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Who is Willie Burns?

Willie (?) Burns

The known father of our Tribal Chief James Lee Burns is a man named Willie Burns. We know this primarily from his two daughters Lee Alice Burns Travis & Lucyrene Burns Robinson and was also noted in our Tribal Chief's obituary from his 1988 funeral. However, to find this Elder Willie has proven to be very elusive.

Turner Burns - James' older brother - on his Social Security file lists his parents as Steve Burns and Aggie Andre (or perhaps he was trying to spell Andrews). Wait who is this Steve Burns?

Turner and James' older sister James Etta (Jeanette) lists her parents as William Smith and Aggie Follery on her own Social Security file. Although it's safe to say Great-Aunt James Etta and her older sister Bessie may well have a different father than Turner and James.

And here's where the plot thickens. On I found a marriage record for Aggie Andrews and a Stephen Burns from Hinds County, Mississippi. Don't believe me?

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This record was filed on April 16, 1891. For comparison both of James' older sisters Bessie Lewis and James Etta Smith were born before this record was filed & sealed in 1888 & 1890 respectively. His older brother Turner was born in 1894.

On the case, I started looking for Stephen Burns and turned up a few matches. Remember in the 1900 US Census I found Aggie and her sons Turner, Will, and James living with the Rashen (or Rather) family in Hinds County, Mississippi. However, also living in Hinds County - possibly near Learned, MISS - in 1900 was our man Steve or Stephen Burns.

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So Steve Burns at 41 years of age was living as a boarder with the family of Joe Bowles and his wife, stepson, and grandson. However, as you might see in the marriage record Stephen had to make an X mark. What that denotes is that he can't write and there are three questions everyone had to answer on this census: Can you read?, Can you write?, and Can you speak English? His responses are yes, no, and of course yes.

The next question is if this is our fabled Elder Willie Burns aka Steve Burns and he does lists himself as married, why isn't he with his wife and three sons living with the Rashens?

The only other hits I found for Mr. Stephen Burns was in the 1870 US Census out of Adams County, Mississippi living with his father also named Stephen who was aged 50. Our Stephen is really Stephen Jr. aged 12 which might help correspond to the 41-year-old Steve Burns in 1900. He's living with presumably with two other brothers and two sisters. All of the Burns in this census are listed as Mulatto and probably are mixed race.

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Of course in my adventures in Ancestry DNA I did find a connection to this family, however, nothing from my maternal side. The connection came on my paternal side. I'm not certain if the Stephen Burns and his family from Adams County were our biological forebears.

The last record where I was able to find Stephen Burns was in the 1910 US Census out of Hinds County, MISS. He listed himself as widowed although Aggie Burns - presumably his ex-wife at this point was still going on strong long enough to meet James Farrow...
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In other entries where his parents are listed both of his parents are Mississippi born, however, in 1910 his father was born in Mississippi and his mother was born in Virginia.

Here was living in the household of Lucinda Tolbert and her two daughters and a son. His occupation was as a laborer, however, he also lists his industry as odd jobs.

So the question now is this Stephen Burns the Willie Burns the father of James Lee Burns? If Stephen was Willie then where did Willie come from?