I would be grateful for any additional information and/or corrections. 

Next posting....more on Isle of Wight Hollemans....

Descendants of Isaac and Ann Gray Holliman will hold a family reunion at the Wakefield Conference Center and Campground, Wakefield, Virginia August 10 and 11, 2013.  Cost is only $35.  For information, contact Tammy Hunt at
Have questions about Holliman family history? You are invited to join the Hollyman Email List at and the Hollyman Family Facebook Page located on Facebook at "Hollyman Family". Post your questions and perhaps one of the dozens Holyman cousins on the list will have an answer. For more information contact Tina Peddie at, the list and Facebook manager for Hollyman (and all our various spellings!). Mrs. Peddie can assist also in any DNA research.

Since early 2010, I have been publishing research and stories on the broad spectrum of Holliman (Holyman) family history at . For stories on my more immediate family since the early 20th Century, I have been posting articles since early 2011 at .

Let's save the past for the future! If you have photographs, letters, memorabilia or research you wish to share, please contact me directly at Several of us have an on-going program of scanning and preserving Holyman and related family records. Write please and tell us of your items. Thanks to the Internet, we are able to scan, upload to the web (with your permission) and return the materials to you.

A seminar is to be held at the Rose Hill Inn, Fayette, Alabama, October 18 and 19, 2013 for more serious students of Holliman and related families.  Just write me for more information. GNH


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